Chris Juricich's letter of comment in CBG #1551 raises an interesting issue that will probably be debated long after I'm gone.
While I've read comics since I've been able to read -- I'm 30 now -- and, while I've also collected comics, edited and published comics (all small-press), and even reviewed comics (mostly minis and self-published items), I've long been loath to "deal" comics. I've not once "speculated" on a given issue. And I leave free comics on the train and in public as part of the Free-Range Comic Book Project.
Selling comics (moreso on the con circuit than in a retail setting, perhaps) -- and publishing comics, arguably -- more often than not leads to the burnout Juricich details. And I find that I maintain my wonder and fascination in the storytelling medium by reading comics. The reviews I do are to alert others to little-known comics I adore as a reader. But the callousness and distance Juricich describes occurs because of ongoing exposure to the frustrating economics of comics, I'd wager.
As soon as you begin valuing a given issue as an asset possessing a return on investment, as soon as you begin determining what to publish -- or create -- based on what the mainstream market will bear, the wonder fades. Your motivation changes. You change.
I get a similar sense in "mainstream" comics journalism. Wizard appeals to younger fans and collectors, almost as Beckett does to card collectors. The Comics Journal aims at older, more thoughtful, perhaps literary comics readers in spite of its largely publisher-centric nature. CBG caters to an even older crowd, one that seems to comprise retailers and dealers, as well as hardcore, long-time collectors. And Comics & Games Retailer, well, the title says it all.
I read them all for different reasons, but I recently resubscribed to CBG for a couple of reasons. Oh, So? is one. As long as CBG supports ongoing reader-driven conversations about comics-related issues offline, I'm a fan. Two: Picks and Previews. Not enough people review comics. We get news, we get hype, but thoughtful commentary written by readers -- much less readers who are named and photographed -- is in short supply in print. And, lastly, Fred Hembeck. May he ever proudly wave! Like Scott Saavedra of the fanzine Comic Book Heaven, Hembeck is a creator who absolutely loves comics. As a reader.
So here's to the comics readers. Here's to the people who read comics, think about comics, talk about comics, and care about comics. Here's to the creators who make comics they need and want to make personally, not comics they have to make to make a living. And here's to the publishers and editors who shepherd challenging comics that pique interest, push buttons, and surprise.
God, I love reading comics. It's sad that some people forget how to.
To the archives with you, back issue!