Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Comics, Then and Now

I've been getting back into comic books lately.

I mean I used to read them back when I was a kid, but I lost interest for a long time. Then a few years ago I went through a Sandman phase, but never really got into anything else. That was, of course, helped along by the fact that Sandman is finished, so once you're caught up you're pretty much done until they release something new, which is on the order of every few years instead of every month. Since then I've picked up the occasional trade paperback reprint of something that looked good (Dark Knight Returns, Watchmen, Sin City, etc), but nothing on a regular basis.

Then, I made a mistake, I started reading the trade paperbacks of Fables, by Bill Willingham. In addition to being a fantastic story with great art Fables has the additional feature that it's actually still coming out monthly, and is showing no signs of stopping. And since I burned through the trade paperbacks in like a week I was pretty much stuck. Either wait for the next one to come out in a few months, or start picking up the monthly issues. I hate waiting, so option B was really the only choice.

So, I filled in the gap between the last trade paperback and the current issue, and that's the point where a rational person would have stopped... But hey, if I've started collecting the new issues and they're only up to issue fifty-something I might as well try to fill in the back issues...

After a few weeks of stopping by random comic book stores I happen to be near and trolling ebay for the stuff I can't find I'm now approaching completeness. Assuming everything I ordered on ebay comes through I'll now have completed the series, so I can stop looking for back issues and just content myself with picking up my subscription from the local comic shop every few weeks.

Some things struck me though about the difference between reading comics as a kid and reading them now. First off, actually having disposable income makes a big difference. I never had the ability to buy back issues like this when I was doing this back in the day. Second, ebay makes a huge difference. Having access to basically whatever you want is really seductive, it makes it way easier to fill in the gaps in a collection, since you're not depending on what your local comic shop happens to have in stock. Third, the authors of these things actually interact with the fans these days, thanks to the internet it's actually possible to ask questions and get answers, at least for some books. Finally, the quality of the books coming out today is far greater than it used to be. I mean the super hero stuff is still generally crap, but the more mature stuff actually has great writing, it's the kind of thing you can follow for the story and actually enjoy as literature if you're looking for that sort of thing.

So if you need me I'll be hanging out from time to time over in the fabletown forums, and I'll be stopping by The Outer Limits every few weeks to pick up my (inevitably growing) subscriptions.