Grotesque Anatomy
Tuesday, November 04, 2003
  SAD: Sequential Art Disgust?
Noticed a couple threads today where posters seemed kinda down on comics in general.  In the first thread, Andrei Molotiu proclaims that he's tired of buying comics that don't satisfy, which prompts others to chime in with similar sentiments and experiences.  In the second thread, posters discuss how the fatigue of dealing with the oddities of the Direct Market (preordering, pamphlets, and Previews) affected their enjoyment of the medium, eventually convincing them to switch to trades.  Normally I wouldn't have given these threads much thought, but some of the opinions expressed mirrored feelings I had recently.  I was in Seattle over the weekend and visited (among other spots) Pike Place Market.  One of the shops there is a comics store, Golden Age Collectables.  Walking in, I was struck at how cluttered the space was.  Granted, they're probably trying to maximize the return on their rent, but the cramped quarters were not conducive to comfortable shopping.  I was actually looking for a couple books, but I didn't feel like navigating the tight aisles, so I left. 

Golden Age Storefront
Golden Age Inside
The entrance to Golden Age Collectables The main rack of comics at Golden Age Collectables

Later that day, I stopped in a Borders downtown.  I was surprised to see a spinner rack of comics near the front entrance, right by the magazines.  Unfortunately, most of the comics were in pretty poor shape, flopping over the front of each rack section.  (Now I see why "floppies" is an apt name for individual comic books.)  I also checked out the graphic novel section.  Didn't find what I was looking for, but I did notice that they had multiple copies of the first two volumes of The Comics Journal Library (Jack Kirby and Frank Miller).  Forgot to look to see if other alt-comix publishers were represented.

Anyway, I didn't really think much about either of these brief experiences at the time, but last night as I was lying in bed, the thought struck me:  "Comic books are weird objects."  I know--deep thought.  I don't know why it occurred to me then, or why it never occurred to me before, but suddenly the idea just seemed so obvious:  Comic books are odd products.  They're flimsy yet garish; small yet difficult-to-store; disposable yet collectible.

I don't know if any of this means I'll give up floppies.  I've grown disenchanted with comics before but eventually returned.  The last time it was mainly an issue of inconvenience:  I grew tired of making regular trips to the local comic shop.  At the time, I thought I would go cold turkey, giving up sequential art completely, but I was lured back by the big savings of online retailers.  Originally I planned to stick to trades only, but bit by bit I found myself seduced by the siren call of big discounts on individual comics.  Soon I had set up a regular pull list again.  And where once I had been able to maintain a self-imposed budget, I eventually ended up a comics glutton, buying anything that looked remotely interesting.  "Oh, a collection of Wally Wood's artwork?  Well, I've always enjoyed his art, I suppose.  And what's this?  A hardcover edition with 16 extra pages of art not found in the softcover?  For only twenty dollars more?  Well, that sounds reasonable, I guess..."  I was like a kid with the Sears Christmas Catalog, only now I had a steady source of income.

So what will I do now?  It seems that more and more fans are switching over to trades only.  I know Johanna Draper Carlson has been moving more and more in that direction and she seems pretty happy with it.  Augie De Blieck Jr. has also been pondering his gradual conversion to trades lately.  I guess in the end my decision won't be anything dramatic:  I'm not going to give up comics or swear off floppies completely.  I'll just do what I do whenever I get in a mood like this:  Trim down the pull list and be more selective when I put together my monthly orders.

(Thanks to Dirk Deppey and Shawn Fumo for pointing out the threads mentioned at the beginning.)
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by John Jakala

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