Classic EBI #74: The Recruitment Drive

A big change happened in the world of comics last week, as both DC and Archie Comics announced that they’re ending their association with the Comics Code of America. This week I look back at where the Code came from and whether or not a rating system is the way to go.

Everything But Imaginary #384: Collapsing the Code (Bring on Sex and Violence!)

And in the Classic EBI for this week, let’s go back to August 4, 2004, when I was thinking about what it takes to get new folks reading comics. Let’s talk about…

Everything But Imaginary #74: The Recruitment Drive

Here at Everything But Imaginary Global Headquarters, there are two topics of conversation we never get tired of: how cool it would be to get a job applying body makeup to actresses for science fiction TV shows and movies, and how to get new readers into the comic book world. This isn’t meant as an insult to longtime fans, of course. The comic industry has been kept afloat for years by people like myself, who own every issue of Superman since 1988 and who will actually spend hours arguing over which is better, G.I. Joe or the TransFormers. (The answer, by the way, is that G.I. Joe has a better comic book, while TransFormers has a better TV show.)

But let’s face it, we aren’t getting any younger. Some of us are not getting younger at a particularly advanced rate, in fact (these are the ones who have every issue of Superman since 1968). And while successful movies and TV shows and an increased awareness in the mainstream media can only help comic books as a whole, I’ve found that nothing is as great a tool to get new readers as plain and simple word of mouth. Last week, for instance, Jeff Smith released the giant one-volume edition of his epic Bone series. 55 issues. Over 1300 pages. Probably (although I have no official documentation) the longest single-volume comic book ever produced.

And I bought two copies.

No, it’s not because I’ve got that kind of money. It’s because I wanted one, and so did my brother. As we grew up, I tried to get him to read several comics, and he did, but the one that he stuck with more than any other was Bone. So when I was picking up that giant volume for him (that reminds me, he still owes me money), I felt like I had at least accomplished a little something. I’ve also had limited success with my sister — she enjoys Liberty Meadows and occasionally looks into other titles with an artistic eye, but she’s not quite the rabid fan.

I tried to get friends, throughout high school and college, to pick up comics, and again I met with limited success. My old buddy Jarrod Friloux has, to my knowledge, a single long box that he doesn’t add to anymore, but still looks on fondly. My goombah Ben Clark collected with almost the ferocity I did for a while, then cut down to almost nothing. James Pinkard, my old roommate, still picks up the occasional trade paperback, such as the aforementioned Bone saga, and he was getting into some of CrossGen’s stuff as well, like Sojourn, before the bottom fell out of that one.

My biggest success, and I say this with as much pride as a human being can muster, is Ronée Garcia Bourgeois. After we met at the Thibodaux Playhouse about three years ago, Ronée and I became fast friends, and got even closer when we worked on a few plays together. She’d had a love of comics and cartooning at a younger age, and reading my columns and other posts on this site slowly began to draw her back. She started to accompany me on my weekly trips to the comic book store. She puts her son in Green Lantern t-shirts. She has become one of the few comic-loving women I know, and it pleases me to no end to think I had something to do with that.

And what’s even better, is that I see her passing along her love to her children. Her son, Tré isn’t quite two years old yet, so he doesn’t really grasp the significance of the Spider-Man shorts his granny made for him, but 6-year-old Tori is a kick to take to the comic store with us. Ronée usually allows her to pick out a book or two, and she’s definitely developing her own tastes. Teen Titans Go appears to be her favorite, although she’s also picked issues of Scooby Doo, Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories and, to my utter surprise and delight, new reprints of old Classics Illustrated Junior comics like Cinderella and The Wizard of Oz. This is a child who’s going to grow up loving reading, and whether that’s comic books or that kind of book that doesn’t have quite as many pictures, that’s a love that not nearly enough people have in this day and age.

However, now that Ronée is not only reading, but recruiting as well, that makes things doubly dangerous for anyone who crosses our path. Just this past weekend we wrapped the Playhouse’s summer musical, The Fantasticks. During the rehearsal period, I got into a discussion with another cast member, Michael Cato, who had seen Spider-Man 2 and had really enjoyed it. He and I got to talking about comic books and I found out he used to read them, but after a series of moves and a lack of availability, he’d fallen out of the habit.

So I did what any red-blooded comic book fan would do — I directed him to the comic shop we frequent and specifically told him to pop in on July 3 — Free Comic Book Day. And he did. And he seemed to like what he found.

Poor Michael didn’t stand a chance at this point, because once he went to the comic shop and admitted to reading Ronée’s “What a Girl Wants” and my “Everything But Imaginary” columns, the two of us were relentless. She got him buzzing about her columns, she got him to try out one of her favorite titles, Regent St. Claire’s Candyappleblack, and she started to cajole him to join us on our quest to the comic shop sometime. I imagine it’s only a matter of time now.

I know other comic book readers in my life who have tried to pass on the love. My uncle Wally, a freelance artist, has taken his son Norman to FCBD. My uncle Todd reads comics with his son, Ben. My longtime comic geek group — Chase, Jenny and Mike — have spent years trying to get our buddy Jason to pick up some comics. Even when he accompanied us to Free Comic Book Day, he didn’t partake. Then this year, to everyone’s astonishment, he picked up a Joseph Michael Linsner art book. Mostly, we suspect, for the pretty paintings of scantily-clad women, but hey, it’s a start.

If you’re reading this, chances are it’s because you love comic books. And you’re right to do so. Comics have been very good to us over the years — we’ve gotten gems like Astro City, Kingdom Come, Mark Waid’s Fantastic Four and Neil Gaiman’s Sandman. Even bad comics are part of a unique art form, a blending of words and pictures that can tell stories no other medium can achieve. But it’s an art form with a dwindling audience that is misunderstood by the public at large.

So it’s time to give back, folks.

You’ve all got friends and family that have never touched a comic book, or who stopped reading years ago. Lure them in. Figure out what they’d like and make suggestions. Invite them to come to the comic shop with you. Show them this website, the debate, the columns, the reviews.

Show them why comics are cool.

Remember, Uncle Sam wants you. And so does The Shield. And Captain America. And Batman. And The Flash. And…


No character in all of comics has had his origin revamped and revised as many times as Superman. From his very first appearance to his very first origin story, to the silver age updates, the John Byrne revamp, the movies, the television shows, even the radio show — every so often his story has been changed, modified to meet the sensibility of the day. That lastest revision concluded in last week’s Superman: Birthright #12, my favorite of the week.

Superman is on the ropes. Lex Luthor has staged a fake Kryptonian invasion of Metropolis. People don’t know if they can trust this guy or not. The whole city is about to be overrun.

Cue the John Williams score.

Mark Waid and Leinil Francis Yu were spot-on perfect with this series. They showed what Superman is about, why he’s important and what he really means. This is the comic to give someone who thinks big blue isn’t cool enough or is too powerful or has some perfect life. This is the book that redefines the greatest hero in comic books. This is the best origin Superman has ever had.

Blake M. Petit is the author of the superhero comedy novel, Other People’s Heroes, the suspense novel The Beginner and the Christmas-themed eBook A Long November. He’s also the co-host, with whoever the hell is available that week, of the 2 in 1 Showcase Podcast and the weekly audio fiction podcast Blake M. Petit’s Evercast. E-mail him at BlakeMPetit@gmail.com and visit him on the web at Evertime Realms. Read past columns at the Everything But Imaginary Archive Page, and check out his new experiment in serial fiction at Tales of the Curtain.


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January 2011

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