Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Fever is Coming Back...

 Every fan gets it - certainly a true comic book fan. I'm not talking about those two-arm,two-leg, "I'll-just-buy-one-issue-or-two-and-that's-my-collection" phonies or the "Oh,-these-comics-are-not-in-good-condition.-The-price-is-good-and-the-books-are-hard-to-find,-but-I'll-pass" and "This-shop-is-just-too-out-of-my-way-for-me-to-come-in-every-week" or "This-shopkeeper-is-racist!-I'm-never-coming-back!" pretenders. Feh!

  Comic books are like potato chips or gummy bears - you can never have just one. There's a reason why a serving of gummies is 15 bears. On the other hand, you can eat just one bon-bon - especially if it's that bitter, gooey, dark chocolate/caramel hybrid that leaves a bad taste in your mouth. Have you ever seen anyone eat two of those back-to-back? Outrageous!

 Remember the days of "self-contained" stories? If not, you're young (and I didn't know young people bought comics - I just assumed you waited for your Mother to force Dad to get rid of his collection or wait for Gramps to kick the bucket. This is strictly an adult hobby - did you not see all the old people walking around the shop?). A self-contained comic was simply a story that was complete in one issue - you need not fear finding out if Batman succumbs to bumping off the Joker in part 2, because there was no part 2. Of course, nowadays we would buy part 2 to see if he does kill the clown, knowing that if he did, we'd be up to our armpits in ninja gangster stories - this will never happen...oh, wait, they do that anyway. Today, a self-contained issue is a "launching point" or a "key issue" for a new storyline - a point-of-entry for "new" readers who want to know where they can hop abroad the moving train. These issues tend to be a bit threadbare in plot and story - usually a thrown-together mash-up of stock activity (Batman taking down gang members, Captain America riding his motorcycle and throwing his shield, The X-Men having a picnic or playing baseball, Savage Dragon getting a recap of what went on before while he was out, Spider-Man chasing car thieves) and then two-three pages of set-up for a new storyline (never a story-just a storyline) where some sign of dread appears - maybe a character watching from the shadows or some poor fool getting killed. "Not the end...check next month's issue and read this Wednesday's Comics and Stories #508 for another angle and read Death Scooter #267 to see Wendell check out the action alone!"

 But wait a minute - if you're a lowest common denominator, hardcore comic book fan, you're not going to sit and wait for four weeks for the story to continue, you'll want to check out what happened last month and the month before that (in the case of Transformers comics, you'll be checking on the last two publishers that had the character license). That means you're at the mercy of the back issue aisle - a wretched hive of scum and villainy if there never was one. Here, you can expect to be charged a tax on used, dog-eared periodicals, or - even sneakier - a tax on last month's issue, which may not have been bagged or boarded, but left sitting next to the current issue on the stacks. Here, you can thumb through a stack of old books and wish for hand sanitizer after gazing at your fingertips caked with dirt. Here, you can stare at dead bugs trapped in Mylar. Here, you can sweat through your clothes like a pizza slice in a paper bag when you realize the shopkeeper shut off the air conditioner so that you'd run out of there. Ha! As if that will work!

 Wait a minute...those tricks do work. They do make anyone with half a brain turn around and say "Never again..." They do lose new customers and new readers who developed a genuine interest in comics but can only go as far as waiting for the next issue and ignore the recent past. Who can wait for next issue when it takes over a year for a storyline to resolve itself and the price of a new issue keeps going up beyond casual spending. The fever goes away...

 The fever never leaves the die hards, though, especially the ones with Debit and Credit in hand. Yes, yes, even in the days of Cap'n Credit Crunch and Fannie Big Mac/whatever, you'll still see people spend $30/$40 dollars a week on comics. These die-hards won't pause when the total rings up an additional 8.25/god knows what % sales tax that makes no sense (even less sense when the clerk explains that it's because "It's an old comic" - wtf ?).

 That is why a "jumping-on point" comic is not just a beginning - it's an ending. Yes, the first dose might even be "Free" (right, Free Comic Book Day?), but the next dose is always hardest to take. Once you've got the fever, the prescription is a trip out of the store, or a four-color cocktail of last month's, last year's, next month's, or tie-in issues. Down the hatch. Never say "when". Oh, and never think about whether the stuff is any good - generic comics are never a steal. Yes, some places do tax issues from the quarter/half-dollar bins.

Happy Wednesday.


  1. Sometimes, though, “The Fever” leaves!

    Very well written piece and, as with anyone who’s been around this stuff for a long while, I’ve seen everything you describe in one form or another!

    Oddly, on the day I read this, I’ve decided to quit new comics, as I explain in my Blog entry for February 27, 2012.

    And, that evening, I just happened to see the superbly meta “final” (?) episode of BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD: “Mitefall”! Don’t tell me there’s no such thing as Karma.

  2. Joe's in his "My Name Is Earl" phase right now. Karma Karma Karma Karma Karma chameleon - you come and go, you come and go -o-o-oh... Mark my words - You'll be back! The funnybooks have not seen the last of you! ;)

    As for me, I'm suddenly wondering if Hollywood has got it all wrong - instead of giving Dr. Drew Pinsky so much airtime, why not swing that camera over to ME? ;)

  3. Yeah! Why not? Less “Drew”, more “You”! I’d go for that! …And you could interview me about the lifelong habit I just kicked.

    More Karma… My wife has Dr. Drew on in the next room, AS I TYPE THIS! Yes, really!

    I’m not sure what the mainstream could do to get me back. Yet, I just LOVED the JLA “Doom” DVD, so I still feel for the characters and even the decade-old storyline upon which the DVD was based.

    But, a new Disney line edited by David Gerstein (…and with an occasional scripting contribution from yours truly) would cause me to – not just fall, but DIVE headfirst off the metaphorical wagon!

  4. Karma's like that sometimes, Earl. She's showing you the way. Keep that list handy. ;)

    I'm debating on the format of my show - that "hand-on-knee-touchy-feely" rubbish doesn't really work, so I thought a mish-mash of Clean House/Top Gear/Who Wants To Be A Superhero/Attack of The Show would do. I'll host it with Rachel Perry and Vanessa Lachey - I don't want it to look like The Nerdist - which looks like the table in the high school cafeteria where all the geeks played Magic:the Gathering. Comics is sexy. I'll set up an obstacle course where superfans/celebrities will "Try To Save The Universe In A Reasonable Amount Of Time" or the three of us will tackle challenges outdoors dressed as our own "Costumed Hero" characters.