Rituals Lost?

By | Tuesday, November 19, 2019 Leave a Comment
I was reading through an old post of mine from 2007(!!!) about how I stopped going to my Local Comic Shop every Wednesday because I "needed" to get the latest issues immediately, and flipped a sort of mental switch where I would hit the shop most (but not all!) Wednesdays as a matter of ritual. That it was the act of knowing what I was going to do on my lunch hour once a week that provided a modicum of stability in a turbulent world. (And good grief, when I compare what I thought was turbulent in 2007 versus what I consider turbulent now... YOWZA!)

It might not be terribly surprising that my comics habits have changed considerably since 2007. When I moved up to the Chicago area in 2013, for example, I actually lived in several different places before finding and moving into a permanent residence. Because I kept moving, I wasn't able to establish my local comic shop. And unfortunately, once I did finally find a place, the physically closest comic shop is an unironic real-life version of Android's Dungeon.
Comic Book Guy and Stan Lee
It's cramped and dingy and dark and unorganized and the owner seems sketchy as hell. So I don't go in there very often.

Now, I certainly could go to any number of other comic shops. Chicago has a number of really good ones; many are closer to me now than one of my previous local comic shops was to me in Ohio. But by the time I had settled down from moving, and figured out where everything was... well, my buying habits had somewhat forcibly changed. At that point, I wasn't getting any ongoing titles any longer and the ones I was getting had been winding down anyway. Once I bought the last couple issues, I wasn't in the stores enough to see what new books might replace them. And I had plenty to still read thanks to webcomics. So between shop signings and sporadic conventions, I was still able to get all the new physical comics I wanted, with maybe an occasional order on Amazon for a good trade paperback I might hear about.

My comics ritual had dissolved entirely. It wasn't that it had changed or morphed a bit; it was just gone. I was still reading comics, but there was no ritual tied to the process at all. Whenever I had time. I mentioned in passing the other day that with my severely limited mobility last year, I started using a subscription service. (Lone Star Comics' MyComicShop for those interested.) This inadvertently created a new potential ritual for me -- receiving a package once a month with all my new comics. I could establish some new process for opening the box, checking the new issues, and reading them. Give myself a little much-needed stability to stabilize the super chaotic couple of years I've had.

But for some reason, I've never done that. Some months, the box would arrive when I was home, some months not. If I was home, the dog would usually alert me to the deliverer's presence so I could retrieve the package whenever it arrived (usually in the early afternoon) rather than always waiting until the end of the day or something. I could've set aside some special time to open each box and sort through the new issues. Also not done. I could recognize the boxes pretty much immediately, so there was no real surprise in what was in them, so they would sometimes sit on the kitchen table for a day or so before I could get to them. "Yup, I know what that is. Nothing that requires my immediate attention." Or maybe, "I won't be able to read these until the weekend, but it's garbage day tomorrow, so I can open it now and make sure the box gets in the recycling bin right away."

And that's all been... fine? I guess? I mean, I don't really miss the weekly trips to the comic shop, and I don't feel like things would necessarily better if I developed a ritual for how I read comics now. But given how stormy the waters have been -- and how I've had very little stability for the past two years -- maybe I really should make a point of making my comic book reading a more ritualistic process. To provide a period of grounding that I can give myself once a week or so. An hour or two every week that I can count on, regardless of what the most recent dumpster fire that fills up my news feed is.

I'm still trying to get my footing again. This blogging is a part of that. Maybe my reading habits should be too.
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