Thursday, August 6, 2009

A fiend for the buck

I’m addicted. I can’t escape this fact. I know they’re bad for me, but it feels so damn good when I buy some and I enjoy them so much more than I should. And every now and then, there is something a little bit spectacular.

The $1 comic bin: I fucking love you the way Reed loved Sue.

Comics are, at their very cheapest, still about six or seven dollars around these parts, so it’s easy to pass over a few dodgy looking comics in the name of pure economics. Spending half your paycheck on goddamn comic books is all right when you’re 17, but I’m still suffering from a bloody hangover from drinks two nights ago so I know I’m not 17 any more.

There is always something new and shiny to buy, but there is also a lot of stuff you can put off for a later date. It’s similar to the movie ratings in my head, every film I ever hear about gets puts into a category:

* See it at the cinema (about 3%, if that, of all movies),

* Wait for a new release DVD, (another four or five percent)

* Wait for $1 for a week DVD night at the local Civic Video branch (a good 20% of the rest)

* Wait for a free screening on TV (another decent 20%)

* Or just not fucking bother, (most of them).

It’s not a complicated system, but it works. For comics it goes like this:

* Oh fuck yeah gotta have it (Most Moore and a fair whack of Morrison and all of Los Bros Hernandez and anything Bryan Talbot does and 2000ad and Criminal.)

* Will get one day, prepared to pay cover price (The rest of Moore and Morrison, along with the vast majority of stuff from Ennis, Ellis and Matt Wagner. All of Frank Miller. Fables and Shade The Changing Man.)

* Will buy for a dollar. (Almost anything else.)

You can’t buy much for a dollar these days, but you can always find a comic book if you look around. I will spend my last $1 on a lame issue of JSA, rather than buy something useful like food with it. $1 is nothing, if you can get a whole comic or it, a nice little document with art and words and ideas encoded within, you’re on to a winner.

And it’s so good. Massive chunks of The Losers and Peter Milligan’s beautiful Human Target comics from a few years back, worth keeping and worth looking for the new stuff. I missed them when they came out, but have always given them the glad eye and was more than happy to pick up sizeable pieces for the discounted price.

I just completed my full collection of the Swamp Thing comics I want and need something like these comics to look for in the back issues. There is always the eternal search for more 2000ad comics, but it’s nice to have something to look for when I wander into a store.

Don’t tell the wife this, but I spent $500 in two weeks on comics a month or so ago. I got some really, really good stuff, including all the Criminal books and that weird Coober Skeber Marvel benefit book that I thought I’d never see, but a good three-quarters was fluff from the dollar bin.

I don’t regret a single piece of the fluff. I got a chance to read Abnett/Lanning Legion and some Peter Bagge stuff I missed and a couple of eighties New Mutants comics which are extraordinarily satisfying work.

Some Glamourpuss and Following Cerebus and a few of the later issues of the proper Cerebus run, and I can’t follow where Sim is going but I fucking love to watch him go there. I have never paid more than two dollars for any issue of Cerebus I own, and I’ve got half of them. I’ve always felt a bit horrible and guilty about that, but I could only ever find them in second hand stores in my part of the world. I’ve done the same thing with Eddie Campbell’s Bacchus. I’m a bad reader.

Some unloved Green Lantern/Green Arrow comics from 1977, still written by Denny at his Action Socialist best, but hampered by some surprisingly clumsy Mike Grell art. Loads and loads of Yummy Fur, which I’ve still got to crack into, and good stuff I’ve put off, like the odd issue of Agents of Atlas, Paul Grist’s Burglar Bill and eight-ninths of David Lapham’s Murder Me Dead. Top comics, all of them. And certainly worth the price.

I love the Franklin Richards: Son of a Genius comics that I tried out. I get all the in-jokes in Don Simpson’s Splitting Image comic from 1993, but that doesn’t actually make them funny.

(Fuck, those early Image comics looked so, so sexy at first. That chubby didn’t often last past the first issue of any of the comics they actually put out, but Image were fucking hot in 1993 and I was eighteen, so that’s my excuse.)

The $1 bin is still stuffed with shit but it’s always easier to give something a go when you know you can flick it off on the internet later. I tried some of John Byrne’s Superman/Batman Generations comics and enjoyed them, but didn’t love them. I really gave Terra Obscura a go and Peter Hogan always gives it his best, but it’s still so horribly dull. I just don’t get the Luna Brothers and Girls was too much people standing around yelling at each other and not enough movement. Michael Moorcock’s Multiverse comic from the short-lived late ‘90s Helix imprint was just sadly awful, which was just crushing

That’s okay, I get to read them, judge them with a stuffy eye and sell them on if they don’t meet the grade. There is a nice pile of stuff in the corner of the room that has to go, ready to be packed up and sent to the comic deprived wastelands of Nelson and Whakatane.

In these expeditions to the cheap side of comic books, there are some awful comics. It’s usually easy to avoid the really terrible stuff, just by judging a book by its cover. (Any comic with blood on breasts = no sale.) And then you try something new and it looks okay, but it turns out to be ridiculously bad. Not bad enough to be interesting, just bad enough to be bad.

So you flick those fuckers on too and let some other poor sucker have a go. And if they don’t like Jim Valentino’s A Touch Of Silver, they can get rid of it themselves. These things go around in circles. Until they get burned.

(A Touch of Silver, published by Image somewhere in the nineties and featuring Valentino’s black and white reminiscences of his dorky childhood, is the Worst Comic I’ve Ever Read. Poor Jim, he just tries too hard. I liked Shadowhawk III more than this.)

But it doesn’t matter if I can’t get rid of the shit. If I can’t sell it and too ‘adult’ to give away, it gets flung into the back of the wardrobe to be trampled on and forgotten. And then I find it again in a year or two and I can’t help myself and it’s worse than I remembered but I can’t stop reading.

Shit, I wish I hadn’t sold those Valentino comics.

It’s payday tomorrow and I’ve got a spare $20 left and I could go get myself a really nice lunch, or I could buy a pie and 18 comics. The shop is less than 100m from my work and I have my eye on a bunch of Joe Kelly JLA that have been sitting there for the last month.

I don’t need a nice lunch.


M.Emery said...

i'm popping into nz in oct, where is this magical $1 comic shop?

Bob Temuka said...

It's a place called Head Comics in Auckland, but you'll be lucky to find much by October. It's been almost picked clean already, unless you're into stuff like JSA or Batgirl.