53 Wednesdays - Column Zero

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"Zippy, are you trying to mess with my mind and put me into a very far-out head space?"
"You can be anything you want this time around, Zerbina!"

-Zerbina & Zippy,
The Zippy Annual No. 1

Column Zero
December 31, 2002

Hello folks, and welcome to the prequel of my new column, '53 Wednesdays'. This column will be a week-by-week account of my comic book reading experiences. Each week, I will explore a different aspect, topic, method, and genre of reading comic books. Also, I'll note how the changes in my personal life affect my reading, and vice versa.

First, give credit where credit's due. I got the idea for this series while reading "A Year at the Movies" by Kevin Murphy. Murphy spent 10 years writing and performing on the TV show, "Mystery Science Theater 3000". He spent 2001 watching at least one movie a day in a theater somewhere in the world. Along the way, he rediscovered his love of movies, found out where the best new filmmakers are coming from, mused on America's consumer culture, and met a skinny naked Laplander who might have been Santa Claus.

I hope that my column will achieve similar results, (but without the naked Santa Claus). Lately, I've found myself reading comics mechanically. Every Wednesday, I go to the shop, come home, sit down, and read everything in one sitting. From 'Daredevil' to 'Forge' to 'X-Treme X-Men', and any back issues I picked up. I'm beginning to wonder if I'm truly enjoying what I read, or if I'm just reading comics to escape reality.

Over the course of the next year, I will examine how I read in addition to what I read. I'll read books of every genre, from super-heroes to mystery, horror to humor. I'll dedicate weeks to specific publishers and talents. I'll read books from big publishers, small publishers, and independent self-publishers. I'll read new comics, old comics, mini-comics, on-line comics, strips, zines, graphic novels, TPB's, manga, anthologies, and, if there's still time, 'Hawkman'.

I'll read books in a variety of public and private environments trying to determine the best place and way to read. I'll try to introduce someone to comics for the first time. I'll even examine movies and TV shows based on comics, or popular with comic readers. I'll hang around a shop on Free Comic Book Day 2 and ask people what they read. God willing, I'll spend a week working in a comic shop to learn how retailers influence what we read. Finally, I'll go an entire week without reading any comics whatsoever.

In addition to comics, I'll also mention the changes in my personal life. Currently, I'm 25 years old, unemployed, and living with my father. I'm starting my job search over again by getting part-time work in retail while looking for something in electrical/electronics engineering. (Job offers and leads greatly appreciated.) One of the questions I hope to answer this year is, "Will the changes in my lifestyle change my tastes in comics?" This column will record my growth and change as a person over the coming year, as well as a comic book reader.

Every week, I'll list the comics and comic-related material I've read. Book that came out that week will get quick, 2-5 line reviews and bullet ratings. Older material will not be rated, except in special circumstances. To give you some idea of what the ratings mean to me, here's a handy list:

Buy this right now! An absolute must have!
Good enough to buy, but not right away. Can wait for trade collection.
You get your money's worth, and that's it. Usually not for anyone except long-time readers of this series, character, talent, etc.
Even long-time fans will be disappointed. If you feel you must read this, read it in the store, or borrow it from some poor bastard who bought it.
Take every copy off the store shelf, pile them on the floor, and set them on fire. Tell the clerk, "You're welcome", then walk away.

I'll also begin every column with a quote from a comic I read during the past week. The quote could be related to that week's topic, or just something odd that stuck out. This week's quote came from a collection of Zippy the Pinhead strips, proving that in my eyes anything with pictures and word balloons is considered a comic.

I also want to make this clear: I will not be trying to write, draw, or publish a comic myself. Nor do I plan to work for anyone who does. This series is about the reading of comics, not their creation. If you want to read about the struggles of an aspiring writer trying to get notices, go read Brandon Thomas, secret leader of hip-hop culture. (Who do you think invented the phrase "new hotness"?)

Finally, a quick note about time: Each column covers books I read from Wednesday to Tuesday night, when the column is written. But new columns are posted every Saturday. So don't be surprised if I talk about "last week's" books, instead of "this week's" books. And don't send me any complaints about it either.

That should give you some idea of what I'm trying to do. Next week, my official first column, a detailed account of my weekly trip to the store, and why Pittsburgh is the worst place to be a comics fan.


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