Friday, January 29, 2010

Lost in the library #2 – Werthem was right!

Hulk vol 2: Red and Green
By Loeb, Adams and Cho

Reading other people’s reviews can alter the way you approach a comic book, in a way that isn’t always fair. There is no way anybody with the slightest bit of interest could read something like, say, Ultimatum, without being influenced a tidal wave of terrible reviews.

While the comic itself might not be as bad as this negativity suggests, it would still be sticking in the mind before the first page is opened. Chances are it’s going to be fucking rubbish anyway, but it’s hobbled from the start.

And sometimes the reviews can be truly deceptive. It was easy to put off reading the second Dark Knight series for a couple of years when everybody was sneering at it, and those low expectations made the eventual experience far richer than expected.

Sometimes when I read a review, I become convinced that it couldn’t be that bad. Surely.

The best example of this in recent times was J. Caleb Mozzocco’s brilliant takedown of the second Loeb Hulk trade at his Every Day Is Like Wednesday blog. Caleb is one of the best regular reviewers of superhero comics on the web, and his blog is the first place to read strong reviews of the latest super-releases every single week.

But the Hulk book couldn’t be as bad as Caleb made out. It couldn’t be as incoherent as he said. Maybe he missed some vital line of dialogue that explained why Bruce Banner goes from under lock and key to wandering around Vegas. It couldn’t be that bad. Could it?

Yeah, it could. Caleb was right - basic coherence goes out the window in this book. There are lines of dialogue, earth-changing events and entire scenes that make no sense at all.

It’s almost charming in its idiotic simplicity, the way characters drift on and out of the scenes, often with no explanation for what they’re even doing there in the first place.

But since this is a Jeph Loeb comic, charm is on the fritz, and the Hulk randomly changing colour – apparently because he just feels like it – isn’t much of a substitute.

But as Caleb also pointed out – it does have some gorgeous art, courtesy of the great Art Adams. Adams’ hyper-rendered artwork is always welcome, and the man’s grasp of body language and facial expressions is better than it has ever been.

It’s just a shame he’s given this nonsense to work with.

* * *

Green Arrow: The Archer’s Quest
By Meltzer and Hester

After the horrific seriousness of Identity Crisis, the vague fumbling of his JLA run and the massively irritating tendency of his characters to use secret identity names openly in front of psychopathic criminals, I really wasn’t expecting to enjoy Brad Meltzer’s first crack at superheroics.

So I was pretty fucking surprised when I genuinely did like The Archers Quest.

It doesn’t sound very appetising – a self-referential trip up the arse end of memory lane, lots of pointless nostalgic mooning over the good ol’ days – but turned out to be a surprisingly effective detour into Oliver Queen’s life.

It’s certainly helped by the art of Phil Hester, who can draw the hell out of a scene featuring a character sadly looking at an old photo, while also giving beasts like Solomon Grundy real weight and menace.

There is the roots of the clumsy super-mawkishness that dragged down Meltzer’s later super-work, and the ability to successfully pull off this story may have encouraged him to head in that direction, which is a shame. Because when Big Brad isn’t beating you over the head with the worthy stick, he actually has something interesting to say.

* * *

Skaar: Son of Hulk
By Pak and Garney

Some alien guys stab some other alien guys and then other aliens stand around jabbering about political and blood feuds that were probably all explained somewhere else and then a younger, grumpier version of the Hulk goes “Yaaa!” and some of the art is really nice (with an always welcome cameo from dirty ol’ Tim Truman) and some of the art is just the usual in the mighty modern Marvel manner of mediocrity and then the Silver Surfer shows up and it all ends and then they try to get people here to pay more than $60 for it.

Good luck with that, Marvel.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Lost in the library #1 ­ Bullshit from the front line

The local library must have had a chunk of budget to blow recently, because a deluge of recent superhero comics started appearing on the shelves. I’m not complaining, this is the only way I’ll ever get to read them, but I’m certainly glad I didn’t pay any money for the vast majority of it, because it’s hard to see how anybody could want to pay the money they’re asking for these largely humourless, idea-free and ponderous comics.

And the few that are actually worthwhile are still far too expensive, with the really good stuff often going for $50 a book in local money. If I had bought the books I’m going to review over the next few days in New Zealand, it would have cost me close to a thousand dollars.

I could buy a car for that.

* * *

Secret Invasion ­ Front Line
By Reed and Castiello

Appalling comics, and the entire Front Line stories might be the worst superhero comics I’ve read in the last ten years.

Going for a street level view of the Marvel Universe during massive conflicts is a good idea, but not when your characters act like people on day release from the local mental
institution. It would be much nicer if they acted like ­ you know – actual people.

And there was one little detail in this thing that really bugged me. Ben Urich is the main character, and is wearing his big dorky glasses that went out of fashion 20 years ago, because that’s the only way we’ll recognise him.

So when his glasses get completely shattered during the cacophony surrounding Secret Invasion, Ben keeps on wearing them, even though the only glass left is jagged pieces that are stuck to the inside of his frames.

Ben Urich ­ the Marvel Universe’s greatest reporter ­ is running around a war zone wearing glasses he can’t see out of, glasses that stand a good chance of gouging his fuckin’ eyes out if he looks sideways.

Because we wouldn’t recognise him otherwise.

That little detail just about sums up everything that’s sad and lamentable about modern mainstream comics. Nice one, Front Line!

For a series that once featured the extraordinarily retarded sight of a reporter berating Captain America because she confused the nation’s past-times, hobbies and entertainments for its goddamn ideals and values, taking the bar of crapness one step higher must have actually been an effort.

* * *

JSA ­ Thy Kingdom Come Part Two
By Johns, Ross and Eaglesham

Possibly the most exciting book I’ve read in a long, long time, as the DC Universe’s first (and arguably greatest) heroes stand around and watch stuff happen around them.

For all its faults, the original Kingdom Come story did zip along at a swift pace, stuffing a superhero apocalypse into four issues. Did any sequel really need to be another four times as long?

There’s nothing wrong with a bit of introspection, but this book ­ which appears to be the only the middle section of single story spanning three trade paperbacks ­ takes pages and pages to do fuck all.

There is a long detour into Earth-2, which features some lovely Jerry Ordway art that is wasted on many, many pages of people standing around a table arguing about things, but this doesn’t go anywhere either. There is no resolution, or explanation, or anything. Just one big set-up for something else, somewhere down the line.

I can barely keep track of what day it is, keeping on top of a storyline that stretches out over a year and a half is asking a lot. More than I can manage.

* * *

Green Manor
Vol 1: Assassins and Gentlemen
Vol 2: The Inconvenience of Being Dead
Vol 3: Murderous Fancies
By Bodart and Vehlmann

Marvel and DC have a real talent for keeping stories percolating for eons before realising they’re driving anybody who was interested in the first place. It’s often forgotten that the notorious Spider-Man clone saga was actually fairly well-received before being buried under a mountain of idiocy that never ended, and a lot of the criticism levelled at the current Superman storyline seems to be more about the fact it is going on and on in half a dozen different titles, rather than any individual issue’s quality.

So after skipping through the latest tangled super-continuities, reading the Green Manor and its seven page stories of Victorian murder and mischief felt like the first wank after being stuck in church all day.

It’s a shame so many modern American comic writers are fatally inept at writing short stories. While there are notable exceptions – and Jaime Hernandez’s ‘Tear It Up, Terry Downe” remains the most notable in my book – I’ve got loads of issues of Marvel Comics Presents and DC 80-page giants from the turn of the century that are full of idiotic and clumsy short stories and point to a true ability to do anything decent in the format.

But the stories in the Green Manor, and there are dozens of them, are perfectly-formed little gems that sparkle with irony and wit. The French/Belgian creators tell the story of the titular club, where true gentlemen meet to discuss matters of murder, confidence tricks and betrayal.

Each story features a completely different cast and each has its own little hook. There are stories of wronged women and zealous hunters and cold academics who dream of the ultimate homicide. There are perfect murders, without a victim or murderer, and senseless killings, motivated purely by whim and chance.

Monsieur Bodrat’s art compliments his collaborators work perfectly, with a very European line of scratchy goodness that still manages to serve up fine caricatures of the finest Victorian noble scum, with his art occasionally a dead ringer for the great Steve Parkhouse.

Charming little stories that come in, do their business and piss out without outstaying their welcome are always good. It’s just a shame there aren’t more good examples.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Boozy enthusiasm, high fidelity and the acid burn

“Some comics go really well with drinking. The Lone Wolf and Cub series is one of the dopest comics of all time. And when you're a little bit three-sheets? Yeah, it gets even doper. Have you ever said, "Fuck, yeah, Daigoro!" on a subway? If not, you're doing it wrong.”
-Joe Rice

* * *

Comics are great when you’re straight, but fucking awesome when you’re wasted.

* * *
I love reading comics when I’m a little bit drunk. Slurring over the action a bit, drooling over the speech balloons. A beer and a comic on a sunny day are all that is good in life.

When the brain is swimming in its own juices, reading a big block of text can be nearly impossible. But when you add a page full of pictures, things become a whole lot easier.

With a comic, you can pause in the middle of a page and let the mind wander where it wants to and when it comes back, you can pick up the flow again with the greatest of ease. You can focus on an idea or phrase, or simply stare at a particularly eye-catching picture. You might be on Cloud Nine, but the comic page isn’t going anywhere.

The funny thing is, the more mindbending the comic gets, the less enjoyable it can actually be with boozed-up skull. The more simple the tale and art, the easier it can be processed. Something like Bone or a Donald Duck comic are not only easier to follow, they can hold prove much better at the opening the emotional floodgates.

Sometimes I drink lots of wine and read comic books and cry like a little girl.

* * *

I love reading comics when I’m a little bit stoned. Looking for that emotional resonance, floating through the pages with ease, spending an eternity on one panel and drifting past the big blocks of text.

The anti-drug ads are sometimes the funniest thing in modern super-hero comics. Partly because there is so many of them, but mainly because comics books are probably one of the worst places to put ads like that. When it comes to reading material when you’re wasted, nuthin’ beats comics.

Of course, taking drugs or drinking booze and curling up with a comic book is not recommended for everybody. A lot of comic readers are quite capable of reading their books without any chemical enhancement and get just as much out of them. This is to be commended.

But as somebody who has been moved beyond words while reading Love and Rockets through dope-hazed eyes on beautiful and lost summer afternoons, I can honestly say it’s always worked out all right for me.

* * *

But I won’t read them when I’m tripping, because that ruins them.

The last time I took acid, I ended up needing an extended sit-down in the Christchurch Public Library on a sunny Saturday afternoon. It all got a bit difficult walking around the centre of the city and I retreated to the library with a big stack of trade paperbacks and hardbacks from the shelves to fill in the two hours until I had to catch a bus.

I ruined these comics with this ridiculous behaviour. Every time I look at those comics or even think about them now, I feel physically ill. I feel a little bit weird and it’s not a good weird. They trigger that vast, existential void that I fear more than anything, that incoherence of this reality, the mess of the world.

Frankly, I try to avoid that feeling as much as possible.

The contents of those comics are almost totally unimportant. One was the first volume of Alex Ross and crew’s Justice maxi-series, with lots of pained superheroes in pained tights doing things that pained them.

I tried to pick up the second book in this series recently, but it sparked a mild flashback that still managed to be more than a little uncomfortable. Something is encoded in the art and plot, something that triggers the mind into heading into uncomfortable directions.

Then I get that weird chemical taste in the back of my throat, and I’m done for.

I also read The Originals by Dave Gibbons in the library, trying to calm the head down and it just made me feel a bit weird. It’s a great little graphic novel, with interestingly eternal themes that could just as easily be set in the 1960s as the futuristic world it actually takes place in, but it wouldn’t click with my head and I had to abandon the whole thing.

Later on that day, I had the same trouble with the John Woo/Garth Ennis Seven Brothers comic. I read that on the bus ride after escaping the library and while things had calmed down a little by then, I was still thoroughly munted and haven’t been able to read the series again since. I can’t even look at the covers without feeling a bit dodgy. I think I liked it, but I can’t be sure.

It’s not just comic books that are ruined. Movies and television shows have always been tainted and the Imaginationland episode of South Park had me convinced that sci-fi Egyptian Gods from the 64th century were trying to download information into my head, and I had to escape them by regressing past the point of my own birth to a previous life, where I died alone in the stairwell of a Victorian mansion.

Now I can’t watch that episode again, and it’s all because bloody Anubis shows up for three seconds on screen.

But it’s the comics that carry that taint the worst, because I always love reading comics when I’m fucked up, and sometimes that colours the whole perception. The paper stinks of that physical weirdness, that chemical horror.

Just say no to mixing acid and comics, kids. Save it for the dancefloor.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Regretting the Hourman purge

A purge of any comic collection can be a good thing. Disposing of the old and mediocre to make room for the new and brilliant. That’s what life is all about.

It’s to be expected. It’s part of the whole obsession with comics. Get as many of you can, and then get rid of vast chunks of it, and then start all over again.

For years, all I wanted was more, more, more. I built up a collection of more than 20,000 issues at the height of the obsession. Binging on hundreds and hundreds of comics I didn’t even like, just to have them in the collection.

It never went as far as buying multiple copies of single issues ­ that’s just stupid ­ but there were far more issues of Power Pack, Psi-Force and Wonder Man than were strictly necessary.

And yeah, hauling around and storing and maintaining a collection like that becomes more of a chore than necessary, and that’s when the purge urge hits.

I’ve gone through several comic purges over the past decade, the biggest in 2006, when a wedding and international travel seemed like bigger priorities than owning a complete run of the Reign of the Supermen storyline. Selling off thousands of issues was easy with a local internet auction site, and I figure I made three or four thousand dollars slimming that bloated collection down.

And then it all starts over again, and I somehow end up with stacks and stacks of perfectly average Spider-Man comics, when perfectly average just isn’t enough. If it doesn’t spark, if it doesn’t have life or make me laugh or remind me of better days, then there really isn’t any need for it.

The rampant spread of trade paperbacks over the past decade certainly makes that decision easier. Why hold on to a pile of Claremont X-Men when chunky collections can be found in every library in the land?

That was certainly part of the decision to sell off all the Milligan/Allred X-Force/Statix issues in the latest purge this week. They were good and fine comics, even if they were already getting a bit dated, but there are stacks of the books in the library system that can be borrowed anytime, so why have them sitting in a box in the spare room? Especially when I never quite managed to get every issue and had been left with odd holes in the run ­ issues I needed to complete the collection, but never really needed enough to actively seek out.

The rest of the stuff that was auctioned off to the poor, comic-starved tribes of Whakatane and Gore, was even easier to dispose of. This time it was beat-up Spider-Man comics from the 1970s, where somebody had coloured his eyes in with a green felt tip pen, and some John Byrne Superman, and some Peter David Hulk, all of which are again easy to track down if the urge to read them really hit.

There are some sentimental regrets in ditching these comics, some of which I’ve been dragging around the country for 20 years, but those regrets do tend to dry up when I actually read the damn things. One last re-read before they get sent out confirms that they’re not terrible comics, but they aren’t great either. Out they go.

And yet, there are still regrets, and not just because of that cheap sentimentality. That last re-read does show there were some shining gems in the ocean of dull mediocrity that have been swept along. In the latest clean-out, an almost complete run of Tom Peyer and Rags Morales’ Hourman series from the turn of the millennium was gone, and one last read almost convinced me I should’ve held on to the last series.

Or at least one issue. While the two-year run of the comic was overall surprisingly rewarding, the fifth issue was a real cracker. The Death and Life of Hourman is a powerful little comic, as the title character downs some Miraclo and springboards out into the life of the original Hourman.

It’s a simple enough story that says multitudes about the power of knowledge, pulling somebody into confidence and power, while still living with huge amount of regret. It’s about using drugs as an excuse for a change in persionality, and the gnawing feeling that it takes chemicals to get there. It’s about the Golden Age Hourman grinning and screaming out “Ruurrhhh! Raarrrhh!” as he barrels down the street, knocking his modern counterpart out of the way.

That part still makes me laugh.

But the comic is sold now and needs to be passed on to somebody else, so away it goes. It’s a bit sad, getting rid of a story I genuinely love, but that’s okay. I’m sure I’ll read it again some day. And chances are the memory of it will be a lot better than the original.

That’s how it usually works.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Shameless nostalgia in a new decade: My first comic shop

Sometimes I just feel old and stupid and wish I was young and stupid again.

It’s 2010 and I can’t stop thinking about walking into a shop back in the 1980s. When is this maturity thing meant to kick in, anyway?

* * *

It was back in the one of those endless summers that dry up as you get older, periods of time that you can end up obsessing over later in life. I wish I could bottle up that thrill that hit when I was 13 and walked into my first comic shop.

It was the early days of 1988, and I know this because the one of the only comics I remember seeing was an issue of GI Joe, which was the obsession of the month just then. Just too young to get into girls, a little too old to still be playing with action figures any more, but I couldn't get enough of Yo Joe. And seeing Lady Jaye deck Flint on the cover was a powerful image to remember.

I also remember flipping through Excalibur #1 and seeing Alan Davis' slick art at its slickest. The modern sheen, fluid bodies and strong jaws. That love stuck with me longer than the Joe infatuation, and is still going on today.

The store was on the corner opposite the Dunedin railway station, with the courthouse across on the other side. I can't remember its name. I didn’t return to the city for another year and it was gone by then, turned into a model toy shop.

* * *

I was frothing at the mouth for comics by the time I was fifteen. Couldn't get enough of them and was a stereotypically obnoxious teenage comic geek, resorting to thievery to feed the inane addiction. I still feel really bad about this and have relentlessly supported the shops I stole from in the years since.

But I still had to wait three goddamn months for them to be shipped over from the States. Fortunately, there was no internet to spoil any surprises, and the side-effects of this crushingly familiar prejudice of geography were minimal.

Once I realised the comics at the Dunedin store were flown in and were three to four months ahead of the issues appearing in the stores, the wait suddenly became unbearable and the occasional payoff was a little slice of the future, at a time when I genuinely had no idea what was coming up. It was nerdvana.

And the selection of different titles in that very first visit was bewildering. Looking back on it, there really wasn't that massive a range, but there were titles that I'd never heard of before, entire companies and creators that were new names. For all the good it did me. I got unreasonably scared by the Crumb and Bagge comics in the corner which scarred my developing brain and it would still be years before I could even bear to look at anything by these guys again.

* * *

So - of course - the store was gone the next time. The disappointment on seeing it converted was crushing. Fortunately, there was another bookstore in town owned by a comic-lover, who had taken over the aerial importation of American comics, and was good enough to supply a good selection of the latest Marvel and DC books, even if anything more mature than the first Wolverine series was off the menu.

But it really felt like I was in the clubhouse. Even though I had zero contact with anybody else who was as obsessive over comics as I was at that age, the ability to read comics mere days after their American release was a revelation. Even though I had to go back to my home town and that three month wait, the knowledge that there were places where new and unusual comics could be found was wonderful, and I would get to them. One way or the other.

* * *

The three month delay lasted well into the '90s, and I can still remember the crushing jealousy when my best mate got #4 of the Jim Lee X-Men before me.

When it vanished, it wasn't really replaced by anything. There is still the odd shop that sells one of the Superman or Avengers comics, but they used to be everywhere, in every bookshop and dairy in the country. Now, they're just in comic shops.

* * *

There is still a kick in walking into the local store and buying something that came out in the States two days ago. Now, it’s possible to find some pretty meaty analysis of almost any comic, and that’s spectacular, but nothing comes close to that first thrill, coming out of a world of confusion.

I just wish I could stop chasing it, but it’s just too much fun.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

That endless Krona folly

This is what I was going on about, when I talked up the positive effects of strong and robust comic discussion on the internet:

Over the holidays, Tom Spurgeon has been hosting a fine series of interviews with comic folk on his Comics Reporter website, including some meaty discussions of the last decade’s worth of comics with some excellent web writers.

Sean T Collins still found something to say new to say about Blankets after already contributing a small mountain of words about the book, while Tucker Stone turned a discussion of Ganges into a plea for some goddamn genre tolerance and the joy of snuggling up to a wife at the end of the day.

I really, really wish Jog had done the Punisher like he thought about, because he didn’t really sell me on Death Note, and hearing about the horror of getting 2000ad in the US from Grant Goggans was a right downer. But Douglas Wolk scored a fucking home run during his bit about Matt Fraction’s current Iron Man series.

Wolk makes some great points about Iron Man, but it’s a brief aside talking about storytelling density that blasted out at me. Mentioning a key panel right at the end of Final Crisis - in Doug’s own words -

“My favorite recent example of that is the image near the end of Final Crisis that alludes to Krona's vision of the beginning of time in a 45-year-old issue of Green Lantern: if you don't recognize it, you'd never even think it was significant, but I think I actually jumped back in my seat when I realized what I was looking at and what it meant to the story.”

That’s the bit where I had to stop reading, sit back and think a bit. Brain: please assume crash position. Wolk has said something worth thinking about.

By the time Final Crisis finished, it was easy to get annotated out. So much talk, over three quarters of a year, by the time the overwhelming climax hit, everybody moved on pretty quickly. It was easy to miss things in the sheer density of the final issue, and easier still to miss crucial points.


If it means it’s Superman’s hand at the creation of all things, that’s an interesting thought. Superman as God, filling the universe with strange and wonderful things. Superman’s good decency, encoded into the universe itself. That’s why the Crime Syndicate never win in Superman’s world.

And that makes Superman a self-fufilling prophecy, something Morrison has touched on before, especially in the All Star incarnation. Superman as creator, ensuring his own survival, no matter how unlikely it all is.

And the places these lines of thought drive off to are even more interesting, and requires a bit more thought. Years of it.

So that’s why I love the internet, and why I loves all of ya, everywhere, contributing it all. A decent exchange between two big comic thinkers about smart comics. In his interview, Doug shows he is a man of taste and perception, and contributes to the intellectual perception of comics.

(He also puts in a good word for Wagner’s last ten years of Judge Dredd stories - which deserve all the good words they can get – and that makes him tops in my book.)

And that's just one of 20 interviews that appeared over the past couple of weeks on the Comics Reporter, there were also good discussions over Fun Home and Scott Pilgrim and Louis Riel and tonnes more.

So that’s why I blog, even though it’s a pain in the arse, and tiring, and a bit embarrassing. Because sitting in the dark and thinking about comic books is a singular and genuine pleasure, and sharing those thoughts help us all.

Either that, or it’s intellectual masturbation and I don’t have a problem with that.. It might not be as satisfying as the real thing, but it’s a lot less sticky.

Friday, January 8, 2010

A year and a day

One year ago, the world desperately needed another top comics blog, which could examine the mechanics of comics both old and new, stripping them down in an effort to explain why these comics were funny, moving and entertaining.

Instead of that, the world got the blog of Bob Temuka, who cries when people don’t like stuff he likes, spends far too much time thinking about the filing system for his comics and physically hugs the massive pile of 2000ads in the corner of his spare room.

One thing the dweeb does have going for him is that he truly, genuinely, loves the medium of comics. All of them, from the shittiest unending superhero franchises to the stand-alone personal stories of heartbreaking familiarity. He loves ‘em all. And he loves talking shit about them.

I didn’t always know you could do that.

* * *

There was almost nobody to talk to about comics when I was a young teenager, living in a town of 3000 people on the arse end of the world in the late eighties.

There were still a few kids around who liked Battle Action Force or the X-Men or GI Joe, but nobody who wanted to know about everything. Nobody who was obsessed with the whole glorious mess, who liked Joe Kubert and Alan Davis equally, who devoured everything Marvel and DC had to offer, from Power Pack to The Weird. Who would eat up adaptations of Indiana Jones films while equally enjoying the sight of Judge Dredd running over punks with his giant motorbike and then shooting them in the face if they got a bit lippy.

It didn’t really matter, this isolation. For all the fetishes for the monthly serial and glorious packaged collections, comics are something that happen in your own head. Ideas catching fire across the medium don’t need people talking about it, although a bit of proper analysis never hurt anybody.

But comics were for rainy Sunday afternoons when you couldn’t go out, or the last five minutes of the day before the lights had to go out, or something to read while you’re chowing down on some Weetbix. Real life was for getting out on the bike and swimming down the river and getting together for a zombie movies and a feed of chips on a Friday night.

Then the internet came along, and I realised how unique I wasn’t, and it scared the piss out of me. Even if you’re one of a million, that still means there are thousands of you online.

I don’t know why, but I was seriously freaked out by the concept of the internet when it first started to go public like a virus. Maybe I’d just watched the first two Terminator films once too often, or maybe I was just stupid, but it took me a few years before I even dipped my feet in the vast waters of the internet.

And once I did, it all came flooding in. In those first few months somewhere in 1996, I was still impressed by comic news websites that updated once a week, and the first message boards I found had some kind of message posted almost every day. It was incredibly exciting.

It took another year or so before I found a decent comics community, considerably longer than I thought it would. This may have come from my shock over that weird geek anger, something I’d never really seen before. I’d seen the bastard mix of an inflated sense of entitlement and sheer bile before in comic shops, but the amount of moronic bravery displayed by geeks who could hide behind a shit username was astounding. I’m still amazed by much of the bitching and whining that takes their comic books so seriously.

But geek culture is so much more than that, and for the first time in my life, there were plenty of people to talk to about the new Justice League line-up, or whether there would be any more Grendel Tales comics, or wonder what would be coming out next in the fledging trade paperback scene.

And yeah, so many of the conversations would wither and die, or take off in some weird tangent that I had no interest in. But there were also plenty of opportunities to talk about anything, and plenty of people from all over the world who had something interesting to say.

* * *

And then I realised I could make my own stories and put them up and people would say nice things about them even though they were really, really terrible. My name is Bob and I was a fan fiction writer.

And it was so much fun, especially when it all got collaborative. You could write anything you want, slap it up on the internet, and people would tell you that it was great, even though it clearly wasn’t. But it didn’t matter, because we were all rubbish, all doing our own thing.

There were certainly plenty of fan fiction communities to choose from, but most limited to a particular continuity. I picked one that took little bits from frigging everywhere, in another of those ‘nexus of all realities’ things that are so useful for stuff like that.

It must be 10 years since I wrote a story for that community. It’s still there in a completely different form, even if it’s the same forum. I’m not ashamed to admit that sometimes I miss it terribly.

* * *

A life as a message board denizen never seems to last too long and by the turn of this century, posting lost its lustre, but that was okay. I’d meet a bunch of fascinating people, mainly through that embarrassing foray into fiction. I’ve only met a couple of them in the flesh, but I trust their opinions and follow their recommendations.

And they’re people from all over the world, who through sheer chance and shared interests, find common ground in meeting places that don’t physically exist. Friendship doesn’t have to be defined by geography any more.

* * *

And now it’s 2010, I turned 35 yesterday, and I’ve been blogging for a year. Things have been slack recently, but that’s only because it’s a beautiful summer in New Zealand, and who can be arsed sitting in front of a computer when you could be down the beach with a six-pack of beer and a pile of old comics and magazines?

Sometimes I walk out of comic shops grumpy and confused because I couldn’t find anything I really wanted, but I still get a kick out of a good comic that beats any other medium. I really fucking love comic books.

And I love talking about them. In comments on other sites, the odd message board post and through this blog. Getting this idiotic shit out of my head and into words is still a thrill like no other, and the Tearoom of Despair is ready to roll on into a whole new year.

Because the fact that there are thousands of people who like the same shit I do isn’t something to be scared of, it’s worth celebrating. And worth talking about.

Thanks to all those who read this blog, and all those who have left comments. 2010 will be business as unusual for the Tearoom of Despair.