For most of the people who do it, I’d wager that hanging around at iFanboy.com is one of the bright spots of online interaction. I’ve made a dozen friends I never would have met otherwise and had a million animated conversations about topics that universally would have earned me blank stares from my otherwise decent in-person community. The normal tone around here and the people it attracts seem to me like unique little snowflakes in the comicsphere; I don’t know about you, but I subscribed to four or five other comics podcasts the week I found this one, and within a month or two this was the only one that had survived the playlist. If I may “fanboy out” over a site I myself now work on for a moment.
Of course, even the most fun, positive places on earth are no match for pervasive doom. Sarin gas at Disneyworld is still sarin gas. And make no mistake, a mere two months after DC’s New 52 made autumn feel like spring, the pall of death suddenly hangs over us in the form of CANCELPOCALYPSE. Last week, I saw a couple of people online give us the business about our coping mechanism/gallows humor, direly warning that putting a death watch on books would scare readers away from them. Respectfully: we’re not the ones who gave the books eleven loyal readers. We’re the ones who talk up comics we like every single week. You may have us confused with the Marvel marketing department.
Still, I feel guilty that I haven’t used my Monday soapbox more to beat the drum for books I like. Because of CANCELPOCALYPSE, I recently did something I never do anymore, namely look at the sales charts. (Of course, industry insiders will be quick to tell you that these numbers bear absolutely no resemblance to reality; the fact that the books at the bottom of the chart are the exact books that get canceled– I’m sorry, “end”– is random coincidence, a joke at the hands of a whimsical God. But anyway.) The top sellers were a blur to me– oh, at last, people are buying Green Lantern– but I couldn’t help idly wondering, “Which book I buy is at the bottom of this chart?”
I didn’t have to look hard. The worst selling book in the top 300 was Starborn.
That is a crime.
Starborn was a great, imaginative book about a would-be sci-fi writer who discovers that his stories are actually memories, and that he is the heir to a galactic empire who was hidden on earth as a child. I say “was” because the day I read the sales chart turned out to be the day that the last issue of the book came out. It had “ended” by sheer coincidence that had nothing to do with those imaginary sales numbers. The end of the book was a sucker-punch; all this time, I had just assumed the book had an audience because it was good. I can be naive.
It’s too late for me to do my part to save Starborn (although it’s worth your while to grab any collected edition of the material that comes out; the last chapter is a satisfying conclusion and not abrupt in any way) but there are a bunch of other books I’ve been assuming you know about that I ought to mention while the mentioning is good. I don’t want to feel like I let anybody else down.
They’ve talked about The Sixth Gun on the podcast a few times, but it deserves all the attention it can get. I could summarize it as a “supernatural Western,” but the book is more than the sum of its parts. It weaves the Civil War and the apocalypse together in ways that surprise on a regular basis, with a lot of characters making a lot of deals with a lot of devils. Even if you think you dislike the genre, the way it touches on loss and greed and other human drives is universal.
Skullkickers is a miracle. Speaking generally, there is no genre I hate more than fantasy. Magic and dragons and effing swords and effing elves and that veneer of faux-Middle Ages ren faire turkey leg hogwash does nothing for me but make me feel like taking a shower. Somehow, against all the odds, Skullkickers manages to be a fantasy book I look forward to every single month. The key is that it takes none of the genre conventions seriously, but it isn’t some wink-wink in-joke for Warcraft players, either. It follows two hapless mercenaries as they attempt to find work but instead find nothing but trouble and disaster. It is an incredibly accessible, fun book full of action, mayhem, and sound effects. The fact that one of the mercenaries inexplicably carries a gun doesn’t hurt, either.
The Unwritten has been a Pick of the Week, but it bears repeating that it’s a great story for people who think about Stories. Is Tom Taylor the inspiration for his father’s most popular character, or is he a story come to life? What is the agenda of the cabal that seems to be steering the world with fiction, and how can Tom stop them using nothing more than a doorknob and a magic wand? The book defies summation, but that’s good, because that gives you all the more opportunity to experience it for yourself. Drop two or three of your lazy three-star books next week and try the first trade. (There I go, getting three-star books canceled again with my powers.)
Near Death has only come out twice, but I want to see it keep coming out. A professional killer almost dies himself and gets a glimpse at the Hell that awaits him unless he redeems himself, then tries to spend the rest of his life using his talents for good. Is that high-concept enough for you? As straightforward as The Unwritten is complicated, but so far just as good. You still have time to claim you liked it before it got popular.
I’m sure you have a pet book of your own that I’ve forgotten. I’d love to hear about it in the comments, if only so I can say I helped sell some deserving comics this week.
Jim Mroczkowski is trying, Ringo, he’s trying real hard to be the shepherd.