Okay, here's a Comic Con story for you. I'm in the Bud Plant Books booth with my friends Joe and David, looking at all the gorgeous new reprints of early newspaper comics that have come out in the past couple of years. I reach for the magnificent Little Nemo in Slumberland—So Many Splendid Sundays, edited by Peter Maresca, reproducing some of the finest works of Winsor McCay, one of the true artistic visionaries of the comic strip form. When between me and the book appears this little guy saying, "Can I get to that?" Asian guy, pushing 60, a bit down at the heel, with a slightly odd, sort of abrupt manner and a slight accent. He reaches for this elegant book, but his hand stops just shy of it...
...and he turns to me and Joe and David and says, "I almost bought this. But 120 dollars!" "Yeah," I say, "that's an expensive book." "120 dollars!" he says excitedly. "That's what you pay for a call girl! For a one-night stand!"
My first thought is that he's saying how ridiculous to pay that much for a book when the same amount will buy you a session with a prostitute. (Actually, that's my second thought. My first thought is, "You can still hire a call girl for 120 bucks?") About all I can think to say it, "Yeah. But...after you buy this, you still have the book." And he grins and makes a gesture in the air like a puff of smoke. "But a call girl," he says, "you forget!"
Then I realize what he's saying is what a great entertainment value a book is. Or at least I think that's what he's saying. And I think that in that brief exchange lay more than you probably want to know about men, about collectors, about pop-culture geeks, about the consumer society, and about the San Diego Comic Con.