Thursday, March 31, 2005

The Advantage of Being A Reformed Completist

Over at Comics Should Be Good, Brad Curran reminds comic book fandom of the wisdom that shouldn't even be considered wisdom: "If you don't like it, don't buy it." I say it shouldn't be considered wisdom, because wisdom is usually something arguable. It's something that's learned, and usually arbitrary. Unless you're a mystery shopper or have a similar job, the idea that you shouldn't give people money for things that you know you won't like shouldn't be an arguable concept. It's a fucking given. We know this as early as childhood. When we beg our parents for ice cream or buy it ourselves with our meager allowance, we don't do it out of loyalty to the product. We don't do it because we've tasted every other flavor and feel we won't thoroughly understand Ben & Jerry's continuity if we don't get this new flavor. We don't do it because we want to go online afterwards and rant about how it tastes like shit. We do it because, as far as we know, it fucking tastes good! And if someone tries to give us food we don't like, we go absolutely bugfuck and secure our mouths against any spoon-shoving or "here-comes-the-choo-choo" misdirection tactics.

But I have to admit that, as thoroughly as I deplore the completist mentality now, it wasn't always so. As you might gather from The Daily Burn's spiffy new banner, I'm a bit of a Hulk fan. When I first started reading comics, The Incredible Hulk was all I bothered buying, UNLESS he showed up in another title. I stopped reading comics in my late teens, and when I started up again in my early twenties, I became obsessed with getting my hands on every Hulk appearance possible, no matter how unimportant it seemed to the wider story of the Green-sometimes-Gray Golitah.

The Leader's Lair was a great resource towards this end, as I found a very thorough list there of the Hulk's guest appearances. I patted myself on the back when recognizing the guest-spots I already had in my collection, and panicked when I saw the ones I didn't. "What?!?! The Hulk's head appeared in one panel of Quasar #28 as part of a list of potential mates for a cosmic being, and no one sent me a memo on this?!?! EBay, here I come! (swoosh!)" I spent more money than I'd like to admit herding issues of comics I probably never would have picked up otherwise like Battle Tide II, Cage, Contest of Champions II, Fantastic Four Unlimited, Marvel Comics Presents, Marvel Vs. DC, New Warriors, Secret Defenders, Silver Sable and The Wild Pack, Warlock and The Infinity Watch, Alpha Flight, Code of Honor, etc., just because the Hulk was credited as appearing in them, and in a lot of cases he showed up for one or two panels, most times as part of one of the various Jim Starlin "Infinity" things. Not that all of the comics I picked up during my completist crusade were crap (most were, though)--in fact without it I probably never would've discovered Christopher Priest's Black Panther--but I didn't care about the quality. Of course, I KNEW John Byrne's second run on Hulk sucked before I dug them up in the back issue bins! I knew it! I didn't care! Hulk was in it, and I had it on very good authority that he was the strongest one there is!

It took a long, slow BJ to cure me of my completist mentality, the BJ in question being Bruce Jones. His stupid, tedious, non-thrilling thriller broke the completist's back. I took a good, long look at one of the last pages of The Incredible Hulk #53, which featured Bruce Banner stomping alongside train tracks towards super-Hulk-baddy The Abomination, clutching a pair of blue Fat Pants around his waist like a goddamned infant and thought, "What the fuck am I doing reading this shit?" I didn't pick up another issue until Peter David's return.

The point being that as soon as my completist mentality was broken in regards to the Hulk, that was it. It was over. Yeah, I picked up the occasional X-men and Spider-Man book when I was younger, maybe a few Avengers issues here and there (very little DC), but never enough to develop the kind of emotional attachment that's necessary to transform a fan into a completist.

So when a new DC event is on the horizon with a title as ridiculous as Infinite Crisis (doesn't it sound like a name someone would make as a parody?), there's no temptation. When X-Men fans bitch about the 12 X-books they don't like versus the 3 they do, I can't relate. It took me as long as the (now, it seems almost ancient) "Fall of The Mutants" crossover to realize what a pile of shite the whole thing was becoming. I don't feel sorry for X-fans, and I don't agree that the X-books need to be fixed. Fixed? Why? How many damn books do X-fans have to choose from? You think Chuck Austen is the Anti-Christ? Fine! There are only a few dozen other stacks of SNIKT!-literature to choose from every month. Pick another one and shut the fuck up. If I had a half-dozen ongoing Hulk titles to choose from every month, problem solved. Drop it and move on.

Plus, you have the Internet now! You don't like the current storyline? Well, with a few clicks of the mouse, you can find out when it's going to end! You can log on to one of 38 comic book message boards you're registered to and find out if any like-minded folks think you should give it another go. When Bill Mantlo threw the Hulk into the "The Crossroads Saga"--giving fans a mute, apeish Hulk who dumbly wandered into various dimensions and got his ass handed to him by red-skinned toddlers and Aliens wanna-be's for over a YEAR--if I had had the resources available to find out that the storyline would end at #313 with a celebratory trouncing of those Canadian bastards in Alpha Flight, I would've just taken a break until the How-Many-Ways-Can-The-Hulk-Violently-DIE series was over. But I didn't! You do! Utilize your spoilers, goddammit.

Now, I'll probably pick up "House of M," at least at first, just because I've been liking Bendis's work lately. If it sucks, it's gone. If I don't fully understand the Hulk "House of M" tie-ins, or the tie-ins to any other books I'm reading without the LS? Big deal. I'll either deal with it, or just drop the books until HOM runs its course.

Besides, we've all missed an issue here and there of our favorite books. Even chunks of issues. Has it ever really caused THAT much of a problem? Obviously, it hasn't--if you're enamored enough with the adventures of the Fantastic Four that you're willing to spend the time, energy, and money necessary to get all of their appearances, well...unless you've been reading without missing a beat since issue #1, you were able to enjoy it after missing quite a few issues, weren't you? What the hell is different now?

Just try it. Just drop ONE book. Drop one and see how easy it becomes.

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