John Ostrander: My CBG
All my life, though some have changed
Some forever not for better
Some have gone and some remain.”
– The Beatles, In My Life
As I grow older, I find some underlying conservative strains in me coming out –much as that will surprise many who know me as a flaming leftie. While not totally adverse, I find I’m resistant to change the older I get. I like things as they were. When I periodically go back to my hometown of Chicago, I find some things have changed and some things are just gone. My first reaction generally is “Who told them they could do that?” Even if I haven’t been back to a place in some time, I mildly resent it not being there. I see what is now there overlaid with my memory of what was there. A cognitive double vision, if you will.
I think part of the reason that young people may not have that same reaction is they don’t have the same amount of experience with that spot. They’re living in it now and maybe know it only from now. Current chronology doesn’t get mixed with past chronology as it does for those of us who are older.
All of which brings us to the news this week of the Comics Buyer’s Guide ending its long run in about two months. For those of you who don’t know, CBG was long one of the top comics related newspapers/magazines with news and reviews and opinion columns relating to the comics medium.
There are other places that have covered the history of the Comic Buyers Guide, including an excellent summation by Bob Greenberger here on ComicMix. What I want to talk about instead is my own personal connections and history with it.
Before I was a writer of comics, I was a fan and with the dawning of the direct sale shops came the discovery of periodicals such as The Comics Reader and CBG. For the first time, I got a peek into the backstage of the comics industry. I got an idea of what was coming out and when, who were the artists or writers on what books, I read reviews, letters from fans and pros, opinions and columns (notably Peter David) and, as a fan and someone who had aspirations for the field, I wanted not only to read CBG, I wanted to be in it, to be one of those who were talked about.
Eventually, I was. I had arrived. I was part of it. I got reviewed by Don Thompson (he and his wife, the ever charming Maggie, ran the paper). While he didn’t like everything I did, I felt he was fair and reasonable and he gave one of my favorite reviews of my character GrimJack. In one issue, Gordon the bartender tells a customer the “secret origin of John Gaunt.” It came down to “Mama Gaunt, Papa Gaunt, a bottle of hootch, wucka wucka, wucka – nine months later, Baby Gaunt.” Don said it was his second favorite origin in all of comics, eclipsed only by Superman. I loved that and still do. Thanks, Don.
The most important memory of CBG for me is that, for a time, they gave my late wife Kimberly Yale a literary home. Kim wrote a column for them and, as she learned she had cancer, she recounted her battle with it until close to her death. Kim was a finer writer than me; I’m a storyteller, not a Fine Writer. Oh, I know my way around structure and theme and character and syntax and so on but my primary focus was and is storytelling. For Kim, it was the shape of the sentence, the right word chosen, the proper use of grammar and syntax. I’ll split infinitives without a care but Kim didn’t like that. She was the better essayist than myself. CBG gave her the chance to make her mark that way.
I’ll freely admit I haven’t read CBG for a while. I’m more online these days. I liked, however, knowing it was there and now it won’t be. Life changes, I know, and some things die but life itself always goes on even if I don’t always approve.
MONDAY: Mindy Newell