Basically I just say I’m behind on my reading but here’s a couple of things I do like reading.

§ February 8th, 2021 § Filed under collecting, eyeball, legion of super-heroes, star wars § 10 Comments

One thing I haven’t heard at the shop in a while is “wow, what a great job, you get to read comics all day!” Which is good, because that did get a little tiring to hear, and to explain (when I bothered to do so) that the one thing I really don’t have time for at the shop is reading comics. Particularly now, that I’ve opened my own shop, where the only hand on deck is me and spending the time to read a comic means less time pricing old comics or whathaveyou.

Does that mean I’ve never read comics in the shop? No, of course not…it’s just not something I’m normally inclined to do. The one time I can remember doing so at the new store was an issue of Doomsday Clock, I think. And, at the old store, back when DC and Marvel used to send out preview packs of full issues coming the following week, I’d make time to read Preacher whenever it showed up. However, beyond occasionally flipping through an issue to check for damage while grading or maybe briefly browse through one to find something for Instagram, and yes sometimes just to admire a page or two of art…I tend to leave the actual reading at home.

The big problem, of course, has been my eyeballs. At first, I just thought my vision was getting blurrier due to my encroaching decrepitude, causing my reading to slow down considerably (even with the assistance of progressively stronger dollar store reading glasses. And then once the actual problem was determined (“Oh hey the interiors of your eyeballs are bleeding.” “Wait, what”) and problems began to accelerate, clouding my vision or blacking it out entirely…well, “reading” became an activity that was off the table.

End result: huge backlog of reading. For nearly three years my reading habits have been impaired by my ongoing eyeball issues. For the first year, it was just “no reading,” as my eyes switched off being cloudy or dark or too blurry and so on. Then once my eyes stabilized a bit (with only occasional bouts of hampered vision)…I found I had fallen out of the habit of reading comics. Sure, I read one or two here and there (at least once using a giant glass lens as a magnifying glass) but mostly I just watched television.

Television, as it turned out, was a lot easier to enjoy with my sometimes not-clear vision, particularly with my TV’s large screen and the somewhat close proximity in which I sat. The bright colors tended to cut through whatever was in the way, and while things were still sorta blurry, at least I could make sense of what was happening. Ended up rewatching all of Babylon 5 during this period…it was all bright and colorful and those early CGI effects were crisp and clear and easy for me to see. (I do remember early on watching A Quiet Place on Amazon Prime, with one eye blacked out entirely, and the other essentially with rivulets of blood obscuring its vision…it was like looking through prison window bars.)

It wasn’t until relatively recently that I started making an effort at trying to keep up on the comics I like to read, to try to cut down some of the backlog. And I’ve made some headway…I’m still caught up on Immortal Hulk and the Superman books, for example. But it’s still slowish going, even with somewhat stable eyesight and real glasses. My vision isn’t what it was (my left eye being the strongest one, and my right eye, where all the problems began, being partially impaired and not able to easily read anything below a certain size), coupled with the fact that the backlog is…a little imposing, is still kind of putting me off a bit.

Plus, I’ve gotten into the habit of just watching TV instead, which is easier.

I’m working on it, though. I’m probably making it sound like I just have giant piles of comics teetering over me at home that I gingerly remove a single copy of Edgar Allan Poe’s Snifter of Blood from the top to peruse. I don’t actually pull aside a whole lot of comics for myself, but week after week after week of not reading them means to the “to-do” pile adds up faster than you’d expect.

THUS, THE CULLING BEGAN. I started going through the stuff I did pull for myself and deciding just what I can pass up for now. The big loser here, unfortunately, was Marvel’s many Star Wars titles. Not to say I didn’t enjoy them…I did, they were a lot of fun, but it’s just too much and with Marvel’s crazy publishing schedules, it just stacks up too quickly.

I am keeping one title around, however, even though I’m desperately behind on this title as well, is Doctor Aphra (which you may have been tipped off to by the inset pic here). I think of the new Star Wars series Marvel’s been cranking out, this is the one I’ve enjoyed the most. I believe I wrote on Twitter about the appeal of the character as filling the “morally ambiguous” role that Han Solo can no longer occupy after his turn in the original movie trilogy. It’s an exploration of this universe via a fresh yet cynical perspective, told with humor and the right amount of pathos. While there is some sort of redemption arc to her story, it’s a meandering one which means we get to see her be a space asshole, which is quite entertaining.

As I said, I’m way behind, so some of my above comments may no longer apply. The last issue I read was #26, which could mean I’m two years behind or six months behind, given Marvel’s aforementioned publishing schedules. But I’ve got ’em all stacked up here and ready to read, and all her previous appearances (in her own title and elsewhere) set aside for future reference. And all other Star Wars funnybooks…back to the shop with ’em. Hate to see you go, but what else can I do, really.

I plan on cutting other titles out of the backlog as well, though I haven’t quite decided what’s next. There are things I’ll always read, stuff I’ve followed for decades: any Hulk series, for example, or the main Superman books, or any Groo or Love and Rockets and related. But there’s the other stuff, the series maybe I just started, or comics I’ve been putting off reading for so long it’s pretty clear I’m not that interested in them. Or books I dipped back into reading, like Batman or Flash, decided “yeah, read enough of those” and stopped. Again, no critique implied of the books…they’re perfectly fine, I just don’t have time for everything anymore.

That said, I did pick up this book last week:

…continuing the complete reprinting of the Legion of Super-Heroes that began in the Legion Archives hardcovers and living on in these differently formatted, cheaper to produce hardcovers which picked up where the Archives left off.

This volume brings us up to Legion of Super-Heroes #271, plus the Secrets of the Legion of Super-Heroes mini-series. That means we’re in the very early ’80s, and just about to the point where I started picking LSH off the stands. I was bit of a late starter, sort of, to the Legion, but I was instantly a fan and kept reading the book ’til about the New 52 era, which was just one reboot too many for the comic that had pretty much become known for its incessant reboots and the hope the New, Improved Legion would get traction this time.

Anyway, I like these books, and I suspect I’ll likely continue picking them up even as they start to overlap with the Legion comics I do have. You know, just to get the Great Darkness Saga on paper that isn’t terrible. I may stop once they hit that initial “direct sales only” series, which already exists on nice paper!

Did want to note that Paul Levitz, one time DC president/publisher and writer of the Legion, provides the introduction. He says that the contents within may feel a little…disjointed, due to various creative team pressures and deadline issues and stuff, but honestly when has a Legion story not felt somewhat like some of the pipes are rattling a bit? But Levitz does make some space to say some nice stuff about longtime DC editor/writer E. Nelson Bridwell, a fella that, from some things I’ve heard, may not have been afforded much respect from other folks in the field. Well, Mr. Bridwell’s writing, whether for a comic story or his explanatory editorial pages, were eagerly enjoyed by a young me, so he’s got my respect for certain.

Also wanted to note the artists in this volume…Joe Staton (always great), Jimmy Janes and Jim Sherman (both wonderful draftsmen…Sherman’s got a great splash with Light Lass that’s a knockout), and, of course, Steve Ditko. I’ve read that Ditko story before (hence the link to the previous post) and it’s pretty well out there.

You know, for someone who’s been having a hard time reading, I sure wrote a lot for other people to read. There’s some form of base irony there somewhere. But thank you for putting up with my typing, and we’ll chat again shortly.

10 Responses to “Basically I just say I’m behind on my reading but here’s a couple of things I do like reading.”

  • Mike: I had an Amazon gift card fall into my hands over Christmas, and I ended up picking up the omnibus to LSH: the 5 Years After years. 1344 pages, lots of Who’s Who pages in back, plus the 4-issue Timber Wolf (in the 20th century) mini.

    I was working at that comic shop back then,and being the old guy (at the age of 32), the other employees would direct older customers to me re: the book. In 1989, they pushed the LSH into the year 2994. The aftermath of some sort of Magic Wars.

    Anyone else remember that run? I would consider it making the book extreme for the 90s, but I thought it was a pretty ballsy move.

    There will be a second volume to finish it off. It weighs at least fifty pounds.

  • Wayne Allen Sallee says:

    FIX MY TYPO!!!

    It was NOT a 90s extreme book. It was just…odd. And, thinking on it, doing the opposite of what DC seemed to do with their 2011 reboot. Sort of.

  • DavidG says:

    My lockdown sanity project last year was reading all of Levitz’s run on The Legion (plus the other stuff between his 2 runs) and what an excellent idea that was. Such a good book, some great art (and some mediocre stuff), and once Levitz got going and linked with Keith Giffen, it was a fantastic ride. So much more fun than the stodgy personality free 60s stuff.

    Wish this book had come out earlier so I didn’t have to buy a bunch of back issues but then again, I got to read all the letter cols.

    I decided to skip the 5 years later stuff this time, and jumped straight to the retroboot and his not great 3rd run. The only good bits of that are the brief burst of Giffen jumping in for like 2 issues so he can kill Sun Boy again.

    But I will do the 5yr later stuff one day, it was the run that made me an LSH junkie. Some great stuff there.

  • Cassandra Miller says:

    Wayne, I reread all of the 5 Years Later stuff last year (I have it all in comic form). It holds up a lot better than I thought it would. It still has some significant problems (some pacing issues, some overcomplexity, some other stuff, like the way Shvaughn/Sean was treated), but I was a lot happier reading it than the last time I did, back in the ’90s.

  • For the record, I have all the Showcase volumes of LSH, I never could afford the archives. But it was me trying to explain that bizarre new book. Tom & Mary Bierbaum along with Giffen. I had no idea who they were in those pre-Internet days. (I ended up calling a library.)

    DavidG: I’d say that the 5YL book got a lot of older readers (meaning, not teenagers) to pick up the book but then realize we had Dr Who pbs and Thunderbirds trading cards and DVDs and whatever Red Dwarf was. Maybe the Bierbaums were a bigger draw than I expected, as some of the new subscribers had obviously not walked through a specialty shop at length.

    Cassandra: I agree re: Shvaughn. And Roxxas, I guess. The one thing that bugged me was how it seemed as if half the characters dressed in some sort of, I dunno, sort of Victorian clothing. Not just on Earth, it just seemed like they were trying way to hard to not have people in costumes or spandex.

    I am enjoying it more–and it should be mentioned for others that the LEGIONNAIRES comic runs in here, as well–and feeling damn old as the comic shop went under 25 years ago. But it is how I look at some titles these days. They are just fine as single issues, but when I read the trade I really enjoy more of the smaller parts of the book.

    Mike: the book you are talking about is next on my list. AFTER the last book with the JSA/Super-Squad stories that ran in ALL-STAR and then ADVENTURE Dollar Comics. I have all the All-Star Archives, all the team-up trades, so this should be it. Added plus: also Paul Levitz!

  • Snark Shark says:

    YIKES! Your eyes are much worse than mine! I need reading glasses now, and have one eye that’s farsighted & one eye that’s nearsighted.

  • DavidG says:

    Wayne: I was 21 when 5YL came out, so I guess that makes me older. I had never heard of the Birnbaums but was a huge Giffen fan, thanks to his JL run, and Ambush Bug of course. I had read the odd LSH issue, but was no expert. One of the things that got me into 5YL was the many cryptic references to legionnaires by their real names, and and their past history. I just wanted to know more. DC really screwed the pooch by dumping all that.

    Also, despite the surface grimness, it was a really positive book. The universe had gone to pieces, but the Legion thought they could fix it, and their optimism was enjoyable.

    Anyone who is into this, I recommend Tom Birnbaums “It’s OK, I’m a Senator’ blog, where he goes into his recollections of every issue he was part of. Very interesting about the many problems caused by DCs new Superman continuity at the time.

    And, Red Dwarf was awesome.

  • Thom H. says:

    I dipped into the Legion off-and-on whenever Giffen was involved. When he (and the Bierbaums) took the writing reins, I became obsessed.

    5YL was the logical extension of Levitz aging up the characters, and it was a point of no return for many of them. They whittled down the team by killing off or radically altering many of the Legionnaires that had been stuck in character limbo for long periods of time.

    The best part, for me, was the mystery and opacity of the book. You really had to know the characters inside out and be able to tell “Imra” from “Ayla,” which wasn’t always easy. I was disappointed when they made the storytelling more straightforward.

    Then Giffen left (got fired?) again, and the book lost its interest for me. Also, I had no time for the de-aged/SW6 Legion — they seemed like a way to undo all the progress that had been made with the characters. If you’re going to boldly reframe the book, then don’t build yourself an escape hatch in case it doesn’t work out. Once you’ve blown up the [spoiler redacted], it’s kind of too late to turn back, you know?

  • Michael Loughlin says:

    Funny, I also spent a chunk of quarantine reading the 5YL Legion!
    I quite liked it, but agree with some of the criticisms I had heard about it. Keith Giffen’s great, but the panel-to-panel storytelling could be unnecessarily unclear. He also drew some of the characters’ faces too similarly, making it difficult to tell who was speaking. Random word balloons being in a panel without the character speaking them being present was also an issue. I felt a bit of relief when the stories became easier to follow.

    I’m a relative latecomer to Legion. Except for a few guest appearances and Final Night, I didn’t read a Legion comic until the Waid/Kitson series. Since then, I’ve combed cheap bins while also buying digital collections when they’re on sale. At one point, I was bouncing between pre-Levitz & early Levitz Legion, 5YL, post-Zero Hour, and Legion Lost. And people wonder why it’s hard to get into Legion of Superheroes comics.

  • […] reader Wayne brought it up in his comment (responding to my post where I mentioned I was going through that latest volume of Legion […]