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I don’t think it is much of a secret that when I started doing Comic Book Noise, I didn’t know much about the inner workings of the comic book industry. I didn’t even know that there was a collapse of the comic book market back in the 90s. I just knew that it was harder to find some of the comic books that I had once bought. Miracleman, Scout, American Flagg, Jon Sable Freelance, Nexus, Badger, Grendel, Hero Alliance, Justice Machine and a bunch of others just stopped being there. I didn’t know why and I didn’t go out of my way to find out.
Screwy things happened in some of the comic books I was reading, but I didn’t know the story behind them. One moment Waverider was going to touch Captain Atom’s chest and the next, one of my favorite titles (Hawk and Dove) was systematically dismantled with the deaths of Captain Sal and Dove and the ruining of Hawk. I thought “Well, that was stupid.” but went on with my life
John Byrne was writing and drawing a damn good West Coast Avengers/Avengers West Coast and then all of a sudden, the storyline was interrupted by a couple of fill-in issues. When it came back, Roy and Dannette Thomas were on the book with Paul Ryan and Danny Bulanadi. No offense to them, but they were no John Byrne. He was one of my favorites and one of those rare creators who I would follow from project to project. Once I realized he wasn’t coming back, I dropped the book and went on with my life.
The pattern of things happening that make no sense followed by me going about my life continued until I started listening to comic book podcasts. From there, I found out about blogs and forums that talked about nothing but comic books. On top of that, the people on those blogs and forums also talked about what was going on behind the scenes, the juicy stuff that was only hinted at in my only source for comic book news, Wizard Magazine.
All of a sudden, a whole world was opened up to me that was apparently right in front of my eyes all the time. I dove into the comic book industry’s “secret history” head first. I found out that somehow the secret of Monarch’s identity leaked out and Archie Goodwin decided to change from Captain Atom to Hawk. I found out that John Byrne left because Tom DeFalco had a “problem” with a storyline that he was working on. Most regrettably, I found out that most of the comic books I stopped getting was because the companies went out of business (Eclipse Comics, Innovation Publishing, Comico, First Comics, etc.)
For years, I had been told to give up my collecting and “grow up.” I didn’t. I was told to stop buying comics and be a “responsible adult” but chose to do both. Then something weird happened. Eventually, all of the information I was getting was starting to affect my enjoyment of the comic books themselves. I had never read Previews because I am one of those people who would much rather read a comic book than a solicitation, but I found myself reading it; instead of being moved to want to get a future issue, I was usually disappointed in where things seemed to be heading and just eventually wanted to stop reading them altogether. My lifelong love of comic books was pretty much poisoned by the workings of the comic book industry.
Lately, I have stopped reading news sites and blogs. I receive Previews from my LCS but I rarely even open it unless Angela says “Hey have you seen what’s on page 135 this month?” Most regrettably, I buy fewer comic books and when I do, they are usually by companies that don’t have an abundance of publicity around them.
As a result of these changes to my habits, I find myself listening to fewer comic book podcasts. I used to think it was because they were talking about things that were no longer relevant to me, but the truth is dawning on me that I stopped listening because I don’t want to be dragged back into consuming all of the news/gossip about the industry. I would rather gauge the comic book industry on the product rather than the suppliers.
This is one of the reasons why I have been concentrating more on reviews and less on “issues”. This is one of the reasons why I connect those reviews to my personal history with the titles or characters. I try and take myself back to a time when I didn’t know anything about the companies, the creators, the editorial conflicts, the personalities behind some of the decisions made to those titles or characters, the zealotry of some facets of fandom, etc.
I am starting to take back my enjoyment of comic books and I plan on taking all of the listeners with me, industry be damned.