Sunday, January 06, 2008

Books I've read in 2008

History repeats itself. The CD replaced the LP not because it was better, which it was in some ways and less so in others. CDs became king because the music industry made vinyl expensive and hard-to-find and they added extra tracks to the CDs, so they could say "The consumer has spoken and they prefer the CD format" ignoring the fact that it was anything but a level playing field.
Something similar is going on in the world of comic books. The traditional 32-page saddle-stitched comic book is held in great disdain these days; they're called "pamphlets" and "floppies." The "graphic novel" is king, or soon will be, despite the fact that most of them aren't novels, but paperback collections of comic book series. Readers are discouraged from purchasing "pamphlets" because many stores only carry enough for subscribers and have shelf after shelf of paperbacks but no copies of this month's She-Hulk comic. And they make you feel like an economic ass to continue purchasing comics the old-fashioned way. This collection of Bill Willingham's great series "Fables" collects eight issues for $18, buying the eight issues individually would cost you 24 dollars, and usually they throw in some extras that you can't get anywhere else -- an introduction by the author, design sketches from the artists, unpublished short stories, et cetera. I've quit buying the Buffy the Vampire Slayer comic book because when the paperback collection of the first story arc "The Long Way Home" came out it had all the beautiful variant covers included as well, and I don't even know how much that would cost individually, but I know I can't afford it. (A variant cover for those who don't know is an identical-on-the-inside edition of a standard comic book but with a different cover which OCD completists such as myself have to buy.) So I'll wait for the second story in paperback. Yes, it's farewell to the floppies. And the paperbacks are better in some ways, easier to store and catalogue, nice to read all in one sitting rather than waiting months -- or sometimes a year or more, since floppies have also become notoriously late more often than not.
Okay, end of rant. Fables Volume Four "March of the Wooden Soldiers" may be my favorite collection to date. We get the big showdown in Fabletown between the Fables and the Adversary's army of invincible wooden soldiers carved and brought to life by Gepetto himself. Snow White is pregnant with Bigby Wolf's baby and there are hints that something might be a little unusual even by Fables standards with the child. There's a magic battle between Baba Yaga and the witch of Hansel and Gretel and the mayoral race between Prince Charming and King Cole. And lots, lots more.
I also read and enjoyed Craig Yoe's "Arf Forum" as I've enjoyed as I've enjoyed all the Arf books. Yoe has a knack for finding cool stuff about comics. Here you learn that Elvis was an Archie fan, Smokey Stover is an underrated strip, and we get to see rare stuff from Stan Lee and Joe Maneely and Krazy Kat too.

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