Street Fair and Single Issues

Another Street Fair has come and gone, and I’d like to thank all our Dark Star friends, new and old, for making this past October’s the most successful since…well, since ever! Attendance seemed higher than we’ve seen for an October fair, despite the slightly chilly temperatures. Even with a bump in attendance, we still had more folks in the store, browsing and buying and hopefully enjoying themselves in our newly-rearranged layout. I don’t get much of a chance to get out and shop during the fair, but I know I could handle those delicious bourbon chicken sandwiches more than twice a year, not to mention all of the other great fair food that shows up.

One of the things I noticed during Street Fair, and in the few days after, is an increase in younger kids, say 10 to 13, picking up issues of All-Star Superman, either one issue at a time or all 5. I’d never been a huge Superman fan in my youth, coming to it only right after his death in 1993 and popping in infrequently ever since, so seeing kids pick up All-Star is a nice surprise. Every issue that Grant Morrison and Frank Quietly have done thus far has been an absolute gem, giving us an unburdened by continuity Superman in his purest form, with each issue a complete story (the “done-in-one” format) that slowly paints a larger picture. Probably the most notable difference from the DCU proper version that Morrison brings is its gonzo sci-fi element, which is true to some of the Golden Age roots of the character.

Seeing kids come in and lap it up makes me want to have a book like that for *every* superhero. I mean, All-Star Batman & Robin, even though its part of the same line with the same mission (to tell non-continuity stories of their big name heroes) doesn’t fit that bill at all, and I don’t know if I want some 11 year old thinking that Batman calls Robin a retard on a regular basis (but they’d probably enjoy all of the scantily clad T&A shots of Vicki Vale and Black Canary). I had a similar problem when last week a woman came in looking for an X-Men comic for her 12-year old nephew that was vaguely familiar with the X-Men, and they wanted to get him more into reading and use an X-Men comic to do it. Of course, the current or recent issues of X-Men fall a little short for that task, all three being heavily mired in continuity or all parts of big multi-issue arcs that require more than just the single issue investment, not to mention that many of them have issues and themes that go beyond the “All-Ages” rating.

Am I being too picky? Has the greatness of All-Star Supes clouded my judgment? Since this quandary, I’ve reordered copies of Mythos: X-Men, the painted One Shot that’s a retelling of the X-Men’s first adventure with slightly more modern sensibilities (in some ways it works, what with the dialogue and Danger Room sequences; in other ways it doesn’t, with Magneto not stealing nukes this time around but *information!*), but aside from having that on hand all the time, is there is no monthly solution to the problem. Marvel has a very successful “Marvel Adventures” line for the Avengers (featuring highly recognizable but not typical Avengers Wolverine, Storm, Spidey & the Hulk), Fantastic Four and Spider-Man…but not one for the X-Men, strangely enough.

In some ways, it’s more than just wanting fare for those 10 to 12 year olds that are just getting into comics, but single issue stories that you can hand teens and adults who have a casual or movie familiarity with major characters and say “See? Comics are good!” Right now, All-Star Superman is the only title I can think of that you can do that with. There are tons of good comics out there that I think almost everyone would love if they gave them half the chance, but in most cases to get in on the ground floor you have to hand someone the trade or hardcover collection of those issues and sometimes that’s just too daunting, either the price when it comes time to buy or the size when it comes time to read. That single comic issue is just the perfect size to try, and I think when you get a complete story it’s just that much more enjoyable. The series “Justice” that DC is doing, taking a classic, Silver-Age lineup of the Justice League, featuring nearly everyone from the Superfriends cartoon, makes for a great, grand epic story, but it’s twelve issues and bi-monthly, meaning you’ve got two years before any real resolution. It’s great for existing or casual comic readers that will keep coming back in the shop, but those people that waltz in and you have just once chance to hook them? Good luck.

So far it seems like DC has taken a big lead in this endeavor: far more comics with an emphasis on continuity-lite stories or titles focusing on done-in-one stories (like Detective Comics, which I call the most groundbreaking idea for Batman comics in the last 20 years: single-issue stories where Batman uses his Detective skills to solve a crime). Marvel had something going with the Ultimate line of stuff, but now it is its own little universe. Ultimate Spider-Man is great, but show someone who’s on the fence about reading comics the 14 trade paperback volumes they’re committing to reading and watch them break into a sweat.

A monthly, done-in-one series for all your favorite hero comics, is that too much to ask? Discuss.

COOL NEW BOOKS COMING IN SOON: “World War Z,” a novel by Max Brooks, author of “The Zombie Survival Guide;” “The End,” the final book in the Series of Unfortunate Events series; “I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence” by Amy Sedaris.