Bloggers love to complain; it's a universal fact of nature. Whether we're talking about bad old comic books or the latest news from the Big Two, we love to bitch and moan about things that we would probably all be much better off ignoring or accepting. This blog is no exception to the rule. Hell, it's probably not an exaggeration to say that I love complaining probably more than most. After all, how much time have I spent complaining about things that I really have no business spending so much time thinking about in the first place?
The fact that I spend so much time griping about superheroes and their associated crap has not so much to do with anything except for the fact that I am not reading many comics these days. A while back in one of his Five For Friday features, Tom Spurgeon asked respondents about the gaps in their comic reading lives -- the periods that seem to crop up in most comic readers' lives wherein, for whatever reason, they just stop buying and reading. Oddly enough, I seem to have entered such a phase myself without even realizing it. Now, there is some truth in the fact that I don't have a lot of money to be spending on comics lately. But that's only so much of an excuse, because those of us who love comics know that budgets can always be massaged to provide us with our four-color fix. No, I've just grown tired of comics -- which is ironic, I know, considering the fact that we're currently living through one of the best -- if not the best -- periods for comics in history, with good work being produced and released by a multitude of publishers in all genres, and with a truly staggering variety of reprinted work from across the world and the medium's history readily available. It's a good time to be a comics fan, but for some reason the thought of going down to the local comic shop fills me with malaise.
Oh, don't get me wrong, I haven't turned my back on comics. I imagine this is just a phase. Comics are, for better or for worse, not going anywhere, and I imagine once I have more leisure money that I'll pick up where I left off, more or less. I order some books from an online retailer every couple months, and even make the occasional trip down to the shop -- but not very often. And in addition to the research necessary to write my webcomics column for the Journal, there are about half-dozen webcomics that I check up on every day.
I won a run of J.M. DeMatteis' Dr. Fate on eBay. I've been picking my way through them slowly but surely, but mostly I've been disappointed with how the book manages to straddle the line between traditional superhero convention and the proto-Vertigo storytelling that was going on at the same time in books like Animal Man and Sandman in such a mediocre fashion. There's a reason why those books are fondly remembered to this day and Dr. Fate is mainly a footnote -- besides the fact that Shawn McManus' art is not really very good. I can't remember where it was that I read a glowing recommendation for this run, but they don't hold up well at all. I have been thinking about writing something about these books, but really, why write a negative review of books that were published almost two decades ago and are remembered by not very many people at all? Seems like it would be an exercise in superfluous invective.
Everything just seems tired. Even the good comics that usually can be called upon to provide inspiration just aren't doing it. I've had the fourth issue of Kevin Huizenga's Or Else, Jeffrey Brown's Every Girl Is The End of the World For Me and Ron Rege's The Awake Field staring down at me from the bookshelf for about a month now (maybe longer?), and while I've flipped through them a few times, I just can't seem to muster up the motivation to sit down and exercise my brain to actually read them. I am really looking forward to reading Art Out of Time, but in a vaguely abstract fashion -- nowadays, we can be somewhat confident that a book like that from a major publisher will remain available for those who don't feel like rushing out on the first week of release. I'll get it someday, and love it when I do, but for now it's just not that big a deal.
So -- what does it all mean? I have no idea. Assumedly, I'll snap out of this anti-comics funk at some point in the future. That's the way these things work: something will come out that will catch my eye and give me a new appreciation for some facet of the medium, and we'll be off to the races again. But I can't help but feeling that it's going to take one hell of a thunderbolt to really convince me this time. The last time I can remember feeling this way, it was issue #210 of the Journal, lo those many years ago, that reinvigorated my awareness of the medium and set me off on a hundred different new directions by bringing forgotten works to light which I had somehow missed and allowing me to see old friends with a new perspective. Any kind of devotion requires periodic refueling, whatever your hobby may be, and right now I feel very much in need of a vigorous rediscovery. (And the first person to reply in the comments section that I "just need to read XXXX" in order to jump-start my enthusiasm gets a kick to the nads -- especially if XXXX is Scott Pilgrim, which interests me about as much as a tabasco sauce enema.) As of this writing the most satisfying comics reading experience I've had in recent months has been the Essential Marvel Two-In-One, which is just sad on a number of levels, and says more about me than I should probably admit in public. (Achewood doesn't count, being as it is surpasses the combined power of all other comics currently produced in terms of sheer coolosity.)
In the near term, I'm going to try to reinvigorate the content of this blog in a very specific manner: by writing about things I like and which please me. For the foreseeable future, this shall be a crank-free zone: only good comics and good aspects of comics. Perhaps in the process we'll rediscover some of my missing enthusiasm.