I got into comic books pretty late in the game (see my post about that here). The thrill of collecting issues soon waned though as I grew overwhelmed with the number of stories I wanted to keep up with.
It’s easy to fall behind on so many issues, especially if you follow the big two: Marvel and DC. Having the time and energy to get to your local comic bookstore (LCBS) every new comic book day (Wednesdays by the way) can feel like a chore after a while.
Not to mention the financial investment in these collections. Sure, it’s only $3-4 per issue, but if you follow, say, five different comics, that’s $15-20 per visit. Each visit might occur weekly or every other week.
I got to the point where my visits were monthly. The combination of remembering which issues I needed and which comics to keep up with (especially if they weren’t put on my pull list from the beginning) made me fall behind to the point where I just made a note to wait for the trade of that collection.
Let’s not forget that if you buy physical issues, they eventually start taking space. You need the added investment in storage for them, short and long comic boxes or crates or shelf space. When does the madness end?
If you’re like me, you feel guilty about recycling old issues you’ve already read. So where should they go? Libraries don’t really take single issues. You can try selling them back to your LCBS or maybe online. But that’s another chore in itself.
With all these factors to consider, it’s easy to feel guilty about giving up on comic books. You can start feeling bad about not supporting your LCBS and comic book creators, especially knowing how much they rely on the issue-by-issue support. It’s alright though.
If you find one or two series that you’re really passionate about, then go ahead and make a pull list for those. If you’re worried about the physical space, then consider a digital subscription. If you’re concerned about the expense, then decide on a budget to help you choose if you’ll buy individual issues or wait for trades on certain series.
I was not, in fact, a comic book kid. They just weren’t something on my radar as a child reader. I had a subscription to a Barbie book club. I frequented the library, and eventually as I got older, Borders Bookstore. But comics were just never introduced to me.
There was never any negative attitude about them, like saying they weren’t real reading or anything like that. No, comic books just never appeared in my household and I never looked for them, frankly, because I didn’t know they existed to look for.
Then, in my early twenties, the guitarist from my favorite band announced he was releasing a comic book series. Naturally, being obsessed with Good Charlotte, I absolutely had to pick up Billy Martin’s Vitriol series. This was my first dive into the comic book world.
I had no clue what to expect. As far as I knew, comic books were basically big kid picture books. But oh, dear reader, they are so much more than that. Yes of course, the artwork plays a vital role in the consumption of this media, but to say, “They’re just picture books,” a) demeans the value of picture books and how they impact children’s reading and b) underestimates the true craft that goes into combining appropriate images with a storyline.
See, until I delved into the Vitriol series, I hadn’t realized that comic books had to work double time. The artist makes a conscious choice in structure and style that adheres to the voice and tone of the story being told through dialogue, onomatopoeia and narrative boxes (I don’t know the official industry term for the formatting, that’s just what I call them).
In a novel, where the author would describe the movement, emotion, and noises of the protagonist as he bled out from a bullet wound, the comic book artist uses color, shading, and lines to portray the hero as he cringes in pain. They indicate wracking coughs with the subtlest of dashes near the drawing’s mouth. Complex, right?
Now, I admit that before Martin’s work was announced, I’d been toying with the idea of picking up comic books because I was so invested in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Where was I supposed to start, though, with superheroes who had a 50+ year history?
Starting with a publication that didn’t come from one of the big two in the industry turned out to be the perfect introduction to comic books. I found myself going back and rereading books to catch every inch of color and artwork that I may have missed while reading the words on the page, as my eyes had been so vigorously trained to do for so many years.
After that, I felt brave enough to try my hand at Marvel with the Axis series. Let me tell you, reading that storyline was a bonkers experience. It was confusing and chaotic, but still, I felt better prepared for it having accustomed myself to the format with the previous comic books. I may have been 22 when I picked up my first series, but now I truly feel like a comic book kid.
The return of Arrow last week stirred in me feelings from the previous season and opened old wounds (#foreversalt), so I thought I’d share an old post I wrote for my personal blog here.
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD IF YOU HAVEN’T CAUGHT UP ON THE SHOW
Also, profanity up ahead. Proceed with caution.
I stayed up late last night thinking about how I haven’t watched the Arrow season 4 finale yet (yeah I know way behind), but truthfully, I’ve been avoiding it because I’m still salty about the death of Black Canary. Oh shit sorry, SPOILERS GUYS!
Obviously writing a show is hard. There’s pressure to write an entirely self-contained 45-minute story from week to week and film it and get it out. But, on the other hand, it’s not like they start the writing process the week before the season starts and go balls out with production. I know there’s a storyboarding room and details get hammered out for a cohesive plot line. So, with that in mind, why did they feel the need to kill Black Canary?
I get that the situations these characters are in are high stakes, and that means, people can die. Fine. It happens. I suppose I can’t think of an alternative high stakes consequence for Team Arrow to suffer other than the loss of a team member. But does losing a team member necessarily mean they have to die? (See Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD as an example of an emotional exit without death).
And that’s exactly the thing, isn’t it? Of course, if everyone always ends up coming out alright in the end, there’s no impactful consequence and things get boring. However, it is my opinion that lately TV creators and many TV critics are under the impression that the only way to have an impact is to kill a character. I’ve seen it in several reviews when people say things like, “If no one ever dies, what are the stakes? What’s the point? Why should these characters matter if they always make it out alive?”
So, in response, perhaps the writers of TV shows feel they need to shock the audience, and what bigger shock than killing off a beloved character (like Abby in Sleepy Hollow?! Excuse me?!). They’re not wrong; it is shocking, but is shocking the only way to get a visceral, emotional reaction from the audience? If that’s what you think, then clearly you don’t understand the spectrum of human emotion (might I recommend watching Inside Out to get a pretty damn good representation about the complexity of emotions and how they intermingle?)
The way I see it, if death is the only valuable consequence, that kind of invalidates the point of living and fighting. Loss, grief and pain are feelings that can be achieved through other high stakes consequences (again, see Agents of SHIELD regarding season 1 finale with the revelation of Grant Ward’s betrayal to the team).
Okay, fine, so I can’t come up with an alternative solution to killing off Black Canary. We’ll accept it and embrace that she is dead and gone. RIP Laurel Lance.
But here’s where I got really peeved with the way she died. She goes down in a fight against Damien Darhk, fighting as the Black Canary, doing what she believes is right, opposing a force of evil who is threatening her beloved city, and the last words the audience hears her say are, “Oliver, I may not have been the love of your life, but you were the love of mine.”
I’m having Teen Wolf flashbacks of the death of Allison, but let’s not go there right now. So, I know she says something else to Oliver before she dies, but we don’t know what it is. What we do know, is after all the shit she’s gone through and growth and progress she’s made to become a hero in her own right, she dies reminding the audience, “Remember I’m Ollie’s ex-girlfriend!” Even though their romantic relationship felt complete and resolved pretty much by the end of season 2 or 3 (I can’t remember which). Regardless, this whole season and probably for most of season 3 if I recall correctly, Laurel and Oliver are at a point in their relationship where they have a solid friendship that has moved past their romantic history.
So where in fuck’s name did that line come from?! Also, side note, it was a little hurtful I think to have her say Oliver was the love of her life because, I don’t know, she seemed to have a pretty good thing going with Tommy. Yeah, remember him? The guy that literally died crushed under a building’s debris so he could save Laurel from getting killed? I’m sure that line wasn’t meant to throw away Tommy and Laurel’s relationship, but it sure felt like he’d been momentarily forgotten.
Anyway, back to my salt. Look, I’m not saying Laurel’s love for Oliver (or Tommy!) is invalid. Of course it matters and it’s a huge part of her identity and history, and in certain ways that love has propelled her to where she ended up. But let’s be honest, if Laurel Lance had a true epic love of her life, it wasn’t any man; it was justice. She was dedicated to fighting for those without power and standing up for the city and the people that she loved. That was clear from the beginning when the show started with her as a low-paid lawyer working in a dinky law firm that serves the underprivileged.
Sure, she may have lost her way at one point, giving in to anger and fear that led her down the path of addiction and then to become the Black Canary for the maybe not so right reasons, but at the end of the day, she found her way back to righteousness and continued fighting as the Black Canary so that she could protect and serve. Laurel was married to justice and doing the right thing for the sake of doing the right thing from the beginning, even if she weaved in and out of that lane a bit at times.
So fine, she died because I guess “that’s where the story took them [the writers],” but did she have to die as Ollie’s ex-girlfriend after having gone down in battle as superheroine Black Canary? After the roller coaster story line she’d been given to live and fight and survive through, she deserved more than that in her death.