The $8 Comic Book as an Object

The tweet went something like “IWAH is gorgeous, but I can’t justify $8 for a single issue.”

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The three installments of It Will All Hurt each have more than twice as many pages as most comic book issues, on big sturdy pages, with no ads. But let’s not quibble about that. We all spend too much money on entertainment sometimes. As Ulises Farinas said, a comic book needs to be at least as enjoyable as eating a big fancy cupcake, because they cost about the same and take about the same amount of time to consume.

Unlike a big fancy cupcake, which I would dispatch immediately, I’ve been carrying the three IWAH issues around in my shoulder bag for weeks. I read them on the bus in the morning. Then I jam them back in my bag and go to my office job. Later I take them out again when I get back on the bus. I’ve read them dozens of times.

Another comic book I like these days is Gotham Academy, part of DC’s bat family. I could go on about that one; it’s fun. It passes the cupcake test. But like a cupcake, I can’t leave it in my bag and cart it around. It would fall apart. The pages would come unstapled, and then they would start to crumple. The wear and tear would be too much. Then my shoulder bag would just be belching out ragged scraps of thin, shiny paper. I would just be able to make out Nick Lachey’s face, hocking Twix bars right underneath the panels.

But even before it arrived at that sorry end, could I even read an issue of Gotham Academy dozens of times? I do smile at the antics of Maps, and I love a good Pommeline dig. Oh let me count the ways the story of these children is better than everything else I’ve seen from DC lately. Maybe I just like stories of children, and how they are sad old funny souls. And I like the way this big committee came together to create this thing that in many ways works. If you were to imagine an animation of its creation, you would see the pieces flying together from all these different minds and sources along an assembly line. Ah yes, this product is approaching economies of scale! The machinists come and tinker with the settings, and then a different product flies out.

And if you imagined the creation of It Will All Hurt, it would just be the weird kid in the back of the classroom, doodling gross things with eyeballs exploding, and the gore would bloom off the page and out into the room as his own eyeballs turned inside out in slow motion, like thick pink and red noodles. It’s entertaining, but it’s not entertainment. It’s expression. For a slight premium per page, you get to crawl around inside the mind of one Farel Dalrymple.

It Will All Hurt is about children too. They don’t seem fully lucid about where they are and why. “We are all dreaming the same nightmare,” they say, and it preserves the feeling of a dream that we remember in scraps once we wake up. The story is always in motion—trekking, climbing, flying, falling—but it’s also a still life. The characters spend a lot of time looking small in wide landscapes. The roughly rectangular panels float apart from each other. The speech goes like—someone says something. Then there is silence. Later someone else says something. When someone finally speaks, it is often such a throw-away kid thing to say. You crack a smile. You feel sad. It is funny and strange. These kids live in a world where they feel safer alone, but they find tiny ways to play.

The tweet was also wrong about IWAH being gorgeous. It’s not gorgeous. It’s brutal and kind, and makes you feel things.

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