Tuesday, March 24, 2009

In dreams

You know you've got it bad when you dream of finding the perfect stash of sought-after comic books, only to feel real and true despair when you wake up and realise it never actually happened.

A few years back I got absolutely obsessed with 2000ad again, for the fifth time in my life. My time away from the Galaxy's Greatest Comic had been longer than usual this time and I had more than eight years of catching up to do. Unfortunately, with less issues being shipped into New Zealand than in days past, there were a lot less available on the second hand market. And while I managed to buy literally hundreds of individual comics in a short space of time, there are still some massive gaps, some missing issues that I've never been able to find anywhere.

Now, I regularly dream of stumbling across a big old pile of those missing issues. Nothing else in the dream is constant, it's always different imaginary stores in imaginary versions of familiar towns, but that big old pile of 2000ad goodness is the same every time. It's become such a regular event that the last I time I had this dream I became aware I was dreaming as soon as I saw them, managing to get all that idiotic despair at not actually buying some treasured comics out of the way even before I woke up. (And indulging in some harmless lucid dreaming in the seconds before consciousness crashed in.)

The actual details of these dreamed comics never extend much further than the covers, although one time I did get the chance to read one of those stories, featuring a Zenith/Judge Dredd crossover. It was awful, although it had some lovely Steve Yeowell art. I don't know what this means.

But that ain't so bad, waking up to find I still got those holes in my collection. I still got time to find those missing comics and there have been two or three occasions when I have stumbled across a huge pile of cheap 2000ads for sale and I have gone a little overboard (especially the time I had to smuggle more than 150 issues across the Tasman Sea.)

In time you can get hold of damn near anything, provided it isn't ridiculously scarce and has never been reprinted. The worst part about dreams like this are when you discover comics that never existed in the first place. Some of them are just as awful as that Zenith/Dredd tale, where my brain has become the world's worst cocktail mixer, taking two great flavours and blending them into a big old pile of crap. But some of them...

It's stupid, but I still ache for comics that I held in my dream-hand, only to have them evaporate with the return to the real world: A horror fable by Dave Sim that featured dog men and bat women, Jack Kirby's Solaris, a collection of Bryan Talbot's Doctor Who stories, a lost Dracula story by Grant Morrison and Joe Kubert, and The Egoriffic Adventures of Homage Jones by Mark Waid and Alan Davis. None of these ever existed outside the mad misfirings of my subconscious mind, but that doesn't mean I still don't mourn their unavailability.

It's similar to the feeling I had the first time I read Seth's Wimbledon Green, with mythical comics passing into legend in the story itself. The question of whether it ever existed in the first place is almost, but not quite, overlooked in the narrative. It's the ultimate dream comic within the story, where the act of owning the physical object drives the increasingly bizarre and oddly moving tale.

Dylan Horrock's superb Hicksville also stirs up the same emotions, in the finest possible way. The library in the lighthouse, where the greatest comic creators of all time have been allowed to run wild and create the epics they always wanted to tell, but were unable to find a place for in the horribly commercial world of comic publishing. To read of these comics that never were is to be reminded of the worst aspects of the business, but, more importantly, it also brings to mind all the lost opportunities of the medium, of what could have been created.

All the dreams of wonder that never became anything, and will never exist outside libraries of dreams. These libraries exist in every one of us, and are a crucial resource that should be cherished.

Sometimes stories and songs can emerge from the collective unconscious depository, and while we are only left with the pale reflections of the dreamt tale, we must be satisfied with what was created. We can wake up from the dream, but we don't have to let it fade.

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