Where does the tine go?

A column article by: Regie Rigby

A friend of mine who at the time was rather centrally involved in the world of UK comics and comics fandom once caused something of a kerfuffle on an e-mail list when he responded to the question “do you keep up with everything that’s going on in Marvel comics?” with the answer “No”. When challenged he elaborated with “I don’t understand how anyone can afford it.” I know how he felt. You see, while affording comics isn’t much of an issue for me these days* I still haven’t actually read one in over a week – and that was just one. My “to read” pile is now well over three feet high** and has started to develop a life of its own.*** No, clearly my issue isn’t lack of funds. It’s lack of time. How in the name of panelology does anybody ever find the time to sit down and read all of the batbooks that come out in a month? And that supposes that those are the only books you want to read. What if you’re a fan of both Batman and Spider-Man? What if you like the X-Men too? What happens is that you buy them all, don’t have time to read them, and so stack them like aircraft in an air traffic controller’s holding pattern intending to read them all in the right order just as soon as you get chance. Then the pile falls over and you know you’re going to have to put them all back in order before you can follow the arc, and you really can’t be bothered so you put the now disordered pile on one side to deal with later, and so it goes on. I’ve racked up over a years worth of Batbooks in this way, and I’ve become so disconnected with Spider-Man that I’ve just given up, stopped buying it and am flogging off my entire collection. I just can’t be bothered with it anymore. So the question is, am I unusual? If I’m not, does this mean that there are literally hundreds of thousands of comics bought every month that are simply left unread, languishing in increasingly tatty piles in corners all over the world, waiting for somebody to come along and read them? And if I am, what the hell is it that I’m doing that takes up all the time? I mean, I’m not much of a social butterfly, it’s not as though I’m out every night ‘till the wee small hours partying like it’s 1999 or anything. And OK, so I have a job that requires me to put in rather a lot of time at home – but that hardly makes me unusual – and if you don’t have a job because you’re still at school, well, I know you’re in the same boat with homework because I’m responsible for setting some of it. So, the question remains. Where does all my time go? What is it that prevents me from reading all of the comics that are waiting patiently for my attention. More to the point is it time to ask why I’m not making time to read my comics? I used to. Back in the day, when I was at University I generally had a “to read” pile for as long as it took me to get from the comic shop to my house. In fact, since that trip was made by train, it often didn’t even last that long. In spite of all the things people say about students, I didn’t have any more time then than I do now – indeed I very possibly had less. Not only did I have my studies to attend to**** but I also had a job that took forty plus hours of my week, mostly at night, which is the time I like to read. So, perhaps the problem isn’t my lack of time. Perhaps I’m just not as interested in comics anymore. Yes, I know. Scary thought, isn’t it? But the truth is, so many of the comics I used to regard as utterly essential now struggle to retain my attention. When I think about it the reason I didn’t read Spider-Man for so long is that I really just couldn’t be bothered. I really couldn’t. Now, I suspect, gentle reader, that you’re having one of two reactions to that statement.***** Some of you will be nodding it a “yeah, I can’t be arsed either” kind of way, and some of you will be utterly perplexed, thinking “how can you not care?!”. But the thing is, I really don’t. So it’s a “Brand New Day” ™******. So Peter Parker and Mary Jane aren’t married anymore. So what? I don’t know whether it’s me, becoming more jaded as I get older, or whether there’s something less engaging in the writing. I used to like Peter and MJ. In fact, I rather think I still do – at least I like the Peter and MJ I used to read about. The “Peter and MJ” currently portrayed in the comics aren’t my Peter and MJ. I don’t quite know what’s different about the two impostors – but for me, they’re not right. Younger readers would probably have the same reaction to my Peter and MJ, were they to peruse the issues from the eighties that have survived my little cull. And I guess that’s it. Spider-Man isn’t aimed at me anymore. It’s aimed at people younger than me, and I just need to get used to it, move on, and find some more comics that are aimed at me. Because, in spite of the ever expanding height of that pile, there are some titles that don’t languish there. Fables and Jack of Fables always get a reading on the day I pick them up. So does Warren Ellis’s Doktor Sleepless and Gravel. I never leave an issue of Usagi Yojimbo unattended, nor does Hellblazer. This should tell me something. I’ve moved on. Not “moved on, doesn’t like comics anymore”, but “moved on, doesn’t like the same old comics anymore. This of course means that there is no point continuing to buy those old titles that I remember from my youth, and if I continue to do so out of habit and sentimentality I’m just wasting my time and money. Somehow though, knowing that doesn’t make all that much difference. I had six months worth of unread copies of Amazing Spider-Man before I bit the bullet and asked my comics pusher to take it off my pull list – and as previously mentioned, by backlog of Batbooks goes back a lot further, and they remain firmly entrenched. Like so many comics readers, I am a sentimental creature of habit, and the fact that I know I’m wasting my time and money doesn’t seem to make any difference. How about you? What are the comics that you can’t be bothered with, but can’t quite bring yourself to give up? Or am I alone in this? Let me know. *After all, who really needs to eat? **At least it would be if it genuinely was just one pile. There are so many comics in it now that the pile keeps falling over and has therefore become several piles spread over most of the rooms in my house, much to the irritation of my wife. ***No, really. There are comics in there I don’t remember buying. I think they might be breeding… ****Don’t laugh. I really did work hard at Uni. *****Well, there could be a third of “Huh?” from those who don’t even know what I’m talking about, but I suspect that those who don’t know what I’m talking about stopped reading some time ago… ******Actually, I don’t think they ever did ™ the phrase “Brand New Day”, but it strikes me as the sort of thing they would do.

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