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May the Force of Free Comics Be With You

To my chagrin, this is apparently not a sequel to Chesterton's "The Man Who Was Thursday".


At some point in the rapidly fleeing winter, I happened to have a conversation with a worker from Paradise Comics, my first and favourite comic book store. The fact that it’s not local for me anymore is the only salient problem with the fact that I now live in my favourite part of town.

This discussion involved “Secret Six”, which could easily be the best comic that DC ever published for me. By “for me”, I don’t just mean that it was a great work in my opinion. That slightly obtuse bit of phrasing should also draw attention to one of the comic’s gifts, one that seems endemic to great works. It’s that ability to make a reader feel as though the work were specifically created with him in mind. Obviously, it’s completely subjective, which is part of what makes it special.

I love “Star Wars” too. All the movies. Some of the shows. Bits of the other stuff. I could take or leave the holiday, but I hope that all of you have a happy one regardless. Topical! Anyway. Beside the point. Lots of people love “Star Wars”, and many of those people feel a deep personal connection with it. I know that I do. Despite the fact that my tastes currently tend to favour comics over “Star Wars” to some extent, I actually invested myself in “Star Wars” novels before I ever entered the world of comic books. That chronology seems mildly odd in retrospect. But I had a love for “Star Wars” long before the original trilogy made its return to cinemas in the late Nineties, which was excellent because it meant that that revival meant something to me before I even went in.

I believe that the first “Star Wars” novel I picked up was Timothy Zahn’s “The Last Command”. I think that I was at an airport. It was the final entry of a trilogy, and I only learned fairly recently that it bore the brunt of responsibility for blowing up the expanded universe of “Star Wars” into what it is today. Or would that be yesterday? Who knows what Disney's really doing with all of that? Whatever. It'll be fine. There were some good times, but I won't think of it like losing a Thrawn. I'll think about it like gaining Chewbacca! His death never felt terribly real to me anyway, and now it probably isn't! All of this might also be beside the point. But that’s how this goes.

Anyway, my affection for that franchise is clear, and it’s something that’s experienced in one way or another by millions of other people, but I’d imagine that that extra sensation that “Secret Six” incited in me is relatively rare even among the most fervent fans of Lucas’s saga. It’s a rare thing in all cases. It’s not tied to the level of devotion. It’s purely qualitative and often random. “Star Wars” certainly contains great works, but I bring it up here specifically because its perfectly benign inability to bring up that particular emotion in me is completely irrelevant to its presence in my life, which is certainly bigger than that of “Secret Six”.

Incidentally, I didn’t set out to speak so profusely on “Star Wars” when I began this post about Free Comic Book Day, but I’m glad for the presence of this digression on a post that happens to fall on the fourth of May. The whole thing works out!

I brought up the discussion about “Secret Six” because it resolved with my declaration of an attempt to locate my complete paperback collection of the series and deliver it to the comic shop worker. Later, I realised that I’d probably thrown the books out with most of my other comics, which she and I took in stride.

On Thursday, I had cause to enter my brother’s bedroom for the first time since the recent end of his brief visit. Apparently, he’d been digging around through old stuff, for I chanced upon a “Secret Six” paperback among the freshly strewn oddments in the room. It wasn’t in great condition, but it was the first collection of the actual series, which was technically preluded by a brief volume that was probably tossed out with everything else.

This was a fortuitous find, for it gave me the extra bit of motivation to actually make the journey up to Paradise on that Saturday for Free Comic Book Day, which has never really been the most worthwhile of prospects for me. Obviously, it’s a wonderful thing, but the books it offered never really ran away with my imagination. That’s on me, though. I just never managed to muster up true excitement for complimentary issues that seemed minor and incidental when there was such a vast amount of stuff in the store that appealed to me. My clearest childhood memory of Free Comic Book Day is of an issue that my brother picked up. It was a comic continuation of an animated adaptation of a book by DC, a company that I didn’t even care about until the arrival of the “Teen Titans” cartoon in a later year. My favourite comic on that particular day was almost definitely some “X-Men” thing that I actually had to pay for. In a somewhat amusing turn, one of the best free issues I picked up today was a comic based on the successor to that “Teen Titans” cartoon. There could be some irony in that, but there’s a healthy dose of aptness too. There was also a “Guardians of the Galaxy” comic that told the story of Flash Thompson’s arrival on the team, which serves as a somewhat belated answer to the short moment of mild confusion I experienced when I picked up the latest regular issue of that series to discover that something like the addition of a new cast member was apparently only mentioned on the recapitulation page instead of being shown anywhere.

If people are actually reading this, many of them might not know or care about these bits of minutiae into which I’m delving, but it’s Free Comic Book Day. It’s made for this stuff. I hardly think that I’d care if it weren’t, though. People never know what I’m talking about anyway.

Most of the other stuff I grabbed didn’t seem to merit much attention, but I did find an issue of “Courtney Crumrin”, which is a series I basically forgot to start a few months ago. I also bought the first issue of Gaiman’s new “Sandman”, which is another thing I meant to do months ago despite my current tendency towards digital acquisition.

One other comic I considered and forgot months ago probably isn’t related to Free Comic Book Day in any real way, but I’ll talk about it anyway because I’m on a ramble. “Saga”! Its worth is old news to many of the people who would care, but I finally turned my attention to it recently, and I adore it. When I realised that I was approaching its most recent issue, I was even faintly bothered at the idea of waiting for the next one. This was heightened by my awareness of the creative team’s penchant for taking breaks between story arcs. However, after I finished the last book today, this discomfort was assuaged in the letter column by the writer’s revelation that the hiatus that began after the issue’s release would be ending in May. This is what I get for starting late. I get to jump right back on immediately. Cheers for procrastination!


Copyright © 2011, Jaymes Buckman and David Aaron Cohen. All rights reserved. In a good way.