"As a child, a library card takes you to exotic, faraway places. When you're grown up, a credit card does it."
- Sam Ewing (Reader's Digest; December, 1997)
Reader Rod Brown took issue with my "reviewer's credo" in CBG #1643 [July, 2008] and it's taken me this long to figure out how I wanted to respond to it. He wrote:
This letter is in regard to Tony Isabella's column in CBG #1641 [page 44]. I was impressed by his reviewer's credo, until he contradicted himself.
He said, "I write reviews for comics buyers." He claims he doesn't do his reviews for the publisher or the creator. However, he then states he won't review comics he buys himself or borrows from friends, because it is not fair to the publishers and creators who send him free copies of comic books.
This policy, which seems intended either to encourage freebies for himself or punish those publishers who do not send freebies, means his reviews might be purchased by creators and publishers for the production cost of a comic book.
I am not against free copies of comics being sent reviewers, but I am against Isabella's particular interpretation of this practice. If he wants to be fair to the buyer, he should review what he likes or dislikes without regard to its source, not what he feels he has received sufficient payment to review.
It's never enjoyable to have a reader examine something you've written and cast it in the worst possible light. What I saw as an attempt to be fair, Brown saw as a form of greed or even extortion. However, even before I had read his letter, I had began to rethink that part of my credo.
What hasn't changed is this: I still receive between two and three hundred review items each month. Simple logic dictates that there's a much better chance of my seeing, reading, and reviewing an item if someone has sent it to me, thereby triggering my highly-refined senses of guilt and obligation. Still, with so many items coming to me, guilt and obligation take back seats to the immutable fact that I can't read and review all of those items.
Brown does come close to making a valid point when he suggests my review choices should be made regardless of the source of the items I review. Indeed, since I shared my credo with you, I have reviewed items I purchased myself, items I borrowed from friends, and even items I borrowed from my local library. For example, most of this week's reviews will be of books and comics borrowed from my local library...as part of my evolving credo on how comics readers might deal with my country's and our industry's troubled economies. I do hope Brown doesn't read anything nefarious into this.
Moving right along...
The need to tighten your comics-buying budget need not limit your comics reading. Many public libraries, perhaps most of them, now include comic books and especially collections of comics among their offerings. I blessed to live in a city - Medina, Ohio - with an absolutely wonderful library system.
The Medina County District Library consists of six libraries. Each of these libraries is a spiffy place all on its own, but the district is also affiliated with the Clevenet Consortium. That's an organization that includes the Cleveland Public Library system and other area libraries. That's almost a hundred libraries that I can get books from without leaving Medina.
I don't even have to leave my house to "order" books I want to read. All I have to do is go to the MCDL website:
I can go to the library catalog and search for the books and comics I wish to borrow. If any of the Consortium member libraries have the books, they can be sent to my local library for me to pick up whenever they arrive. As of this writing, I'm awaiting books on comic strip Nancy, on Cleveland TV monster movie host Big Chuck, and Nancy Goldstein's bio of Jackie Ormes, the first African American woman cartoonist. That's in addition to a Primeval novel, a book co-written by my old pal Paul Kupperberg, a Japanese police procedural, a mystery co-written by and "starring" Richard Belzer of Homicide and Law and Order: SVU fame, and a photo book on the reuse of empty "big box stores" by various communities.
I can visit the MCDL website and log on to my account to check if my requested books have arrived. I also receive automated phone calls when they arrive. But, wait, there's more.
When the Clevenet Consortium doesn't have a book I want, I can make an online recommendation that the MCDL purchase said book for its libraries. The district budget doesn't always allow for such purchases, but, more often than not, my library comes through for me. Now that's service!
Obviously, in the best of all possible worlds, we'd all have the means and storage space to purchase every comic book or graphic novel we want to read, ensuring profits for creators, comic shops, bookstores, and publishers. Given the world most of us do live in, your local library can help fill the gap between what you want to read and what you can afford to buy.
Thanks for spending a part of your day with me. I'll be back tomorrow with more stuff.
ZERO: Burn your money before buying any comic receiving this rating. It doesn't *necessarily* mean there's absolutely nothing of value here - though it *could* - but whatever value it might possess shrinks into insignificance before its overall awfulness.
ONE: Buy something else. Maybe I found something which wasn't completely dreadful in the item, but not enough for me to recommend it when there are better comics available. I only want what's best for you, my children.
TWO: Basic judgment call. I found some value, but not enough to recommend it. My review should give you enough info to decide if you want to take a chance on it. Are you feeling lucky today, punk? Well, are you?
THREE: This denotes something I find perfectly respectable. There are better books out there, but I wouldn't regret buying this item. Based on my review, you should be able to determine if it's of interest to you. Let the Force guide you.
FOUR: I recommend anything earning this rating. Unless you don't like the genre, subject matter, or past work of the creators, I believe you'll enjoy this item. Isn't it uncanny how I can look right into your soul that way?
FIVE: Anything getting this rating is among the best comicdom has to offer. You should buy/read this, even if the genre/subject matter doesn't appeal to you. It's for your own good. Me, I live for comics and books this good...but not in a pathetic "Comic-Book Guy" sort of way.
Please send material you would like me to review to: