Well, here we are again, at the start of another year.
I don’t know what it is, but as I get older, the new years just keep getting closer together and the bits in-between get less and less distinct. I guess that’s the curse of age. Ah well, time passes, and if it didn’t, where would we be?
2009 has been a funny old year though. Around about now, what I should be doing is looking back over the best comics of the past twelve months and presenting the Jester Awards to the books that have really stood out for me. The trouble is, I have no idea.
Those of you who have been paying attention to this foolish little corner of cyber-space have probably noticed that I’ve been pretty erratic with the column this year. There are all sorts of reasons for that, which I won’t bore you with now*. The bottom line is that life has just gotten in the way of the column in the past year, and also gotten in the way of my reading comics.
So, for this year, and this year only, the Jesters are suspended.** The sad fact is that I’m in no position to give you highlights of the year in comics when I haven’t read all that many in 2009 and have a massive pile of unread floppies sitting impatiently on my office floor. Now, I suppose I could go away, read them all and then come back and tell you what I thought, but frankly that would take ages and I don’t want to make the column any later than it already is.*** New Year is, however, a time for reflection, so Jesters or not, it seems appropriate to look back and think about what comics have meant to me in 2009.
The year began with my questioning why I even bother to read comics. It seems funny looking back at what I wrote then:
For a start, why exactly do I read comics? Why do any of us? Over the last few months various circumstances in my personal life have had the effect of slashing my comics budget by a rather significant margin – I now buy significantly fewer comics per week than I used to and you know what? I don’t miss any of them.
Once upon a time, this would have been inconceivable to me. Comics were an integral part of my life and I literally couldn’t envision my life without them – they were at the heart of every single thing I did. Now? Now weeks will go by without my even looking at a comic, and even when I do I find that often I enjoy the conversation I have in the comics store is actually far more enjoyable than the comics I buy while I’m there.
To be honest I still sort of feel that way, but I think I do have a better answer to the question now. Last January the best I could do was:
Well, in truth I think a large part of it is raw, naked sentimentality. Comics came into my life when I was sixteen and as messed up as your average sixteen year old can be. They filled a void, bringing joy and even purpose to me, filling my world with tales of hope, fortitude and valour. Honestly, I got comics the way some people get religion, and I honestly don’t know what I’d have done without them. While it’s true that they haven’t filled that role in my life for a very considerable period of time, I won’t ever forget what they used to mean to me. Dumping them would be like turning my back on an old friend, which is not something I’d normally contemplate.
While that’s still true – if rather long-winded – I think I understand the role comics have played in my life a little better now, and I wonder how many of you lot have a similar relationship with your graphic narrative.
Because I’ve really felt the absence of comics this past year.
You see, I’d thought that the important thing about comics was the stories. Well, the stories and the characters. I had thought that having the stories and the characters as a constant in my life since my middle teens had been important to me – had been a part of what had made me “me”. And of course I was right.**** But the thing is, being right about something doesn’t mean you really understand.
Now, I think I might.
Of course, the stories and the characters that live within them are important. But if all that mattered were the stories, I could get those anywhere – indeed I do. I watch movies. I read novels. I’ve even been known to watch TV.***** No. Comics do more than give you stories. They give you’re a rhythm.
TV serials do that too of course, but they tend to be weekly, and the vast majority of the comics I read are monthly******* and there’s something about that rhythm. Four weeks between instalments give you a lot of thinking time. A lot of time to exercise those little grey cells to formulate your own solutions to the inevitable cliff hangers. That monthly rhythm is, for me at least is the rhythm of my imagination.
That’s why the much maligned monthly format is so important to me, and that’s why reading stories in arcs, the way I have been doing this last year or so has been such a less fulfilling experience. That’s why I prefer the traditional “floppy” to the OGN or the Trade Paperback.
And that’s also why the only New Year’s resolution I’m making this year it this:
FoolBritannia will be posted every Wednesday, starting Wednesday 6th January and continuing throughout the year. Rhythm is important.
For now, let’s leave it at this. I hope you all had a wonderful 2009. I didn’t. But 2010? Oh, 2010 is still shiny and new and ready to be shaped into something fine and beautiful.
Let’s get our comics, join in the inexorable beat of their narratives, and let our imaginations dance to their rhythm in the coming year.
Have a great one!
*Mostly, if I’m honest, because it’s none of your business, although it’s also pretty dull and you wouldn’t be interested in any case…
**And seriously, they really will be back next year – I have seventy little Jester finger puppets waiting for a good home…
***I really am trying to get 2010 started off on a positive footing and than keep it that way.
****Because I always am. Trust me.
*****Although apart from QI and Doctor Who there really isn’t much on worth watching these days.******
******Did you see Doctor Who over Christmas by the way? Apologies to American readers who haven’t yet (although now you know what it feels like to be a British Sci-Fi fan…) but bloody hell – is it me, or was it brilliant?!
*******With the exception if dear old ‘Tooth, they all are.