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December 24, 2008


CR Holiday Interview #3: Tucker Stone On The Year In Mainstream Comics

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*****

imageTucker Stone came to my attention and that of many other comics fans through his weekly comics reviews at his site The Factual Opinion, particularly his regular Comics Of The Weak feature. A lit cigarette ground into the fatty neck folds holding up the swelled head of American comic books, Stone's primary goal with Comics Of The Weak seems to be to get people to laugh. A more thoughtful side to the writer begins to emerge once you read enough of his work to become inured to the nastier rattle of some of his jokes, or take in his column at the comiXology site. What I like best about Stone's work is that it seems to follow his having intensely read and confronted the work in question; he doesn't seem to be returning to set pieces in terms of the humor or the analysis. I thought it might be good to hear about the year in American mainstream comics from his point of view. -- Tom Spurgeon

*****

TOM SPURGEON: I know I say this in a lot of interviews, but Tucker, I know very little about you. Can you give me the over-a-friendly-lunch version of your life with a an odd-in-every-other-context emphasis on how you've interacted with comics over the years? Did you read them as a kid?

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TUCKER STONE: I lived in a lot of different places, the most interesting one being West Berlin, before my family settled in a suburb of Atlanta. That was where we moved after my dad finished his time in the military. Nobody in my family ever expressed any interest in comics beyond what was in the newspaper, and it was actually pointed out to me by my mother -- when I interviewed her for the blog -- that I didn't read comics at all when I was a little kid. I don't remember liking or watching the Batman television show, I know I hated Star Trek. I did play with Star Wars toys when I was a kid, though. My parents are heavy book nerds -- my father especially, they just inhale stuff, and they didn't ever care what I read. They just pushed me to read, and that's what we did.

Actually, that's kind of funny -- my parents wouldn't let me see the first Robocop -- they'd seen it opening weekend, decided it was too violent, but my dad bought me the "novelization" of the movie, which was just as violent and hardcore. Cocaine use, strippers and prostitutes, torture. I was nine or ten? That's pretty much the only thing I read, anyway. I'd read the crap they make you read in school, then I'd sit around reading Stephen King, anything that was really violent, that kind of stuff. I think I still think about sex in terms of the sequence in The Stand where the girl with the white streak in her hair seduces the nerdy guy. "Coffee, tea...or me?"

imageAnyway, my mom would always go to this one used bookstore, this really awful place run by this belligerent little idiot woman, and for some reason they had a bunch of comic books up front. In retrospect, I think they may have carried new titles, but I can't imagine why. My memory of that place isn't so good though, because in my head the store is the size of a Wal-Mart. There's no way it was that big, it was a family run place. For no reason whatsoever, I bought -- well, my mother bought -- an issue of Detective Comics drawn by Norm Breyfogle as well as two issues of the Detroit Justice League. I've tried to figure out when that could have been -- the Detroit League started in 1984, but that Detective issue was in 1988, and both of the comics were already back issues by then. My best guess is that I was 13? It was before high school, but not too long before high school. Why I tried them out, I don't know -- I think I'd read all the Stephen King available at that point, and I'd tried some other pop horror writers and hated them -- maybe I was just bored. I got bored a lot. It wasn't until a few years ago that a friend of mine told me that if you're always getting bored, that's because you're a boring person, and it's your own fault. That was pretty much my sole motivation for almost every decision I made until I was a lot older, so that's probably why. But I don't know.

From there, I pretty much just bought random issues of those comics for a while, and then -- for the hell of it, and because I was a piece of shit, I stole comics. I would wander over to this gas station store and steal stacks of comics off the spinner rack -- Marvel Comics Presents, a whole bunch of crap. I barely remember what they were, but you can tell if it's one of those if you look at the collection now -- they all have these marks in the middle from where I had sweat all over them from having them shoved down my pants.

I really liked reading them, but I'm at a loss to tell you why. I just liked Batman, and I liked the people in the Justice League. I don't know why. I know I already thought Superman was a prick, but I don't know why. I just thought he was a boring jerk. I liked when Wolverine would kill people, but I always wanted him to go farther.

imageAnyway, I got more out there with them -- read stuff like Doom Patrol, Animal Man -- I remember really getting into stupid crap though, like buying all the Impact Comics, or multiple issues of Lobo # 1. The thing was -- I never knew anybody else that read comics. I'd meet these people at comic stores, but I seemed to have a knack for going to comic stores that only stayed open for six months or so before going out of business. I didn't like the people who went there, I didn't like the people that worked there -- it was just these angry role-playing game people, or these misfits who were always talking about Star Wars. I had a pretty good going at the time with acting -- I'd made a lot of friends, we'd listen to Dr. Dre and the Subhumans, try to get laid...but that social aspect of comics, that was never there. I wasn't embarrassed by them -- it was just that no one ever mentioned them. Not even when the Batman movie came out. Nothing. It's like they didn't exist. All my conversations with my friends revolved around music and girls. I don't remember us caring about anything else, except for getting wasted.

Eventually, comics and all that went with it just became a distraction from driving around and being a screw up. At a certain point -- my senior year in high school, it was comics/girls/music or drugs, and I picked drugs. Then I went off to college to be a lawyer, got arrested twice, kicked out of college, and then I got arrested again. That time my parents didn't bail me out. After that, I was pretty much done -- I had to live in a halfway house in the northeast GA mountains for two years or I was going to have to go back to jail. I went to college again, but this time I just took random classes, and I ended up triple majoring in three useless fields -- religion, philosophy and theater. At some point, I had a disposable income again, and then I read in the newspaper that Dark Knight Strikes Again was coming out. I'd always liked the first one, so I went to a comic store, which was two hours away, and picked it up. Then I figured I'd catch up on Batman, then I bought some Acme Novelty Library, and boom -- I was back on board.

When I graduated in 2002, I moved to New York, and comics pretty much opened themselves up to me -- there were only two or three great comic stores in Atlanta, and I had to drive two hours to go to them unless I was visiting my parents -- whereas even the most run-down NYC store has stuff like  
posted 12:00 am PST |
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