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The Fifth Column:
No Flies On Me By Dwayne McDuffie
"You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar," or so the saying goes. It makes a certain amount of sense, I suppose. Although I'm not sure why anyone would want flies. Maybe it's a metaphor.
In any case, I'm going to try to be nicer. Well, not nicer. More positive. I'm not good at this, bear with me.
I dare to dream of a better world. Let me refine that last statement, I'd like to be the kind of guy who dares to dream of a better world. In truth, I'm a broken and bitter man, resigned both to the inevitable extinction of the comic book medium I once loved and the likelihood that the mysterious headaches I've been suffering from for the last few years are a side effect of an otherwise undetectable brain tumor.
While there isn't much I can do about my hypochondria, I'm hoping to use this column to chronicle the rekindling of my lost love affair with comic books. I'm going to try and focus my writing on what's good about comics. As you may have gathered by now, this all goes somewhat against my nature. Still, let's give it a shot.
I remember the exact moment I fell in love with comics. I was at the corner store with my Dad. I've never liked candy but he was determined to get me something. He picked out a SUGAR AND SPIKE comic book. I don't remember ever seeing a comic book before then, much less showing any interest in one. But as long as Dad was offering, I decided I preferred ADVENTURE COMICS, featuring the Legion of Super Heroes. My reasoning, as I recall, was that it contained more superheroes and therefore was a better value (in addition to which, the big fat guy who bounced like a ball seemed... intriguing). Anyway, Dad buckled under the pressure and bought both. By the time we got back to the car, I was hooked for life. And that's when I fell in love with comic books.
The exact moment I fell out of love with comics isn't as clear in my mind. I was a fan of goofy 60's DC books, writer-driven 70's Marvel books, the early 80's independent surge and of DC's miraculous mid-to-late 80's redefinition of mainstream comics. But somewhere in there comics went from fun hobby, to cool job (I made my first professional sale in 1987 and went on staff at Marvel shortly thereafter), to distasteful chore. Maybe I fell out of love in the early 90's, when the industry became a home for speculators who didn't care what happened inside the books, just how much the price guides said they were worth. Maybe it was slightly after, when the bubble burst and I saw dozens of friends and colleagues who had made a good living in comics suddenly become unemployable. Maybe I'm just projecting my own disappointment at the rather spectacular failure of my own comic book company to find an audience. Whatever the case, I now find myself one of those guys who used to like comics. Can I change? We'll see. What's this column going to be like? If you watch the HBO series THE SOPRANOS, I can explain it quite simply; I'm Tony Soprano, this column is a psychiatric session and you, dear reader, are my drunken therapist. I'm going to try and use my own personal bitterness as a metaphor for the malaise our industry is in. If that doesn't work, I'll probably just switch to doing reviews, and nobody wants that. So let's all keep our fingers crossed, shall we?
Here's something comic-book related I actually can be positive about: According to the official website: "An unprecedented coalition joins to reflect on September 11. The greatest writers and artists in comics join with an unprecedented coalition of publishers to create two volumes reflecting on a tragedy that changed the world." The project, called simply 9-11 goes on sale this Wednesday, January 23. Each volume is only $9.95, that's less than 20 bucks for over 400 pages of comics and all proceeds go to 9-11 relief charities, so there's absolutely no excuse for passing this one up. To see a list of the amazing talents that have donated their work to this project, click here.
I'm running long this week but as usual, I'll be watching my mailbox in anticipation of your comments, graft and letter bombs. I'm especially interested in hearing what the readers of my old columns think of my new, kinder and gentler persona. If I don't get some positive feedback pretty quick, it's not going to last, I'm already feeling the strain. Remember that a smile uses only 14 muscles but a frown has 42 to share the work.