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Guest Columnist: Alan David Doane of Comic Book Galaxy:

 








 Alan David Doane was the first person to take a chance on me as a guy to write about and review comics. I joined Comic Book Galaxy in its early stages and made friendships and relationships there that are with me to this day. I am honored that Alan expressed interest in doing a guest column here at CWR and thank him for his time and participatory spirit! - Marc Mason


 "Let me help." According to Captain James T. Kirk in the Star Trek episode "City on the Edge of Forever," those are some of the most important words in history. They're also the reason why I, and I suspect many other people, write about comics.

I spend thousands of dollars a year on comics most years. They are, frankly, the primary thing I do with my disposable income. Which is a funny turn of phrase, considering how non-disposable I consider most of the comics and graphic novels I spend my money on. My library of graphic novels (just books with a spine, not floppy, pamphlet comics -- God, I have too many of those, too!) is now over 800 and strains the shelves of three full-size bookcases plus a smaller DVD rack re-purposed to hold Manga and small-size graphic novels. There is also a sizable stack on my nightstand, and lately I have been thinking about investing in a fourth full-size bookcase. And I remind you, all this to hold merely the essentials. God only knows where I would sleep or watch TV if I wasn't constantly trading away, selling or re-gifting the stuff that's not up to snuff. I've probably owned five times the amount of graphic novels I currently possess, and ten times the floppy funnybooks, but I'm always trying to pare away the lesser stuff to keep things under control. And that takes a constant, and not always accurate, process of evaluation.

So in a sense, I suppose, I became a comics critic so I could better understand my own feelings about the works I was experiencing. My earliest reviews were certainly intended that way, a manner in which I could better understand my own reactions to the comics I was reading. And it wasn't long before, for some reason, people started reading and responding to my reviews. Not always politely, but always passionately, and while the flamewars and online snark have sometimes been oppressive, for the most part writing about comics has been a rewarding and exciting enterprise. Certainly, it's led me to meet and interact with creative and brilliant people I never otherwise would have had contact with, and that alone has made it all worth while.

But probably the very best part of writing about comics is, as noted at the start, getting to help. Now, I don't claim to possess the perfect set of critical faculties. Opinions vary, and while I do strongly believe that a given work can be objectively without merit, there is a vast landscape of work about which intelligent minds can fairly debate. I don't enjoy most of the work of Brian K. Vaughan, for example, but many people I respect do like his stuff, and it is easy for me to see, and admit, that his comics work is far superior to the junk by such writers as Geoff Johns or Brian Bendis, both staggeringly bad superhero writers who for some reason manage to sell metric shitloads of comic books month after month after stupefying month.

As you can see, I have little problem expressing an opinion that runs counter to commonly-accepted fan wisdom. And that, of course, leads to the occasional nasty comment or email, and I'm fine with that. People spending loads of money on garbage, usually out of habit, don't like to be told that that money is being wasted. But all those issues of Secret Invasion? Yeah, dude, that was a big waste of money. And the great thing about comics criticism is that there are a lot of critics you can read, and enough of their stuff is available on various sites and blogs that you can pretty quickly get a sense of whether your views generally jibe with theirs. And when you find a critic you agree with, and follow their writing, you may be surprised at just how often they turn you on to some hidden treasure that you otherwise might never have known about.

So, let me help. Or if you don't agree with my opinions (such as, autobiography can often be the most rewarding genre in the comics artform, for example), then find someone whose vision of comics more closely reflects your own. For me, critics like Sean T. Collins, Jog and Johanna Draper Carlson are all indispensible, daily reads. All of them have helped me find works of wonder within the artform that I love more than any other. So find a critic you like, and, you know, let them help.

Alan David Doane is the guy who writes and runs Comic Book Galaxy, and is also a contributing writer for The Comics Journal.  

Alan David Doane 

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