This summer, I’ve been going places. My plan was to go on as many road trips as possible until the summer or the money ran out, whichever came first. Both gave out at about the same time. Now I’m home and I’m starting to catch up on my comics reading and writing, and it will probably take the entire Fall season to do that.
But the first thing I’ve got to do is organize and prioritize. My comic book stacks are all mixed up. There is no rhyme or reason to how I’ve filed DC’s “One Year Later” books, I’ve just been letting them pile up. I still haven’t sorted through all the books I got at the San Diego Comic Con. Breaking it all down, there’s a must read pile, a review pile, a pile to research, a pile to sort, a pile to file, and files that simply don’t make any sense at all. I obviously had some plans with them at the beginning of the summer, but those plans just kind of dissolved, and those particular piles kind of remind me of when Swamp Thing discarded his body from time to time and built a new one and walked on. I’m left with piles that had some kind of life but have been discarded for so long I don’t recall what I was trying to accomplish with them. And so it goes.
I thumbed through the new Justice League of America #1 the other day. There’s a scene involving Red Tornado that is lifted directly from Justice League of America #106, published in 1973. There’s no reference to that particularly issue, as DC doesn’t do that kind of thing anymore, dagnabbit, but I know where it’s from. It’s a nice nod to that era and the work of writer Len Wein and artists Dick Dillin and Dick Giordano. I put the new JLA down and located Justice League of America #106 and read it twice, and, boy, does it ever have a number of flaws in it but I still think it’s absolutely perfect. I first read that comic when I bought it at the Pantry supermarket thirty-three years ago and it’s a fond reminder of my early comic book collecting days and therefore completely above criticism, although the savage critic in me is desperately trying to scale those heights to push it off its pedestal. Let ‘im try. I’ll just knock ‘im off the cloud. So Justice League of America #1, for the time being, has moved onto another pile of comics.
The days of buying new comics at Pantry market are gone. The days of buying new comics from anyplace other than a comic book shop are gone, trust me, I know, I’ve been on the road, and I’ve looked. I saw new comics at Border’s, along with two shelves worth of graphic novels, but that was it. Forget finding comics at drug stores, and convenience stores, and motel gift shops, and markets, those days are done (which means a good portion of the populace no longer has access to new comics). But I’m well-located. I go on a road trip, I come home, I go to the local comics shop, of which Pasadena has two, and there are stacks of pulled comics waiting for me. Simple as that. It was different thirty-three years ago. Comics distribution was different. I had to do some serious bike-riding around town to locate all the comics I wanted. And even then, some comics never even arrived in Pasadena.
I was at an Antiques Shop in Monterey last week. There were fifteen boxes of comics for me to sift through. Somebody had pretty much put his DC and Marvel collection from the 1970s up for sale. I’ve filled in all the gaps over the years, but it was rather startling to go through all those boxes and realize that so many of the missing comics I searched for when I was in my twenties and thirties were now all gathered in one dealer’s area in an Antiques Shop in Monterey. I’d have had a field day if I didn’t already have them all.
In-between one of the road trips I visited the various comics-related websites I’ve bookmarked and caught up on all the industry news, the biggest being the delay in Civil War #4 and a couple of other Marvel titles that are tied into Civil War. I can understand the frustration in everyone’s comics corner, but the bad vibes do pass and it hasn’t taken long before we’re all anticipating Civil War #4’s September release. Hey, at least we’ll be getting it sooner than Planetary #26, or #27, heck, it’s been so long since the last issue came out that I can’t remember what number it’s on. And that’s still nothing compared to my wait for the final issues of Sonic Disruptors. I think I’ve been waiting for those books since 1988.
As of Thursday morning the must read pile consists of Solo, All Star Superman, and Justice. I did read Solo #12, spotlighting artist Brendan McCarthy, last night, and it was amazing. I’m not sure how much sense it makes; it’s kind of a psychedelic, non-linear, dream-like exercise in colorful albeit different artistic styles, and I found it all the more enjoyable because I don’t think it’s meant to make a lot of sense. Shoot, I loved it, just as I’ve loved the entire series. I’m sorry Solo is ending, but it’s one of the same old stories in comics: It doesn’t sell, it doesn’t continue. But we at least have twelve outstanding issues to go back to and enjoy over and over again.
I’ve also been in a comics time warp the past few weeks, researching for some articles I’m preparing for Comic Effect. DC comics published in the early 1970s smelled a lot better than the comics being printed today. (Hey, if I don’t mind being seen smelling old comics then I don’t mind admitting to it.) I don’t know exactly what it is, if it’s the newspaper stock it was printed on or the ink that was used or a combination of both, but sniffing an old comic book (pretty much everything printed before 1983) is like immersing yourself in the smell of sweet nostalgia. Love it. Take a whiff of a new comic and you run the risk of passing out.
One final note before I tackle the piles and prepare for more commentary next week: The latest Swamp Thing comic, which wasn’t very good, had a happy ending, which was very nice. Hopefully they’ll leave Swampy alone in his solace for a while.