Monday, October 05, 2009

Mick Reborn #3: They're All Gonna Laugh at You!

Mick Reborn #1
Mick Reborn #2

Last week I wrote about feeling a little lost as far as this whole return to comics is concerned. The price of comics has inflated to the point where trying to keep current with the weekly stacks would conflict directly with my ability to pay bills. And either the quality of the average Marvel/DC superhero stuff has dropped considerably, my tastes for it have waned, or both, so that even my considerable self-destructive money-spending tendencies would not allow me to overspend because Dark Avengers just ain't worth it.

This left me feeling confused about what I was supposed to do. I don't think I can convey to you the overwhelming sense of This-Is-RIGHT that grabbed me when I decided to start reading and writing about comics again. I didn't want to lose that, but at the same time how can I review comics if I can't afford them? And how can I be taken seriously as a comics blogger if everyone's reviewing Spider-Woman #1 and I'm waxing nostalgic about Incredible Hulk or The Defenders?

I went to the library. I've moved into a new county recently, and the library had almost no superhero books. A Bendis Daredevil trade, a Superman dailies collection, and Batman: Year 100 - that was it. So I decided to finally try to get serious about considering non-superhero books. I'd tried in the past and largely failed, particularly when it came to the non-action books. I still haven't flipped open the American Splendor collection someone bought me right after the film release. I literally fell asleep reading Ghost World.

Certain things have occurred in my life recently that you don't need to, or want to, hear about. Nothing particularly saucy or wild. If it were of the more juicy variety, I'd gladly write it all down. But it's not as exciting. Epiphany. Inspiration. A bit of willful personal historical revisionism (I only chickened out of asking that girl out in the tenth grade because I believed in states' rights). Among other things, when I think of things in my past or present that I'm not very happy about, I challenge myself with an obvious, simple, yet slippery notion. Namely, that maybe things are the way they are in my life not because of my failure, but because that's the way I want it. Maybe I failed to do something important because I knew it would make me lose something more important. Maybe I didn't apply to that better job because I knew it wasn't really better. Maybe I chickened out of asking out the girl because deep down I knew she was the wrong girl. It may not be truth, but if you're going to try to make peace with your life while taking responsibility for it, there are dumber paths to travel.

I find this personal revisionist tool to be my only explanation for what happened when I borrowed a stack of graphic novels (all non-action, non-superhero stuff save for Batman: Year 100). I couldn't stop reading them.

I began by leaving Craig Thompson's Blankets in my bathroom, figuring I'd drag myself through a few pages at a time. I soon ended up bringing it to the bedroom and being unable to leave until I'd reached the end. There was so much about the story that I felt like I should have hated. Anyone who knows my usual tastes would guess that a book with so much space dedicated to a couple of teenagers "being deep" would expect me to have nothing to do with Blankets other than things that involve matches and lighter fluid. I should've hated it, but I didn't. Blankets is sweet and sad and at times horrific, but utterly real and wonderful.

After that, I wanted more. I put aside the prose novel I'd been reading and practically raced through the rest of the stack. I read Joe Sacco's The Fixer, James Kochalka's The Cute Manifesto, Dark Horse's compilation Autobiographix, Gilbert Hernandez's Sloth, Brian Fies's Mom's Cancer, Alfred and Ka's Why I Killed Peter and Jeffrey Brown's BigHead. I made enemies in my building when I forgot I had laundry in the washer while I finished Allison Cole's Never Ending Summer in one sitting. I brought them all back and borrowed another stack - a silly stack. The kind of book stack you see someone like Rupert Giles carrying around that you know is going to come toppling down any second with Xander or Buffy waiting to make a snarky remark. I took out every Joe Sacco book they had, Jimmy Corrigan, Preacher, V for Vendetta, From Hell, A Contract with God and more.

Like a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron is sitting in my bathroom now. I don't think my sanity could survive taking fewer than 5 or 6 sittings to read it. Thankfully, I already hated seafood.

I feel like I've discovered something essential to the rest of my life, like when I heard my first Dead Kennedys album or when I read The Lord of the Rings. I've found something that's going to change me and will be present for the rest of my time. What's different is that, unlike other examples, I've known about this stuff. When I blogged about comics previously, everyone was talking about this stuff. I have specific memories of the releases of books like Sloth, Jimmy Corrigan, The Fixer and The Cute Manifesto. I remember the other bloggers going crazy over them. I didn't listen and didn't care.

This is where the personal revisionism comes in. My only good explanation for why I'm so enthralled with these books now, whereas before I couldn't even stay awake to read some of them, is that they scared me. Not that they're all horror stories or that there was some stark reality about the books that knocked me off kilter, but, well. I was a comics blogger. Give me a comic to read and I would feel an almost Bushido-like obligation to write about it online. The idea of reviewing something like Blankets scares me.

I've reviewed non-super/non-action stuff before. I reviewed Cheat and Barefoot Gen and, particularly in the case of the latter, the fewer people who read the reviews, the better. Not that they're bad. They might not be. I don't know. I just know that, as I wrote them, I was scared out of my mind that I would come off like I didn't know what I was talking about. That fear persists. Even when it comes to superhero stuff, there are certain comics I haven't touched. I have yet to attempt a review of Watchmen or anything by Alan Moore now that I think about it. Nothing by Grant Morrison. I recall being almost certain I would seem incoherent in my review of Daredevil: Love and War. In fact, it just now occurs to me as I write this paragraph that if I were to ever come up with a top 10 list of my favorite graphic novels, almost nothing on the list would be something I've actually reviewed.

I honestly wonder now if maybe the reasons I gave in the first installment of Mick Reborn for my departure from comics blogging had less to do with it than my fear that, as that annoying Adam Sandler character always harped, They're all gonna laugh at you!

So that's it. I'm back, my mind is expanded, and I'm a little scared. I can either fade quietly away so I never have to worry about some linkblogger smartly trashing me for writing something stupid about an artist I'm too plebian to understand, or I can try to stop caring about the things that aren't worth carrying about and celebrate a medium I love.

I'll probably pick the first choice. I don't know what the hell else I'm supposed to do while I'm at work.

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