Media preservation is broken, and we need to discuss what that means.
Some of you may have heard about the recent shutdown of ROM sites LoveROM and LoveRetro—places to get “pirated” video games—but what you may not know is that these sites are often the last bastion of availability for the games they host. Richard Garriott, creator of the Ultima series, has special hardware to make sure that his first game (Akalabeth) is running at all times, simply because there is no guarantee anyone would ever bother preserving it. I’m sure there are mirrors that will pop up, but the truth is I don’t know if everything was kept. I don’t know whether there’s a special significance to anything that might have been lost. None of us do, not yet. The importance of art isn’t discovered in its own time. Poring over that material with the backing of time and a broader understanding of context that we don’t have in the present is the job of researchers and historians, and they can only work with what they have. Why do you suppose archaeologists are so happy when they find a clay pot?
Wherein I ponder the difficulties of exclusive material in trade paperbacks by examining Power Rangers Year One, and come to an explosive conclusion.
I really didn’t think I’d ever have to type an article that said “Stop punishing new fans.” Again. Yet here I stand with a copy of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Year One and a brand new problem: a story only included in this deluxe, out of print, hardcover edition.
900 trade paperbacks. Inventorying them has been a slow nightmare – if you like, you can take a look at the document. Just know that I’ve only just started on the Ms. But 900 is an interesting milestone for me. I’m proud of it, but it feels like a stepping stone towards 1,000. A lot of my life has felt like that recently – the beginning of the right direction.
I’ve recently gotten jobs writing fiction, something I arguably should be doing instead of writing this. I will be doing it after I finish this draft. But my dad said that if he didn’t budget himself the pleasure of a game of golf (at a local $30 per 18 hole place, mind you, this wasn’t a country club kind of deal), there was no point in getting through the week. The same, I think, is true of time. Working on things that I don’t get paid for but satisfy me creatively is what allows me to be a complete person, even if I’m still growing.
The jobs are ghostwritten, but honestly, it’s better for a starting writer than desperately begging a publisher to read my work. It does mean I have until the end of the year to write more words than Return of the King, but hey – at least I don’t have to edit them. … I wonder if they’d give me that job. I think I’ll ask once I’ve gotten through with the rest. The next deadline for 20,000 words is Monday at 12:00PM… and I suspect I’ll be turning it in like every college paper I ever wrote, at 11:59. But I’ll get better. I wrote my first completed piece of fiction in my adult life, didn’t get stiffed on the payment, and I’ve got so much farther to go and paths already laid out for me.
… weirdly, it feels good to write that. I think. That’s been a lot of how I’ve been feeling. Like I’m making progress, and I should be proud of that progress. That’s not how my head worked for a long time.
I built my own computer, something I’ve never done before. A Raspberry Pi, no less, because when you think “Build your first computer” your brain will obviously go straight to trying to get multiple OSes running on a Linux box. I’m still part way through that, in part because I’m navigating an undocumented LAN because why, I think my dad figured, would he have to document something when he knew it all in his head?
The Pi, which I have named The Viewing Globe, will serve as a Netflix box on the first widescreen TV I’ve ever owned for myself, as well as an emulation machine. Add that to the Switch and I’ll have most every game I could ever ask for… except for Kingdom Hearts 3. For that, I will be bogarting my brother’s PS4. And that’s got to be easier than trying to run the Command Prompt using Linux tutorials. I’m seriously going to print out cheat sheets once I get the thing completely finished.
Anyway. My dad had always built computers for me, either from scratch or by helping to make sure that my rig was properly set up software-wise. This is a new and pretty painful experience, not just because I’ve used the Command Prompt more than I have since I was three years old and waking my parents up at 4AM because I forgot how to get to Reader Rabbit Teaches Typing. I’m second-guessing myself every step of the way.
I’ve said throughout this experience, to myself and others, that I don’t know what I’m doing. But that’s not true. I do know what I’m doing. I’m just not as good as he was, mostly because he was working with computers for about 15 years longer than I have been alive. That wasn’t the path I chose. I can listen to someone talk about DBA work and keep up with a funny story about IT, the kind where you need some knowledge of SQL and networking to get the joke, but I’m not fluent in speaking the language. My dad told stories all the time, and I asked to hear them as often as possible, hoping I could understand them well enough to repeat them with all the technical terms. For the most part, I can’t. He was the one who could really tell the story, and my efforts are pale imitations. Earnest, but pale nonetheless.
That’s what’s going through my head as I try to get three operating systems working on one machine to handle regular desktop Linux work, video, and emulation. Turn by turn of the ridiculously tiny screw with my thumb, because I couldn’t find my dad’s old screwdriver set, I hear fragments of what he used to say and hurt because I can’t remember more.
I used stickers I never thought I’d end up using, because I’m the horrible kind of person who saves his Elixirs in Final Fantasy until the end of the game because what if I need them?
I’m traveling more. More does mean once every few months, but it is more. The world feels more open now. Less like something meant to suffocate me. Anxiety’s a bitch like that, bearing down on me for so long. But it means new places, new opportunities. New experiences that help me see what kind of person I really am, and that I don’t hate it as much as I thought.
Each of these things represents a step forward towards the life I want, where the craft that I’ve said so often is the only thing I’m good at (and yes, friends of mine reading this article will disagree, but I promise you I’m not joking) is the thing I do most with my life. Writing is what I love. Writing is all I’ve got.
Those 900 trade paperbacks represent a step towards the kind of place, the kind of life, that I want to live. Because one day, if things go as they are, I’ll have twice as many, and it won’t be tucked so tight as they are right now. They’ll have as much room to breathe as I will.
As I was editing this article, I was struck with a moment of urgency that I still don’t quite understand. I took the majority of the trade paperbacks I own that aren’t going to be fully collected (the sole volume of Superboy, for example) and boxed them up, to be sold at a later date. At the time, I’d raised my number to 904. Now, it’s 832: 83 have been boxed up (and I’ve gotten more since I finished that project), and it was painful. Given the opportunity, I would buy completed versions of these series, and if they ever start re-releasing them I will. I really don’t know why I was struck by the need to do it. Maybe I’m finding a clarity and focus I didn’t have before. Maybe the space issue was bothering me. I honestly don’t know. But the sweat and tightness in my stomach, the anxiety that comes from getting rid of anything, will eventually subside. I’ll start to breathe again, and I’ll keep building.
I’ve talked about the steps I’ve made moving forward, but in doing so I inadvertently remembered a place that I started from. I recently found some cheap copies of the JSA omnibuses – turns out the paperback versions don’t have everything, which is ten kinds of frustrating – and I realized that it was The Lightning Saga, a crossover between Justice Society of America (2007) and Justice League of America (2006) that caused me to start focusing on trades to begin with. My dad and I had just gotten back into comics when it was published, and a story that required us to switch between two titles each month in order to read it was new and irritating. It was the last push I needed to focus on trades. Seeing my dad’s collection of single issues that he couldn’t read due to their value and the difficulty of inventorying them had started it, but this sealed it. I kept buying single issues along with my trades, because conversations with my dad were worth checking wikipedia for whatever obscure reference the story was hinged on. I only stopped when I had no one to talk to about them anymore.
… thanks, dad.
900 is a stepping stone. But I can see where I started from, and I know where I’m going. Maybe for the first time in my life. So from now until a thousand, and long past that, I’ve got work to do. Watch this space, because I’m nowhere near done yet.
Conventions are stressful affairs, fraught with peril and, usually, good things. It’s getting there that’s the trick. I typically attend my local comic conventions, SpringCon and FallCon, which are very specifically comics-oriented. There’s a cosplay section and artist’s alley for people who don’t do sequential art, but it’s almost entirely comics. Bliss, for someone with my particular interests.
Naturally, my favorite writer and artist in the entire world, Don Rosa, wasn’t going to either of those: he was going to Minnesota Fan Fusion – a convention with comics, people who recreate cars and props from TV shows, panels about Szechuan Sauce, and meeting people you pay ten dollars plus the cost of popcorn to see play pretend on a big screen, all of whom should really be a lot taller than they are.
Obviously, I was going. I got my career as a writer started with an interview with him, which was published in the English reprint of The Pertwillaby Papers and later used as the basis of the Greek edition of the book’s special features. The Coin is one of the best comic book stories I’ve ever read. I bought an Artist’s Edition of his work, despite the cost, just to read and admire the linework of The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck – knowing it would take two more volumes to complete the saga.
The plan was simple. I would look at the guest list, look at my trade paperback collection, find the stuff they’d done, and ask for a signature (and head sketch from artists, but we’ll get to that later). I’d leave the boxes over at my cousin’s booth, easy as pie. Christopher Priest’s run on Deadpool, even at ten issues, is superlative – the Tom Cruise storyline alone is worth the price of the omnibus. Peter David writes so much I’m not sure the man sleeps. And Don Rosa, well, I have every published piece of his work available in English at this time.
The first time Kay and I bumped into the work of Jeremy Whitley was when GeekMom’s Karen Walsh sent Kay’s now-10 year old an autographed copy of the first Princeless trade. She absolutely loved the adventures of Adrienne, and was absolutely speechless when we got to meet Whitley at AwesomeCon. By then, we’d become familiar with Whitley’s work through the Unstoppable Wasp series. There was so much to about Nadia Van Dyne, from her determined, optimistic outlook on life outside the Red Room to her passionate engagement in the sciences. It was heartbreaking when Wasp was canceled; there are so few mainstream comics to share with middle grade kids, especially girls.
After all, Wasp is a gorgeous comic that embraces a diverse cast of girls in STEM, bringing in girls who are Black, Indian, queer, disabled, and sometimes more than one at once. At the same time, the book holds an intense discussion of trauma and its after effects, what it feels like to lose a parent you never knew, and how to create your own life after being controlled by an external force without ever for a second feeling like a morality tale.
These are the kinds of comics I’ve been clamoring for – not just for me, but for kids like Kay’s girls. After hearing about the conversation he and Kay had at the convention, I wanted to have a longer conversation with Whitley about the topics they’d touched on only briefly in Artist’s Alley – middle grade comics, Princeless, Raven, and what he hoped to see in comics going forward. When we heard that Unstoppable Wasp was getting a second volume, it seemed like the perfect time to have a conversation about the comic, and that last piece in particular.
When I reorganized my room to accommodate two new bookshelves, I had to be economical with my use of space. Sure, there are my trade paperbacks, but there’s also my computer, some storage, actual books, a Nintendo Switch with an enticing Shantae: Half-Genie Hero for me to finish, a desk and a bed… mini-house fetishists would be proud. But the thing I’m most proud of, in terms of ingenuity, is my reading area. I’ve specially dedicated the space to reading, to keep me free of distractions. A fold-up stadium chair, a repurposed cushion, blank space on my shelves for what I’m reading at the time, even a makeshift table for my netbook, a place to store whatever I’m eating… and giving my cat a place to sleep.
Don’t you even start judging me.
The thing is, as proud as I am of this reading area, there is exactly one book in my collection which alters the look and feel of the space to something less ingenious and more in the realm of ridiculous. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you The Don Rosa Artist’s Edition – The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck Volume 1.
Last month was weird. Since my last Showing Off The Shelves, things avalanched. I mean, they avalanched personally, but so did my collection. Three different jobs landed in my lap, all of which can lead to a lot more. My initial acceptance letter to one of them, (before I re-drafted it) was “Wow, I’m happy to do that, but how the fuck did I trick you into saying yes?”
I’m going to start this post off by giving a special thanks to The Nostalgia Zone, the comic book store I frequent most (this is not the mob store I have mentioned in other posts, if you go in there to ask a question the owner won’t say “Who’s asking?”). Thanks to them, I was able to find some remarkable deals. Some of them were things I’d been looking for already, some of them on the edge of my radar, and one big ticket item that I never thought I’d get my hands on.
As it happens, they were having a sale on Groundhog Day. I know I said Don Rosa in Review was in hibernation, but while I won’t be digging into the story in that article, I will discuss what I found: The Don Rosa Artist’s Edition.