Sunday, July 17, 2011

Comics Relief, Part Three: On and Off the Wagon

Well, we’re still crouched by the door, listening in. Jaybee does go on, doesn’t he? So someone’s gone for folding chairs and snacks. Honestly, most people could admit to murder, or worse, impotence, sooner than Jaybee can explain his fixation with comic books.
Well it sounds like he’s stopped crying like a little girl, so let's tune back in. Nachos, anyone?

Jaybee: So true, doctor, so true. One is never quite cured. I was doing fine for a long while. I passed for an adult for years, only rarely being detected.

But in my thirties, I noticed that Marvel had begun reissuing its classic comics in hardcover, and in color like the original issues. They ran at least twenty bucks a shot with just a handful of issues in them, so the cheapskate in me was always able to resist.

But then Marvel began releasing cheaper soft-cover volumes. Sure, they were in black and white, but they were packed with at least twenty issues in each. They were entitled “The Essential (fill in the name of your favorite super hero)”, but by “essential” they seemed to mean all of the very oldest issues. Kind of like those “Greatest Hits” albums of very mediocre artists. But what sucks for music is perfect for comics, because these volumes solved the old Continuity problem.  They were almost irresistible.

And then, finally, I found them – “The Essential Spider Man”, Volumes 1 and 2. In other words, a huge, previously missing chunk of my childhood, bound into two handy volumes. And well, doctor, it was getting near my birthday, and my wife was asking what I’d like… and wouldn’t these two volumes make a neat gift for a normal forty year old man? Well, of course not. But they were perfect for me.

And like the first drag of a cigarette after not smoking for a while, and unlike the “Man from UNCLE”, “Time Tunnel” or “Lost in Space” DVDs, they were freaking awesome! They were everything I hoped they would be.  And what a delight it was reading them from issue number one all the way to forty, right up to where my brother started it all forty five years ago. 
So, for a time, I achieved Continuity. But since I can’t leave well enough alone, I decided that I wanted Closure, too, and thus stepped out onto a slippery slope.

After all, when you’ve just finished reading those first forty issues, isn’t the next logical thing to continue and reread the issues my brother and I read as kids? We’re talking issues 41 all the way up to #100, with the stupid shock ending and lousy art that eventually put me off Spidey. This would mean getting the “Essential Spider Man” Volumes 3, 4 and 5. But that would be the end of it, because I can stop whenever I want, right?

But with the subsequent new golden age of comics and the advent of the Marvel movies, I got curious again.

The Spiderman franchise was by then hovering somewhere in the mid 600s. Wasn’t it time for me to find out what I was missing? So I decided to fill in the gap that comprised those forty or so years. So, what was that? About 500 issues or so? No problem. In for a penny, in for a pound, I said. I was convinced that each issue would be a unique and satisfying experience.

But doctor, I’m proud to say that I got up to about #200 when I gave up.

By the way, they’re up to at least volume 9 - Marvel still finding every single issue “essential”, apparently. The quality had sagged, and there were too many other interesting things to do, like rent the entire DVD set of “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea”...

Doctor’s Voice: Oh, are you still talking? What year are you up to, anyway?

Jaybee: In Marvel time? 1979. Real life? 2007 or so.

Doctor: So that would make you how old?

Jaybee: I was born later in the year, so I was still technically 49.

Doctor: So you were a fifty year old man still reading comic books!

Jaybee: You make it sound so sordid. In fact I had a very good reason to continue reading them. It was a matter of War and Peace.

Doctor: Tolstoy?

Jaybee: No, Stan Lee. I meant “Marvel Civil War”...

Doctor: Jesus F-ing Christ!

Jaybee: What was that doctor?

Doctor: Oh, nothing.

To be, you guessed it, continued…

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