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Go out with you? Why not... Do I like to dance? Of course! Take a walk along the beach tonight? I'd love to. But don't try to touch me. Don't try to touch me. Because that will never happen again. "Past, Present and Future"-The Shangri-Las

Monday, November 21, 2011

Free Universes

I recently gave away a bunch of my old comic books.  It was a project for the Library Science class I'm taking.

After I advertised the giveaway, many people contacted me wanting to take the whole set, sight unseen.  I quickly set a 30 comics maximum to scare these people off, since part of the project involved observing peoples' search and selection processes.  Once people showed up I told them there wasn't really a maximum, and I had no intention of policing their selections; I just wanted them to pick and choose, and leave the rest for someone else to enjoy.  People are happy to take four boxes of free whatever, but when they have to search and select they get much choosier.

It's more fun watching kids pick comics than adults.  Adults seemed to have sclerotic ideas about what they want and will accept.  Familiar superheros are pretty much the limit with men, while the women seemed more interested in childrens' comics.  Kids are more open to off-brands; weird stuff no one's ever heard of, where the standards are different and nothing's entirely familiar.  Adults walked in and said "I'm looking for Marvels," Marvel comics having a strong brand identity.  They tended to flip right past the oddball, third party, indy comics that constituted most of the selection.  Kids, though, didn't look for brand labels; they looked for stuff that might be interesting.  If they dug the drawing, they took the comic.  Brings back fond memories of the one comic-con I attended as a kid; this was in the thick of the 80's black and white comics glut, where Elfquest and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles inspired a slew of independently published comics.  Most of these comics were clumsy at best, but to the boy I was being in a room full of unfamiliar, idiosyncratic personal toon visions was downright psychedelic.  These comics didn't feel as blandly proficient and stylistically interchangeable as most comics from the big companies; it was my introduction to the concept of cartooning-as-handwriting that's so important to the Kramer's Ergot crowd.

Manga was much less popular than I'd expected.  Manga was the Hot New Thing With The Kidz in comics for about a decade, and it's still popular, right?  But I suspect it's more popular in places with big bookstores and semi-hip readers.  This is a smaller, blue-collar town that isn't on the cusp of cultural trends, and there's not a thing wrong with that, but no one, young or old, seemed very interested in manga as such.  Some of the "girly" stuff proved moderately popular with the one little girl who came and highly popular with the two women who selected on behalf of absent daughters.

The most entertainment came when I told a mother of four boys that one box was "adult," and not recommended for children.  The eldest boy (about 11?) openly started perusing that box.  All this was done under the amused eye of his Mom, and I decided she could police (or not) her boy better than I could.  The boy occasionally pulled one of his brothers over, showed him an image from some adult-oriented comic or other, and shared a shocked giggle.  The boy walked out with a stack of adult comics, all with his Mom's consent.  

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