DeFlip Side #151: Comics Rejoinder

DeFlip Side #151: Comics Rejoinder

Welcome everyone. I’m Christopher DeFilippis and this is DeFlip Side.

Eight years ago, I took to these airwaves and proclaimed that I was done with comic books. After DC screwed one too many times with my favorite books and sidelined my favorite character—Green Lantern Kyle Rayner—I declared that my comic reading days were at an end.

But my calling it quits went beyond fan pouting. I didn’t want to succumb to what I dubbed Stepford Fanyboy Syndrome, the condition afflicting the majority of guys I saw in the comics shop for whom collecting comics had become an end in itself, regardless if they read or even liked the books they were buying. If you want a deeper explanation, go listen to that old show here. The point is, I was done. I was out.

Well, mostly. Except for Keith R. A. DeCandido’s Farscape series. Look, he was working with Farscape creator Rockne O’Bannon, who declared that the books were canon. So as a loyal Farscape fan how could I not read them? But once the series ran its course, I filed it in my old comics dungeon, locked the door, and never looked back.

And then… DC launched the New 52, scrapping its entire universe to start from scratch—except for the Green Lantern titles, which they expanded, including a new book called New Guardians which featured Kyle Rayner as a member of a team of Lanterns from corps across the emotional spectrum. I suddenly had a new monthly title. And while I was at it, I decided to pick up Animal Man and Resurrection Man just for kicks.

But though I enjoyed the stories, my enthusiasm again began waning in the face of the same old comic shenanigans that drove me away in the first place. One title changed creative teams and lost focus. Another was cancelled. And stacks of books were once again cluttering my library like little monuments to futility. So I quit. Again.

Until… I read an Internet review of a new comic called Satellite Sam by writer Matt Fraction, illustrated by legendary industry mainstay Howard Chaykin. Damn Internet! Because before you knew it, I was hitting up my friend and Destinies host Howard Margolin to pick up whatever issues of Satellite Sam he could find in his comic book shop, because, dammit, I was done with comics and I refused to go to my local shop and get sucked back in.

Sure enough the first four issues of Satellite Sam were great. The book seems written especially for me, as it takes place in the early days of live television in New York. When the star of the Sci-Fi kiddie show Satellite Sam is found dead in his apartment with dozens of racy photos of seemingly every woman he ever slept with—including one of his co-stars—his alcoholic son sets about tracking the women down and solving his murder.

Satellite Sam could just as easily take place in the era of old-time radio, which is what draws me to it—you know, aside from the sex, murder and alcoholism. And the premise of the book should prevent it from backsliding into the cyclic status quo that ruins most comics for me. Fraction is doing a good job of fleshing out the large ensemble cast and exploring their relationships. It’s more Mad Men than X-Men. Fraction even cites filmmaker Billy Wilder as an inspiration. So the book is poised to go in interesting directions.

And just like that, comics once again began multiplying on my night table. Then something even more terrible happened.

Walking my dog through town one evening, I discovered that my local comic book shop had closed down, the display stands and racks that I had perused for more than a decade haphazardly scattered behind the darkened front window. It felt like someone had punched me in the heart. I’m a huge believer of shopping locally, and here was a business that I had pretty much abandoned, suddenly shuttered.

Look, even at my height, I was a smalltime comic book collector. There’s no way my paltry purchases where ever going to make or break a shop that had been in business for more than 30 years. But I was overwhelmed by a sense of guilt and loss.

So let this be a lesson. If you don’t buy your comics on Main Street, the terrorists win.

But back to Satellite Sam! A week after my gruesome discovery, I went to town to see X-Men: Days of Future Past, and after the movie let out I was meandering toward Starbucks to meet my wife when what do I stumble upon? A new comic book shop! My heart leapt. The shop was closed for the night, but I was so thrilled to see it that I was there at my next opportunity to atone for my sins.

It turns out that the owner of the new shop had bought out the old shop and relocated. And he had the first Satellite Sam trade edition in stock. And even though I already had four of the five books in the collection, I bought it as a gesture of good will. And the owner also talked me into buying the first trade edition of another Matt Fraction book called Sex Criminals, illustrated and co-created by Chip Zdarsky.

I’d read about Sex Criminals in the same Internet article where I learned about Satellite Sam, and it had been extremely well received. So I figured, why not? And it turned out to be one of the best comics-buying decisions I’ve ever made.

Sex Criminals is about Suzie, who has the ability to stop time when she has an orgasm. When she meets Jon, who has the same power, they do what any loving couple in the same situation would do: rob a bank. Despite its overtly sexual premise, Sex Criminals isn’t juvenile or prurient or even all that risqué. It deals frankly with sex, but within the context of a smart, character driven story. And it’s maybe the funniest comic I’ve ever read.

Click on the links for Sex Criminals and Satellite Sam and check them out for yourself.

So come, join me, as I go once more unto the comics breach. But I think I’ve finally found a way around all the things about comic book collecting that eventually sour the experience for me. From now on, I’m all about collected editions: handsome bound books that look good on my shelves, and which I only have to buy once or twice a year. No more comic books lying around. No more tedious bagging and boxing. No mindless drift into Stepford Fanboy Syndrome.

The second volume of Satellite Sam is due out later this month and I find myself looking forward to it as I would a new book from any other favorite author. Finally! A way to re-embrace a medium that I love in a way that won’t drive me insane!

Because if history has shown me anything, it’s that I’m lousy at not reading comics.



Featured Music

The music featured on this episode of DeFlip Side is from Green Lantern: The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack by James Newton Howard and Green Lantern: The Animated Series by Frederick Weidmann.