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Thursday, February 12, 2009

This Week's Suspended Animation - A Very Fond Farewell


Today is a day of good news. Hurrah! This is my last column for Suspended Animation.

Why is that good news?

In February of 1989, I wrote: “The truth, however, is that there are comics for adults, and they are capable of looking profoundly into the human condition”, and Suspended Animation was born. In that column, I wanted to introduce adults to the idea that there were comics titles they could enjoy. I believe I accomplished that.

I also wrote: “The purpose of this new weekly column is to review the best and worst in comics. We will review comics written and drawn solely to entertain as well as comics with political, religious, and philosophical slants”. For twenty years, I expressed my opinion on what was the best and worst in comics. Job done.

In fact, at the height of its popularity, Suspended Animation was published in dozens of newspapers and magazines, broadcast on radio, featured on more than one hundred web sites, and read by four million folks interested in comics. It is the longest running comics review column in history.

There is more good news.

Although sales have steadily fallen throughout the past two decades, and I suspect that monthly titles will cease to be published in my lifetime (if I live another twenty years), those who wish to read them will enjoy comic books and strips for many years to come.

Why?

Because collecting comic books and strips has become a hobby, millions of copies and thousands of titles remain in collections all over the world. They will continue to be available to buy, sell, and trade long after new comic books and strips are published.

Hardcore fans will continue to produce fanzines about comic books and strips. It is now more affordable to publish them than in the past.

Did you notice the operative word is “continue”. Suspended Animation will be continued by Mark Allen.

I thank my readers for allowing me to write about comics.

Goodbye and God bless.

Continually yours,

Michael Vance

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A word on Michael Vance's departure from Suspended Animation. "I'm scared." Ok, that's two words, but it's also a fact.

Almost nine years ago, Vance brought me in and made me a part of "the longest-running syndicated comics review column in North America, perhaps the world." I knew how to write, but I knew nothing about writing comic book reviews, and was equally clueless as to how to make a review communicate all of the pertinent information potential readers needed in a very limited number of words. Over time, I learned that there is a knack to it all. Maybe even an art.

At first, the restriction chafed. Later, I realized it was about much more than a requirement related to page-space in the many newspapers that, at that time, carried Suspended Animation. It was about not lingering, dragging things out, or otherwise indulging ourselves. It really was meant to be a service, even a tool, for fans or potential fans of the sequential world that is comics. It was meant to help people make good choices, to get the best entertainment bang for their buck. And it still is.

That's part of the reason I'm scared - because I'm not doing this ONLY for me, just as Michael wasn't when he started S.A. in 1989. When you are doing something for yourself only, you can quit any time you want. But, when it's also being done for others, it’s a little more difficult to just hang it up. And I know the struggles I have experienced making deadlines while Michael was carrying half the load. Now, it's all me. Yikes.

However, I am EXTREMELY excited about keeping this column moving forward, so I'm in it with both feet. But, if you are a religious person, some prayers certainly wouldn't hurt.

In all likelihood, this column will change, somewhat. Oh, it will still be weekly, and will still deal primarily with comic books, comic strips, comics legends and graphic novels. But it's view will also be somewhat broadened. The internet cannot be ignored, being the vehicle for comics-related creativity that it is. So, in the future, you can expect some reviews of online comics, or sites about comics. You can also expect occasional opinion pieces other than reviews, and (perhaps) even the odd interview.

So Suspended Animation will go on, even without Michael Vance. His fingerprints, however, will be all over it for as long as it is read anywhere, at any time, by anyone. That's the weight of the influence and legacy he has left. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Onward.

Mark Allen