Do you make Al Gore cry? Chances are you do if you still buy monthlies, or "floppies" if you are one of those irksome individuals who often tosses off "616" when referring to the Marvel Universe.
As you may or may not know, Earth Day was this past week. For the first time in my life, I marked the day with a sense of fervent pride because I have turned the environmental corner. That's right; I'm going Green. I feel like I almost wanted to have a Green coming out party. You know, invite some folks over, drink some water straight out of the spigot with all the lights off, eating plants I picked from the neighbor's yard as refreshments. Totally sustainable. Totally cool. Totally Green. But sadly, I didn't have a Green coming out party.
But you see, Al Gore has had somewhat of a tongue-in-cheek impact on me. As a teacher, I tease my students often about being Al Gore Friendly. I make Al Gore jokes and crack wise about crunchy granola types. But I don't hate Al Gore or environmentalists. Quite the opposite. I really do love Al Gore. I love the environment more. However, I wasn't really doing much to lower my environmental footprint. If anything, I was being a typical American and doing jack-diddly-squat.
That is until about a two months ago.
I made the switch to those reusable cloth grocery bags. I have changed all the lights in my townhouse to energy saving bulbs. I have started to change my spending patterns to buy items that have little packaging or buy items secondhand, in particular my entertainment needs such as music, books, and movies. If anything comes from this, at least my Green Karma will be in better shape than it was before. Maybe I'll reincarnate as a slug now rather a mite.
As I started my own Green Revolution, I started to look at all areas of my life, comic books included. What impact do these little flimsy books have on our dearest Mother Earth? Is my obsession with "funny books" killing our planet? Would Al Gore approve? The questions made me think long and hard about my hobby. Like a junkie, I looked at my collection and thought, "Dear God, am I a part of the problem?"
The uncomfortable answer is probably yes. God knows I have tried very hard to convince myself that I am a reader and not a collector, but my twenty some odd long-boxes tell a different story. They sit there in my second bedroom, the room I affectionately call the Fanboy Room, staring at me with big, ugly eyes that clearly state, "I am an unsustainable drain on the earth's environment." Like Jesus and Hillary Clinton, I wept at the possibilities. What about other individuals with more comics than I had? What about all of those wasted trees used to print those issues of Youngblood, Super Pro, and Rai and the Future Force that now populated the dollar bins of the local-yokel comic shops? What about that comic fan who keeps purchasing Uncanny X-Men not out of joy for reading, but the necessity to keep his anal retentive collection intact just in case the second coming of Jack Kirby happens during his life time?
Surely the Amazon River Basin defames my good name every time I open a comic book!
These dizzying questions posed quite a conundrum for me. For several days, my brain and my inner-fanboy fought an epic battle. What to do? Inspiration did not strike until I was downloading a few songs the other night on trusty iTunes. I need to make the switch to digital comics. The thought made my inner-fanboy cry foul. Why, oh why, would I want to do that? I mean, isn't part of the joy in being a comic book fan holding the book ever so carefully as you read from page to page?
Let's face it; I'm a bit of a Marvel nerd. With their recent Digital Comic push, I thought this might be a good alternative. Browsing the Marvel Digital Comics Website did little to ease my geeky mind. While there is an impressive amount of books there already, the diversity and amount just aren't there yet. The price is right for me, a notorious el-cheapo, but the amount of books just seemed all wrong. My favorite title, Punisher Max, had only a few issues, and none of them being recent issues. Many of the books were oldies but goodies, some not so much, but the fact of the matter remains; they have already been published. That did little cut down on the use of paper. And back issues no doubt already populated the bins at the aforementioned comic shop.
There are other digital services out there. A few of them are legal, but many are not. My friend Chris is always extolling to me the greatness of reading comics online from some peer-to-peer hack shop. The el-cheapo in me also likes the free price point, but I have ethical issues with reading comics online illegally, you know, because it's illegal.
What's a poor fanboy to do? To borrow a phrase from Joe Quesada, "Wait and see." While digital comics remain a possibility, I don't think the comic companies have fully caught up to the technology currently available. I'm obviously open to suggestion at this point, but it doesn't seem to be a viable option for me now. I hope these companies prove me wrong soon, but I somehow doubt it. For now, Al Gore will have to weep while I let those unread issues of Jack of Fables collect dust on the kitchen table.
Lesson learned: going Green is harder than you think for comic book fans.
FYI: You can calculate your own carbon footprint by clicking here.