Wednesday, November 08, 2006


This will be long and ranty.

Ok. On a day when it seems like there isn't enough good news coming in from the political world, when the first color tests of the new issue of Earth Minds Are Weak are looking remarkably positive, when I'm getting closer to putting that issue out, when Lost is on, when I'm in good health and looking forward to the future... I find myself consumed with rage. Utter, blinding rage. And I'm hoping that venting online is going to release enough of that rage to get on with my evening.

First of all, I'm doing this here, because it's a safe place that most likely won't result in my all-consuming rage being inflicted on the causes of my rage. I only have one problem with the person(s) in question, and I'd hate for that to ruin our working relationship.

A little background. A co-worker of mine, very nice guy, knows about my interest in comics and started talking to me about them a few months ago. He had never read comics, but was reading a lot about them in the press lately. So, he started having a thought that the novel he was writing might be better served as a comic, and he wanted a bit of an introduction into just what that would entail.

I lent him several books (the McSweeny's issue that Ware edited, Understanding Comics, Comics and Sequential Art, and a few others. Of them, he found the McCloud the most useful. He was surprised by how much burden the art was forced to carry in proper comics, as he basically percieved them as illustrated texts. We talked about things, he went home and tried breaking his story up into panels, I gave him reccomendations of other books he might want to explore. He was very excited about the whole thing, and only got a little disheartened when I told him that A) I didn't know anyone who just drew comics who wasn't a full-fledged cartoonist, B) that it was difficult to find people to work for a backend deal and C) that a remarkably fast carttonist might be able to work at a rate of a page a day, but that those people were ridiculously rare (his book is supposed to be well over 200 pages long). I pointed him in the direction of several websites that could be used as references and then disheartened him again when I told him that comics is one of the all-time best ways to lose money. Still, he was undaunted, even if the idea of actually walking into a comic book store baffled him.

Okay, I thought. I have no problem with him wanting to make comics. In fact, I'm all in favor of as many people making comics as possible. Hell, he even went out and bought some collections of Barefoot Gen. At the very least, we would have a new comics reader added to our ranks, and that's something I'm even more in favor of.

He's a big fan of The Strand, a New York book-seller that specializes in over-prints and used books, selling many of them for heavily discounted prices. I told him that they did carry graphic novels, although I'd rather support independent comic book stores because they're important, they carry my books, they have more-knowlegable staffs and they just have a greater variety than what you'll find at The Strand. But, if you want to get a bunch of quality books for a low price, it's a store that's hard to beat. Especially if you frequent said store anyway.

Last week, my co-worker walked up to me and asked if I had ever heard of the book in his hand. It was a copy of RAW #4. The big, over-sized RAW #4. "Oh my god! Have I ever HEARD of it? This is RAW, probably the greatest comics anthology of all time! Wow!" (I had to say "probably," because I had never SEEN the over-sized issues. I've only seen one of the smaller, second volumes. But, c'mon...)

It turns out he was scouring the Dollar Shelves that The Strand puts outside for donations they just want to get rid of. Then he tells me that he picked it up because it had Maus serialized inside, a book I had reccomended. He got a few more... The very first eight issues of RAW, all in nice shape and all for a dollar each. Eight dollars for the FIRST EIGHT ISSUES OF RAW. he said they had more stuff there, but didn't know much about it. I told him that he had hit upon the veritable Holy Grail of used book buying. Not only has a LOT of this material not been reprinted (particularly the english translations of Tardi and Swarte), but these books are incredibly rare and you have to pay incredibly high prices for them when you find them. AND they contain some of the best comics ever published. I told him that if he wanted to truly understand comics, the best way was to sudy these.

Then I ran out of the office and ran to The Strand to see what else they had. A lot of Epic Illustrateds, Heavy Metals, a Jimbo collection, some Moebius books and some foriegn anthologies I was barely familiar with. All for a dollar and on the same shelf as those RAWs. I'm guessing that someone in their mid–late forties passed away and someone donated them to The Strand, not realising what they had. Then someone at The Strand stuck clearance stickers on them, also not realising what they had. It's almost insane to think about these books sitting out there on a day like today, one block away from Forbidden Planet. In many ways, my co-worker rescued them, while stumbling upon one of the all-time great finds.

Today, he started talking to me about eBay, buying things (he's a bibliophile) and selling things. Finally, he gets to the part of the conversation where he tells me just what he's planning to sell. The copies of RAW he bought for a dollar each. It seems that the only part of our conversation that had any resonance with him was "pay incredibly high prices" part. And here's where I direct a fair bit of rage at myself.


So, he's telling me that he's planning on selling thse online. He read them over the weekend and sees NO INTRINSIC VALUE IN THEM ASIDE FROM WHAT I TRIED TO CONVEY. He tells me that he'll sell them online unless I know someone who would be interested in buying them. "I would!" "Well, you have me at a disadvantage, because you know how much I payed for them. Were you going to offer me $10?" "No! I'd give you more than that." "Because I emailed someone in England and they want to give me $750 for them."

Well, I can't top that, can I? But my rage goes far beyond simply wanting these books for myself. I've lived my entire life without owning or reading these books, I can suffer their absence from my life with little difficulty. So, what fills me with rage?

Well, the fact that someone interested in comics — interested im making comics was pretty much handed the Philosopher's Stone for a song, but sees NO INTRINSIC VALUE in it. That gets my goat a bit.

The fact the Art Spegleman would rather put out things like In the Shadow of No Towers and the Maus dvd than put these important works back into circulation. That's painfully ridiculous.

How about the fact that he's feeding the unscrupulous world of rare book dealing? Insuring that the only people who can get a chance to read these books are those that can afford them, most likely the people who will benefit the least from reading them? That certainly pisses off my inner communist.

Maybe there's something else that's got me fired up. The reason he wants to sell these, is that what he really wants is this. A purchase his wife won't let him make unless he can get the money outside of his salary.

That's right. An amazing collection of works by the word's greatest authors, including:
# Aristotle
# Austen
# Calvin
# Chaucer
# Copernicus
# Dante
# Darwin
# Dickens
# Freud
# Hippocrates
# Homer
# Marx
# Plato
# Shakespeare
# Tolstoy
# Tocqueville
# Twain
# Virgil
# - and dozens more!

One of the worst designed book series ever concieved, collecting the best-known and most readily available works ever written. Works that have been printed in thousands and hundreds of thousands different, better, cheaper editions, most of which he has already read.

Oh yeah. That's the Heart of Darkness, right there.

I feel better already.


Blogger Kenneth Belasco said...

I want to harm this guy.

That is the crappyest reason for doing anything, ever!

That's like Jim Jones poisoning all those people so he could buy the Sienfield box set.

11:08 AM  
Blogger Marcos Perez said...

who did it and ran! he did,
lesson one: dont tell them the dollars
lesson two: get to the strand before they do.

reminds me the time i came home and megan found a near complete run of love and rockets on the street. diff is she kept them.
but i certainly would of appreciated it more

12:04 PM  
Blogger Justin J. Fox said...

It was such an off-the-cuff comment. part of the whole, "Wow, this is really something special" rant.

From now on, I erase all monetary mentions.

6:28 PM  

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