The Middle Ground #120 | While we wait
The plus side of something being creator-owned is that, in most cases, that means it’s also creator-controlled; the more practical and technical aspects — release schedule, pricing, etc. — are something that creators have some level of input into, even if not final say over. Which is, let’s be honest, a pretty great thing … well, until it means you have to wait for the good stuff, of course. Which is to say: I can’t tell you how glad I am that Greg Rucka and Matthew Southworth’s Stumptown is back this week.
I can be a selfish reader, and so I’ve found myself thinking terrible thoughts in the months since the last volume of the detective series set in my hometown of Portland, Oregon. Terrible thoughts like “Maybe they could have, like, Stumptown one=shots illustrated by other artists to give Matthew Southworth more time to work on the main series,” or “Would the book really be that different if someone else took over the art for an arc, which might speed up the release schedule?” You’ll realize why those thoughts are so terrible for yourself when you read the first issue of The Case of the Baby in the Velvet Case this week, because — man, Southworth is Stumptown; there’s something about the way his characters look, or the way he paces a scene, that really makes the series what it is, and the idea of replacing him for whatever reason would be like hearing your favorite band with a new lead guitarist. It might be really similar to what you’re expecting, but it won’t be the same. And so, forgive me, Mr. Southworth; I’ll try to have more patience in future, thinking to myself over and over again about those good things that, I’ve been told, come to those who wait.
I may be wrong in putting Stumptown‘s lengthy absence between series — the last issue came out two years ago, looking at the release dates — down to Southworth’s meticulousness and process, and I know that we could’ve had another issue earlier had everyone involved not agreed to delay launching the second series until they were confident each issue would come out more or less monthly (something that really didn’t happen with the first series, four issues spread out across a release schedule of something like ten months). That’s the thing, of course: The delay between arcs is a good thing in that it means the series will come out on a regular schedule, and we won’t be kept on the edge of our seats for longer than necessary between issues this time around. And yet, like I said, I’m a selfish reader. I’m greedy and wish for worlds where something as good as Stumptown — something as smart, funny, stylish and just plain enjoyable, something that manages to take the detective tropes from television and prose and make them work in comics, which is rare despite the many, many attempts that people have made on translating them — was around more often. I know it’s silly. I know that, if it were rushed out on a regular monthly schedule no matter what, then I probably wouldn’t enjoy it as much, because it wouldn’t be as good. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and some things are worth waiting for. Aren’t those two more truisms to take to heart, here?
I’m writing from the future, in a way; I’ve seen a preview copy of the first issue, and I know the new Stumptown really is worth the wait. Maybe it’s because it ties in with A Fistful of Rain, which may be my favorite of Rucka’s novels — either I really like it when he writes about Portland, or I find myself drawn to characters who aren’t always hyper-capable in every circumstance — or because it acknowledges the passing of time since the first volume and lets Dex grow from where she was back then. Or maybe it’s just that the amount of work that took all that time really is visible on the page, but it’s a really good comic, taking everything I loved about the series the first time around and doing the same thing again, just different and “more” enough to make it worth the return visit without a sense of deja vu. I may have complained to myself and thought terrible thoughts for the last couple of years, but when I get to read about Dex (and Mim!) again, everything is forgotten and the long absence more than forgiven, because it means that I only have a month to wait until the next issue.