When I started "collecting" comics, it was in the form of reading, then clipping and saving newspaper strips. There were no super-heroes in the Chicago Tribune, or the Sun-Times, so I was reading adventure strips. My most favorite was Dick Tracy, which at the time, was running the Moon Maid sequence.
This routine established a a preference in my mind for story first, then art. It also kept me out of the super-hero realm. That's carried through to today, as I'm probably picking up ten to fifteen titles per week, and the only thing resembling super-hero is Black Hammer. The local comic guy has recommended Action and Mister Miracle right now, so I'm checking them out on his recommendation. At least for now.
Thank the stars for Cinebook. They, and companies like them, have excelled at presenting long-form stories focused on story content with beautiful art. I so wish this is what the medium had developed into in the United States. Ultimately, tho, American comics biggest single defining moment came when the comics industry, cowering in fear from Wertham, did so little to fight back. Economics over artistic freedom. Art lost.
I've just discovered Schuiten and Peeters' Obscure Cities (check into Samaris) which is very surreal with knock-you-out artwork. And there is Motter's Mister X, which is artistically gorgeous with a incredibly creative narrative. I would recommend the trade paperback Mister X The Modern Age to anyone who loves to savor great work.
I have a great appreciation for Kirby, Kubert, The EC stable, and others for their comic book work, but I do not look back on Prez, Brother Power the Geek, or Pureheart the Powerful with nostalgia. Matter of fact, I blame the accumulated effect of titles like those for holding back the medium's potential and adding to the non-comic reading public perception of comics as disposable, if not deplorable junk.
I've scanned some contemporary super-hero comics, and I must admit there are some well-crafted stories with very nice visuals. But I will not stand for the cheap, childish gimmicks the big two employ on a continual basis to grab market share The constant re-numbering, alternate covers, and cross-over "events" are insulting and seem to degrade or nullify any real artistic advances they could be making.
And don't even get me started on people who "invest" in supposedly rare variants of titles.
In the final analysis, I have to state that, in my opinion, some of the best material that I've ever read in the comics medium is being done right now. It isn't always the most obvious stuff, but boy, it's out there.