Monday, December 17, 2018

Abandoning the pull of regular comics

As long as I've lived in a town with a comic shop, I've had a pull list – a folder or slot where the shop owner would put aside issues of my favourite comics for me without fail, and I could pick them all up at once, at my own convenience.

After years of futilely trying to get full runs of ongoing comics through the dubious distribution in this part of the world, haunting bookshops and supermarkets and corner dairies for the latest Fantastic Four, this was an amazing new privilege. It meant I could never miss the latest issue of Preacher, or Concrete, or Hate, or the Legion of Super-Heroes, because they were guaranteed to be there every week.

When I moved to new cities, there were always new comics to be put aside at some new store, always some new series by a trusted creator, or something that had hugely positive buzz. I always loved the pull list, and it has been an ongoing pleasure cleaning out that folder every week.

But I just don't need one anymore, and I'm going back to the shelves.

I'm shutting it down, even though there are loads of brilliant comics coming out every week, I don't have that hunger to get them as soon as humanely possible. I can wait for the collection, because it's easier and cheaper, and I've finally broken the addiction for that serial fix.

I only get a few comics every month as it is now, and most of them are going to wind up in the next few months. When there are no more BPRD comics to get, there isn't any need for a pull list.

It's not over, I'll still get some regular comics. I'll always still get 2000ad off the shelves every week until it inevitably goes digital, and will always seek out the latest issue of Love and Rockets as long as I live. I'm still going to try and get all the latest issues of Stray Bullets and Lazarus for as long as they last, and while I might miss the odd issue without the safety net of a pull list, I know I'll get them sooner or later. But not having anything specifically put aside, not anymore.

The regular serialised comic book is still my favourite way of consuming comics. While they have long been sneered at as floppies and pamphlets by all the cool kids, I still get a buzz from them that no other publication can match.

It's partly the freshness – the monthly comics are the newest of the new, the very latest adventures and all the new developments. When so many readers are willing to spill all of a story's secrets and twists as soon as humanly possible, you've got to get in early. And there is always the gorgeous cheap thrill of a really good cliffhanger, being forced to wait a month or so for some tense resolution never gets old.

And it's the objects themselves, these dinky little things, these strange sheets of paper and ink that can contain multitudes. These objects that are made to be disposable, but can be archived for generations. Some individual comics might not be as satisfying as a complete object in themselves these days, but a lot of them still are.

I'm never giving up comicbooks altogether, the passion for the medium has been there since before I could read, and shows no sign of really dying down yet. The lovely wife and I went to Melbourne for a long weekend recently and yeah, the city is groovy and beautiful, and the food there was fucking amazing, but I really went for the comic shops, and was stoked to come home with some crucial issues of the Judge Dredd Megazine and The Comics Journal.

So even if I'm not in every week, haunting the store to see if they've got the latest issue of Mage in yet, I'm still going to be in there once a month or so, just to see what's new.

After all, anything with the tiniest piece of interest or buzz inevitably gets collected into hardcovers and trades and other collected editions are all fun. Not everything, but even Giffen's 5YL Legion is getting a collection soon.

They look much better on the bookshelf than the flimsy issues do, much more grown up. But they're still a chronicle of things that happened, as opposed to the serial issues, which are full of things that are happening right now. Giving up that kind of immediacy is undoubtedly going to be one of the hardest habits to break.

I do feel a little bad about abandoning my retailer, even if I'll still be an occasional visitor. I've been a regular customer of this store since I started getting the Seven Soldiers comics in the mail, but I'll have to close the file.

But my local store has also been dicked over by Diamond on multiple occasions over the past year, and more than a couple of issues have been missed. So even that promise of Every Issue Ever has gone out the window, and if you don't have the guarantee, you don't have anything.

There's also the feeling that the collection has been getting a little baggy, a little unwieldy, and that I don't need to keep adding to it so regularly. I don't need all the comics I have, and the collection has got up to a state where it would take me years and years to reread everything I've got, so it's not like I'm going to run out of reading material anytime soon.

Plus, I just need the fucking room for something more important than funny-books. That happens sometimes.

Besides, the way we all consume entertainment is changing all the time, and I can live with that. I can deal with serialized comics going the way of the video store, because trying to hold back that kind of change is futile, and bound to end in utter frustration.

Even if I don't have a pull list anymore, there are still new comicbooks to get. There's always more, no matter how irregular the purchases get.

There's nothing like a great new comic – that alchemical mix of thoughtful words and gorgeous pictures, just released out into the world - and I'm up for something new

New comic day was always a Tuesday as a kid, and for the past eight years or so it's been a regular Saturday morning mission, mainly due to unavoidable shift work hours. There was always something new waiting in the folder, whenever I managed to turn up.

But there won't be anything waiting for me specially anymore. Any new comics are coming straight off the shelves, and while I've lost the guarantee of a brand new issue, that's nothing new, and I can handle it.

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