A Life Of Fiction CLXXI

For those of you new to this WordPress site, this site is about me and my writing – and a little about my role-playing, as well. It gives readers a chance to sample my work; and gives me the chance to say a little about the genesis of each novel, or about the process of writing in general.

On Comics: In this post I am going to talk about comics. Not any comic specifically, as I have recommended various comics in the past (Moonshadow, etc). No, in this brief post I am going to talk about that sad habit which is collecting comics. Sorry if this is boring to those who are not enchanted by overpriced publications which only have twenty-two pages of story. But normal service will be resumed with my next post. I promise that o won’t talk about comics all the time.
The Comic Collector: The comic collector is not, as some people might think, some spotty fourteen year old bedazzled by the adventures of Spider-man or Captain America. Maybe he was once. But that was a long time ago. He has grown up since then, in age if not in wisdom. Now he is a person in his forties, with more money than sense. Yes, the average age of the person who buys comic books is actually quite old, and getting older with each passing year. Not enough new readers enter the hobby to bring the age back down. Teenagers probably could not afford to collect comics, anyway. You need a lot of disposable income in order to become a comic collector. If you are thinking about becoming a comic collector: don’t. Go and get some cheap hobby instead, like buying gold or owning a horse. You’ll probably have more fun horse riding.
The comics are your most prized possessions. In case of a fire it would not be your wallet which you would grab as you run from your house, but your copy of The Avengers issue 4 (that’s the one where Captain America reappears in the present, found encased in ice by the other Avengers). You got a foxed copy for four hundred pounds in a comic shop and thought it cheap.
Your comics are stored in mylar bags, with a cardboard backing board behind the comic. Mylar is supposed to stop the acid deterioration of the comics.
You know lost of useless information about comic book characters. You know that Batman first appeared in Detective Comics issue 27. You know that he was created by Bob Kane. In fact you know the original creators of most of the famous comic book characters. Unless you plan to go on Mastermind that knowledge is of no use at all. And I think that he has already had a contestant whose specialty subject was comic-book superheroes.
There is a good chance that you are overweight. You might even have a beard. It is almost certain that you have XXL tee-shirts (probably purchased from a comic shop). You may well be single. And if you still have comic-collecting as a hobby then you have a little bit too much disposable income.
Other Comic Collectors: Other comic collectors are the natural enemies of the comic collector. You might think that we should be friends. But that is not the case. Let me explain.
It is other comic collectors who snaffle the comics which you want. They get to the number ones first, so that your collection of The Phantom Stranger begins with issue two, and not issue one. They buy up all the good comics, unless you are standing there when the guys in the comic book store actually put the comics out on the shelves. You have to wait there, like vultures waiting for something to die and become carrion. Then you dive on the comics while they are fresh on the shelves, before anybody else can get them. Yes, I have done that in the past.
Other comic collectors are the reason why, at a comic book signing, you don’t manage to get your comics signed by the writer or the artist. It was not your fault that your train got in late, and that by the time that the queue advanced so that you were almost there the creators decided that they had signed their names enough times.
Other comic book collectors are the reasons why you have just shelled out twenty quid for a comic which is only three months old. You missed that issue of Batman (or whatever) with the alternate cover (limited edition) by your favourite artist because you couldn’t get to the comic shop on the day that it was out and by the time that you got there they had all gone, snaffled up by other comic book collectors. But the comic is now there, on the walls of the comic book store. And you have to have it, to complete your collection, because you are a sad little monkey. So other comic book collectors have just cost you twenty pounds. Cheers!
The Product: This is the comics. They now come out at the cost of $3.99 in the USA. When I began collecting them they cost 12 cents. That means they are now thirty-three times as expensive, give or take a bit. Are they thirty-three times as good? Somehow I doubt that.
Oh, yes, I know that you are going to tell me that it is inflation, and that they really aren’t all that expensive than before; and that the printing of the comics is far superior than what the printing was like when they only cost 12 cents. But they feel a lot more expensive, when I am shelling out for them.
The printing is a lot better than it was, back when they printed in white, black, yellow, cerise and blue. A lot of my early comics have colours which aren’t quite printed in the correct place, so that the colour bleeds out of where it was supposed to be. Even as late as the eighties there were problems with printing. In Crisis On Infinite Earths there were sections which had white letters on a black background. I have issues where the black has bled a little, making some of those comics very hard to read. Not a good idea, white on black. But that is not a problem now.
The writing, once, used to be genius, at the time when Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, John Byrne, Peter David and a host of others all used to be working for Marvel or DC, and working on your favourite comics. Alan Moore on Swamp Thing. John Byrne on Alpha Flight. Peter David on the Incredible Hulk. Grant Morrison on the Doom Patrol. But although some of those writers are still in the trenches the writing, for the most part, has deteriorated, while the printing, and occasionally the artwork, has got better. Now you can get twenty-two pages of very pretty pictures. But they are not comics which you are going to read over and over again, s you used to – as you still do – with The Dark Knight Returns or the first twenty-six issues of Animal Man.
The Comic Book Store Staff: These are the people who take money from you week after week but, when you are broke and trying to sell a few comics which you thought were valuable, offer you less than thirty pence in the pound.
They are people who, over the years, have really become sick of being told how much fun it must bee to work in a comic book store.
The traditional worker looks like the traditional fan, but older and with bigger tee shirts.
They are the people who recommend a new comic to you, telling you that it is brilliant, because they have over-ordered a stinker and don’t know how they are going to shift it, otherwise.
Your Mom: She’s the one who throws away your Avengers comics from the 1960s, not realising that they are probably worth more than her car. And she never understands why you get so upset. “But they were only comics!”
Alan Moore: Alan Moore wrote a lot of good comics a long time ago: V For Vendetta, Swamp Thing, Watchmen, and so on. Because he wrote as well for comics as is demanded in any other form of fiction we call him God. Now he thinks he is one (and I’m not sure that he’s wrong).

That’s all for now. I’m off to buy some more comics. Maybe the latest Batman is in.


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