Tuesday, December 27, 2011

I'm Back into Comics

I first started reading comic books seriously in 7th Grade. Before that, I was reading Elfquest in the giant collected color volumes. I didn't know that Elfquest came out regularly in Black and White chapters at the time. Daniel Something in my 6th grade class told me it was released that way but I didn't believe him. And then between the Third Color Volume, Escape to Elf Witch Mountain, and the Fourth Color Volume, North To Alaska, the Elfquest Roleplaying Game was released. I bought it and ripped it open on the ride home and quickly had several key plot points spoiled for the Fourth Volume because the Manuals were using images from the Black and White Comics.

Well, damn. I managed to get myself to a comic book shop. Brian's Books on Calabazas in Santa Clara or maybe Sunnyvale CA. A whole store dedicated to comic books as opposed to a well-read stack in a rack at the local convenience store? It was interesting. But I was there for one thing. Elfquest. Which I guess I picked up. And eventually picked up all of the Black and White issues.

Anyway. Back to seriously reading comics. Not girly comics like Elfquest! But manly comics where well-muscled men ran around in tight fighting tights! And women ran around in almost nothing at all! My friend, Aaron Crawford, who sat across the table from me in Science told me about some thing DC was doing. Some enormous, crazy thing. Some disaster called Crisis on Infinite Earths.

Now, when I watched the Super Friends, I (and probably most everyone else) especially loved it when they ran episodes with the Legion of Doom. Because now you got to see all of the Super Friends in one episode! And all of the villains as well! So Crisis on Infinite Earths featured ALL the comic heroes by DC ever? And the villains too?

This was too good to be true. So I picked up some issues at the local 7-11. But they didn't have all of the issues! I remembered Brian's Books and that was that. I was immersed.

Those days were pretty weird. It seems hardly believable that a comic book shop could exist. I remember walking in to the shop and Brian would always be behind the counter, reading or doing who knows what. He was cordial but didn't really say much unless you engaged him. And he was an adult and I was shy and, well, I didn't talk to him as nearly as much as I now think I should have. Especially since his store was always empty!

So I began reading comic books. This was probably 1983 when I started. Twelve years old. With limited funds, I decided that the Marvel Universe sucked eggs and stuck with DC. I'm pretty sure this is how every child coming into comics chose a side. Whichever company's comic he first fell in love with, that was the company he would support. Shoot, if I had the cash, I would have given equal time to both universes.

I remember my friend Philip Newby reading the Wolverine/Kitty Pryde comic which, even though it was Marvel, looked interesting.

But even as a DC reader, I could only read so many titles. So I read Blue Devil. And I read Teen Titans. I read The Outsiders. Soon my favorites were Keith Giffen's Justice League and John Ostrander's Suicide Squad. I still hold these titles up as shining examples of what Super Hero comics should be.

Of course, I eventually began reading things like Doom Patrol and Shade the Changing Man and Sandman. I discovered Cerebus around the time Sim was writing the chapter called Flight.

Some time in the late 90s, I began following writers instead of titles. Warren Ellis. Mark Millar. Alan Moore. Garth Ennis. And some time after 2000, many of my favorite writers headed over to Marvel. So I did as well. Finally, I was reading a little something from both companies.

But comics started to feel too expensive for too little payoff. I was beginning to lose track each month of what the storyline from the previous month was. Perhaps I was reading too many! Whatever actually happened, I always felt that I would stop reading comics when Cerebus ended.

Which is what I did. Except I didn't completely stop. I would still pick up trade paperbacks from time to time. I kept up with Bill Willingham's Fables and Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead. I also intended (still do, so intend?) to eventually finish up, through trade paperbacks, Azzarello's 100 Bullets, and Warren Ellis's Planetary. I'm sure there are more.

But I stopped collecting monthly comics. Until this year. While in Phoenix, my cousin Jay and I went all over town searching for RPG game shops. We also found a few comic shops which we killed some time in. And I found 52.

Now, I'd already read the 4 trade paperbacks of 52. But I didn't realize DC was going to do what they did. Release 52 #1 issues and begin 52 regular comics titles. And I may have just let it go past me except one of the issues they began again was Suicide Squad. And it looked cool.

I picked up the four issues of Suicide Squad when I got back to Portland and enjoyed them. And I got to thinking. Maybe I'd enjoy more titles! So I made a short list from the list of 52 titles inside Suicide Squad #1. But as I walked to my old comic book store the next day to pick these up, I started to think about how I always wanted to read the entire line of comics that a company puts out. I could keep track of all of their super heroes and their exploits! And 52 was telling me right there how many that was! And they all came out each month with the next exact same number! How easy would this be to do? Read them all, Jeff! Read them all!

And so, that's what I'm going to do. As an adult who owns his own business and can afford it, I'm going to do it. Read all 52 titles. Of course, I have to buy them first. And most of them are already on issue 4!

So time once again to get back in comic hunting mode. I forgot how much I liked the routine.

Next post will be about the different titles in 52. Which ones I'm really looking forward to. Which ones I normally wouldn't even give a second glance. And which ones I have no idea what the hell they're about!

And in subsequent posts about my return to comics, I'll discuss the comics themselves. I think this will also help me to remember what is going on in each storyline as the months go by. So, warning now, these will definitely involve spoilers!

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