December 30, 2011

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Reading Reflections for 2011

Well, another year has come and gone, and I thought it might be interesting to reflect a bit on my reading from 2011.  You can find my complete 2011 reading list here.

The first thing I noticed was the sheer volume of comics I read in 2011.  Whether in collections, singles, or in digital form, I read very widely in 2011.  This came at a bit of expense to my "book book" reading, which was down a bit this year (from 55 to 51 books).  However, I've worked very hard this year to make Panel Patter a priority after my work and school obligations, and that means spending more time reading and writing about comics.  I'm very proud of the blogging work I did this year, and I'm hoping to carry that into 2012 as I work ever harder to be a comic evangelist.

The other major thing that stands out is the way that acquiring an iPad has changed my reading habits.  While I was already reading fairly heavily in digital form prior to getting the iPad, it's such a perfect comics reader that I found myself more and more attracted to reading comics online, often opting to snuggle up with my iPad rather than a paper comic.  It will be interesting to see if that trend continues in 2012, or if I'll start to move back towards paper comics again.

I will say this:  Given how expensive it is to self-publish a color comic, I do not understand why anyone would do that versus getting on Graphicly or Comixology.  Okay, they take a percentage, I get that.  But just how many copies of your $6.00, 32-page comic are you selling, how much did they cost you to make, and how many more could you sell for 99 cents or $1.99 online, where you can tap into the explosion of tablets and be a part of sales and things?

2011 was definitely the year of digital comics, and not just for me.  Many publishers came on board or ramped up their digital comics presence.  Some have been smart and aggressive about pricing, such as Top Shelf and Dark Horse, others have quietly followed a path that makes sense to me (Image and DC being the primary leaders by unofficially starting comics at full price and then reducing to $1.99 over time), and one company has notably been idiotic about their digital pricing strategy:  Marvel, I'm looking right at you.  I am very influenced by price when it comes to digital comics, and my reading is shifting away from my long-time love of the House of Ideas simply because I refuse to pay the price they're asking.

Speaking of pricing, Marvel is not the only comics source that is pricing its way out of my interest.  While I love mini-comics dearly and will promote them every chance I get, I am really having an issue with the pricing of mini-comics.  I know you worked hard, but $7.00, $8.00, and $10.00 for something that isn't even 30 pages long in some cases is just too much.  I will always go to SPX while I live anywhere near it.  I will always go to shows and events and try to get mini-comics from people.  But at the rate things are being priced, I have a feeling I'll be reading less and less mini-comics as time goes on.  What's wrong with $5.00 or less?

One of the things I discovered is that I am really gravitating to certain publishers.  Many of my favorite books that I read in 2011 were from Fantagraphics, for instance.  Manga probably will always be dominated by Viz, especially with Tokyopop gone.  I read heavily from Boom!, mostly because of their solid quality, and I'm finding that Image comics has a lot to offer me that meets my taste.  I read IDW comics for the first time this year (I think) and found Archaia was putting out a lot of books that interested me, though their pricing strategy makes it a bit hard to get too many at once.  Heck, I even started getting new DC comics, which I had not done since 2008.  This coming year I want to look more closely at which publishers I am reading most often.  It will be interesting to see who is making an impression with me, as some of them this year were not who I initially thought would be on my best-of lists.

I made a point of trying to read more new comics in 2011, and that worked out extremely well for me.  While I still read a healthy amount of older comics, I was happy to be reading books as they came out (or pretty close) via the library, making purchases, and in some cases, thanks to the publisher or creator.  I'm hoping to continue that trend into 2012, as I think it makes for a better blog.  It also means I can jump right into arguments on the internet!  Who doesn't enjoy that?

If you look at my month to month reading, there are some interesting quirks.  I apparently went on quite the manga binge from January to April, reading 58 of 96 manga titles in the first third of the year.  I also increased my mini-comics reading before going to shows, whether it was Heroes in June or SPX in September.  I also seem to get into certain reading grooves, as there are months when I forgot to read from a particular category.  The significant dip in manga for the final eight months of the year makes me wonder if I'm starting to fall out of the genre a bit.

Breaking things down, I read 272 trades and graphic novels this year, which is a lot, let me tell you.  30% of them were indie, which matches last year pretty closely.  Manga was 35% and Superheroes were the other 35%, which is so balanced I can hardly believe it.  I had no idea I was reading that evenly!  I wonder if that will happen again in 2012?

The split in singles is not even close, however.  I read 196 mini comics/zines/indie single issues, compared to only 86 superhero singles.  Take out Mark Waid-written comics and that ratio gets even larger.  This category is most heavily influenced by my purchases instead of the library, and it shows.  While I still like to read capes comics, I am not as likely to buy them, preferring to read mostly from the library.

For the first time in awhile, I don't think I'm setting any reading goals for 2012.  I found that I didn't really use them in 2011, and I was very happy with what I read.  I have a feeling that my reading in single-issue form will continue to increase and that I might read a bit more older comics this year, because I want to catch up on some series that I've been collecting slowly and just about have the entire run for, such as Lone Wolf and Cub and Usagi Yojimbo or have been dying to re-read, like Bone.  I'm going to continue to explore the mid-range publishers like Image and IDW that I might have ignored before my digital revolution.

All in all though, my goal is to read good comics and tell you all about them here on Panel Patter, with some help from Erica and Sarah when they can.  After all, what's more fun than reading a good comic?

Have a great New Year's Holiday, everyone!  See you in 2012!