Earlier this week, Darrel, an editor I work with, told me he was curious about graphic novels. I saw this as an opportunity to get him interested in sequential art, so after getting an idea of what movies he’s enjoyed, I decided to lend him my copy of A History of Violence, by John Wagner and Vince Locke. I chose this particular title because of the subject matter and the quality of the presentation, but also because the copy I have isn’t a first edition.
I think he’ll like the book, so I’m doing my duty as a comic fan to further the medium. But let’s face it, I was not about to hand over a book that’s near and dear to me. If the future of comics depended on me handing over a pristine first edition, then maybe, but as it was, no way.
When I stood before him with the nearly flawless book in hand, I started the conversation by saying, “I’m letting you borrow this, but there are rules.”
“Uh oh,” he said jokingly, with a fake ominous tone and a laugh that was a little too uproarious for me. He obviously had no idea how serious I was.
“No, seriously,” I said, my face stern as I brought the conversation back to the level of seriousness it deserved. “I’m a book collector. And I’m a comic collector. And I like to keep my books in pristine condition.”
I showed him the copy of A History of Violence I was about to lend him, making it readily apparent he was not yet meant to reach out to grab it. No, that would happen only after he agreed to the rules. “I’ve already read this book,” I said, indicating the undamaged spine and the flawless pages and covers. “I’ve been known to read a book several times but still be able to return the book for a full refund without the clerk ever considering the book might’ve been touched, let alone opened and read.”
By now another co-worker, Georgie, was watching the conversation unfold.
“Oh no, you’re one of them,” Darrel said, again trying to bring some levity to the conversation.
“That’s right,” I said. “And I’m giving this to you with the hopes you can treat with the proper respect.”
After a moment of silence, I felt he understood the gravity of the situation, so I reached out and handed him the book. “Lucky for you this isn’t a first edition or we wouldn’t be having this conversation. But as it is, we’ll consider this a trial. You only get one strike.”
The three of us talked animation and graphic novels and Hollywood for a few minutes as Darrel flipped gently through the pages of the book. At one point I was discussing my desire to break into the creative side of comics when Darrel spoke up. “When I read books,” I heard him say as he tossed the book into his bag, “I’m generally so rough they’re practically destroyed; unreadable when I’m finished.”
My heart stopped for the briefest of moments. Did I hear him right? I tried to replay the last few seconds of the conversation. Did he say he destroyed them, or that he was just usually pretty rough?
“Oh, he didn’t like that,” I heard Georgie say in the distance, my mind so focused on trying to determine what he really said, what he really meant, that I couldn’t even keep up with what was currently being said. Darrel said something about being nice this time around, but I wasn't listening anymore.
I took a deep breath and tried to forget what I saw and what I heard. "It’s not a first print," I told myself. "And it’s a trial offer. I have to give him the benefit of the doubt and hope that he’ll keep his end of the agreement. If not, well, we don’t have to do business ever again."
With that, I said my goodbyes and left as quickly as I could, getting out of there before I changed my mind and asked him to give it back to me. But on the way home, I replayed the scene a few times. No matter how I tried to spin the transaction, I could only come up with one conclusion: I’ve seen the last of my pristine copy of A History of Violence.
I hope the world of comics can appreciate my sacrifice.