I had a dream last night, one of those strange, realistic dreams where everything seems normal except the condensed time frame and people being where they shouldn’t. And because this is how interesting my dreams are, it was about how I spent five hours in a comic shop.
It was the details that gave it away – books and graphic novels were all published in elegant. minimalist covers which made it easy to navigate your way through the continuity and publishing history of things like Star Wars and DC Comics – and it’s been a long time since I’ve spent any time in a comic store, never mind five hours. As far as I can tell there isn’t one in Derby, and while I’ve made the transition to reading comics entirely on my iPhone, the industry has been slipping away from me.
I know when this started. Last year, DC Comics carried out a relaunch of its entire line, jettisoning the existing continuity and renumbering everything from scratch. It was a bold move, and seemed to pay off, at least initially. Frankly, the industry needed one of the big companies to do something radical to bring in new readers. I can’t blame DC for going what they did; they don’t make comics for my personal amusement.
But it meant that the stories and characters I was attached to disappeared. Sure, most of them are part of the ‘New 52’, but changed – Superman isn’t married to Lois any more, the Flash I followed is AWOL, they flat out cancelled titles I was following. And they were perfectly within their rights to do that, but when that connection was severed, it failed to return, and with it some of my passion for comic books.
I’m still following some, of course: Aquaman is a great take on a maligned character, and I like how the disdain he’s treated with in some corners of fandom plays in to the storylines. Action Comics I’m reading because I’m a Superman fan and Grant Morrison’s love for the character is palpable. And Paul Cornell’s Saucer Country is (partly) the alien-abduction plotl arc of The X-Files done properly, with meditations on the liminal, mythic aspects of flying saucer mythology. And I love IDW’s Transformers titles, because that particular franchise was one of my earliest geeky passions.
It’s strange how this has happened – I love comics, and I hope the industry finds a way to thrive, and I’ll go to see any and all superhero movies – but I guess that’s just the way it goes. I owe a lot to comic fandom: I’ve made good friends as a result of it, one of which is producing his own comics. I desperately want to see him succeed at this because he’s talented and passionate and the industry needs young voices like that. As for me… Well, am I leaving comics? I don’t know. If I found one title that caught my excitement I’d happily buy it, and I’m sure that title is out there. But I don’t have the time to plough through Comixology to find it, and I don’t have the disposable income to take a punt on multiple titles that I might not enjoy.
Heck, I guess I’m half asking for recommendations. I like writers like Cornell, Simone and Johns, and James Robinson’s Starman is my favourite comic book series of all time. I don’t like dark-and-edgy for the sake of dark-and-edgy – it’s boring – but hard-won optimism is fine. And it doesn’t have to be superhero stuff, because I suspect superhero mythology – the mythology that arose when comics were popular, mass-culture entertainment – is pretty much on its way to migrating fully to the big screen.
So am I alone? Has anyone else found themselves drifting away from comics? Or is this just one of those moments in life when things change and it’s not good and it’s not bad, it’s just change? I don’t know where this is going to end up.
But I know in my dream, that five hours in the comic book store, I was enjoying myself.