Get To The Chorus

With no small sense of sarcasm, I found myself making a list of comic books that had ruined western comics recently; I had been considering the many traditions that have disappeared across the past few decades, because that is something that I do simply because that’s how my brain works — I mean, it’s also my job, technically, which isn’t nothing in the grand scheme of things — and the list just popped into my head: Watchmen, Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, Chris Claremont’s X-Men

Like I said, there’s certainly some sarcasm at play here, but it’s not an entirely sarcastic idea. The whole thing came from my thinking about an increasing need to over-explain and set the scene from writers in recent decades, and what that does for the speed of storytelling. I’d been reading old British comics again, and marveling at how blunt and brutal they were in establishing the story and stakes: with anywhere between three and five pages per chapter, there’s a speed and economy in deciding what’s actually important that feels entirely alien to contemporary US comics.

I’m old enough to remember “decompressed storytelling” as a selling point for comics at the turn of the century or just after — I guess we were still talking about “widescreen comics” at the actual time the 20th century fell apart — but the decision of slowing a story down to ensure it fills a collected edition was soon taken out of creative hands and transformed into a publishing manifesto but multiple companies chasing a market. Single issues switched from being complete units in and of themselves to chapters of a larger hole, and a skill of getting to the point was lost, it seems.

Maybe this is just me being old. Or maybe this is something I should give more thought to, and write up that list properly. We’ll see.

The Comics of April 2023

At the midway point of this month, I was convinced that this would be a month where I’d fall from grace in terms of the number of comics I was reading monthly. For the first three months of the year, I’d made it to around one hundred on the list — each number denoting more than one comic, of course but a run of a title or whatever — but, as I returned from the UK, where I’d read almost nothing, the list was stuck somewhere around #17 or similar. There was, I told myself, no way to catch up in the two-and-a-bit weeks left. You’ll see below just how wrong I was. Here’s to reading far too much, I guess.

  1. Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves – Feast of the Moon OGN
  2. Star Trek: Waypoint #s 1-6
  3. Green Lantern (1990) #s 51-62
  4. The Amazing Spider-Man/The Incredible Hulk Toilet Paper Infinity Comic
  5. Star Trek Special: Flesh and Stone
  6. Star Trek: Crew #s 3-5
  7. Green Lantern (1990) #s 63-69
  8. Green Lantern (1990) #s 70-86
  9. Shazam! (2023) #1
  10. Thunderbolts (2022) #5
  11. The Amazing Spider-Man (2022) #16
  12. Roaming
  13. Megatropolis
  14. Devlin Waugh: Blood Debt
  15. Devlin Waugh: The Reckoning 
  16. Spider-Man (2022) #4
  17. Gold Goblin #3
  18. X-Men Red (2022) #9
  19. Fantastic Four (2022) #3
  20. DC: Knight Terrors Free Comic Book Day Issue #1
  21. Unstoppable Doom Patrol #2
  22. Dungeons & Dragons (2010) #2-6
  23. Lawless Book 4
  24. Lazarus Planet: Revenge of the Gods #4
  25. 2000 AD Annual 1988
  26. 2000 AD Annual 1989
  27. Eclipso: The Darkness Within #1
  28. The Amazing Spider-Man (2022) #17
  29. Monica Rambeau: Photon #2
  30. Avengers: War Across Time #1
  31. Mary-Jane & Black Cat (2022) #2
  32. X-Men (2021) #18
  33. Eclipso: The Darkness Within #2
  34. Eclipso #s 14-18
  35. Valor #1
  36. Who’s Who in The DC Universe #1
  37. Who’s Who Update ‘93 #1
  38. Valor #s 2-21
  39. Starman (1988) #s 1-7
  40. 2000 AD Prog 2328
  41. Judge Dredd Megazine #455
  42. Starman (1988) #s 8-12
  43. Starman (1988) #s 13-28 (End of Roger Stern run)
  44. Adventures of Superman: Jon Kent #3
  45. Batman (2016) #135
  46. Peacemaker Tries Hard #1
  47. Batman: The Brave and the Bold (2023) #1
  48. Danger Street #6
  49. Green Lantern (2023) #1
  50. Stargirl: The Lost Children #6
  51. Dawn of DC: We Are Legends Special Edition
  52. Spirit World (2023) #1
  53. The Flash #798
  54. Predator (2022) #6
  55. Star Wars: Crimson Reign #s 1-2
  56. Joe Fixit #1
  57. Peter Parker and Miles Morales: Spider-Men – Double Trouble #2
  58. X-Treme X-Men (2022) #1
  59. Green Lantern Annual (1992) #1
  60. Star Wars (2020) #s 19-25
  61. Eerie Tales from the School of Screams (Graham Annable OGN)
  62. Star Wars (2020) #s 26-30
  63. Star Wars: Revelations #1
  64. Starman (1988) #s 42-45
  65. Superman: The Man of Steel Annual #1
  66. Adventures of Superman Annual #4
  67. Punisher (2022) #9
  68. Immortal X-Men #10
  69. Invincible Iron Man (2022) #2
  70. Wasp (2023) #1
  71. Green Lantern (1960) #186
  72. Justice League of America (2006) #s 54-57
  73. Countdown to Mystery #s 1-8
  74. Blue Beetle: Graduation Day #s 1-6
  75. Justice League of America (2006) #s 58-60
  76. Starman (1994) #36
  77. Lawless: Ballots Over Badrock (Megazine serial)
  78. Who’s Who Update ‘93 #2
  79. Captain Atom (1986) #s 25-28
  80. Booster Gold (1985) #s 6-7
  81. Convergence: Justice League #s 1-2
  82. Convergence: Crime Syndicate #s 1-2
  83. Convergence: Justice League International #s 1-2
  84. Convergence #8
  85. Booster Gold: Future’s End #1
  86. Convergence: Booster Gold #s 1-2
  87. Convergence: The Atom #s 1-2
  88. Convergence: Green Lantern/Parallax #s 1-2
  89. Convergence: Justice League of America #s 1-2
  90. Convergence: Adventures of Superman #s 1-2
  91. Convergence: Action Comics #s 1-2
  92. Convergence: Supergirl Matrix #s 1-2
  93. Convergence: Superman, Man of Steel #s 1-2
  94. Judge Dredd: One-Eyed Jacks pt. 1-3 (Megazine serial)
  95. Convergence: The Green Lantern Corps #s 1-2
  96. Convergence: The Flash #s 1-2
  97. Convergence: Harley Quinn #s 1-2
  98. Convergence: Green Arrow #s 1-2
  99. Convergence: Suicide Squad #s 1-2
  100. Convergence: Batman and the Outsiders #s 1-2
  101. Spectators (1st 150 pages)
  102. Everything #s 1-5
  103. Everything Vol. 2 (what would have been #s 6-10)

Slow Life

March was an odd month, reading-wise. As I noted earlier, I didn’t really read any comics for the entire length of my Seattle trip at the start of the month, essentially removing a week from the month’s worth of reading time. Then, in the last week of the month, I found myself binging The Morning Show in bed on my iPad instead of reading, for reasons that aren’t entirely understandable even to myself. In other words, I could have read more. Instead, I read this:

  1. Teen Titans: Robin OGN
  2. Surfer 2 (Wagner/MacNeil Megazine strip, 6 eps)
  3. Justice Society of America (2022) #3
  4. Superman (2023) #2
  5. Batman/Superman: World’s Finest #13
  6. The Flash #795
  7. Milestone 30th Anniversary Special #1
  8. The Spirit #50 (jam issue)
  9. Wonder Woman (2016) #s 787-790
  10. Batman (2016) #s 131-133
  11. Beneath the Dead Oak Tree
  12. Stray
  13. Food Baby
  14. Minötaar
  15. The Books of Clash preview
  16. Suicide Squad (1987) #s 63-66
  17. Earth-Prime #s 1-6
  18. Batman: Urban Legends #s 11-16
  19. The Joker: The Man Who Stopped Laughing #s 1-6
  20. Unstoppable Doom Patrol #1
  21. Avengers Assemble: Alpha #1
  22. Thanos: Death Notes #1
  23. Peter Parker and Miles Morales: Spider-Men – Double Trouble #1
  24. Justice Society of America (2007) #s 5-8
  25. The Flash (1987) #s 80-84
  26. Justice Society of America (2007) #s 9-13
  27. Batman: Gotham Knights – Gilded City #s 1-4
  28. Fantastic Four (2022) #2
  29. Dark Web: Dusk #1
  30. Justice Society of America (2007) #s 14-22
  31. Justice Society of America: Kingdom Come Special: Superman #1
  32. Justice Society of America: Kingdom Come Special: Magog #1
  33. Justice Society of America: Kingdom Come Special: The Kingdom #1
  34. Justice Society of America Annual (2008) #1
  35. Daredevil (2022) #s 1-6
  36. Hellblazer #s 175-184
  37. Star Trek: Crew #s 1-2
  38. The Complete Dice-Man
  39. Judge Dredd: Blaze of Glory (Al Ewing collection)
  40. Department K: Interdimensional Investigators
  41. Spider-Man (2022) #3
  42. What If…? #200
  43. Immortal X-Men #9
  44. X-Men Red #9
  45. Action Comics #1053
  46. Transformers (1984) #s 1-13
  47. Transformers (1984) #s 14-25
  48. Nightwing #102
  49. Stargirl: The Lost Children #5
  50. Transformers (1984) #s 26-31
  51. Transformers (1984) #s 32-37
  52. Transformers: Head Masters #s 1-4
  53. Transformers (1984) #s 38-50
  54. Transformers (1984) #s 51-58
  55. Transformers (1984) #s 59-72
  56. The Amazing Spider-Man (2022) #15
  57. Dark Web: X-Men #1
  58. The Invincible Iron Man (2022) #1
  59. Monica Rambeau: Photon #1
  60. Transformers (1984) #s 73-77
  61. Transformers (1984) #s 78-80
  62. Punchline: The Gotham Game #6
  63. Batman (2016) #134
  64. Adventures of Superman: Jon Kent #2
  65. The Flash #796
  66. The Joker: The Man Who Stopped Laughing #7
  67. Batman: One Bad Day – Ra’s Al Ghul #1
  68. Octopus Pie: The Other Side
  69. Octopus Pie Eternal
  70. Waller vs. Wildstorm #1
  71. JLA #65
  72. Alpha Flight (1982) #s 29-30
  73. Green Lantern (1990) #s 36-37
  74. X-Men Annual (2022) #1
  75. Gotham City: Year One #s 5-6
  76. Harley Quinn (2021) #28
  77. Superman (2023) #3
  78. Batman/Superman: World’s Finest #14
  79. Nightwing (2016) #103
  80. Alpha Flight (1982) #s 31-32
  81. DCeased: War of the Undead Gods #s 7-8
  82. Alpha Flight (1982) #s 35-37
  83. Green Arrow (2023) #1
  84. Green Arrow (2001) #s 1-10
  85. Star Trek (2022) #s 1-4
  86. Dungeons & Dragons (2010) #1
  87. Gold Goblin #2
  88. Mary-Jane & Black Cat (2022) #1
  89. Alien (2022) #4
  90. Predator (2022) #5
  91. Star Trek (2022) #5
  92. Danger Street #5
  93. JLA #s 66-70
  94. X-Men (2021) #17

So Much For The Comic Book Fan

A curious thing happened during my Seattle stay for Emerald City Comic Con, which just finished last night. (I got back at 10pm, and pretty much went straight to bed, exhausted from the entire experience of a five-day trip for a four-day convention. It was a lot.) I realized that, despite being on an entire trip for a comic convention, I hadn’t actually read more than one comic during the entire time I was gone.

This is, to be blunt, particularly unusual, because when not traveling, I find myself reading a few comic books per day, whether for work or while unwinding at the end of the day to try and let my brain slow down so that I could fall asleep. That wasn’t what happened on this trip, though; instead, I was getting back from the convention center with my head buzzing from everything that had happened that day at the show — whether work-related, or some other random thing that was just sticking in my head for whatever reason — and then going through the notes I’d made at this panel or that one, or some other work-related activity, until I got so tired that I basically crawled under the covers and fell asleep.

There was only one night — oddly enough, the first night of the entire convention, the second night of the trip — where I read comics, and even then, I found it something that I had trouble concentrating on. My head was elsewhere. (Mostly, on struggling to concentrate, and wanting to fall asleep.)

This all probably says a lot about the complete failure of work/life balance when I’m on a work trip by myself, as does the fact that I’d wake up after a restless night at something like 5am and then start going back through notes or trying to write up a story or at least think of one, really reinforces that. I am my own worst enemy, even when I’m trying not to be.

Form and Content, Again

For the longest time, I was saddened that the mammoth Alec: The Years Have Pants omnibus didn’t include Eddie Campbell’s The Fate of The Artist in addition to all of his other autobiographical work; it’s not as if the book — which runs over 600 pages as-is — is too short without it, or that it wasn’t included out of a fit of pique that I disagreed with; I just felt as if there was a hole in the book left by it’s absence, even if there were complicated publishing deal reasons for it. (Short version: Campbell didn’t own it outright, as it was still under his First Second deal at the time The Years Have Pants was released.)

After having just finished an accidental re-read of Campbell’s autobio work, including The Fate of The Artist, though, I now feel that it’s a good thing it’s not in there. I don’t say that because I’ve changed my mind and now dislike the book; if anything, my empathy and understanding of what Campbell’s doing with his later period autobiographical material has only increased as I’ve gotten older and built a family unit around myself. Instead, I’m glad it’s not in there because The Fate of The Artist isn’t really an Alec strip in any appreciable form.

Even though Campbell dropped his pseudonym of Alec McGarry midway through the earlier After The Snooter, there’s a visual and textual language to the Alec stories that is all their own: they’re drawn in black and white, with a purposefully scratchy, unfinished line, and in a nine panel grid, with a wry, yet kind, omniscient narrator who is clearly Campbell, but sometimes pretending not to be, telling the story in captions that hover outside and above the images. As much as there’s a “feel” to the Alec work, there’s a look to it, as well.

The Fate of The Artist has none of that, by design; it’s a more removed investigation into Campbell’s life at the time and his obsessions and his relationships that is intended to be more clinical and removed, though no less wry — this is Campbell after all — and, importantly, it’s not necessarily a comic, per se. It switches between prose and comics, and fumetti, and fake-found-material, and more. It is, in the truest sense, a graphic novel… yet, at the same time, it’s very much separate from what Campbell did with the Alec material even if the subject matter is shared between them.

Re-reading all of this now, I realize that I failed to see the importance of the differing approaches and formats earlier, or credit the differing intents between projects. I was blinded by the completist impulse of, “but it’s by the same guy and about the same thing!” as opposed to, you know, actually paying attention to what was on the page in front of me. Alec: The Years Have Pants is, in fact, the complete Alec cycle, just as was intended, and remains as perfect a collection of comics as can be imagined. The Fate of The Artist is something else, and a wonderful something else, entirely.

The Comics of January 2023

I told you I was keeping a list, didn’t I? Well, here’s the comics I’ve read this month, as of yesterday morning as you read this. (A note on grouping: you’ll see things like “Saga #s 1-6” followed by “Saga #s 7-37” — that’s because I’ve read them in those blocks, with breaks in between. I’m literally keeping track as I finish issues, as I go.)

  1. Marshal Law: The Deluxe Edition (Marshal Law, Marshall Law: Crime and Punishment, Marshal Law: Kingdom of the Blind, Marshal Law: The Hateful Dead, Marshal Law: Super Babylon, Marshal Law: Secret Tribunal) 
  2. Avengers: Rage of Ultron GN
  3. Uncanny Avengers (2015-2017) #s 9-12
  4. Amazing Spider-Man (2022) #10
  5. Convergence #1, 8
  6. Defenders: Beyond #3
  7. Ant-Man (2022) #3
  8. Thunderbolts (2022) #2
  9. Hawkeye: Freefall #1-6
  10. Avengers #675-678
  11. Rogue Trooper: Tales of Nu-Earth Vol 2 
  12. Batman #131
  13. Avengers #679-690
  14. Avengers: No Road Home #1
  15. Uncanny Avengers (2015-2017) #s 26-30
  16. Nightwing #100
  17. Timeless (2022) #1
  18. Gotham City: Year One #4
  19. Green Lantern Corps #203
  20. Secret City Saga #s 0-4
  21. X-Men (2021) #s 13-15
  22. Immortal X-Men #s 5-6
  23. Cadillacs & Dinosaurs (Kitchen Sink collection)
  24. Doctor Who Magazine #s 584-586
  25. Lazarus Planet: Assault on Krypton #1
  26. Batman: One Bad Day – Catwoman #1
  27. Shuk & Doodle
  28. Ant-Man (2022) #4
  29. AXE: X-Men #1
  30. AXE: Starfox #1
  31. Spider-Man (2022) #1
  32. Human Target (2021) #11
  33. The Incredible Hulk #156
  34. X-Men Red (2022) #7
  35. Lazarus Planet: We Once Were Gods #1
  36. Lazarus Planet: Legends Reborn #1
  37. The New Champion of Shazam #4
  38. Action Comics #1051
  39. Justice Society of America (2022) #2
  40. All Star Comics #58-60
  41. Judge Dredd Megazine #451
  42. Best of 2000 AD #109 (Tyranny Rex)
  43. Saga #1-6
  44. The Spirit Casebook (Kitchen Sink collection)
  45. Saga #7-37
  46. Saga #38-60
  47. Justice League of America #96
  48. Amazing Spider-Man (2021) #11
  49. AXE: Eternals #1
  50. Immortal X-Men #7
  51. It’s Jeff #24
  52. Doom Patrol: Weight of the Worlds #s 1-5
  53. Doom Patrol: Weight of the Worlds #s 6-7
  54. Public Domain #s 1-5
  55. AXE: Death to the Mutants #3
  56. Namor: Conquered Shores #1
  57. The Seeds #s 1-4
  58. Silver Surfer (1987) #1
  59. Silver Surfer (1987) #s 2-3
  60. Lazarus Planet: Next Evolution #1
  61. Black Beth and the Devils of Al-Kadesh
  62. Alec: How to Be an Artist
  63. Superman (2023) #1
  64. Curses (Kevin Huizenga)
  65. Silver Surfer (1987) #s 4-14
  66. Silver Surfer Annual (1987) #1
  67. The Wild Kingdom (HC version)
  68. Or Else #5
  69. The Riverside Companion #1
  70. Iron Man (2020) #24
  71. Defenders Beyond #4
  72. Lazarus Planet: Dark Fate #1
  73. Lazarus Planet: Omega #1
  74. Dark Crisis on Infinite Earths #s 2, 5-7
  75. Teen Titans Academy #s 1, 15
  76. Silver Surfer (1987) #s 15-20
  77. Silver Surfer (1987) #s 21-31 (End of Englehart run)
  78. Tales of the Human Target #1
  79. Batman: One Bad Day – Bane #1
  80. Batman: One Bad Day – Mr. Freeze #1
  81. Detective Comics #s 1062-1068
  82. Batman/Superman: World’s Finest #12
  83. Danger Street #3
  84. Superman: The Power Within (collected edition of Action Comics Weekly stories)
  85. World’s Finest (1990) #s 1-3
  86. Alec: Three Piece Suit
  87. Nightwing (2015) #85
  88. Daughters of the Dragon: Deadly Hands Special
  89. Howard the Duck Magazine #1
  90. Captain America: Sentinel of Liberty #1
  91. Predator #3
  92. Alien (2022) #2
  93. Punisher (2022) #5-6

Swollen But Unseen

I’ve been re-reading Brian Eno’s A Year With Swollen Appendices lately, I’ve become fascinated with the latter element of the book. For those who’re unfamiliar with it, it’s basically a published version of a year of Eno’s diaries, with the addition of a bunch of essays and expanded thoughts at the end; about a third of the finished book is made up of those appendices, which range from everything from lists of books and records Eno has been involved with to unfinished essays about why “interactive” isn’t the right word to use when describing certain kinds of media. It’s a fun, thought provoking, playful read, and one I’ve been enjoying revisiting.

All of this is prelude to me admitting this: it’s made me want to write big, thoughtful pieces of comics theory. It’s left me wanting not just to read, but to write longform thinking and theorizing about the comics medium and the comics format. It’s left me wanting to be playful with something that is my field of expertise in the same way that Eno is with his, even if I don’t necessarily know what that would actually look like in practice. It’s become a really exciting idea, at least in theory.

The thing is, I don’t know where I’d put that; in theory, it could be a Popverse idea, but I don’t feel like it’s complete enough for there, or necessarily even coherent enough — there’s something about Popverse as a platform (and a job!) that I think needs to be almost finished before putting in there, and this isn’t that, at all. Is it something for here? Maybe — this has always been a space I’d promised myself for experimentation and failure, but is it too comic-forward for here…? I don’t know.

There’s no small part of me that wishes that I had the book deal that never quite happened; if this could be anything, it could be a book. One day, perhaps. One day.

Checking It Twice

I’m keeping track of what comics I’m reading this year, or at least, I’m trying to — it’s something I’ve tried in the past, only to abandon almost immediately by accident or design, because I’ll realize I forgot something or other and give the whole thing up as inherently flawed. As I’m writing this, it’s January 14 so we’re almost halfway through the month (how, I don’t know), and my progress has been… reasonable…? I think…?

I have, I’m sure, forgotten more than one thing to add, by now; I read for fun but also for work, which means that sometimes I’ll quickly have to skip through an issue or two in the middle of the day and forget about it when thinking about the list later. That’s okay, though — this is an inherently imperfect exercise, and it’s enough to get a close approximation of my reading habits, rather than an exact snapshot. Or, you know, so I tell myself, anyway.

It’s funny to me that I’m finally (almost) succeeding in this project when the original impetus for it is no longer in place, I have to admit. This was, whenever it first occurred to me, something I was doing to match Jeff’s efforts in tracking his reading for the podcast; we’d be talking about what we’d been going through and I’d just guess based on my admittedly faulty recollection, before he’d pull out a spreadsheet with facts. I was always a bit daunted, impressed, and jealous every time. I could do that if I tried, I’d think to myself, and then a new year would roll around and I’d prove myself wrong.

(One thing that’s actually made a difference this year: not trying to do it in a spreadsheet. Honestly, just keeping a lengthy, messy list is working so much better. There’s a lesson there, I’m sure.)

This far in, I can happily report that there’s no rhyme or reason to my reading, no through line to discover. I remain as random as ever, in my old age.

Stinkin’ Thinkin’

There was a point this year when I felt good about the amount of prose I was reading; I might even have written about it here. Through luck or happenstance, I was averaging a book a week, although that was including nonfiction I was reading for work — so many academic retrospectives on popular culture and the comic book industry! — and my secret pleasure of short story collections, which I can speed through effortlessly. (Perhaps my most recent favorite of the latter is Donald Westlake’s Thieves’ Dozen, which collects his short Dortmunder stories. Consider it highly recommended, if you like snappy, sneaky fiction.)

I’m not entirely sure when my reading streak finished, or how. Was it that period where I’d basically make it to the end of the day by dragging my tired ass across the finish line, slumping into bed with barely enough strength to turn out the light and lay my head down? Probably; I know that, during those few weeks, there was a pile of unread books on my bedside table that just wondered what the deal was and when I’d make time for them.

The result is, though, that I’m back to feeling self-consciously uncultured again, as if all I can manage to keep up with are comic books and television shows. Not that there’s anything wrong with either, mind; but I want the time and brain power to juggle some prose in there too, dammit.

There’s a solution to be found here, somewhere, but I’m not sure what it actually is — my workload isn’t lightening up anytime soon, and I barely get enough time to spend with Chloe as-is, so it’s not as if I can magically make time to sit down with a good book. And even then, I need to find the right good books, something that’ll keep my interest but let me dip out when necessary, something to make me obsessed but not too obsessed. Dear reader, I want to be a dear reader, if only I could find the time, thought power, and subject matter to make it happen.

Never Get Too Cool

Reading Bobby Gillespie’s memoir Tenement Kid has been a joy this week; it’s not that it’s a particularly well-written book (it’s not), or that Gillespie’s childhood was either unique enough to be fascinating or so similar to mine as to create a bond, but instead that he’s clearly being honest and thrilled by his own history, sharing memories and old loves and grudges alike with equal affection. It’s a surprisingly charming, unaffected, read that feels like the perfect balm after a busy day of thinking too hard.

It’s also something that, even though my experience barely mirrors his — I was born more than a decade later and in less violent surroundings, for one thing — triggers my own nostalgia in unexpected ways. He writes about the record shops he haunted as a teenager getting into the punk scene, and I’m launched into a pleasant reverie about places like Rhythmic Records and FOPP that I’d make weekly trips to when I hit the same age, excitedly flipping through the racks looking for something surprising and essential. He shares his passions for bands that unlocked parts of his brain and made things more possible, and I can remember my own version of the same experience with other bands, including his own Primal Scream. (The circle of life, I guess.)

At one point, he mentions offhandedly sitting in Glasgow and having lunch on his own, away from the other students in his college course, because he wanted to check out record stores at the same time. Reading that, I remembered the year I spent in community college after high school. Getting there meant going through Glasgow, and every Friday, I’d make it a point to get to a comic shop and pick up that week’s new releases; it felt like an unlikely, entirely welcome, side effect of college — a new freedom, in some way, at a time when little else felt free.

I hadn’t thought about that in years, before this book. Remembering it again was like unlocking a hidden building block of where I ended up, and who I became.