A Month Without…
Tragedy has happened in Humphrey Lee land my friends, and I am sad. My beloved 2001 Dodge Intrepid – my first car that I bought eight years ago to begin my senior college year – hit 200,000 miles (yay!) and then promptly died (boo!). On the “insult to injury” side, the ensuing shenanigans of car replacement (which, I just found, is actually pretty simply when your credit is pushing for 800) left me unable to get to my growing comic book stack at my usual store of choice given that it is 60 miles away (because I am insanely loyal and still go to the town I moved away from seven years ago). And while this doesn’t seem like a terribly big deal, I’d imagine, to most, it was kind of a “revelation” - to get all hyperbolic - about comics, or at least how I perceive them, that I thought might be fun, maybe even helpful to share as I’m about to do now as I sip a Troegs Brothers beer.
The first thing I learned was that two-thirds of it doesn’t fucking matter. Let’s be real here, and if anything that four-week drought taught me was being honest with myself, but most of the comics we buy don’t “matter.” What I mean by that is that they’re comfort purchases. Throughout our years of comic book reading we come to identify ourselves with certain creations and story types and gain loyalty to writers, artists, companies, etc. It’s only natural and we all do that and there is nothing wrong with that outside of, I’d argue, it sets an ugly precedent. But as I sat down with roughly fifty books this past Wednesday, I realized how many comics I get out of habit or just wanting to stay in the loop on some of my favorite characters. Obviously I enjoy them still; I am not the kind of person that just continues to buy and buy and buy a book I hate just because “I <3 Batman” that much. Quality matters, but I think we are willing to make concessions on quality just because we want a fix, and to that end a B- grade Batman book is better than nothing because, well, I <3 Batman.
The thing is, on a weekly basis, it’s easy to not really notice. It’s all a matter of perspective. Like I alluded to a second ago, I’m probably good for fifty books a month or so. So you figure twelve comics a week and break it down that eight of them are comfort books and four of them are the “really good stuff” – your SCALPED, LOCKE & KEY, and UNWRITTEN’s of the industry. I go down to my store, I drop $50 for my stack, and it all tiers so well doesn’t it? I organize my books based on perceived quality (the other thing I noticed once I got this behemoth pile in my hands, that being my god are we a retentive bunch of bastards aren’t we that we all have our “reading orders”) and spend about an hour playing catch-up with my favorite characters. And its fun and its comfortable because we know what we’re getting into and we’ve been getting into it for years. These are old friends and memories after all; comforts from days past and distractions from the things that are weighing on us now (like having to add a car payment to the onslaught of bills you are already facing).
But try reading 40 of those things in a row and see how lenient you are on the quality then. Again, it’s easy to just breeze through those books when you have a half dozen or so in front of you at a time; read a slew of them at once and I think you’ll come to the same realization as I did and that is, honestly and truly, we could probably do away with half our stacks if we were being real with ourselves. And they certainly not that important that people need to be doing silly things like, oh I don’t know, protesting at Comic Con a line of them re-launching itself. At the least, some patience on the matter could be called for in order to just play catch-up via the dollar bins at a convention every six months or so. I actually just did that not too long ago with about three years worth of X-titles I abandoned back when crossover fever was heating up again. Not only does it save you a significant amount of funds but it also makes for a fun day’s hunt at the convention and a week or two’s reading when you haul it all home.
Which brings me to another observation I made, which is that there’s just too many fucking books. Again, that’s a pros and cons type of thing in that, hey, chances are if there’s a character you like, no matter their popularity level, they are probably in a book these days. Fucking Iron Fist is in three last I checked, so even if you absolutely love, I dunno, Starfox, you’ll probably find him. I say there are too many books though because I don’t believe we really have the talent to work with in the industry to keep these things afloat with quality. More directly though, what is really happening is that we really are overwhelming entire aspects of comics, at least in the mainstream sense of the word.
There can never be such a thing as “too many comics.” The more comics the better because that just means maybe we are turning things around and readers are starting to get interested again, hopefully in the market share not controlled by Marvel and DC. Simply because as the market grows, so will they too because they are really the gateway to the industry because of how well-established their properties are in pop culture, and they don’t need any damned help. I want there to still be Batman, but I also want more BUTCHER BAKER’S goddammit. In fact, its their antics that raise that perception of “there’s too much going on” as the constant events and gimmicks exacerbate, as I watched unfold as I was presented with a stack of fifty comics I actually want to buy and a wall of stuff I either wouldn’t mind trying, begrudgingly need to read to keep up-to-date, or long ago decided to avoid like plague. Sometimes the lines blur between those segments though.
I’ll wrap this up because I know it’s getting a little “state of the union” while stemming out of an anecdote, but I wanted to leave with this. While I was gone, Bucky died (again). I assumed it was a FEAR ITSELF issue, but considering his place in CAP proper the past few years assumed he got a send off there. Checked that and no. So I checked the newest FI (#4) and nope, no dead Bucky. So I figured it might be in one of the three AVENGERS books. Nope. Eventually I just asked my LCS owner and he pointed me at FI3 which came out the first week I was unable to do my Wednesday rounds. I pick it up, flip through it and put it back down with a “well that happened.” Because it really meant nothing. One – again - I knew it happened without even having been to a shop for a month. Hell, the company promoted it. And then it took a good ten minutes of hunting through a half dozen books to find it out and it was, of course, anti-climatic because it happened in an event that is, per usual, way bigger than it should be (though entertaining enough) to a character arbitrarily pumped up to “Big Bad” status because, eh, someone had to be. I also spent the summer on that X-title catch-up which put me up-to-date to AGE OF X and I look at those books right now and already don’t know what it going on again. And I’m a near-twenty-year vet of this shit. If I can’t keep up, how are we expecting newly interested parties to go to the store and just “hop in” to the mix? And then we bitch that one of the biggest perpetrators of this is going to try, for better or worse, to make their line “more accessible” with a slew of new number one’s? Please.
But alas, because I am a comic fan and an @$$hole, I will be there buying, trying, and bitching like everyone else, loading up my stack with more books I could probably do without. And I’ll also be there singing the praises of the 33.3% of my stack that really gets my juices going, that I hope become the standard to which we hold our comics to and that I hope is what REALLY brings in the new readers. Because I love my fucking comics and I don’t want them going anywhere but upward to better things spaced over fifty-two Wednesdays a year, as I would hope you do too. Cheers…