Place in the Sun

I dubbed the last blog entry I did for my Amazon Author’s Page “Sounding Grumpy …?”; I hope the tone of this piece doesn’t sound like the same title should apply. My goal is to sound a reflective rather than a curmudgeonly note…

…But I have a handful of good friends who have stood by me for more than three decades, and comics were the first (but not only) common bond between us. When discussing modern comics, this group is often lukewarm in its reactions. Some of that reaction is undoubtedly due to the fact that as a group of comics readers, we’ve Been There, Done That where the best-known, “iconic” characters are concerned. A galactic threat sweeping across an entire universe? In our time we must have read at least a hundred of those. A long-running team of characters disbanding, or being reconstituted with an all-new lineup? Hey, we were all on hand for Wein/Cockrum’s Giant-Size X-Men # 1; we know how that game is played. I understand there is a certain amount of eye-rolling going on at the death of the latest Bat-character to serve as Robin—our rule of thumb used to be, “In comics, no one stays dead except Uncle Ben and Bucky.” Then they brought back Bucky, and we realized all bets were off…

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So nowadays it’s really tough for most new comics stories to give my social set that “Wow!” factor. I believe changes in the business have also underwhelmed the group, “decompressed” storytelling foremost among them. One of our wits wryly noted, “Today, ‘The Galactus Trilogy’ would run twelve issues.” If the line is funny, it’s partly because it contains more than a kernel of truth.

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Time passes, love waxes and wanes—it’s the way of all things. So my comics-reading pals have faced the question: what does one do when the fires of enjoyment have died down to flickering embers? It would be easy to become the equivalent of the grumpy old neighbor on the front stoop, yelling at the bratty kids to stop playing on the lawn and tearing up his azalea bushes. Fortunately, most of my friends took the more rewarding path of tossing fresh wood onto the fire to rekindle the blaze.

And several Library of American Comics releases have served that purpose. For one friend it’s been previously-unreprinted adventures of Little Orphan Annie and the whimsy of King Aroo. For another it’s the two-fisted adventure of Steve Canyon and Secret Agent Corrigan, plus the rapid-fire hijinx in Li’l Abner. For still another it’s Bob Montana’s Archie. For those in the group who lean more toward art-analysis than toward story, the Caniff artbook and chockfull-examinations of the careers of Noel Sickles and Alex Toth have been right up their alley. And one of my friends found it as simple as, “In a LOAC book, when a character like Raven Sherman or The Brow dies, I know it’s capital-D Death, with no mystical/scientific reincarnation, clones, or mind-transference involved.”

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All of which is not to dump on those who are enraptured by the latest brain-blasting adventures of the Big Name action heroes we all recognize on sight—my generation of comics readers had their heyday, eagerly awaiting each new issue of McGregor’s Black Panther or the Englehart/RogersDetective Comics, and we’d be pretty hypocritical (and thoroughly unsuccessful) if we tried to deny today’s youth their turn in the sun. The point of this rambling, I suppose, is that comics is and for much of its existence has always been a many and varied medium; when old enthusiasms wane, there are always new vistas to explore, impressive talents, both young and old, to discover (or re-discover).

Yet in this one very narrow case, it’s gratifying to know that LOAC books have helped sustain enthusiasm in a slice of the comics readership that means one heckuva lot to me.

I take it as a sign we must be doing something right…

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