So new comics return to stores this week. But will the readers do the same?
Some almost certainly will. People in several comics groups I’m part of on social media have spent their quarantines buying up massive quantities of back issues, just to give themselves some reading material. New comics will be very welcome for those guys.
But that may not be the case for everybody. Lots of people are out of work. Money’s tight, and may very well get tighter before the pandemic’s through. And that’s another problem: We’re still in the grip of a global pandemic. And most likely will be until a vaccine is developed. Making that trip to the funnybook store may not feel like the most essential thing at a time when any errant glob of spit might land you in the ICU, coughing yourself to death.
That’s kind of how I was thinking last week. A small selection of new comics hit shops then, but it was mostly leftovers. Stuff that had been printed before everything shut down. And I thought about going to my local funnybook store to check it out. But, you know… COVID. So I did something I never do: I went online to look up exactly what was coming out. And there wasn’t anything I wanted. So I didn’t go.
Which brings us to another sea change in the funnybook market: two months without new comics may have broken the Wednesday Warrior habit. I know it has with me. Before the shut-down, there hadn’t been more than maybe two or three Wednesdays in the past 30 years when I didn’t have at least one new comic to read. That’s a tough tradition (read: addiction) to break, but break it I have. And what I’ve discovered is that I don’t really miss new comics that much.
I mean, I very much did at first. But the longer I went without them, the less I missed them. Or rather, the more I realized how much damn trouble they always were. Buying them, organizing them, storing them, running out of room for them… I had what alcoholics sometimes refer to as a moment of clarity, and suddenly the whole process just made me feel profoundly tired.
I was, admittedly, already feeling that way a little. I’ve spent too much time in recent years around people who just collect comics to collect them, and don’t even enjoy reading the damn things. That’s a mindset I’ve never understood, and it honestly kind of disgusts me. I mean, whatever you’re into, I guess, but… I’d far rather see that nice copy of Fantastic Four #48 go into the hands of someone who’s going to cherish it because they love the story, than see it fall into the hands of some jack-off who owns it just to own it. But after the weekly comics spell was broken for me, I looked at my own collection, and the wreck it’s made of my library, and I became a little disgusted with myself, as well.
(And this is where I should probably post a photo. But frankly, I’m too embarrassed.)
So I’m done.
Not with comics as a medium. Oh, Lord no! I still love funnybooks, and have no intention of abandoning them. But I have to scale back. It’s not just a space issue, either. Early on in the lockdown, I spent some time going through the stacks of unread comics I’ve amassed over the years. And what I discovered was that maybe there was a reason I hadn’t gotten around to reading them. Because most of them weren’t much better than okay. Some of them were very pretty, but not very good reads. Others had a fascinating premise, but didn’t pay off on their own potential. And others may have had a handful of great ideas in them, but I could glean everything worth knowing about them on a five-minute skim.
Very few of them were keepers. And at this point, I don’t need comics that aren’t keepers. So I’m changing the way I do things. I’ll be thinning out the collection, cutting back to just the stuff I truly love. And I don’t intend to add to it, except with other things I love just as much.
Which, for new comics, means reading a lot more digital. Much as I love Redneck, for example, it’s not such a beautiful comic that I feel compelled to read it full size on paper.
Yeah. My tablet screen will do for that.
It’ll do for a lot of books, I think. I’ve long held that buying print gave me some return on investment, even if it was just nickel-a-book credit down at my local funnybook store. And that’s true. But I’m not sure it’s worth the trouble to me anymore. I’ve also held out on print because I wanted to help support that shop, which is one of my favorite places anywhere. But I can’t do it anymore. It’s just too much.
Not that I’ll be abandoning my local shop, understand. When I get the chance to pick up the latest Brubaker / Phillips joint…
…I will do so gladly, and I’ll do it there. When David Lapham gets Stray Bullets back up and running later this year (assuming he can still do that)…
…I won’t be able to resist picking it up off their shelves. And if any of those digital comics I’m picking up monthly is so great that I want to add it to the collection, they’ll get the money for the trade collections I buy for the bookshelf.
I’ll still have a decent collection, in other words, and I will no doubt add to it. And when I do, I’ll be spending as much of that money as possible with the local shop that I love.
But now I’ve gotta go. Time to see if there’s anything I want coming out tomorrow…
EDIT: There was only one book coming out this week that I wanted (the new issue of Grant Morrison’s Green Lantern run), and it happens to be the one comic I bought during the shut-down, when it shipped as part of DC’s alternate distribution plan. I’m not sure that’s technically irony, but it is irony’s kissing cousin…