Here it is: I can only keep up with so many comics.
I was reminded of this following a conversation with a friend. We had taken a family vacation to Washington DC this past summer and were staying just outside of town with a college pal and his family. We had a great time, seeing the sites and shooting the breeze. Among our many topics, we talked about music and video games and television shows and comic books.
One night, we were comparing our current television favorites. He and his wife were watching season two of Leverage via Netflix. Anacoqui and I have been fans of the show from the beginning. We had a lot of fun comparing our reactions.
The discussion naturally led to comments about other favorite shows. My friend Nate recommended another show that I haven’t watched. I mulled it over for a moment. I had heard good things about the same show from other sources. But, after only a brief pause, I replied, “Honestly, Nate, I can only keep up with so many shows. Right now, it’s enough to keep up with Leverage and Mad Men.” Nate laughed and complimented me on the quality of the two shows I was watching. Not taking offense, he then proceeded to tell me why he enjoyed the show he had recommended.
I’ve thought about that conversation a few times since then. It’s true, but it’s one of those truths that we don’t always think about. I can only keep up with so many shows. During the summer, it’s enough for me to keep track of two. And, honestly, I fell a couple of episodes behind on Mad Men. During the school year, I can usually keep up with a different pair of scripted shows plus a smattering of my favorite reality shows. But even if I recorded more shows, I don’t know that I’d be able to watch them. I work a lot of evenings as a pastor. I have other interests. I can only keep up with so many TV shows.
That’s not a complaint, of course. Only an observation. A recognition of reality.
It’s also true when it comes to comic books. I can only keep track of so many titles. Even if I could afford to buy more, I don’t think that my pull list would be that much bigger than it is right now.
For a number of years, I’ve had a set limit on the number of comic books I can buy in a month. The limit was initially imposed because of financial concerns. However, one year, I allowed myself a slightly higher limit. I discovered that even though I might have been able to afford more comic books, I couldn’t actually keep track of that many. I would lose track of plot points. I wouldn’t remember what had happened in the previous issue. It wasn’t the fault of the comic or the creative team. It was simply a natural limit of my ability to pay attention.
So I keep up with the X-Men. I only buy the X-titles that I enjoy, but that can still take up 20% of my pull list. I keep up with the Green Lanterns and the Captain Americas. I keep up with my indie favorites like Invincible and Dynamo 5. I sometimes keep up with the big events, but I pick and choose the ones I’ll follow. I am keeping up with Brightest Day- and enjoying it immensely. It’s great to see personal favorites like Aquaman, Firestorm and J’onn J’onnz appearing in an anthology together. And I keep up with a few non-superhero stories, too, like Fables and The Stand.
I’m happy buying the comics I’m buying. And I don’t look wistfully at the other franchises that fall outside of my pull list. At least, not too often. While I know that I may be able to add a title here or there, I also know that I can only keep track of so many comics.
That being said, I find that other fans will often assume that the thing they’re not reading or watching is bad. I don’t know why that is, but I try not to do that. I know that I’ve discovered a lot of series- both television and comic book- after the fact. For example, I didn’t start watching Buffy until after it was canceled. I joined Starman- one of my favorite comics ever- when it was already a couple of years into its run. So I know that there are good things out there that I’m not following. I’m just one guy and I can only keep up with so much.
That’s my epiphany. Like I said, it’s not earth-shattering. But it does add to my sense of contentment.