While ensconced at The Beat Annex located in mainland New York City for what will be a nine-day weekend, I had to use my wits to keep from going stir-crazy from cabin fever.

Yet fevers can be inspirational, and when I heard that the New York City Marathon was canceled yesterday, inspiration struck!  I had discovered all sorts of unread books when I had prepared by apartment for the storm!  I had lots of free time (no electricity at work)!  What if I tried to read non-stop for 26.2 hours?  If I read a page-a-minute, that would equal 1,572 pages read!  And thus the Comics Marathon was born!

The rules:

  1. The goal is to read new (or forgotten) works, totaling 1,572 pages or twenty-six hours twelve minutes of total reading time, and to share your reading experience with the general public.
  2. All books must relate to the comics medium.
  3. Only one book may be a historical or art survey, or a prose novel.  The rest must be collections of comic strips, comics books, editorial cartoons; or original works.  Comic book periodicals generally are not allowed, as the purpose of the Marathon is to encourage others to read books you have read.  Online webcomics are also discouraged, as one would be required to read ALL of the text on each screen, including comments and advertisements.
  4. All text in a book must be read, including: forewords, introductions, prefaces, acknowledgments, notes, biographies, bibliographies, appendices, and supplemental material.  Indexes may be scanned by the reader.
  5. While paper texts are encouraged, one may read texts on any device.  Pagination totals shall be tabulated from the paper edition, to avoid page inflation from font size or guided viewing.
  6. Only pages actually numbered in a book will be counted.  If a book is unnumbered, then the reader may make a rough count later, or use pagination found online.  One may include the roman numeral pagination used for introductions and prefaces as part of the grand total.
  7. Page length of a book is not a factor.  One may read a picture book, or an omnibus.
  8. You may not reread a previous book unless you are reading the complete collection of a series, such as an omnibus, or all the volumes of a series, such as the Absolute Sandman volume 1-5.  If you cannot recall most of the book’s contents, or if it has been ten or more years since you last read the work, it counts as “new”.
  9. Style variation: You may limit your reading to a particular genre, subject, author, character, or series, if it satisfies the 1,572/26:12 requirement.
  10. The reader may use the Nancy Pearl Rule of 50.  When you reach the fiftieth page of the book, the reader may stop reading if the book does not interest the reader.  If you are older than 50, you may subtract your age from 100 and use the resulting difference as the milestone.  If you are 100 or older, you may judge the book by the cover.  You shall note these “stopped” books on the shared reading list.  The pages read before the Rule is implemented shall be added to the page total, as will time elapsed.
  11. Aside from necessary bodily functions (sleep, hygiene, nutrition), one may not engage in any other activity aside from reading for the duration.  The clock does not stop when the reader engages in these activities.  The reader may multitask, although reading in the shower is discouraged.
  12. This is not a race or a test of endurance.  One may stop when one finishes 1572 pages.  One may stop when one reaches 26:12.  The reader may stop at any time.
  13. Chess Clock variation: The reader may take one week to read either 1,572 pages or read for 26:12 hours, tabulating the time as if one was playing chess.
  14. One must share one’s reading experience with the general public, regardless of the final outcome.  At a minimum, the reader shall list the books read, the total number of pages, and the total time spent in the endeavor.  Ideally, one shall recount one’s experience, including personal reviews for each book read.
  15. Other durations are acceptable.  500 pages, five hours, an omnibus…

So I readied my supplies, sat down at 1o PM, and began to read “Marvel Comics: The Untold Story” by Sean Howe.  I paced myself every sixty pages, discovering that I read at a rate of about one page every ninety seconds.  By 7:10 AM, I had finished, 485 pages in nine hours, ten minutes.  Then I took a nap.  When I woke up at 11, I began reading Marvel Monsters, which I had purchased on sale at C2E2 last April.  It went well, until I hit the back of the book… which featured email correspondence among Marvel monster hunters, describing every monster featured in the previous stories!  GAH!  But I soldiered on, and finished by 3:30 PM, when I took another nap.  At this point, the cold I had been battling sapped most of my energy to continue (mostly due to the headache), so I bowed out after 17:30, after reading 709 pages.

Marvel Comics was an engaging read, although a few photos interspersed among the text would have helped.  I knew quite a few of the anecdotes, but the narrative seemed a bit low-key.  What was most interesting was the parallel between the Revlon period, when prices and cover gimmicks were used to increase the bottom line, to please shareholders, and the current discussion over variant covers.  One accountant noted that sales would drop after an expensive anniversary issue… #551 would have a loss of 20% compared to #549, for example.  Does this occur now?  The other bit of craziness I did not know: the fate of Mary Jane’s baby during the Clone Saga, which was ambiguous.  If stillborn, was the actual baby buried, or replaced?  If alive, where was it taken?  (Yes, I know… it’s best not to talk about the clones… but given Gwen’s twins, the return of Norman Osborne, the Secret Society of Spider-Men…)

Marvel Monsters was enjoyable.  The modern stuff was fun, the classic reprints were interesting.  Fin Fang Four was lots of fun, although I wish they had included the Marvel Adventures story with Spider-Man.  The backup handbook was a nice way to present all of the data, but boy was it a slog!

So I challenge you all to try the Comics Marathon!  Perhaps during “Read Comics in Public Day”!  Or maybe like a fundraiser walk or dance marathon!  Fill a library meeting room with comfy chairs, let participants read books from the shelves, tabulate each reader as they finish a book!  Then calculate how many miles of shelving were read!


  1. That was fun. Complicated, but fun.

    My rule for most comics is the Tony Isabella Rule of 8. If a comics story can’t give me something of interest in its first eight pages, I stop reading it. Of course, with today’s “padding for the trade” style of comics writing, it could take eight pages just for a character to sneeze.

  2. I have never entered a reading marathon. I DID try to read one enormous Marvel Big Event series while drinking beer one night, and was buzzing through issues in less than 60 seconds per page. But they were so baaaad that it still seemed forever, no matter how much beer countered the equation. I had to give up after about 30 issues. My hands were tiring from flipping pages every minute.

    Still, I do prefer Essential and Showcase Presents marathons. There is nothing as entertaining as multi-hour journeys through Silver and Bronze age titles. And no beer needed.

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