Up Down

I read a lot in the 90s. I was young and my memory is foggy, so I have no idea what my first comic was.

I got almost everything I owned from the 10 cent bins and loved looking through them. I didn’t take care of anything – it all went in a big wooden box that I shoved under my bed.

I remember the Death of Superman very clearly (the rise of Steel and that issue in “heaven” the most) and a healthy interest in Spider-Man.

I liked Spider-Man 2099. I remember seeing Preacher in the shops and thinking the covers looked gross.

I had a couple older western comics (Marvel, I think, I seem to remember a white clad ghostly rider on a horse), and a comic with a kind of lighthouse logo where the guy could see these weird bugs on everyone that represented their fears and demons that fed on them.

The guy glowed.

I had some Wolverine comics where the back up feature had a different cover on the back, but upsidedown – and you had to turn them over to read the other bit.

There was a crossover with Ghostrider where they went to Hell, I think – and my mutant comics were mainly of the Cable oriented variety.

The first thing I really collected was the Milestone line of comics, especially Hardware. I had almost the complete run.

The Milestone characters were at the start of their existence, modern heroes with interesting plotlines, and (probably because they were mostly black, though it didn’t really occur to me at the time) easily found for cheap. I still hold this imprint in extremely high regard today.

I remember very little about much of my collection, but you can be sure that like any 90s kid it was full of number one issues that never went anywhere.

I will never know what happened to these early floppies – it’s quite possible my mom got rid of them, cliché though that is.

I spent some time promoting an artist (Rin Ascher, still my best friend) in high school but didn’t actually read comics too much. The highlight of our business was making 3000 dollars in 2 days at Otakon – but that was mostly selling buttons we put together.

As I made my way through college, periodically I’d read some .cbr files or hit up Barnes and Noble, where I’d sit and read a few trades back to back. This is how I read Sandman, Preacher and the first volumes of Fables, for example. I mostly read Vertigo stuff, no superheroes (didn’t know where to jump back in, though they were my childhood favorites.)

I don’t feel bad about my freeloading days because they brought me to my current fandom – and on my budget it was either free or nothing.

The turning point in my life started with two things: A torrent of Alan Moore‘s run on Swamp Thing and finding the first three Books of Magic collections on a random stop into a comic shop in my hometown while visiting.

The torrent was low quality and ended right after his issues. But I loved it, was absolutely enthralled. I found an ebay lot of the trades, which were the first comicbooks I’d bought in a long long time.

Soon after I stopped into Modern Myths in Northampton, MA while visiting my family. The Books of Magic trades were under 5 dollars each and had magic and the Vertigo logo. Also loved them – still one of my favorite series.

This started my collection – I was soon getting every ‘classic’ vertigo book I could think of in an attempt to have a small but relevant shelf of comics. I was only interested in trades since I could get complete story arcs and store them easily on a bookshelf, which was a lot more aesthetically pleasing than longboxes.

But then I started getting more curious about the DCU connections – in Swamp Thing’s various crossovers and with Batman even showing up in Sandman.

I decided I’d get some essential Batman and Superman trades, just a few Year One era titles and the three volume Death Of Superman arc that I never got to see the end of as a kid (I bet if Milestone trades were released at this point I would have jumped on that, but they still haven’t fully collected these series.)

I had to do some research to figure out what was essential. Batmantrades.com was highly visited at this point. I became more active on comics forums, like CBR and The Batsquad. I started saving some ebay searches (I still maintain an average of just 6 bucks a book, though I often get stuff for much less now – I’ve become an expert at bargain hunting.)

I got the bug real bad and things went quickly downhill. I had about 40 Batman books soon – but there are hundreds.

I started getting obsessed with placing things in order and finding the books I needed to understand important events. At first I told myself I would only collect Batman. Then only Batman and Superman. Then just the Modern Age.

I wanted to catch up and I set my sights on Crisis on Infinite Earths and what came after. I started updating my list and hosting it at my personal website, talking with people about placements.

I took a History of Sequential Art class in my final year at Savannah College of Art and Design and started to develop a deeper understanding of the world of comics and found many new favorite creators.

About a year later I found a supplier that handed me every Showcase Presents book for very very cheap. After that point, the whole DC Universe was my baby.

In April 2010, tradereadingorder.com was purchased and the first version of the site launched.

It had been about two years since I first started keeping my DCU organizational list in an excel document, maybe 4 years since I started getting into comics again seriously.

I’ve decided to follow a few other core titles or continuities (like Ultimate Marvel and the Buffyverse) and do my best to create good documentation on universes I may not seriously collect (like mainstream Marvel.)

I wanted to create a site that answered all the questions I had while I was getting back into comics and would continue to fill my own needs. I use the database to manage my own collection, figure out what I should read next, and sort my own bookshelves – and if it’s useful for me, hopefully it’s useful for you.

It’s now about 8 months since the site has launched and I’m constantly surprised by how driven I am to make it the best it can be. It’s easy to motivate myself to work on this.

While the books that pulled me back are legendary, I’m not sure what caused me to get back into my childhood passion so strongly.

It’s possible that it was always waiting for me and I just had a few off years while I was trying to become a “serious” adult.

I may have given up – but I like to think that I’m just serious about my passion. And have admitted that comics are just as legitimate an art form to be interested in as any other.

I’m lucky to have a fiancé that’s amazingly supportive, an education that gave me some skills surprisingly useful in a fan effort (and a really nice scanner that I told myself I was buying for photography uses), and a pretty darn fast typing speed for actually getting all the thoughts I have out there.

This a fairly light summary, but hopefully it tells you a bit about me.

What about you folks?

I think that the titles that pulled me back are fairly common books for new readers – Batman, Sandman, and maybe even Swamp Thing. Fables, too!

How did you get obsessed? Or if you’re relatively new to comics, what is pulling you in?

Or back in?

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20 Comments Post New »

  1. Beth wrote on at December 6, 2010 12:01 am:

    I knew nothing of comics other than their role as mother media to the super heroes we had powerful times dressing up as. It is good to see there are parents who will be the Batman to your Robin.I started reading Sandman while in college, then League of Extraordinary Gentleman, Transmetropolitan, Batgirl, and Watchmen.
    I own the Buffy Omnibus, a silver surfer origin, and a star trek on dinosaur planet comic with accompanying record to hear the adventure of Spock and Jim (who look future adventurous). All of these were gifts.


    Ian replied on December 7th, 2010 at 12:45 am:

    Major props to my dad for that one.


  2. Christopher Chambers wrote on at December 7, 2010 12:31 am:

    My first comic was an Iron Man, sometime in the 80’s. I didn’t understand it, I remember bits about media commentary and the cover soon went missing. I didn’t get into them until I was 12 or 13, and the local comic book store became my favorite place. I remember clearly the Knightfall storyline getting me into Batman, that was a Big Deal. And Superman’s death. I got really into the Image titles, Spawn and all that. I don’t remember what turned me onto Sandman, but I think that was the big switcher for me, at 14 or 15. Some of the Vertigo stuff, Transmet, any and all Frank Miller.

    Since the end of high school my interest has come back and out in waves. I go nuts over Chris Ware and Charles Burns now, and that sort of snarky-arty high-brow non-superhero fare.

    I don’t look too hard anymore, the decent independent store is on the other side of town, but sometimes I’ll get turned onto something really great.
    Scott Pilgrim (the film, not so much the source) just recently got me back into checking out whats available.

    Just now on my 2nd or 3rd round with the Sandman at the moment.


    Ian replied on December 7th, 2010 at 12:44 am:

    Chris Ware is pretty amazing. I’ve got Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth.

    Sandman is a good one to come back to. Have you read Lucifer? It’s almost a direct sequel, in theme if not in all plot continuation (though there definitely is a lot for the title character).


    Christopher Chambers replied on December 9th, 2010 at 10:05 am:

    Chris Ware’s preceding and subsequent Acme Novelty Library editions are very worth checking out.

    I’ve not read Lucifer. Since it was a completely different creative team and Sandman ended so intentionally I didn’t think it would be worth it to extending a closed world. Like reading Harry Potter fanfic or arbitrary sequels or something. Though I’d never had a recommendation for it to consider.


    Ian replied on December 9th, 2010 at 1:56 pm:

    yeah, I’d like to get deeper into him when I have a chance. Rest assured that if I ever see any of his stuff used, I’ll snap it up in a second.

    See, Sandman isn’t really a closed world. Gaiman did a great job of creating a full story with a satisfying end within a shared universe, but one of the story’s strengths is that it makes amazing use of the DC Universe’s existing framework. A lot of the characters that seem unique to Sandman are actually very good in character uses of existing creations (Constantine, Cain and Abel, even Matthew the Raven, etc)

    Lucifer can be read as a self contained story on its own, actually, and is just damn good. It’s probably the best thing Carey has done. It’s really fun.


    Christopher Chambers replied on December 25th, 2010 at 12:02 am:

    Oh total delay on my part, but I’ll have to give Lucifer a shot. On my wishlist.

    I never realized that Matthew the Raven was an existing character.

    This whole conversation has kicked my whole memory back in regarding what I used to read and what I’d like to revisit. I really want to go back to Stray Bullets again, though the trades are kind of confusing.

    I just got the big Bone book this Christmas, super pumped about going through that, I only made it through the first couple books as a kid, and recently revisited it and was far more impressed now than before.


    Ian replied on December 25th, 2010 at 12:20 am:

    No worries – one of the things I like about a blog like this is conversations can take place over any length of time without much detriment.

    It took me a long time to realize it myself, but Matthew the Raven is Matt Cable from Swamp Thing. Weird, right? Well, if you haven’t read Swamp Thing it might not mean anything.

    My favorite appearance in Sandman is by Etrigan the Demon, who is worth looking into.

    Awesome about Bone – that’s one thing I’d like to revisit myself. I read one of the scholastic trades as a kid and haven’t gotten back into it yet. Even though it was originally in black and white I still had that memory of color and missed it. But they’re doing a full color hardcover soon! Better believe I’ll own that eventually.


  3. duncanpr wrote on at December 11, 2010 1:00 pm:

    I blame my brother and my sister. My sister got me into Dark Horse‘s Star Wars trades. Since I was already obsessed with everything Star wars, this made sense. My brother, though, introduced me to the goddamned Batman.

    The Long Halloween was my introduction. Need I say more, really? This led me to Dark Victory and Haunted Knight. For Christmas that year, my boss gave me Year One.

    I am officially a Batman fanatic. And I’m proud to say this all started about nine years ago.

    My interest only grew from there, and as I read more, I started into crossovers, and that’s when I knew there was no stopping this addiction.

    Now I follow Green Lantern, Booster Gold, Wonder Woman (volume 3), and I’m about to get into Green Lantern Corps and Red Robin. I also enjoy me some Vertigo trades. The Filth. Faker. Young Liars. I dig the crazy stuff.

    And of course, I’m still into Star Wars.


    Ian replied on December 11th, 2010 at 2:59 pm:

    I’ve still got a few Star Wars trades myself. It’s one of those things I’d love to build a real reading order for, but I’ll have to wait until I’ve got the other lists up. It’s in the back of my mind though – I loved that stuff as a kid. Dangerous, cause I can’t afford to get back into it!


    duncanpr replied on December 11th, 2010 at 7:42 pm:

    Dark Horse is definitely a bit pricier than DC is, but I’m addicted. It’s not so bad getting the trades as they come out; it hurts because I’m also playing catch up.

    If you do go for a reading order for Star Wars trades, too, then don’t reinvent the wheel; Wookieepedia has a timeline set up already. We do like to read things in the right order when events overlap as much as they do in the EU. :)


    Ian replied on December 11th, 2010 at 7:46 pm:

    They’re not so bad for some things (when it was new, that beautiful Beasts of Burden hardcover was only 20 bucks.)

    But I think in general they have smaller print runs, and once they are out it’s a lot more expensive to find them used. For a moment the aforementioned book was up to 200 on Amazon. Thankfully it looks like they did another run and it’s back to something like 13.

    Thanks for the link – very cool. I’d only really need to add some important character tags, make sure everything works for adding to collections, etc.

    I was debating the possibility of having a full multimedia timeline (including videogames, even!) but I’m not sure if I could manage that. Of course, I bet someone’s already done it.


    duncanpr replied on December 11th, 2010 at 9:25 pm:

    I should clarify that my brother first introduced me to the world of Marvel through Spiderman, Venom, and Carnage as well as The Onslaught Saga, but it was The Long Halloween with Tim Sale’s illustrations that really got me hooked.


  4. Chris D. wrote on at February 3, 2011 12:32 am:

    Hey Ian,
    Just read this via the link from today’s post about Milestone. I too remember going through bins as a kid, looking way more then buying….actually its hard to remember buying much…mostly just spending a lot of time looking. I then remember the pivital point where I bought the “Death of Superman” trade on a whim when it came out after all the controversy and being overwhelmingly moved at the end where Lois is holding Kal in the middle of the street with his cape draped over him. Incredible. I still haven’t dared reread it for chance of spoiling my memories.

    I love the fact that you talk about batmantrades.com on here. I was in love with Supermantrades.com ever since I found it early on in college when I dabbled with the idea of reading comics again. I would constantly check supermantrades.com hoping that there would be updates or even the smallest amount of contact info to tell the owner thanks for the great site. Recently I decided to get into trades seriously and visited that site again after a few years and found that it’s fairly out of date. A google search led me to CBR and thus here. So in a strange way I still am grateful for supermantrades.com keeping that burning curiosity in the back of my mind and leading me down a path to my new home of TRO.


    Ian replied on February 3rd, 2011 at 4:48 am:

    This site is very much a metaphorical child of those trade lists, along with the Milarworld tplist and a couple others. I only wish the venerable wizards that started those sites were still around – I haven’t heard anything from either of them and I’d love to get their opinions on stuff and thank them for all their work.


  5. Drakul wrote on at April 26, 2011 5:03 pm:

    Ha Ian, late to the game but why not share.

    Mine is a bit particular because I grew up in France and we didn’t really have “comics” there.

    So as a kid I would read a ton of Tintin, Asterix, Lucky Luke, Les Schtroumpfs (The Smurfs) and other such Belgian/French comics.
    I was first introduced to Superheroes with he Superman movie, the Batman Bam POW TV show and most of all the 60s Spiderman cartoon. For some weird reason I had this one single episode from the series featuring Mysterio that I watched all the time as a kid.
    As a kid I dressed up as Zorro which was my favorite show.

    My two biggest comics turning point came with Batman 89, it still is one of my favorite movies, I’ve seen it a hundred times and I even have the parts to make a replica costume I bought on Brotherhood of the Bat.
    The second huge influence was Spawn the HBO series. WOW! I remember when this came out in 97… I’d never seen anything like it. I became a huge fan and was always very disappointed by how it ended as it was getting epic. I always wanted to get the comics to see the continuation of the story. “you made a deal you stupid son of a bitch! you made a deal for your soul!”

    Anyway flashforward to 2005 when I moved to the US. In France I collected Manga but I already had a bunch of series and I didn’t want to continue them with different covers/spines (I’m anal). So I figured I may as well get some comics since I was in comics land.
    I started somewhat like you.”Get the essential Batman”â„¢ I bought Year One of course, Long Halloween and Dark Victory. I became a big fan of the Loeb/Sale team so I also bought Superman For All Seasons. I bought the Batman Chronicles because I wanted to start at the beginning but I stopped after volume 4 or 5.
    I also collected the Spawn collections (the thick ones that were coming out at the time).

    I started branching out the easy way. I was visiting Batsquad also and Jason’s timeline made it easy to get sucked in a “oh I’m missing that one” pattern. I had Batman so I had to get Robin and Batgirl. so I had to get Birds of Prey and Nightwing. That was around Infinite Crisis so I had to buy some Tie-ins. A few Green Arrow here, “oh Geoff Johns’ Green Lantern rocks? I’ll get some of that too”… Rucka’s Wonder Woman of course because I watched all the JLU and I like the character.

    I first branched out with Fables. I had heard some good things and I liked the concept so I bought them, so I had to get JAck of Fables.
    Then after reading about it everywhere I read Watchmen and again WOW! Became a huge Moore fan instantly so I bought LoEG, From Hell, Swamp Thing. I got the Sandman Absolute Vol 1. so I had to get Sandman Mystery Theater.

    This past year I’ve been reading about the Star Wars MMO so I had to buy the KotOR trades…. dangerous door to open.

    My buying habits were easy though. Browse amazon, collected editions, primary ignition and recently-ish your site to figure out what I might want and put it on my wishlist. Once a year come NYCC I’d buy everything I could find at 50% off.

    And more or less, here I am :)


    Ian replied on April 26th, 2011 at 9:55 pm:

    Pretty amazing personal history! Thanks for sharing.

    I love how one thing always leads to another. It’s such an organically growing fandom. Almost every great creator has done something with at least one other great creator – which leads you to that new guy’s work. Or the new character’s other books. Etc.

    Always something to read!


  6. Yanquillero wrote on at June 29, 2012 6:12 pm:

    I’ve always been amazed with comics (specially the DC universe), but never got the patience/time/nerves/money/balls to start a collection.

    4 Years ago, driven in part by the “Dark Knight” movie madness, i ordered on amazon my firsts comic books. Those were “Watchmen” and “Batman: Arkham Asylum”. From that point on, I got more and more interested on the DCU. Right now i’m collecting all trades related with Batman, The Flash, Green Lantern and Superman. And i’m collecting them in the recommended reading order. So, in like 3 years i guess will catch with the New 52.

    Marvel got its “thing”, but that “thing” never got into me. In my humble opinion, the DC universe got a je ne sais quoi that suprasses everything Marvel does. DCU’s filled with myth/aura, insted of the action that surrounds the Marvel universe. That’s how i see it, and that’s why I got into comics.


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