Happy New Year, my Foolish Friends! At the start of this, the first “real” column of 2009, I’d like to wish you all the very best for the year. I trust the next twelve months will be filled with nothing but joy, happiness and fulfilment.
Right, that’s probably it for me being nice and positive for the time being. I don’t seem to have started the year in a particularly positive frame of mind, and rather than resolutions, this year I seem to have nothing but questions.
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.
I’ve joked in the past couple of months that it’s actually rather nice of the comics companies to stop publishing anything worth reading exactly at the point where my finances have contracted to the point where I can’t afford to buy too many. But really, the situation seems to me to be more than a little dire. 2008 was not, I think it’s fair to say, a vintage year for comics**. Is there any point carrying on? With all the other demands on my time and money, why not just take the New Year as a good point to make a new start, drop the comics altogether and get on with all the other stuff that needs to be done?
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.
Then of course, there are the people. Comics have brought me into contact with so many astonishing people I simply wouldn’t have met any other way. I have an army of acquaintances and actually a fair few genuine, honest to goodness friends – including my best mate – that I only got to know because of comics, and I’m still meeting these life changing people. Many of the comics I used to revere might well have lost some of their lustre, but the people that make them are still some of the finest people there are. Turning my back on that world would take me away from those people, and that I think would be more than I could bear.
And I guess there are some comics that I really would miss. I know it’s crass, sexist, insensitive and riddled with toilet humour, but I really would miss The Boys. It has a riotous frivolity about it that only partially obscures the satirical critiques that Garth Ennis manages to keep sneaking in there. Both Fables and The DMZ continue to enthral, while the continuing adventures of everyone’s favourite Samuri Rabbit, the Ronin rodent Usagi Yojimbo will always be worth trekking down to the Comics Store for.
Then of course there are all of those Jester winners who shone so very very brightly in the general gloom that was the comics world in 2008. Perhaps the situation isn’t so dismal after all. Maybe I am just looking on the bleak side and need to lighten up and find the good stuff out there.
So – your first task of the year, my Foolish Friends. Drop by the message board and nominate one comic you couldn’t live without. What are the best comics you know about? I don’t care whether they’re from the major publishers, posted up online by dedicated amateurs or run off on the office photocopier in somebody’s lunch hour. If it’s good I’d like to know about it. My ears are open and I look forward to a brighter, comics rich 2009!
*A big “hello” to Darren, Matt and Steve, by the way.
**Honestly, I can’t remember a year when there were so few comics that interested me. True, the ones I liked I liked a lot, but they were very few indeed.
You’ll know by now, but I cannot let the passing of Patrick McGoohan pass unremarked. I discovered The Prisoner indirectly, having heard the “I am not a number – I am a FREE MAN!” spiel in the intro to an Iron Maiden song. When I eventually did manage to see some of the series I was simply blown away.
If you don’t know The Prisoner, it was a deeply surreal show from the sixties about a former secret agent who is imprisoned in a strange village where everyone is known only by number. (He was Number Six.) There was no escape, and no clue as to where the Village was, or what the succession of interrogators wanted to know. It was a bizarre, innovative, compelling bit of TV genius and it should be remembered that McGoohan was not only the star, but also the creator of the show.
He was a great, creative mind and a fine actor. I guess Number Six has finally escaped the village to a place where not even the sinister “Rover” can find him. Rest well Danger Man – we will miss you.