Ezra Klein is probably my favorite podcaster at the moment but I feel pretty strongly that, much as I admire the man and his work, I wouldn’t wanna meet him–and I’ll be totally upfront and say that the reason I don’t wanna meet him is cuz I know I’ll feel stupid the minute we start talking. Even if he’s nice. I’m gonna say something innocuous about the weather and then he’ll say something back and then I’m gonna remember how smart he is and just put my things back in my pockets and go.
Anyway. I was listening to an interview with Klein where he mentions that one of the ways he unwinds is by reading comics on a subscription service called Marvel Unlimited and, now that I’m looking at it, I think I might subscribe. It’s ten bucks a month and gives unlimited access to literally every Marvel comic ever.
I’m also thinking I shouldn’t, though.
Cuz for one thing I’m still brooding about the fact that, five months ago, I went to the gym that’s literally across the street from my apartment, I enrolled for a low monthly cost, and I’ve been there exactly once. I did thirty curls and a few minutes on the elliptical while listening to Zadie Smith talk about her quarantine wardrobe and said to myself, “That’s good for a first visit.” Bought a $4 Gatorade cuz I deserved it and left.
Same goes for Netflix. I rarely use it but I pay out the ass for not just the streaming service but the DVDs. I’ve got their copies of Satyricon and Cool Hand Luke in the same spot of my desk they’ve occupied for the better part of a year.
So I ask myself: with all the reading I’ve assigned myself, the reading that I’m tackling not just for leisure but as a kind of sideline education, am I really gonna find the time to read comics as well? And if I do find the time to read comics, will I be reading them because I like them?
The answer, I know, is that I’ll be reading them not because I’m particularly interested in comics but, rather, because I wanna be literate on the canon. Klein, in the same interview where he endorses the service, talks about how these comics are basically American myths: they get renewed with every generation, they reflect the values and fears of their cultural moment…
I haven’t seen a Marvel movie since Endgame (which I loved) and, frankly, I don’t have plans to watch any of the impending ones.
Something similar happened with the recent Star Wars trilogy: though I loved the first three movies as a kid, and still consider them pillars of my imagination and upbringing, I hated the prequel trilogy (and I hate it even harder, in retrospect, cuz it did a kinda violence to my boyish self-esteem: made me feel stupid, at 9 year sold, cuz I didn’t understand the dialogue about intergalactic trade agreements) and later realized, while schlepping without breakfast to a 9 a.m. showing of The Last Jedi on the day of its release, that I wasn’t emotionally invested in the story of this franchise anymore; what I realized is that I was only watching these because I wanted to read the commentaries and participate in the cultural conversation about em.
Maybe I’ll do the same thing with these comics on Marvel Unlimited.
Although! Is it simple that I want to be literate in these mythologies, or that I want to seem like an expert? Am I looking to read these comics so that I can hold court at the bar when discussing the latest MCU flick, expounding on its loyalties and betrayals to the source material, or because I respect them and want to enjoy them?
As a bartender, though, this really might be useful. I’m sure that, when the next MCU movie hits theaters, there’ll be a guest or two who really wants to discuss it, and it’d be nice if I could say, “Ah, yes, the comics…”
My bank account really does feel like a leaky sieve, though, with all these monthly subscriptions that drain $12 here, $15 there, $9 from someplace else.
We’ll see. To be honest, I know I’m gonna pay the subscription fee and read a few comics. At least for a month. I’m just writing this out because I haven’t enrolled yet and I want you to get a sense of my apprehensions before I finally get around to betraying them.