Friday, April 05, 2002 :::
i'm thinking very seriously about writing a book -- non-fiction -- a book that has yet to be written. when i say this, i mean that the area i mean to cover has been well covered, over and over, and, in some cases brilliantly so; but i plan to cover it from an angle that is so obvious it makes me blush to know a) it hasn't been done before and b) i haven't done it yet.
anyway. i make this announcement to those of you (all four? six?) who visit mattyspace regularly to expect much more from me. i went back recently and looked at some of my old journals (i wrote in a journal daily in college), and realized how much better my writing was then. this led me to believe that perhaps my writing sample for nyu wasn't all i had cracked it up to be. so i decided to write daily, to rebuild my skills. and, i'm lettin' y'all know.
i hope the above teaser whets certain appetites, and i'm actually very curious to know what you might think it is i'm doing. so email me with your conjectures. extra points to titles that show a certain amount of je-nais-se-quois-ey flair. i won't tell you till i've sold it to a publisher tho, so don't look for answers anytime soon.
so i've found a new and exciting hobby that feeds my geekiness and underground-hip factor both at once. comic-book collecting.
[now i collected as a kid: daredevil and gi joe mainly... though where those issues are now, i only wish i knew. i'm back on the dd wagon but am having trouble getting back into this new totally acclaimed wildly popular version of joe. why? who knows?]
geek factor appeal i think is obvious. underground-hip -- well deconstructionist postmodern pop-culture is all about graphic literature, baby... and it all starts here.
but. the problems with this habit are legion. first: it's expensive. books aren't cheap, and if you're at all anal, like me, then you want to have all the back issues of any particular run, which get incrementally more expensive. sometimes prohibitively so--especially if you get interested in a series that started years ago, and hasn't had a reboot (starting with issue #1 even though the title was never cancelled, mainly done to stimulate sales), but if there are only thirty or so back issues, you think "hey, i could find thirty issues..."
and it really sucks you in. because the titles are all interwoven (within major publishing houses) -- well not neccessarily interwoven, b ut they take place in the same universe -- which really appeals to me: i find literature with totally complete worlds to be so very exciting, and i eat that shit right up... so that means every time a new book is launched, or i discover a new character i'm into who interacts with a title i collect, i'm a gonner. plus the industry is so sprawling, there's so much out there, and you keep discovering new and great stuff. which means, well, more money.
and more stuff. the clutter factor is VERY high. very. i've only recently begun seriously collecting and i'm already up to an inordinate amount of books laying around. this does not go over well with the roommate/life-partner. so why not toss 'em when i'm through, like so many magazines? well, they're collectibles, dammit. probably not worth much now, but in a few years, their value will definitely go up, and i may be holding a book of extremely rare value as we speak, but you never know. nature of the beast. new writers hit it big, so their issues get hot, blah blah blah. no one knew wolverine was gonna hit, but his first appearance goes for about a grand these days. spiderman's first appearance goes for 20 times that. insane, i tell you. anyway, all this speculating means more and more space in my house is taken up by my prospective treasure trove.
why, you may ask, do i do it, then?
a) it's fun... the roommate/life-partner says it's part of a larger-scale regression, and maybe it is, but so what? who among us, when it gets down to it, doesn't want to see the upcoming spider-man movie? well, i do, anyway, and i get to follow spidey's adventures on a much more frequent basis by reading about him in the funny-books. and a lot of other guys and gals.
in fact, comics are really movies on paper -- writers use cinematic terms when plotting the things, and most big-budget bang 'em up pictures owe more than they'd like to admit to the funny-book medium. so they're a blast to read. plus there's a whole soap opera-y thing about them that is fun, and who doesn't love a cliffhanger!
but here's the thing... super-hero books are one thing, but there're tons of other types of graphic literature out there, and the medium is really exciting. the art alone is fantastic, but as you read more books, you start to see the incredible craft a good book takes (down to where to place the dialogue ballons, and how to effectively change a panels mood with color), and these guys are pushing them out on a (nearly) monthly schedule. plus there are the daily strips in the papers, which, admittedly i haven't followed since bill watterson put down his pencil, but c & h, and doonesbury, and a number of other strips took a lot of skill. if you don't know calvin and hobbes, by the way, you are in for one of the biggest treats of your life. click the above watterson link immediately, and have fun!
b) i needed a hobby. i spend far too much aimless time in front of the computer these days (damn you internet!) and needed to get away from it. i have interests, and there are things i enjoy, but i needed a non-theater related something because my head was about ready to explode. plus, if get another dinosaur coloring book (i have been a hard-core dino fan for years), i'm going to slay the giver right then and there. maybe now people will sdtart giving me danger-girl action figures.
c) see collectible, above.
d) i am an organizational fiend. cds: organized by genre and artist. books, same thing. i have two filing cabinets at home for my personal crap, which is still not enough to effectively file. my internet bookmarks? totally organized. i was the first of my friends to get a handheld computer, which i still use primarily to help organize my life. the list goes on.
anyway, comics need to be kept in good condition, and if i ever want to reread them, (which i do periodically) i'll need an easy way to find whatever issue i want. so i built my own comics database with filemaker pro and now every weekend, i happily read, record, and bag and board the week's issues, which i then put in a funny little white cardboard box, sorted by title.
for those of you interested in what i'm currently regularly reading here's a list:
DC Comics (generally much more sanitized than anything else on the market, it's pretty much where superhero books got their start with Superman and Batman back in the late thirties.):
numerous Batman titles -- mainly Batman and Gotham Knights
Those last two are published under the imprint of America's Best Comics, run by Alan Moore, one of the best writers around. He's got a ton of great series, and wrote perhaps the greatest graphic novel of them all, Watchman
Marvel Comics (is the publisher from whom i buy most of my books... they really explode onto the scene in the sixties with Stan Lee, who created, among others: Spider-Man, the X-men, and the Fantastic Four. Marvel pretty much invented the reluctant super-hero, who was all tied up in the humanity of it, rather than blindly chasing off the baddies, like Superman over at DC):
numerous X titles -- New X-men, X-Force, Deadpool (soon to be relaunched as Agent X)
Alias not to be confused with the TV show, this Alias is concerned with an ex-hero turned detective in the Marvel Universe.
The Ultimates, a retelling of the Avengers in the newest Marvel Universe -- the Ultimate Universe, which was created a couple of years ago to try to get kids back into reading comics by updating the characters into the world of the 21st Century, rather than keeping them in their sixties era continuity. Comic-book continuity is a nightmare, by the way, because as i mentioned, the characters all exist in the same universe, so whatever happens to a character in one book, happenned to him in another, etc, which makes guest appearances (which are plentiful) a horrorshow for editors, etc. anyway, you may also notice that comic characters pretty much never age, certainly not the forty to sixty years we've been following them, because their time is compressed (c.f.: M*A*S*H, which ran for twelve seasons on TV, but took place during a war that only lasted three years). I try not to think about comic book continuity, because it makes my head hurt. if you just can't stop thinking about it, liken it to James Bond, who seems bloody comfortable in any era.
[Phew! Sidebar over, back to titles]
Crossgen, an upstart company that's only a couple of years old, made a commitment to fans never to ship late, and to consistently publish top quality work, with no ads breaking up the action. The Crossgen Universe itself is also very interesting.
I pick up a lot of mini-series and one-shots too, depending on the characters i follow. There are a few series i'm trying, and a few i'm ready to drop, and i like to experiment often. if you are interested in comics at all, it's a very easy hobby to get into. there are plenty of newsgroups on the net, and your local comic book store should be able to help quite alot. if you live in new york city... go to midtown comics, the biggest and best in the area. most comic shops are cool with letting you browse while in the store.
i didn't mean for this to be a public endorsement, buyt that's what it became, so have fun out there, true believers!