Monday, May 25, 2009

Garage Sale Comics

This Saturday was the Great Glebe Garage Sale and once again I put out a box of comics I wasn't ever going to read again. I was a bit surprised at what sold and what didn't - not so much at who was buying. It was mostly guys around my age, probably a few years younger (in their mid-twenties) but a lot of early twenties, late teens women flipped through the box (none bought), one gothic-lite woman bought five books "for her son", and two groups of boys flipped through and bought a few books.

The boys were kind of a hilarious revelation. They wanted number ones but ended up buying my run of Infinite Crisis, and a couple of Batman comics. They almost destroyed the box though, but I restrained myself from saying anything - I mean dollar comics I'm selling isn't something I should be overly concerned about. There were a few comics they kind of were interested in but then shied away from - Villains United and some Morrison Batman comics. They bought some of Dini's Detective Comics run though. The reason - they flipped open a random book with "future batman" on the cover and saw this Batman laying in a bloody pulp and they deemed the book "too scary." I'm guessing they just have parents who would be a little pissed if they found them with excessively violent books (and I'm not going to draw that line for other people). Although I seem to recall Infinite Crisis involving at least one decapitation, so at least they avoided Identity Crisis.

It was weird because it happened twice with the Batman books. Another group of boys thought it was too scary as well. Weird.

I ended up selling a run of Ex Machina (12 issues after the first trade), the entire run of Ultimates 2, the three issues I had of Action Philosophers, an Iron Man mini-series (can't remember the name just now) and a smattering of other comics here and there. One kid bought the first issue of Countdown, so I gave him the next 3 or 4 that I had and it made his day - until he starts to read them, I suppose (zing!).

What I'm left with:
  • A bunch of Morrison's Batman run
  • A bunch of Dini's Detective run
  • the first 19 issues of Godland

There is more comics in there but I haven't gone through them just yet so I can't really remember if Identity Crisis went - I think it did. I'm really quite surprised there wasn't at least one Morrison fan who flipped through. I sold Warren Ellis's JLA: Classified a few years ago based on his name being on the cover. And really, have we already moved on from The Dark Knight being in theatres? I'm guessing so. Weird. I thought the Batman stuff would be a lock for sale.

I understand the Godland stuff not going. I think anyone who saw it and was interested would already own them. Everyone else figured it was religious or "lame." The fools.

There were also a lot of guys trying to get the box for $20 or so. Now if there were close to 20 comics in there I'd have been fine with it, but I wasn't going to just get rid of 70 or 90 comics for that. Sorry, I was selling them at $1.00 each or 6 for $5.00, but if you got like 7 I took $5.00. And I was pretty generous if someone picked up 9 or 8 or whatever - I wasn't THAT much of a stickler so would usually take what people offered (within reason). Most people got 2 or 3 extra comics beyond that sixth, and for any younger kids I threw in complete stories if they were buying number three of five or whatever.

It was kind of neat seeing the kids weighing their purchases because most of them only had two bucks or five bucks to spend for the day. If they were digging through and were unsure I'd just say, hey, if you want the Iron Man stuff, I'll give it all to you for a dollar. They kind of looked at me in disbelief and say, "well I only have two dollars" but I'd just pass them the lot and say "don't worry about it, enjoy the whole story." It was they dudes with the fulltime jobs trying to get a bargain that annoyed me for whatever reason.

The last thing I'll mention is that there were twice as many people who would look at the box labeled "comics" and pretend not to be interested. They'd sort of stare it down as they walked by but wouldn't stop because they were with a guy or girl and wanted to look "cool" - even if they had an LP of German Drinking Songs or a ratty stool that looked like a frog. Just as many women did that as men. Okay, maybe they were just thinking "comics, they still make those?" but I saw the longing in their eyes. Just go for it people, it's a neighbourhood wide garage sale - go for the fun stuff - board games and comics.

So, yeah, selling comics is weird.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Gateway Book

Well, it has finally happened. I did something I kind of promised myself I would never do and buy a comic for my wife. I’m not one to try and convert the masses to something I enjoy because I really can’t stand when people try to tell me about crap I don’t care about. But I took a chance on this one after we watched Watchmen and we had a few chats about the book and the medium in general.

It all started when my wife said that she’s read to Pulitzer Prize winning books and loved them. We were talking about how yet another Canadian book prize was given to another book that neither of us had any desire to read, ever. I think we’re a bit more cynical than most readers what with the excessive English Lit degrees between us. I’m not trying to point out my ability to study, just that in the course of our educations we’ve both been exposed to way too much crap. In fact, my standard joke about CanLit is that it requires a minimum 2 of the following 3 contents – rural setting, sexual abuse (best if it’s incest) and substance abuse (best if it’s alcoholism). So reading prize winners that had nothing to do with these was quite welcome.

I know I’m tarring with a large brush here and that some Pulitzer winners probably fall into my CanLit theory but the whole point of this is that I told her about Maus. She seemed interested and asked about it a few more times, so I ended up buying it for her birthday. After a few months she’s picked it up and is just completely absorbed by the whole thing.

At first she asked how I read comics and I have to admit I didn’t know what she meant. She clarified the question by asking if I looked at the pictures as much as the words. I haven’t really thought about it much which I think comes from having more familiarity with the medium, and that I think of it as more of an organic whole. But really, I probably favour the words then go back and look at the pictures closely if I reread. Although I try to absorb as much as I can from the images because they contain the action.

We discussed how easy it is to read comics and how it’s kind of refreshing to simply be presented with the action and setting rather than excessive description which can be found in some writings. I’m not the biggest fan of minute detail description but I can get absorbed in pretty much anything. I just know if I notice it, I tend to get pulled out of a story so comics kind of helps with that.

What really opened the idea to write a post about this is when she said that what makes the book amazing is the presentation of the characters. It’s easy to forget that this is a true story because you’re reading about cartoon mice and cats. And if it wasn’t for the presentation then this would just blur into the fog of thousands of other books upon the subject. It’s precisely the presentation that makes it unique and unforgettable but provides enough distance from the horror through the cartoon representations for the reader not to feel entirely hammered with a message regardless of the importance of the message.

We briefly talked about how the presentation of the father felt new in that after his experiences he’s still not always the greatest guy. Even if he’s presented as a mouse he’s still a very human character full of human failings despite what should be experiences that make him into something audiences have come to expect. The other point she mentioned was that the mice have incredibly expressive and human hands – I’m not entirely sure what to make of this, but I haven’t read the book in a heck of a long time, so when she’s done I’ll pick it up and have a look.

I have to say, I’m looking forward to talking about this a bit more and I’m wondering what anyone else has found to be a good gateway book? Personally, I think it needs to be something that the reader would actually have an interest in and that’s pretty much it. She had tried to read an issue of Buffy a while back but just found it kind of distracting whereas Maus just seems to be presented right while containing a gripping enough narrative to hold my wife’s attention. I didn’t think something like Watchmen, Fables, The Dark Knight, or Sandman would work because like it or not you kind of need to already have an interest in comics to grasp onto those regular offenders as “gateway” books. (Although Fables might work here if she has any interest to read anything else comics wise).

I don’t really want blanket recommendations or anything but has this type of thing worked for you? Why do you think a particular book worked? Was it random or did you put some effort into matching a request to have a comic with the person’s established interests/temperament?

Friday, May 08, 2009

Form and function

Okay, I'm pretty much your average blogger these days in that, I don't really blog at all. Sorry, not actually reading all that many comics because of other life things - I'm about 50% a home owner depending on how the inspection goes tomorrow (please no major foundation problems!). But I have been contemplating the Watchmen a heck of a lot and the more I look into the book the more I find I can't separate the form from the content.

I'm finding myself more and more in Moore's camp that this really works best as a comic since most of the meaning is derived in the same way that words and image create the comic book medium. Now, I actually liked the movie, but the more I look into the comic the more I'm finding it a bit staggering how it all ties together - then again, look too long at anything and you can see connections that don't exist.

Things I never really figured before:
  1. For the most cited and offered graphic novel for new readers to use as a gateway, you kind of need to have a lot of preknowledge to make sense of the whole thing. Sure it's a solid Whodunit? but the book isn't really about who killed the Comedian.
  2. It lays a lot of the groundwork for the symmetrical structure of Moore's later work Promethea.
  3. You're forced to deal with linearity and chonology as separate aspects.

The other thing I noticed is that while the comic used a cinematic approach to a lot of its presentation, these were dropped for the actual cinematic release. I can't say if this is for the best or detriment of the work, but it's funny how we use this word to denote a certain approach but when it's most appropriate the actual approach doesn't work as well. I don't want to get too much into this since it'll be explored a bit more somewhere else.