Allow me to indulge in a bit of nostalgia for a spell here.
During my formative years as a comic nerd, my primary source for my fix wasn’t a comic shop. It was the local grocery stores. I could always get my mom to buy me at least one comic, and since we went at least once a week, it was a precursor to my weekly buying habit. Well, if I still had one of those, but that’s another story.
What’s appropriate for this one is that comics used to be plentiful at the grocery store, and they stayed that way long after I lost interest in them, during the time I like to call puberty. A spinner rack with the newest Marvel and DC Comics was a constant at the local grocery store we frequented, along with a healthy comic presence at all of the convenience stores. Anytime I went in any of them, I tended to get at least comic, and it was fun trying to keep up with my favorites by scowering the spinner and magazine racks for that one issue of X-Men or Spectacular Spider-Man that I was missing. The thrill of that hunt has been replaced by the percision of finding exactly what you want from E-Bay and Amazon, and while it’s better in an infinite number of ways, the thrill will never quite be the same of unearthing that gem of a comic you were looking for in the poorly organized stacks on that there spinner rack.
The comic shop wasn’t the only place you could find single issues back then, and as such, trips there were special, not routine, and spent mainly combing the back issue bins. What’s sad is, my story’s really similar to someone like Greg Hatcher’s youth in comics, but this was only about ten years ago in my case.
A funny thing happened when I decided to start reading comics again the summer after I graduated from high school, though; all the comics disappeared from the grocery stores. They were there when I started sampling books I’d heard good things about online. I picked up a few issues of Morrison and Quitely’s X-Men, which was the beginings of a nerd boner* that remains to this day. They even stuck around long enough for me to get the first issue of Bendis’s Daredevil there, before I realized Bendis reads terribly in single issues. But eventually, they were gone. I’m not sure if this is a coincidence. The paranoid egocentirc in me says no, but I tend to try not to listen to him.
It was a sad sight. Partially because I was buying the damn things again, but more because it was like I was losing a part of my childhood. Comics at the grocery store had been a constant. A constant! (Sorry for the redundancy.) And now they were gone. Given that this was in 2001, it seemed to verify the pessimistic outlook for the medium’s future that I was reading a lot about online as I got back in to fandom.
Flash forward five years, give or take, and I’m in one of those aforementioned local grocery stores, checking out their surprisingly impressive selection of books, when I saw something in the children’s section that gave me hope for the future of comics and made me nostalgic for my past with them, all at the same time; a couple of copies of Scholastic’s color Bone trades.**
It wasn’t the glorious spinner racks with every Spider-Man comic for months on end of my youth, but it was sure as hell something positive for comics, if only in a small way. It also seems to reflect where the medium’s heading. In the place of flimsy singles, we have book length collections in genres that encompass more than “capes” and “tights”. It’s not the volume of selection of my youth (even if they did basically only come in those two varieties I mentioned earlier), hell, it’s only one book that may be there by accident. But as far as strained metaphors for the state of comics go, it’s better than the total void that preceded it for so long. It’s not my ideal of comics accessiblity, but until Scott Pilgrim is sold in every video game and convenience store**, I’ll take it.
*- I am going to get that phrase over or die trying. Probably the latter.
**- There was also a Wizard in the magazine racks, but come on, it’s Wizard.
***- I pretty much want Scott Pilgrim sold everywhere.
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