Like most comic fans, I love back issues. Whether it’s to re-read a favourite story from a few years ago or to discover a decades-old series I didn’t check out the first time around, I love collecting and reading old comics.
When I got back into comics, the $1.00 bin at my local comic shops and used book stores were the best way to fill in the gaps in my DC Universe knowledge. Sometimes I’d collect a series just for the sake of collecting it. Seeking out missing issues and rounding out my collection was as much fun as actually reading the comic books. In fact, in some cases I never even got around to reading the titles I collected.
Usually I pick a story arc of a title or a crossover event, then read the pertinent issues in a row like you would a graphic novel. But lately I’ve been wanting to try something different. What if I read a batch of back issues in a way that recreated the experience of being a comic book fan in the era they were published?
To do this, I chose a starting point (November, 1994) and a group of titles (more on that below). Then I set aside six months worth of issues for those titles and grouped them by month. Starting in June, I’ll read one of each title every month until I’ve read them all. I’ll read two or three every week, always in the same order, just like I would have if I’d been reading them as they were published.
I decided to use November 1994 as my starting point because it was the first month after DC’s big Zero Hour crossover event. It’s not a total fresh start like the recent DCU reboot, but it makes it less likely I’ll be starting titles in the middle of story arcs.
10 titles a month seemed like a reasonable number. Not only is that the most I would have been able to afford in 1994 (sure comics were cheaper then, but I was poorer too), but I’m still reading quite a few present day comics every month so an extra 10 would probably be my limit.
For the 10 titles, I went through my collection to see what series were being published between November 1994 and March 1995 that I have all of the issues for. I avoided characters like Superman and Batman who had numerous monthly titles that all had to be read together to follow the story. That left me with the following:
- Green Lantern was the first title I picked up when I got back into comics in 2001, so it’s a safe bet I’d have done the same in 1994
- I’d probably have started reading Green Arrow and The Flash for the same nostalgic reasons
- I want a couple of team books, and Justice League Taskforce and Outsiders are the two I would have recognized from reading comics as a kid
- Several titles launched from Zero Hour, but I’ll go with Fate and Manhunter because teenage me would have thought both looked cool
- Hawkman’s continuity problems are legendary in comic book circles, and Zero Hour was supposed to have messed it up the most, so from a train wreck point of view I have to add his 1990s series to the mix
- To round out the list I’ll add Superboy and Damage because they’re both teenage heroes and 1994 me would have wanted to read about characters his own age
As I mentioned before, some of these issues I collected but have never read. I’ve also set aside a couple of alternate titles in case one of these doesn’t grab me. But if I drop a series after two issues, I’ll start its replacement title with the January 1995 issue. The point is to maintain continuity throughout all ten titles and recreate the experience of being a DC reader in the mid-nineties.
So that’s the experiment. I might blog about the experience over the next six months. If it goes well I might continue with some (or all) of these titles past November, or jump to a different time period and do it all again. And if it doesn’t work I can always go back to reading back issues as story arcs.