Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Catching up, looking around

When I got back from overseas travel recently, I had about six weeks of essays, interviews and reviews of comics on the internet to catch up on. I had only been able to get online once or twice a week during the travel and didn’t think I would miss too much.

It has taken me 27 days to catch up with everything that happened.

I talked to my Dad on the phone the day after we got home and found out everything important about my extended family in a minute and a half. It took me a week to get to a Grant Morrison interview about Batman and Robin. And Morrison interviews are always the best.

Remember when you’d hear something vague about a comic and then nothing else until you saw it in the store? That feeling of picking something up that you know absolutely nothing about? That shit isn’t so easy these days.

This is not a complaint. I crave information on comic books and spend, on average, a couple of hours a day soaking up as much comic info as I can get. Reading new stuff, flicking through an old favourite, or reading about something new.

And now, with the glory of international communion that the net brings, there is always something new to check out. 

For starters, there is the Mindless Ones, which had a couple of the excellent Terminus cartoons to catch up on, as well as more than 3000 words on the glory of the Fighting Fantasy books and their gorgeous covers, which were a small obsession that ruled my life for a year or two there.

And moving on, there is Sean T Collins and his exceptional writing on Lost, the first place that I would look at after watching a new episode. The big fella made some impressively good points about the callousness of the leads, and their seeming indifference over the lives they trample in their stupid little games.

(Incidentally, I always thought those cops that Neo and Ms Leather 1999 mow down in the lobby during the first Matrix movie were low-level version of the Agents, computer programmes that would just reboot half an hour after the massacre. The bad guys wouldn’t trust its security to a bunch of treacherous humans. In my head, this a plausible theory that reconciles the movie’s sense for freedom with the wellbeing of the innocent.)

And then there are all the new comics announced during my time off. Some of them, like Marvel’s latest attempt to grab the indy-kids, are obvious gems that will probably sell loads of copies over time, but it’s harder to justify the interest I have in the idea of a new Die Hard comic. Despite an avalanche of shitty comics based on movies and old TV shows, I still kinda want to read it.

(At least it’s written by Chaykin, that’s a bit of a defence, isn’t it? He’s like Frank Miller, his work might be lacking in the emotional resonance of their early days, but at least he’s trying. And they are always, always entertaining.)

And then there are the interviews, fantastic talks with Seth and David Lapham and Al Ewing and Darwyn Cooke and Mark Millar and all sorts of different Alan Moore yarns that have gone online in the past month or so. All the thought and energy these guys put into their comics seeps through in their conversation, leaving the reader with a greater appreciation of what they were trying to say. I love a good interview and there are certainly plenty showing up online on a weekly basis. 

And if all that shit isn’t enough, there are still the brilliant, funny and informative weekly reviews from the likes of Paul O’Brien, Chris Sims, J Caleb Mozzocco and Tucker Stone, each giving a great overview of comics that are invariably more entertaining than the books they are talking about.

Especially Stone, who is so fucking funny I want to smash his fucking face in. That Nana In My Pants joke just killed me.

And if that’s not enough, there are the quirky tastes and invariable quality of the Savage Critics, the lovely Star Trek canon series at postmodernbarney and Jason Powell’s excellent retrospective pieces on the X-Men, (now getting to the point when I started getting obsessive about all things X). Or the heads up on what to look out for from the impeccable tastes of Joe McCulloch and Matthew J Brady. Or maybe just diggin' the Sluggo.

And then, after all that, there was more to catch up on in the time I’d spent catching up on all that other beautiful crap, from Armagideon Time’s fabulous call to boycott fan boycotts to the fantastic link orgies that are The Comics Reporter and Journalista to brilliant interviews with the likes of the great Bryan Talbot, forced to head out and shill his latest book.

And I fucking love it. I genuinely dig it. I crave information about comic books and movies and books and albums and politics and the news media and everything that ever was. I want it fucking all.

That tsunami of information is a glorious thing to surf. Just don’t get pulled under, or you’re rooted. Ride it out and it’ll take your brain to new places, while giving comfort food to the usual illogical prejudices. We live on a diet of information, you only have to be careful not to gorge.

The best way to avoid information overload is to concentrate of one particular section of human behaviour, and keep a vague eye on the rest. Fortunately, most of us have some sort of hobby that allows us to do this. Those interested in crafting socks out of barbed wire, or like making pornographic dioramas with their Smurf collections, can use the internet to find more people who share their interests, to exchange information, to feel a little less alone.

If your hobby is comic books and other facets of geek culture, you better be good at sifting, or you’re screwed. The first time I found reviews of comics on the internet I was so damn excited, and I used to think it extraordinary to find a site that would have news of upcoming comic books that was updated every single day.

Now there are a dozen sites updating every frigging hour and while there is an inevitable amount of repetition, there is plenty of unique content to soak up. The explosion of blogs since the early days of the century have added to the hum, producing an incredible amount of material.

And yes, there is a low signal to noise ratio. It is very easy to get lost, or follow dead ends, or get sucked into the black hole of message board discussion, where the level of discourse never really rose above the classic Iron Man vs the X-Men rant.

But it doesn’t take long to sort out the good stuff from the bad. The writers who make you laugh, or tell you about the good shit, or are just prodigious updaters. We’ve all got our favourites. The problem starts when you discover that there are a hell of a lot of good people out there who are worth following. And when you’re out of touch for a whole month, you’ve got a lot to catch up on.

In the end, I dumped it all out into a Word document, and printed it out double sided on the smallest readable type. It still ended up coming in at 72 pages long.

So now it’s something to read at the lunchbreak, or waiting for the train. Sometimes it’s a slog getting through it all, sometimes it’s a real joy. But it’s always informative, and always interesting in some way. It’s all worth a look.

And now I’ve been busy spending the weekend lying on my arse reading a big pile of new comics, so I’ve got to get back online and see what I missed. 

It never ends. 

Who would want it to?


Duncan said...

Mindless luv back atchu 2, BT

Zom said...

Good to have a man home and back at his blog