Every Wednesday, I do the exact same thing. Sometimes it happens at different times, whether that’s at lunch or after work. Sometimes it involves other supporting characters. But every Wednesday, you can find me at Bosco’s Comics in Anchorage, Alaska, 1 and my process is largely the same each time.
I walk in the door, and someone will say “Hey Harper” or some variation on that formula. I’ll wait by the register as a clerk digs into the pull boxes – they have one for new releases, previous releases and special orders – at which point they hand me whatever is in there. I glance through the comics, taking stock in what I have and what is missing. 2 From there, I head towards the stands where the comics are, starting on the left side first if my back was to the entrance.
Image is the first publisher I find. That side is comprised of non-Marvel/DC houses, including BOOM!, Dark Horse, Oni and beyond. I amble down that row, taking a peek at comics with covers that grab my eye for potential purchasing reasons, snagging titles I missed as I go. At the end, there’s a bookcase with the most recent trade paperback and graphic novel releases, so before heading over to the Marvel/DC side, I browse for books I might like or have already decided to purchase. Then, I turn the corner and go over the Marvel and DC titles, before finishing up by buying my comics in the sports cards department, where my former boss 3 waits to sass me, talk sports, and sell me some comics.
This might not sound like much.
I’ve basically just described shopping, which really isn’t all that spectacular.
But to me, it’s a joyous event, and something I look forward to each week. Over the years, I’ve made friends, acquaintances and conversation with the colorful characters who comprise the clerks and customers of that shop. One even came to my wedding! 4 And sure, sometimes I go into Bosco’s on other days, but Wednesday? That’s different.
It’s the day that acts as the heart of comics, a day that unites us all.
And yet, for the first time in my lifetime – heck, for the first time in the history of the medium, really, as not even World War II triggered a break in the periodicals chain – this Wednesday will be taking an unplanned break from comics because of the coronavirus pandemic. 5
In the grand scheme of things, new comics being pushed back to an unknown date is a minor player in a much larger story. Beyond the fact that my nightstand is more unread comics than actual nightstand at this point and we have apps with decades of comics to read – one upside to all of this: I finally have time to catch up with my pile – there’s the important consideration that this is an actual life and death situation. When you have my country’s president painting a picture of 100,000 to 240,000 deaths being a likely result within the United States, not being able to read Punchline’s first full appearance until a later date starts to feel rather insignificant.
But at the same time, it isn’t. One of the most difficult aspects of this pandemic for most is how it has broken us of the things we accepted as routine, robbing us of any regularity in our lives as it tears through our country and world. Normalcy can feel mundane, but when it’s taken from us, it can feel like everything as well.
Being able to see friends and family if we wanted (or being able to choose not to if you’d prefer that!). Going out to eat. Seeing movies at theaters. Walking outside or at a grocery store without being painfully aware of the distance between you and every person around you. These were basics that we never questioned, knowing they’d be available to us forever. I mean, why wouldn’t they be? That’s just the way things are.
For comic fans, that was going to the comic shop and seeing your fellow regulars and buying your comics. It means reading your favorite stories with your favorite characters from your favorite creators. It might even mean sharing that with other fans. For those who love comics, part of our passion stems from not just reading these stories but taking that joy into our community and feeling your enthusiasm grow because of things they noticed or liked. Our love of comics is often inextricably linked to how it forms a bond between us and others, a potent connection forged in the flames of shared history, even if it’s a fictional one uniting us rather than something based in reality.
Think about how quickly loving the same comic can tether you to a person. Whether you’re talking Adrian Tomine or Zander Cannon, Emily Carroll or Raina Telgemeier, the X-Men or The Wrenchies, the longest running manga series or a short run zine you picked up on a whim, if you find someone who digs the same comics as you, congratulations. You might be lost in conversation for the next while, and maybe, just maybe, you could even have a new friend when you’re all said and done. Talking comics isn’t always a topic; for some, it’s a language, and it’s one spoken fluently at your local comic shop each Wednesday.
That isn’t even an option this week, and for however many Wednesdays after that.
People love to pontificate about the things they miss the most about life being the quarantine, and in a time where unemployment rates have skyrocketed globally and people have lost family members, latching onto the simple things in life can feel tone deaf. But they also can be what gets through this in one piece, whether that means being able to see your family again or sharing a meal with a friend or going to the gym or whatever it is that you miss the most.
I’m not saying my answer would be going to the comic shop, because frankly, today is the first one without new comics. Ask me in a month how I feel about that. Beyond that, there are greater priorities in life, even for me. 6 But I am eager for the day I can walk into Bosco’s once again and get back to my Wednesday routine, where the world feels normal and my biggest concern for a minute is whether I should wait for a series in trade or not. For me, it’s not even really the new comics I’m going to miss. It’s what it represents.
A sense of the ordinary, and a feeling that everything is going to be okay.
Which is the place you can see in the header image above.↩
I also actively think if there’s a different cover I want than what I was given, as my shop often gives pull customers variants.↩
I worked at Bosco’s in sports cards for a summer.↩
That’s my pal Brandon Burpee, who you might know from his many Off Panel appearances.↩
Like sports! I miss sports!↩