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Episodes: Friday mailbag (May 5)


Emily VanDerWerff

May 06 2017

5 min read



We only got two questions this week, but maybe I can convince one of my cats to ask me something before the evening is over!

Billy writes:

I always wanted to hear more about the comic-buying experiences you referred to in your Superman piece. Did you try out much from Marvel comics? Which non-Superman characters appealed to you the most? And, most important of all, how scared are you of Alan Moore's beard?

(If you haven't read the piece linked above, please do so. It's a good one, as were most of the entries in my aborted series Nerd Curious.)

For whatever reason, comics have just never "taken" with me. I'll read them for a little while -- sometimes as long as a year -- and then I'll start to get backlogged, or realize how much money I'm spending on things I spend a couple of minutes reading, and I'll stop visiting the store so often. (It doesn't help that every time I get on some sort of comic buying roll, I move cities entirely.)

Theoretically, comics should be right up my alley. They're one of those media that has a lot in common with TV, and I like preposterous bullshit. And I do, still, buy a few trade paperbacks each year (though they tend to be more indie-skewed than superhero stuff). But I have never been able to sustain the habit, for whatever reason.

I have had Marvel Unlimited on my Amazon wish list for years now, and I guess if somebody ever gets me that, I might start reading more comics. But I'm also in a place where I feel like I don't really want to pay for it myself. So I guess that's the weird space I'm in.

Kim writes:

What's your favorite mailbag question so far?

This one!

Seriously, though, I've liked quite a few of the questions I've gotten. I liked the one about why the character on Scandal was called "sexy bartender" instead of "Kevin." I liked the one about whether critics getting lots of screeners means that they have a vastly different experience from viewers. I liked the one about Paleyfest. I liked that one about why the Buffy 20th anniversary inspired such unquestioned fawning.

The questions have probably been more TV-centric than I would like, but I long ago realized that this is what people want to talk about with me, and that is fine. I like talking about TV. But I've been incredibly surprised how many questions pivot off of something I wrote, whether recently or long ago. It's a real honor to have inspired such interest from people that they want to reach out and ask me to clarify some piece or another, sometimes years after the fact, in an email newsletter.

That said: I'm happy to answer whatever people are interested in. If you want writing advice, I'm here for it! If you want to talk other parts of pop culture, I'd love to. If you want to ask me embarrassing personal questions, let's do this thing. I'm an open book. For now at least.

My cat Pippa asks:

How do you feel about Garfield?

Luv Garfield.

No, seriously, as a lot of us who grew up in the '80s and '90s will admit, I think, if drunk enough, I have a real affection for Garfield. To start with, I love newspaper comic strips in general, and I would turn to the comics page immediately when I was a kid. I also bought tons of comic strip compilations, which are still taking up space in a storage unit in Long Beach and/or my parents' basement. (This makes it all the weirder that I never quite picked up the comic book bug.) And Garfield was a big part of that.

When I was a tiny child, my mom would ask if I wanted to read "Snoopy and Garfield" in the Sunday funnies, and the dog and cat were my eventual window into the rest of the comics and eventually the rest of the paper (though I still remember my keen betrayal when I found out it was actually called "Peanuts"). Now, my Peanuts fandom has continued pretty much unabated since those days, while my Garfield fandom has abated (largely because, uh, Peanuts is good). But when I'm at home, I'll sometimes pick up a Garfield collection when I can't sleep and find myself lulled a bit by it. I read it so many times as a kid that it's like coming home after a long day at school -- you can't help but collapse into it just a bit.

Now Garfield, of course, has kind of fallen on hard times in recent decades. It's pretty clear Jim Davis is just cashing checks now, and the character is a pale shadow of an already pretty bland former self. But I still check it out, when I happen to have a newspaper in hand. There's something agreeable about the predictability of the strip, even when you know that Davis pretty much thought, "Hey, maybe there needs to be a popular cat on the comics page?"

Garfield is not a major celebrity to me, as he is to all cats, but I bear him no particular ill will. Long may he reign.


Episodes is published three-ish times per week, and more if I feel like it. It is mostly about television, except when it's not. Suggest topics for future installments via email or on Twitter. Read more of my work at Vox.

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