I Sing the Experience Life-Wasting

Ah, youth, sweet youth. That joyful time when I regularly tackled the tough stuff. And by tackling the tough stuff, I mean reading the really thick books. You know. Ulysses. Remembrance of Things Past. Gravity’s Rainbow. Nova Express (which wasn’t thick but was no less scarring). Yes, by God, I was stretching my mind.

And truthfully, I remember very little from any of them, outside of enjoying them. Proust, especially. Maybe I stretched out the brain cells too much (though admittedly, not purely through literature. Chemicals may have been involved).

But you know what I do remember, with great clarity? The death of Jean Grey. Doctor Doom killing his right hand man rather than let him destroy the art treasures of Europe in an attempt to kill the Fantastic Four. I remember when Terra betrayed the Teen Titans.

If you look back over the card catalog of everything I’ve read in my life, this would not surprise you. By fourth grade I had chewed my way through most everything H.G. Wells and Jules Verne had to offer, but I had also read through almost the entire Tom Swift, Jr. series as well as every Doc Savage reprint paperback Bantam could toss on the market. This is pulp, you might say, this is trash.

To which I say, pfui. Big Deal.

I’m past the age of being evangelical about what I like. I’m also long past the age of being apologetic about it. And into the age where, if you ridicule me about it, I can smile easily, gently urge you to commit a physically impossible act, and then command you to get off my lawn.

I loves the funny books, you see. If you don’t, that’s fine. But you’re prolly gonna get bored here very quickly.

Funny books are what enabled me to read Verne, Wells, Heinlein and that damned nightmare-inducing Alfred Hitchcock’s Monster Museum while my classmates were still struggling to step outside Dr. Seuss. My grandmother read to me every day from comic books when I was wee – Herbie was a big favorite – and thus did I learn to read before my first day of school.

There was a brief attempt to stop me from reading comics early on, fearful that I wouldn’t read “real” books – but that turned out to be a groundless fear. Sickly child that I was, reading was one of the few pursuits I could easily perform. I loved books. Still do. Love the smell of them, the feel of them, heavy in my hand. Love the portability. No batteries required.

I find myself gadget-curious about the Kindle. But I hunger for the smell of dusty paper, and the tactile joy of physically turning that page of pressed wood and dead ink. I don’t think an e-reader will ever truly be for me.

For one thing, I don’t think comics will read especially well on them.

It’s like one of those sudden conversion stories they love in evangelical circles. You see, I once hated on those “Marvel Essential” and “Showcase Presents” phone books. They don’t have color! Where is my four-color fury? Bah!

Of course, then came the day I saw Marvel Essential X-Men Vol. 3 at Half-Price Books and figured “What the hell.” What the hell indeed. Not to diss any of the hard working colorists who labored in the trenches all those years, but the color was the least of the strengths of these stories, and I have gotten really hooked on an easy, affordable way to read through huge hunks of history.

To digress – which surely you’ve come to expect from me by now – These days, the computer-driven coloring in comics is extraordinary. There is a recent re-issue of the Stan Lee/Jack Kirby Tales of Asgard in which the only change made was re-coloring, using modern methods, and the result is gorgeous to behold. I like to think Kirby would have approved whole-heartedly.

This is too long already, and I have rambled so far afield from what I originally intended to say, I hear search parties in the distance trying to find that intent. More on what I’ve been reading and why in the days ahead, I hope.

You know how I love going on and on about stuff nobody cares about.