Thursday, November 06, 2003

OK, now to muse for a while on John Jakala's disenchantment post of the other day.

I got bit by the comics bug at an early age, age 4 to be exact. And before you ask, yes, I could read them. Somehow, and don't ask me how, I have been able to read (and comprehend) almost as long as I've been alive on this world. Honestly, I think comics helped me with this, enabling me to associate words with actions...but that doesn't explain my immediate grasp of phonics. Maybe it was divine providence, who knows. My teachers all thought that I was some kind of prodigy, and that I should be moved up a couple of grades, but it didn't take me long (with my non-English related subject performance) to disprove that notion. God only knows what they would have done with me if I'd been born in 1990 instead of 1960. Anyway, I digress. What I'm trying to get across is that I have a deep-rooted love of the comics medium, and have had for a hell of a long time. I've experienced the best and the worst of nearly every major company for 39 years, and my enthusiasm in this period has waxed and waned for sure but has never really gone away.

So I look at my comics buying habits right now and for the most part, I'm satisfied. I don't buy a lot of titles that disappoint me on a regular basis, and if they do I drop them, simple as that. I can generally justify why I continue to purchase everything on my holds list, even books I bitch about constantly like JSA and Strangers in Paradise. My biggest concern right now, given my unemployed status, is being able to afford to buy as many as I do now, and as often. The last time I was in between jobs I cut my list down to ten titles, and only picked them up once a month, which thankfully didn't last long. This is also a reason why I resist going to a "trades only" mode; even though 15 bucks or thereabouts isn't an outrageous sum for a collection of 4 or 5 books, still it's a good sized chunk of change to come up with at once, especially if there are other floppies in my stack. And don't get me started about hardcovers. My biggest concerns with changing over to trades-only is that there's no assurance that everything I want to buy will come out in that format. Many do, but I won't hold my breath waiting for a Superman: Red Son or Cinnamon: El Ciclo trade anytime soon. Also, buying floppies (God, you people have got me using that term) vs. trades is a bit like watching a weekly TV show, one sitting a week, vs. a whole month's worth of taped episodes of that same show. One hour (or one floppy), I'm good. Four hours, (or one collection of four comics) I get a little restless and wind up taking a day or two to view or read. Case in point: I'm up to issue 8 in that Essential Tomb of Dracula collection, and I bought it last Saturday. So while I wouldn't slash my wrists if the Powers That Be went to all-trade formats, I will hold out till the end.

I don't really have a big problem with the system or pre-ordering via Previews, either. My comics shop puts out the new issues of Previews, sells them at cost (and I used to buy them, but Jesus God those things pile up), and then issues a holds update form with all the upcoming releases for the prospective buyer to select. The biggest problems for me have arisen from the vagaries of Diamond's distribution system, which often shorts one store on a particular title to favor another. This is one reason why I don't have the third issue of Superman: Red Son, and missed both issues 5 and 8 of Jack Staff. Of course, no system is perfect, and this happens very infrequently, so I can't really complain.

Compared to the shop John shows pictures of (and I've seen much worse), my shop, which also carries used and new vinyl and CDs, toys, gaming stuff, VHS and DVDs as well as new and back issue comics, is pretty spacious (having just moved to a newer, bigger location) and well-organized, for the most part. It's not a hassle to shop there at all. It's a bit inconvienient for me to drive down there, especially since I don't work in Bowling Green anymore, but it's only once a week so I've managed so far. Besides, it's the only place to buy beer in the area, so I'd need to go once a week anyway!

Quality-wise, I honestly think that there are as many good, and I mean really good comics out there right now as there have ever been. More publishers, putting out a pretty wide range of subject matter, and more awareness of what fans want and don't want. Of course that doesn't mean that this awareness is always acted upon...DC and Marvel (along with others) seem to be steadfast and resolutely devoted to bringing us spandex first and foremost. But even the Big Two seem to be willing to experiment and bring us some unconventional titles (DC moreso, I believe) by unconventional creators. In every "age" of any company, there's always a fair amount of dross. It's just being selective and finding the good stuff that is the crux of the biscuit, if you'll excuse the Zappa reference. As far as the question goes of expanding the audience, I honestly don't know what the solution is...there's just a certain amount of people, and it's a very large amount of people, that regard any sort of fantasy fiction as frivolous and trivial, fun to watch once in a while but not to become a habit. And they raise their kids that way, as well, not encouraging them to read anything. I'm not entirely convinced that significantly more people would read comics, even if they were packaged manga-style and all dealing with Blankets-style subjects rather than super-heroes. Sure, there are a lot of kids that read Shonen Jump and collect Yu-Gi-Oh! and Pokemon, and that's a potential market, but I don't know if they would even be buying Jump if not for the fact that (as far as I can tell, from my cursory glances at the odd issue of Jump) to them, it looks like Yu-Gi-Oh and scans like Yu-Gi-Oh, so it must be the same thing. I'd also like to know if those same kids collect this manga from issue to issue like most mainstream comic collectors do, or whether they just pick up the odd issue out of curiosity. The extent to which I don't know these things is staggering.

So to wind this up, I, too, have begun to question if I want to, and especially can afford to, keep buying comics. Right now, I'm still being stimulated visually and mentally by the handful of titles I buy right now, so I'm gonna keep buying until I just can't anymore.

And that, as they say, is that.

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