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Editor’s Note: With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, we’ve declared this the week of Robot Love and resurrected I ♥ Comics. In one of our favorite features, various comics creators, bloggers, retailers and fans discuss the things they love about the medium.
by Tucker Stone
Hmmph. I used to think the easiest answer to a question like this—a question that demands a sort of explanation of how far you want to go with your definition of the word love—is just to throw out a pat “I love comics” one and leave it at that. I used to think that, and “used to” can both mean that A) I don’t think that anymore or B) I’ll think it again later. So yeah, what do I love about comics?
I used to take these religion classes in college with this woman who had gotten herself a good bit of the Worldwide Acclaim through being listed as one of the world’s most effective English-speaking preachers. She was, if I remember correctly, the only one on the list who wasn’t a dude, and one of the few Americans. I didn’t take her classes because of that—that’s not the sort of list that would have crossed my Doom Patrol covered desk when I was trying to find a college that would take me away from frying chicken. But I ended up taking her classes, and it was one of the more challenging experiences of my life, that is if you gauge “challenging” by “things that mostly involve thinking and talking” instead of, you know, something that involves heavy lifting or lightning reflexes. Her classes filled up fast—religion majors got first crack, then the regular student body and any empty seats were taken by non-students, most of whom were her former parishioners who showed up since she’d discontinued her regular preaching upon entering the education field. (In other words, they missed her enough to pay to be around her.) I’m sitting there in class one day, and this really nice old lady piped up in the middle of a discussion on the Book of Job, which is what the entire semester focused on, and said that no, she’d never—not once—had a moment in her life where her faith had been tested. Never had a moment of doubt. Never a moment of question. Not one. She was really firm about it, in that nice old lady voice of hers.
And yeah, because…because whatever, because I was obsessively reading stuff by people like Thomas Merton at the time…I kind of hoped she wouldn’t ever come back to class. She didn’t, after about a week. She couldn’t do the work, or she didn’t want to do the work, or she just was happier not doing the sort of stuff that one had to do in a class where you’re reading theological arguments for days on end and trying to come up with your own. People like that—and yes, this is cold stuff—don’t interest me. That is, of course, fine and dandy. People who don’t have any interest in cursing and Tarkovsky don’t have any interest in me either, and they’re better off. I’m a pain. The world’s a better place when we don’t all think the same, and it is everybody’s right to look at something and say “No, I don’t have any more questions to add.” It was her right to say “not interested” just as much as mine is to say “not interested in YOU then, no more cookies!” Free to be you and me, all that. Nobody’s punching each other.
I love the experience of reading comics. I love the joy it’s brought me. But I think what I love even more—actually, let’s not mince words. I’m sure, 100 percent, that what I love more, is discussing these things. I like it when somebody who is smart, who has a spine, and is somewhat funny, doesn’t like my favorite movies. I like it when a friend reads something that I’m infatuated with and says “Yeah. That was terrible.” When that happens, I know that we can have some fun with it, because we’re not going to be a bunch of babies who bring hurt feelings into the discussion, we aren’t going to bring up some ridiculous anecdote about the time that dad didn’t hug us enough or make it to enough pee-wee games like that proves a point, we’re not going to let an argument of whether or not “Riot At Xavier’s” is awesome turn into something that involves one guy saying something about the other guy’s mother. I know that if we start nailing each other on how the other one never actually finished reading Maggots that it isn’t going to turn into some pointless discussion on snobbery and elitism. Nobody is going to cry, even though we might scream.
Let me be clear though: I don’t think it takes courage to do that. I think it takes faith—faith that your love for something can’t be destroyed simply because somebody has demanded you explain your reasons. Faith that what you think, what you care about—that you believe in something enough to jack into real discussion. Not “I’m right, I’m going prove it.” It’s the spine to say that you love this thing, and you’re willing to go to the wall to figure out why. Because I want my love—whether it’s for Kirby or Ware—to be built on a solid foundation. And if you’re not willing to fight for what you care about? If a simple disagreement somehow ruins your ability to enjoy something you did before you started?
Then I’m not so sure you cared about it that much in the first place.
Loving art shouldn’t be a passive, easy job. It shouldn’t be a game of “I need to disconnect from my crappy life choices that have resulted in a job/life/relationship I don’t care for.” No. Art isn’t my escape. It’s the blood in my fucking body. It’s supposed to be. It’s supposed to matter.
The thing that breaks my heart about comics isn’t that Diamond is going to screw over a lot of great artists, or that a bunch of smart people are going to waste their time with a lousy issue of Nightwing. That stuff might irritate me, but no: doesn’t break my heart. What breaks my heart is that I don’t get to be here in 100 years, when one of the many who are smarter than me will have studied these comics I’m seeing for the first time. They’ll have dealt them into an intellectual discussion—whether that’s in print, academia or even on these blog things that continue to sprout up—and that discussion will have reached the heights that other great art see nowadays. I want to know, hear and experience what decades of intelligent readers have to say about Acme Novelty Library, RASL, Jack Kirby’s 4th World, Calvin & Hobbes, and Brian Chippendale’s Ninja. (I won’t. My fantasy afterlife doesn’t include a library of future comic discussion, just lots of golfing.)
I’ll make do with what I have now—which is when my friends and I get together, and without a computer in the way, we War Room down on what makes comics great. That’s what I love. Talking about comics. Arguing about comics. Thinking about comics. Fighting about comics.