THE OLD MAN AND THE PREVIEWS
|Larry’s man, Ernie Hemingway|
There was a time… a time, well, yonder. Thataway. Back there.
A time when the calendar fell between November and December. A time not
too cold, back there, back east where we lived, and we lived like men.
Men wearing flannel shirts rolled up past the elbows and untied
Timberlands, sure, cold men, hungry men, but honest still and men
And back then it was easy to get liquor because a good bottle of Kountry
Kwencher only cost a dollar ninety-eight and we could often find two
bucks in change in the cushions of the leopard skin-patterned couch that
was bequeathed us and it was a short walk to the package store, a short
walk when drunk even or hungover from the night before because we were
men and the drinking age was but eighteen.
And Kountry Kwencher is a dollar ninety-eight even now, many years
later, which I often note ruefully but not without a small amount of
nostalgia for that rose-colored liquid that tastes so soothingly, I
remember well, so soothingly of apples and faintly of jasmine and
stronger still of unleaded gasoline, often I note as I trundle along the
aisle vainly searching for Ranch-flavored Wheat Thins and unchipped
bottles of good Islay Dew.
But back then we would wait until a brisk autumn day would turn to
bitter night and a threatened rainstorm would turn to snow and we would
drink to warm ourselves and go out into the storm and look for trouble,
not to get in but to help out, trouble of the automotive kind. The kind
where a car’s tires happy, once, to grip the road and the asphalt, and
the stones with the white-knuckled grip of gravity once let slip and to
slide into tree or street sign or embankment, content to slide off
shoulder’s gentle curve and wait, wait, perhaps one tire spinning idly,
beckoningly, morosely in the air, wait for us, us unshaven, unkempt,
largely untutored louts who stopped going to class once it started to
snow and the one hundred and ninety-eight pennies were found and roamed
the streets carrying our lengths of rope and flashlights and bottles of
Boone’s Farm looking to right a Detroit wrong.
And thus we did once, back then, back when Reagan, addled, stooped
Reagan ran on and on amidst even those Contra-indications warning us
all, heralding in fact for those who could pay attention but not us, not
us, watching as we did the L.A. Law and the MTV but not the CNN
that we came upon a carload of girls, what luck! a carload of
girls with hazards on and blinking, winking into the night waiting
to be rescued but perhaps by none such as we but hardy men we were and
earnest and rough-hewn yes but charming in the way a squad of men are
when it’s cold outside and your car’s in a ditch and they have by now a
half-empty bottle of Kountry Kwencher. Make friends we did, lifting the
car and scooping dirt for traction and the rocking, rocking back and
forth to free the car and right the good steel on its way, it’s precious
cargo on its way, smelling as it did of baby powder and New England
And that’s how my friend Sully knocked up Joanne.
But that, the old man said, as he collected his purchases, is a tale
best told another day; and so he left as brusquely as he had arrived,
the only difference being of course the slight spring in his step that
the monthly arrival of Previews provided him, as well as the
light blue bag full of comics, lightest sky blue, the color of promises
kept within, of publication schedules adhered to and of the lure of
comics to come.
Yes, the old man thought, as he hung up his coat, the coat his wife had
bought him for one of his many birthdays past; the coat that always
faintly smelled of gardenias from the vase in the hall, rugged, a coat
that had a well-lived life, a coat that he’d spent more time in than in
their quaint house by the sea.
Yes, he thought again, as he pulled out the copy of Previews from
the sack, there are those who hold this catalog, noble catalog with its
listings and its essays and, yes, even its garish ads, those who hold
this catalog in contempt, or worse, disdain. For doing its job rather
too well, bravely, stoutly arranging the month’s offerings in row upon
headstrong row, alphabetically by publisher.
And this month, this week, this day, the very hour, he held his catalog
in his hands as he sat down with his pepperoni and his cheese and his
bottle of Red Stripe, amber Red Stripe to gaze upon the contents of the
catalog within. He shook his head, sadly, not with the contempt or
disdain that others have, but rather wearily, ruefully, really, that
this sort of thing was necessary; in a perfect world, a world that is so
very close to perfect, with his wife and his spacesuits and his house by
the sea, the world would shine just ever so much more brightly if he
could go into a comic store and just browse the racks and have there be
a deep stock of all the books he wanted to buy.
But this is not to be and the Previews is necessary and so he
faithfully preorders each month. It’s not so bad he thinks as he turns
the pages past the digitally-created cheesecake shots and the statues
and the Gene Roddenberry action figures and the lunchboxes and the
maquettes and the boobs and the guns and the mutants until he gets to
the good stuff. After all, that’s the stuff that will be on the
racks, although it is a rare thing for him to want to get that stuff as
he is a reader of books, not a collector of the statues and the Gene
Roddenberry action figures and the lunchboxes and the maquettes and the
boobs and the guns and the mutants. He is all about the comics and the
real comics are past all that other stuff.
This month is as the past few and he finds he is only getting the trade
paperbacks and the original graphic novels. As he gets older, he finds
the comic books are eminently more satisfying with a discrete beginning
and a middle and an end and as such he will be getting Mike Allred’s
fourth volume of The Atomics, (DEC012083) as well as the
collected Colonia (DEC012101). He takes a black Sharpie, his
faithful Sharpie, the one that smells of licorice and dirt, and makes
thick black marks across the alternate gold foil number zeroes and the
royal blue covers and the nude cheerleader covers and the bleached art
covers as he goes along, for they offend his cranky albeit delicate
sense of aesthetics.
He gets a Through the Habitrails (DEC012261) for his
brother-in-law, who will enjoy the surreality of the corporate drone in
an ever-changing landscape of cubicles and man-sized hamster cages. This
may be the tenth or fifteenth copy he’s bought, but this one speaks to
many of his friends, his friends, dear friends, who, unlike him, who
have to leave their homes by the sea and commute across the water to
jobs within the city.
He laughs, briefly, to see an advertisement for Super Dooper Groovy
Space Chicks #0 (DEC012400). laughs his hot fudge sundae laugh
because he has to admire the cheek of the title and of the art and of
the ad copy which loudly proclaims that the book will ship in full
color, monthly, and yet the ad is in black-and-white as is the zero
issue itself. He may buy it anyway, just to put cash in the hands of
folks who are so silly. “Don’t Miss This One Baby” the copy reads,
without punctuation, hallowed, over-used and strict punctuation,
He never liked punctuation that much, anyway.
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While you can get your news about the funny books all over the Internet, I usually make it a point to let slip at least one bit of information at the Loose Cannon Message Board that I post nowhere else. This week, hop over and tell me what the old man missed. Personally, I think he’s crackers for not mentioning the Memories of Outer Space hardcover from Humanoids (DEC012435), or the Alison Dare trade paperback (DEC012521), but what’re ya gonna do? The guy talks about himself in second and third person rather too often for my taste.