Wednesday Comments – Missing Subscriptions

Today I finally got out and renewed my subscription to Entertainment Weekly. But it was while I did that I thought back to past of subscribing to comic books. And honestly, I’ve got some really fond memories of subscribing to comics.

Back in the day, comics were a viable place to advertise in. In addition to ads for video games, music and candy, comics would have ads for upcoming titles. And on top of that, those ads for upcoming books would usually have some cool subscription offer.

The very first comic book that I ever subscribed to was Manhunter. It was back in 1988, which was the first time that there was a huge crossover centering on Green Lantern that spawned a spinoff called New Guardians.

I’m guessing there was something in the ad that hooked me in, but it might have been all of the extra stuff you’d get in subscribed to the comic. In addition to the comic, you also got the first issue signed by John Ostrander, Kim Yale and Doug Rice. Plus you received a Manhunter mask, which was actually made of cardboard, but when I got it was the coolest thing ever.

Getting a subscription to Manhunter cost $12 a year, which was a huge investment in 1988. Scraping together $12 so send to DC, that was huge and required my calling in favors, but it was totally worth it.

And shortly after that I subscribed to New Guardians, because I’ve always been a GL fan and I wanted to see where the whole Millennium story was going to end up. This subscription cost $15 and while it didn’t come with a mask, I did get a first issue autographed by Steve Englehart and Joe Staton and a poster of the cover to #1.

The final book that I subscribed to from the first issue on was Hawk & Dove. Again, I got a first issue that was autographed.

Now the one bad thing about subscribing to those new books was that you had to wait until the third issue before you got the first one. The first three issue shipped together, which meant that you’d literally be three months behind everyone else. Fortunately the world wasn’t as immediate back in the late 80’s, so being three months behind wasn’t as huge a deal as it would be today. But to a kid who was checking the mail everyday waiting for his comics to arrive, it still felt like an eternity.

Actually there was another bad thing about subscribing to comics back then was that the comics where literally shipped wrapped in brown paper wraps. Like the comics were slipped into the packaging and could be slipped out. Which meant that if they got wet, there was a chance that your comic got wet too.

After those subscriptions ended, I bought my comics either at the newsstand or at my local comic shop. I certainly enjoyed the immediacy of getting my comics off the stands and getting them on Wednesday (from the newsstands) or on the weekends (from my comic shop.) It was an awesome time.

I didn’t subscribe to comics again until I went off to college. I figured that I’d subscribe to the comics that I loved when I went off to school so that I’d have my comics waiting for me when I returned home for vacations.

So, in the late 1990’s at one point or another I subscribed to the following books; Aquaman, Chase, Creeper, The Flash, Green Lantern, Impulse, Starman, Nightwing, Supergirl and Young Justice. Since some of those books were short-lived the people running the subscriptions program would just transfer the remaining issues I was owed to a book that I was still getting.

It was awesome! And in addition to being home and roommate free, when I got back home and went to my room, I literally had dozens of comic books waiting for me. By this point, the subscriptions came in plastic bags, so they were better protected from the elements. So I’d spend a few minutes taking the comics from the bags organizing them and then putting them in new plastic bags. Good times.

Of course then it got to the point where I wasn’t really going home as often, so subscribing to comics didn’t make as much sense. Instead I just tried to hit up my comic shop on a regular basis.

But what was funny is that I’d apparently subscribed to a book that had gotten cancelled shortly after I resubscribed, so the next time I went home, I had a stack of Harley Quinn comics wait for me. I’d not subscribed to Harley Quinn, but those running the subscription program just filled the order for Harley instead. And Harley Quinn wasn’t half bad.

Now in 2012, comic book subscriptions don’t make as much sense. They aren’t advertised with house ads in the comics anymore. And given that everything has to happen “now” and no one wants to be left out of the mix, waiting for a comic to come via the mail seems completely out of the question. And honestly, given the economy, I feel better about supporting my local comic shop and putting my money back in the community.

But there is a part of me that misses the thrill that came with comic book subscriptions. I’m glad I’ve got that experience to recall.

Anyway, it’s Wednesday, so go buy and read some comic books.

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