When I was in middle school and high school, I really loved reading comic books. No, not your typical Spiderman or X-Men comics (though I did love the X-Men cartoon series), but strange comics without superheroes that focused on miscreants and disaffected youth. I read Hate, Eightball, Dork, Milk & Cheese, Naughty Bits, Meatcake, Action Girl and whatever local photocopied comics I could get my hand on. Some of these were only supposed to be sold to adults, due to occasional swear words or sexual references, but I learned that I could just keep going back to Legends and someone would eventually sell them to me.
One of my favorite comic books was Optic Nerve. Back when it was a mini-comic, I got my hands on issue #7. The stories presented in ink drawings and dialogue were moving, intriguing and a touch lonely. One was about a girl who kept grinding her teeth. One was about an old guy who went to the same diner every single night. One was about trying to exist without wasting time by sleeping. The themes, strange as it sounds, are universal. As a geeky, confused teenager I found them moving.
Optic Nerve was bought by Drawn and Quarterly and turned into a full-size comic. And so it was that I ordered Optic Nerve issues 1-6 at the front desk of Legends in the Willow Grove Mall in Pennsylvania, thinking I could snag some of the old mini-comics. Instead they ordered the new 1st issue for me and got irate when I told them I already had that one. They didn’t understand what “I wanted the old 1st issue” meant.
And so I was thrilled to learn now, many moons later, that all 7 issues were available as a box set. Like, in a box.It also includes a supplementary booklet with some unpublished photos and artwork, as well as a long-winded introduction by Adrian Tomine who appears self-conscious about his old work for reasons I simply cannot comprehend. I found it in a comic book store in Minneapolis and snagged it, rambling wildly to the dude at the cash register while he stared and smiled politely and nodded and pretended I wasn’t crazy (a reaction many Midwesterners have to me.)
I don’t know if anyone reading this has been pining for long-lost issues of Optic Nerve, but even if you aren’t, maybe you should be. Anyway, you can buy it (and Adrian’s newer work) at Drawn and Quarterly. Or check out Adrian Tomine‘s website…and let me know what you think!