So I've been asked why everything I've been talking about or reviewing in this series are books from the early 80's. It's a valid question. I don't really think of myself as one of those old guys who seem to believe that “everything was better in my day!” I don't really believe that. I've tried to spend my life not being stuck in the past, believing that my glory days are behind me. I've always been critical of those people who get into music in high school and thirty years later are still only listening to those same bands. Not that I don't do some of that, as anyone who has had to listen to Alice Cooper, or KISS or David Bowie around me will attest to. But in the thirty-plus years since I first discovered those bands I have maintained a hunger for new music, and continually explore stuff that's new to me, whether it's a brand new band that catches my ear, or artists from the past that I simply missed out on or wasn't old enough, or wasn't even born yet to have ever heard.
The same is true of comics. Thanks to reprint editions of old comics I'm always reading something I missed before. Thanks to working at a comics shop I'm exposed to new books and series every week. I still love that joy of discovery when I find something new that really moves me or excites me.
But that does happen less often than it used to. That's true of music and comics. Some of it is a simple truth of age. I've read and heard a lot more stuff now than when I was twenty. I don't think that makes me jaded. More discriminating, perhaps. It takes a lot more to impress me, simply because I've seen a lot of really amazing work.
I think for all of us though, there is a time in our lives when we are first really discovering our passions, and those things that move us then become part of our personal DNA. Nothing will ever have quite the same impact on us again, and we will hold on to our nostalgic memory of those experiences as a wonderful time in our life.
For me, at least in terms of comics, that time was the early 80's. I was in my early 20's and comics may have lost me as a reader if the explosion of the Direct Market hadn't happened. I was reading X-Men (though the post-Paul Smith issues were gradually losing my interest month to month), and Marv Wolfman and George Perez's New Teen Titans. Frank Miller's Daredevil and the Wolverine mini-series both enthralled me and had more adult themes and sensibilities than most comics prior to that. I was reading a lot of Marvel comics at the time, but was growing disenchanted.
As I've said elsewhere, I know that many of the new Direct Market comics I began to discover at that time weren't really much different than Marvel and DC, conceptually speaking at least. But it felt momentous. Suddenly it felt like comics could be anything. The titles I've been discussing here, and those I have yet to write about, reignited my love of comics as a medium at a time when I may have “outgrown” them. Were they actually better than what came before? Are they better than what has come since? In a lot of cases, probably not (though I would make the case that they are better than a lot of what came before and after). Regardless of their quality, these were the books that were formative to me, as a fan, as an artist, as a writer and storyteller.
What's great about this hobby is that we all have those moments and those books that are meaningful. Heart books, as I referred to them when I introduced this idea. I ignored the entire Image Comics movement of the early 90's and have no emotional connection to those books or characters at all. But, I've talked to enough people whose opinion I respect to know that those books were the same for them that my books were for me. They are different books, but we share the same kind of experience. That's the kind of thing that should unite us as fans of comics.
The danger is getting tied to that one thing and never moving forward or discovering something new. I don't want to discourage anyone from listening to their old, favorite band, but there's great new music being made. If you loved Spawn in the early 90's, by all means, reread them and enjoy. But check out the amazing new work coming out every week. Don't shut yourself off to new experiences, whether it's something brand new, or an old series you've never heard of before.
Everything is someone's heart book.