Shipping Late, by Martha Thomases
This column is unusual in that I’m starting to write it in the doctor’s office. There’s no emergency – it’s just time for my annual mammogram and breast sonogram, and the doctors are running late.
My appointment was for 11 this morning. I arrived at 10:30 because I walked faster than I expected, and because I wanted to get the paperwork out of the way. Also, I’m compulsively early. My mother raised me to believe that if I’m not at least five minutes early, I’m inconveniencing everybody else. My grandmother took this a step further, waiting at the airport in New York before our plane had even taken off from Ohio.
I’ve been here for two hours.
The world is made up of people who are on time and people who are late. I imagine that we each drive the other bonkers. I know that, when I’m waiting for someone to arrive who is more than 15 minutes late (which is the window I allow because, hey, the subway could be screwed up), I’m furious that I might be missing something just because the person I’m waiting for doesn’t have the consideration to think my time is valuable.
I don’t know what people who are late are thinking, but I imagine they are thinking that life is so complicated, and there are so many things that demand their attention, and nothing ever comes out as they plan. Perhaps they also think that meeting times are just an estimate, and it’s no big deal if they are late. Perhaps they think I have nothing better to do than wait for them, and that it’s privilege enough to bask in their glory.
Oddly, I am not bothered when my comics are late. I know that retailers are annoyed – and worse, since it’s their money on the line – but I’m not. When I walk into the comic book store for my weekly fix, I don’t particularly care which books are available. I like enough different kinds of stories that I’ll be able to find something I’ll enjoy reading. Even if it’s a skip week, there will be something I haven’t read, or a new magazine.
Late comics don’t inconvenience me. I don’t pay attention to which comics come out which week. Back in the 1980s, I waited months for the last issue of Watchmen. Today, I wait months in between issues of All-Star Batman & Robin (yes, the Goddamned Batman). I love James Robinson’s Superman, and I’m glad I got to read it while waiting for my exam today, but if it came out next week instead, my life would not be any worse. I’d still be glad to see Krypto.
When I was at DC, late comics were a big deal – and still are. Late books meant that the production department had to work harder, and the printer’s schedule would be ruined. Sometimes books were so late that the orders were cancelled, and the tile had to be re-solicited. There would be screaming fights during the weekly editorial meetings, with staffers berated in front of their peers for not forcing freelancers to send in work on time.
At the same time, some editors didn’t care. One (I won’t give the name because it would only invite abuse) said he considered it a mark of honor to give his talent as much time as possible to do the best work they could do. Others just didn’t care for any reason.
These days, when so much of monthly comics involves serializing work that is better read collected, it seems to me that on-time shipping matters less and less. Die-hard dead enders like me, who like the weekly taste, will still go to the shops, but, if we’re late and miss an issue, we know we have a safety net.
My exam kept me in the doctor’s office for nearly three hours, and I missed my volunteer stint. I got a clean bill of health, but the kids I promised to see this week will have to take a rain check.
Martha Thomases, Media Goddess of all things ComicMix, wishes Mad Dog the happiest of birthdays.