The garden of funnybook delights.

§ April 24th, 2017 § Filed under question time § 1 Comment

Let’s dip back into the ol’ question pool for our next inquiry, coming from young Matthew Digges:

“Having been in comics retail for as long as you have, I imagine you’ve seen just about everything. Is there anything recently that filled you with surprise and/or delight?”

Goin’ on just about thirty years now in the ol’ comics retail game, he said all folksy-like. And it can be very easy, working behind the counter, to get a little jaded, to lose that sense of wonder and excitement, as you have to consider order numbers and sales and other business-type stuff just to keep the doors open. The trick is not letting that get in the way of the actual enjoyment of the art form, which of course you need to have in order to make informed decisions about all that running-the-store rigmarole.

It’s hard to be surprised by things, too…even back in ye olden tymes when I was but a mere customer, like many of you, I still had access to ‘zines and publisher handouts and such that kept me informed as to what was coming. That was nothing compared to today, with an internet rife with spoilers, and solicitation information easily accessible, and…well, I don’t have to tell you. Very few surprises catch us off guard any more, since most everything is telegraphed one way or another in advance. Even Marvel is ballyhooing some last page “internet-breaking” reveal in a new comic they’ve got coming up, so 1) we’re already primed for something at the end of that comic, and 2) now we get to spend a few months guessing what it is, and more likely than not overthinking and over-anticipating what that actual surprise is.

On the other hand…that’s just “surprise” over events and gimmicks and the like. I can still be surprised by picking up a comic I wasn’t planning on reading and getting immediately sucked in. The most recent example was Curse Words by Charles Soule and Ryan Browne. Now, I like pretty much everything I’ve read of Soule’s work for DC and Marvel, but even so I wasn’t planning on picking up Curse Words…’til I read the small preview I was sent, which hooked me immediately and now I’m regularly recommending that comic to customers. Now that’s a surprise, getting a comic I didn’t think much about before beyond “I wonder how many I’ll realistically be able to sell on the shelf,” suddenly becoming one of my favorites.

Or the recent Flintstones reboot from DC…I planned on at least looking at the debut issue because I liked the artist…but that first issue was so different from what I was expecting I really didn’t know how to feel about it at the time. Since then, it’s become one of, if not my favorite comic of the past year, and I never thought I’d be saying something like that about a Flintstones comic. That definitely put Mark Russell on my “always buy work by this writer” list.

Now, for just plain “delight” at a comic’s very existence…well, I tend to enjoy all the comics I take home to read. But certain comics do stand out, mostly from amazement that they actually exist in today’s marketplace. The main one I’m thinking of here is Popeye, IDW’s ongoing reprint series of the original Bud Sagendorf Popeye comics of the 1950s/60s. That it’s lasted this long is shocking to me, but I’m glad it’s still here, showing off Sagendorf’s classic cartooning. In fact, a lot of IDW’s recent reprint work is great, such as reprints of 1950s mystery comics in Haunted Horror, or the complete reprinting of Berke Breathed’s Bloom County family of strips. Getting access to material like this is always a surprise and a delight.

There’s another aspect that I was going to say is unique to being a shop owner/employee, but upon a moment’s reflection, I realize it’s just another side of the same coin. As a comics shopper, I would get excited at looking through a box of unsorted, unknown comics, at a store or at a convention, not knowing what strange wonders I may find within. I get that same feeling now, when someone brings in boxes of comics that they’re hoping to sell to me. Yes, there’s a part of me that immediately responds with “oh boy, bet it’s another run of Brigade,” but there’s something about sorting through a long box of comics, wondering if there’s going to be anything unusual or neat about to pop out at me. It could be a Giant-Size X-Men #1 that I can sell for a lot of money in the shop, or it can be some rare fanzine that I don’t already have in my ‘zine collection. You never know!

And then there’s that feeling of finally filling that one hole in the collection. That’s always a delight, no matter how long you’ve been doing this.

So yes, Young Matthew, I can still be surprised and/or delighted by comics. This doesn’t even bring up how happy I feel when there’s, say, a new issue of Groo that’s out, or more Love & Rockets, or that Walt Simonson is doing a series based in the Norse legends. But there’s still plenty of joy to be had in the comics field, if you look.

One Response to “The garden of funnybook delights.”

  • Thelonious_Nick says:

    “This doesn’t even bring up how happy I feel when there’s, say, a new issue of Groo that’s out”

    I’m with you on this one. For a comic where each issue is more or less the same as the last, I sure do enjoy each new issue of Groo immensely. Must be how AC/DC fans feel.

    Still, I wish Sergio would spend a little less time on Groo nowadays and bring back his Sergio Aragones’s Funnies. I’m not sure I’ve ever gotten as much sheer delight per panel from a comic as I did from that series.