I am a man who does not know a lot about a lot of things.
One of those things I do not know a lot about is Comics.
When I was young, I read the Archie comics, some war comics (Sgt. Somethingorother?), and the odd Weird Tales comic here and there. I never had a collection, nor wanted one, and I was never one to wait eagerly, impatiently, excitedly, for the next issue of WhateverMan to come out. Comics were a casual part of my childhood, and when my childhood ran its course, so too, did my desire to read them.
I think I am a month too old (really, though: years too old) to have been part of the PEI resurgence of the Comic Book as art form or literature (or was it simply a surgence?) in, I’m guessing, the late-’80s, early-’90s. Could have been earlier, could have been later, I’m not good with dates.
So, when friends who were younger than me, or contemporary-aged friends who were hipper than me, began to read comics and graphic novels, I was aware but not interested. As the popularity, and culture-significance of this Comic Book World grew, I remained ignorant. And, at times, as it is with my personality, willfully-ignorant.
I read The Watchmen series sometime around 1990, probably. I enjoyed it. I am, and have been, aware of, and have read, a scant few other series and publications since then, but am woefully ignorant. When I am in the proximity of conversations about comic books, I generally zone out, due to my immense lack of knowledge of the topic(s) at hand.
All that to say: I am not in my comfort zone when I walk into a comic book shop.
I have a friend, Dylan Miller, who owns a comic book shop: Lightning Bolt Comics I’ve always felt the desire to support him and his small-business enterprise (and feel guilty for not doing so), but a couple of things have kept me from doing so.
The first is (was) the fact that for so long, I was consumed by credit card debt. The first 20 years of my adult life, credit card debt owned me. A number of years ago, my wife and I decided to eradicate that debt from our lives, and so we went on a serious spending freeze. Not that we were spending much on what I’ll call frivolous things, but we put a halt on practically all non-essential purchasing, and put all our money towards paying off the debt. And finally, a year or two ago, we succeeded. We are debt-free.
However, one of the side-effects of such a purchase-purge, is that now I am very much the type of person who hardly spends any money. Like, I spend practically nothing. I find it difficult to justify spending money on new underwear, that type of level of miserliness. I have become a living example of the Scottish SkinFlint cliche.
The second thing is, when I go into Dylan’s store, I feel a bit (a lot) like an illiterate in a library. Imposter!! Looking at the items offered is a bit like looking at things that don’t make sense in my world. It’s all a jumble of “I have no idea what I’m looking at, or for”, and it’s a bit overwhelming and uncomforting. This, I realize and admit, is a problem of mine. I should be “who fucking cares”, but I’m not.
So, for a long time, I wasn’t purchasing anything, and Dylan’s store was one of the many that didn’t see support from me. Yet, now I am beginning to see a light, and, with a bit of a pleasant balance showing in our bank accounts, I am tentatively putting my toe in the Superfluous Purchase Waters.
I made the decision to buy something! This may seem like a minor thing to you and your lifestyle, but to me it was a bit more epic. Furthermore, I decided that the first place I’d go is to Lightning Bolt and support my fellow Popalopalot. Trouble is, I didn’t know what I wanted, didn’t know how to go about finding out what I might want.
Then I hit upon an idea: why not ask an expert what I might enjoy. Dylan knows me a little (I’m a hard fellow for anyone to know, I know), definitely knows his stuff, and it might be a fun little adventure. So I asked Dylan to pick out something from his store, around $30 (I know, big spender right!), that he thinks I might like, and I’d buy it, no questions asked. Dabbling my toe in the water, you know.
And this is what Dylan picked out for me. This is what I bought.
I had seen the movie Ghost World, based on Daniel Clowes comic, but had to be reminded of the connection.
So, I read it and really liked it.
Yeah, that’s a long way to go just to say “I bought a book”.