Why I Can’t Get Into Comics

I am and forever will be a huge X-Men fan. I got into the mutants when I was in high school when a fantastic cartoon simply called “X-Men” wowed me every afternoon. If I had band practice (yes, I was that kind of a nerd in high school), I set our upstairs VCR to record it. It was then around my senior year in high school that I ventured into my first comic book store and started to collect the X-Men rebooted series. For those who are super hardcore comic book nerds, it’s the X-Men reboot from the early 1990s, also simply called “X-Men.”

I collected it all the way up to leaving for college, which led me up to about issue 60 or 70. I honestly can’t remember and my stash is in a box somewhere. I left the comics at home, because I was in an uncomfortable place in college…one where no one knew I liked comic books, cartoons, and video games. A closeted geek, if you will. But that’s a story for a different time. The point is that I left collecting the comics, and to be fair, going to college was only one reason why I quit (not having a job was another).

When I was collecting, I had a lot of back issues to get through, obviously. One of the story arcs that appeared in the back issues was regarding “The X-Cutioner’s Song,” a story dealing with a possible child of Scott Summers and Jean Grey, Mr. Sinister, and Apocalypse. If you read only the X-Men comics’ portion of that story arc, you only get bits and pieces of the story, as it spread across The Uncanny X-Men, X-Factor, and X-Force comics. Obviously, this is something that comic book publishers have done for decades to get fans of one series to pick up another series and possibly get said fan to branch out and start buying another series. For someone like me, this was pure torture.

If I’m going to get into something, I never do it half-assed, for better or for worse. I am all in, and I have to know absolutely everything about every backstory ever made about every character…ever. That’s how I got into the Gears of War books and Halo books. (Like I said, for better or for worse.) So you can already see where I got into trouble with getting into X-Men comics.

Obviously I couldn’t get into collecting all of the Uncanny X-Men comics, but I did find some Marvel indices with summaries of all 300 comic books of the Uncanny X-Men that were released up to that date. I couldn’t be completely satisfied there, though, as many of those story arcs bled into X-Factor, X-Force, the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, etc., etc., etc. As I didn’t have ready access to the Internet back then, I spent a lot of time in libraries reading back stories.

It nearly killed me. Alternate universes, spin-offs, the 2099 series, alternate time lines, time travelers…holy crap my head nearly exploded trying to absorb it all. I know if I told all this to one of my former co-workers, her response would have been, “You need to free up your gray matter!” I’m too much of an obsessor and an addict to continue down this road. I really did have to free up the gray matter.

I was recently reminded again of why I can’t get back into comics, thanks to LEGO Batman 2. As I was unlocking the characters, I was thrilled to see Nightwing in the list, as I knew that Dick Grayson became Nightwing when he left being a sidekick. In fact, I expected to unlock Dick Grayson himself as Robin’s alter ego, since I was unlocking Clark Kent, Bruce Wayne, and Diana Prince already. But no…I unlocked Tim Drake. Who the hell is Tim Drake? To Wikipedia!

As I looked up Tim Drake, I found exactly why I can’t handle getting into comics.

The premiere Robin limited series was published in 1991, featuring the third incarnation of the character, Tim Drake, training to earn the role of Batman’s junior partner. Following two successful sequels, the monthly Robin ongoing series began in 1993 and ended in early 2009, which also helped Robin’s transition from sidekick to a superhero in his own right.

After the forced retirement of Tim Drake (by his father) as Robin, Drake’s on-and-off girlfriend, and an established DC Comics character named Stephanie Brown (alternatively known as the Spoiler) became the fourth incarnation of Robin and the first in-continuity female version of the character. However, shortly after her acquisition of the Robin mantle, Stephanie was stripped of the identity by Batman and was apparently killed by the supervillain Black Mask in the crossover Batman: War Games (2004). It has since been revealed that her death was a ruse and she eventually returned to resume her previous identity before becoming the sixth Batgirl. Following the “death” of Stephanie, the Tim Drake character reclaimed his former role as Robin, the Boy Wonder.

In the final issue of Battle for the Cowl, Bruce Wayne’s son, Damian Wayne becomes the new Robin after rescuing Tim from death, working first with Grayson (who substituted as Batman), and then his returned father. Tim Drake later takes on the identity of Red Robin.

It’s…it’s too much. Five different Robins? Two died but came back to life? Dick Grayson pretended to be Batman while mentoring Damian Wayne as Robin? Tim Drake became Red Robin? Dick Grayson was Red Robin? Red Hood? ARRRRGH NO MAKE IT STOP.

It’s too much, I tell you! I respect all comic book collectors who are able to separate all of this and don’t have to delve into every little aspect. I honestly envy it. Then maybe I could have freed up the gray matter.

Every now and then, I’ll look into Comixology to see how far behind I am in collecting that X-Men comic series I collected back in high school, and I’m thankful to see I’m hundreds of issues behind. I know that there have been other reboots, especially in the DC Universe as of late, just prime for me to pick up and start fresh…but I have to say no. Can’t go down that comic road of crack again.