HAPPY NEW YEAR!
I hope that however you chose to mark the occasion you had a great time, and that if your celebration included the demon drink that your head is not too sore.
Yesterday I ran you through a few of my hopes for comics in 2012. (If you missed it, nip back, take a look and then come back and read this. We'll wait… Done that? Cool, then let's start the New Year!) Today I want to be a little more civic minded. It's all very easy to tell people what we want – New Year is also a time to decide what we're going to do about it. I don't like resolutions, which if most of us*are honest translate as "shit we say we'll do but have forgotten about by the end of the first week of January". So, these aren't my resolutions, their just ambitions. Things to do with comics that I'm going to try to do in 2012.
Ambition One: Read what I buy
Really this is a no-brainer, and to be honest it's a bit sad that I even need to include this as an ambition, but apparently I do. This was brought home to me in the comic shop the other day as Darren-the-comics-pusher bagged up my weekly comics haul.
"Is this good then?" he enquired as he dropped the latest copy of American Vampire into the bag. I paused for a second, noting that the issue he had in his hand was numbered #22. I had to confess that I didn't know – I haven't read it since about issue #6. They've just been piling up in my "to read" pile, waiting for me to "get around" to it. It's just that I've been buying this thing every month, but I haven't actually read it for over a year! for the whole if 2011, not one issue did I read.
This is clearly insane. American Vampire isn't even the only comic that this is true of, now I come to think about it.
Utter, utter madness.
So, I'm going to make an effort to do two things in order to rectify the situation. For a start, I'm going to make some time to read. I like reading, it's good for me, and I seem to be allowing other stuff – and if I'm honest it's usually work – to take over too much of my time. But I'm also going to be stricter with myself. From now on if I've got more than half a dozen issues of anything in my "to-read" pile, then that comic comes off my pull list.
Ambition Two: To stop reading bad comics
This is one I'd quite like you all to join in with.
It seems to be a constant mantra in this column that "comics companies aren't in business to make comics – they're in business to make money", and I'm sorry to be boring, but it's a thought that bears mentioning here. In the past I've been as guilty as anyone of continuing to buy comics even though they were rubbish, and I knew they were rubbish, because "I used to love this book, and it's bound to get better soon". In fact, I'd have to say I've usually been right.
However, this kind of behaviour is damaging not only to your personal wealth** it's damaging to the industry. If what comics companies want to do is make money, then all they really care about is whether people are buying their wares. If people are then they have no incentive to make any changes, which means that bad comics will only get better by accident.
This is clearly a bad thing.
If, on the other hand, one of the titles you regularly buy takes a serious dip in quality you simply stop buying it then the company responsible stops making money. This gives them an incentive to sort things out pretty damn quickly, let me tell you – not even those new fangled faster than light neutrinos they think they might have discovered at CERN moves quicker than an accountant with a loss on the balance sheet.
Now, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking "yes, that's all very well, but I've been buying Flagman*** for years, and if I stop buying it now I won't know when it gets better and I'll miss out". Well, I won't deny that that's possible. But if you're reading reviews here at Comics Bulletin****, talking to your comics reading friends and touching base with the nice people who sell you your comics you'll probably be alright.
C'mon – you know that this is worth doing!
Ambition three: To make the effort to buy something different
This is another one I'm going to encourage you to join in with at home. Comics readers are, I think it's fair to say, largely creatures of habit. We buy what we buy, and once we're decided on what that is many of us don't really look much further – we fixate on a small group of characters, or particular creators, or publishers, or whatever, and that can often be that.
Which means we miss out on an awful lot of stuff that we'd just love.
So, let's spread ourselves around a little more, shall we? After all, if we all stop buying comics when they're bad we will have some spare space in our buying schedule for new titles, right? So, why not use that new capacity to experiment? Step outside the comfort zone – try out new writers, new genres? We have nothing to lose – if the books turn out not to be our cup of tea we can always stop buying them and try something else , and we have an awful lot to gain.
Not only will we be broadening our own horizons, we'll be supporting more creators and more styles of comics. Literally everybody wins!
Ambition four: To seek out more self published material (and to tell people how they can get it too)
I suppose that this is part of the ambition noted above, but it's perhaps more specific. I used to real an awful lot of self published stuff, and I really don't these days.
This is a shame, because some of the best, most enjoyable comics in my collection were self published. If you've been reading this column for a while you'll remember the utter bonkers joyfullness of Malcolm Magic, a slightly surreal but hugely entertaining romp featuring a slightly inebriated rabbit. Or the occult detectoring of Harker. Some of you might even remember The Jock, a brilliantly clever satire on popular culture featuring the adventures of a free thinking DJ in a totalitarian state.
All brilliant. And that's before I mention The Girly Comic, or Fetishman, or Bahalana, or Queen of Diamonds, or, well, you get the point.
The problem with all of these books is that they're hard to get hold of. Their very nature means that most could never dream of a listing in Previews. This lack of distribution makes it unlikely you're going to see them in your local comics store either. Fortunately, these days it doesn't have to be that way.
Back in the dark ages***** self publishers had to sell their wares through shops, which basically meant "not outside their own local area" or at cons and marts, if they could afford to fork out for a table. These days we have the internet, which means they can publish their stuff online for people to read on-screen, or they can build a retail website that will allow readers to buy paper comics online. I want to use more of my time and money to support this somewhat unsung corner of comics, because it's where some of the best stuff can be found.
Four hopes, four ambitions. I don't think that's too much to take into the new year. I'm interested to know what you lot
out there want from your comics in 2012 – and what your own ambitions are. Let me know! I'd also appreciate it if you wouldn't mind giving me the heads up on interesting self published material that everyone else seems to have missed. If you know about a comic you think more people should be reading, I'd like to know that too!
For now though, I'll let you get on with your New Year's Day, and I'll see you back here in seven days time!
*Well, me at least.
**I've never actually calculated how much money I've spent on comics I knew I wouldn't actually like because against all probability I have a life, but I'd be prepared to bet it's a depressingly high figure.
***A made up comic titles I've totally stolen from my old mate Budgie "Hypotheticals" Barnett. I stole the "Comics companies aren't in business to make comics…" maxim from him too…
****Other review sites are available, but ours are the best…
*****Which, according to the kids I teach is any time before 1999…