I am currently in possession of a grotesquely large ‘to-read’ pile.
I strongly suspect that I am not alone in this. With the advent of online repositories and the continuation of traditional media outlets, the sheer quantity of material available to us as consumers is bordering on overwhelming.
Bordering? No. It is overwhelming. It is definitely overwhelming.
Now, I’m not presupposing this to be a bad thing–quite the contrary. Choice allows consumers to find what’s right for them. We can cater to our own tastes far more easily now than ten years ago, when we could cater to our own tastes far more easily than we could ten years prior to that. However, I’m going to circle back to the key word in all of this: overwhelming.
In comics especially, where new titles, issues, arcs, trades, collections, and previews are out monthly–and sometimes more often than that–it’s very easy to find yourself figuratively buried underneath a pile of books you really, really want to read. Maybe you’re a weekly LCS visitor and you pick up new titles from the racks. Maybe you trawl the comics news sites in search of a particular genre or character. Maybe your new reads come via word of mouth–so-and-so read it, and they usually like what you like, so why not give it a try? Maybe you accidentally come across hosts of new titles through the ads at the end of the books you’re currently reading. However you find your new titles, and however many new titles you pick up, there are always more that follow. It’s a ceaseless wave of new art and stories and characters and worlds and creative team-ups and crossovers and anything else you can think of, really.
A person could drown beneath a wave of rebirth runs from one of the Big Two alone!
And we all have our own criteria for choosing from the sea of endless choices, don’t we? For some people, it’s a character. “I read absolutely anything with Batman in it, regardless of whether it’s a single-frame cameo or a double-length issue.” You might think this would be limiting in some way, but it’s really anything but. Maybe it’s a particular creator who lights your fire, and anything they churn out is an automatic ‘to-read’. For me, personally, I start my search in a section–usually the history section or the ‘super-duper obscure’ corner–and then see what catches my eye. Unfortunately for my free time (and my bank account), this strategy has led to the aforementioned grotesquely large ‘to-read’ pile.
“So, fine. You’ve got a lot of reading material. So what?”
So, it’s overwhelming, that’s so what. I look at that pile and I think, wow, what a lot of books I’ve collected. I should read them. They’re just sitting there, and I keep saying ‘oh, I’ll get to them,’ and then I don’t. I really need to work on that. This whole situation smacks of #firstworldproblems, I am absolutely aware. “Oh, no! You’ve got too much to read! What a tragedy!” In the spirit of total honesty, though? The sheer enormity of what my ‘to-read’ pile implies makes me anxious.
“If I read these, and I like them, then I’ll search out more books by these creatives, and then I’ll read those, and I’ll discover new creators and fall in love with them, and that’s going to open up whole new genres and art styles to me, and the whole vicious cycle will just keep going and going and—”
::takes a deep breath::
I have actually had to ban myself from going to my LCS for the foreseeable future. When I research upcoming solicitations I try to find the most concise lists possible. I eschew the front pages and news sections of comics sites and keep my eyes firmly fixed on the search bar when I’m checking (and double-checking, and triple-checking,) the dates on any upcoming books I’m meant to review.
Because otherwise I become completely overwhelmed.
I don’t know how some of you diehards do it. You can keep track of the timelines and issue numbers and ancillary characters and goodness knows what else, and you take any convoluted plot twists and reboots on the chin like champs–well, mostly, anyway–while I’m sitting over here doing my own head in trying to keep myself from grabbing that new graphic novel on the Russian gulags simply because it relates to the Cold War, knowing full well that it will sit and collect dust on a shelf for an indeterminate period of time because committing to actually reading it will open up my Pandora’s box of connections and send me further down the comics-buying rabbit hole.
You’re all sitting there thinking I’m whackadoodle, aren’t you…
You’re probably right.