The publisher of Comic’s Buyer’s Guide announced today that it will cease publication with the 1,699th issue (March 2013). Established in 1971, it is/was the longest running English language publication covering the world of comic books.
I’ll leave it to Wikipedia to give you the history of CBG if you’re interested. Or, even better, check out this article by John Jackson Miller, a longtime staffer at CBG. Instead, I’m going to get all Quincy up in here and attempt a post-mortem.
I have a complicated relationship with CBG. I first encountered it in the comic shops of the Washington D.C. area back in my late 1980’s Army days. Back then, CBG was a tabloid-sized newspapery thing loaded with a ton of ads for mail-order comics. That was pre-Internet and if you wanted to get comics via any other way than from a comic book store or convention, CBG was probably your main (if not only) option.
But I never bought a single comic through CBG. Ironic given it’s goal of helping buyers of comics do that very thing. But CBG was more than just a bunch of ads. It was also the go-to place for comic news, reviews, and historical articles.
Since I’ve been reading CBG, various writers have come and gone. Some columns lasted a short time and others, like Peter David’s But I Digress column at the back of each issue has been around for 20+ years. And topping things off was Oh, So?, CBG’s letters column.
Once, there was a letter from a guy in my town just ripping the owner/operator of our only comic book shop a massive, brutally honest new one. This particular guy was known as “The Comic Nazi” by the unfortunate comic buying public in my town. I mean, if there was a course on How to Make Enemies and Piss Off a Bunch of People at the local community college, this guy would’ve been sitting on the desk in a jar of formaldehyde.
I loved it. I loved it so much, I clipped it and sent it anonymously to the shop owner in question with a note “Sound like anyone you know?” A couple months later, the original letter writer wrote in again to say he had been banned by Herr Comics. NO COMICS FOR YOU! He didn’t mind. He was just making the point that instead of taking his criticism to heart, Mr. Please Don’t Shop Here threw a hissy fit. But I digress…
So, back in the day (said the crotchedy old man), CBG performed the functions for comic book fandom that the Internet does today. I fondly recall flame wars between Peter David and Todd McFarlane as well as assorted John Byrne nuttiness. But as time went by and the Internet became ubiquitous, CBG seems to have lost it’s way.
At some point (around 2004), CBG went monthly (having been a weekly) and switched from a newsprint tabloid to a magazine-sized publication, and that’s when they started to lose me.
Like I’ve said before, I love magazines. And I’m not here to pee on CBG’s grave. But in my opinion, this was a magazine that needed to be put out of it’s misery years ago. They added a price guide. So you ended up with this little mini-phone book thing. But like they used to say back in the 80’s, “Where’s the beef?” Sure the articles, reviews and columns were still there, but I would find myself reading through an issue in 15 minutes, skipping a whole lot of content. Eventually, I just let my subscription lapse. That cycle continued for a couple years until I finally gave up in about 2009.
Then, in 2011, I gave CBG another chance. I think I got a deal in the mail for a one year subscription for $12. I’ll read almost anything for a $1 an issue. Boy was I surprised when my first issue came in the mail. I’ve seen Sunday sales papers that felt more substantial than this. I almost hesitate to call it a “magazine.” It really was more of a pamphlet. And the content had taken a serious nose dive.
Now I’m not that guy that whines if I don’t find 100% of a magazine’s contents aimed squarely at me. But some of the articles, particularly the historical ones, started to make the word “esoteric” seem generous. I mean, I’m sure there are people out there incredibly interested in Superman comics of the 50’s that featured the color Pink on the cover, but I wasn’t among them.
But they did have reviews. Only I found about 75% of them to be for comics that I’m not sure anybody was reading except maybe the writer’s & artist’s mothers. And even the letters page started to suck. I guess the dudes that used to pen the good ones had moved on to the Web. Now the letters seemed to be dominated by crying that the San Diego Comic-Con didn’t have enough comics or some other sleep-inducing topic.
I think my last issue (before letting my subscription lapse at $24/year) was the Happy Birthday Stan Lee issue. OMG was that brutal. I mean, I like Stan. He is The Man, but however many pages of “Happy Birthday & Excelsior!” was just brutal with a capital B. Did I mention it was brutal?
So, in the end, I can’t say I’ll miss CBG. And there’s probably little chance of another publication filling the (apparently pretty small) void. There’s another magazine I’ve seen on the stands but they want like $15 bucks for it, and you know how I feel about magazines priced so high they have to offer financing. I guess the rumors of print media’s demise may not be so exaggerated.