Saturday, 23 January 2016

Lev Butts' Comic Countdown Part III 1/2

We are almost finished with this year's countdown of the top five metafictional comics. I'd like to take a moment to thank a couple of folks without whom this list could not have been written. Consider it the obligatory long distance dedication.

My D&D Group

It may come as somewhat of a surprise to you all, but I am indeed kind of a nerd. I've been playing tabletop RPGs since the mid-1990's when the owner of the restaurant I worked at told me he ran a game on Sunday nights, and I wondered if experimenting with live-action story-telling would help my writing (SPOILER ALERT: Kind of).

You know . . . that game that lets television audiences know the characters are socially awkward but really smart?
My boss, Bunch, ran the game from his living room in a house that was slowly being reclaimed by earth elementals.

This place.
It was here, on Bunch's book shelf, that I first saw the Cerebus telephone books. And it was here that I once found myself spending several hours with nothing to do but read them after my character stumbled over a doorstep, and I horribly fumbled my saving throw, causing him fall on his own dagger and stab himself through the eye a mere fifteen minutes after the gaming session began.

Another member of the gaming group, Shimkus, is the guy who first introduced me to Neil Gaiman's Sandman on the ride over to Bunch's Amazing Sinking Home and D&D Parlour after I had mentioned that I was a fan of Gaiman's fiction (an indirect result of my having roomed with the third member of the gaming group, Chris, for a few months after college and finding a copy of Good Omens laying around my first week there).

My Oldest Friend
Pictured here are (l-r) Jack, me, and a classmate at the Huntsville Space Center about the time we met in 7th grade

Jack Mayfield is responsible for a lot of who I am today. He introduced me to the work of Douglas Adams, helping make me a lifelong fan of both The Hithchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency. He also recorded for me every episode of Grenada's Sherlock Holmes starring Jeremy Brett, at a time when we didn't have cable, and our antenna was all but useless for picking up the local PBS station, turning me into a lifelong Sherlockian long before Robert Downey, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Johnny Lee Miller refused to wear the deerstalker.

Shh. Don't tell anyone, but the those three gentlemen to your right? Rank amateurs.
He also introduced me to Doctor Who, The Smiths, audio dramas, a ton of stuff I'm still interested in today. But most importantly for this countdown, he gave me my first copy of Alan Moore's The Watchmen in 1987, and as it had done for countless other readers (casual and critic alike), this graphic novel showed me that comics can often be much more than just an entertaining way to waste time.

My Older Stepbrother

I don't have a picture of BJ, so here's a picture of Jim Carey. Close enough.

BJ, may be the most important person for this list since he first introduced me to comic books in general. As a kid, I was (and remain) a huge Star Wars fan, and when my mother remarried, my new stepbrother had every issue of the original Marvel run of Star Wars comics. He gave me the first one for free, but like any good drug dealer, he gradually raised the price.

"C'mon, man, you know you want a little more. Look at that art, so smooth. Smell that newsprint, intoxicating. Five dollars, and the next one's yours."
I was so addicted to this new form of story-telling, there was no limit to the lengths I would go to feed my habit. Pretty soon, I was doing other people's homework for spare change. I was actually doing my own chores. Eventually I hit rock-bottom: I did BJ's chores for him in addition to giving him my entire allowance.

Eventually, I moved on to harder stuff. I was reading Spider-Man, The Fantastic Four, sometimes even the odd Daredevil. When Marvel wasn't enough, I moved on to DC: Batman, Superman. I once even sank so low as to read an entire run of Plastic-Man.

Sadly, I never recovered.
So there you have it: These are the people you can blame thank for this ongoing countdown.

I hope they're happy.


Next month: The countdown continues.

4 comments:

Susan Price said...

Loved this, Lev. Such a great account of how others influence us and lead us to stuff we love...

Jan Needle said...

I'll second that!

Lydia Bennet said...

Much of the vocab of this is esoteric and exotic to me but all the more intriguing for that - and yes the older brother is an unsung figure in many of our lives, their music, reading and gaming choices, clothes, and behaviour often lead the way so that we 'get there' quicker than they do, standing on their shoulders: while simultaneously doing their homework it seems!

Dennis Hamley said...

I agree on all counts. Intriguing, funny, informative and - believe, me, I mean this as a huge compliment - written with the sardonic wit I expect from the good American writer.