Celebrating the Unpopular Arts

Comic Book Questionnaire

It’s been a busy couple of weeks. My part-time day job has ramped up to full-time, and we trained a new temp guy for most of the week. I’m on deadline for a BACK ISSUE article. I managed to schedule and prep a phone interview for that article, conducting the interview on Saturday. And my last column for AJS unexpectedly expanded into a 3000-word two-parter.

As you might expect, all of this tired me out a bit. So I thought I’d take it easy on myself, find a cool comic book questionnaire online & fill that out. Hopefully my answers will be entertaining and/or illuminating.

1) Did you read comics as a kid?


2) Who bought you your first comic?

My very first comic was Batman #303, a hand me down from my friend Geordy. I wrote about it here for my first column on the AJS.

Batman 303
…I read it a lot, you guys.

3) Did you take any time away from comics? Why?

I thought about giving them up in 1990 when I turned 18 and entered college, but when a comics shop opened up across the street from campus the week after I started school… Well, that pretty much decided that. Before long my roommate and I were both working there for store credit.

4) What brought you back into comics?

It seems like every time I consider giving up comics, something really good comes along that re-ignites my interest in the medium.

In 1990, it was the Dave Gibbons / Steve Rude World’s Finest series.

World's Finest Steve Rude Dave Gibbons

In 1996, it was Mark Waid and Alex Ross’ Kingdom Come.

Kingdom Come 2 cover

In 2004, it was Darwyn Cooke’s New Frontier.

New Frontier Darwyn Cooke Green Lantern

5) Do you prefer getting comics monthly or in trades?

I still try to buy monthly issues when I can, but since I no longer go to the store every week, it’s tough. I get behind on my reading, and I can easily forget if I’ve bought an issue already. And when you factor in things like variant covers, it’s really easy for me to accidentally buy two copies of the same issue. Or sometimes I miss an issue altogether. It’s really frustrating to not be able to read #3-6 of a mini-series because you haven’t gotten your hands on #2 yet.

So with a few exceptions, I think I’m going to finally just switch to trades. It’s a lot easier.

6) Do you know the name of your Local Comic Shop (LCS)?

One of the blessings of living in northern New Jersey is that there are several cool comic shops in my area. The main shop I go to these days is Dewey’s Comic City in Madison, NJ. It’s a small shop, but they have a really nice variety of material there.

comic books Astro City Jon Sable DC Chronicles Future Quest Black Widow Watson and Holmes
My haul from this past weekend’s sale at Dewey’s.

For back issues, I really like going to Zapp! Comics in Wayne. I can usually find some reasonably-priced things in great condition there.

And when I’m in the city, I like to hit Midtown Comics whenever I can. I used to like Jim Hanley’s Universe, but I haven’t made it there since they rebranded as JHU Comic Books and changed locations.

7) Does your LCS know your name?

At Dewey’s they do. At Zapp! I think I probably have “Hey, it’s that guy” status, where they vaguely recognize me when I walk in. Wayne is farther away from me, so I don’t make it there as often.

8) Do you own any old number 1 comics (must date before 1980)?

Oh… Let’s see. I own both New Teen Titans and All-Star Squadron #1. Those were both published in 1980.

All-Star Squadron New Teen Titans 1

I have Giant-Size Invaders #1 and What If? #1. And from Kirby’s early 70s sojourn to DC, I have Mister Miracle #1, Forever People #1, and Kamandi #1. Oh, and Sandman #1. That was by Simon and Kirby.

Mister Miracle Forever People 1

Kamandi Sandman 1

I have yet to find a New Gods #1 for a decent price, but I have the DC Omnibus Editions from a few years back, so I’m good for now.

Umm… What else? Eternals #1, from when Kirby returned to Marvel. There are probably others I’m forgetting, but that gives you the idea.

9) Do you own any original comic art?

Yes! I think the very first page I ever bought was from the 1997 Nexus mini-series God Con. It’s a page where Jesus and Buddha are in a dunking booth and they both get dumped into the water. Jesus pushes Buddha underwater and jokingly baptises him Richard Milhous Nixon. They then exchange a high-five.

Nexus God Con dunk tank Steve Rude

I’ve got a couple of Doug Wildey pages, too. One from his story in Blackhawk #268 and another from an early 80s Sgt. Rock Special:

Doug Wildey Blackhawk 268 Doug Wildey Sgt. Rock Special

I have a couple of other original pages, but none of them can be easily photographed at the moment. I haven’t been able to afford original art for quite a while, so I really treasure these. In the meantime, I’ll just have to settle for whatever IDW Artist Editions I can afford.

10) Do you bag and board your comics?

No, not typically. If I buy a back issue that’s already in a board & bag, I’ll keep it in that. But I don’t bag and board new comics. They’re printed on decent paper these days, so they’re not as fragile as old newsprint comics. I’d rather spend that money on more comics, anyways.

11) Where do you store your comics?

About half are in Drawer Boxes in the spare bedroom, and the other half are in short boxes on a shelf in my living room. I’d like to get the entire collection stored in Drawer Boxes, but reorganizing all 8000 comics and assembling enough Drawer Boxes to store them all is a pretty massive project. Trades and hardcover collections I keep on bookshelves.

I also have several stacks of comics on my living room coffee table and by my computer. I often pull a particular run out when I’m working on a Crisis on Earth-T column or a BACK ISSUE article and I’m bad about putting them back.

12) How many comics do you read right now, in either floppy or trade format?

The tough thing with most Marvel and DC characters these days is that they’re spread out over multiple intertwined books, so keeping up with certain characters is an all-or-nothing proposition. I love Batman and Spider-Man, but picking up four or five books every month just to follow one character is a serious financial commitment.

The books I follow these days are ones where I only have to buy ONE title to get the full picture — Kurt Busiek’s Astro City, Evanier & AragonĂ©s’ Groo, Walter Simonson’s Ragnarok, or the Waid & Samnee runs on Daredevil and Black Widow. I wish DC and Marvel had more self-contained books like that. I think they’d snag more casual readers.

Daredevil Silver Surfer Mark Waid Chris Samnee
Also, more blind superheroes riding cosmic surfboards through Manhattan. Comics need more of that.

13) What would be your number one, all-time desert island, favourite comic series?

Hmmm… There are a few personal favorites I’d love to take with me, like Starman. But if I’m going to a desert island, it would probably make the most sense for me to take the longest-running series I could, with as wide a variety as I could, and the highest quality-to-quantity ratio. So I think I’ll choose a complete run of Batman. That’ll keep me busy until my eventual rescue.

Batman 246

14) Do you follow comic creators on Twitter?

A few. I’d say that Mark Waid, Kurt Busiek, and Tom Brevoort are the ones I interact with the most on there. They all have interesting things to say.

15) Do you have a favourite comic creator?

Oh, Lord… just ONE? Just read my column for a few weeks or look at the stuff I’ve posted here. That’ll give you a pretty good idea of my tastes.

16) Do you harbour any aspirations to create your own comics?

Honestly? Not as much as I used to. Drawing comics was all I dreamed of doing until my early 30s, but for one reason or another, it hasn’t happened for me. But I really enjoy writing about them for BACK ISSUE and the Atomic Junk Shop, and moderating the occasional panel at a con. It’s a lot of fun interviewing creators and discovering more about comics history. So I’m indulging my passion for them that way right now. Maybe I’ll come back around to creating my own someday, but I’m okay with where I am right now.

17) Do you access comic news online? If so, where?

I used to really love the old CSBG, which is how I got to know Greg Hatcher, which eventually led to this gig. I don’t visit CBR much since the new ownership and site revamp, but I still follow Brian Cronin’s work in general, because he’s a friend, and I’m a fan.

I also quite liked Comics Alliance, particularly Chris Sims’ stuff, but it was just announced that that site’s going away, which is too bad. I’ll miss them.

Now? Not too much else. Newsarama was all right, but I barely visit it any more. Most other sites are either too snarky & negative or have way too many unconfirmed rumors. AJS is more of a “Here’s the cool stuff we’re into now” site than a “Here’s the latest comics news” site, for which I’m grateful. Most other comics news I pick up via Twitter or my Facebook news feed. That keeps me pretty up to date.

Time to pick sides

Marvel or DC? I love a lot of Marvel stuff, but I was a DC kid, and those loyalties die hard. So yeah, I’m a DC guy at heart.

And even though Superman The Movie is my all-time favorite film, you can’t deny that Marvel has been killing it in the movie department for the last few years. So when it comes to movies… Make Mine Marvel.

Superman or Batman? I love Superman, but I have to go with Batman here. He’s cooler and a more versatile character.

Spider-Man or Wolverine? No question — Spider-Man. the original Lee/Ditko run is still my favorite, but I also love the Spidey stories by folks like Gerry Conway, Gil Kane, John Romita Sr., Ross Andru, Roger Stern, John Romita Jr., Tom DeFalco, and Ron Frenz. I fell off a bit after Peter Parker’s marriage to Mary Jane.

Spider-Man 6 Lizard Stan Lee Steve Ditko
Remember when the Lizard lived in Florida? That must have been the first time a hero had to commute to defeat a supervillain.

I like Wolverine, but I think he’s generally more interesting in a group setting than as a lead character. The guy we had at the end of the Claremont/Byrne/Austin X-Men run was wonderfully compelling and intriguing. He was cool and unpredictable, but he had a definite code that he lived by.

X-Men 140 Wolverine code Nightcrawler

He was temperamental and a scrapper, but he wasn’t unbeatable.

X-Men 133 Wolverine Dirty Harry
He was also a big DIRTY HARRY fan.

He had a mysterious past that was only revealed in dribs and drabs. And not because he had any memory problems, either. He just didn’t like sharing with others.

X-Men 139 Wolverine Logan Nightcrawler Alpha Flight

I miss that Wolverine.

Iron Fist or Luke Cage? No strong preference here, as I was never a Power Man & Iron Fist reader. I guess I’ll go with Iron Fist. I like his costume better.

Power Man Iron Fist 50
Because YOU demanded it! Two poor-selling heroes join forces to have mediocre sales together!

Comic Book Nick Fury or Samuel L. Jackson Nick Fury? Jackson is fine, but the original comic book guy is my Nick Fury. The one who was in the Howling Commandos. The cigar-smoking, unshaven, blue collar guy navigating the ultra modern, super spy world. That was the contrast that made that whole series work. Without that element, it’s just generic spy stuff.

Nick Fury SHIELD Stan Lee Jack Kirby
“DON’T MOVE, Fury! The slightest error can cause your DEATH! That stogie is A-OK, though.”

I couldn’t get into the guy from The Ultimates for the same reason I couldn’t get into that book as a whole — everyone in that series was an asshole. There was no one to root for. But I like Samuel L. Jackson as an actor, so it’s fun seeing him in the Marvel movies (I wish he’d start running S.H.I.E.L.D. again, though).

Superhero or real life stories? I like ’em both. But I think if you’re looking for realism, superhero stories are pretty foolish place to expect it.

Golden Age, Silver Age or Modern Age? I’m a Bronze Age guy, so that’s always going to be my default.

Digital or paper? Paper. I have a Marvel Unlimited subscription for research purposes and I can read digital comics if I have to, but I’ll always prefer the tactile experience of holding a book in my hands. Maybe I’d get into digital comics more if I owned a tablet, but I don’t, so I’m not.

Gotham or New York? There’s something to them both. With Marvel, it’s really fun that most of the major heroes are in the NYC area and can bump into each other at any time. But a well-developed fictional city like Gotham City or Opal City can be a lot of fun, too. Both of them have an individual look and feel, and even their own historical events.

Opal City Starman Secret Files mapSpecific detail like that really helps you immerse yourself into a story. I could do without the vaguely-defined generic fictional cities like Midway City or Gateway City, though. I don’t think those add much of anything.

Hero or villain? Creating a good villain is probably tougher, but I tend to gravitate more towards heroes. Villains are a spice, not the main dish.

Cape or no cape? Depends on the character. Capes work for folks like Superman, Batman, Thor, or Dr. Strange. They don’t work for characters like Spider-Man or Daredevil.

Cowl or domino mask? Again, depends on the character. Batman wouldn’t work as well in a domino mask, and the Spirit wouldn’t work as well in a cowl. Aesthetically, I suppose I prefer cowls. I will say that I’m sick of cinematic superheroes pulling off their masks willy nilly, though.

That’s all for this week, folks! Thanks for reading & see you next Monday!


  1. Le Messor

    My results would be about 50/50 similar to yours, I think.

    Though I can’t stand real-life stories. I read novels, read comics, and watch movies to escape from that kind of thing. And now I’m singing Bohemian Rhapsody in my head.

  2. M-Wolverine

    1. Yes.
    2. Probably mom from a garage sale.
    3. Not yet, but I’m tempted now.
    4. They seem like there’s light at the end of the tunnel, only to snuff it out.
    5. Monthly.
    6. Well, there’s local, and there’s the one I go to, which is the one I went to when I was #1. I check others out, but buy primarily from them. Green Brain Comics (though it was called something else then).
    7. Yes. As in “when are you coming to pick up your comics….?”
    8. I won’t list them all, but yes. Mostly Marvel. Got a bunch of good condition old comics from a garage sale. Not Spider-Man or Fantastic Four, but Iron Man, and things like Captain America #100.
    9. Not really.
    10. yes.
    11. Huge stacks of boxes in the basement. On pallets.
    12. Too many.
    13. Justice League International. Might as well laugh if you’re going to be in that space, eh? Though if it means full series then I’d do the same and go with Detective, because the longest running comics would have the most stories to read.
    14. No, don’t Twitter.
    15. Probably Frank Miller. His work is the stuff I could read over and over the most.
    16. Not really. Way back when I thought I could write some. Probably hubris. But now I’m not sure I’d want to. I don’t think I’d want to write the stories they’re forced to tell.
    17. Pretty close to the same. Except I don’t usually have time to check out Cronin’s work because it’s too much effort when you can’t even (really) comment on the interesting, debatable, work. Some SyFy Wire, but they don’t do too much comics.
    18. Marvel. My first love might be Batman, but after that it’s odd ball characters at DC that charm me, and it’s the main ones at Marvel that do it.

    Batman. I respect Superman, I like what he can be, but he is kind of dull.

    Spider-Man. Because everything you say about Wolverine is right. He was great; a failed samurai to feel for. He’s a power fantasy now.

    Iron Fist. Just because his show is getting shit on so much. 😉 But really, super martial arts vs. generic strong/bulletproof guy? Easy. But really neither are that great unless they’re with the other.

    Nick Fury. Copy and paste what you said.


    Paper. Comics on a iPad never impressed me…till I saw the new business Pro iPads. That could be a good comic experience. Actually bigger than a comic. But I’ll always miss the smell of a Dark Knight Returns, or classic ink.

    Cities the same.

    Villain. Great heroes are as great as great villains. But second string or lame villains are more interesting than the equivalent heroes. And no one is equal to DOOM.

    Yeah, both, but Cape, because capes are cool.

    Cowl. No one but Robin can pull off the domino mask without looking ridiculous. And Robin does too, but so does his whole outfit.

    1. Because everything you say about Wolverine is right. He was great; a failed samurai to feel for. He’s a power fantasy now.

      He didn’t even have any of the samurai stuff grafted on to him yet in the era I’m talking about. That didn’t really come along until the Claremont/Miller mini-series. I like him having the geisha girlfriend for contrast, though.

      1. Le Messor

        “that’s the scene where Nightcrawler (or any of the X-Men) first learned Wolverine’s real name. Heather just happened to be there at the time.”

        🙂 That, and she’s the one who used it in front of them.

        I’ve always been kind of proud of that.

  3. Swario

    Hey, this was interesting! Thanks, Internet (er, John)!

    The question about breaking away from comics is something you see pretty often and I’ve always found it confusing. I’ve never taken a break from the medium of comics, ever.

    What I have done is take breaks from certain series or characters or genre of comics. In recent years I switched to buying my comics in trades and that made breaking ties with any ongoing superhero crossover nonsense all to easily. I’m no longer buying my subscription comics first and looking for cool titles with whatever leftover comics money I had. I go straight to whatever I find cool or interesting and i’m no longer shackled by the insanity that is Marvel and DC.

    If I ever tire of a certain trend or style or [insert whatever] I simply move on to a different kind of comic book. It’s a great time to be a comics fan because everything new and old get reprinted and there is always enough choices to keep any fan happy.

    I’ll admit that occasionally I’ll read a higher volume of comics that just don’t do it for me. When that happens I go back and reread some old favourites.

    1. Glad you enjoyed it, Swario! Thanks for stopping by!

      What I have done is take breaks from certain series or characters or genre of comics. In recent years I switched to buying my comics in trades and that made breaking ties with any ongoing superhero crossover nonsense all to easily.

      This is a very smart strategy. It’s good to mix things up so you don’t get too bored with any one thing. I finally got off the company-wide crossover horse with DC’s FINAL CRISIS series in 2008. I’d been reading DC for 30+ years at that point, and it was utterly incomprehensible to me. And if it didn’t make sense to a hardcore DC fan like me, what would a poor new reader have thought?

      Wait, double checking the publishing dates, it looks like I did read one more big crossover series: FLASHPOINT in 2011. I don’t remember much about it outside of not liking the ending. History changed and the heroes were utterly unaware of it. I’m still at a loss as to why DC chose to publish a series where the good guys failed.

      It’s a great time to be a comics fan because everything new and old get reprinted and there is always enough choices to keep any fan happy.

      As Greg H. has pointed out many a time both here & at the old place, we really are living in a Golden Age of reprints and collections. Even if you don’t like current comics, there’s still a TON of great stuff to read out there.

      I’ll admit that occasionally I’ll read a higher volume of comics that just don’t do it for me. When that happens I go back and reread some old favourites.

      Yep. There’s something to be said for comic book comfort food.

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