I wake up. And here’s the funny thing–what I wake up TO is the sound of my alarm clock going off. Why do I set the alarm? Am I in such a hurry to start another pointless, lonely, miserable day?
Force of habit, I suppose. Like brushing my hair. Why should I care what I look like now?
I hit the button on my Batmobile alarm clock. When you hit the button, the headlights flash, and the alarm goes off. Batman. Must remember Batman. Please God, let me remember…
I throw on my sweats–I haven’t dressed properly in months. I may brush my hair and my teeth every morning, but I can’t say I’ve kept my former standards regarding personal appearance. I put on some sneakers–velcro tabs. It seems to take a huge amount of energy to accomplish the daily tasks I used to do without thinking.
I walk into my filthy, roach-infested kitchen. S’funny, but I used to not be able to sleep if there was a dish left in the sink. But that was…that was years ago. Wasn’t it?
I check the crude hash marks I’ve made on my kitchen wall. Hundreds of them. It’s been…counting, counting. It’s been over three years. And now I’m alone. I’m the only one left. I grab my leather Sandman jacket (must remember Sandman–he was written by an English guy named NEIL GAIMAN) and my sack of tools and head for the door.
It’s a longish drive. I stick a tape of theme songs in (SUPERFRIENDS…there was an idiot dog, and idiot twins with idiot super-powers. Must remember…) and I’m just sort of letting my mind go blank. It occurs to me that I can only remember a few of the Avengers. There was Thor, right, and Iron Man, there was Captain someone…Armenia? Antarctica? Dammit. Dammit. Dammit.
Can’t worry about that now. Have to keep an eye out for them. The Zombies.
I pull over to check the map…I’ve already nailed most of the locations. There’s one left in this area. After today, I can move on, maybe go someplace warmer to continue my work.
This shop–I remember it. I’ve been here. A real crap-hole, if I remember right. One of those dingy dumps with bad lighting and Lady Death (Lady Death–she had albino watermelons shooting out of her torso…remember, remember…) posters right by the kids’ comics. This’ll be a pleasure. The Collector’s Paradise, my ass.
I open the door, tool-bag in hand.
First, I’m hit by the smell…musty and repellant. If guilt had an aroma, this would be it. Then, I step in. Same dingy store, same bad lighting. But it’s changed. The semi-sapient lump of flesh behind the counter gives me the once-over, and then another for good measure. I ignore him. For now. “Help you with anything?” he asks. I don’t respond.
I walk over to the racks on the walls…it’s Disneyana, mostly. Over here is a wall devoted to horror novels. A bit beyond that is a whole wall of Star Trek crap. It makes me sad to look at. I back up a bit, and bump into something rotating and metallic. It’s an old-fashioned spinner rack. Up at the top, it has little monochrome pictures of Tarzan, Archie, Donald Duck, and Batman, and the words, “HEY KIDS! COMICS!”
But it’s filled instead with ill-fitting video game magazines.
I don’t want to let the moron behind the counter see me cry, so I turn my back on him, and pretend to admire the display case of depression glass that used to hold graphic novels. He asks again, “Are you looking for something in particular?”
I turn and say, as though the idea just struck me, “Hmmm…yeah, now that you mention it. I wonder…do you have any comics in here?”
“I think there’s a box of stuff in the back…hang on a sec,” and quick as thought, he’s gone.
He returns, carrying a big cardboard box, overflowing with books and statues and action figures, all chaotically and rudely shoved in without thought of damaging the material. There’s a bronze Captain Marvel statue by Alex Ross, with the head missing. A coverless copy of Watchmen. A bent and dirty Maus. A bundle of early Heavy Metal magazines, with art by Corben and Moebius.
I dig further. Cerebus phone books and a deck of Diamondback cards. Raw. Kingdom Come. Hate. Transmetropolitan. Sandman. Preacher. Berlin. 100 Bullets. Rumble Girls. Swamp Thing. Dark Knight. Jimmy Corrigan. Strangers In Paradise. Barry Ween. Usagi Yojimbo. Doom Patrol. Promethea. Rising Stars. Channel Zero. Too many to name. Is it really possible, could it really have been true–was there actually a time when this stuff was available to anyone, any time? Had there been a time when each week brought a new Planetary, a new Powers, or a new Whiteout? Could you really just pluck them off the shelf, for less money than it took to buy a hamburger? What had happened? For the love of Christ, what happened to the customers? How could it be that they didn’t appreciate this?
The clerk misunderstands my emotion at seeing the detritus that had been languishing in his back room. “Listen, it’s supposed to be a buck apiece for that stuff, but I want to get rid of it, so, you know, everything’s negotiable.”
I croak out, “I’ll give you fifty for the box. Take it or leave it.”
He takes it, smiling. The poor, doomed fool thinks he got the better end of the deal. He’s really grinning now…”Anything else I can get for you?”
“Yes, would you mind getting the door for me?” I say, balancing the box on the counter while reaching into my bag. He walks around the counter to open the door, and in a practiced motion, I hammer a wooden stake into his heart. There’s a great deal of blood.
I push the box out of the way so as not to get any on the comics.
It’s just routine after the kill. I tape an “X” on the store’s window. Sort of a double meaning there (X-MEN was the most popular comic in America. It was hard to follow. Remember that they had a hairy guy named Wolverine…). I put an “x” in pen over the store’s location on my map. Area cleared. Hooray.
I carry the box to my car, anticipating some delightful reading. I keep giving my own collections away to children, who stare at them, puzzled. They never come back and ask for more. Too complicated, they say. So a treasure like this is something I savor. Funny, a former lover of current pop culture, reduced to “historian” status, reading orphan chapters of multi-part stories, crossovers that had no meaning at the time and even less now. And yet…
It’s unfair that the works of true genius should fade, along with the disposable works churned out to support a trademark. What a beautiful format. What a splendid medium. Art with words. Even the paper smells good to me. And the magnificent, unnatural colors! It’s a sensory overload.
I am the last comics fan on Earth. It is left to me to remember what comics were, and dream of what they could have been.
But I’m not the only one who still hunts for comics. There are monsters that wander the roads. First, there are the SPECULATORS. Greedy, insatiable, rapacious–they eat art and shit out coins. They wrap what they love in plastic and bury it. Thankfully, they normally only mate with their own kind. I’ve staked thousands, and more spring up. They have their own language–a code I’ve been unable to break. They speak of spindling and grading and variants. It’s best not to listen.
Saddest of all are the ZOMBIES. They live in dank cellars belonging to overly-tolerant parents. Obsessed with trivial matters and surface detail, they have stopped hearing what the authors were telling them. If they catch you alone after dark, they harass you with their incoherent ravings about Hal Jordan and Ben Reilly. Their bite is both septic and contagious, in that it is possible to catch their fever, and be trapped in endless, futile debate over nothing. A staking is a merciful act in their case.
But most in the industry, fan and pro both, have moved on.
DC diversified, and is part of the only media super-conglomerate with 100% of its earnings based on WHACK-A-MOLE.
Marvel came up with a brilliant new marketing gimmick, artless and wordless comics. This was a tough sell to fans, however, and sales were catastrophically low, despite the money saved on creative talent.
Dark Horse became confused, and accidentally did a film version of a comics adaptation of a film version of a comic. They could have survived this, if the film in question hadn’t been titled VIRUS II.
Fantagraphics realized that publishing quality books to support their porn comics made little financial sense, and went back to doing it the other way around. Then they had the good sense to move to Germany, where people still bought comics of both the semen-stained and non-semen-stained varieties.
Fans began to lose interest. The final San Diego Comics Con had an attendance of three, two of whom were Vampirella models. Wizard Magazine continued to shift the focus of its coverage to its own production staff, much to the delight of children everywhere, particularly children who liked to hear about packaged cheese and Metallica tattoos.
A quick visit to the internet shows me how much (and how little) things have changed. Warren Ellis still rails against injustice, but now, his target of rage is the world of HO scale trains. “If 90% of HO scenery is foliage, that’s the same as a bookstore that sells only nurse romances.” Good luck, Warren. I shall indeed purchase your new line of sexually explicit and graphically violent miniature train scenery.
I go to Brian Bendis’ board, where he’s talking about his ideas for re-inventing comic strips. It’s not that ULTIMATE GARFIELD THE CAT doesn’t intrigue–it’s just that I miss Torso and Powers and Jinx. But I promise to change my newspaper subscription to one that carries his new Dilbert strip, FUNNIES, wherein Dilbert’s a cop whose beat is Stripville. Cathy makes a guest appearance in the first arc as a nervous hooker who can’t decide what to wear to a porn shoot.
After that, I head to my old favorite, JONAH WEILAND’S SCIENCE FICTION, FANTASY, HORROR, CRIME AND BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER AND ALSO STAR TREK (Plus FARSCAPE) RESOURCES. Still a good site, but it seems to have lost its focus. Comics 2 Film is now Commercials 2 Film, a column devoted to the work of Nancy Walker and Jim Varney. Beau Yarbrough mostly covers the fashion beat currently. Steven Grant mostly talks about what’s wrong with his new chosen field, which is soda management at Arby’s. Augie writes primarily about the alleged spy satellites he says are monitoring his brainwaves. I vaguely remember when they had this smartass woman there who mostly wrote stupid gags about Iron Man’s catheter. I heard she sold out at the FIRST available opportunity.
Oddly, on Usenet, they’re still bitching about the Clone Saga. This particular debate is now in its second generation. It gets passed down, apparantly, like the good silverware and the propensity for dwarfism.
It doesn’t matter. I’ve got a stake for all of them, for letting comics down.
And if YOU failed to do your part–if you failed to spread the word…
…Be seeing you.