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.
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.
Co-written with K. Tilden Frost
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.
I have an odd relationship with my trade paperback collection. It often grows faster than I can read, I have no illusions about that. There are numerous great deals out there if you know where to look, and after years of collecting I know where to look. It spans from 1924 to 2017, though the New Year means that I technically have nothing current. Yet. But for a long time, I have been bothered by my inability to feel comfortable as a collector and reader in relation to other fans. To use a term I hate, I felt as though I was not connected with the zeitgeist, that the works I loved were not in step with the material so many adore.
But I have fifteen trades in the mail this month, covering a wide range of times and styles. Spanning from Mickey Mouse’s newspaper strips from the 50s, the creator-owned Sirens from George Perez, 90s comics with Superboy and Robin, X-Men Classic, the first run of Michelinie and Layton’s Iron Man, New Teen Titans, the 1989 printing of Tales of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Knights of the Dinner Table, all the way to DuckTales… and it occurred to me as I wrote this that I can’t be the only person reading these. Maybe the people who are reading them aren’t talking about it as much, maybe they’re in circles I don’t travel in, I don’t know. But if I’m to review things I love, I have to be comfortable with what I love – and what I do not. There is a presumption of inexperience in not appreciating a nebulous canon, a strange form of elitism perpetuated to allow for ‘true fans’ – gatekeepers even amongst ourselves, when what I care about is opening the medium up to as many people as possible.
News of Brian Michael Bendis signing an exclusive contract with DC had me thinking about Ultimate Spider-Man, arguably the best thing he’s ever written. The voice of the series is singular and unique, and the consistency of Peter Parker’s characterization and writing makes him a lot more like Jack Knight than the original Spider-Man. As part of a separate continuity (which I would explain to a layman as ‘Like how the movies aren’t the same as the comics’) known as the Ultimate Universe, it’s also incredibly accessible to new readers. So when I was at a used book store talking to a guy who wanted to start reading comics, I recommended a copy of Volume 1 – Power and Responsibility without hesitation.
And my appreciation is precisely why it is so frustrating to deal with the way that Marvel has collected this series. Not just for me, but for the potential millions of readers for whom picking up the title is a horrific amount of work. That might seem dramatic, but one sentence alone can illustrate where prospective (and experienced) fans can and will get stuck:
There are eight Volume 1s of Ultimate Spider-Man.