Friday, January 08, 2010

The Last Comic Book Show

This is the one that appears to have gotten away... Originally written for the last of my Comics Village columns, this doesn't appear to have been run (yet). So, being terrible for recycling, here it is, in a slightly updated and edited version:

THE thought of me in a comic shop nowadays is pretty much stretching ones belief, so to actually get me into a comic shop - and willingly - should be seen as a major achievement. This happened in early December and the shop in question was House on the Borderland in Peterborough (which is north of Cambridge, east of Stamford and Leicester, south of Lincoln and Nottingham and west of King's Lynn and Norwich). It has always been one of my favourite places in the world. This is going to sound really harsh to Pete and Dave, the co-owners, but it's like searching through a skip packed with a cornucopia of comics, books, records, carvings, clothes, bongs, skins and anything they think will appeal to the diverse group of people that wander down the blind alley towards the tattoo parlour on Lincoln Road and stumble across it.

Borderland is an anachronism; it is run by two wildly eccentric old(er) geezers and has nothing in common with comics shops as you see them now. It has limped along for donkeys years; yet despite the inches of dust, the general seeming neglect of the stock and the need for at least 4 hours to be able to search through every possible box - because, you really don't realise the amount of gems they have hiding away in nooks and crannies - it's an absolute treat to be inside! Nostalgia and comics, honest to God.

Despite being borderline OCD about all things grubby, I find Borderland comfortable. I hadn't been there for 12 years and it felt like slipping on a warm and comfortable glove and, while I know that I am quite well known amongst people in comics, it was good to be remembered (and fondly) by the owners.

I spent a good hour talking to Dave, who becomes more like a Gandalf clone every time I see him, and he admitted that the comics side of the business had struggled for a few years and even the top selling titles are struggling to do a small percentage of days gone by. It could be the fact the shop isn't sticking condition of its stock as a top priority, or it could be down to the fact that at the current exchange rate you can't buy a comic for much less than £3.50...

Years of being gone from the mainstream meant that I was bamboozled by the vast amount of titles and underwhelmed by the vast dirth of talent creating these titles. As a returnee to comics, I would have been scared away by the array of shite at my disposal. I wouldn't have been able to find out what happened to my favourite comics, because I would have grown old and died by the time the convoluted bollocks had been explained to me and I would have looked at a comic with a $3.99 price tag and believed that I was actually in some economic nightmare of which there was no escape!

My brother-in-law recently got back into comics and admitted to me that he's spending shitloads of money on them. That isn't going to be difficult - when I was a lad, I could buy 14 comics for £1 and still have a few pennies left to buy some sweets. Today, I can buy a pint, a bag of crisps and have enough change to throw at a beggar for the same amount as it costs to buy a comic. That is fucking outrageous! Can't you see how fucking outrageous that is? Are you all so fucking stupid that you'd pay that kind of money for a worthless piece of shit that will ultimately leave you feeling unfulfilled? Try wanking; it's free and you'll probably derive more pleasure from it.

I've tried so desperately hard to get behind comics again - tried to be positive and less derisive; but frankly that's impossible.

After an hour in Borderland, wading through mountains of crap and the odd interesting looking trade paperback, my eyes settled on a new Bernie Wrightson collection - Dead, She Said, with Steve Niles. It looked like a bit of fun, I had a quick flip through it and thought, 'What the hell? The shop looks like it could do with a sale' so I opted to buy it...

It was £13.50. THIRTEEN FUCKING POUNDS AND FIFTY PENCE???? Dave admitted to me that I could buy it for about half as much off of Amazon and said that none of the distributors or publishers seem to give a shit about independent retailers any more; they can't get the discounts Amazon get. I should have just said I didn't want it at that price, but I felt a little guilty...

It took me 40 minutes to read.

There's a new Stephen King book out. I'm in two minds about it because I've not enjoyed the old boy much in the last 10 years and the news that he's thinking of either writing a sequel to The Shining (one of my least favourite of his books) or an 8th Dark Tower story filled me with so much dread and fear that I'm seriously considering burning all his books and having his name burnt out of my memory. But, Under the Dome weighs in at 880 pages; it allegedly took King a fair while to write and it can be purchased from just about anywhere for under £10. It will probably take me about a week to read, possibly longer if I deem it only worthy as a toilet read. Even if I think it stinks like the shit it will share a room with, it will still be considerably better value than the Niles/Wrightson collection of three comics from IDW.

Simple economics says that I can call you all fucking morons and be perfectly within my rights to do so. I sincerely hope those of you with wives, boy and girlfriends, do a very good job of hiding the amount of money you spend on utter shite from your loved ones, because when I told the wife I'd spent £13.50 on a new Bernie Wrightson book, she looked at me like she couldn't remember when she had me lobotomised.

I understand that a lot of comics are now being scanned and are readily available from the Internet via torrents and shit; fucking good job too. At least those of you with an iota of common sense can download things and give yourself a degree of quality control; but there's no excuse for the utter wankstains that will buy a series of comics then buy a deluxe hardcover version to keep on their shelves, to impress - no one. Absolutely no excuse.

I wouldn't want to be involved in comics any longer, despite being told yesterday that Comics International was never the same after I left it and why the hell didn't the idiots that bought it put me in charge? Well, frankly, I'm glad they didn't and even if they did they a) wouldn't be able to afford me and b) wouldn't like the fact that I'd ridicule them for being conned into buying a dead, well flogged, horse. Also, it's been nearly 10 years since I parted company with that magazine - TEN YEARS. That's actually too much time.

There's a new comics magazine coming out from Future Publishing. I took a comics magazine proposal to Future in 2001 and it almost paid off; but they decided there just wasn't enough life in comics any longer. The new magazine will focus a lot of the film adaptations, in an attempt to coax money from a fan of the super hero movie. It has a cover price in the region of £8. That made me laugh hysterically; I mean guffaws so loud I thought I was going to have an aneurysm. Frankly, it would need to be offering me a blow job before I'd part with £8 for something that will essentially be old, recycled news. The mind boggles.

Comics now smell of commercialism gone crazy and I really couldn't give a shit about all the 'really good stuff' out there; because there's far far too much shit to wade through to find it. Plus there are far too many unpleasant people involved in comics - myself included - and as I've said before, there's either something inherently pernicious about nerds or they're just so passively aggressive you want to rip one of their legs off and batter them to death with the soggy end!

So subsequently my involvement with comics ends here.

**********

And that was it (essentially). I find it quite sad in many respects that I've grown to loathe comics with such a passion; I did okay by them for a while. However, the sad thing is for every really good memory I have, I have two equally shitty ones.

My mate Will expressed a surprise that I'd written the Comics Village column for so long and I actually decided to examine that specific issue in a column, which I never actually finished completely and decided that it ended up being far to personal. But basically there is an addiction there; I don't know if it was the chemicals they used in early paper, or if some people are just easily habitualised; but once comics gets into your blood it's harder than nicotine to get rid of; especially if you have as many bitter feelings as I've harboured over the last 10 years.

As for the statement that I'll have no involvement, I mean it. No more columns about comics or the stupidity of the people reading, writing or drawing them. I have a couple of 'recommended' comics, that I've downloaded from the net; but have found myself preferring to look at the weather forecast, sports news, windows explorer, the Start button - anything but open them up and read them. They're there for a rainy day, very much how I used to describe my comics collection, before I sold it for a new boiler; the big difference is, the only thing I'll get from deleting these files is more hard drive space.

Some of my best friends are still well into comics and good luck to them; most know not to even breath comics within a 50 mile radius of me, because they know how cantankerous I can get. I actually think I'm becoming as obsessive about deriding comics as fanboys are of praising them, and therefore am in danger of becoming an alternate version of the thing I despise the most (insert numerous comics jokes here).

The problem is... I now need a new hobby...

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