Originally published February 23, 2001, in Comics Buyer’s Guide #1423–Special “1971″ theme issue
I think comic books just cost me a date with Debbie Moss, and that might be the last straw.
I can’t believe I’m saying that. I mean, y’know, when I first started reading comics when I was five years old, I felt like I’d found a whole bunch of friends I didn’t even know I was missing. And here I am, ten years later, and suddenly I feel like, y’know, these same fans are dragging me down.
Regular readers of this column know that this has been coming on for a while now. I mean, for one thing, y’know, I’ve been screaming about the skyrocketing prices for ages now. When I first started reading comics, they were a nice, tidy, twelve cents. One dime, two nickels. I could go into a comic book store with a buck and buy eight comics. Y’know, pretty much keep up with everything cool that was coming out.
I can’t tell you how bad it hit me the day I walked in and they’d gone up to fifteen cents. I couldn’t believe it. Is nothing sacred? Do they think teenagers are made of money? And I feel like we’ve barely recovered from that, and all of a sudden… twenty cents? Twenty cents? For a comic book? A twenty two page comic book? And now I’m even hearing rumors that they’re talking about it going up to twenty five cents!!! Twenty five cents!!!
When I was a kid, twenty five cents for a comic was a major deal, because that meant you were getting an eighty page giant. The eighty page giants were the coolest things, because you got all these great early stories, and it was just twenty-five cents. Twenty to twenty-five cents for a regular comic now? I don’t think so, guys. Because I keep feeling like, y’know, I just put up with it and say, “Okay,” and dig deeper and find the money, you know what’s going to happen? Thirty years down the line, that dollar which used to buy eight comic books… it’ll only get you two, three comics tops! Do you really want to go into a comic book store, plunk down your hard-earned dollar, and get just two comics for it? I sure don’t!
That’s strike one: The crazy prices we’re dealing with. Now we’re getting to strike two: Subject matter.
I read comics to be entertained. I read them to read about, y’know, superheroes, going around and beating up on bad guys and fighting for truth, justice and the American way. And I have to tell you, I’m really upset—really upset—with what’s going down in comics lately.
The leader of the pack is Green Lantern/Green Arrow. At first I was excited about the book because the art looked really cool and everything, but all the stories were these preachy, socially relevant hippie crap stuff. Look, I don’t want to be reminded of the real world, okay? Every day gets me one day closer to draft age, and I sure as hell don’t want to be shipped off to Vietnam, so the last thing I need are comic books that remind me what a scary place the world is. I want comics where the good guys are good, the bad guys are bad, the good buys beat the bad guys, and that’’ it, it’s over, y’know?
And even worse, Marvel—my main publisher, the top of the heap—started to get into the act. There’s this whole drug storyline with Harry becoming an addict. Drugs are entertainment? It didn’t bother me when DC started copying Marvel, making their heroes less perfect and stuff because it meant that DC finally realized that Marvel is where it’s at. But now DC has to go and try and top Marvel, and we get this super-relevant crap. And worst of all is what was done to Speedy! Speedy! We fought for, y’know, ever to get Speedy into the Teen Titans (why he was left out in the first place, I have no idea. Why didn’t they have him in the first place instead of Aqualad? Is there any character lamer than a character with “Aqua” in his name? Aquaman was always lame in the JLA. Somebody just stick a harpoon in him or feed him to piranha or something.)
So Speedy was finally getting the respect he deserved by being in Titans, and suddenly here’s this issue of GL/GA coming along… and he’s a drug addict? This is entertainment? This is respect for the heroes? What, just because his name is Speedy, somebody felt it would be really cute that he’s got a drug addiction problem? They were actually showing him shooting up on panel? This is the hero?!?!? What were they thinking?!? Was anyone at DC paying attention to this? How did this get past the Comics Code? Don’t they care anymore?
I’m really, truly afraid that that’s how they’re going to try and pull in readers, now that they’re putting crazy prices on the covers. I’m afraid this whole “relevant” thing is going to catch on, or be pushed as heavy as possible. It’s not right, y’know? There’s nothing comical about it. Heroes with drug problems isn’t adventurous, or heroic, or fun, or anything. It’s just sad and creepy and gives you something less to believe in.
So that’s strike two. As for strike three, well…
I was in the local magazine shop, y’know, J&M Magazines, over on Bloomfield Avenue. And I was checking out the comic rack for the latest books, and I’m standing there with my main man, Spider-Man, the latest issue, in my hands, and suddenly I hear from behind me, “Oh my God!” I turn around, except I know the voice before I even see her. It’s Debbie Moss. Now you guys who have been following this column, you know she’s the most gorgeous girl to walk on two perfect legs in all of New Jersey. And I’ve been trying to get her attention for ages, and she’s been actually talking to me a little, and I was all set to ask her out. And she’s standing there, by the candy, with a couple of her friends, and they’re looking at me and pointing and giggling, whispering to each other, pointing at me. And I know just why Debbie said “Oh my God,” it’s because I’m fifteen years old and I’m still reading comic books.
I tried to be cool but totally screwed it up. I tried to act like I picked it up by mistake and shoved it back into the rack as fast as I could. But I jammed it in sideways and it got all bent up, and to make matters worse (as if they could be worse) the guy behind the counter sees it and shouts, “Hey! You’re gonna have to buy that!” I could feel the stinging in my face; I knew I was blushing. I went over to him, feeling like I had lead weights on my feet, and shoved the money at him and didn’t even count the change. I muttered “Hi,” to Debbie but she just said, “Oh my God” again and I got the hell out of there.
So comics have embarrassed me in front of a girl I really like, because she thinks I’m some kind of mental midget because I read comics, because comics are for little kids. Plus the stories are getting depressing, and the prices are ridiculous. So maybe I should just quit them altogether. Get out of the whole stupid thing for good. Give up this column, ditch the Buyer’s Guide, just walk away, cold turkey.
Here’s what I’m doing.
I’m dumping DC.
I still love Marvel too much—and mainly Spidey—to get out completely. But by ditching DC, I’m making a protest against their crappy drug issues, plus if I’m buying fewer comics overall, it’s less of a money drain. So long, DC! Bye bye, Batman! Sayonara, Supes! It’s been fun! But a guy’s got to grow up, make some tough choices. And at least Marvel is still big on college campuses, thanks to Stan the Man, so maybe—maybe—I can convince Deb that Marvels are not just little kids’ stuff because college guys read them. Maybe.
Bet you guys are breathing a sigh of relief, huh? Thought this was the end of Pistol Pete’s column? Well, not yet, buckos! I still have hope! I still have faith! So until they give Spider-Man four extra arms and kill off Gwen Stacy, make mine Marvel!
(Peter David, fan of stuff, can be written to c/o Verona High School, Verona, New Jersey.)