Thursday, February 24, 2011

Quarter Bin #4 "Ganthet's Tale"

This week we take a radical departure from our usual strolls down Thousand Comic Book Lane and examine a single title, GREEN LANTERN: GANTHET’S TALE.

Now, one of the things I still lament about the return of Hal Jordan and the old familiar status quo (to a certain extent) is that it undid all the things that had come to make the Green Lantern mythology my own during the 1993-1999 period, the first time I could call myself a regular and true comics reader. Ron Marz had been given the task of reshaping the mythos, and after getting Jordan out of the way (at this point I should emphasize how much I appreciated everything that was done with the character in the years that followed, including the genius way Geoff Johns wrote Hal out of this hole, in a way that is still paying dividends to this day), he introduced a new Green Lantern for a new era, Kyle Rayner.

After Hal’s rampage, the Green Lantern Corps had been completely decimated, much as the Jedi were after Anakin Skywalker finally became Darth Vader in ‘Revenge of the Sith’ (a movie that followed “Emerald Twilight” by a decade…not that Star Wars buffs were surprised to see that story lead to such grizzly results). For intents and purposes, there were no more Green Lanterns left. The same could be said for the Guardians of the Universe, the little blue men who inhabited Oa, the center of everything (both the lore of this franchise and that of the DC universe in general). Except one Guardian still stood. His name was Ganthet. This unlikely survivor was responsible for giving Kyle his ring, and guided him along (what else was he supposed to do?) the first hesitant steps toward his heroic career, pragmatic, realistic, and more than a few times a little frantic that Kyle Rayner of all people was supposed to carry the noble tradition and heritage and legacy of the Corps. I came to admire Ganthet’s presence a great deal. I hadn’t read many Green Lantern comics prior to Hal’s meltdown (though I was infinitely familiar with his history), so I didn’t care that Ganthet, like Kyle, now alone carried on where multitudes had once existed.

Ganthet, of course, survived the big revival in fine form, and now stands as an actual member of the Corps, the only Guardian to ever claim such an honor (as he sees it), co-starring in GREEN LANTERN CORPS, ensuring that a new generation of readers feels as warm and fuzzy about him as I did fifteen years earlier. And just how did Ganthet actually get his start? How did he originally warrant the distinction of standing out in a crowd of other midgets?

Well, you almost wouldn’t believe it now. No, really, it almost sounds like a joke. To anyone currently reading GREEN LANTERN, seriously, you almost wouldn’t even recognize him. GANTHET’S TALE is actually the story of debunking the famous tale of Krona, the ancestral Guardian who famously created the multiverse by peering in on the moment of the Big Bang. Krona has, of course, returned recently, the latest of the big revelations concerning the spectral avatars and their attendant corps that Johns has been working since REBIRTH.

The prestige format graphic novel was released in 1992, only a handful of years before Ganthet would gain prominence in a more significant way. Written by acclaimed sci-fi novelist Larry Niven (perhaps one of the last time it was automatically assumed such a writer could bring instant acclaim and legitimacy to a project, something fans of the original Star Trek series still lament, but something that Tad Williams only a few years ago learned simply isn’t the case anymore), it was perhaps the only real comparable experience to the efforts of Johns in that era, when Hal had become such a routine presence that writers rarely exhibited much ambition in his comics. Oh irony of ironies!

Niven bends over backwards to explain how Krona’s actions couldn’t possibly have resulted in the awful consequences that had been attributed to them, twisting this way and that, a mind-boggling display of apparent hard science fiction that really didn’t have much relevance to Green Lantern material (try and follow it now, and even Geoff Johns haters will be kissing his feet in hasty apologies to everything they have ever said about him). In fact, it’s clear that even though “Ganthet” is in the title, “Krona” would have been the more appropriate choice. But the funny thing is, Niven breaks with tradition in a far more significant degree by challenging convention and allowing a Guardian to interact so directly in Green Lantern’s adventures. That’s it, that’s the original significance of Ganthet. Just that he dared to interfere, that Niven did something unexpected, played with the actual mythology of Green Lantern lore. That’s his true lasting impact, and in that way, it’s completely fitting that Ganthet has stuck around since, and seems to have played a hand in every significant development since.

It just so happens that, continuity-wise, GANTHET’S TALE has otherwise proven to be complete hooey. For years I read about or heard it referenced in a way that seemed to rival DARK KNIGHT RETURNS, that if Hal Jordan ever had an equivalent story, this was it, the one that was bigger than him, that had to be read, but wasn’t necessarily part of the canon. Well, now, that’s a little more literal than ever. Still, it deserves another look because it truly has grown relevant. That’s John Byrne on art, by the way, perhaps the last piece of important work he did with DC.

It took me years to finally read GANTHET’S TALE, and eventually, I just ordered it along with a rush of other back issues, an inexpensive oddity and curiosity I just had to finally have my hands on. It was worth the wait, all considered.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Escape Velocity

Okay, so you’ve already slogged through my so-called “Comic Book Memoir,” so you know that I have technically quit the business of reading comics. What further relevance can I have for those who want to read about new comics? For starters, I have not given up completely, even though it’s financially unfeasible to continue the habit as I’ve have pursued it throughout my regular experience. I will continue to read, in altered ways, in a more limited capacity. For instance, I will become the very monster I had once vowed to fight with my life. I will “wait for the collections.” I also work at a bookstore, so I’ve got a limited selection of first-run issues still available. I’ve got DC represented pretty well there, GREEN LANTERN, GREEN LANTERN CORPS, THE FLASH. (Okay, so I’ve got Geoff Johns pretty well represented.) ACTION COMICS is another, which I’m thrilled about, because I love what Paul Cornell has been doing, and that big anniversary issue is coming up. I can still keep tabs on Tony Daniel’s BATMAN (which is a bestseller there, so I need to be fleet of foot, if I want to read it, if not buy it). There are a few others, and of course some that aren’t DC.

But that’s the future, that’s potential and possibility. Back in the present, I’ve made a new vow, and so far so good. I haven’t gotten a comic book in over a week (woo!), whether in a store or via a shipment from Midtown. The subject then, for this week is my last-for-now trip to a store, Escape Velocity in downtown Colorado Springs. I made it in the full knowledge and after canceling all my subscriptions with Midtown. Though I still had one final shipment awaiting me, this was technically how my comics habit came to an end.

I should backtrack a little. I can’t completely acknowledge my motivations for this decision without mentioning the inciting incident. I live in an apartment. I never truly appreciated the differences in postal service from carrier to carrier until I moved to Colorado Springs. I had tremendous experiences, growing up in Maine and in Burlington, MA, with postal carriers, met some really good ones, even had some really good relationships and even friendships with them over the years. When I moved into this particular apartment, however, and started depending on Midtown to read comics, I crossed over the postal matrix, and finally experienced the flipside. Not all carriers are created equal. Unfortunately, it seems most of the carriers here come from the Dark Side. Still, not to dwell too much on the negative, since it was one of Midtown’s random decisions to ship with UPS that allowed some hooligan to steal the package mere hours before I could have taken it into my door that really concluded the series of unfortunate events that seem to have gone hand-in-hand with packages and this apartment, that finally convinced me that peace of mind and security were more important than spending money I did not technically have. So, thank you, hapless carriers, hooligans, and assorted other rogues. Your apathy and devilry helped me do the right thing.

Anyway, the comics I will be writing about this week come from that fateful trip to Escape Velocity, and they all come from either the third week of January or the first week of February, 2011, the former replacing the essentials from that lost package, and the latter representing the fact that I made the trip on a Wednesday (it was both convenient and appropriate).

In many ways, this is the title I most regret not being able to follow, because there are really only a handful of issues left, and I was really enjoying it. As a huge fan of 52, which quickly became one of my all-time favorites, not because of the weekly gimmick, but because the four writers (Grant Morrison, Geoff Johns, Mark Waid, and Greg Rucka) proved why they were and are some of the top writers working in comics today, I had followed DC’s subsequent efforts at successor projects. COUNTDOWN was the closest until BRIGHTEST DAY (and probably reads better in collections, where it more appropriately takes on the air of a quasi-event, an old-school one, anyway, and maybe that’s why so many current fans found it hard to enjoy). Johns and Pete Tomasi have absorbed the lessons well, and have made BRIGHEST DAY a mix of the two, following semi-obscure characters (which both previous books did) as they embarked on extremely personal quests (which 52 did) that have wide-ranging implications elsewhere (which COUNTDOWN did better; Booster Gold rediscovering the multiverse is not the same as the Fourth World smackdown). These two particular issues help to point out the further direction of the book, especially the surprising act of killing off both Hawkman and Hawkwoman, well in advance of the conclusion (an act similar to the death of Osiris; while lacking in visual impact, infinitely more significant). Then Aquaman finally gets a huge moment, probably the first huge moment he’s ever gotten, building on a lot of his lore, and suggesting that there’s always been more potential in this character than any writer seems to have ever bothered. I would suggest anyone who hasn’t been reading this book to either start now, or join me later in the collections.

CHARMED #5 (Zenescope)
This is a book I’ve been reading/buying partly because I’ve been passing it on to my sister, who’s a huge fan of the TV series. This issue seems to bring about a premature end to the Source arc that helped launch the comic, but in fact plays right into further developments. My sister said she wonders how this would have played out on television. I figure the arc would have been a single episode, and that’s probably it would make most sense. Of course, in comics, this represents pretty much a collected edition (I can’t call it a trade paperback, because there’s almost as strong a push these days for hardcovers), which is a strange way to equate the material covered in TV and comic book formats. But let’s move on, shall we?

A comic book that’s basically supposed to be a promotional gimmick has absolutely no right to be this good. From Tony Bedard and Marv Wolfman (with art this issue by Howard Porter) comes an extraordinarily compelling story to launch the series about how Lex Luthor comes to regret making a bargain with Brainiac, both as he sets the deal up and then prepares to pay for it, after they’ve actually won. Clearly a story that could not be told in regular continuity, and is all the better for it. Seriously, you need to read this one.

I have no idea why this book has such low readership, and apparently even this landmark issue was virtually ignored, because it has, since the original mini-series, been among my absolute favorites, a psychological thriller that has followed Chuckles’ efforts to explore the mysteries of Cobra, most of the time tracking the activities of the Paoli brothers, Tomax and Xamot. Well, this is the big climax (which I’m hugely grateful to have been able to recover), in which Chuckles finally plays his hand, and assassinates Cobra Commander, an event so unprecedented that IDW will actually (and not just by necessity) be reshaping its whole slate of G.I. Joe books around. Christos Gage, who has been helping shape this book from the beginning, will be moving on, but Mike Costa, the best G.I. Joe writer since Mark Powers (who worked over at DDP; IDW got the rights to the franchise, and trust me, we lost the other great G.I. Joe book of the modern era) will continue on.

Tony Bedard also works his magic here. Bedard has quickly become one of the best writers working in comics today; this may be the platform where he is finally noticed. Since taking over from Pete Tomasi, he has been writing one huge event after another, first rewriting the Alpha Lanterns, and now summoning the Qwardians back into Green Lantern lore, with the Weaponer, who forged Sinestro’s original yellow ring, becoming a formidable adversary, and probably the only guy besides Hal Jordan capable of provoking him. This is the kind of work Tomasi consistently aspired to in the book, but only really reached when some big event necessitated a crossover. Bedard can’t seem to help himself.

IRON MAN #500 (Marvel)
I’m not a regular reader of this book and/or character, but I’d heard enough intriguing things about Matt Fractions’s plans for this issue that I had to read it. Unfortunately, it seems to fall into the same trap so many other Iron Man stories do, in failing to completely grasp the potential of the character. Much of Fraction’s work seems to be inspired by the Jon Favreau movies, but without a singular and concentrated vision, that sort of approach doesn’t work in comics, and the bigger the scale Fraction attempts to handle, the less he’s able to grasp it. The story spans several generations of Starks, and maybe it holds more significance either for those who have been reading the book, or the ones Fraction hopes will be reading later, but it just feels desperate to me, a grandiosity assumed but not earned. (I’ll have more such Marvel thoughts in two weeks.)

IRON MAN #500.1 (Marvel)
I don’t really get why Marvel is doing these issues, especially with the potentially confusing gimmick with that numbering. Are they assuming regular readers don’t need to read them? That’s my underlying assumption, anyway. The good news for IRON MAN, though, is that I bought another issue all the same. This one reads better, even if it dips into the incredibly obvious pool, the one that’s rarely actually explored but dipped in whenever convenient, that Tony Stark used to have a drinking problem. Fraction acquaints readers with Stark’s history via an AA meeting. One of the things I hate about Marvel is that every writer is forced to accept every single that every other writer before them ever wrote, dating back decades. It’s literally all canon. No matter how little everything actually gels, it’s all got to fit in. In the retconned context of most of Stark’s history being explained by either his relapses or recoveries, this story really makes sense. Of course, I was reading a little of Iron Man around CIVIL WAR, and I know that his regular comics did everything but actually work on his character. It’s disingenuous to suggest to new readers that they can expect intimate explorations of Tony Stark. That’s the last thing on the mind of a regular Iron Man writer (which again, made it so ironic that the best parts of the Iron Man movies had everything to do with Tony Stark and very little to do with Iron Man) Anyway, still a comic worth reading, good timing, all that.

What sucks about the pilfered package is that it also contained some stuff I would have written about elsewhere in this blog, as part of the regular Quarter Bin column. It contained a few issues of DEATHSTROKE: THE HUNTED and one of GREEN LANTERN: MOSAIC. I really wanted to read those comics. And some day, when I either find or order them again, I will have another opportunity. But it probably won’t be soon. Still, I have plenty of comics to talk about, and plenty more to read. But that’s a matter for the future.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Quarter Bin #3 "Bargain Comics"

I mentioned in passing last week that it was at one point incredibly easy for me to find and read comics, and that’s basically how I read comics from 1993 to 1999, because for most of that period, I almost literally couldn’t go anywhere without bumping into some vendor, either a comics shop, or a place like Sam’s Club or Toys R Us, places where you definitely won’t find comics so readily available now (I think Toys R Us has made some deals recently, but nothing compared to what was available back then, when they and the Wal-mart bulk club packaged comics for your convenience or, at least, for mine).

Well, a few years ago, I stumbled into the holy grail once again, when the major bookstore chain I’ve worked at since 2006 actually randomly had some packaged comics available in its bargain section. I snatched them up. It didn’t matter that I was knee-deep in a then-thriving association with first-run comics. I snatched up as many of the bargain packs as I could. Granted, it wasn’t many, but I didn’t even think twice of it. I didn’t care what was in those packs. It was just so unexpected, and right up my alley, that I couldn’t possibly resist. What follows are the contents of those packages:

From November 2003, this was one of my favorite finds, not simply because it was a DC comic, and a Superman comic, but a Superman comic from the period between 1999 and 2005, when I had generally not read Superman comics, even though the Man of Steel had been the central figure of my original run with comics. Many things had happened. Lex Luthor became president. Mark Waid did an acclaimed version of his origin to sync up with SMALLVILLE. He became unexpectedly culturally significant again, in the aftermath of “Our Worlds at War,” when the issue where he deals with the fake devastation of those events coincidentally coincided with 9/11. General Zod had his first twenty-first century crack at comics. But I had stayed away for all of that. Both because it was technically unlikely, and because I was abstaining. Comics simply weren’t around for that period. So here’s SUPERMAN #197, from 2003, in this bargain pack. The creators, Steven S. Seagle (who would truly leave his mark on the character with IT’S A BIRD…, a graphic novel of uncommon genius) and Scott McDaniel (the main reason while I read it that I really cared, because I have truly loved McDaniel’s comics work since his run on NIGHTWING); a story that really didn’t make me feel as if I’d missed anything. But still. Pretty awesome.

From June 2003, nothing much to speak of here. Happy to see Nightwing as a guest star, though.

From July and August of 2003, so this isn’t the later spin-off book that (kind of needlessly) gave the Justice Society a second ongoing series, but rather a mini-series where David S. Goyer and Geoff Johns help readers become a little more acquainted with individual members. Now, again, this is from the period where I wasn’t reading comics, and the Geoff Johns/others JSA comics are some of the ones I most keenly wish I had been around to follow, not just because Johns really began to leave his mark on DC with them, but because…well, because they’re the comics Johns really started to leave his mark on DC with, and even his later reboot didn’t really have anything to do with them. It’s like a whole generation I missed. I know there are the trades to catch up with, but that’s another series of trades I need to read, joining the likes of Neil Gaiman’s SANDMAN, Grant Morrison’s INVISIBLES, and James Robinson’s STARMAN, which this book (or rather, its parent book) was an almost direct continuation of, at least in spirit, the only time Jack Knight was really allowed to exist outside of his own book, and be a “regular” superhero. So this was basically Johns being allowed to play in the rest of the sandbox. Also, #2 features Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale, working their magic on Hawkman. Clearly, these two and the Superman comic were for me the real bargains in the packs.

Peter David being Peter David. I really loved Peter David, back when I was a little more impressionable, and willing to overlook the lack of true inspiration. Well, that pretty much sums up Peter David.

From May 2002; like Peter David, Star Wars that wasn’t George Lucas was something I eventually grew out of and/or became disillusioned with, so I generally haven’t read a lot of Star Wars comics. But I guess it was inevitable that I would find a few of them in these packs. Here’s one that features Boba’s dad, I guess from just before audiences actually met him in ATTACK OF THE CLONES.

From June 1996. Generally, the reason I don’t care for Star Wars that isn’t by George Lucas is because only George Lucas has proven that he has any real vision for the Star Wars universe. Anyone else just seems to do generic material that just happens to be set in the Star Wars universe. Apparently, enough people really get off on that, because that’s exactly why the prequel films were ultimately rejected by the original fans, and why there’s still a deluge of Star Wars material that isn’t by George Lucas. Personally, I find that pretty darn depressing, in the same way those fans hang their heads in shame over the prequels.

From May 1999. Hey, and so speaking of which…! This is basically an interlude set during Amidala and L’il Annie’s first meeting on Tatooine.

SOLAR, MAN OF THE ATOM #59 (Valiant)
From March 1996, this features what is probably an early Tony Bedard script. The Tony Bedard of 2011 probably isn’t all that impressed by it. I know I certainly expect far better from one of my favorite comics writers. Got two copies of this one!

From August 1995. This is how embarrassed I am by American culture: This was back in 1995, and already the insidious influence of manga on American readers was evident. Manga is basically the monotonous alternative to regular comics, something that is probably legitimately culturally relevant to Japanese readers, but comes across as ridiculously uniform and tediously expansive (that’s what all those volumes look like to me, anyway; a typical comic book can be read by issue or by volume, and no comic I know of has as many volumes as a tenured manga). Manga became popular once the initial 1990s comics surge went into backlash mode, and has become a staple ever since. It’s probably better than I give it credit for, but c’mon. Adam Warren was doing the American version more than fifteen years ago, and it’s still seen as perfectly acceptable for American readers to wait for their translations of popular Japanese series. Manga is seen as exotic. Manga is a stupid cult. I hate manga. It’s more than past time for American readers to either be honest with themselves, fully embrace it, or move on already. Give American culture back to comics!!!

From November 2001. Oh, and not that it’s particularly relevant here so much as with Adam Warren above, but a lot of these Americans reading manga do it for the pervy underground opportunity to sneak in cartoon porn into the quasi-mainstream. It’s kind of pathetic.

From April 1998. Can we just admit that Top Cow doesn’t have any good ideas and/or execution already?

From February 2001; on the other hand, this dude will always be awesome.

ANGEL #3 (Dark Horse)
From November 2001, and the initial wave of Buffy-verse comics, and therefore about as relevant to today’s as the above JSA ALL STARS to the current comic that bears that title. I got to two copies of this one, too! However, at least I got different covers, one photo, the other illustrated. On a more sober note, this one also holds letters dating back to the events of 9/11. Weird little synergy going on here…A reference in one bargain comic reaction to actual relevance in another…

From December 1999.

From May 2000.

From June 2000. Seriously, do you fully appreciate that all of these comics were produced while these shows were actually on the air? Doesn’t that seem a little quaint now?

From September 1999. My memory’s a little hazy, but from the contents of this issue and what I remember about the conclusion of the TV show, I think these events coincide. I’m not really sure. I was never a fan of Xena. While it’s cool that Kevin Sorbo’s HERCULES actually got a spin-off, and Lucy Lawless definitely had the magnetic appeal to support her own show…XENA was basically exactly the same show, supported by more people, and less inspired. Anyway, remember Xena?

That’s it. That’s the twenty comics (with only two overlaps!) that I scored in those bargain packs. Most of them I would never have come within sniffing distance of without those packs, which certainly helped to make the whole experience interesting.

Aside from one more collection of actual quarter bin comics from Escape Velocity, this is basically the last time I will apparently fill a whole post with a random assortment and/or listing of comics. From here we’ll be delving into some targeted material, and a little expanded thoughts, on comics I specifically went out of my way to read. Should be fun!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Comic Book Memoir

My comics experience is changing again. Seems like that’s what it’s been doing from the start, an endless cycle of desire and reality, an intermingling quasi-marriage constantly denying me while giving me exactly what I want.

Well, let me start over. It seems a little weird to say this, because I’ve really only just begun this blog and it seems like something like awkward timing and an even worse admission, but as of yesterday, I’ve basically gotten out of the business of comics again. What I was saying earlier is relevant because the origins of Tony Laplume and his interest in comics don’t really have, specifically, comics themselves involved. Born in 1980, I had a lot of opportunities to catch up with all the stuff TV had been doing during that period. From the regular syndicated reruns of Adam West’s Batman to cartoons like SUPER FRIENDS and SPIDER-MAN AND HIS AMAZING FRIENDS (gosh, there sure were a lot of friends back then, and this technically before the Cold War ended!), and any number of the animated adventures of action figures, I was sated on the subject before I truly had a chance to grasp what it was I was enjoying. And speaking of toys, more than a few of them came with mini (and I do mean mini) comics, and so, technically, before I actively read comics, I had some in my possession.

As the first decade of my life came to a close, some events that were relevant to serious fans (not to denigrate cartoons or Adam West, but serious fans probably didn’t care too much about them) came to my attention. Robin was killed off. Years later I learned all about Jason Todd, but to a mind that had grown up with Burt Ward, it was pretty sad news, even though, again, technically speaking, I had no real basis, other than a treasured action figure, to care all that much. I was no comics reader at that point. Then, of course, Tim Burton gave us the black-clad Batman on the silver screen.

My brothers started buying comics around the time Jim Lee helped make X-MEN #1 a historic blockbuster (before moving on to Image not a short while longer). They liked Marvel. Kids at school liked Marvel. Heck, as a kid, one of my favorite characters had been Spider-Man, because of the cartoon, other confluences. But I was a DC kid, even then. They also liked Star Wars comics. I didn’t agitate a lot to read these. My sister had at some point acquired a copy of THE DEATH OF CAPTAIN MARVEL, a comic that had absolutely fascinated me, so Marvel, so the comics world that didn’t involve DC, really did interest me. But personally, I was denied, always denied. There were no comics shops around, besides, nothing to tempt me.

And then there was. I got a few (and I do mean a very few) Green Lantern back issues. Green Lantern had been another favorite, simply because he happened to share my favorite color. Well, I don’t know how Hal Jordan ever thought of the color himself. It never seemed to come up. But there they were, my first real comics. My brothers did a little more DC themselves, including JUSTICE LEAGUE, Dan Jurgens’ version of the Bwahaha Generation. I rarely actually mention this in public, but I immediately gravitated to the mysterious Bloodwynd. I mean, Booster Gold and Blue Beetle were a fine comic duo (and this was probably their golden age, though everyone seems to have forgotten all about it, except that Doomsday dropped by on his way to killing Superman, but more on that in a moment), and Guy Gardner was a true jerk, but Bloodwynd, the first character I truly got to experience firsthand in a comic, thanks to brothers who grew slightly more accommodating to a younger brother (or perhaps I just stole a few opportunities, which I would continue to do for the next several years, especially when one of them ran up complete collections of all the zero issues, or “Knightfall”).

To mirror the newspaper reports of Robin’s death at the start of my comics experience, what truly dragged me in was, of course, the death of Superman. I had hardly read any comics at this point, but I knew, just like everyone else did, that I could not miss this. The difference between me and so many others being that it was only the beginning, and not just a curiosity, rubbernecking at the scene of an accident. Comics had become easier to find, and there were certain funds available to me, to help me along when I couldn’t get them myself. So Superman died, yeah, and then Bane came around and crippled Batman. Then Green Lantern went crazy. Every DC character experienced some kind of personal, crossroads-style crisis. Over at Marvel, I was aware that Spider-Man was undergoing a clone saga, but as I said, I was a DC man. Even if Spider-Man had been a favorite, I only really cared about DC, when I could finally manage to become a comics reader. There was plenty of DC to keep me interested.

For many readers, even those who stuck around comics, the saga of Superman in that period ended when he returned. For me, “Doomsday” and “Reign of the Supermen” was just the start of a series of events, from a series of committed and talented creators, that would keep me hooked for the duration of the decade. “The Fall of Metropolis,” “The Death of Clark Kent,” “The Trial of Superman,” the Electric Superman saga, which might as well be synonymous with that clone saga, for all the respect it gets.

Batman, of course, went through similar paces, but once Bruce Wayne reclaimed his mantle from Jean-Paul Valley, the writers were clever enough to keep the intrigue going. They immediately traded the cowl onto Dick Grayson, and then tried a new look for Bruce’s Dark Knight, and then set about a series of crossovers that would continue for about a decade, from “Contagion” to “Legacy” to “Cataclysm,” all the way to “War Games,” which effectively set the stage for Grant Morrison.

Sometimes, the comics I read meant I didn’t read others. I didn’t read SANDMAN, or STARMAN. I skipped over BATMAN: THE LONG HALLOWEEN. While I was avoiding those, I read Mark Waid’s FLASH religiously. Kyle Rayner was absolutely my Green Lantern, thanks to Ron Marz. I got into Morrison thanks to JLA, along with probably everyone else who will admit it. Wasn’t even aware of INVISIBLES, much less his work on DOOM PATROL or ANIMAL MAN, for years. In fact, much of the mystique I would later lend to him was over what I had missed in INVISIBLES, when there was talk about making it into a TV show. (Just imagine!) I read a few issues of BONE on the strong recommendation of a friend, but carried a torch for it longer than that, waited through several printings of the one volume edition before finally completing the epic for myself.

In all, I was a comics reader roughly from 1993 to 1999. There was a lot of stuff I truly loved that I haven’t referenced here, but there’s always time to circle back later. The reasons why 1999 was an end date were mostly practical. I was winding up my senior year in high school, and my parents figured that it would be a good idea to start saving for college. I had literally spent almost all of my money on comics to that point. They were absolutely right. Not that I would have ever said I had wasted any of it. So in the early months of 1999, I gave up the seven year habit that I had worked so hard to acquire. There were some stories I left in mid-sentence, and yes, I have been trying to track down some of those conclusions ever since. No, I am not obsessive in the sense that I would turn the earth upside-down, or look for the likeliest source to simply order missing comics or trade collections, but yeah, I am a little bad at letting go. I was not very happy that summer.

I read WIZARD to help pass the time, to wean myself from my addiction. Lots of interesting things kept happening. Geoff Johns just so happened to begin making his name exactly during this early transition period. He wrote a lot of comics for DC, but it wasn’t until I read what he did at Marvel, on AVENGERS, when I really noticed him for the first time. I didn’t like what I heard. Comics didn’t seem to be doing very well in my absence. Sure, there were a lot of noteworthy developments, and some pretty interesting comics being done, but all of it seemed to be passing me by, not in a sense that I was missing it, but that maybe, they no longer interested me. I read about them in a magazine, and they were meant for someone else. Nothing seemed to quite capture the spirit of what I had once known.

I graduated from college in 2003, and 2004 was a transition year. I had been reading about Geoff Johns again, how he had tackled The Flash, of all characters. But instead of sacrilege, or some poor imitation of Mark Waid, he really seemed to be making it his own. This was something new. On all the books I used to follow, the ones that were still around, there didn’t seem to be a lot of truly relevant material being done, but all of a sudden, there was. Brad Meltzer began to be talked about, IDENTITY CRISIS. And so, at some point, I had an excuse to step foot into a comics shop again, and I gravitated toward these two books. So it was that 2004 saw me dip my toe back into the pool. Sobriety was cracking up.

In 2005, I moved, it seemed, right next door to a comics shop, and I really fell off the wagon. The developments of that year are perhaps still fresh enough so that you’ll remember. Ed Brubaker relaunch CAPTAIN AMERICA. DC began revving up for INFINITE CRISIS. In 2006, I began to write about comics regularly for the first time, on the Internet. I wrote about them, and I started to read a lot of them, more than I ever had before. So it seemed. Maybe it was comparable to my earlier period, more than I realized at the time. I branched out from DC in a big way, more and more. I acquainted myself with many of the classics that I had heard so much about. When it became impractical to visit a local comics shop, I began buying my comics online. The economy, of course, tanked. I kept buying. Ridiculously, shamelessly, I kept buying.

I phrase it like that to begin to explain why this column marks the end of that era. Roughly 2005 to 2011. I had to quit again. This time by my own hand. It became financially responsible to say, “enough is enough.” Maybe it helped that many of the comics I was following had reached natural transition periods. Or that the surge in available collections made it that much harder to claim that if I didn’t catch the single issues, I would miss out forever. I knew it wasn’t true. I knew I had to dial it down. And I did, I even did that. But it finally came down to, “enough is enough.” It’s not that I realized I don’t need comics, but that I realized, whether I’m there or not, they’re still there. I finally got to see Green Lantern popular! All three incarnations (well, all four, really) of Robin, even, are alive and kicking! I followed Spider-Man through “Brand New Day,” the first time I have ever read the Webslinger regularly. Grant Morrison led Batman through his greatest stories ever. I watched Jeff Smith shape a new landscape of indescribable intrigue.

I don’t want to write about too many specifics. This blog isn’t going away. I have plenty more to write about. But it’s another transition time, a good time to reflect on my comics experience, how it keeps coming back to the fact that, technically speaking, I’m one comics reader who keeps coming back to not actually reading comics. It’s true and it’s not true and I guess that explains me, exactly where I fit in with the rest of the crowd. I don’t pretend to be an expert on everything, but I have a passion that can overcome just about anything, even this, even giving up, technically speaking, comics all over again. I’m not one of those readers who got fed up with what the creators were doing, or the publishers, or just ran out of funds. I can fake funds. But I can’t overlook the fact that as a comics reader, for me it sometimes means so much more than actually reading comics.

I will continue to write about comics, and I will continue to read the occasional issue, the collection, even the graphic novel. I will just be doing it from a distance, from the shadows, as it were. It seems appropriate. For every Booster Gold, there is a Simon Dark. There are plenty of worlds left to explore.