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Elliott Serrano Presents:









 

The hiatus gave me time to reflect and take personal inventory, so to start off the New Year, I’d like to share an emotional experience I had over the holidays with all of you…

The meeting was being held in a modest-sized room in the back of my local comic shop. It was run by Gil, the shop-owner, who’s real sensitive about the problem we were dealing with and is really cool about it. No other shop owner would have had us there as it’s just too hot an issue for some to get involved in. We sat in a semi-circle with Gil acting as group leader. To my left was this guy wearing a faded Cowboy Beebop t-shirt that had seen better days. A few empty chairs over was this cute fangirl with a tight-curls, a corduroy jacket, and a pink undershirt featuring the Rabbit from the Trix Cereal ads. Beyond that, it was the standard motley bunch of nerds, geeks and gamers. My buddy Dan sat on my right. He was there for moral support as he knew how much I didn’t want to be at this function.

‘Ok everyone, let’s get started,’ Gil announced. He had a clip board in his hand, which was customary for group leaders. ‘Why don’t we start off with introductions, and I see that we have a few new faces in the group,’ he looked at Dan and me, ‘so why don’t we start with them.’ Gil smiled a reassuring smile that almost put me at ease. Almost.

As I saw no sense in putting Dan through the ordeal, I stood up and prepared to introduce myself. I kept shifting my weight from my left foot to my right, my words stalling at my throat.

‘Um’ I stammered, ‘my friend…’ I motioned to Dan, ‘he’s here for me…’ I said, justifying his presence, trying to distance him from stigma I was carrying. I struggled with my emotions.

‘That’s ok,’ Gil said, patiently, ‘we’re all here for the same thing.’

‘Uh, thanks…’ I said, not sure I got his meaning.

Finally, I just blurted the words out: ‘My name is Elliott and I’m a Marvel Zombie.’

‘Hello Elliott’ was the chorus that greeted me.

I sat down quickly, averting the gaze of those seated around me.

‘That’s a good start, Elliott,’ Gil said. ‘Since this is your first MZA meeting, I’m going to go over the ground rules for you.’

Mr. Cowboy Beebop exhaled impatiently.

‘This is an open forum for us to express how we feel without fear of flaming. There’s no cross talk. You don’t have to talk if you don’t feel like it, but you’ll see that you get more out of it if you do. We aren’t here to judge you. We’ve all been where you’re at.’ Dan looked at me with a ‘see-I-told-you-so’ look in his eyes.

‘Thanks,’ I said, ‘it’s just…’

My words hung in the air.

‘Yes?’ Gil prompted.

‘It’s just that I don’t see a problem with it,’ I said with finality.

The whole room sighed.

‘Of course you don’t,’ Gil replied, ‘none of us did, in the beginning. But then things changed.’

‘Fucking Bendis,’ Mr. Cowboy Beebop exclaimed in a Turrets-syndrome-like manner.

The whole room murmured in agreement.

‘Honestly,’ Gil continued, ‘there was a time when I would have agreed with you. Used to be that calling yourself a Marvel Zombie was a badge of honor of sorts, like being called a Trekkie. Those were the halcyon days of Bullpen Bulletins and Friends Of Ol’ Marvel. But those days are long gone, my friend.’

‘It’s because of One More Day isn’t it?’ I offered.

‘Fucking Joey Q!’ Mr Cowboy Beebop snorted.

‘I wish I could say it was.’ Gil said. ‘But it started long before that poorly-conceived, mishandled abortion of a retcon.’

‘Tony Stark in Civil War?’

‘Go back further.’

‘House of M?’

‘Further.’

‘Age of Apocalypse?’

‘Keep going.’

My mind kept swimming through the possibilities. Each X- Men/Avengers/Spidey/FF/flavor-of-the-month themed crossover running through my brain like a mouse looking for the cheese at the end of the maze. Then it hit me.

By Asgard, he couldn’t possibly mean…

‘Secret Wars II?’ I finally said. It came out more as a statement than a question.

Everyone around the room nodded in agreement.

‘That was the moment when story in the Marvel Universe no longer took precedent,’ Gil said. ‘When the ‘event-crossover’ became a sales gimmick intent solely on selling more books.’

‘You could say that occurred with the first Secret Wars.’ Dan offered.

‘True,’ Gil agreed, ‘but at least the first Secret Wars tried to tell a grand, sweeping adventure. Secret Wars II was essentially Coming to America with The Beyonder playing the role of Eddie Murphy.’

‘Fucking Jim Shooter!’ Cowboy Beebop blurted.

‘Isn’t The Beyonder an Inhuman now?’ I said.

Trix Cereal Girl giggled.

‘Just think about it,’ Gil said to me, intently.

Everyone on the room looked at me. It was almost more than I could bear.

It was as if the whole weight of the world were on my shoulders. The books, the crossovers, the variant covers. Rising cover prices. X-men. With Wolverine. X-Force. With Wolverine. Uncanny. Astonishing. Dozens upon dozens of X-Titles. Each with Wolverine. Avengers Disassembled. Avengers Re-Assembled…with Wolverine! Fucking…Wolverine… EVERYWHERE!

I broke down.

‘Y-y-you’re right.’ I sobbed.

Everyone in the room applauded. Dan put a hand on my shoulder in a comforting gesture. Even Mr. Cowboy Beebop grinned.

And that’s how the meeting started. By the end of the evening, we’d all shared our feelings and frustrations, I’d laid my fanboy soul bare, and One More Day was flogged worse than Jim Caviezel in The Passion of the Christ.

At the end of the meeting, we all held hands and said the MZA Serenity Prayer:

Oh Great Jack Kirby,
Grant me the strength to accept that Peter and MJ are no longer married -
To understand that as long as I buy books by Rob Liefeld they’ll keep hiring him -
To realize that I don’t need each variant cover to feel fulfilled -
And to remember that as long as I keep buying books that suck, that violate the Sacred
Continuity and insult my intelligence, it doesn’t matter how much I complain on message
boards, because the people who create them are laughing all the way to the bank.

We ask these things in the name of our lord Stan Lee,

Amen.

Afterwards, we hung around for a little bit, downed paper cups of Pepsi Max with handfuls of Chex Mix, and commiserated.

That’s when Trix Cereal Girl approached me.

‘That was really sweet,’ she said, ‘that story of how Captain America’s Bicentennial Battles helped you grow up to work with animals.’

‘Thanks,’ I replied. Damn, she was cute.

‘So,’ she asked tentatively, ’you have any plans for after the meeting?’

‘Uh, nope. I don’t live far from here, so I’m just walking.’

‘Me too.’

Pause.

‘So,’ she continued, ‘want to go back to my place and see my collection of X-Men variant covers?’

‘Hell yeah!’

Finis.

E. Ruben Serrano is a Writer/Columnist/Graphic Artist who is also a member of Marvel Zombie’s Anonymous. He was about to get his one-month Excelsior chip until he fell off the wagon and started wearing his old F.O.O.M. t-shirt again. The shirt has seen better days and Trix Cereal Girl has yet to call him again since she’s seen him in it.

E.R. Serrano

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