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Confessions of a Comic Book Guy--The Beating Heart of Comics

Column by Steve Bennett

Published: 01/16/2013 01:41am
Confessions of a Comic Book Guy is a weekly column by Steve Bennett of Super-Fly Comics and Games in Yellow Springs, Ohio. This week, Bennett talks about why Comics Buyer’s Guide was so important.

Sadly last week's announcement that after forty-two years of continuous publication Comic Buyer's Guide was being cancelled with the March 2013 issue (see "'CBG' DOA") didn't received half the attention it deserved.  Because as the first regularly published, professional magazine providing reliable news about the comic book industry, it played a pivotal part in creating the pervasive nerd culture we all now take for granted.  In 1971 this wasn't just a groundbreaking innovation; it seemed to be, on the face of it, kind of impossible.*

It started life as an "ad-zine."  Alan Light's The Buyer's Guide To Comic Fandom was essentially the PennySaver for comic books, but we shouldn't minimize the role those ads played in a pre-comic book/eBay world.  For fans (like me) they provided a window to a world of comics and collectibles beyond our grasp (in terms of both means and distance) as well as a way of contacting other fans.  In today's social media-marinated society it's hard to fully appreciate just how isolated fans were back then and how grateful we were to discover evidence there were other people who liked exactly what we liked.  Over the years CBG developed into the indispensable, invaluable publication for our industry, but I'll always prefer to think of it the way the piece in ICv2 so aptly put it, as "the beating heart of comics."

Due disclosure compels me to admit that I could be a bit biased, seeing as how the publication provided me both validation and employment over the years.  As I like to periodically bring up, I used to write comic books back in the 80s and after it had become the Comic Buyer’s Guide one of its editors, the late, great Don Thompson, reviewed the first one I ever wrote, The Rovers.  He gave it an "A."  Sadly, this was pretty much the high point of my comic book writing career, but I don’t think I can adequately describe just how much that rating meant to me back then.  Or how much it still means to me for that matter.

Then in the go-go 90s, first as a retailer for Dark Star Books in Yellow Springs, Ohio, and then as a freelance writer, I wrote comic book and graphic novel reviews for CBG.  Over the years I must have written hundreds of them; it was a wonderful experience that taught me how to write faster and better with fewer words, though that might just be wishful thinking on my part.

A lot of different factors contributed to its cancellation but ultimately CBG just was no longer necessary, not in a world when Entertainment Weekly feels comfortable dropping comic book terms like "universe" and "origin story" into reviews of Justified and The Carrie Diaries, TV shows with absolutely no comic book connection, like they did in the last issue.  And if you need any further proof of CBG’s obsolescence in the latest issue EW announced the launch of CapeTown, a new area on the EW website that will serve as a "geektastic hub" for "all the latest sci-fi and fantasy movies, TV, videogames and comics."  It's hard for any print publication to compete with that.

I’ll confess it's been years since I've even seen an issue of CBG let alone read one, but I'm still going to miss knowing that it's not out there.  Which could just be cheap sentimentality and nostalgia on my part, but the truth is I prefer now to then and wouldn’t go back to the way things were even if I could.  But that doesn’t mean we can't take a moment to appreciate the people and things that helped get us to where we are now.

Last week (see "Confessions of a Comic Book Guy--A Whole New World") I wrote about the new line of digital Disney Comics I discovered thanks to my new iPad2.  But I didn't include an image of the first volume of X-Mickey because I couldn't find an image of it anywhere online.  It honestly didn't occur to me that I could have just made a copy of the image on my iPad, so, clearly, there's a learning curve to figuring out how to operate one.

* And I should know; I was there and I thought it impossible.  Having just recently suffered long delays between issues of Marvelmania Magazine, the publication of the ill-fated Marvelmania International fan club, when I subscribed I let Alan Light know in no uncertain terms I wouldn't tolerate any such tardiness from The Buyer's Guide To Comic Fandom.  He returned my subscription with a terse note to the effect that "we don’t need you."  After I apologized he relented and allowed me to subscribe.  I'm still grateful that he did.

The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of ICv2.com.
 
 
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