Comics Miscellaneous geekery Tabletop RPGs

From pulp to pixels (and sometimes back again)

I love comics. But how I read them has changed over the years, from all single issues as a kid to all TPBs in college to all-digital…and then back to single print issues. And now back to digital-only again, but this time for good (I think).

Reflecting on the notion of pulling or subscribing to single issues in this, the fourteenth year of the pandemic, it feels a bit like starting to buy CDs again. Would I start buying CDs again? Nope. There’d be no point.

Everything except the smell and feel of a printed comic, and the implementation of double-width splash pages, works better for me in digital format.

Looking back

From the early 1980s until 2000, I read all of my American comics in print as single issues. In 2000, when Preacher ended, I switched almost entirely to reading TPBs. It wasn’t until 2019 that I started up a pull list again.

That lasted about a year, until the pandemic hit and I fully committed to digital comics in March of 2021. I was subscribed to 12-15 X-Men books every month, and that eventually burned me out; after a break, I came back with a leaner subscription list that stayed steady for a few months. I transitioned back to print in February 2022, when comiXology went from awesome to pretty crappy overnight.

And then in May of this year I realized I just wasn’t going to read single issues in print again. Never say never, of course, but I canceled my pulls and went back to digital-only. Most of my big-two reading these days is older runs on DC Universe Infinite or Marvel Unlimited, and it’s incredibly rare for me buy TPBs anymore.


On the manga front, I was almost exclusively a tankōbon reader from childhood through the end of 2020. Subscribing to Shonen Jump online in 2020 was a seismic shift for me, and I’ve done about 90% of my manga reading digitally ever since. (Series I’m attached to in print for one reason or another make up the other 10%.)


Like music, and then novels, and then movies, as much as I love holding a comic in my hands the convenience of digital options outweighs that love 95% of the time. My eyes aren’t getting any younger, and it’s hard to argue with backlit pages I can read anywhere, zoomed-in as needed, without having to manage, store, and haul around hundreds of pounds of stuff every time we move.

I don’t think my love of print will ever vanish entirely; that connection runs too deep. But nowadays I mostly buy print comics as slabbed books, or intending to send them to CGC, so I can hang them up and enjoy them that way.

Look upon this trend, my creaking RPG shelves, and weep

This reckoning is coming — slowly, but inevitably — for my RPG collection and reading habits as well. I passed the tipping point where my PDF collection outnumbered my print collection years ago, and the amount of time I actually use my print RPG books in play has diminished steadily for the past 5-7 years.

For now, I still buy print RPG books that are special in some way, because they’re gorgeous, out of nostalgia, or because they offer usability advantages in some specific cases (mainly modules, sometimes, or handing books to other people). But I’ve thinned my print RPG collection by 40% over the past couple years, and I don’t miss a single book from the culling.

The intersection of convenience and usability is the ultimate reaper.

Out now: The Unlucky Isles

The Unlucky Isles [affiliate link], the first system-neutral guidebook for my Godsbarrow fantasy campaign setting, is now on DriveThruRPG.
Books Comics

The Marvel Encyclopedia is awesome

As a kid, I used to spend hours poring over any sort of “superheroes A-Z” content I could find. I had some that came in issues of comics, and the long-running Marvel-phile column in Dragon, and probably other sources I’ve forgotten about.

When I started playing TSR’s Marvel Super Heroes, I traced hero silhouettes from those articles (Captain Britain was a favorite) and used them as the basis for drawing all of my characters.

Fast forward from the late ’80s/early ’90s to now, and I’m kicking myself because it wasn’t until a few days ago that it occurred to me that of course this is still a thing, and it’s probably gotten even easier to acquire big volumes of it.

It has! Enter the Marvel Encyclopedia (paid link) which — although it’s a bit squirrely about its author credits — is at least partly written by Matt Forbeck, and which is utterly fabulous.

This book is titanic. It’s a coffee table book, hardcover, and over 400 pages. Full color, of course. (It had a dust jacket, too, which I find less than useless on books this size.) And it’s $22 shipped with Prime.

It covers more than 1,200 characters, both heroes and villains, with origins, pictures, background info, and other fun tidbits. It also covers crossover events, famous hero/villain groups, and more. It’s exactly the kind of big, splashy, high-production-values book I’d expect from DK and Marvel.

This is the kind of non-gaming RPG sourcebook that I love. Need on-the-spot inspiration for an NPC? Flip through this beast. Stuck for hero ideas for your next character? Lose yourself in over 1,200 of them. Can’t remember who Obscure Hero X is? They’re probably in here.

This book is so cool.

Out now: The Unlucky Isles

The Unlucky Isles [affiliate link], the first system-neutral guidebook for my Godsbarrow fantasy campaign setting, is now on DriveThruRPG.
Miniatures Tabletop RPGs

Buying bulk HeroClix to use for other supers games

I recently stumbled across Scott Pyle’s Super Mission Force (paid link), read up on it — it’s a low-complexity superhero miniatures game that uses power suites to make character creation simple, and it supports campaign play — and thought, “That sounds totally rad! Except I don’t have any miniatures for it . . .

Enter HeroClix, which have been around for years, and which are readily available in bulk lots — perfect for someone who doesn’t care about them as HeroClix[1], just as miniatures. SMF is specifically designed to work with whatever minis you have on hand (just like Frostgrave (paid link), which I love).

The best I could do for bulk minis, with some duplicates and likely a few broken ones in the mix, was $0.50/figure on Ebay. Or so I thought, until I remembered that CoolStuffInc — a fantastic online game store I’ve shopped at for years — stocks loose/single miniatures.

Their HeroClix selection includes batches of 100 assorted HeroClix for $15, with the note, “May contain duplicates.” (They also have batches of 100 different HeroClix for $28, but those were sold out and in any case were pricier than I’d like.) I rolled the dice and bought four packs.

Zero minis enter, 400 minis leave

Here’s the first 100, which turned out to be the lot with the fewest duplicates of my four (dupes and broken are in front):

Those plus the second hundred (growing horde of dupes off to the left):

The final 200:

The breakdown

Here’s how my 400 HeroClix shook out:

  • 332 unique miniatures
  • 68 doubles (and multiples, etc.)
  • 3 broken figures, all easily repaired with glue

At $60 for all 400, that’s $0.15/figure, or $0.18/unique figure — much better than the best I could find anywhere else.[2] And duplicates aren’t a bad thing: Superheroes fight forces of goons, squads of robots, evil crime families, and the like all the time, after all.

The variety across my 332 unique HeroClix is staggering. A wide range of skin tones, genders (male, female, genderless, ambiguous, etc.), ethnicities, species, roles, and heroes/villains are represented in my lot. Also included are a dozen or so minis on flying bases, some mundane non-super folks, and a handful of giant-sized figures.

Compared to the other prepainted minis I’m used to, WotC’s old D&D Miniatures line, the paint jobs on HeroClix range from awful to pretty good, with the occasional excellent one — but I knew that going in. HeroClix get the job done, and what they lack in quality they make up for in variety. I don’t know of a better way to acquire this many prepainted figures, with this much variety, this cheaply.

Some of the fancier and more interesting-looking ones actually look pretty awesome, too. Here are a few favorites:

I also threw in a random assortment of $2 HeroClix maps for good measure.

Overall, I’m beyond thrilled with how this worked out. When Super Mission Force arrives, I’ve got a deep catalog of potential miniatures to match damn near any character concept we can come up with. I also bought a superhero RPG by the same author, 3d6 Supers! (paid link), that looks it will work well with miniatures.[3] I’ve loved superhero RPGs since I was a kid — I’m sure there will be plenty of chances to put these to use.

If you need a walloping great bunch of inexpensive superhero minis, this is a splendid option.

[1] I’ve played HeroClix and it’s neat, but it’s not my jam. And the older I get, the harder it is to read the tiny icons on the bases.

[2] Compared to CSI’s $28/100 different, which shakes out to $0.28/figure, this is the clear winner.

[3] I don’t always love using minis in supers games — Marvel Heroic Roleplaying, for example, is superb as a theater-of-the-mind game — but some supers games lend themselves to that approach.

Out now: The Unlucky Isles

The Unlucky Isles [affiliate link], the first system-neutral guidebook for my Godsbarrow fantasy campaign setting, is now on DriveThruRPG.