The Upside of Boredom

It has come to this: now, when my favorite shows end for the season, I feel the exact same way I did as a kid when school got out for the summer. I feel like I just got paroled after being framed.

Mind you, I’m not even a person who watches a lot of TV. Not in the grand (American) scheme of things, anyway. Certainly not compared to my wife, who will sit down and watch an unscheduled half hour of Brides Behaving In A Way That Makes You Want To Raise Your Kids On A Goddamned Island or Catty People Cooking Food In Front Of You That You Will Never Get To Taste. I will watch my share of NBC’s Thursday night comedies, though, and I’ll occasionally get hooked on an hour-long drama as long as it isn’t “ripped from the headlines” or set in a hospital. I’m a big fan of the “middle-aged men in suits making jokes about the news” genre. Add all of it up, and it takes up a handful of hours a week.

Somehow, though—probably due in part to being on the Twitter/Facebook spoiler treadmill—these few shows a week which I genuinely enjoy start to feel like homework as winter turns to spring. It is not uncommon for me to think a thought like, “God, the lawn isn’t going to mow itself, I still need to get my oil changed, and on top of it all I still need to watch Community.” I start looking forward to Jon Stewart’s vacations more than he does. I was moved and saddened when Lost went off the air, and I spent a week afterwards reading about Lost, writing about Lost, and thinking about Lost. I was in mourning, but then it suddenly hit me: I get an hour back. And the podcasts! Oh my God, I can unsubscribe from all the “what the hell just happened on Lost” podcasts! I can almost hear the ching-ching-ching of time-coins being dropped back into the piggy bank of my life!

All of this suggests I’m doing life wrong. It’s too late now, though. Between the Netflix queue, the DVR queue, and the Stack—ohhh, the Stack—there’s always something waiting for me to look at it. I joke that the one thing I’m looking most forward to is one day, just one more time before I die, being bored again. Except I might not be joking.

It’s ironic, then (or maybe it isn’t; I don’t even know anymore; thanks for nothing, Alanis) that I have such a huge pile of comics right now and can barely muster the enthusiasm to lift most of them. I wanted to be bored, but this isn't what I had in mind. I really like Irredeemable and these new G.I. Joe books and fifty other things on the pile, but at the moment it’s starting to feel like I could really use a summer hiatus from some things. I’m starting to notice the price on the cover a lot more. I can feel myself becoming elastic. Books are dropping and being dropped.

Still, there are a few core books that I have to read as soon as I leave the store, and there are some things I’m anticipating this summer. I just need a little enthusiasm booster shot, and that’s when I turn to you, the most positive comics community on the internet. (Is that saying much? Is being the most positive comics community on the internet like winning the speed-walking race at your grandmother’s retirement community? Not important! We’re staying positive!) What are you enjoying and/or looking forward to this summer? You show me yours after I show you mine:

Opening the Vault. While I have been burnt out more than a little bit lately on the postmodernism and the genre deconstruction and the buzzword buzzword of current comics, I find myself increasingly fascinated and delighted by the older ones. I went through a long phase of my life thinking I didn’t care for Silver Age comics because they were a little too corny and wordy, but then I realized that I was a Marvel kid, meaning that every single Silver Age comic I’d ever read was done by the same two or three guys. Maybe I didn’t dislike old comics; maybe I was just tired of those guys. After that breathtakingly obvious epiphany, all eras were on the table, and there’s been no looking back.

Right now, I am in the middle of both the Starman and the Howard the Duck Omnibæ. Starman is a little slow going—I was really looking forward to the Tony Harris art, forgetting until I got past the cover that the book was published (and colored!) in 1994—but the Howard tome has me under its spell. The anticipation plays a huge part in my enjoyment; I have literally been hunting for this book at a reasonable price for two years. (Because God forbid a Marvel omnibus ever gets a second printing. But never mind! Positivity!) I am savoring every panel of Steve Gerber’s magnum opus; it really is unlike any seventies Marvel book I’ve ever read. In turn, it’s got me going back and checking out Essential Defenders and other related books by the same creators. My Stack will be teetering with excellence again before you know it.

The Heroic Age, Actually. When I heard about it, I wasn’t so sure the dawning of this particular new day was one I’d be up for. I wasn’t so sure they could pull off the shift in tone at all, to be honest. So far, though, just about all the books under this banner have been the breath of fresh air they’re intended to be. It’s great to see the heroes getting the band back together; it’s great to see them defending the world from threats instead of being threatened by each other. I didn’t realize how much I missed this kind of story until I got it back.

The Whole Bendis Area. There’s something about saying “I’m a really big fan of the biggest writer in comics” that makes me feel like I’m my mom talking about American Idol. Nevertheless, good books is good books, and Brian Michael Bendis got where he is today for a reason. While I never stopped liking Powers or New Avengers (volume 5 hardcover out any day now, motherhuggers!) I liked them in the way that I love my favorite comfort food but don’t crave it or count the days until I might eat it again. There were months when I’d get Ultimate Spider-Man only to realize I’d forgotten to read the previous issue.

No more! David Lafuente, and even my hated bookfoe Ultimatum, have helped revitalize Ultimate Spidey this year and make it the best there is at what it does. The years-long Avengers story Bendis has been telling has reached its triumphant culmination, the slate is wiped clean, and now he is finally telling the straight-up, big stories of super derring-do that were only hinted at during the early issues of Mighty Avengers, the Book That Almost Was. Not to mention the fact that his new creator-owned Scarlet will be here before you know it, with Maleev draped all over it. I’m even looking forward to the Bendis Tapes. Sign me the hell up!…

Wow. Maybe I’m not so down on comics after all.


Jim Mroczkowski has had some real breakthroughs today. Until our next session, he can be found on Twitter.


  1. While it’s kind of redundant of the Heroic Age comment, I’m specifically looking forward to where Jim McCann is going with Hawkeye & Mockingbird, and Jeff Parker with Thunderbolts, plus that whole Shadowland thing looks surprisingly intriguing.  And though I wouldn’t have listed it a few days ago, the Marvel contingent at Heroes Con did a good job of getting me interested in the ‘Avengers Academy’ book that starts this week.  It’s modeled on teen team books like Runaways or the original New Mutants, while also leaving room for other Avengers characters as ‘faculty’ or guest stars. 

  2. I have to say that with all of the shows I watch dissapearing at a rapid pace (Lost, 24, flash Forward) I think that my summer and the rest of the year may end up dedicated to re-reading a ton of my old series. I have a ton of old X-books that I haven’t seen in years and I’m also thinking about taking a look at Infinity Gauntlet for the first time since the early 90’s. Might hit up instock trades for a few Avengers trades as well.

  3. I’m actually somewhat excited about Brightest Day.  I didn’t really expect to be, but the first few issues have been exactly what I wanted them to be.

    I’m excited about the new Flash series.

    I’m excited about the Return of Bruce Wayne series (the last issue was excellent). 

    I’m excited about Futurama coming back this summer (starting June 24th). 

    I’m looking forward to The Walking Dead on AMC this October (near Halloween I assume).

    I’m also looking forward to seeing more economics terminology casually thrown into iFanboy articles (nice elasticity reference).

    I’m also extremely excited about NYCC this fall and meeting all these crazy iFanpeople in person. 

  4. It amazes me how brilliantly Bendis is using Ultimatum, compared to how big of a piece of turd it was!

  5. My Hulu and Tivo queues are finally empty so I bought a bunch of trades for this summer. Finally reading Concrete and BPRD from the beginning and Terror Inc which looks fun.

  6. I appreciated your comment about "postmodernism and genre deconstruction". I too have been slowly reading through the Silver Age Marvel material. But it seems to me that "ages" in comics have more often than not been organic reflections of the historical period from which they derive and the changing structure of the industry/market. Doesn’t Marvel’s effort to push the current zeitgeist forward by rewinding the aesthetic clock, while consistent with the internal logics of the Marvel universe, seem slightly hubristic?

  7. @cahubble09: If you’re referring to "The Heroic Age" you are overthinking a marketing term. They’re not actually trying to create a new age. Lots of comics fans are hung up on this.

  8. If you read Ultimate Enemy, it further shows how Bendis is a masterful Marvel writer.  It adds so much to Ultimate Spidey and the UU right now.  It’s a must read.  Also going back, Fantastic Four Ultimatum was pretty good.  And it leads perfectly into Ultimate Enemy.  Ultimate X-Men Ultimatum however was awful.  Don’t read it.  I read them both on Marvel Digital Comics.

  9. Try and think of the "The Heroic Age" as "The Heroic Couple of Years", until Marvel comes out with another universe sweeping status quo thingie.

  10. The Marvel editor at Heroes (Bill Rosemann) said that the Heroic Age term was meant to refer to a clearer divide b/t Heroes and villains than we’ve seen since Civil War.  I thought that was a pretty fair statement of it as a descriptive term, and not more or less than that. 

  11. @cahubble09: "The Heroic Age" is what it is: A way to market a new – slightly retro – status quo in the Avengers line. I don’t think it’s meant to be associated with the Ages (Golden, Silver, Modern, etc) which refer to comics as a medium, not a specific line of titles.

    That said, I’m also looking forward to it this summer! While the blue banner across the top may be making every Avengers-related cover the same brand of ugly, the stuff inside the books has been really refreshing so far.

    Also, as a fellow Marvel fan, I’m looking forward to reading the conclusion of "Second Coming" and seeing what the new status quo in the X-books will be.

    In the non-Marvel world this summer, I’m particularly looking forward to The Return of Bruce Wayne, the last few issues of Daytripper, and the current arcs in Fables, The Unwritten, and American Vampire.

  12. Thanks Conor, cromulent, ohcaroline, and ibagree,

    I do think I’ve been hung up on it. Maybe it is in part because I really enjoyed the ‘gray’ universe of recent years, and I associated that with Watchmen and Dark Knight Returns… or perhaps it is more accurate to say that Watchmen and Dark Knight Returns made a gray Marvel universe possible?

    I suppose I’m also a bit selfishly anxious about what effect this "Heroic Couple of Years" might have on my favorite Marvel books, X-Factor and Deadpool. Deadpool is the epitome of the ‘gray’ anti-hero, a character of his sort isn’t really possible in a black and white universe. Is it?

    And I’m perhaps also conflating what I think the rise of an iPad/iPod/Apple newsstand might portend for comics in general. It concerns me that increased accessibility via the internet (while generally positive) might give rise to increased efforts to cleanse or sanitize comics for truly mass consumption. I certainly don’t envision the return of a Wertham-style moral panic. But Apple gave us an indication of what might happen to (non-Marvel and DC) independent publishers when they purged their app store of all undesirable content (produced mainly by small- to medium-size creators).


  13. I’m looking forward to flying my kite.

  14. A lot of these new "breat of fresh air" titles have reenergised me too.  The slew of new Avengers titles, Flash, Booster Gold, THunderbolts and Zatanna have all been recent examples of books that have sparked my enthusiasm switch.  There’s also plenty of stuff this summer that’s always been classic, like Scalped and loads of Morrison Batman.

    However, I sympathise with the fact that you’re noticing the price more.  I don’t know if it was the recent deluge of articles about the August price hikes, but I’ve got to cut stuff and i think some of them will be really tough choices.  The latest two are Brightest Day and probably Streets of Gotham.  BD has some enjoyable plotlines, but also plenty that I’m not interested in.  It also seems like it’s not enough of a break from the Blackest Night story which lasted so long.  And SOG is a good Batbook but I’m more captivated by the morrison stuff.

  15. Great article.

  16. I feel like there has been less Jimski content lately, but maybe that’s because there’s just more of everybody else.  Either way, another fun one.  Thanks.

  17. Another Winner Jimski!

    I know how you feel man. I mean when they said it was going to be "different" and that the 5 year Avenger buildup would be over I worried. I really did. In fact I think I got back INTO comics in the middle of Civil War and so I felt the air of "ohshit it’s going to be just like the 90s!!! OHSHHHHIITT" and I had the looming feeling that I should pull out my stock like a broker playing it safe the day before a market crash, but so far I don’t feel like the writers are losing me in this universe. In fact I feel more relaxed about the order of reading now and when I read them. I can let some titles build up like I did with ASM and then read it on one go without fear of having to read it in a particular way  because whatever happened in Book A influences the shit out of Book B. It’s a nice feeling. I can stand it to stay this way for a while. But I hope we get a big boss at some point in the next three years or so. That, I think would be a smart plan, build it up, tear it down, build it all up again.

  18. AMuldowney: actually, if anything I’m here more than ever now. I’ll betcha there’s just so much new content on the site now that my screeds get bumped off the home page before you have time to notice them. When in doubt, the complete list of my articles is here.

  19. Shameless self promotion!  (Well done.)

  20. I’m looking forward to re-reading my favorite Vertigo and Image collections.  Just got done reading Y and man oh man…that was refreshing.  I have an eternally growing stack of books that I have, but haven’t been read.  On the otherside, theres a rediculous list of books that I want to read, but can’t afford to get.