As this is being written, it’s the Wednesday of the American Library Association’s Banned Books Week. The Captain Underpants graphic novel has topped the Banned Books list for 2012 and 2013. Comics, one of my favorite forms of entertainment and occasional endeavors as a writer, are on my mind. For it is with a heavy heart (as LBJ used to say) that I contemplate the changing of the guard at my comics shop Comics Ink. Lost now as if engulfed in the Veiled Mists of Agamotto from a Doctor Strange comic book, I can’t remember the first time I discovered the store. I do recall it was prior to where they are now in a strip mall in Culver City. They were in a converted house if memory serves, on the edges of Westwood.
The past is the past. The painful fact remains that today, as Wednesdays is new comics day each week, is the last day one of the employees of the store, Vince Moore, will be there pulling books and ringing up purchases. As Vince, a writer in his own right of comics, essays and other good stuff, writes on Comics Waiting Room 5.0, he originally got a gig there from hanging around. See that’s the great thing about a friendly neighborhood comics shop like Comics Ink. Just like you see on the guys in the Big Bang Theory hanging out at Stuart’s Comic Center of Pasadena (until it burned down at the end of last season), geeks and nerds talk to each other or the clerk about the latest Wolverine story arc or arguments over whether the new artist on Batwoman is doing a great or crappy job. Or take in real life not too long ago when the shop’s owner, Steve LeClaire, tore up a first issue of a book Pretty Deadly in front of known comics reviewer Hannibal Tabu to express his displeasure with it.
Heh. That was part of the rough and tumble that made the place, the place to hang and talk shop.
But Steve is retiring after 40 years in the business, 23 of those as Vince notes, running Comics Ink. His stepping down was known for some time and there was a lot of behind-the-scenes discussions and wrangling as to the fate of the shop – including simply shuttering the door. What has come to past is that the Comic Bug folks, headquartered in Manhattan Beach, have bought some of Comics Ink’s inventory of back issues, taking over the current location, but not buying the name. The new shop will be Comic Bug II or something like that and I wish them well. It’s not clear to me if Jason and Adam, the other two who worked at the shop are staying on but stay tuned and watch the skies.
Now I’m pretty sure Dav Pilkey’s Captain Underpants hasn’t been on the shelves at Comics Ink. Not because the staff wouldn’t have found his adventures charming, a guy running around in his tighty-whites and a red cape, but the captain is aimed at grade school kids. The graphic novel has been challenged for its violence like a coup-le of kids whacking the crap out of some attacking robots with 2 x 4s and language such as, “Mean Old Mr. Krupp.” Jeez, folks, get a grip. Pilkey says it best in his YouTube reaction to these nattering nabobs of negativism.
And speaking of banned, in Jefferson County in Colorado, high school students organized a walkout to protest the conservative school board pushing scrutiny of textbooks to make sure stuff like that bothersome Civil Rights Movement or origins of feminism aren’t given too much ink. Guidelines, as reported in the Guardian, that “…promote citizenship, patriotism, essentials and benefits of the free-market system, respect for authority and respect for individual rights” and don’t “encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law.”
As the Ancient One, Doc Strange’s teacher might have advised after listening to some classic beats, “Free your mind and read.”