An Elegy To Many Things
by Mikkel Snyder
*Spoilers for Many Things*
(For DC Things. At least implicitly...)
The Ship of Theseus is a famous thought experiment / paradox. It reads as follows: Theseus returns from his adventures and finds a crack in a single board of his ship. He promptly replaces it. Repeat for every single board and part of the ship. Repeat for every member of the crew. Repeat for Theseus himself. Repeat for the name of the ship. Repeat all of the above.
Is it the same ship?
Roughly 16 months ago, I wrote An Ode to My Favorite Comic Book Shop about the closing of a local institution, Star Clipper. Thankfully, death isn’t a permanent condition when it comes to the realm of comics. The day after the store closed in the middle of March, the Facebook page remained active and posted pictures of famous characters that were brought back to life.
The most salient of these portraits to me was Superman’s. One half of the World’s Finest. A figure of hope that needed four people to try and replace when he “died.” It seemed like an apt metaphor for the fact that I was desperately looking at the other comic book shops in the St. Louis. The strangest thought kept passing through my head. Without Star Clipper, I didn’t have a reason to stay in this city.
My friend Sam has constantly called me out on my utter devotion to DC comics. Whenever I lament a decision they have made, within hours, I will see that he has commented and I already know that the words sinking ship are going to pop up. Although, it may be the sinking ship emoji because that’s apparently a thing.
The latest of these laments is Batman v. Superman, which we’re not going to talk about other than I really wanted the movie to better than it was. I really needed it to be better. The six year old me growing up on the DC Animated Universe (Batman, Superman, Justice League, Justice League Unlimited, Static Shock, Batman Beyond, even the Zeta Project) needed the movie to better. The part of me that has internalized all of the fandom needed to be better.
Because fandom is weird like that.
While I was raised on animated superheroes, but exposure to comics was digital. I started out reading webcomics sometime in high school. It started out with Ctrl+Alt+Del and 8-Bit theater, but soon rapidly expanded, to the point where I was serial reading somewhere upwards of twenty comics or so. Some of my favorably remembered ones include Questionable Content, Penny Arcade, Bob and George, Penny Arcade, PvP, Order of the Stick, Homestuck, Flipside, A Softer World, and Multiplex. Some of the comics are still on going on. Some have ended, and I have sat at the final panels starting into the digital portal in front of me, dumbfounded and smiling.
In college though, that’s when I stumbled onto the Delmar Loop for lunch and ended up walking into Star Clipper. I don’t know how I missed it, other than the fact I didn’t go on the Loop that often. I walked in with that same dumbfounded smile on as it slowly dawned on me that I was home. It was the end of the semester and I picked up all 10 volumes of Sandman and hence started a ritual of going there every few months. This story should sound familiar. I told it already. And I’ll tell it again and again and again and again. But I will add here that I learned that Morpheus was supposed to appear on an episode of the Justice League and there are few things involving fiction that make me sadder about that.
So, what prompts this revisitation? If romance, my first visit back, my concurrent visits, my book club, my newly found friends (in both other regulars and the employees) did not spur me, what did?
Well, on March 25th, DC launched their #DCRebirth. A chance to shuffle some things around. To get back to the heart of what makes the DC universe great. To brighten up their world. To fix a ship. Maybe just for me. Maybe for everyone who firmly loves DC.
And despite it being a workday, I went to midnight release. I get sad about some of my favorite series ending. I narrowly win their trivia contest with the help of my friends. I spent time in a place that just makes me happy. I get my pull from Ray who informs me they didn’t apply store credit, before quickly joking “you’ll be here next week though. I’d be worried about you if you stopped showing up.”
We laugh, and I look around the storefront. I look at myself. I’m standing in the middle of downtown, on Washington Avenue. Across the block is the City Museum. In the other direction, a whole string of restaurants. Somewhere close by, there’s supposed to an erotic cake shop.
The neon sign from the old store is hanging on the wall. The “new” logo outside is now two year’s old. The old bookshelves are filled with new issues. There’s an entire section dedicated to board games in the back. Two break rooms where I’ve played demos, read previews, discussed books I wouldn’t have read. A wall of funko figures that are slowly eating real estate in my cubicle.
It’s obvious in this moment that it’s not the same store.
But what does “same” even mean?
Batman is 70+ year’s old. Star Clipper is 15+. I’m 24, soon to be 25. As much as I’d love for a status quo, the saying goes, the only constant in life is change. We’re supposed to become different. We’re supposed to adapt to the surroundings.
We can’t blindly accept what it is presented to us. We can understand how we got here, but if we don’t have a narrative arc, if we don’t change, if we don’t (in the words of one of my best friends, Brooke) become more ourselves, what’s the point?
And what’s a ship? A vehicle. A metaphor. A term for a fictional couple we want to happen (*cough cough* Batman and Wonder Woman from the DCAU *cough cough*). A thought experiment on the fluxing nature of identity.
When I talk about ships, I mean fandom. And by fandom, I mean loyalty. To fictional characters, sure. But also people. But also places, from comic book stores to cities. I’m talking about some strange love for the stories and storied that took you in and helped you grow.
And I’m so fucking glad I still have the ones I do.