Around the Store in 31 Days: Day Twelve

OK, so I've clearly lost the daily pattern we had at the start -- my apologies, it's been a rough and busy week. I SHOULD be able to do daily through Wednesday this week, but then I have to disappear again (ComicsPRO's annual in Vegas)

Matt Wagner is one of my favorite creators in the whole wide world. (Come by the store some day and I'll tell you the story of why I'm in comics, and why Matt is really the one to blame) You can tell if you look at the store, because I've got more than 20 pieces of original Matt Wagner art (most commissions) hanging around the store -- including an on-going series of JSA portraits (in fact, I even have two that I still haven't even gotten framed yet)

In most circumstances this would probably lead to a discussion of MAGE: THE HERO DISCOVERED, except that, well, it is OP from Image at the moment, and who knows when it is coming back into print? If it does, grab it.

But, since it is OP, let me relate another story here...

(This is where I would have put the jump, if it wasn't for the small fact that more than half of you HATE the jump. We're trying to figure out what to do in the long run, but I heard ya', at least)

This was early in the store's life -- probably about '93 or '94. A gentleman came into the store, and he was pretty obviously on his last legs with AIDS. He was weak and emaciated, had palsy and could barely walk. He had a few sores on his face as well.

He asks me if I have any comics about suicide.


Now, I'm seriously torn here. The guy's sick, and my assumption is that the reason he's asking is because he's contemplating killing himself. This is the first time (and the only time since) that I felt like I had to make a moral decision about selling someone a comic book, y'know?

In the end, I walked over to the rack and pulled off a copy of GRENDEL: THE DEVIL INSIDE, the story of the Brian Li Sung version of Grendel by Matt and Bernie Mireault.

This story aside, the is a great comic, told in fragment, by a fragmented mind teetering on the brink of extinction. Wagner hasn't, I don't think, really gotten his due as a writer, and the experimental efforts he had through the 90s. Sure, some of them failed pretty massively, but overall he's changed the way I approach a peiece of comics writing by his playing with technique and format. And Mireault's art is astonishing here, bubbling with madness and grief.

I never saw the sick man again, so I don't know if DEVIL INSIDE helped him or hurt him. I dearly hope it is the former.


The post I don't want to make!

While I won't go so far as to claim that I'm the biggest Matt Wagner fan of all time (that would probably go to someone who has inked their body, is my guess), I strongly suspect I am in the top 2% -- I've got something like 20 Wagner originals hanging in the store, our bathroom door is a Grendel Mask, writ large... hell, the store's "Back in 5 minutes" sign is a Matt Wagner original.

So I'm quite sad to say that I was horribly disappointed with GRENDEL: BEHOLD THE DEVIL #1.

The worst of it, really, is it isn't really the work itself -- Matt remains, as always, a consummate storyteller, creative visionary, and experimenter with the form of comics -- but rather with the packaging and presentation and pricing, and the sense that maybe I *am* on the wrong side of history these days and this whole "periodical comic" thing is just a lousy idea.

(Well, no, I'll repudiate that immediately, just by thinking, with a smile on my face of BRAVE&BOLD, my last review, but it looks good in print as a point, so there you are...)

Let me back up about a half-step and remind you that I own a comic book store. This means I pay WHOLESALE for my comics. Hell, I suspect (though I've never tried it) that I could probably even write THAT off my taxes, if I wanted to. So for me, of all people, to be frustrated by cost/content ratios means they've got to be pretty bad.

G:BtD is 20 pages long. For $3.50. That, in and of itself, maybe wouldn't be so bad, except that 2 of those pages are "Journal" pages, with just spot illos, the next six of them are double-page spreads (with 4 of those pretty much just being blood spatters), and there's a page of character-looking-through-newspaper-archives where all of the newspaper clippings are simply Lorem Ipsums. Add in that final pin-up page, and half of the book isn't exactly "comics", really. Plus, it is B&W, with some minor single spot-color red thrown in.

And then, sort of insult-to-injury, the letters page, such that it is (I remember when "Grendel's Lair" used to be one of the densest letters pages in the business) mentions that the "MySpace" preview of the issue has two pages that don't appear in the printed version -- you can't win for losing, can ya'?

(And, aside to Di: next time use TinyURL, instead of that three lines of typing, sheesh!)

Look, I dig Matt, and I dig Grendel, and I love Matt's storytelling and panache and design, but there's absolutely no way I'm going to purchase this serialization. I can't even consider it. Eight issues @ $3.50 a throw (plus the 50 cent "#0") is $28.50. Even when this comes in HC, I can't see it being priced at over $24.95. Even if it was $29.95, hell the extra buck and a half will be worth it for what will likely be a new cover, and title page and some nice designy stuff. And the permanent format.

Craft-wise, G:BtD is, at the very least, GOOD work; it's probably even VERY GOOD -- but as a commercial package, as a unit of entertainment, whoo boy, is this AWFUL.

What did YOU think?