THIS IS THE BEST COMIC BOOK ON THE STANDS RIGHT NOW. IF YOU ARE NOT READING IT YOU ARE CHEATING YOURSELF.
Okay, now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, on to meaningful exchange…
I’m returning to Chicago in a few weeks for a wedding. I love going home again, especially in Autumn (we don’t get Autumn out here in Los Angeles. Shit, we don’t even get rain. No burning leaves or changing colors or chilly winds carrying the living season’s final, electric breaths.
Just status quo. I don’t miss winter, but the others, yeah.
Anyway, one of the two wonderful people to be betroved has been my dealer for years. It is the number one drug that, when I lived in town, kept me frequenting his den of debauchery EVERY Friday morning (read: afternoon) without fail. It is the drug I have been addicted to for as long as I can remember.
I am, of course, speaking of my weekly comic book habit.
Now, since moving to LA I have become a man without a country so to speak, a man without a comic shop to be literal. You might think it would be easy to find a shop in a market this big, but saddenly, no. But then I have a pretty high bar for comic shops. They have to fit with my personality.
How do they do this?
A comic shop should be more than just a place you buy comics. It should be a place where you can talk, exchange theories and predictions about the books you read, swap CD’s, DVD’s, whatever. It should be a place where if a born again Christian tries to tell you not to read Hellblazer because it’s about the devil you can tell him to get fucked.
I have not found any shops with which this level of loyalty or comradery has been present in LA.
Nothing holds a candle to my Amazing Fantasy in Tinley Park, IL.
I tried Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash and was unimpressed. Nice for an occasional visit, but not as a regular. A place closer to me somehow combines wrestling with comics. I don’t even want to consider that. I tried a place in nearby Torrance (Dirk Diggler’s hometown) but, and I want to be clear here, I do not feel a comic book store should have a RPG tournament raging over the majority of their of their square footage via enormous card tables like you haven’t seen since in your Aunt’s basement in 1985. And it should definitely not have this ALL THE FUCKING TIME. If I go into a comic shop, I want to talk with the folks behind the counter. I want them to recommend stuff to me and I want to recommend stuff to them. I want to be able to stand around and talk about how fucking awesome the Corinthian from Neil Gaimen’s Sandman was, not listen to a bunch of thirty years old boasting over their defeat of a thirteen year old’s Sword of Scabies, or whatever the fuck those people talk about*.
So anyway, long story short, it took about a year of trying to find a new dealer before I decided to start having my Chicago dealer mail me my shit.
Once a week became once a month. It’s not easy. Withdrawal sets in on occasion, but I manage.
One of the things that has happened at my old comic shop since I’ve moved is my dealer helped start a ‘book club’, wherein once a month a bunch of the customers and employees get together at a local pizza place**, discuss a particular comic and get drunk. Sound like heaven to you? Does to me.
So when I come in, directly after their rehearsal dinner, my good friends are going to bring me to the book club. You know what the topic this month, October, is?
The Walking Dead.
I grew up reading comics and I’m happy to say they have aged with me. As my tastes changed from the X-type stuff*** and I became more and more serious about what I read, there has always been a reigning champ – a book that is the highlight of the month. For the course of its run in the 90’s it was Preacher. Later it was, Grant Morrison’s New X-men. Walking Dead took over somewhere after that. This is now the book that, when I get it, everything stops, and I do mean EVERYTHING.
Much like a good Zombie film (the best of the best probably being George A. Romero’s first three Dead movies) Kirkman’s story is more the story of the people who have survived and how they’re coping with the terror, frustration and totally alien situation, rather than being a highlight on monsters and gore (although that’s there too!!!). The drama is human and the characters (the ones that survive) are amazingly indepth – real, evolving people with the same hopes and fears as us. Finally, it is the sheer brutal starkness of Kirkman’s survive-or-die terrain these characters occupy from month to month that cinchs The Walking Dead’s breathtaking and mammothly addictive vision as a reason to get up in the morning.
Really, if you haven’t read this book, buy the first trade, you will not be disappointed.
* This from a guy who has just spent a paragraph talking about standing around and talking about comic books! I can hear the cries in the distance now – douche bag!!!
** If only I could have someone mail me Chicago pizza once a month!!!
*** Although I will still read them depending on whose writing them. That’s the secret of course – follow the writers not the characters.