I buy a lot of comics every week. I mean, a lot. At the moment, with Marvel and DC's recent $3.99 price hike, my habit is costing me a fair bit of money each week. And yes, it is a habit, in the addiction sense of the word. Comics to me are like cigarettes – if cigarettes were things that, once you smoked them, you stored in specially made cardboard boxes which you kept in the cupboard above the built-in wardrobe. I try and cut down, to save money, to keep from further cluttering up my already cluttered life. But it's hard to break the habit. I need that weekly story fix, even though much of what I buy is ultimately disappointing. It's something to look forward to every week. It fills a void.
And yes, mostly I buy superhero comic books. This is what the majority of comics fans (as in 'buy comics regularly at a comic shop' fans) buy. Some make pretences to a more literary form of comics, myself included. For example, I genuinely love the comics of Eddie Campbell, Gabrielle Bell, and Kevin Huizenga. But it's the weekly churn of spastic superhero stupidity that I keep coming back to, that feeds the hunger, that scratches the itch. Gotta get the new comics. Over and over, again, again.
Like any addiction, it's a love/hate thing. There are regular cycles of self-loathing, comics-loathing, comics-liking, self-acceptance. Comics and creators often disappoint, but that's balanced by comics and creators who pleasantly surprise. Recently, Geoff Johns's build-up to the Green Lantern event Blackest Night – an event I was eagerly anticipating last year – has bored me shitless. Conversely, Jeff Parker's Agents of Atlas has proved an unexpected gem, and Matt Fraction has come into his own on Uncanny X-Men and Invincible Iron Man.
And even just writing stuff like the previous two sentences I'm thinking to myself, Jesus, this really is fucking sad. And then I'm thinking, is it? Is it really? Or is it something different, a unique form of entertainment, weekly pamphlets of colourful picture-stories, the modern equivalent of how Charles Dickens's novels were originally published, except, y'know, dafter. And this is the conflict of addiction, the constant struggle between denial and acceptance, between disappointment and delight.
This, then, is comics.