How I Read Comic Books

For a few weeks now I have planned to write an article that I titled Why I Read Comic Books, but each time I thought about it I recalled that I had already written a number of posts explaining why I read comic books. Yet knowing that I am being redundant and repetitive (see here and here), I will summarize why I read comic books before I go on to tell you how I read comic books.

It all started five years ago when I was forced to quit smoking due to a medical issue. Regardless of why I quit smoking, I also quit drinking a couple of years later.

I did not notice it at once but sometime later, I realized that since I quit smoking and quit drinking, I was saving around $150 a month.

This was about three years ago and right around Christmas that I was talking to my son about how I loved to read comic books when I was a kid. I told him that I could probably pinpoint exactly when I stopped reading comic books. It was when I started smoking cigarettes in the summer of 1970. Now that I was buying cigarettes, I could no longer afford to buy comic books. I was fifteen years old and as folks say in Houston, I was too young to be so dumb.

Showcase #22 (Oct 1959)

Nearly fifty years later, when I realized that I was saving money, I thought I might spend some of that money on buying comic books. Realizing that I had half a century of comic book reading to catch up on, I at once developed a passion for this unique and original form of entertainment.

When I was a kid, I loved reading comic strips in the daily newspapers. My generation just called them the comics. Folks who were my dad’s or grandmother’s age called them the funny papers. Our family took two daily newspapers – the Houston Post and the Houston Chronicle. The Post came every morning and the Chronicle arrived in the late afternoon. Both papers carried maybe two dozen strips each. I do not recall the details of who carried what, but I do remember that the Post carried L’il Abner drawn by Al Capp and the Chronicle carried Walt Kelly’s Pogo. I was addicted to comic strips. At the least, I had to get my daily fix of those two satirical strips. All of the other features, I liked; except maybe Mary Worth and Apartment 3G :).

Apartment 3G by Nicholas P. Dallis 1969

Some days while I waited for the afternoon paper to arrive, I would draw Pogo characters in chalk on the driveway. My favorite was to draw Albert Alligator chomping on a seegar. I thought of being cartoonist when I grew up, but I could not imagine coming up an idea for every day of every year, including Sundays and Holidays. To me, Walt Kelly was the greatest artist in the world.

Pogo by Walt Kelly 1971

The newspaper subscriptions were paid for by my father. So, this was free entertainment as far as I was concerned.

My dad read MAD magazine and he would buy it every month. After he read it, I and my siblings would take turns with “the usual gang of idiots”. I loved all the artists who worked on MAD. So many great artists worked on this humor mag: Mort Drucker, Don Martin, Al Jafee, Wally Wood, Will Eisner, and Sergio Aragonés to name some. What I did not know is that a lot of these guys worked for other publications – places like DC Comics.

MAD #1 1952

Comic books were another thing. I had to pay for them with my allowance. This meant that I could afford to read only a few titles each month. My favorites were Green Lantern, Justice League of America, and Hawkman. Also, whenever I found them, I would snatch up a giant 100-page Batman. I was partial to the Bob Kane Batman (drawn by Carmine Infantino or Bill Finger?). I loved to read Action Comics and Adventure Comics – not for Superman, but for Superboy and SuperGirl. This included their friends in the Legion of Super-Heroes

Action Comics #285 (Feb 1962)

Then along came cigarettes and I started smoking. I was fifteen years old and I thought I could impress chicks as a bad boy with a pack of Marlboros.

Now I have the same situation, I have to pay for my comic books one way or another.

I figure that I have read more comics in the past three years than I read in the 5 to 6 years when I was an avid reader of comic books from late elementary school to the end of junior high. Today, I read from one to three comic books a day. So, from where do I get my comic books? I have my sources…

Showcase Presents

Showcase Presents is the title of an anthology series that DC Comics published for the purpose of presenting new characters. The Silver Age of comic books begin when a new version of The Flash was introduced in Showcase Presents #4 (1956). It is also the title of a series of trade paperback collections of series that ran during the Silver age – from the late 1950s to the early 1970s. For example, there is a two-volume collection entitled Showcase Presents Supergirl and while Supergirl did not have her own title during that period, the two-volume collection contains approximately 80 Supergirl stories from a variety of titles (Superman, Action Comics, and Adventure Comics). The only drawback is that it is all in black and white and printed on newsprint paper. However, for reference purposes, it is invaluable.

Adventure Comics #247 (Apr 1958)

Speaking of value, the Showcase Presents volumes normally sell fot $17; however, on Amazon I will follow the link for used books and I have been able to find books in very good condition for as low as eight or nine dollars.

I am not looking to buy all of these trade paperbacks but there are some that I am very interested in and I am on the lookout for certain volumes. For instance, I would like to get the complete five volume set for the Legion of Super-Heroes.

Not all issues of all series are available. For example, not all 261 issues of Justice League of America volume 1 are available. There are five volumes of JLA starting with Brave and The Bold #28 (March 1960) and ending with Justice League of America #132 (July 1976). Hey, but that is okay, I have other ways of reading Justice League of America.

Comixology

comixology.com

Crisis on Infinite Earths #1 1985

Comixology is a cloud-based digital distribution system for comic books. Here I can subscribe to current series. Right now, I am subscribing to Justice League (2018-) and the new Legion of Superheroes (November 2019-). In addition to current subscriptions, I found Comixology useful for reading the important mini-series such as Crisis on Infinite Earths.

Hoopla

hoopladigital.com

Batgirl #35 (Dec 2014)

The last time I went into a public library and checked out a book was some time back in the 90s when there was not much of an Internet. Then a couple of years ago, my daughter told me that I could check out electronic media with my library card. I went online to my local library’s web-site and I began to explore all that my library had to offer online and that is when I discovered Hoopla, a place where I could check out and download comic book collections. Hoopla allows me to check out 10 items a month, 21 days at a time. I read most of the iconic 1980s series The New Teen Titans and most of Batgirl vol. 4 on Hoopla.

DC Universe

dcuniverse.com

Last year when I first read about the streaming service DC Universe, I pre-ordered a subscription. I knew I could watch live action movies, television shows, and animated series but when I discovered that I had access to a bahzillion comic books, I freaked out.

According to DC Universe Help Center:

DC Universe features a curated selection of 22,000+ comics from a library that spans decades. Our catalog selections will cater to members who are new to the world of comics along with veteran fans looking for hard-to-find titles.

As I mentioned earlier this year, I am on a mission to read all of the first run of Justice League of America. The first 30 or so issues have been collected in four, trade paperback volumes and all but the last of 20 annual Crisis issues are contained in six volumes. Out of 261 issues, DC Universe is missing about six issues for reasons that are not clear. As I reported before the Summer, I had gotten up to JLA #146 (September 1977) in my reading quest and I was now going into the homestretch.

Justice League of America #261
(Apr 1987)

I can now report I recently finished Justice League of America volume 1 with the completion of issue #261.

Now, I am planning to read the Justice League series from the 1980s and on. Below I have updated my table of the Justice League canon with links to the DC Universe streaming service.

Title

vol

Issues

Years

Yrs

Notes

DC Universe

Issues Avail

Justice League of America

vol. 1

261

1960 to 1987

27

Hawkgirl joined the team in 1977.

For some, such as myself, the original JLA ended with issue #232 in November 1984.

Yes

255

Justice League

vol. 1

6

1987 to 1987

1

     

Justice League International

vol. 1

25

1987 to 1989

2

Hawkgirl left the team in 1988

   

Justice League Europe

vol. 1

50

1989 to 1993

4

 

Yes

14

Justice League America

vol. 1

88

1989 to 1996

7

 

Yes

83

Justice League International

vol. 2

17

1993 to 1994

1

# 51 thru 68 cont from Justice League International vol. 1

   

Justice League Task Force

vol. 1

38

1993 to 1996

3

 

Yes

38

Extreme Justice

vol. 1

18

1995 to 1996

1

     

JLA

vol. 1

126

1997 to 2006

10

Hawkgirl was briefly a member of the team

Yes

125

Justice League Elite

vol. 1

12

2004 to 2005

1

 

Yes

12

Justice League of America

vol. 2

60

2006 to 2011

5

Hawkgirl was member of the team up to at least issue #30

Yes

61

Justice League International

vol. 3

12

2011 to 2012

1

     

Justice League Dark

vol. 1

42

2011 to 2015

4

 

Yes

46

Justice League

vol. 2

52

2011 to 2016

5

The New 52

Yes

59

Justice League of America

vol. 3

14

2013 to 2014

1

     

Justice League of America

vol. 4

10

2015 to 2017

2

     

Justice League

vol. 3

43

2016 to 2018

 2

Rebirth of main team

Yes

46

Justice League of America

vol. 5

20

2017 to 2018

 1

Elite team led by Batman

Yes

35

Justice League

Vol. 4

35+

2018-

 

Hawkgirl is member of team

Yes

11+

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