You know, there are times when I can be a bit of a miserable old bugger. For various reasons, this is one of those times and so I’m busy looking for reasons to be cheerful.* And you what? At least as far as comics are concerned, there are rather a lot.
Take paper, for instance. Back when I started reading comics they were printed on pretty cheap, rather rough and certainly off white newsprint. As a result colours were always somewhat muted and muddy looking. To be honest, I rather liked it. Apart from anything else, it had a very distinctive smell.
Comic shops are, as we all know, very special places – distinctive in all sorts of ways. But they don’t smell the way they used to. In the good old days of newsprint paper, comic shops had a slightly throat catching, dry, acrid scent that was unique and even welcoming in a funny sort of way.
While they are still unarguably wonderful, comic shops have lost that smell, ever since the big publishers, in their “wisdom”*** changed the paper they use. These days comics tend to be printed on beautifully, brilliantly, blindingly white paper, which you’d imagine was a vast improvement. It really isn’t though.
You see, for a start, it’s far too bright, which plays havoc with an artist’s colour scheme. A pallette which was intended to be muted and subtle suddeny becomes all shouty and in your face – potentially ruining the effect. This is particularly noticable with reprints, but it’s an issue with first run comics too.
The other problem with this bright glossy stuff is the fact that unless you read your comics wearing gloves, you end up leaving fingermarks on the pages – especially in areas of black ink. Now, I’m not nearly as big a fanboy as I used to be, but I’m still more than a little OCD about things like that. I hate getting marks on my comics.
So, it is with more than a little joy and celebration that I note the return of, if not newsprint, then at least roughish, non flourescing paper that takes ink well and, more to the point, doesn’t attract fingermarks like jam attracts wasps. I might well be easily pleased, but to me is an unutterable joy. Doesn’t smell quite right of course, but still, it feels wonderful under my fingers and that’s a real pleasure.
It is after all the simple things in life that are most worthwhile at the end of the day…
And of course the paper isn’t the only simple pleasure out there.
Have you noticed the resurgence of the letters column? Oh, they’re not back in the really mass market books – there’s still no “Batsignals”, for example, but they are coming back in the less high profile comics. And this is a very good thing.
I really do miss the lettercols. These days we’re all supposed to be about the internet, but there’s something real about a letter in the back of the actual comic that completely trumps the commonplaceness**** of seeing your words on a screen. Anyone that has ever used the internet has had that experience more times than they can count. It just isn’t special anymore. Real letters? They are special. If you want to share the love, why not get a pen, and write an actual letter to the editor of a comics? Go on – hardly anyone does it anymore, and I bet that secretly your average comic book editor would love it.
Not that everything in the garden is lovely here at FoolCentral. I remember a very long time ago, I was sixteen and sitting in a school assembly. Mr Headly, the Deputy Head***** was standing at the front quoting from Corinthians:
“When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”
His point was that we needed to start behaving like adults, and that the time for childish things was over. I had only very recently discovered the joys of comics, and distinctly remember slumping down in my seat thinking “yeah, right”. I believed than, as I believe now that you don’t stop playing when you get old, you get old when you stop playing. Besides, although I suspect that old Deadly Headly would disagree, comics are not, in and of themselves, a childish thing.
It’s that memory though, that has stopped me using comics boxes. For the last twenty years and more, my ever expanding comics collection has been housed on shelves, in exactly the way my books have. Somehow, filing them away in boxes smacked of “putting away childish things” and it just didn’t sit right with me. I suppose I always knew that my range of shelves couldn’t go on expanding forever, but over the years I’ve always managed to add a few more feet when I’ve needed to.
All good things must come to an end though. For the last ten years my collection has lived in the attic of my house. At first, they ruled just one corner. But their inexorable spread led some time ago to their taking over the whole room and now there really is no more room to expand. With some regret I have to accept that things have to change, and I can resist the inevitable no longer.
Finally, they’re going into boxes.
But, it turns out, this isn’t the horrific compromise I always feared it would be. Far from it, indeed, because suddenly there is so much more space for more comics! I can’t believe I’ve been so resistant for so long! Where I’d begun to fear that there was no more room, suddenly I’ve got cricket pitch sized areas in my attic just waiting for more comics boxes! Seriously, I think I’m good for the next decade at least! I’m not putting away childish things, I’m merely clearing some space so that there can be more childish things in the future!
Such good news, I might even keep smiling over Christmas – and that would be a first!
*In addition to Summer, Buddy Holly, the working folly, good golly Miss Molly and boats…***
**If that reference doesn’t mean anything to you, go to Youtube and search for “Reasons to be cheerful part 3″. You’re welcome.
***”Wisdom” isn’t exactly the word I’d choose, to be honest, but I’m trying to write a totally positive column this week.
****It’s a word. Trust me.
*****A man known universally as “Deadly Headly”, he was the school disciplinarian. In the five years I attended the Hungerhill School I never once saw him walk. He literally stalked along the corridors. I suspect he was actually a lovely bloke, but I was genuinely terrified of him…