Monthly Archives: June 2012

The (Comi)X(ology) Marks the Spot

Sometimes I’m thrilled to have been born in 1977. It means that while I have memories of a bygone era (and let’s face it, by the time you hit 30, your childhood is a bygone era) that included local TV playing old cartoons for hours, thereby giving a child a proper education. It means being able to see reruns of classic TV shows on those same stations without any of that retro garbage that stupid cable stations live ME TV have (and the shows were still a little relevant). It means seeing the dawning of the cartoon commercial, which is a bad thing but also very good if you were a child of that era (I mean G.I. Joe: Real American Hero and He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, et al). It means remembering a time before cable TV, and before Google and the internet. It means the excitement of MTV and HBO. It means remembering bookstores as places that sold books and record stores and simple comic book shops owned by a local nerd.

Yet, it means being able to know and indulge in digital technology. Not that I’m completely hooked up, but I’m okay. I have an HP notebook computer (which I’m writing this on), an iPod Touch, and an iPad 2. I have a Nook. My car can hook up to a Bluetooth device. It’s pretty nifty.

Last summer I received an iPod Touch from my wife and her parents. It’d never owned a touchscreen before and had never used apps. The first app I downloaded was for SiriusXM, the second was for the Barnes & Noble Nook. Within a day, I discovered ComiXology. By the end of the summer, I knew I needed to have an iPad. Thanks to a student financial aid refund, I got an iPad 2 on Columbus Day weekend.

I see ComiXology as a game-changer for comic books. At least for me, as a geek. I stopped reading comic books around 1996/1997. Part of it was my novel collection was growing and I wanted to focus on that, part of it was my interest in some of the storylines had faded, and a lot of it had to do with money and space. Comic books by themselves aren’t expensive (though they’re overpriced now, I think, but they’re using better paper so that’s a plus) and are pretty small, but once you start collecting, that changes quick. Here’s a for instance for you:

I was a Batman guy. I’ve always loved Batman but the 1989 movie certainly pushed me further. So if I wanted to collect Batman (and he’s still DC’s #1 guy) in 1990 (which is when I started) I got Detective Comics and Batman. Those were the main titles. Then in 1990, DC introduced Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight. I loved this series because the stories were complex but weren’t necessarily part of continuity (though a surprising number of the stories because part of continuity). The series would have several issues devoted to one story and each story had a different creative team, and each story was mostly independent of each other. The creators could pick and choose from Batman’s history for each story. I loved the idea then and I love it now. If these three comic books had been the only Batman books out there, fine, but then you had one-shots, you had graphic novels like the superlative Batman: Birth of the Demon and Batman: The Killing Joke, the collected back issues a young man would want to get like Batman: Year One and A Death in the Family. Then in 1990/1991, DC introduced its Elseworlds line of graphic novels that featured popular characters in different times and places. This was created by the success of the graphic novel Batman: Gotham By Gaslight, which took place in the 1890s and featured Batman going up against Jack the Ripper. Of course, most of the Elseworlds tales were about Batman. Then they introduced a new Robin and he had a few miniseries. Then they introduced a new Batman series, Shadows of the Bat. And every time a new Batman movie came out, there were comic books about the characters in them. So when Batman Returns came out, there were graphic novel stories about the Penguin and Catwoman. I’m getting out of breath here….

For a teenager (I was twelve when this all really started), this meant finding the money for these books. This also meant tons of storage. And if I wanted to try other comic books (I did) that meant even more money and space.

By the time 1996/1997 rolled around (I was between 18 and 20), I was tired of it all, especially with the Knightfall, Knightquest, and Knightsend series. I loved Knightfall, which told the story of Bane and his breaking of Batman. This was a couple of years after DC did their Superman story The Death and Return of Superman. But Knightquest and Knightsend left me cold. I was also sick of all the tie-ins and multiverse stuff and I was running out of space. So I stopped.

Yet…I never really stopped. I’ve bought many graphic novel collections and stand-alone stories in the intervening years. A couple of years back, I even bought the monthly Superman title to follow the J. Michael Straczynski storyline Grounded, where Superman walks across the country in an attempt to connect with the people. I’ve read some of (not all of) Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series. I own every graphic novel collection of the entire run of Garth Ennis’s superlative Preacher series (come on HBO, make this a series!). And there were others, but…well….

And then I discovered ComiXology. I have to say, folks, I love it. Like any ebook, it will never replace holding a real comic book, and if I had children who read comic books (my 14-year-old seems uninterested and the other one is only halfway to her birth), I’d buy the kid real comic books just in case it made friends who also read comic books, that way they could swap them when they hung out together (this was an unrealized dream of mine until I was in my twenties, and I spent an afternoon with my best friend reading newly purchased comic books and swapping them). Still, ComiXology is great, and I highly recommend it.

The Happiness My Girls Bring Me

I’d done this before.

The first time was fifteen years ago, when I was twenty. Back then, things were different. The idea of my having a child was hilarious, terrifying, and exciting at the same time. I didn’t know that I would soon leave college to take care of the baby and to pursue a writing career, something that I thought would take off if only I could sell my first story. My girlfriend, nineteen, lay on the table. We looked at the screen in the small room in a house that had been turned into the ultrasound office. We needed to know the sex of the baby. We were poor, to put it mildly. We wanted to know what we were having so we could plan. Even then I suspected my relationship with my girlfriend wouldn’t last, but upon seeing the baby on the monitor, I knew the love I felt for my daughter, Courtney, would always remain.

A few days ago, I found myself in a different small room. The woman lying on the table was my wife Pamela. I didn’t know she existed fifteen years ago, nor did she know I existed. Things are different. I’m thirty-four (with a -five waiting for me in August). I have a career now, two, actually. I like to say that by day, I’m a high school teacher, by night, I’m a writer. It doesn’t exactly work that way but it’s close enough. My first publication, a short story called “Icarus Falling” is thirteen years behind me. It didn’t light up my fledgling writing career. Actually, few people even noticed. My writing career wouldn’t really begin until 2003 with my fifth published short story, a little diddy called “The Growth of Alan Ashley.” I still like “Icarus Falling.” I still love “The Growth of Alan Ashley.” I’ve been teaching for five years and have been publishing for thirteen. I have three books under my belt, one of them dedicated to my daughter Courtney. Her mother and I were married in 2000. We were separated by 2004 and divorced a year later. We were still in high school when we started dating. It happens. We’re a cliché. I met Pamela in January 2007. Somehow, it’s worked better than I could ever have imagined.

As I stood near Pamela looking at the new baby on the screen, my heart melted, just as it had the day before when I watched my fourteen-year-old go up to get trophies at a bowling banquet. The ultrasound lady asked me and Pamela if we wanted to know the sex. We looked at each other with dopey grins. “Yes,” we said.

“It’s a girl.”

I’ve heard those words before. It brought joyful tears fifteen years ago and it brought joyful tears the other day.

This is Pamela’s first child. I’m happy to be the one who gets to share this with her. I’m happy I have Courtney to share this with, too. It’s strange. For a long time, I didn’t think I’d ever have another child. For a long time I didn’t want one. Courtney is beautiful, intelligent, funny, and truly someone I adore and admire. I have done–and will continue to do–the best job possible for her. Now to know that there will be another young woman who I can be there for, to retell stories, to share first times with, is amazing to me. How’d I get here?

This is great. This is wonderful. I’ll always find something to bitch about in this life, but I’ll also always relish in the happiness my girls bring me.

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