Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Quarterly Report: July-September 2006

During the first quarter of the A Comic A Day challenge, I have encountered every obstacle I imagined possible when I planned the project back in June. In the past three months, I have been without a new-to-me comic book to read (that upheld the restrictions I established in the beginning), I have suffered from an unstable Internet connection, I have had to work twelve-hour days with little time to read let alone post a comprehensive review, and most recently, I have lost an old friend. (Old is the operative word. Tom had one foot in the ground for a long time. Doesn't make his passing any less unfortunate.) A year is a long time. I told myself these things could happen. Thankfully, since all of them have, the next three months should pass with little incident, right? Right?

Looking at the long list of comic books I've read since July, I'm struggling to define this experience thus far. As I'd hoped, the comic books I've sampled represent the diversity of the medium, from era to artist to genre. Fortunately, A Comic A Day began on the cusp of the San Diego Comic Con, which fueled this project for an entire month. However, with the intention of experiencing as wide a variety as possible, I have found some local sources of graphic goodness that I wouldn't have thought of before. Pawn shops, hobby shops, and antique stores have been reliable sources for obscure material in a pinch, especially as I venture into themed reviews, like this month's appropriate series of posts re: horror/supernatural comics. Of course, living in Southern California is an advantage in itself; I can't ride my bike without running over somebody's demo tape. Pop culture is celebrated here. If I lived in Oklahoma, who knows if I'd find such a selection?

Further, since A Comic A Day is an exercise in artistic interaction, I've decided that desperation is at the core of quality comic book creating. Up and coming artists are desperate to create something new, while established artists, most likely working on equally established titles or characters, are desperate to do something new, lest their critics accuse them of rehashing past stories, styles, and concepts. Perusing my list of entries, Virgin Comics, God the Dyslexic Dog, and Don't Eat the Electric Sheep are excellent examples of artists mining fresh concepts to produce a different kind of comic book, either culturally, spiritually, or existentially, respectively in these cases. On the other hand, issues like Superman #300, Zot! #29, and Invincible #1 are decent attempts at reestablishing the superhero as a relevant paradigm in fiction. Both categories boast their hits and misses, and I've already read them all. (I'm looking at you, Captain Paragon.) The question is, is art "good enough" as an attempt, or a successful effort?

The answer to that question defines the concept of art itself. Dim-witted Darryl may not have been my cup of tea, but I'm sure someone somewhere has fanatically collected every issue and is eagerly anticipating new material, if that series is still on the shelves today. What I look for in a comic book, what connects with me on a literary and/or artistic level, isn't going be in everyone else's tastes. Moreover, I may recognize a comic book as a legitimate effort, but an entertaining read doesn't always entail a commitment to a title. Sometimes, a glimpse is all we need. Who knows if Mona Lisa had a decent body? It's that smile we remember. It was good enough.

Most importantly, I'm enjoying this experience, and I'm grateful that some of these comic books that otherwise I never would have experienced have now made their way into my permanent collection. I've also been appreciative of the feedback I've received, particularly from some of the creators behind the books I've discovered. Their comments have put a face to a name and serve as a reminder that every comic book begins as an idea . . . just like this project did over three months ago. Who knows what the next three months will bring? Who knows what challenges will befall the A Comic A Day challenge? In anticipation, I'll quote (or at least paraphrase, since I don't have it here in front of me) the last line from the first comic book I read this quarter, Ghostbusters #4: "Bring 'em on."

You said it, Ray.

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