Your Positivity Booster Shot

In high school, as a joke more pointed than was probably intended, a friend got me a self-help book called Happiness is a Choice. I chose never to read it, which made me happy, so there you go. Still, for years afterward, the title was a favorite inside joke that we would repeat to one another in that Stuart Smalley voice whenever one of us was being a little too Johnny Rotten and not enough Rick Astley. You had to be pretty careful with the execution, though; turning to someone who’s ready to go all Falling Down and saying, “Now, remember: happiness is a choice!” is often an effective way to be reminded that shutting up and punching you in the face are also on the list of choices.

Nonetheless, recently I’ve found myself thinking about that book on at least a weekly basis, since cheerfulness has seemed unusually hard to come by. I don’t know what’s going on, but for some reason lately it’s been like someone threw open the doors to the asylum and handed every patient a laptop on his way out onto the street. It seems as if the shameful neglect of our nation’s infrastructure has allowed our bridges to deteriorate so badly that all the trolls have had to seek shelter elsewhere, and they have chosen the comicosphere for its hot air and proximity to snacks. It doesn’t matter what site I look at; it doesn’t matter how utterly harmless the topic; someone will storm in and ruin it for me, and probably shout something racist on the way out the door. These people are breaking me.

And I know it’s probably not actually getting worse. I know it’s the same as it ever was. I just saw this delightful Newsarama thread from 2006 about the $2.99 price increase that could have been posted this afternoon. (How’d that $2.99 outrage work out? I guess Marvel readership dropped about 40% after that, didn’t it? It didn’t? I see.) Still… look, Internet: I have given up on expecting civility, coherence, or letters arranged in the proper order from you. All I ask is that, if you absolutely must tell me everything I love is awful and misspell every word along the way, at least don’t do it using a made-up name and a Kool-Aid Man avatar. Show yourself. Say to the world, “I am douchebag, hear me roar! My name is Bobby Jo, and this is the face that made me insecure enough to talk like this about Aquaman!” Imagine being at a bar in real life with friends, talking about comics, only to have a guy dressed as Kool-Aid Man barge into your conversation and say, “BRIAN BEDNIS IS AN IDOIT AND HIS BOOXS SUCK AND YOU SUCK.” Then one of your friends asks the guy, “Hey, who do you think you are?” and he yells back, “I’M FLUBBERLUVR82, BITCHES!” and does that devil horn thing with his fingers. Picture him saying that in his Kool-Aid Man outfit. How seriously would you take that prize winner? Just something to think about the next time you’re about to engage in a heated argument with a total stranger as a picture of the Trix rabbit.

But I didn’t actually want to talk about any of that.

Happiness is a choice, and I’m trying, Ringo, I’m trying real hard to choose that sucker instead of doing some IP lookups and taking matters into my own hands. Tonight, therefore, I’m thinking about the things in comics right now that make me happy enough to keep the demons at bay. As I sat down to brainstorm them out, there were so many that the sheer number became one of the things I was happy about. I won’t hit them all, but here are just a few things making me smile despite it all right now.

The old stuff. After I wrote that piece about Rom the other week, I found a decent (if incomplete) bundle of Roms on eBay that fit my conception of what a 1979 comic based on a toy made out of floor sweepings from the Monopoly piece factory ought to be worth. I’ve also started reading as I find them the Marvel G.I. Joe series from the point after I stopped buying it as a kid, the downhill era of Battle Force 2000, Ninja Force, G.I. Joe Eco-warriors, Hypercolor Squad, Crystal Pepsi Force, and Dated Reference Brigade. I don’t see myself spending a whole lot more money on those G.I. Joes, but they are so charming as relics of an era; everyone in the book looks like he could turn into Venom at a moment’s notice, or like at any moment Cobra Commander might whip off his hood to reveal Todd McFarlane, shrieking, “And this is for biting my style! COBRA ATTACK, TO THE EXTREME!” As for the Rom books, they are an unironic pleasure. I am trying with all my might not to write, “They’re just… fun,” but I can’t do any better. There’s something about the way the oh-who-gives-a-damn style brings out an undercurrent of something more, as if writing about a plastic spaceknight on a deadline unearths something in the writer’s subconscious. Or maybe I just like explosions. Either way: you’re next, New Universe!

Contagious Enthusiasm. When I bought the first issue of Green Lantern: Rebirth all those years ago, I walked away from the experience dissatisfied. To put a phrase I hate to work for me, it was not a good jumping on point as far as I was concerned; I closed the book feeling as though someone had just spent twenty minutes insulting me in Flemish. Nonetheless, I am not made of stone. The steady drumbeat of praise for the work Geoff Johns has been doing lo these many years has softened my hard heart, and as someone at iFanboy I can say with confidence the question of where to start with Green Lantern has been well and duly settled. I’m going to pick up these trades, despite my earlier frustration, because you people and this site of ours have introduced me time and again to some of my favorite reading experiences, books I’d never have gotten on my own. I mean, I’m reading Walking Dead. Can you even imagine? I owe it all to you lunatics.

Brand New Year. Historically my favorite book, in the sense that it was about my favorite character, Amazing Spider-Man had a lengthy period on the “dropped” list post-Civil War. (I don’t care if you’ve been reading it since you were 11. This ain’t Cubs baseball. If it’s bad, drop it.) Since “Brand New Day” a year or so ago, however, this book has had the best creative teams, the best Spider-Man stories, and the best publishing schedule of any book in the business. Plus, everyone has largely shut up about Mephisto. If this new Web of Spider-Man title they’re talking about releasing in the fall is as much like “Nu Marvel’s” Tangled Web of Spider-Man as it sounds, I’m down for that too. This is almost always the first book I read, and they put it out every week. How thoughtful.

Stacklessness. The only thing I like more than having a bunch of great books to read is not having any. Finishing that pile is the closest I come (other than the moment I post these articles) to feeling like I did something with myself. At the moment, all I have is Scalped volume three… oh. And, like, 30 Roms. Oops. Never mind.

Something for Nothing. It turns out my library has the entire run of both Transmetropolitan and Planetary on the shelf, so as soon as it’s possible to check out extra free time I’m set for the rest of the year. (It doesn’t count as a stack if they’re not in your house! That’s a wish list. Totally different.)

These largely crossover-free times in which we live. Sure, you’ve got your Blackest Nights and Darkest Reigns, but neither one is wedging itself into your life in a particularly unnatural way. I don’t think Dark Reign even resembles an event, but whatever it is, I like it. Maybe a storyline about everything being run by unabashed bad guys just speaks to my worldview; maybe I’m just happy to see someone reminding the X-Men they’re on the same planet as the rest of us. I will say, I’m not entirely sure what’s going on from a publishing standpoint with books like Dark Avengers and Dark Wolverine, other than that their titles exist to make me chuckle. (“Oh, this is the Dark Wolverine. Now I see the distinction. Excuse me, shopkeep: do you have any of the Peanut Wolverine?”) Knowing a thing or two about the status quo in comic book universes, we know that it is only a matter of time before Everything Changes and Nothing Will Ever Be the Same. Nothing has Been the Same so often, I’m not sure Anything was ever the Same to begin with. Anyway, all of us here assembled know that the Dark Reign is going to end sooner rather than later; stamped somewhere on the total package is an expiration date. What happens to these newly spawned books once they’re left in a reign that is no longer dark? Who gets to be Hawkeye that week? Is Norman headed back to the goblin glider? Whither the Thunderbolts? Luckily for me, I’m keen to find out.

There are tons more. Spider-Woman. Iron Man 2. Irredeemable and Chew and Poe and The Veil. Longbox, Longbox, Longbox, and oh by the way Longbox. Skottie Young’s Oz books. I could list twenty more, but I might need an idea for next week, so let’s pocket those. I’m sure you have ten of your own. Why not talk about them the next time you’re thinking about complaining that Nathan Fillion should be cast as Wonder Woman?

Jim Mroczkowski hasn’t packed. He may just fly to California with the clothes on his back and let the chips fall where they may.


  1. 1. The current issue of Fables.
    2. The anticipation of SDCC updates and iFanboy coverage.
    3. The fact that ultimatehoratio finally got his copy of Blackest Night #1.
    4. Old Man Logan
    5. Batman & Robin by Morrison & Quitely 
    6. The smell and feel of Wednesday Comics.
    7. iFanboy grilling episodes.
    8. Stuart Smalley is now a Senator.
    9. My Wife
    10. My Daughters

    P.S. I don’t see Nathan Fillion as Wonder Woman, but Chris Pine could pull it off.

  2. It’s good to hear someone else giving Amazing Spider-Man its due in an article like this.  Spidey has been my favorite comics character since I first saw him fight the power-line surfing Electro on the old 60s cartoon when I was a kid.  Like you, Jimski, Amazing is usually the very first book I read each week, and it has been a long, long time since I’ve read one and thought to myself, "Man, that disappointed."  When they have their gap weeks without it on the schedule, I miss it a lot–how spoiled are we?  The last "American Son" storyline was one of my favorites, and I can say I am very, very excited for #600 coming out this week.

    Every time I still hear someone say they stopped reading Amazing Spider-Man because of the Mephisto thing, it makes me sad.  Because it is just so, so good now.

  3. I wish I read a book like then when I was still in high school. All I read was:

    You are Worthless by Scott Dikkers (yes that is a real book)

    Great article as always Jimski. If I can just ask though, I mean we can see what you score books on the site all the time. Maybe I’m only thinking of a few issues, but correct me if I’m wrong that you have given a lot of low scores to ASM over the past couple of months. I’m just curious if that’s true since you stated your loving the run right now.

  4. Jim, I’m buying you a drink Friday, you earned it with this one. by the way, are you going to try and go to the longbox panel on thursday?

  5. Thanks for writing this article. I know exactly how you feel about the internet. I used to be active on all sorts of message boards and websites, but the overwhelming negativity drove me away for years. iFanboy is the first site positive enough to lure me back.

    There is a lot to be happy about in the comics world right now.

  6. Bravo.  Positivity is great, though I have to say I am being nice and positive about not reading any of the Green Lantern books; my wallet is all happy too!  Not to discourage you or anybody from jumping on, just mentioning that sometimes abstaining from hype can be liberating.  I enjoyed not reading Final Crisis as it came out.  I just read the hardcover a couple weeks ago and (1) loved the story (2) loved being able to read the story without having an argument about whether I’m an elitist, or if the Omega Sanction really works that way.  It’s all about finding your own pace, I think?

    On a related note, it literally just occurred to me (and I blame the years I spent as a teacher for not having this be obvious sooner) that when I read an online review that consists entirely of words like "teh suxx0rs" (as in "Dark Reign is –"), I’m not actually under an obligation to try and get the person to expand on the opinion.  They don’t have to explain themselves, and I don’t have to take them seriously.  Everybody’s happier.  And. . . I realize this comment isn’t so much about the positivity so far, but I think it relates to the first part of your post.

    So, positivity — awesome comics coming out every week.  Enjoying the Dark Reign status quo.  Enjoying the Batman books, which a year ago I would have classed as "unlikely".  Getting the Darwyn Cooke "Parker" adaptation this week.  Reading a preview copy of issue 1 of "Underground", by Jeff Parker and Steve Lieber, which looks like the comic I never knew I always wanted to read.  Catching up on Thom Zahler’s "Love & Capes" which is a warm funny love story about superheroes.  Having my brother leave messages on my voice mail asking me to explain what Dr. Doom is doing in X-Factor.  And, oh!  X-Factor!  Future Summers offspring with ruby skin and aviator goggles + boys kissing on panel and making Rob Liefeld angry.  What’s not to love? 

  7. Jeff Reid (@JeffRReid) says:

    Another great Monday article, Jim.  For me, happiness is reading whatever new thing you’ve written here.  Oh, and iFanboy as a whole.  Great work.

    And that Kool-Aid Man avatar example was hilarious.  Just look out for someone to do that to you guys on Friday.  It’s ComicCon.  Anything can happen.

  8. Wait a second…

    How did you know my AIM name was Flubberluvr82!?

  9. @ohcaroline – I am glad to hear you enjoyed Final Crisis. I thought the hardcover was very well done. I wrote a review of it over on

  10. I stand by my record, Grover the muppet. The only ones I really haven’t liked were those two FF issues; the closer they get to explaining the One More Day fallout, the more the book suffers, and I also found that the stuff in "our" dimension that they fast-forwarded through were all things I would have liked to see play out at normal speed in the book.

    Maybe the problem is that "3 stars" means something different to me than it does to other people. I have this same problem with Netflix. I guess, if the stars were school-style letter grades, 3 stars would be a C, but I think of a 3 star book as being better than a C. It’s those 2s and 1s you have to watch out for.

  11. @ohcaroline my mother was a teacher and always impressed upon me the importance of proper grammer which has stayed with me so that now when i see poor grammer It really stands out.

     On an somewhat related not does any one here think that Norman Osborn would be a internet Troll, he has his fingers in so many things already it makes sense that he would be on the internet bad mouthing things.

  12. @Jimski: Gotcha, thank you for clearing this up. If only I was five years old at the time….then being mistaken for Grover would be awesome, and not just cool.

  13. Jim, are you trying to make me 2nd-guess my avatar? Ok, fine, I guess I’ll try to stop pwning people with the sign-off: GOODBY RUZTEE KRRR!!!

    Also, there’s absolutely nothing shameful about a healthy appreciation of ROM. The Dire Wraiths were a great foil, though they didn’t translate so well to other books, like X-Men. Not sure why, but I tend to associate ROM with the EC era of comics. Or the late 70’s House of Mystery. It was the horror-story-of-the-mnth title at Marvel.

  14. @stuclach  Yes, I was really unprepared to love ‘Final Crisis’ so much; I saw a lot of good reviews, but I thought it would be like homework.  Finding such a fun comic book was a nice surprise!  I might go back and catch up on the Internet discussion at some point but for now I just want to enjoy enjoying it, if that makes sense. 

    @English  I sympathize, though I didn’t necessarily mean that people’s spelling and usage bothers me.  It’s more that as a classroom teacher, I had it endlessly reinforced that if a student just says they hate something, you’re not supposed to let them get away with it but actually get into a conversation about ‘why?’ so that they might be able to learn something even from reading something they didn’t enjoy.  Which is really not so much the rule in talking about comics on the Internet.  Sometimes people just want to say they thought something sucked, and if they get something out of saying that, it’s their business.


  15. Yeah, the positivity on this site is generally better than most other comics sites, and that makes for a better experience in general.

    If I could dare add a somwhat negative comment to your article, though, I’d say that people just shouldn’t be so sensitive if someone doesn’t agree with your opinion. You shouldn’t let someone’s negative opinion of a book you like upset you, ESPECIALLY if the comment is just along the lines of "This sucks." If the negative comment has some substance to it, though, it might be worth your while to try to understand where the contrarian is coming from, because understanding that could give you a greater perspective on things. I’ve been on all sides of the fence when it comes to those things. I read the negative comments about Final Crisis (which I…somewhat liked) and Batman RIP (which I loved) last year. Comments like "This was stupid and incomprehensible" barely phased me after a while, because the people writing those opinions (legitimate for them) basically admitted that they didn’t even understand the stories. It was a little off-putting for me to read comments like that, but in the end I "got over" seeing them. But then when I read negative reviews of FC or RIP written by people who really DID understand the work, it really enhanced my understanding of those works without taking anything away from the aspects of them I enjoyed before. So, in summary, I just hope people don’t dismiss negative comments in general, because astute negative criticism can actually lead to a positive: greater all-round understanding.

    In genera, I think we can all accept the rules that "That was fantastic!" is a lot better to see written on a screen than "That sucked"–even if neither of those comments really have any depth to them. It’s like: If you’re not going to bother with expressing "Why" you think why you do, then your comment better be positive. If you’re just going to write "That sucks" or "That was stupid" with no explanation, your comment really lowers the level of debate and puts a damper on everyone’s experience.

  16. This article made me happy. 

    "I closed the book feeling as though someone had just spent twenty minutes insulting me in Flemish."   is how I’ve felt about several books.  Would that I articulated that feeling as well as you did.

    Thing that I "discovered" (stumbled over, really, I am the Christopher Columbus of comic reading), those halfish sized Boom trades by J.M. Dematteis.  I started reading Hero Squared, moved to THe Stardust Kid, and am about to pick up Seekers Into Mystery.  I definitely recommend checking out Hero Squared if you haven’t already.

  17. @ohcaroline – That makes perfect sense.  Do yourself a favor and never go back to look at the internet debate surrounding Final Crisis.  It certainly won’t increase your enjoyment of the book.

    @flapjaxx – I have also noticed an increased level of sensitivity on this site recently (I may have contributed. If so, I apologize).  However, it may be that the sensitivity (or the perception of sensitivity) is what keeps the site so mellow.  If so, that seems like a fair trade to me. 

  18.  here’s my ten, great column once again sir


    1. The Harry and Peter friendship in ASM.

    2. The return of Barry Allen.

    3. The way Rick Remender writes the Punisher.

    4. Scalped in trade because of the iFanboy recommendation.

    5. Buying more than one Batman title for the first time since Knightfall.

    6. The return of Superboy and Impulse.

    7. The return of Arthur from Maine

    8. Matt Fraction on Uncanny.

    9. All the publicity shots from Iron Man 2.

    10. Following comic creators on Twitter.

  19. 10 – Still enjoying the Iron Fist Omnibus even tho it is horribly over priced and is the skinniest thing on my Omnibus shelf next to Secret Wars.

    9 – Making the decision to, and actually starting to read, the ENTIRE run of the Avengers this summer. (Issue 32 and counting)

    8 –  My dog. Sally. She survived cancer last year, and is free and healthy this year. Minus one eye.

    7 – Air Conditioning!!!

    6 – Knowing that Longbox is just beyond the horizon.

    5 – My wife and daughter letting me hang my Official Sideshow 1:1 Captain America Shield hanging over my fireplace turning my livingroom into Nerd Central.

    4 – IFanboy and Tom vs The Flash

    3 – Flash Rebirth

    2 – Blackest Night

    And the number one thing I feel positive about

    1 – Finally finishing the ‘alpha’ version of my new website geared toward new readers, and current readers looking for something new – http://WWW.NEWTOCOMICS.COM which will go live on 8/1/09!!!!

    (Hey! At least i’m not posing in a picture with sausage!)

  20. Great article as always. I really need to start adapting the “if it’s bad drop it” philosophy.

  21. ya wasent Wolverine always dark 

  22. @GarthEnnisClone: It should be called ‘Darker Wolverine’.

    Tagline: ‘So dark, he stayed at Hollywood Tans for too long!’

  23. 10.  Ifanboy—the community, the content, the guys, this article, the whole shmabeal.

    9.  Bendis tapes/Rucka Debrief/The Loeb Report.

    8.  Reprinting Preacher; Reading and rereading Ennis’s war comics

    7.  Jeffery’s Brown’s inspiring new memoir (which I heard about on ifanboy)

    6.  New Amazon shipment in the mail including Asterios Polyp and Thor Visionaries Walter Simonson Vol 2.

    5.  DC’s unexpected renaissance.

    4.  Writing comic reviews

    3.  Finishing the damn novel

    2.  The wife

    1.  The boy

  24. You might enjoy this novel, called How I Became Stupid, about a man who wants to become stupid so that he can be happier.

  25. @soniaharris: Well from experience I can say that experiment isnt sound 😉

  26. I do appreciate starting with the assumption that I am not stupid currently. I could use more of that from people in my life.

  27. @Jimski

    You are right. I should take your lesson to heart and stop hiding under the OBVIOUS fake username "JohnVFerrigno" and start to post using my actual given name, Slappy Kincaid.

    (anyone get that reference? lol)

    Another week, another great article! 

  28. @thenextchampion  and then went to africa for 10 years nude