Toward a Comics-Geek Taxonomy, Plus Five Flatly Awesome Comics : Monkey See Grazers vs. Stackers, and other meaningless geeky distinctions, plus: Not a Best Comics of 2008 List, except in the sense that it is.
NPR logo Toward a Comics-Geek Taxonomy, Plus Five Flatly Awesome Comics

Toward a Comics-Geek Taxonomy, Plus Five Flatly Awesome Comics

Know this: Among those few, those happy few, those bands of geeky brothers and sisters who dutifully hit their local comic shops every Wednesday to pick up the week's batch of new comics, there exists a host of distinct species and subspecies.

Blue Beetle: What it has to do with my No. 1 Geek Confession of 2008, after the jump. DC Comics hide caption

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DC Comics

Let's start with the most basic split in the trunk of the comic book fan's taxonomic tree. And it's got nothing to do with DC vs. Marvel.

No, this classification is even more fundamental, and it's bound up in one's essential character. Which is to say: It's not what you read, it's how you read.

After the jump: Reading habits as Rorschach blots, the five ongoing series that consistently end up at the bottom of my pile, and why that's a good thing.

Grazers vs. Stackers. That's pretty much your Kingdom Animalia vs. Kingdom Plantae, right there.

Grazers simply work their way through their stack of weekly titles in whatever random order the shop rang them up. Thus they can seem to radiate a sort of blitheness that borders on indifference. And this weird, Adam and Eve-before-the-Fall nonchalance is something inveterate Stackers like me publicly scorn — and privately envy.

Here's why: Stackers carefully — nay, ritualistically — sort through their selections prior to reading. As we set about prioritizing our weekly funnybooks according to any one of a hundred different sets of metrics, we engage in a deliberate process that demands close attention and no small amount of self-reflection.

I know several Stackers, for example, who can't bear the miscegenation of fictive universes, and so finish all of their Marvel books before moving on to their DC books, their Image books, et cetera.

Others read team books first, or sort by genre — Western before horror before indie, and so on.

By far the most common criterion used by Stackers is the simplest and most subjective one — how much they like a given series. But even here there's a key distinction.

There are, of course, the instant-gratification types who read their favorite series first. I understand this impulse, having spent a few years in this camp myself. Ultimately, it began to feel like I was eating dessert first.

Today I religiously place favorite series on the bottom of my stack. True, this has the unintended effect of causing me to plow through the books I care less about so quickly that their contents never quite make their way to my long-term memory.

(I couldn't tell you much of anything, for example, about what's happened in some of this year's major crossover superhero "events" — I know that aliens at one point impersonated Spider-Girl, but I couldn't tell you why. I know, too, that Batman is either dead or on workman's comp, but that's about it.)

Below are the ongoing comic book series — some going strong, some recently cancelled — that always ended up on the bottom of my personal stack in 2008.