Though I’m hesitant to admit this on so public a forum, during the course of my relatively comfortable youth, I was the comic industry’s worst enemy.
Though confusion and lack of maturity can be cited as understandable reasoning for my actions, the truth can no longer be denied…I was a speculator.
I pursued the collection of comic books with an active interest in securing future collectors’ items that would one day make me a rich man by default.
To a twelve-year old literally controlled by a healthy combination of imagination and hormones, the concept that comic books could actually be worth money was supremely fascinating. Visions of a future self cashing in on his massive collection were unavoidable, and perhaps an early indication of the potential dangers associated with the periodic adoption of blind optimism that serves as precursor to considerable naiveté. Nevertheless, if it was marketed as a collector’s item…chances are I bought it.
We’re talking number-one issues that I had little interest in ever reading, anything sealed within a polybag, and any title sporting the latest in hologram technology.
Let’s not even address my obsessive fascination with Image Comics at their inception, excited at the prospect of watching a universe develop from ground level.
Or the fact that I was an art groupie, following my favorite artistic talents from title to title, literally unconcerned if the plots witnessed were completely transparent with minimal life and feeling, hampered by dialogue best described as complete gibberish.
Nearing the point of no return, doomed to the continuous pursuit of all the wrong things, the strangest thing happened…I stopped collecting comics.
Take note. I said I stopped collecting comic books. I never stopped buying them.
This occurrence can likely be attributed to my burdening fascination with writer’s craft. I’ve been attempting to create fiction in some form since a very young age, but it wasn’t until high school that I began to find my rhythm. It wasn’t until then that I began to view the techniques of storytelling and structure with renewed purpose and vigor. Only when I began to see the strings in another writer’s stories, not just as a reader, but as an aspiring writer, did my personal requirements dictating what I desired from my comics change drastically.
I ceased being a comic collector and became something stronger, something faster…something known as a comic reader.
No longer was I satisfied with art exhibitions, complimented by a die-cut cover sealed within a plastic bag, so quickly in fact that the believable sequence of events constituting plot were wholly neglected. No longer would I purchase titles based on strange devotion to a particular character or company. I suddenly wanted to read good stories, and this sudden reversal made the comic industry a more special and profound weekly experience.
And I’ve yet to look back.
My new attitude led to the eventual discovery of the trade paperback, which I’ve come to enjoy a casual love affair with. The format and presentation, easily dismissed by the comic collector due to their lack of speculative value, were welcomed by the new life form residing within known as the comic reader, now prizing the total package, and effectively shunning those that were content in delivering an incomplete reading experience.
Trade paperbacks, or graphic novels (whichever buzzword you prefer) have become a permanent staple of the comics industry, due to a mixture of style and convenience rivaling that of bestselling paperback fiction, and from an accessibility standpoint, as trades tend to collect a complete story in one place. DC Comics, once the leader in frequency and quality of the trade publication, is slowly having that gap narrowed by a fierce Marvel Comics that have realized an extensive backlist paves a clear path into bookstores, and more exposure to the casual consumer that doesn’t enjoy access to a vendor that dispenses single bite-sized installments on a weekly basis.
While I thoroughly enjoy the serial, episodic nature displayed in many of our four-color adventures, with their jaw-dropping cliffhangers that precedes the unbearably lengthy four-week waiting period for proper resolution, for the eventual repeat viewings many of my purchases provide…a bound collection is the proper way to go. Fits on a bookshelf and stands the possibility of lasting a lifetime. And beats the hell out of long cardboard boxes, polyurethane bags, and scotch tape.
To be perfectly honest, I’d replace my entire collection, consisting of several thousand single issues, with several hundred neatly organized trades in a virtual heartbeat.
Considering this, and my passion for the continued prevalence of quality material on the stands, combined with a progressive creative focus constantly searching for the next big thing, there are three trade paperbacks demanding to become permanent residents on my bookshelf…only the publishers responsible have neglected to announce them just yet. While I’m sure this is an unintentional oversight…let’s help them along the way.
These are the trade collections I’d like to see in the coming year, guaranteed to captivate comic readers worldwide.
Marvel Oversize Hardcover – Ultimate X-Men #1-12 (Marvel Comics)
Marvel just recently announced the implementation of their oversized trade program, and I already have a strong suggestion for a future release.
Ultimate X-Men is the poster child for widescreen heroics, emphasizing dynamic action sequences while sprinkling small character aspects and wisecracks in appropriate amounts to keep things moving at a steady pace. It borrows the kinetics and speed of any good popcorn flick, and like any decent popcorn flick…it encourages repeat viewings. The prospect of witnessing a band of Sentinels swooping over the city on large, glossy paper is enough to make the mouth water.
The Legion: Brave New World (DC Comics)
I had zero interest in DC’s Legion of Superheroes before Abnett and Lanning came to town, bringing the intergalactic threat known as the Blight with them. This dark and unrelenting enemy forced DC’s futuristic band of heroes into new levels of peril and excitement that continues to pay off until this day.
This collection would reprint the Legion of the Damned and Widening Rifts storylines, before leading into the stellar Legion Lost maxi-series, which contained one of the most emotionally powerful endings I’ve ever seen put to paper. Ever.
DC could effectively snare a new audience to this title with the release of this trade, supported by a significant promotional push.
Authority: Perfect Collection (DC Comics/Wildstorm)
The appropriate send-off for the title that redefined the genre of team-based superheroics. Imagine three massive trade paperbacks collecting every Authority issue ever released, contained in a slipcase featuring a jam piece by Bryan Hitch and Frank Quitely. Imagine that the final trade in the collection features the never-before-seen Authority:Widescreen special, reflections from Authority creators and fans, and plot descriptions of Azzarello’s intended relaunch.
Imagine the amount of money this could make DC Comics.
If I could see even two of these collections in 2002, I’ll be well on the path to becoming a happy man, and blind optimism makes me naïve enough to consider this a possibility. Just as it once drove the speculator into believing that future riches could be attained from something as small as a comic book, it now drives the reader into thinking that his significant collection of comic books will one day be all but replaced by a representation of the medium infinitely more satisfying than a polybag or hologram.
Now if you’ll excuse me…there’s a Little Red Hot trade and Bendis’ Torso collection on my shelf that I’ve been meaning to get to…
Ambidextrous Approves of….Busta Rhymes’ Genesis. After a lackluster fourth album, Busta strikes back with hypnotic beats and clever wordplay to make Genesis one of the best hip-hop offerings of the year. Dark Knight Strikes Again. I was beyond skeptical, and though Frank’s linework benefits from the influence of Klaus Janson, this was still quite an entertaining ride. Nintendo Gamecube. Nintendo’s latest piece of hardware delivers solid gameplay and adrenaline-pumping games at an affordable price. Those that doubt the power of the system will become true believers once Nintendo’s 2002 line-up decimates the competition. Ambidextrous approves.
Next time: The devourer of worlds makes an appearance as SBC head honcho Jason Brice becomes the victim of Ambidextrous’ first interview.