It’s New Comic Book Day! The best day of the week next to Saturday, Friday, and Mondays that are part of a three day weekend. So, fourth best? I think that’s the official ranking.
I feel that I’m rapidly approaching the Andy Rooney phase of my career/life, where I will sit around and endlessly crow about the way things used to be. Somehow I’ll make the past seem better when it was, in fact, objectively worse. The very fact that I’m beating an Andy Rooney joke to death should be proof positive that I’m flirting with not being relevant anymore.
Ahem. “Back in my day…” new comic day used to be everyday.
I’m talking about newspaper comic strips and today IDW is releasing The Amazing Spider-Man: The Ultimate Newspaper Comics Collection Vol. 5. As a kid I would have gladly mainlined Spider-Man comics had I been given the means to do so. I was a fiend for anything spider-related and my collection consisted of several tattered reprint copies of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko’s original run along with whatever sporadic current issues I could get from the corner store. They were my own personal Golden Age of Comics (which just so happened to take place during the Bronze Age of Comics).
During that time it was rare that I’d have a complete run of a comic. I have vivid memories of single issues of books that ended in cliffhangers that were never resolved due to it being months until I was able to get a new issue of Spider-Man. Often times it wouldn’t even be the same title I had been reading previously, but a new comic was a new comic and it didn’t matter if it was Amazing, Spectacular, Web of, or Peter Parker:.
The one thing I could always count on every day was The Detroit News and the three or four panel Spider-Man comic strip written by Stan “The Man” himself…and it was FREE (insomuch as my parents paid for home delivery). Comics were life and any comics were good comics.
Reading Spider-Man’s adventures as a serialized daily comic strip was such an odd way to digest the story. It was six days of build up (often with Peter Parker having to go out a window or some such to avoid detection by Aunt May) with a gloriously FULL COLOR Sunday strip packed with action. My personal favorite was the title panel of the Sunday strip where Spidey struggles to lift a city bus.
Recently on Twitter, Dan Slott shared an excerpt of one of his Spider-Verse books in which Morlun crosses into the comic strip universe and gets frustrated by the format. It was such a dead-on and lovingly executed takedown/tribute to the strip that it could have only been written by a loyal reader. I was surprised to learn that the strip ended its run in MARCH OF 2019.
We’re thirty-five years past Egon Spengler declaring print “dead” in Ghostbusters and I could safely double the length of this piece by going full “Rooney’ and detailing death of the newspaper comics section as I’ve seen it in my lifetime; it’s best not to overstay my welcome. If I get started on Crankshaft this column could turn into a novella or worse yet, a dissertation. Seriously, if the character is aging in realtime he should have died at least fifteen years ago.
Thankfully, comics have evolved beyond the constraints of the daily newspapers and over the last decade web comics have risen in prominence and the art form continues to flourish, which is the best possible thing that could have happened since Spider-Man got his own strip.