You know, while we're confessing stuff.
This post was partly inspired by this one by the inimitable Abhay over at Savage Critic. Now, I'm usually inspired by Abhay's stuff, but this is the first time it's inspired to write something in response, as opposed to get a splitting headache from the ADD rambling of it all.
I kid, the dude's good people. Well, maybe not, he could be a prick, but his blog posts amuse me and occasionally make me use my addled brain to process the insight buried deep within the shtick, so he's done more for me than you, theoretical readers. Well, other than Brian. That dude got me a job writing about wrestling, so I owe him a ton. The rest of you can go screw. After reading this post.
I didn't mean for this to become a bad Abhay impression, I swear.
Abhay. Crap, I'm addicted to typing his name.
Okay, I'm gonna try to take a U-turn and get back on to the point highway here. The portion of this piece that hit home the most was part V., although only one specific part of it that I'm sort of taking out of context for my own purposes.
I'm always amused when critics talk about reading ESSENTIAL volumes-I love those too, guilty as charged, but I love that thing of: "Comic XYZ reflects a poor sense of pacing, composition and panel construction, with a narrative that frequently devolves into poorly crafted and meandering subplots. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to read 800 pages of the ESSENTIAL CONTEST OF CHAMPIONS. Don't bother me-- I'm eating."
I'm really guilty of this. I've come to call it Comic Book Gluttony. It sort of segues in to my love of all you can eat buffets, and how both forms of consumption have been deleterious to my health. If you can call my interest in/appreciation of comics a health issue. I'm going to assume that this audience is the sole one where that assertion is the least ridiculous and go with that.
See, I love buffets. I like variety, eating all kinds of foods, nutritional and gourmet quality be damned. I'm greatly amused when I can get a lo mien noodles and pizza on the same plate for $8. And I like eating myself in to oblivion, until I'm miserable and bloated. Maybe I see it as a substitution for being drunk, since I've decided to never drink alcohol. That stuff will ruin your liver. Unlike fatty foods. Oh crap.
Maybe it's that weird empowerment of adulthood where you indulge yourself in the ways your parents wouldn't let you as a kid. But here's a saying, paraphrasing the patron saint of nagging, that points out the pitfalls of this sort of indulgence; no one said I couldn't, they said I shouldn't.
How does the fact that I'm another morbidly obese American tie in to comics, masochists still reading this might ask? Well, like food, a lot of the time I judge my consumption of comics in bulk; quantity not quality.
I was hooked on the Marvel Essentials for a while. And, in bang for the buck quotient, I got a ton out of them. They are a great way to read some legendary comics without shelling out a ton for them. Sure, you're trading in production values (extraneous extras like quality paper, hardcovers, and, er, color) for affordable prices, but it's a great way to read some genuinely excellent, classic material. Once you get past the truly essential stuff, your Lee-Kirby FF, Lee-Ditko-Romita Spidey, Gerber and Friends Howard, Mantlo's complete Rom, which I just made up in a feeble attempt to make Chris Sims my friend, you just get a lot of comics, showing how spotty a lot of Marvel's history is outside of the big runs, as our crank emeritus put it on his blog. Which is different from any other distributor of anything ever, but still. Did I really need Essential Ant Man? Or Uncanny X-Men, part of the run so great it was one of the few Stan and Jack creations to ever be canceled?
I can rationalize purchasing those because I've been on a a Kirby kick for the past few years, and even bad Kirby can be interesting. But I can't really rationalize all of the mediocre comics I've bought on E-Bay just because they're at a penny for the opening bid, or to pad out an already bloated lot. Or buying Buffy Omnibi, despite having a sinking suspicion they'd be ungood and being mostly right. In their defense, Ryan Sook drawing a story is the closest we'll probably ever get to seeing a Mignola drawn Buffy arc, and the Spike and Drusilla stories were fun, so that offsets pretty much everything else. Also, the Lobdell and Nicieza issues were solid and indulged my filthy nostalgia for their X-Men run. Pity me, I cut my comics teeth as a tween in the '90s. That's what I have to be nostalgic about. Which is why I can never really be nostalgic. Well, that and realizing that I kind of hate Jim Lee's art.
At any rate, here's the thesis that I'm shakily trying to get across; I can't shake the idea that a whole lot of mediocre comics in a single package is some kind of value, and it hurts my appreciation of the medium at times. Joe Rice weeps.
The appreciation of the medium thing comes from a time when I was really bemused with comics; 2005. I was exclusively reading Grant Morrison's DC output, which was basically just Seven Soldiers for most of the year. I was picking up a lot of Essentials and wacky old comics that people like Sims and superdickery.com mock as an art form. And it almost killed of my interest in comics beyond Morrison, O'Malley, and a few other Internet tested and approved creators.
Now, my superhero and adventure comics-centric reading habits probably had a lot to do with that, and it was the collected edition of Charles Burns Black Hole that helped reinvigorate my love of the medium, and a combination of books in different genres and a commitment to trying not to go too overboard when it comes to buying comics just because they're cheap has helped keep me from burning out on the medium again.
That said, I still backslide from time to time, especially when it comes to Free Comic Book Day. Every year, I become a ravenous beast on the first Saturday in May, whose appetite can only be satiated by free comic books I wouldn't otherwise ever read. I'm not just satisfied with a hand full of the stuff the publishers earmark each year. Oh no, I need to hit up every shop in my area. Especially the one that gives away back issues they want to get rid of in addition to the stuff the publishers put out. I need to get as much of that as I can carry.
And, much like buying Essentials and Omnibuses and massive combined lots on ebay, this can lead to reading some rad stuff. I picked up half of Greg Pak's pretty cool Warlock mini that way, the first issue of Jenny Finn, a lot of interesting Image, Wildstorm, and Vertigo stuff I missed out on the first time; you know, good comics that sell for crap. It also leads to me picking up crappy comics just because I can. I'm like the nerd Bill Clinton, and all those comics are my impressionable intern. I'm going to be decent and not work in the cigar.
In the interest of full disclosure, I have to say that I got the idea to use the food analogy for my conspicuous consumption of comics from this Chris Butcher post, where he likened exclusive superhero readers to people with candy diets. That's always stuck with me, even as I load up on Marvel and DC books at the LCS. I felt he should get the credit, even if he's not a big fan of the us and the penile phobia that powers the site.
As with most sprawling rambles I've ever posted here (not to mention all the ones even I had the good sense to kill before they saw the light of day), I'm pretty much stating the obvious and hoping my wit will be enough to distract or amuse you; reading lame comics will make you think this wonderful, varied medium is kinda lame if you do it too often, much like eating a lot of crappy food in bulk will ruin your palette and make you fat. So don't do it, or you'll end up like me, with a ton of comics you have no interest in and can't move on e-bay moldering in your room. And you'll be fat.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to take my bag full of quarter box comics with me to read at the Chinese Buffet.