Project 362: One Comic Every Day Week 34…Plus

The premise is simple: read one comic every day for the entire year. It seems like a simple task but there is no way that I read 365 comics last year, even if you count the individual issues in collections. So, this year, I am committing myself to this reading challenge, in the hope that I can broaden my reading habits and fully engage with my favorite hobby again.

If you are still reading the opening paragraph to this ongoing series of articles, then you will know not only the general aim of this project but also the purpose behind it: to rediscover my love of comics. During the early days of Covid times, I found it hard to enjoy comics, as a medium. My interest had been waning for a while and then, suddenly, I lost access to new comics. Even when the trickle of publications began to seep back into the UK, I had removed myself enough to no longer feel the excitement of new comic book day.

For a couple of years, I only went to my local comic shop every other month, picking up what was in my standing order and almost ignoring everything else on the shelf. Then two things happened: Firstly, I completed a Master’s Degree in Comic Studies, where I found a new interest in the historical and cultural impact that comics have had on society. Secondly, I changed jobs, meaning that I no longer worked near my local comic book shop. As a result of the latter, I canceled my standing order. For the first time in 15 years, I didn’t buy comics on a regular basis. And (don’t tell my editors) it is probably the first time in much longer that I don’t look at solicitations and know well in advance what is due to come out in the coming months.

This project was supposed to change that. And in the last few weeks, I’ve come to realize it hasn’t.

“Oh, yeah!” I hear you cry, “We’re missing a bunch of weeks. Where are the comics, Darryll? What have you been reading?”

The Sandman #41
Credit: DC Vertigo

I am still reading and I’ll let you know what I’ve read at the end. My writing, however, stalled. Summer is a busy time — I have two children — so it’s difficult to pick up my laptop once a week, never mind every day. Excuses, excuses! And not the real reason my writing dried up. I started with Week 34, delving into a couple of X-Files comics, leading into an issue of The Sandman (above), with the intention of moving, via This Damned Band and Good Apollo: I’m Burning Star IV, on to Tori Amos’ Comic Book Tattoo (which deserves a proper review). I read all of these but only got as far as writing about The X-Files and The Sandman.

As the week dragged on, and my words dried up, I looked for other comics to read. Each and every one I picked was from my collection. Not a single new title. Even ones that I liked the look of passed me by because, and this is the crux of it, I can’t afford to buy comics any more. Everything in England, where I live, is increasing in cost month on month. I get paid more now than I ever have but I have less disposable income. I was better off when I was a student in the 1990s, where some weeks it was a choice between eating or going to the pub. I was an Art student; the pub always won.

The intense scrutiny I have been giving to my reading habits has had the opposite effect than I had expected. Instead of increasing my excitement for the comics I was reading, and looking forward to reading, I became disillusioned. A lot of the new comics I have read were not entertaining me at all. The likes of the new Planet of the Apes, a franchise that I love, was a disappointment, a wasted opportunity, and ultimately a waste of money I don’t really have.

I need to write something about the comics I’m reading. I need to shout about what I love, and don’t love, about each issue. However, a lot of the time I am reading comics that aren’t easy to get hold of. If I was to say a particular comic was a must-read, the chances are you wouldn’t be able to get a copy. My excitement is pointless unless you want to come round to my house and dig through my collection.

Where do I go from here? How do I make this ongoing article worth reading? It has, for the most part, become historical in nature, often a nostalgic look at my personal journey through comics. Maybe, instead of writing about the comics themselves, I should be focusing on an aspect of them, an element of the storytelling or production, that has something to say about the medium. I think I have touched on this before, especially when it comes to adaptations, a personal favorite area of study.

What I am saying is, I have faltered but I will get back on track. I haven’t stopped reading, but I need to find the reason why certain comics bring me pleasure and verbalize that. Otherwise, you’ll all stop reading, right?

So, to bring the list up to date, here are the comics I have read over the last few weeks with thoughts about a few of them:

This Damned Band #1-2
Credit: Dark Horse Publications

Week 34:

The X-Files #13 – 14 (UK edition)

The story by Stefan Petrucha and Charles Adlard is a classic ghost tale with some biblical elements thrown in for good measure. There are elements within the two parter that are creepy and unnerving and some lovely nods to the television series, such as the series one story Beyond the Sea, which features a ghostly presence in the form of Scully’s father. In fact, Hallow Eve (the story in these two issues) is a better story for Scully than it is for Mulder. It draws on the strengths of the character and, for the first time in the comic series, there is some real attempt to reconcile what she witnesses with scientific fact. If you wanted to know about Dana Scully, this is a great place to start, featuring as it does many facets of her character

The Sandman #41

I picked this story because of a Tori Amos lyric link to the X-Files comics above. This musical link dictated the rest of this week’s, and next week’s, reading.

This Damned Band #1-6 and Good Apollo and I’m Burning Star IV (a graphic novel, but it is a quick, and visually beautiful, read)
Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV
Credit: Evil Ink Comics

Week 35:

Tori Amos’ Comic Book Tattoo.

This is a large book with many stories by many of the industry’s greats. It’s a week’s worth of reading, easily. And a must read in my opinion, if you can get hold of a copy.

The Rocketeer in the Den of Thieves #2
Credit: IDW Publishing

Week 36:

The Rocketeer in The Den of Thieves #2
The Amazing Spider-Man #514 – 519.

This was the start of a long run of Spider-Man comics that I’m reading. Spider-Man is my go-to comic when I need a pick me up (Doctor Who is the television equivalent) and I enjoy mindlessly re-reading the older Spidey comics in my collection.

Various The Amazing Spider-Man comics
Credit: Marvel Comics

Week 37:

Doctor Who: Once upon a Timelord and Werewolf by Night #1 (2023)

These two titles shared one thing in common: I enjoyed the thought of them more than I did the reading.

The Amazing Spider-Man # 520 – 524

More classic Spidey. It saddens me that I can correctly refer to comics published in 2005 as “classics.”

Various Spider-Man titles
Credit: Marvel Comics

Week 38:

The Other: Evolve or Die (featured in Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #1-3, Marvel Knights Spider-Man #19-20, The Amazing Spider-Man #525 – 526)

This is the first half of my readthrough of the surprisingly-not-actually-that-controversial Spider-Man story The Other. The basic premise is that Spidey is being stalked by Morlun, who can sense that Spidey will be at his weakest very soon, perfect for the life sucker to strike. Spidey’s luck almost runs out when he is shot by Tracer, a two-bit villain with an inflated sense of importance, and Morlun strikes, beating the superhero to within an inch of his life and tearing out one of his eyes.

In the hospital, Morlun makes his final move but is stopped initially by Mary Jane. When Morlun threatens her life, Peter has one last outburst of strength and attacks Morlun; fury spreads across his mutilated face and stingers spring from his arms. He dispatches Morlun but the cost is his own life. And so ends the story of Peter Parker, the Amazing Spider-Man.

The build up to his death is actually very entertaining and, in many moments, quite tense. The violence that runs through this story is not toned down and Morlun’s first attack on Spidey is brutal. There is a consistency to the characters and the narrative across the various titles which is a testament to the writers and artists who worked on each title. This reads like a single story from a single comic and not a crossover event.

Obviously the ‘death’ of Spider-Man would be big news and many fans would have their opinions, but unlike other high profile death storylines, it’s made very clear that this isn’t going to be a lasting event. This story is less about the actual death and more about what comes next. So what did writer J. Michael Staczynski have planned for everyone’s favorite wall crawler?

The Other in Spider-Man
Credit: Marvel Comics

Week 39:

The Other: Evolve or Die (featured in Marvel Knights Spider-Man #21-22, The Amazing Spider-Man #527 -528, Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #4)

As with all changes made to legacy characters, there are some fans who get their panties in a twist, but I think The Other didn’t get chance to make a lasting impression on the hive mind. Possibly, the reason for this is that it is bookended by two much more controversial stories. Pre-The Other, in the story Sins Past, Staczynski introduces the children of Gwen Stacy and Norman Osbourne. Post-The Other (and post-Civil War), the same writer* ret-conned the marriage of Peter Parker and Mary Jane, thus changing decades of storylines. In essence, everything that happened in The Other was overshadowed by three stories that surrounded it.

Personally, I love The Other. I think the way that the story unfolds is intriguing and handles the concept of premature death with compassion. The interactions between Peter and Mary Jane are touching, and MJ’s reaction to Peter’s death is moving and heartbreaking. The story also allows the creators to show how the superhero world would deal with such a death, offering a different perspective on the superhero genre, something that was done well in the aftermath of Superman’s death in the 1990s.

As a standalone story, The Other is definitely worth checking out and, from my point of view, it’s a shame that the changes Spidey went through never really got the chance to be investigated.

And to finish off the last 6 weeks (has it been that long?) I read Nightmare on Elm Street #1-2 by Innovation Comics. The story links into the first three movies, employing characters from the cinematic adventures to once again fight Freddy. Andy Mangels nails the characters and creates sequences straight from the 1980s slasher movie genre. Tony Harris’ painted artwork is beautiful and reminds me of the more expressive artwork of the 1990s. It was an enjoyable read back then and has stood the test of time in the same way that the early movies have. Yes, there are some rough edges but isn’t that what we want from this genre?

A Nightmare on Elm Street #1-2
Credit: Innovation

That takes us up to Comic Number 271.

*Sort of. The production of this story is, itself, quite a controversy and led to falling outs between writers and editors at Marvel.

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