Browsing the net I came across this e-book service that offers 5000 free e-books. Another service was offering even more comics that comes with their e-reader. The future is so amazing isn’t it? You have entire libraries at your disposal with a single click. And it’s all free. Such things were unthinkable only 15 or so years ago.
This generation and the next and the next after that is certainly very lucky to have a lot of things so easily so quickly. Lucky in some regards, but perhaps not in others.
I grew up in a generation where we couldn’t have everything. We didn’t get 5 thousand free anything, not books and not comics. We bought comics. As a kid whenever we go to Manila for our monthly trip, my parents would give me 20 pesos to spend. Back in the 70s that was a bit of a good money. I would spend more than half of that on comics. The National Book Store reprints of Marvel and DC comics sold for 1.75 pesos each, so I would buy like maybe 5 to 6 a month. After a while I had a stack that was maybe a foot high. That was probably around 50 comics.
I valued those comics a lot because I didn’t get them for free. Sure my parents gave me money, but it was me that took the effort to go to the store, browse the shelves and bought the comics. If I couldn’t find an issue I liked, I would spend hours going to other places just to find them. And when I got them, I valued them greatly because I worked to get them. And because I couldn’t afford to get a lot, those 50 or so comics got read a lot. I read them over and over. I knew those comics inside and out. As a kid, that was my most valuable possession.
And as I grew older, some of those comics got given away, but some have stayed with me. A few issues of X-men from those days are still with me, browned and stained, but still readable. On the margins are little marks and drawings I did as a kid. These comics are almost 40 years old, almost as old as me. They have weathered time and have grown old as me and yet they’re still here. And I still know them inside and out. I can never forget.
I can’t help but think that kids today get so spoiled at having so many free stuff that they no longer value what they have. 5000, 7000 free comics? For real? Are these kids ever going to read all of them? I highly doubt it. And when they get so many free things so easily so quickly, these comics will be equally without value and will be equally disposable. I can imagine these comics get simply browsed at best. Maybe 10 or 20 get read from cover to cover, but it’s more likely their eyes will just gloss over the rest. And when the next free batch comes along, the old batch will just get erased, forgotten.
I may seem just like an old fart who may not get kids, envious of the great things they have, but I’m really not. I could care less for 7000 free digital comics. I just feel bad for the kids today who can never experience the wonder of collecting, of going out and searching for missed issues and the thrill that they could feel upon finding it after searching for hours, may be days, maybe even weeks. That sense of awe and hair raising thrill that one feels at the extraordinarily luck at finding a rare issue.
You don’t get that with digital comics. Rare issues are non-existent. Just call it up on your gadget and within seconds it’s there. No effort at all.
Isn’t it any wonder why I always prefer print? Why I always prefer my own comics in print and has always resisted making my work easily available as a digital download? I want my work to be valued. I want my work to be kept and held and cherished. I want my work to grow old with its reader, attaching itself emotionally to its owner. I don’t want my work to be just one comic book among thousands that’s given away, easily erased, easily disposed of.