Trouble with Comics, Scrampance


"Scrampance," a former colleague once told me, was her mother’s word for what was for dinner when the cupboards were nearly bare and you were down to nearly nothing.

Tom Spurgeon’s latest Five for Friday asks, essentially, what are the last five comics buying impulses you would give up? In other words, if you had just about lost all interest in comics, what would be the last five habits you would be holding on to? I didn’t send in any responses, because I was quite sure I am already down to less than five.

My current pull list of floppies (that is to say, whatever is left of the traditional comic book) is Daredevil (for Mark Waid’s writing), Spider-Man (I hated the One More Day reboot, but I have to admit Dan Slott’s writing a character I can actually recognize as Spider-Man, unlike most people who’ve written the character in the past 15 years), Fatale/Criminal/Incognito (because I will buy anything Brubaker and Phillips create together), Star Trek (because it’s stories I recognize as Star Trek and it feeds the hunger for more left in the wake of the 2009 movie), and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

LOEG is written by Alan Moore. The fact is that Moore is the best writer to work in comics in my lifetime, probably ever, and his work has never let me down, with the exception of a couple of Image miniseries that I don’t think he’d mind my not having enjoyed. But the recent anti-Moore tsunami on the part of comics fandom is a disgrace, and has even affected how I view comics as a whole. As an objective fact, it is wrong that DC went ahead with Before Watchmen, and the failure of the market to reject it utterly has left me more disgusted with comics as a whole than I have ever felt in about 40 years of reading them. Knowing that comic shops are carrying Before Watchmen makes me not want to step into one. Knowing readers are buying it makes me want to not ever have any contact with those people at all. Actually seeing the comics on the racks requires an enormous force of will not to pull out a lighter and set them on fire. 

So my comics buying impulses are down to these: Buy anything by Brubaker/Phillips; buy anything reprinting EC work by Harvey Kurtzman, Bernard Krigstein or Wallace Wood; buy anything by Alan Moore.

Pretty much anything else I am reading now is subject to whim. I know creative changes or editorial fuckery could have me cutting Daredevil or Amazing Spider-Man from my pull list tomorrow. As much as I am enjoying them now, we’re still talking about comic books. Creative changes and editorial fuckery are as common as days that end in the letter “Y.”

This isn’t to say I won’t buy any comics in the future that don’t quite fit these criteria; there are a few critics I trust implicitly who could easily convince me I am missing out on something I would like. But after 40 years of reading comic books, my buying impulses these days are very, very mercurial. I am not at all interested in the digital strategies publishers are exploring, and I am not much interested in mail-order. Maybe it’s the contrarian in me, but in my world comic book stores should have rack copies of every new release, and I don’t and won’t go to the bother of pre-ordering everything anymore. I tried that model, and frankly, fuck it. There are a few things on my pull list, but for the foreseeable future I won’t be adding anything new to my regular purchases unless I find it first on the rack of some comic shop smart enough to have comics on the rack for people to browse. I like the thrill of the hunt. I like flipping through a book until I know for sure if it’s destined to come home with me or stay behind on the stands for someone else to buy. I don’t like flipping through Previews every month (it literally gave me a headache every time I did it, and I did it for years, like a fucking fool), and I don’t much care for hunting for stuff after-the-fact on eBay or Amazon, although I will and have done just that, because it’s less aggravating than the Previews pre-ordering bullshit.

I realize I am way, way off the reservation on this. There may not even be one other person who reads this who feels as I do. But after 40 years of reading comics and over 25 years of almost always having a regular pull list somewhere, I am sick to death of the whole rat race. I just want a few good comics that entertain and fascinate me, and I want them on my goddamned terms.

So when someone as smart and canny as Tom Spurgeon asks what my final five comics buying strategies are, I have to honestly admit I’m down to fewer than five. I’m nearly down to scrampance. I don’t necessarily like it this way, but as Walter Cronkite said for many, many years, “That’s the way it is.” 

Alan David Doane 

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