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Gravity Always Wins
In which d. emerson eddy questions life, comics, the universe, and everything that starts with the letter 'q'

Aside from Eightball #23, thankfully supplied by Alan himself, and the latest comics issue of McSweeney's that landed at my doorstep shortly before I left for western pastures, I have not read, let alone bought, a comic book in something like four months.

It feels good.

Honestly, it does.

I know that's probably not what a lot of you want to hear me say, but honestly, it feels good not to be reading comics. You see, most of us reading them have addictive personalities. We're collectors, accumulators, junkies, and addicts. With the sad and sorry state that is the "mainstream" comics media, most of us are really looking for something, anything that can help them kick the habit. In a scant few paragraphs hence I'll give you "10 Simple Steps to Stop Collecting Comics", but first a digression.

I'm not saying that comics are bad.

I'm not saying that comics suck.

I'm not saying that Joe Quesada with people like Brian Michael Bendis in tow have a giant slurpee straw attached to your head and are sucking your brains out with each subsequent issue of Ultimate Spider-Man. Although, come to think of it, that would be kind of neat.

Comics are merely a medium with words and pictures arranged sequentially in order to tell a story. There is nothing inherently "wrong" with comics. The problem is that like every other medium 99.99% of the stuff coming down the pipeline is pure crap. With comics, since there's only a handful comparatively coming out every week, the 0.01% of the good stuff gets buried under things like twenty different comics covers with Wolverine on them. Not only that, but the fan mentality addicted to the books like crack cocaine has taken over many comic shop and that 0.01% of gold doesn't even see the shelves.

Just to mix metaphors a little more: think of the person in comics buying that 0.01% of gold. On average, they're not just buying that, they're also buying a sizeable percentage of the 99.99% of crap. So, in other words, in order to get to the creme brule they're guzzling down fifty packages of those Hostess Twinkie two-packs. You're already on a sugar binge, half the time you don't even realise the quality of the good stuff. Sure it looks different, it's brought to you on a nice little platter, but you've already taken in so much of the little pre-processed, pre-packaged, sugar bombs that the next sugar cube down the road could have fallen off the back of a truck and rolled around in dirt and tacks and shit and you still wouldn't be able to tell the difference. That's why comics with names like "Chuck Austen" or "Frank Tieri" plastered on them still manage to sell.

I can continue to berate the stereotypical comics reader; he of the gigantic stomach, sweat stained t-shirt, and taco breath, doling out the merits of why the Hulk would win in a fight with Iron Man, but let's face it, that gets us nowhere. I mean, we can leave it with the old chestnut of "If you're in an argument over who would win -- Hulk vs. Iron Man -- you've already fucking lost".

10 Simple Steps to Stop Collecting Comics

There's two different ways that we can go about this. The first is to go cold turkey. Do what I did, for the first step; decide to move to the other side of your country (if you live in Luxembourg or Lichtenstein, yes that does just mean down the street. So, consider moving to a new country). Steps Two through Ten involve not buying any comics whatsoever.

Yes, that is the smart ass answer. If you consider comic books too precious to give up, continue reading on. If you consider yourself a "comics activist" or a "comics pimp". Punch yourself in the face and then jump off a bridge. You're a waste of fucking space and the hospitals are just too crowded to institutionalise you. If you love the artform, great, just don't make an ass of yourself about it.

Keep in mind, that these are steps to stop "collecting" comics, not "reading" them. Before I begin, I should probably give you a definition of terms. By "collecting comics", I mean that you obsess over them. You keep them in polybags, sealed with tape, and cringe when someone other than you even looks at them. You probably have a complete run of Uncanny X-Men despite whining and bitching that almost every issue is complete and utter gutter trash. Basically, you just keep accumulating them, despite very minimal enjoyment of them anymore.

1 -- Admit that you have a problem

If you're buying roughly ten titles a week, you're spending at least $30 on comics a week, $120 a month, or $1440 a year. That's honestly not a hell of a lot of money in the grand scheme of things, but think of it like this: of those ten titles a week, you spent maybe five to ten minutes reading each issue. We'll be generous and say that those ten comics take up two hours of time per week. That's four days entertainment for just over $1400. Doesn't that seem a little steep to anyone else?

Of those four days you spent reading comics, if we're going by the 99% rule; if you bought 520 comics, only about 5 of them were actually any good. Even saying that each one took you fifteen minutes to read, that's still only just over an hour of the "good stuff". A signal to noise ratio of 103:1 is just a little much. You need to trim the fat off. Get rid of the crap. For god's sake: STOP BUYING MARVEL COMICS.

Ahem...where were we?

2 -- Look for a solution

That's partially why you're here and still reading this, right? As I said previously, most of you junkies are just looking for a reason, any reason to stop. That's why you have people posting on message boards whenever a new creative team takes over a book, or some announcement comes down the pipeline that Wolverine's going to be getting a new hat or something equally asinine, that "This is my last issue ever! I'm never going to buy an issue of Wolverine with Alan Moore's name on it, damn it! I mean, haven't you heard that he believes in magic! ...and he's English too!" Of course, after that grandiose statement -- completely missing the point too -- the person making it continues to buy the comic anyway. Like little lambs to a bloody slaughter.

It's not easy to be a leader. It's not easy to find your own path and your own way. It's easier just to follow someone else's example. So, barring going through Previews every month, poring over every minute detail of every else, part of looking for a solution can be finding the right outlet for intelligent discourse on comics. If the mouthpieces' names rhyme with Dandy, Ron, or Smoggie, you've strayed way of course and you're smack dab in the clutches of the very people who will advocate the 99% of crap. 10 out of 10 BEST OF THE WEEK!

Reading the stuff here is at least a good start. Reading me at d-generation is even better, although most of the time I'm not going to be writing about comics anymore.

3 -- Buy The Comics Journal

No, really. Dirk Deppey didn't pay me anything to say that. Really, honest.

Since taking over as editor -- and really, Milo did a pretty damn good job himself -- Dirk's taking a rather multitudinous approach to the magazine. If you think it's an effete trade rag putting on airs, do us a favour and never voice your opinion again. Go back to sniffing glue and fucking sheep. Read the articles and reviews, go to a comic store and demand that they order you copies of the reviewed material. If they refuse, or tell you that an individual book is sold out, fuck them. Fuck them in their tiny assholes (see step 7).

4 -- Buy independent comics

If it has a name on it like Fantagraphics, Alternative, Slave Labour Graphics, ONI Press, AdHouse Books, Absence of Ink, Drawn & Quarterly, or Top Shelf and comes in an odd size or shape and/or has a spine, you're in good company. Now, one cannot guarantee that everything published by these publishing houses will be good, but I can guarantee that of those six good comics published in a year you bought, all of them were published by one of these companies.

5 -- Quit with the fucking bags and boards already

You're meant to be reading these things, not preserving them for countless generations of people who are going to idolise the issue of Spider-Man where Peter Parker whines about his lot in life and punches a bad guy. That's every bloody issue. Get over it. If you're worried about the condition of the book, here's a simple rule: stop buying books that might as well be printed on glossy tissue paper. That'll cut out most of "mainstream" comicdom. Don't be afraid to toss a comic halfway across a room to see who can get theirs closest to the wall.

Once you stop treating them like found treasure, you might actually start realising how crappy is a lot of the content.

6 -- Two simple words: Forlorn Funnies

If you're not down with Paul Hornschemeier by now, you're not worth my time. Even if you only buy one comic this year, make sure it's one of his. If you already have all of his work, buy it and read it again. Pass it on to a friend. You can get more out of re-reading Mother, Come Home than you can on three decades worth of X-Men comics. Seriously.

7 -- Find a store that will support your choice

Sometimes it's really difficult, actually, and this should probably be one of the more prominent things on the list. The average comic shop out there probably carries copious amounts of the "mainstream" company books and will look at you sideways if you try to ask for something more "independent" than an Image comic. Screw the retailers who won't order you comics that you want out of Previews. Screw them in their tiny assholes. (Er, didn't I just say that?)

There are good stores out there. Just take a look at The Beguiling in Toronto. That's a kick ass store and you can check out their pretty little website. It may take a little legwork, but it can be done. A simple rule would be, ask them if they've got a copy of this month's TCJ for you to look at. If they do, or better yet have staff that have already read it and are anxious to talk about it, you're probably in good hands. If they don't, if they ask you what it is, or if they offer you an issue of Wizard instead: RUN AWAY AS FAST AS YOU CAN.

8 -- Start a discourse

That could mean starting up your own blog or website, or just posting on the various message boards all around. Think of the various materials that you're reading and start writing about them at a level beyond that "who'd win?" question. Once you realise that you simply can't elevate many of the "mainstream" stuff to a level of serious discussion, maybe you'll start dropping them like flies and moving on to something more meaningful. Something that you can actually sink your teeth into, rather that the sugar puffs volleyed up by the corporations.

Eventually, you'll probably gravitate toward people reading similar material, aimed at a similar goal, and you'll find out more wonderful books that you might not have come across yourself.

Besides, we need someone out there to put a little bit of snark back into reviewing. Alan used to be good at that, but he seems to have mellowed a bit. It's probably good for him that he's done so, but it would be nice if someone could fill the "last angry man" void.

9 -- Don't settle

If a comic book sucks or doesn't fully engage you -- now here's the tricky part -- don't buy the next issue. It's really that simple. Don't sit around waiting for something to get better, it isn't. Read something else.

10 -- If all else fails...

Just start drinking copious amounts of alcohol. You'll either be too drunk to care about comics, in a rehabilitation centre for recovering alcoholics, or too tapped out on cash because all your money went to buying cases of JD to even think of buying a comic.

...and that, ladies and gentlemen has been our show for the evening.

The ADD Blog by Alan David Doane. Trouble with Comics Reviews of comics and graphic novels. Commentary about the artform and industry of comics. Get back to the main page.

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