Okay, the headline isn’t exactly correct – it was more than a comic that drove me crazy. But the comic was a part of it. The comic in question was Kurt Busiek’s Astro City #1/2 (a Wizard 1/2 issue!), which if you haven’t read you really should. Because I’m about to spoil it for you, and it’s very very good.
Basically (spoiler) it’s a story about a man who’s haunted by visions of a woman he’s never met, and in the end it turns out that she was his wife, and as a result of a cosmic superhero crisis in the past she ends up never being born. And it’s very, very upsetting. You can see some panels from it here. I got thinking about it again this week when it came up in a conversation I was having about Lost. If you saw this week’s episode you’ll understand why.
But thinking about the story made me think about the first time I read it, when it kind of drove me insane.
A little background first: F0r the past eight years, minus a few months, I’ve worked at Wizard Entertainment, which was located in beautiful, scenic (and nearby) Rockland County. Then, for four months in 2008, I went to work in Manhattan at a trade magazine called License! Global. (The exclamation mark was part of the name). Suddenly I went from commuting two hours a day to commuting five hours a day, taking a train from nearby my house down to Secaucus New Jersey, then transferring onto a crowded train into mega-crowded Penn Station, then taking an even more crowded subway to the office. It was awful. Then I got my current job back at ToyFare and I was back to Rockland County and the shorter commute. Hoorah!
Then, right after my second daughter was born, Wizard announced that they were moving all the staff into their New York City offices. Which, let me tell you, is not so bad right now. I discovered that if I took the bus instead of the train I didn’t have to transfer or go into Penn Station, and it really made a difference. However, the first week we moved into the city, for various reasons, I had to take the train in, which made me fairly well miserable. Add to this the fact that I was doing a lot of the night feedings for the baby, and I wasn’t getting an awful lot of sleep at the time. And that’s the atmosphere I was in when I read Astro City #1/2, on the train on the way to work.
It knocked me for a loop. Losing your family is the greatest fear of anyone who has a family, and here was a really heart-rending story about just that. It hit me like a punch in the gut. So we arrive in Secaucus, I get off and get on the crowded train to Penn Station.
And in the crowd on the train, I happen to see someone reading a paper – one of NY’s abysmal tabloids, probably the Post. And this was the entirety of the headline of the story I saw:
SHE DIES IN A FIRE
That’s it. No further information, weird use of the present tense.
SHE DIES IN A FIRE
So given that I was exhausted and depressed and had just had my mind #$%ed by a story about lost loves and time travel, I came to the only logical conclusion: I became convinced that the newspaper was from the future, and it was trying to warn me that one of my three girls was going to die.
I was floored. Devastated. I knew it couldn’t be possible, of course, but at the moment I couldn’t convince myself it was anything else. I just kept coming back to “Why would the headline be written that way?”
Of course I later realized that the Post is just a terrible, awful paper, which is why the headline was written that way.
I don’t think I felt totally better until I got to work and was able to Google the headline and figure out that, yes, it was an actual story about someone else. But for those several minutes, I was convinced that the future was trying to warn me of a terrible occurrence through a newspaper headline glimpsed on the train.
And that’s how a comic book drove me (temporarily) insane. Although, in retrospect, it was probably more the terrible headline writing of the NY Post that did it.