Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Comicopia

My Monday evening class finished last week, and at the end of the lesson they said they had something for me. It was a thank-you card and a voucher for 50 francs, to be spent in the nearby Analph Comics.

Wow! A bonus for doing my job! Now I know what it feels like to work for a bank.

To thank them, I have written this blog post in the style of the CAE ( Certificate of Advanced English ) - the exam they just took.

# # #
In this part of the test, write an article about one of the following:

1) Spending other people's money is more fun than spending your own
2) When buying comics, quantity is more important than quality
3) Zurich is expensive but there are bargains to be had
# # #

When buying comics, quantity is more important than quality
by Andrew Girardin

Less is more, goes the old saying. But on the other hand, sometimes more is more. When my students gave me a voucher for 50 francs, I decided to take the opportunity to find out which really is more: less, or more.

In Analph, you can buy Watchmen for 52 francs. Watchmen is a stunning book that happens to be half graphic novel. It's listed in Time magazine's top 100 novels of all time. It's never far from a superlative - seminal, phenomenal, astonishing. Spending 52 francs on Watchmen is a guaranteed return on investment.

However, I already own Watchmen, just as I already own the Scott Pilgrim series and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

So even if I'd wanted to go for quality over quantity, there was nothing in Analph that tickled my fancy.

This made me consider the alternative - buying the greatest number of comics while trying to maintain a decent level of quality. Fortunately I found Analph's half-price section and was able to achieve this goal.
Robots in my eyes
First, I found a Classic Transformers compilation. I grew up loving Transformers and while I now recognise that the plots centre around robots shouting 'I am the number you cannot compute, Decepticon!' and creating huge robots with silly names - Omega Prime, Devastator, Superion - it makes me feel a bit more like a kid, and for me that's a mark of quality.
A page from My Brain is Hanging Upside Down

Next I liked the style of a large hardback called 'My Brain is Hanging Upside Down'. The name was charming and I liked the tiny cute little panels. However, when I got home and had a closer look, I found some of the images disturbing and weird. Still, at half price it was a good deal and some cute girls I met on the way home liked it.

My final selection from the half-price section was a book which turned out to be a collection of comics from a website called Basic Instructions. It doesn't look much, but it's very funny. I laughed a lot at this one, so that's great value.

So far my choices had come to about 42 francs, and I doubted they would give me change from the voucher. So on a whim I picked up (at full price) Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud. This is the 'prequel' to Making Comics, which I already have. They're basically in-depth guides to erm... understanding and making comics and, brilliantly, they are entirely in comic form. Making Comics really is a masterpiece and I hope Understanding Comics is as good.

On the way to the counter I saw a bundle of comics under a table. They were packets of 20 random comics for 3 francs a pack! At those prices, I could buy 50 comics for the price of a packet of cigarettes! At 3 francs a pack, more was more. I bought three.

The random comics really were random, ranging from the famous (Batman, Lara Croft, Sin City) to the utterly obscure (Night Swim, Sword Assassin). So far I've read three - Gunfighters in Hell (which could be/probably are the angry sketches of a pubescent serial killer), Flash and Green Lantern Go Camping (and it's very camp), and an interesting one from a guy called Ed Brubaker.

I ended up with a cornucopia of comics. Look:

The whole bunch (64 individual comics) came to 79 francs. So, thanks to my generous students, I only had to stump up 29 francs for a sofa-full of comics.

I needed two carrier bags to get them home, and I believe the very fact of carrying two bags of comics - something I had never previously experienced - was far more satisfying than buying two little graphic novels for the same price.

In conclusion, I believe this experience has shown that when buying comics, more is more.
estimated CAE grade - 5


  1. Kaiser Suzy2:54 PM

    I loved Transformers too, but Michael Bay has ruined it for me :(

  2. Chrisp7:36 PM

    Any truth to the rumor that Andrew Girardin is not a real person, but rather a compilation of various characters you've met over the years?

  3. There's no smoke without fire!

    Another rumour I heard is that you - Chris P = will be killed in a future episode of Hunger Games in Switzerland


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