Saturday, July 12, 2003

i must be strong

I've decided to finally give up comics - in pamphlet (periodical) form - and instead just get my fix with the trades and original graphic novels.

The most difficult thing to shake the new comics conditioning that has practically become part and parcel of my genetic make-up (I hope it doesn't pass on to Sage). I've been a comic book addict for years, way before anyone thought of compiling stories in a reasonable manner, price and timetable. (In fact, for the longest time, the only compilations were the few books in the vein of Sons of Origins and the only OGNs were the oversized things like Superman vs. Ali). Marvel and DC had no true blue trade reprint program, and all the independents were locked in pamphlet form, and the mini-series was an untried concept (I was there when the very first one, Contest of Champions, was released in its 3-issue glory).

I'd line up every new comic day at Krishareth, Filbar's or ComicQuest at the old Padilla Aracade at Greenhills. I was at La Salle during Grade School and saved up my allowance to buy my comics. Believe it or not, a hundred bucks could buy almost 10 comics at that time.

I never questioned the periodical nature of comics. It was simply the way things were. And since I collected multiple titles that were released during different weeks, I'd be at the stores at least once a week. Actually, more than once a week, since I was also busily devouring back issues (I remember my quest to get all the pieces of the Dark Phoenix Saga - only to loose a key issue to Aureus Solito, who became a playwright too, among other things. It was only in Seattle, years later, that I'd get X-Men #138).

But comics had become part of my routine, like eating and breathing. Any spare money I got went to comics - my regular monthlies or bi-monthlies and all the back issues I wanted.

Even as I entered college, the habit was still with me. My collection would shrink or grow depending on the state of my finances, but even when I was desperately poor (reduced to having my girlfriend pay for my lunch) there was always some way to get new comics.

After college, work gave me more disposable income and you can guess where some of it went. ComicQuest became so much a part of my life that I found my best friend there, and his parents became my god-parents when I got married. I even managed the Megamall store when it first opened (I remember working during Christmas Eve).

When I worked abroad I quickly pinpointed where the comic stores where and continued my purchases - though by that time I had a discernable preference for trades.

And so on until this week's new comics day. I looked at the pile I automatically made and began to strip issues away with a heavy heart. I ended up with two trades and my final issue of JSA.

So why am I doing this?

1. It doesn't make sense anymore to buy periodicals. Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, and all the other publishers have fantastic trade programs. In Marvel's case, for example, the final issue of a story arc would not even be cold when the trade collection comes out. The general tendency of these companies' editorial policy to create stories that can be collected. Unlike before where the vast majority of comics where stand-alones or two-parters (multi-issue stories were rare), if you pick up a random comic book chances are you'll have the middle part of a long story. And it doesn't read well by itself, needing the full context of its companions to make sense.

2. TPBs look great on the bookshelves, unlike comics that must be stored in boxes. Apart from display value, having TPBs on the shelf allow easier access. Rediscovery and rereading are such pleasures.

3. TPBs last longer because of the perfect binding, and you get the sense that you are reading something of gravity (despite the subject matter). The weight and heft are lovely.

4. TPBs look like books and are treated as books. This is important because you can't get just any comic title in bookstores like Fully Booked, but you do have a choice from the plethora of trades in stock.

5. Some works are only available in TPBs, like much manga (Akira, Battle Royale, early Blade of the Immortal).

So what am I giving up?

Only the "freshness" of new stories as they come out. But really, if I need to know what's going on in any regular title, there are tons of sites on the internet to let me know.

But having said all that and reasoned it all out, I can't help but feel a little sad. Like I'm willingly giving up part of my childhood, something I'd held on to for years.

It also brings into focus the publishing strategy of Kestrel (yes, most likely it will have to collections, which are expensive to produce locally, or stand-alone issues - no more multi-part stories like The Lost).

So, in a way, it is goodbye to comics. I just hope I can rise above the weekly temptation (I do hangout in a comic store, for heaven's sake).

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