The local comic book marketplace has had an absolutely catastrophic summer. Although national trends remain generally positive, over the course of the last six to eight weeks readership has plummeted 100% among consumers living in my house.
When I said “local,” I wasn’t screwing around.
For the first time since 2000 when I rejoined the “comic book community” (and no term has ever been used more loosely than I use that one; my current belief is that there is a “comic book community” online in the same sense that raccoons clawing each other to death for the same trash bag full of spoiled hot dogs can be described as “the dumpster beef community,” and the sooner we all realize that the better off we’ll be) I have not even tried to buy comics for the last two Wednesdays. When New Comics Day arrived, I looked over at the 30+ issue stack in my ever-heavier backpack and said, “Nah. I haven’t even finished the ones I’ve got.”
That’s not a bold stance or anything in 2012. It would have been, not so long ago. There was a time, especially circa Civil War, when I’d hit the shop at 11:02 every Wednesday whether I’d read everything last week or not because getting there at 11:31 meant missing several of the books I wanted. They’d just be gone. I hadn’t preordered Heroes for Hire, or whatever, so Heroes for Hire wouldn’t be there.
Back then, turning my back on New Comics Day would have been some kind of statement. Now? Hell, I’ll just download it when I get around to it if I want to.
There are probably people who lament this as a tragedy. You are incorrect, Granddad. This is awesome. I can’t believe I finally live in this world.
Since at least four years ago, I have been saying, “When will I just be able to download mah damn comix?” and that time has been here for the last six months or so. It is everything I wanted it to be back then– when I did not know the iPad would exist, or that my wife would demand an iPad, or that the decision to name it the “iPad” would stop being hilarious after the first six months or so– and more. If I can get to the shop on Wednesday and talk to my peeps in the dumpster beef community, that’s great; otherwise, I’ll just click through and grab it as needed.
The break/trial separation/respite of the last several weeks has shown me something worth repeating: It is okay to take a vacation. Better than okay, in fact. It’s practically mandatory.
Recently, I’d gotten to the point where I was ready to chuck all this out a window, put on a fake mustache, and start a new life for myself in Costa Rica as “Pasquale.” I was seeing headlines like, “The Bendis/Kirkman Debate: Who’s Winning Now?” and thinking, “Ugh, Christ, wouldn’t it be nice to just read for fun without debating which author was ‘winning’? Where else do we do this? ‘30 Rock or Game of Thrones: Who’s Winning?’ Someone please kill me with a brick to the skull.”
“I see the indie publisher is really excited about what’s coming up… except they don’t want to talk about how great their books are as much as they want to talk shit about the bigger publishers, apparently. Awesome. I base most of my reading decisions on strangers demanding that I take sides in business deals that have nothing to do with me, not to mention making me feel like an idiot for reading what I’m already reading. My, what rosy feelings for your brand you have cultivated. It reminds me of that old NBC campaign, ‘ABC Shows Are For Wife-Beaters.’ Good luck with your books about such blindingly original topics as superheroes and zombies.”
Such was my state of mind when I deleted half my RSS feeds, put my unread books in a backpack, and walked away for a while.
But a funny thing happened this weekend. After a month or two off, I took a chance and whipped through thirteen or fourteen books in a sitting… and it felt amazing. Liberating, even. I didn’t consult the web to see what I was supposed to think about them; I took my own time and formed my own opinions. (New Mutants has been amazing; Batman #11 was an appalling death-by-bloviation.) Free of context and baggage and history, I read my comics and, of all things, enjoyed them.
If the Libyans from Back to the Future burst into my home at this very moment, pointed their AK-47s at my head, and said, “Western devil: tell us what is going on with this whole Marvel NOW! situation,” I would not be able to do it. In the coming months, I have not the foggiest clue who is doing what for which or where at what point when. I am sure Bendis is up to something, and Fraction is elsewhere, and Romita is doing his thing while Stegman remains the sexy bad boy of comics. It is a total mystery to me, and that is fine. Better than fine, in fact. It’s ideal. I need a break from being jaded by my passion. It’s about time I closed my eyes and let my joy wash over me.
Jim Mroczkowski would love to believe there’s a place where auto-correct accepts his name.