In regard to my lifelong enjoyment of and obsession with comic books and their related ilk, I never thought what I had become could be labeled, at least not properly. “Longtime fan boy” has its merits, but it just never seemed all-encompassing enough. But there is finally a name for someone like me that I can work with, a name that honestly, truly fits, one I can display proudly, like an “S” symbol on my chest, for the rest of my life. The near-perfect description is “Super-Reader,” and writer Douglas Wolk has coined and defined the term in his excellent review of the trade paperback. Still, after this past weekend I’ve gone to task to expand on the concept, and take it a step further, into personal perfection.
“Super-Readers” are “those who are so conversant in the minutiae of genre conventions and comics lore that it’s possible to make allusions to those minutiae the whole point of a story.” That’s me, exactly, but even more so, really. I didn’t plan to become that way when I started collecting comics at the age of ten. I simply grew into it. I’ve grown beyond it, absorbing other facets (both shiny and dull) of the genre outside the realm of superheroes, from Palomar to The Adventures of Ford Fairlane, from Peanuts to Conquerors of the Barren Earth, from Locas to Starslayer, from Binky Brown to Leave It to Binky, from Men of Tomorrow to Metal Men to become — forgive me, Doug — a “Super-Duper-Reader.” I’ve transcended comics geekdom, that dreaded fan boy mentality, and transformed into something akin to every power-mad comics villain who has absorbed too much power and literally burst at the seams. The only differences are that I never burst, I just keep absorbing, and there’s absolutely nothing villainous about it. It brings me great happiness and pleasure, and I don’t mind sharing the wealth and spoils (all that energy has to go somewhere). In fact, I encourage myself to share it (it’s part of why I do this column and publish Comic Effect).
This past Saturday, April 23, alone found me indulging in a wide range of comics ventures. And while many of these indulgences I can take credit for instigating on my own (gathering all the #1 issues DC published in the 1980s, for example; only my own warped thinking is going to suggest that). I cite Mr. Wolk himself as one source of inspiration, because his Birds of Prey review had me scrounging through the comics piles seeking out all stories involving Black Canary (well, actually, Black Canary is my favorite superheroine, so it doesn’t take much to nudge me her way).
But you know who really made me a “Super-Duper-Reader” par ridiculousness? At least on April 23? Tom Spurgeon, respected comics reporter, reviewer, and former Managing and Executive Editor of The Comics Journal, who a short time ago compiled a list of “1000 Things to Like About Comics”.
That list really brought out the “Super-Duper-Reader” in me. I drew from several of the entries throughout the course of the day. Entry 13: “Hold Me,” by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean. I knew that was a Hellblazer story. In fact, I knew exactly where it was in the pile on the shelf in the northeast corner of the comic book room. Entry 161: Brute and Glob. Brute and Glob! No problem! Supporting characters in The Sandman from 1975! Those books are filed chronologically in the 1975 piles on the shelf in the northwest corner of the comic book room. Entry 352: Flex Mentallo by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely! I contend that this is one of the best superhero miniseries ever produced, and it was less than ten feet away from where I batted this article out on my laptop, right behind Vimanarama #1-2 and above Seaguy #1-3. Entry 652: OMAC, by Jack Kirby. A classic. Underrated, under-realized, and right under the pile of Kamandi, The Last Boy on Earth that you would see just as you stepped into the comic book room. Heck, OMAC is even making a comeback of sorts in the current OMAC Project #1. This is where Tom and I certainly don’t agree, of course. I’m sure he doesn’t think much of The OMAC Project, if he’s not completely indifferent to it, but I’m in fan boy heaven (it’s not just the minute details, it’s from reading and enjoying DC comics for many, many years and never breaking from that). But that’s why I’m a “Super-Duper-Reader” and Tom is respected.
Oh, and Tom and I both dig Scene of the Crime (Entry 738) by Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark, which should win me a little respect back. Not to mention The Golem’s Mighty Swing (Entry 875) by James Sturm, The Revival (Entry 913) also by Sturm, and Thriller (Entry 938) by Robert Loren Fleming and Trevor Von Eeden. You’d think I could pin the respect badge on right now, but, dang, I’ve got an itch to read The Wanderers (no entry whatsoever).
My point, and I do have one, is once you know what you are, once you can give it a name and a definition that starts the inner engines running on all cylinders, and you’re happy with it, run with it. Run with it even further than you did yesterday not knowing what the name was but fully aware of the good feeling it gave you, and will always give you. Being a “Super-Duper-Reader” of comics is nothing to be ashamed of, it’s a triumph (and I know I’m not alone because a lot of you are reading this and nodding your head with understanding — while some of you are considering ordering me a straightjacket, but that’s okay).
And thank you Doug and Tom. You guys are great.