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Off My Mind: Creators Vs. Characters—What Determines a Reader's Purchase?

When deciding to read a series, which is more important?

For many readers, comic books become a thing of habit. Many of us have our weekly pull lists at our local comic shop. We read the same titles month after month. We follow the stories of the characters that we've grown to love and cherish over the years. With each title we read, we have a good idea what we're going to get. That's what keeps us coming back month after month.

With all the choices we have each week at the comic shops, deciding what to read has evolved. It's become harder to be able to read pretty much all the new titles that are released. We're constantly seeing new titles appear along with spin off titles or multiple books with the same characters. Today, deciding which titles to read has become a different game.

It used to be that many would read any comic featuring their favorite character. Nowadays there's also the desire to pick up anything by a particular writer or artist. When it comes down to the final decision, which one is the bigger deciding factor?

== TEASER ==

When I first started buying comics, I picked up any comic series with Batman or Spider-Man. These two characters had more than one book and as time went by, and their popularity continued to increase, the number of titles each had grew with their popularity. Fans of the characters will want to buy all their comics. The addictive nature comics can have won't allow us to pass by a comic on the shelf and be oblivious to whatever adventure or crime they solve in that particular issue.

Unfortunately the trend of adding more and more different titles for the same characters increased. We've seen the same happen to characters such as the X-Men, Superman, Avengers and others. We've seen the creation of franchises among the different publishers. Characters have become part of a "family" of titles, all usually tied together. Different titles often result as minor characters rise in popularity. At the core, we still have that one main character that ties all the titles together. Because it's become increasingly difficult to afford to purchase every single title relating to all our favorite characters, we're not forced to be more selective.

If having multiple "families" of titles wasn't enough, we're also seeing popular characters appear in multiple titles and are even part of several teams at the same time.

Some Batman comics can be stinkers.

Taking Batman as an example, there are many titles featuring the Dark Knight and his closest allies. Readers love Batman but we can all admit that not all Bat-titles are the same. Yet because of the importance of the character to his corner of the universe as well as other books published by DC Comics, there are those that will continue to buy anything he appears in.

One way to determine which titles make the cut is the creative team. Readers may be on the fence with an offshoot title of a character and the departure or arrival of a new writer or artist can be the deciding factor. Once a writer or artist has a proven track record, you know what you're going to get when they are part of the creative team.

Not all Batman comics are created equal. Readers need to know this and make the message clear to publishers. We need great stories and it's up to the great creators to deliver them.

We're also seen an influx of some of those great creators doing more creator-owned titles. In the past few months many creators have started putting out or announcing titles at publishers like Image. This is where it becomes a gamble for some. Readers love buying comics with familiar characters because they know what they're going to get. Reading a creator-owned comic by Grant Morrison, Jonathan Hickman, Scott Snyder or Brian K. Vaughan pretty much guarantees it'll be "good" (and well written) but that doesn't necessarily mean the content, characters or story will be equally appealing to readers that have loved their past work.

You *will* buy my comics...

Ultimately it comes down to the individual reader's choice and taste. This isn't something that has a right or wrong answer. Some readers will stick with their favorite characters regardless of what the stories deal with or how many titles are released. Some will read anything their favorite writers writes or favorite artist draws. Then there are those that will pick and choose and do their best to make a decision based on solicits, reviews or plain old hype.

It does appear that there has been a drastic shift to following creators over simply following characters lately. It's becoming an exciting time in comics since these creators now have the opportunities to tell stories with their own characters as well as the ones we've grown up with.

102 Comments Refresh
Posted by redgonzo

first :)

Posted by saoakden

For me, its been who my favorite heroes are. I wrote a blog a while ago asking if I should by a title because one or two of my favorite characters was in it. I mainly wrote it because of Wolverine and the many X-Men Books. He's been in a lot but I made my decision on what books I want. I never really bought a book cause of a particular author cause to me it usally doesnt matter. But since I've read Uncanny X-Force, I've become a fan of Rick Remender and I also like Geoff Johns run on Green Lantern. I never really bought one of the writer's own book before unless one would count Watchmen. Idk why. Seems a little odd to me that I don't take interest in the titles the author creates like Scott Synder's American Vampire and Jonathan Hickman's Manhatten Project I think.

Most of my blogs lately have been what are some good titles to read dependiing on the genre like horror, sci-fi, or other publishers beside DC and Marvel. So I'm not sure why though. Maybe because I like so many Superheroes that I don't want to get carried away with my collection of trades or comics.

Posted by Deadcool

First writer, then the charcater...

Posted by NightFang

@Deadcool said:

First writer, then the charcater...

So both?

Posted by Deadcool

@NightFang said:

@Deadcool said:

First writer, then the charcater...

So both?

Well, basically, I pick my comics because the writer, and then I see if I like the characters on the comic.

But if I really enjoy that writer, then I would buy the comic no matter what character is in.

Posted by Billy Batson


Posted by webling

I've recently changed my pull list from mostly DC and some Image to mostly Image and some DC. My reason for doing this is that when I look at the best selling titles of a month, the DC titles are always on there and can survive without my help. I want to support the creator-owned market because it is full of the things that the creators are actually passionate about. I'll still buy the DC titles I dropped in trade format if I feel so inclined, but as for individual issues, that goes to the hopefully-less-starving artists.

My Pull List Right Now

DC: Animal Man, Batman, Batman Beyond, Earth-2, Green Lantern, The Flash, The Shade, Swamp Thing

Image: Chew, Fatale, Invincible, Manhattan Projects, Morning Glories, Saga, Thief of Thieves, The Walking Dead

Oh and this is a completely different discussion but I liked this page by Robert Kirkman about comics.

Posted by blur1528

I will follow my favorite character pretty far. Until they are lobotomied by the creator and no longer the character that I love. But I do follow creative teams if they are getting onto a new book or one that has been running and I'll jump on with them an the new story. So... I do both

Edited by Migz13

Characters first for me... 
I have this 'bias' approach about comic books most of the time... 
I usually check out my favorite characters first and then the writers second. 
If a good writer is handling my favorite character then that's a big win for me:D 
Though there are some rare occasions where I pick the writer regardless of the chracter(s) he's handling.

Posted by CombatSpoon86

Started out character but evolved to different created teams doing different types of works. However if it's a creative team I like writing my favorite character (Snyder writing Batman for example), than it turns out the best of both worlds for me. Creative teams is the way to go for me.

Posted by feargalr

Its a combination of both for me, like there are certain creators who's stuff I will check out regardless (Scott Snyder, Brian K Vaughan etc), similarly I'll read anything with Damien Wayne or Magneto in it regardless of who's working on it. I think thats the same for most comic book fans, or dedicated fans who keep up with the industry anyway, not the people that buy.. Batman Dark Knight for example

Posted by LordRequiem

Characters, because I'm not going to follow someone I dislike, that's futile. If it happens to be written well then that is more of a bonus.

Posted by Planewalker

Art Writer and story in that order, cuz it may be the best plot ever and good character if the art sucks no way I'm going to buy the thing

Posted by mrmisanthrope

I'm going to assume the word "creators" was used instead of "writers" for this reason -even though all the names listed are writers- but there's another component left out that is extremely important in this medium, the artist. A lot of people won't bother with a comic if it's a chore to look at. Titles "drawn" with CG for example tend to fail miserably regardless of the characters in the books, or who's doing the writing.

Writers are kind of a mixed bag too. Someone writing one story well doesn't mean they'll all be good. They may write Spider-Man really well, but write a terrible Daredevil. A character itself can never let you down, only bad writing can.

Writers in recent years have gone to great lengths to glorify themselves -even when calling them a "creator" becomes a stretch when much of their work consists of "rebooting/retconning/remaking/retooling/reimagining/rehashing/retarding" characters other people made. Various comic book writers have written articles or had interviews where they say they're more important, what they're writing isn't, demanding canon be ignored, and outright stating they hate comics from certain other countries, or which feature super heroes.

Let me put it this way. If writers were more important than characters to determining whether or not a comic is purchased, Nextwave would still be getting published, and Wolverine wouldn't be in every damned book they can think of an excuse to put him in.

Posted by sethysquare

Characters first, then creators.

I buy all the Superman and GL books for instance, and I have several favourite creators but if some of my favourite creators aren't producing the stuff I was expecting for then I'll be more willing to drop them than the books with my characters. Also, if my favourite creators are working on characters I absolutely detest then I'll probably not buy it.

Posted by DarthShap

A bit of both.

Most of the times, I follow the writers but I am a DC only guy (and Wildstorm and Vertigo and ABC) and I probably would not read a series if I hated the protagonist.

Posted by Bobzenub

Creators determine positively, while characters determine negatively what do I choose to read. What does this mean? Simple. If I had favourable experiences with the previous works of certain writers and/or artists I'm more likely to get into their new stuff, but if I did not enjoy something, I don't start hating on the creators all of sudden, I just become indiffirent and simply drop the book. When it comes to characters, I'm quite open to anything, unless of course I need to do research on years of backstory in order to at least have a fragment of a clue what's going on in one isse. I find myself caring less and less about Marvel because of this, the recent clusterf*ck of events and crossovers just frighten me.

Edited by primepower53
For many readers, comic books become a thing of habit.



Posted by revbucky

It was the character who drew me in at first, but as the number of spin-off titles grew I became more selective (usually it would be the artist who would determine if I bought a new title).

Posted by tamabone

The character makes me want to pick it up in the first place.  The writer and artist make me stick around.  I have stayed with a character that I like through some awful writers and artists waiting for a new team that will be better. 

Posted by nthompson182

I will start reading a comic because of the art if it involves characters/teams I enjoy. If its poorly written i'll drop it. I will also stop reading if the art frustrates me (see Gene Ha's Justice League #7)

This is my current pull list and my main reasons for buying each.

Batman - Writer, Character and Artist

Justice League - Writer, Characters and Artist while Jim Lee was on it. There is no doubt in my mind that I would stop reading if Gene Ha took over permanently

Batman and Robin - Characters, Writer

X-Men Legacy - Characters

Avengers Vs X-Men - Characters

Posted by BlueLantern1995

Only a comic with characters I like with a writer that writes at least passably.

Posted by sj_esposito

This has changed a great deal for me over the last couple of years. I used to buy anything with my favorite characters in it, but now I find myself buying only what I thoroughly enjoy reading. I am currently reading (monthly): Batman, Nightwing, Batman and Robin, Justice League Dark, American Vampire, Saga, and Secret. Notice there's no Titans and no Superboy on that list, despite Tim and Conner being two of my favorite characters. I just can't stand the books; they're awful. So I stopped wasting my money on them 3 or 4 issues ago, and I'll pick up Tim and Conner's adventures again when a new creative team gets them or they show up in another book with a solid writer.

As for what drives me to pick up new books, the creators listed on the covers really grab me, but a good concept could do it too.

Posted by whiteknight67

It is a little of both for me personally. If I like the writer, then the Art def has to be good. But with my fav chararcter, Hulk, I love him and her (shehulk)

Posted by Ijan092

the writter of course. The writter is the one who gives the character what it needs to be liked by the reader like I said the ''BOOM'' but there are also who can ruin the reputation of a character.

Posted by pspin

Characters for sure, writers have a little to do with it but not much, as long as I feel I am not wasting money, I'll follow the character.

Posted by Eyz

It used to be characters for me, originally, when I started reading US comics and whatnot.

But lately, it's been mostly regarding creators involved.

For example, I read Phil Noto oin a Jonah Hex book or X-Men title? I'll grab 'em regarding if i followed the characters, like the genre, or etc..

Posted by Mbecks14

Character is the bait and Creator is the hook.

Posted by GundamHeavyarms

For me its a combination of both. I like Spider-Man, so I've read Amazing with Slott, so I've begun to read other things slott has written. Jonathan Hickman writes Spider Man and the FF very well, so I've begun following his work too. However I don't like the way Bendis writes him so I stay away from avengers, and most of the other stuff he's written.

Ian Flynn writes Sonic and Mega Man very well, so I am really looking forward to New Crusaders.

Posted by davelecave

It used to be characters when I was more or less a noob to comics.

It quickly became creators, because I had bought so many bad books with terrible representations of my favorite characters.

Posted by CrimsonTempest

Thing is, I happen to be on the side of people that prefer both the writer and the characters written in the book. Of course I jump on the Scott Snyder books (AV, Swamp Thing, Batman, Severed HC), but also I like the characters that are being written in books (Flash, Animal Man, Grifter, Jonah Hex). I've no quarrels with reading a Flash book, whether it's written by Manapul or Johns, but when it comes to Batman, Snyder is a must for me, with an eager anticipation for Hurwitz' arc in The Dark Knight.

Posted by Tyrisis

I don't typically pick comics to read based on writer, but I have from time to time picked up issues because of an artist.

I have stopped reading certain comics because of a writer or artist change though. Some of these guys just don't belong in the business with all the fresh talent out there that is so much better. Rob Liefeld comes to mind...

Posted by chalkshark

As I've aged, the motivation for collecting has changed. When I was but a child, I didn't have much say in which books I picked up. My father would stop off at the local 7-11, on his way home from work, and buy my a Slurpee and some comics. I have no idea what his selection process was. It may have been completely random. If I were with him, I would actually get to make my own selections. In most cases, if there were a robot or a dinosaur on the cover, it was coming home with me. Obviously, I was a big fan of the Doom Patrol and the Metal Men, as a child.

Once I started earning an allowance, then I started to buy the books for myself. At this point, my collection was built around continuing on the titles my father had started me on, as well as following my favorite characters. And werewolves. Love werewolves. Still do. Don't really have an explanation for that. Picked up an entire run of Werewolf By NIght, at a flea market, for a dime an issue. That was a great day.

Moving forward into my teenage years, there was definitely a shift towards artists. I was more inclined to drop books with art I didn't care for, regardless of who the character may have been. This wasn't always the case, as I toughed it out through runs of "bad" artists, in the hopes that a "better artist" was on the horizon. I had to really love the character, though, or have a sizable collection of that title, to keep it going.

Once I reached young adulthood, I actually started paying attention to the writers. At this point, I'd say it's a blend. The characters... especially at DC... have changed so much over the years as to, in some cases, be completely unrecognizable. I think the only title I'm picking up solely for the character is Aquaman, as he's always been my favorite character. A lot of the artists I followed don't do much work in the industry anymore. The ones that replaced them I tend to find rather bland and homogenized. There are still some innovative creators working in the industry, and I will, at least, take a look at their books, but I won't necessarily buy them unless I'm really impressed. Writers will still carry me. If a particular writer's name is on the book, then I will, at least, pick up the first story arc, If it grabs me, then I'll add it. If not, I'll wait for their next project.

Edited by Suprman

For me it's a mix of both. I will, for the most part, always read characters like Superman, Batman, Nightwing and Captain America but the writer plays a huge part too. For example, if Ed Brubaker wasn't writing Winter Soldier right now, I may not be reading it. Geoff Johns' work on Teen Titans, before the reboot, led me to his Green Lantern and Flash series. I love characters but if I really like the writer then I will pick up anything they write, regardless of who the character is.

Posted by Urthiln

Character first then creator. But if I start reading a story arc that I don't like with a favorite character of mine then I won't usually pick back up until another writer jumps on. Also if i see someone I'm a big fan of writing something I haven't heard of or a character I generally don't get into then I will check the comic out just because I know the writer's work is solid.

Posted by Duo_forbidden

I have to say for me, it's both. The majority on my pull list currently is mostly based on characters, while a few are based on the creative team.

Posted by ProRush

I have my list of characters that I grew up with and feel almost compelled to read about. For the most part I tend to buy things that I feel are original (big Image fan). I also have an unexplainable urge to read Anti-Hero stories. On a side note I'm always looking forward to reading Off My Mind! Keep'em coming!!!

Posted by SupremeHyperion

I make my ultimate decision based on characters, but if there is a book by a creator I like that's not related to a character I already follow I will definitely look further into that title than another.

Posted by Outside_85

Characters featured are the most important draw factor for me to consider a new book, writers can draw me to a new character if I think they did a good job once Morrison drew me to Action Comics and Krul drew me to Captain Atom. Other way around writers are alone in making me steer clear of new books written by them...and ultimately they can kill my interests in characters i like but are not 150% committed to.

Posted by TheOptimist

There are certain "automatics" that come to my mind with character as the driving force... at least for offering the series a trial run. I know I'll try out Batman and Green Lantern group books when they begin or start a new arc... I know I'll offer the same to most Wolverine books, The Thing solo series and a host of other characters... they'll get me to check the book out, but they don't guarantee my continued reading. At that point, the work goes to the writer or artist who tell their story.

The same thing happens to me with writers, and to a lesser extent artists. I know I'll pick up Scott Snyder, Jeff Lemire, Geoff Johns and a handful of others, no matter what, even if I don't know the characters they're playing with... they might end up drawing me to something new... Rucka on Punisher for instance, I've never enjoyed the character, but I've loved his books before so gave the first issue a shot (although I'm not buying it currently, the bits I've read have been fantastic and I'm just waiting for catch up opportunities).

Particularly if the writer has garnered a positive reputation from others, I'll try out various selections of their work and see what fits for me... Jeff Parker was recommended to me through Thunderbolts... enjoyed that enough that I then went back to look through his Hulk work... Remender's X-Force similarly got me to evaluate a little Venom and Secret Avengers... Nick Spencer earned praise from Morning Glories, which I checked out and loved, leading me to his other work... Marjorie Liu's comics work even led me to check out her prose work.

Artists who've made it to my top get a similar avenue in when beginning new work... I checked out the start of the Hickman FF because of Eaglesham... Huntress was sold to me on the basis of Marcus To... sometimes they don't always last, but they'll get me in the door to check out the book.

There is of course the opposite of characters I will almost never buy, and writers who upon writing stories will cause me to leave books as a consequence of their writing... but fortunately those cases have been limited of late.

Posted by JonesDeini

With all things, the desired option is both. But when forced to go right or left I'm Definitely reading a creator. I think most readers, once they become more mature/savvy take this route. I refuse to read my favorite characters based solely on "brand loyalty" so to speak. I want quality stories by creators I know deliver them. And I also believe there's no such thing as bad characters (hell, the Extreme relaunch proves this in spades). A great creator can make a character I couldn't care a less about a favorite based purely upon their storytelling ability.

Posted by htb106

I geuss it can be a mixture of both

for example: there's a character you've liked in the past but don't think has done very well recently. then it gets a new writer who's done well before so you decide to buy the book

Posted by Danial79

It's all about the characters for me. Even though I dislike Bendis' writing, I still read New Avengers because I like the characters on the team. The same goes for Jason Aaron. I'm not a fan of his sense of humour, but I still read Incredible Hulk and Wolverine and the X-Men purely based off the cast.

Posted by nickthedevil

the villains.

Posted by Rick475069

For me its about the art and then story.

Posted by Mercy_

A fair mix of both. If there's a character that I absolutely love or even really like in something, the chances are that I'm going to read it. However, if there's a creator that I intensely dislike (Liefeld on Deathstroke), then it's just not going to happen.

Conversely, if there's a creator that I love working on something that may contain a character I'm either not fond of or not familiar with, I will almost certainly check it out.

I was actually talking with a creator about this on twitter and they were saying how you should be following creators you love, not characters.

Posted by Crash_Recovery


I know people who purchase a book no matter how good it is at the time or who's working on it. This can be because they love the characters and/or they don't want to break a run.

I also know people who purchase based on creator, following them from book to book, because they like the style of that creator.

There are also those who are a hybrid of the two. There's no single criteria that encapsulates the whole community.

Posted by Owie

I'll buy comics for the characters as long as the art and writing aren't actively bad--OK art/writing is usually enough for a favorite character, at least for several months.  I'm just always assuming it will get better eventually, and I won't wont to have missed a few months of a story that I'll just have to catch up on later anyway.
I'll buy comics for the creators if it grabs me in some way, after paging through it.

Posted by StarKiller809

I followed characters the most. There were a few creators that I followed. But when you follow characters you can find. Orr creators to follow.

Posted by DIOMJK

neither. There are too many titles out there that are coasting on the success of either the character's name brand recognition, an art team, or both, without any real merit to it. Best example is Batman the Dark Knight. Nothing of good there but a talented, well known artist (and according to recent reviews, he cant keep up with the rigid monthly grind, so the arts suffering also), but it's consistently a top seller because of the name attached. People need to be able to let go of a character if the story sucks, not stick around for the long haul, so that the company will notice a drop in sales whenever a crappy story arc appears and make necessary replacements, which is best for us, the fans, because we get better stories.