I missed you, I have to say. It’s been far too long. I’ll euphemistically describe the reason for my long absence as “More Work Bollocks” and leave it at that, since the full explanation is not only long and dull, but would also make me sound like a bit of a whinger. So, suffice to say that I’m back, and while the work stuff isn’t over yet, it’ll be over one way or the other very soon, so things should be returning to normal.
Although I seem to recall saying that more than once of the last couple of years…
Anyway. The truth is that my time has been so crunched all to hell over the last few weeks that I haven’t actually read a full issue of a comic at all since the middle of February. I haven’t even seen Watchmen. So, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “what does somebody who hasn’t had anything to do with comics for weeks write about in his internet based column about comics?”
To which I say “Good question!” But also I say “Rather a lot, actually…”
Because while it may or may not be true that absence makes the heart grow fonder, if most definitely is true that separation from a loved one makes you think about them more than ever. You know how much I love comics, and I find that I’ve been thinking about them pretty much constantly.
I complain a lot about comics, I know I do. What can I say? I refer you to my earlier comment about being a whinger. But I only complain about the ones that make me cross, and the ones that make me cross only do so because they’re letting the side down. In a world where comics are capable of producing Air, or Bone or Echo, or any of the wonderful stuff that exists out there, how can I not complain about shite like Tarot?*
Honestly, you have to, don’t you? I mean if my friend is acting like a jerk and making a fool of themselves I’d find a way to let them know. It’s the same with comics. That doesn’t mean I don’t love them, or that I don’t miss my fix like crazy when circumstances keep me away from my four colour friends.
And when one of those friends is in trouble, it’s always a worry. While I’ve been away news has reached me (and I know many of you too) that the wonderful DFC comic may well end with issue #43. This would be a massive shame, because although I had my doubts about the project at the start, I have very much enjoyed the little acorn grow in to what should have been a mighty oak. the DFC might well be the finest British Weekly to have launched since 2000AD first hit the stands, and indeed, had begun to take the same approach to telling stories that ‘Tooth adopted in its heyday.
It has been a place where new talent could flourish, a place where kids could discover the possibilities of graphic narrative in all its myriad forms. All is not yet lost, as I hear it the current publisher is looking to sell the comic as a going concern, so the fat may yet be yanked from the fire. In the current economic climate though, one can’t help but worry. The fact that a few of the people who have contributed their words and pictures to this fine comic are also friends of mine just adds to the sense of forboding.
The chill runs deeper than just the loss of my Friday DFC fix, and the loss of some work for some of my mates though. DFC was a serious attempt to launch a genuinely innovative anthology comics, with an innovative marketing strategy. A genuine attempt to bring comics to new readers. It was a beacon of hope. If it fails, I suspect it will be a long, long time before anybody tries such a project again, and that would be a truly terrible thing. There is nothing worse than the loss of an opportunity, except the loss of future opportunities.
Let’s keep our fingers crossed, eh?
But in my enforced comics-fast, what exactly is it that I’ve missed? What is it about comics that draws us in so? Why do we love comics so much?
Well, for me, part of it is the way they give my life some rhythm. While there are a few comics that run on an infuriatingly irregular schedule***, the vast majority of titles appear with a reassuringly regular pulse. My life has always lacked order – I have a deeply chaotic personality. But since I discovered comics in my late teens, they have provided a structure against which other things can be measured and compared. In a very real sense comics have been the metronome – or even the heartbeat of my life. Not being engaged with that narrative pulse has left me feeling strangely adrift, and it’s rather disconcerting.
I think we should also acknowledge that there is a huge element of that Soap-Opera addiction in the enjoyment of any serialised story. When my Grandma was alive she was a huge fan of the Yorkshire based soap Emmerdale. Living alone as she did for the whole of my life, she came to regard the characters as friends. She was involved in their lives, and shared in both their sorrow and their joy.
Comics are a lot like that.
You get drawn in to the lives of the characters. You don’t want to know what happens next, you need to know. Stepping back from all that feels strangely like abandoning a friend. I miss the characters I’ve been following for so long. It’s odd****, when you think about it, but I almost feel guilty.
Thing is, I don’t know of any other medium that does this.
I mean, TV is pretty ubiquitous, but it’s not a thing that many people really love, is it? I mean everybody has one, many people spend a huge portion of their lives staring at the screen*****. But most of the time, for most people, it seems to me that TV is little more than moving wallpaper. It’s just there.
Film is a little different. It has its devotees. But it’s still a detached screen enjoyed from a distance. Comics are more personal. More tactile. You hold them in your hands and while you’re reading them it’s a world you don’t have to share with anybody. The only thing that for me comes anywhere close is regular books, but they’re less immediate somehow. They lack the visual element.
I know I’ve said this before, but it remains true. There is simply nothing, nothing quite like comics. I’ve missed them.
It feels very, very good to be back.
*Although I have to say that, while utterly, utterly unreadable though I find Tarot, it was host to my favourite unintentionally funny line of dialogue of all time. “Your vagina is haunted!” Honestly, if it wasn’t purile tripe it would be genius.**
**And if Jim Balent (an artist I adored on Catwoman) is reading and wishes to explain to be that it is genius, I’m here and I’m listening. Although it’ll have to be good.
***Ultimate Wolverine vs. Hulk, anyone?
****And, I suspect, just a little sad…
*****Ironically these people are usually the ones who would accuse comics readers of having no life.