Saturday, April 01, 2006

A Million Little Panels

Baby- if you ever wondered
Wondered whatever became of J.C.-
I’m posting on the web on Cinerati
Cinerati- on your PC



James Frey...eat your heart out.
I’m glad to be a guest poster on Cinerati. I am a regular reader and fan so it’s an honor to be invited by Christian and Company to share some thoughts with you. And now my childhood plan to memorize the WKRP theme song has finally paid off- in spades. As you may or may not know, you can usually find me over at The Shelf along with fellow cynic at large and all around jovial guy, Wolf Flywheel. However, I thought that my message that I had today was important to share wherever I can. You see, I used to have a problem. A serious problem, in fact. A problem that took so much of my time and money. I am proud to say that I am well on the road to recovery. That is why I’m sharing this with you, in hopes that I can reach someone else out there who knows of what I speak. Yes, my friends I am a recovering comic book collector.

Confessions...
Don’t laugh. Don’t judge. You may look at me and mock - but you do not understand. Have you ever been standing by a section of comics, knowing full well that the money you’ve saved could go to so many other worthwhile, important things? Charity, helping the homeless, animal shelters, bills, food, gas... well you get the idea. You stand there, guilty as hell, but you’ve just got to have issue #294- because it all leads up to the Ultimate Crisis Crossover Infinite Megawar limited series that you’ve already preordered. Besides- this issue has the brand new costume. You buy it, avoiding the gaze of the cashier at the bookstore or megastore. Hopefully she doesn’t recognize you from school. Darn your stupidity- your irrational judgement! Yes you should have gone to the comics store- but they sold out a week before release. And you just had to have it. You just had to!

Oh it started simply enough. My dad would buy me the occasional Disney Comic. Harmless right? Junior Woodchucks and the like. Little did he know that Uncle Scrooge was a gateway comic. Soon I was experimenting with the Whitman 3-pack. Three comics in one plastic bag- who could resist? Before you know it, I’m standing next to the comics rack at the convenience store trying to figure out how I can score both a pack of Sweetarts and the new issues of the X-men and Spider-man. It wasn’t long before I was into the hard stuff. Limited Series, Annual issues, Crossover series, and even the occasional preorder. I wasn’t hanging out at the grocery store either. I was at the comic shop watching some greasy, overweight, bearded asthmatic putting my weekly fix in a bag and telling me how if I haven’t read the black and white indie comics I haven’t READ comics. I remember telling myself- I can stop. I’m not going to be that guy. I’m normal... I’ve got a girlfriend, I go to school- I don’t have a problem. Then it happened. I went home and read through my whole new score in a measly afternoon and was already wondering where I was going to get my next fix. Heck, that guy mentioned the black and white indies. I could try those - or maybe even a graphic novel. Yeah, that's it. I'll just try to find some loose change. Oh maybe I could sell something. Then I realized... oh god, I am that guy. Excuse me while I look on you disdainfully and laugh haughtily behind your back.

Realization and Recovery...

I had to stop and think - maybe I do have a problem. What had happened to me. Where did the fun go and become replaced with obsession? That was it. It wasn't fun anymore. It was a necessity. I couldn't fall behind. If I missed just one issue, I... I... I shuddered to consider the implications. And what’s worse- the comics themselves just weren’t the same anymore. I didn’t even really read them to enjoy them. I had to have them, because I had to keep up- I had to know what was going on. Little had I noticed that they were more expensive, and while I had to keep up with the storyline, the comics companies themselves had given up on the storyline a long time ago. In fact, I couldn’t count the different origin stories anymore. Or the new costumes, or who was allied with who, who ticked off who, or even who was now a hero and who was a villain. The comics had abandoned me... that little kid who years ago couldn’t wait to go to the grocery store to pick up a great story about their favorite hero. The comics companies made it too hard to even enjoy them anymore- but I was hooked. I knew what I had to do... I had to go cold turkey.

I declared my independence from comics collecting. I left the country for a while, helping other people. That is perhaps the indication that you are on the road to recovery. I fought hard. I occasionaly stepped it down a notch by reading a three panel comic... like a patch. Oh sure, I felt the occasional pang for a full color giant size issue, but I fought it by remembering that ultimately that road lead to disappointment. Those comics weren’t the comics I wanted. Those were gone- replaced by expensive, audience targeted, marketing ready product. Not the joyful art I missed. Ironically, I was the very target audience that the comics sought, the 18-30 year old male. But they lost me because they abandoned the key demographic that kept them alive for so long: the kid. Because they left the kid behind, they lost their innocence and it was a way out.

After I came back into the country, I got a job and went to college. I got married and had kids. I graduated with honors and became a useful member of society. I beat the problem. And you can to. Just have the courage to look at your problem and realize what it has become. Don’t let it beat you. Take it one day at a time. Everyday I tell myself, I am a recovering comic collector. I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and dog-gone it people like me. I realized that my life is full and there are so many things out there to enjoy... and I know you can do it also.

Thanks for listening, and please take my story to heart and learn from it. I must go now, my son has just gotten into my mylar bags in the garage. I need to make sure he doesn’t mess with that issue where Spider-man gets the black suit. I need that one for the movie.

J.C. Loophole

J.C. Loophole is one of the creators of The Shelf. He takes full responsibility for all comments made here, although any complaints must be directed elsewhere... possibly to an email account that will lead nowhere and to a dummy corporation that will not respond to any inquires and will ultimately shield J.C. Loophole from all lawsuits. Any requests to appear on Larry King Live, Letterman, or any other talk show, or any request for book contracts may be directed to The Shelf. Please understand that due to the current nature of publishing memiors that the author's tongue may have been firmly planted in cheek. PS- Oprah, call me.

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