ROB'S NOTE: May has become the go-to month of the Comic’s Industry (even though National Superhero Day is late April, but whatever… Congress… pshaw). It is when Marvel drops their big movie of the year. May also sees the annual Free Comic Book Day celebration take place on the first Saturday of the Month, so I hope you all got to check that out. May also has 31 days of the month so what better way to celebrate the wonderful world of sequential art with the 31 Days of Comics?
Seth Hahne, who runs the blog GoodOkBad, has put together the 31 Days of Comics challenge. A daily challenge in which you are given a category and you have to fill it with a comic that you think fits it the best. You’re all on the internet, I shouldn’t have to explain it to you. For the rest of the month I will be taking this challenge. It is my hope it encourages others to make and share their own lists either in the comments here or on their own websites. The sharing not only might turn comic fans on to works they have yet to sample but maybe catch the eye of a few non-comic fans and highlight the diversity of the form.
Our prompt for Day 14 is ”A Comic You Love That You Will Never Read Again.”
Written by Robert Kirkman
Pencils by Tony Moore and Charlie Adlard
Inks by Tony Moore, Charlie Adlard, and Stefano Guadiano
Colors by Tony Moore and Cliff Rathburn
Letters by Robert Kirkman and Rus Wooten
First of all I want to thank Diego Crespo for killing me, taking over my body, and fulfilling my duties yesterday. It wouldn’t be comics if we didn’t have at least one “fill-in” along the way.
This prompt is interesting in a number of ways. First, why would we willingly stop reading something we genuinely enjoy? One would assume that event taking into account the law of diminishing marginal returns that if we no longer enjoyed it, then it wouldn’t be something we loved anymore and wouldn’t count. There have been things I’ve read so much that my feelings towards them have diminished (Noble Causes) through no fault of their own. Do I still love that thing? Or would that count? I almost imagine a heart-wrenching break up scene of me holding a trade paperback tight saying “It’s not that I don’t love you, it’s just I am not IN love with you.”
However interesting that question is to ponder, I had an answer ready to go for this prompt the minute I saw it. While in previous entries I’ve often reflected on how the comics I’ve read have changed me this is the first time I’ll get to talk about how a change in my life has impacted my relationship to the comic.
It’s not exactly popular to speak ill of The Walking Dead. At this time it is by far the most profitable and valuable comic franchise not owned by one of the big two. People I know who have never touched a comic in their life will post countless memes on social media counting down the months, weeks, days and hours until the TV runs another episode. Walking Dead is an important comic for the industry in many ways. It has shown creators that there is plenty of money to be made going the independent route, it has shown there is room in the market for a high quality black and white book, and it can serve as a gateway comic for those who set foot into a store for the first time to see where their favorite TV show originated.
And not only is it an important comic, but it is a good comic.
When I say I love the Walking Dead, I really do mean it. Robert Kirkman took a tired genre and breathed life (oh irony) into it by expanding the story beyond a 2 hour movie or a 500 page novel or a limited series comic book. I legitimately attribute the drop in people bragging about being able to survive the Zombie Apocalypse to this book, because people now know it isn’t a matter of making it 2 hours and you get to live happily ever after. The Walking Dead is a character study in how not only individuals but society would react to a calamitous experience that really did “change everything forever.” And by making it an open ended series with no “cure” (at least not yet), or safe haven (they’ll find a way in eventually), and no hero (Rick’s done some fucked up shit) he brings a real sense of terror. I don’t think we’ll ever have a zombie infestation, but if we did? It’s going to look a lot like this shit.
I made it through 14 volumes of the trade paperback before I had to stop reading it. It wasn’t that I found the story boring (it wasn’t). It wasn’t that I wasn’t interested in the characters (I was). It wasn’t even that I can no longer afford to buy it (I never could in the first place). What happened is that I had a son and I’ll be damned if I didn’t put him in the place of Carl every time I kept reading. And what used to be something scary and intense in a good way became scary, intense and sad to experience.
I’d finish the latest trade paperback and set it down. I’d think about it a few seconds. I’d get up out of bed (I read mostly at night), go into my son’s room and check to see if he’s ok. I’d give him a kiss on the forehead or something and slowly look at him before I went back into the bedroom. There I would immediately find something “happy” to either read or watch. I needed to chase away the terror and darkness before going to bed or else I’d have nightmares, which sadly were much more “reality based” than a zombie outbreak.
In the end I stopped reading Walking Dead because Kirkman did his job too well. His ability to convey the intensity, danger, and fear made it real for me. The art work, particularly in the expressions of the characters as well as the visual “weariness” they display weighed on my mind.
And maybe when my son is older I’ll pick up volume 15.
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