• Longform 

    Multiversity 101: Comics Anonymous #1

    By | April 18th, 2011
    Posted in Longform | % Comments

    I find it excessively appropriate to begin this particular piece with a conversation snippet between myself and my M101 co-writer Ryan Closs:

    JM: Marvel is fucking with me personally, and I am not amused. Seven double shipping books (in June??) Seriously??
    RC: So you get more good books/month, and?
    JM: My wallet isn’t made of money!
    RC: So drop some books, no one is forcing you to buy anything.
    JM: I did, I dropped a lot of books, and then all the books I can’t drop double ship.
    RC: “can’t”
    JM: Don’t pull that card with me asshole, you know full well there’s addiction and completionism on the table here. Its not as strong in me as it is with others, but it is there.
    RC: It’s still a choice
    JM: Barely.
    RC: It’s not fucking heroin.
    JM: Yes, true, but addiction is addiction.

    The subject of comics addition is, understandably, a bit of a touchy subject for some. In the age of struggling economies, constantly shifting cover prices and amorphous publication practices, our reliance on these colorful funny books we love so dearly becomes a more and more prominent issue. Click on down as we begin to explore this controversial and hotly debated topic.

    Now, I’m sure some people will deny that addiction to comics even exists, saving the weighty term of “addiction” for more serious vices. That said, take a minute to think about your connection to comics and how you feel when a book you want sells out? Or your store doesn’t open due to snow? Or some other unforeseen circumstance gets in the way of you and your books every week? I’m willing to bet that some (if not most) of you don’t quite deal with such instances in the best way possible.

    Dictionary.com defines addiction as “the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming…to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma.” This is a pretty daunting definition, but is it inaccurate in this instance? I’m not so sure.

    (This is the point in the article when all I can really speak to is my own experience, so just to make it clear the observations I make from here on out are based 100% on my experiences.)

    While there are countless instances that I can draw upon to illustrate this point, I’m going to pick the one that is most fresh in my mind. Now, I’ve been at the comic buying game for quite a while now and I generally avoid setting up pull lists at specific shops. I do this not out of any particular dislike of certain shops or the pull list methodology, but rather because I tend to travel a lot and one of the greatest joys I have as a fan is being able to track down my books in whatever city I happen to be in, which then enables me to interact with the fan culture in those particular areas. Over the years, I’ve become pretty good at finding all of the books I want without having them guaranteed for me and although I have recently begun pre-ordering books through online vendors as a cost cutting measure, I leave several titles off my pre-order specifically so that I can track them down in store.

    One of those books happens to be Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt’s mystical western adventure The Sixth Gun. For some reason, my preferred comic shop almost always sells out of the book before I am able to get out of work on Wednesday (including a time I didn’t have work and got there literally as the door was being unlocked) and, indeed, I was not able to find Issue #10 there a few weeks ago. Now, I happen to be blessed as a Boston-based comic fan in that there are quite a few stores I can turn to in instances like this one and had, in fact, done so for previous issues of The Sixth Gun. However, two short drives and four phone calls later and I still hadn’t tracked down a copy of the book. At this point I started to feel something I hadn’t felt in years, at least within the context of comic books: I started to panic.

    Continued below

    It was sudden, irrational and uncontrolled. The little voices in my head that tell me to calm down and stop being such a nerd were screaming their heads off at me and yet, I was still panicked. So much so that once I found a store that had a copy, I threw on my headphones and walked for almost an hour to pick it up, discovering a new, charming little shop in the process. Once I left the store, my panic began to subside: crisis averted. However, once I got home I began to think reflectively about the ordeal and some alarming facts came to my attention.

    For the last decade, comics have maintained an undeniably strong seat of power in my life, starting LONG before I began writing for Multiversity and I could assign a flimsy “work-related” tag to them. Every Wednesday meant new comics and any deviation from that mold often lead to stress or crisis in varying forms. The fact that a national holiday signaled that books come out on Thursday and not Wednesday didn’t stop me from going to the shop on Wednesday “just in case.” When I spent two and half months travelling the Middle East when I was 18, the first, second and third thing I made absolutely certain was in my care packages from home were comics. I HAD to be dialed in, I HAD to know what was going on with my favorite characters and that need eventually translated into a need for the physical product. Only a fool would deny that there was no innate dependence there. Even now that I have grown to be able to wait until the end of the month for most of my books to arrive by mail, I still double check my pre-order every single week to make sure the books I want are in my shipment, “just in case.” If that doesn’t denote a “practice that is psychologically habit-forming” then I don’t know what does.

    As if that set of realizations weren’t enough, two more began to set in that really convinced me that there was a widespread issue in play here. One was the financial impact of comics addiction. When I really began reading in earnest, the average cost of a 22 page comic was $2.25. Even with my 13 year-old allowance, this pushed the boundaries of afforability. Today, with most books hovering between $2.99 (for 20 pages of content) and $3.99 (for 22 pages and extras that are usually boring and inconsequential), comics push the boundaries of afforability for many adult salaries. Add into the mix that many of these books are shipping twice a month (as mentioned above) and the situation can become legitimately perilous.

    About a year ago, during a debate on comic piracy on this very site, I interacted with a fan who asserted that feeding yourself less in order to afford all of the comics you wanted without resorting to piracy was an acceptable plan of action. In short, comics > food. When I asked the poster whether they were actually serious with their assertion, I received no response. Remembering this incident lead me to my second troubling realization: that my ability to think logically about my comic habit and drop books or pre-order them in order to save money is a luxury NOT afforded to all of my fellow fans. While these days I view spending 20 dollars at the shop every week (on top of a 65 to 80 dollar monthly pre-order), I regularly see my fellow readers drop three to four times that in line ahead of me. While some may not view this as a problem and, indeed, an active choice on the part of the reader, I think there may be more going on here.

    All of this, and I haven’t even scratched the surface of how the industry may or may not rely on addicts to stay afloat. However, we’ll save that for another day. Right now, I want to stop flapping my gums and invite you readers onto the soapbox. I’m including the following poll as kind of a quick fire method to determine sentiment on this one, but if you feel you can weigh in more thoroughly on this, then by all means please do in the comments section below!

    Continued below

    Comics Addiction: Truth or Myth?

    *Note: Comics Anonymous #2 has not specifically been planned as of yet. I only really threw the #1 onto this one since I figured there was a good chance there might be a NEED for a #2. However, that all depends on you, the readers, speaking up and getting your two cents in. I suspect I’m not the only one out there grappling with this subject, and there’s no better time than now to stand up and be heard!


    //TAGS | Multiversity 101

    Joshua Mocle

    Joshua Mocle is an educator, writer, audio spelunker and general enthusiast of things loud and fast. He is also a devout Canadian. He can often be found thinking about comics too much, pretending to know things about baseball and trying to convince the masses that pop-punk is still a legitimate genre. Stalk him out on twitter and thought grenade.

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