Trade Paperback Bender

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I’m always a few years behind what’s up in comics.  Especially mainstream superhero stuff.  Every time I pop into a store, I’ve missed like three Secret Crossover Crisis Infinite Civil Secret Continuity Change-Everything Wars.  But all the good stuff is reprinted in trade form, so buying comics is kind of like going to the butcher.  I can stride up to the gent at the counter and ask, “what’s fresh this year?”  And he (always he) will say, “Oh!  We have-a just the Mark Millar Wolverine Trade-a Paperback for you!  You-a gonna love it!”  And then he kisses his fingers.

So the other day I found myself driving past Golden Apple Comics 25 percent off sale.  Golden Apple is Los Angeles’ venerable, old-school, keeping-it-real comic book store.  If you don’t like shredded-abs-in-painted-on-costumes, don’t go to Golden Apple, where it’s  all about the back issues in the bins.  (If you want to meet Dan Clowes or buy a $150 dollar Japanese bunny gorilla toy, go to Meltdown.)

Anyway, like a drunk passing a bar, I just popped in for a nip at Golden Apple.  A mere tipple, if you will.  But as any addict can tell you, every tipple is a bender waiting to happen.  A tiny Bruce Banner of a glass of wine quickly becomes an Incredible Hulk of straight guzzling Maker’s Mark till you’re blind drunk and vomiting hot wings all over a girl who you just decided was your soulmate because her shoulder tattoo was bee-autiful.

Well, if I had been on the comic book wagon, I am now officially off.  Way off. Tony Stark off.  Because this was a major binge.  I just started grabbing stuff.  Before I knew it, I’d dropped about $600 bucks on trade paperbacks and graphic novels.  ($800 before the sale discount, I told myself.)  That’s 50 books.  All the makings of a hard core comic book bender.  A Lost Memorial Day Weekend.

I guzzled Brian Michael Bendis’ New Avengers, topped off with a chaser of Bendis’ Mighty Avengers!  I gorged mugs of Mike Carey’s Ultimate Fantastic Four, then imbibed heavily the cold sake of Carey’s Crossing Midnight.  I did five books worth of shots of Brian Wood’s DMZ before I even realized I was soaking myself in the sweet mead of J. Michael Straczynski’s Thor and spilling the nostalgic brew of Mark Millar’s 1985 all over my t-shirt.

Then, mid-bender, I stopped.  This was getting out of control.  I had to slow down… to properly appreciate Alan Moore’s new League of Extraordinary Gentlemen:  1910.  Because you can’t gulp down Alan Moore, even a new-growth bottle such as this.  He’s too rare these days.  You need to savor him:   take in the aroma, let the pages breathe, sense their terroir.  Force yourself to swish each panel around in your head before swallowing.  Bittersweet and complex, my LOEG vintage 1910 was over before I knew it.

With my decanter of Alan Moore licked clean, it was the perfect place to put this bender to bed.  But such is not the way of the addict.  The true addict doesn’t quit when the quitting is good.  He Moves On To the Hard Stuff.  Before I knew it I was inhaling Warren Ellis’ Freak Angels and snorting Ellis’ Black Summer.  Then freebasing Garth Ennis’ run of The Boys.  My self-restraint was gone.  No reason not to inject Grant Morrison’s All Star Superman directly into my eyeball.

A trade paperback hangover is never a pretty picture.  I woke up, head spinning, mouth dry, not even remembering which books I’d been with.  Did I read Ed Brubaker’s The Dead Boy Detectives or not?  How embarrassing.  And if my wife finds out, I’m in big trouble.

But here’s the thing.  How could I resist?  Look, these books are packed with great art, but it’s truly a Golden Age of comic book writing.  It’s the writer’s name on the cover that sells the comic.  And there are so many damn fine great smart dark funny writers.  At least two dozen guys whose books I would buy sight unseen.  (Not to mention all the pros I’ve never heard of, like Andy Diggle, who wrote a terrific Lady Constantine book.   Who the hell is Andy Diggle?)  No wonder all the Joss Whedons and Damon Lindelofs of the TV and movie world are writing comics.

Maybe I’ll slip a few books into my backpack, you know, so I can sneak a few nips at the office.  No one will know.  I’m a functional addict.  I’ve got this thing under control, right?