I always go to Free Comic Book Day, sometimes with my daughter, sometimes alone. This year, it will be on Saturday, May 5 at a comic book store near you (I hope). I go because I like seeing a busy comic book store, and I’m always treated like visiting royalty at a local proprietor’s shop. For those of you who don’t know, I worked a FantaCo, Albany’s first direct market comic book shop; the store was open from 1978-1998, and I worked there from 1980-1988. And I like getting something for free, although I ALWAYS buy something as well.
But it’s also a little sad. While there are good books out there, so much of it is…not. Even a comic nerd such as Alan David Doane recently noted: “My trouble with comics right now is that so very few appeal to me.”
This reminded me of my treks to my hometown of Binghamton, NY, some 150 miles away from Albany. When I was growing up, I rather loved it. It was a decent place to grow up. The population was about 75,000, with a vibrant downtown. Now it has about 47,000 people, with a downtown that seems to be hanging by a thread. I WANT it to do well, a lot, but it’s just not, for the most part.
When I went to college, they tore down a bunch of houses near my grandmother’s home to build “new” Route 17, which will eventually become Interstate 86. The road has made it easier to get THROUGH the city, but has hardly been a boon for having people stay IN the city. I go there for a family reunion, on my mother-in-law’s side, and I’ll see little signs of life, but it’s mostly moribund.
Binghamton and comic books, parts of, to quote Paul McCartney, “my ever-present past.”