So, he stole them! He’s a terrible thief. But he saved them from destruction–he’s a saint!
Surely, in Tom Batiuk’s world, Chester’s scheme makes him an awesome hero. I seem to recall reading something in Batiuk’s blog where he talked about taking comics from somewhere–I think it was a barber shop?–because they weren’t appreciated there anyway. Chester’s going a step further–he’s saving these books from destruction, not just neglect.
Now, I’m not going to condone Chester’s petty thefts, but the strip is sending mixed messages here. I know, I know, Chester has to be the bad guy, because he’s not noble, pure (and poor). He looks down on the people who
collect and preserve comics aren’t like him. He comic book obsession hasn’t caused him to suffer in any way we’ve seen, not like John or Harry, so he’s just gotta be bad.
But he’s saving Bantom comic books from the flames. Something no other character here (other than the creator-hated Funky) has ever done. Not even Les.
He’s using his resources to preserve beloved comic books. Meaning, it’s actually people like Chester who keep John’s store in business. It’s certainly not idiots like Chullo and Glasses, who show up to read comics and play video games, but never buy anything. You’d think John would do his best to woo Chester as a customer, but no, the purity of fandom is never tainted by the coin of commerce.
I’m also thinking that ties into my next comment. We’ve seen that the drug store has stacks of comics that it can’t sell–meaning, in my world, that these comics aren’t popular. Yet it is implied that Chester was able to sell these same comics to amass a fortune.
Look. These comics can’t be simultaneously obscure, neglected masterpieces as well as the storied beacon of a generation. I strongly suspect Tom Batiuk has a variant of the anti-popular syndrome–if it’s well-known, it’s shunned, while the more obscure something is, the more obviously superior it is (as well as its appreciator…well, that’s only natural, right?). After all if everyone liked it, you wouldn’t be special for liking it too. It’s a pretty despicable kind of fandom, but it definitely exists.
Things I Like Dept: panel one’s a nice perspective shot, and the figures are well-posed. Good chair drawing too. Pity this good stuff is wasted on such awful characters.