When The Love is Gone
(Comics of the 1980s)

Written: 20 September, 2000

Here's something funny in retrospect. I didn't buy Secret Wars when it originally came out, even though it was drawn by the art team I loved on Captain America: Mike Zeck and John Beatty. I had thought that they had begun to really, really rock on Cap. I had had a subscription to the comic through most of their run, too, and they had gotten better and better. And then, they were moved off Cap to do Secret Wars, a series which was plugged on the last page of all the effected Marvel superhero comics one month.

So, you would think that I would have started buying Secret Wars, right? Wrong. I avoided it as much as I could. I refused to buy it for some reason. And I was only 13 at the time, not the type you would think who'd be fed up with Marvel excess.

I didn't like the replacement for Zeck on Captain America, and so I simply let my subscription run out, and my sub ended with #300. And I didn't buy a new issue of Captain America again for a year -- the comic that I had more issues of than any other, the series that I considered "the one I collect."

Same thing with Crisis. I'd had a subscription to New Teen Titans. I think the first issue of my sub was the moving "Who is Donna Troy?" issue (#38?). Perez was getting better and better. And then all of a sudden Perez seemed to be stretched thin after the "Judas Contract." Perez would do a few pages and then the rest would be by Steve Rude, or Carmine Infantino, and then finally, after #50, no Perez at all. My sub ran out. I think the last one I bought was #56. (I very much enjoyed #55, though not drawn by Perez.)

So, you'd think I'd have bought Crisis, to get my Perez fix, right? Wrong. I stayed away from Crisis for half a year. It struck me as a DC version of Secret Wars. But then I saw the cover of Crisis #7 with Superman holding a fallen Supergirl, and I bought it. I didn't miss an issue of Crisis after that, and thought that it was impressive.

The funny thing is that after that I was more willing to try some of the "big event mini-series." I actually bought Secret Wars II #1, but found it to be unreadable. I bought Legends #1-6 and was mainly interested in the novelty of seeing John Byrne draw non-Marvel superheroes like Batman, Robin, Firestorm, and The Blue Beetle. I even bought a few issues of the weekly Millennium series, all in one purchase at the local drugstore, but also found it to be pretty unreadable once I got them home. So, I kinda learned to avoid big events again after that.

The thing that turned me off most about the 1980s was the "product" mentality. In 1984, I got tired of reading the same old Marvel comics because I got sick of the same old format for every issue: 22 pages of continuing story followed by one page of letters, and a subscription form on the last page -- too predictable. I liked how the old 1960s Marvel comics had back-up stories and non-superhero stories and seemed a little more quirky and down-home in design, not so manufactured and commercial. I started checking out some of the comics I'd previously ignored, like Archie and Charlton comics, which usually had several stories per issue. I started picking up some DCs and liked how sometimes they had 2 pages of letters per issue (instead of just one) and that a comic like Detective Comics had a Batman lead feature and a Green Arrow back-up strip. In 1985, Action Comics occasionally had two or three short self-contained Superman per issue. I liked how Marvel's Dr. Strange -- which previously I'd ignored as a "dull" comic -- came out every two months, so it often had self-contained stories. And I remember one issue (circa #65) had a letters page that was only half a page long, the top half being the conclusion of that story's issue -- something unheard of in a normal Marvel comic and which made them seem a little human. So, I was trying to avoid the "product" mentality of comics, preferring the quirkier, more old-fashioned stuff, even back when I was only 13 to 15 years old.

But then when DC re-numbered Superman (and a lot of their line), I admit that I got caught up in buying product simply because of the novelty value of being able to collect a series from #1-up. I'd always wanted to start buying a series from the very first issue, and now DC was giving me the chance. So, I started off buying Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Justice League, etc. from #1-up. The first to go from my list were Flash and Justice League -- I dropped them around #5 (around when their Annual #1's came out, which I bought). Superman and Wonder Woman I bought until around #25 when I realized I hadn't really even been reading them for the past year. Maybe I felt a little ashamed that I'd gotten suckered into supporting mere "product," something I knew I didn't want to support, didn't even like. I had preferred the pre-Byrne Superman more than the Byrne Superman, but I bought the Byrne Superman a lot more consistently, every month faithfully, simply because I had wanted to get #1-up. Here I was 18 years old, and I'd gotten suckered into buying the kind of soulless product that I knew to avoid even back when I was 13.

So, I pretty much stopped buying new mainstream comics in 1989, like a lot of people did. There wasn't any Charlton to escape to for diversion this time, or Warren magazines, or Epic Illustrated. I didn't live near a comics shop, so most of the comics I bought were at the local drugstores. The intriguing new comics were at the comics shop, if the shop bothered to order them, so I rarely saw any new comics to interest me.

So, from around 1989 to 1994, I was more interested in silent movies, Dr. Who, and radio drama than I was comics. In 1995, I started buying back issues in earnest, and in 1997 I slowly started buying new comics again after getting interested again because of message boards like this one on the internet.