Man, I remember when Red Rocket 7 came out. 1997. It's right at the tail end of what I consider appropriate for this blog-- pre-2000 stuff. I try to keep to stuff even earlier than that, largely the late 70s through the mid-80s when I was first following comics as a fan rather than an occasional reader. But why not talk about some late 90s/pre-millennial stuff? You know, if it's really funky and cool. Like Red Rocket 7!
Anyway, I'm about to tell you a fun story about buying the original print version of Red Rocket 7. I didn't start buying it until later, much later, than its debut. I believe this. I may be wrong. I think I started buying it in the summer of 1998, after its print run concluded. The reason I think this is I have a strong memory of buying it in Athens, Georgia, and getting into a discussion about its weird dimensions. If I had bought it in Albany, the people there wouldn't have said boo about it. People in Athens have opinions about things and they like to engage with you about said opinions.
I didn't move back to Athens until the summer of 1998. I lived in a one-bedroom apartment off Baxter Street and the A/C was a wall-mounted unit in my bedroom. It sounded as if someone had cranked up a VW Beetle in there, barely put out any cool air at all, caused me to buy two box fans which further contributed to my localized noise pollution and kept me up all night with the sweats.
My job was as a "graphic designer" at the local daily paper and I was supposed to be sort of an on-staff cartoonist as well, but mostly what I did was put together used car ads I had very little say over the design of all day then drive home and read comics and try to draw, draw and draw more at my lovely drafting table in the sweltering sauna I called an apartment.
My salary was dismal, my career prospects even more so. My social life consisted of crashing parties with the few friends I had and eating food out of the refrigerators or popping microwave popcorn and having fights with it in the kitchen. These friends and I sometimes crashed tailgate parties outside Sanford Stadium during football season got on free beer and stuffing our faces with free chicken sandwiches and hamburgers, and, when everyone else had gone to watch the game, stole all the whiskey fifths we could get our hands on and passed them out to homeless people on North Campus like liquored-up, idiot Robin Hoods. My romantic life consisted of mooning over this incredibly cool and well-connected artist and her hair of ever-changing shades of red, who sometimes talked to me and sometimes ignored me depending on her mood or what drugs were influencing her that night.
What little money I had in those days I spent on Chinese buffet, beer and comics. Comics, especially those by Mike Allred and Mark Schultz and Los Bros Hernandez and Peter Bagge, were fast becoming an obsession with me again after years of remission. So of course I wanted to read Red Rocket 7.
But when I bought it, the guy who owned the comic book store told me it pissed him off.
"Why? Why would it piss you off?" I asked.
"The size and shape are totally fucked up!" he told me.
I was standing there thinking what a neat little package Red Rocket 7 was. It had these sturdy covers of some kind of thicker-than-usual stock, and both the graphics and dimensions recalled 45 RPM records, of which I still had a stack of back at my mom's house. The comic book store guy told me he got all that and thought it was pretty clever and would always be enthusiastic about Allred's work, but at the same time, the size and shape it meant the book sat like an oddity on the shelf.
Maybe it affected sales. I don't know. For all I know, Red Rocket 7 sold billions of copies. Maybe the comic book guy was upset at the idea people would reject Red Rocket 7 because they couldn't fit it in their comic book longboxes and that was a downright shame, because it deserved a much wider readership. Maybe I destroyed my memory with a few too many drunken weekends-- god knows I can't remember much about any of them but I hear stories that fill me with shame-- and I'm making up most of this story out of bits and pieces of things that have nothing to do with Mike Allred and Red Rocket 7.
Still, nearly sixteen years later, I'm fairly certain the book's size and shape were at issue. And for some reason, I never bought every issues. I think I bought the first four or five, then stopped. I have no idea how the story ends. And I do know now that it's been digitized, its size and shape no longer matter in the least. It fits right inside my phone and I can take Red Rocket 7 everywhere I go.
Now I do own all of it, and if I feel up to it, I'll post some thoughts about it here. It will probably be the most recent comic we wrestle with on this blog.