AN OBSERVATION, A REALIZATION, AND A RECOMMENDATION
Four years ago, my Dad got the cancer.
A big ol’ mass right at Ground Zero of his plumbing: aorta, lung, heart wall, nerves to one of his vocal cords. Inoperable, and Not Looking Too Good. A tough break, sure, but it’s not like nobody saw it coming. He always worked hard, but he always played hard, too. Lotsa red meat, vodka, and cigarettes were the order of his day, so it wasn’t exactly a shock when a coupla months after he turned 62 he gets the news his days are numbered.
Well, due to a new diet, or his good genes, or modern medicine, or the love of a good woman, ol’ Dad beat back the looming spectre. Nobody uses the word “remission” yet, because the magic number for that one is five years, but as you may well imagine there’s a bigger sigh of relief and less walking on eggshells around the Young Family Homestead nowadays than there was this time back in 1997.
So, after having a dead-serious Brush With and a subsequent long time to himself to Contemplate His Own Mortality, Dad gets it into his head that it’s going to be a good idea to go to Hawaii. Have a big Blow-out and cross off one of those last things on the great To-Do List of his life. But not just Ma and Pa are to go, but me and the missus, too, and my sister and her husband and their two kids, as well. The whole clan.
And so it is through the miracle of modern technology that I’m sitting here on the beach at Ka’anapali next to my old grizzled Dad who’s looking pretty much in the pink of things, both of us watching the pretty girls walk by and nursing our margaritas (one with tequila, and one without), and beaming back these few meager thoughts about funny books to Jonah at the Comic Book Resources Command Center.
The second night we were here, Mimi and I went into Lahaina for supplies, and on the way in, I spotted a Waldenbooks.
“Let’s go in see if they’ve got a contract with Image to distribute, because Double Image #2 is out, and I wanna see how it looks,” I said.
So we stroll in, and I was sure happy to see the comic book carousel not only prominently displayed up front, but also nicely placed in conjunction next to the over-large Harry Potter display. A nice bit of cross-marketing there, I think.
So we give the rack a spin, but it’s only the work of a few quick looks to see that it’s only Marvel, DC, and Archies available. Whether this means Waldenbooks only carries these companies’ books, I have no idea; this is only an anecdotal observation. At this place, at this time, that’s all they had.
So I picked a few things to read on the beach, including a dog-eared and lonely-looking copy of Transmetropolitan #44 and Deadpool #51. I don’t normally read Deadpool, but this one’s drawn by my pal Darick Robertson, and I’m on friggin’ vacation. I figure I’ll expand my horizons a little.
Just as I turn to leave, three little girls who I take to be sisters come screaming into the bookstore, make a bee-line right for the 21st-century spinner rack, and start frantically grabbing Archie digests in a chaotic attempt to ensure they all get different ones.
These girls seemed to be between 7 and 13 or so. I dunno; I’m bad at figuring the ages of kids. But still. Kids. Fighting to get good comics.
That was an observation that warmed the cockles of what’s left of my heart, I assure you.
The next day, I had my realization. Certainly not a new one, but as I live on the other side of the country from the rest of my family, this is one that isn’t as immediately obvious to me as it might be to those of you who see your folks more often than Christmas:
No matter how much time passes or how many other accomplishments you might make, your family perceives you the same way they always have.
Me? In my family, I’m the weisenheimer. The guy with a quick quip that makes people laugh when things get tense. If you’re in a bad mood, pick up the phone and call me; I’m the go-to guy.
But God forbid if I’m in a serious mood when you call, and don’t feel much like making with the funny, because that can only mean there’s Something Wrong With Me. No, it’s not that I’m expecting an important delivery, or that my cat just died, or any of a million other things that can put you off your feed…
But the expectation is there, and it’s the same thing in comics.
There always seems to be a hue and a cry when artists and writers try something different. I remember John Byrne’s Next Men was selling a third of his work on Action… and it was the same guy doing the work. That really doesn’t make any sense. If an audience enjoys your work in one thing, chances are pretty high they’ll enjoy it in another. Sure, if you stray too far from what audiences expect, you’ll get a bite in the ass; not many people even know that only five of the last six Julia Roberts movies were $100 million-toppers, because no one knows she did Mary Reilly.
But ya gotta hand it to Julia; she at least tried to grow her audience, expand on her craft, and stretch her experiences as a person.
Which brings me to the morning of March 20th, and our category: “Things Larry Would Never Do If He Weren’t in Hawai’i.”
Mimi and I got up at 3 am and drove to the top of the volcanic crater where NASA trained Harrison Schmidt and Gene Cernan for Apollo 18. It’s 10,300 feet above sea level. The cloud layer is between six and eight thousand feet, so we sat above the clouds and watched the sunrise on the tallest point on Maui.
Then we mountain biked 38 miles all the way down to the ocean in just over two hours.
It was amazing, especially for me, as I am becoming more of a creature of habit in my old age. Amazing, and exhilarating to try something new.
So, in honor of my Dad’s probationary new lease on life, and the sheer adrenaline-pumping terror of cooking down a volcanic crater as fast as I could, I’m going to turn over a new leaf.
I’m going to try a few new comics each week, just to see what I’m missing by buying the same old stuff every Wednesday. And I recommend that you do, too.
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