Monday, May 17, 2010

Reasons to Believe

By Steve Weddle

Somewhere in this house is a Polaroid of me and Spider-Man. I met him at a mall in Shreveport, Louisiana around the time I was watching him on TV. I don't recall there having been any big crime spree there that he needed to take care of, but perhaps he'd already finished off the bad guys. (I do remember a comic featuring Spidey and the Dallas Cowboys, so perhaps he stopped by Shreveport while he was in the area.) He was nice, didn't talk much, and signed the photo for me. Turns out, I was his best pal.

Batman and Superman might have been SuperFriends, but they didn't hold too much interest for me. I was a Marvel kind of guy.

You could count on a couple of ads in comics back in the late 70s and early 80s. One of them offered prizes if you sold a bunch of crap to people in your neighborhood. Another one was for 1,000 army men. Or maybe a million. And then there was the one from Mile High Comics. One hundred comics for $25. They listed what was available and you could put a mark in the box and mail it in or call them. That's what I wanted for my birthday. One hundred comics. So I had to select which comics I wanted. Spider-Man. Avengers. Every New Defenders they had. Doctor Strange.

Since Mile High Comics was in Denver and we weren't, my dad took the list to work and called it in. A couple of funny things happened. One: They didn't have every comic I wanted. I don't remember the percentage, but I ended up with a handful of Beta Ray Bill Thors, She-Hulks, and West Coast Avengers. The second funny thing: My dad's boss kept walking by his office door wondering why my dad was cupping his hand over the phone and whispering, "How about 'Defenders' number 83? No, OK. 'Avengers' 212? That one? OK. Good."

Spider-Man was the crime fiction I grew up on. The troubled good guy fighting impossible odds, getting in way over his head and getting whupped.

So I got my 100 comic books sent right to my door when I was a kid. I kept them in a box under my bed, worked through a run of 'Defenders,' even those with that dork Namor in them. I found stuff I'd never thought of reading -- hating some, loving some.

I miss those days of surprise, when anything was possible and you'd wait a whole month for the next story, the next issue.

As a grown-up, you get shots at this, though.

Tyrus Books offers a subscription program. Every month or so, you'd be getting a new gem of crime fiction right to your door. Kinda like the Book-of-the-Month Club, only cool.

Dumpy little thrift shops. Sure, used books stores have folks who know their stuff and everything well organized. Sometimes, though, this makes it kinda easy and takes the fun out. I don't know what the Beta Ray Bill version of a crime novel would be, but imagine those shelves back in the corner of the thrift shop, back near the NordicTrack. For a dollar, you walk out with five paperbacks -- a few Elmore Leonards, a Laurie R. King, and some Grisham for your mom.

Pre-Orders online. The anticipation is fantastic, isn't it? Release date. Oh, I'm getting it early. Sweet. My wife loves Mr. N. DeMille's John Corey novels and had her pre-order for Wildfire in six months before she got it. I'd read and enjoyed the character, too, so we were counting down the weeks.

Subscriptions. Surprises. Some synonym for "anticipation" that starts with 's.'

What makes reading cool for you? What is it you like about the world of reading? Series detectives? Author signings? Do you have a Polaroid proving you're Lee Child's best pal?


Scott D. Parker said...

The immersion into another world, even if that world is contemporary America. I enjoy being swept away by a story so powerful, you want nothing more than to just read it. Author signings are hit-and-miss. Some are great, others, you wonder why you bothered to show up.

BTW, I remember all those ads in comics you mentioned. Now, my favorite ads to look at are the "centerfold" spreads that showed the Saturday morning cartoon line-ups and early 80s computer game ads. It really was a simpler time.

Steve Weddle said...

I'd forgotten those TV ads. I do remember those one-page mini-comic things that had the Green Lantern selling us Twinkies. Or something along those lines.

Jay Stringer said...

Something i miss is proofs. Or ARC's i think you crazy colonials call them?

I used to love working in my old bookshop (rip) and being handed a stack of proof books, the advanced copies given out to booksellers and reviewers to build up word of mouth.

Thy still exist. But these days they more often than not seem to be the same edition as the "official" release, but earlier. In ye olden days you'd have different covers. Cheap and plain, they didn't really tell you what kind of a book you had in your hands. There was no hype, no blurb, no amazon reviewers being dicks.

Just a plain, anonymous looking little paperback that you were about to crack open. Some would suck. Some would blow you away.

And months later when the book got its real release and was sat there on the shelf, if it was one that had blown you away, you'd want to evangelise. You'd feel a small measure of victory every time a copy sold.

I miss that.

Seth Harwood said...

Damn! Why didn't they realize they just didn't have the techmology at that time to pull of this Spider Man series? Seriously, didn't they know it looked like crap?

Give me my junk-ass fifth grade web shooters and I could make a show just like that!

Camera on the top of a building.