I like comicbooks more than beautiful shoes, more than amazing toys, more than well-designed furniture, more than drinking champagne, more than fancy restaurants, more than almost anything else non-essential that money can buy. I wouldn’t have thought this to be true, but when it came down to the crunch it proved to be the case.
A few years ago there was a little bit of a blip in the economy, (kind of like a little precursor to what’s happening now), and there wasn’t a whole lot of work around. Not so long after that, my body decided it hated me and let me know by causing me insane amounts of pain. Suddenly I couldn’t work for a year, I couldn’t even sit up for long enough to do anything interesting on the computer. I was too knocked out by pain and pain meds to focus on books, or friends, or pretty much anything. Despite the exhaustion of the pain, after a few weeks the boredom really started to make me crazy. This is where the comics came in. Even if I couldn’t handle anything else, I could lie in bed and read comicbooks, immerse myself in a world other than the crappy one I was stuck in. Escapism was an essential part of staying sane and comics were the best route to that.
Without an income and the expense of fabulous therapies that doctors recommended, (but health insurance didn’t cover – thanks), I had no leftover cash to spend on extras. When I say “extras”, I don’t mean caviar, I mean no clothes, no cafes, no burgers, no beers, no nothing. It sounds weird that comics would be the one thing I’d keep going with, but if you think about it logically, it makes sense. Out of all of those things, comics are the only ones that entertained me. Clothes don’t really matter if you aren’t working or going out to anywhere much, and when I was finally out of bed and desperate for a change I found a few clothing-swaps to unload stuff I hated in exchange for stuff my friend’s hated. Cutting out drinking tea in local cafe’s was annoying, but surprisingly easy since I live in San Francisco where the weather is usually nice. I’d make a cup of tea in a travel mug, make a sandwich, and take them to the top of Buena Vista Park. Okay, so we’ve got the basics covered, but while sitting in the park in my second-hand jeans, sipping my tea, what the hell do I do? Read a comic. See, it’s the only part of the equation that I couldn’t replace – comics.
Maybe it’s because I started out my career as a print designer, or because I grew up in a house filled with books and art magazines, but all I know is that there are few things nicer than reading for hours. This is why I’ll never care about reading a comic on a screen, it holds no appeal to me. I like the feel of paper and I like the smell of paper. When I was sick, reading comics was a real saviour in many ways.
It wasn’t just a passive entertainment either. As I made my slow recovery, attempting to build up my strength, the first regular errand I managed was a walk to the comic shop once every couple of weeks. I knew that I could afford to buy one comic a week and then I could sit in a park on the way home to read my bounty. It sound like a meagre existence, but after a year stuck indoors, with my strength slowly returning to me, it was all I could handle and I loved it. For $3 or $4 I got a nice little walk, some good conversation at the store, something great to read, and another small addition to my library of good reading material. That’s hours of entertainment. It was the beginning of a return to the world outside my sick bed and I was grateful. Don’t get me wrong, it was still a stretch to afford my comics. By the end of it, I had to cut it right down to Love and Rockets and Hellblazer, and briefly I cut it down to just Love and Rockets (which hardly ever came out). But still, I could go and indulge myself in this very small way and it gave me so much back in terms of feeling that I still had something to look forward to.
Thankfully, now this is all a clammy memory, and the hard work towards a healthy life is paying off, but I cannot fathom people balking at paying for comics. I love that it’s not a struggle for me to afford them anymore, but even when it was, I fought to keep going. From my point of view they are cheap, we aren’t just talking about information here, we’re talking about an object of desire. To take a comic and distill it simply to it’s visual input seems like only half of the object. To me, owning a digital file of a comic instead of the comicbook itself, is akin to rejecting a trip to Hawaii because it’d take too much time and effort. If it’s a trip to Hawaii, then I want it to take time! Similarly, if I like the comics, I want them to take up space in my house, I want to own them, I want to touch them, because I want the object just as much as I want the information.
Obviously now I’m an employed adult and I can afford luxuries like comics, so this might seem like an easy choice to make. But as I said above, even when I couldn’t afford it, I simply bought much less. The alternative of reading them online is not an alternative, but a flaccid and unsatisfying disappointment. Even now, people send me pdfs of comics, and I try looking at them, but none of the fun is there. I need to be able to stuff my comicbooks my handbag and read them on the bus to terrify old ladies. I want to take them to bed so that when I wake up too early on saturday, I can lie there reading till midday. I want to stash them on my shelves in alphabetical order so that I can yank them out at a moments notice and leave them around the house to read over and over again. I want to lend them out to my friends in huge piles so that I can blow their minds.
What can I say? I’m in love with the medium as well as the message. It’s magic and it’s worth every penny to me.
Sonia is incredibly healthy and solvent. Most days she remembers how damn lucky she is to be walking around, but the rest of the time she’s incredibly cranky just like everyone else. If you want to remind her of the beauty of everyday existence, you can mail her at email@example.com.