My 712 Day Fast: Part One
by Elder Mark "the Shark" Gillins
On April 4, 2001 I, Mark Gillins, will be embarking on an adventure quite unlike any other: serving a two year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As I enter the God-forsaken land of Matt Morrison's dwelling (more commonly referred to as Dallas, Texas) I will not only be proselyting to the Hispanic-American members of our country (yes, I will need to learn fluent Spanish), but I will also be following the strict rules of a missionary given by my church. Unfortunately, this in itself requires something of me that is unfathomable to the mind of even the lowliest fanboy: I will not be able to go near a comic book during the entire tenure!!!
"Say what?" you ask? One of the many regulations restricts me from reading anything that isn't approved by the church. Depending on the president of the particular mission, this could limit me to as few as 10 books or novels to read and study over and over during the entire time. Some missions have bigger lists, but none of them include any number of comic books, of that I am positive.
"I pity you!" you say? Well don't. I made the decision to serve a mission back when I was a wee lad of five or six and have always been well aware of the tasks and expectations that every missionary must experience. I've been building up my willpower to do this for a long time, so a mere two years' worth of comic books isn't going to stop me from going. Sure, I'm going to miss the comics, reading the monthly adventures of The Flash and JLA, and you can bet I'll be wondering what the heck's going on. I may even feel a bit of sadness not being able to read the awesome JLA/Avengers crossover that's finally been given the go. However, none of this is worth staying behind for.
"Your church is obviously too much of a control freak," you think? Wrong. My church isn't keeping me from reading comic books because they're "bad" or "evil". This rule is in place simply because comic books could and would be a distraction for me in the mission field. I want to be completely focused on the work and duty I need to fulfill while I'm gone, and if I'm spending a couple hours a week reading comic books instead of going to appointments, or wondering what cool new adventure Wally West is going to experience rather than studying my scriptures or my Spanish, then I'm going to slow down. Bear in mind that this rule doesn't just apply to comic books, it applies to EVERYTHING, "evil" or not.
When I return from my mission my church will have no problem with me returning to my hobby. In fact, the church doesn't really ban anything from the members (other than pornography and the such). They do give some guidelines that they expect us to follow, but ultimately it's up to the church member to judge for himself whether or not the reading material is appropriate. And, yes, comic books (in general) are kosher (frankly I stay away from Witchblade, Vampirella, and the likes of them but I stick with DC anyway, they tend to stay clean).
"But won't you have missed a whole two years of continuity?" you wonder? Ummm... kind of, but not really. I'm in the process of making a backup plan. I have a couple options here: I'm either going to have the infamous Canuck, Bruce Bachand, purchase my comics for me while I'm gone (he gets a 20 percent discount at his local comic book shop), or I could have Michael Hutchison sell me his comic books that I want for "less than cover price" when I get back. I'm thinking I'm going to go with the latter plan as I don't know if I'll have the money to pay Bruce up front. I'm spending a lot as it is on suits, luggage, and a ton of other stuff I need to get taken care of before I head off.
While we're on the subject of not being able to read comics, did I mention to you that I also will be missing a ton of movies? Yep, I'm not allowed to WATCH anything non-church approved, and that means pretty much EVERY movie in the theaters. I heard of a few mission presidents that let the missionaries in their area go to see "Star Wars: Episode 1" when it came out, but chances are I won't see any exceptions like that made for me. Here's a taste of what movies I'm expecting to miss while I'm gone from April 2001 - April 2003: "Pearl Harbor", "The Mummy Returns", "The Scorpion King", "Star Wars: Episode 2", "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy (or at least most of it), "X-Men 2", whatever the new "Batman" flick is going to be, and MAYBE "Spider-Man" and "The Incredible Hulk" depending on how their productions go (I know that "Spider-Man" already has a release date scheduled but this far away from it you can never be sure). And I'm sure there are others I will miss. I know there are plans for a new "Punisher" movie, "Fantastic Four", "Ghost Rider", "Indiana Jones 4", and the "Batman Beyond" live action flick but I'm not sure when those are going to come out yet.
And let's not forget the television series coming out that I'm going to miss, namely "Smallville", the new show hitting the WB this year with a Superboy premise. And then there's the new JLA cartoon that was recently announced by Cartoon Network to start in the fall. Luckily my mom is really nice and will tape every episode of one show for me while I'm gone. I think I'm going to have her tape "Smallville" for me as we don't get the Cartoon Network in these parts. By the way, all the information I've received concerning the above shows and movies can be found at <a href="http://www.cinescape.com">Cinescape.com</a>.
At first I was kind of depressed that I was going to miss all of this entertainment, especially "X-Men 2" and "The Mummy Returns", but lately I've managed to get over it. When I get back I'm just going to have to have a movie week where I rent a ton of DVD's and watch them on a really nice system. I know a few people who own or have access to big screen TV's and high quality sound systems. Heck, by the time I get back some of them may even have HDTV's. But whatever the circumstances are, it's not the end of the world to not be able to see every movie I want to in the theaters. And who knows? I doubt these things will even weigh heavily on my mind. I expect to be kept pretty busy while I'm away, so hopefully I won't have enough time to dwell on these things.
Well, I think I've just about covered HOW I'm going to deal with all of this and what I'll be doing, so I think it's time to move on to what I expect will have happened in comics by the time I get back. I'm not like a lot of comic fans who spend a couple hundred bucks a month to read a ton of different comic titles, so my opinions aren't ENTIRELY educated. To tell the truth the only titles I've been reading regularly are The Flash, JLA and Marvel Knights (which I'll probably drop soon). Well, here goes:
1) Geoff Johns will have developed The Flash's character a lot more by the time I return. From what I've been seeing in the few months he's been on the title so far, I can tell that the Flash will be given many more problems that will play with his mind and detective skills rather than depending on how fast he can run. Also, expect to see much more character development in the villains and a few of the supporting cast, including the Rogues, Piper and the new guys Geoff's been introducing.
2) The JLA will have a few more members come and go, keeping the Big 7 somewhat stable in their positions while characters such as Plastic Man, the Atom and Steel will come and go (Plastic Man will still be around for a while longer, but he doesn't feel like a permanent member for me, especially with Waid leaving the title soon). And I hate to be pessimistic, but the next JLA writer is going to botch things up a bit before getting his feet on the ground. I think some people are going to be very dissatisfied with whatever's coming up, and I can just see the JLA membership being screwed around with before someone realizes that it's fine the way it was. We'll probably see the Injustice Gang return again, maybe even the White Martians. We're also going to see some weaker artists working on the title. (Is it just me or does it seem that all the comic talent is going to CrossGen these days? sheesh)
3) Marvel Comics will still be around but struggling even more than they are now. The only really successful titles of theirs will be in the Marvel Knights division, probably Daredevil and Punisher, if they decide to renew his series. Spider-Man, despite the character's potential, will continue to suck. HARD.
4) DC Comics will have one good summer crossover (probably this year's) and one crossover that will just plain bite, a la "Genesis". Some moron will decide to play with characters that most people don't care about anymore and will be unsuccessful in reviving their popularity. And the art will blow, too.
5) JLA/Avengers will be cool but not nearly as good as expected (sorry, Mr. Busiek, but if there's anything I've learned from highly anticipated intercompany crossovers, it's that NOTHING DC and Marvel does together will come out as well as planned). The art will be fantastic for the most part, but too many "little things" will get in the way of the overall story and will bring about the demise of an otherwise good story. Each issue of this mini will be overpriced somewhat and the trade paperback (and maybe even hardcover edition) will be ignored.
6) Hawkman will return into continuity, this time with a stable origin, but he'll return to limbo after his series flops.
7) The Titans will have disbanded again.
8) Green Lantern will have several more stories trying to establish him as his own hero, not in Hal Jordan's shoes, but when I get back I'm still going to see him feeling inadequate and being looked down on by every other hero. Oh, and the GL Corps? Forget it, it's never coming back. DC will play with our minds making us think that it's still a possibility, but face it, folks, it's all a marketing ploy, a la Green Lantern: The New Corps.
9) The new Green Arrow series will be a hit. Kevin Smith will restore the character that everyone loves and give him stories that will keep readers interested. Unless he leaves the book, expect it to do well.
10) JSA will remain as popular as it currently is, but the membership is going to change around a bit more.
11) Even more Batman one-shots and minis are going to come out. JEEZ!!!
12) At least 7 DC characters are going to die, most of them will come back to life, and at least 2 of those characters will be fairly popular.
13) Superman creators will get their heads examined and realize that the latest artists really don't know how to draw Kal-El correctly and will get someone who knows what they're doing back onto the books. This "new origin" that our favorite Kryptonian has been given will end up being a hoax or won't have any major significance in the pages of any DC Comics book.
Okay, enough of the comic predictions. Now here's my list of predictions for Fanzing and the staff:
1) It will become slowly yet steadily more popular, maybe even giving Michael a chance to rake in a few extra bucks to help pay for site maintenance, etc.
2) Merchandise will go through some changes. Different varieties of shirt designs, etc. will come and go in an attempt to get some more sales. However, nothing much will be sold until around the time I get back.
4) Bruce Bachand will return as a regular contributor, also submitting MORE. He'll do a few interviews and will do JLA Casebook again on a monthly basis. Hopefully we'll see some more feature articles from him as well. He'll work at the same place he's currently employed at, but he'll have been promoted once or twice and will love what he's doing.
5) David R. Black will find a new job as well, and by the time I get back he'll have found it very uplifting and won't regret having lost his old job.
6) There will be a tiny, third member of the Hutchison clan.
7) "Choices" will still be going when I get back!! However, this will be a GOOD thing, as Marilee will keep it strong and the readers glued.
8) Art contributions will improve, the art and writing challenges will get even better and more thought-provoking. Fanzing overall will become much much more professional-looking than it already is.
9) Matt Morrison's column(s) will probably be the most popular to read in the pages of Fanzing.
10) Some new contributors will come and go, some of them will stick and will be a great addition to the Fanzing family.
11) Some issues will come out late, but usually for the good of the internet public.
12) Fanzing will be CBR's Comic Site of the Week, and possibly even Site of the Year!
13) The forum will have changed once more as Casualforums will go down the tubes.
Remember, all my predictions are based purely on patterns of the past, what I HOPE, and whatever vibes I'm catching. Don't go running around screaming that you just read that JLA/Avengers is going to suck just because I wrote it. What do I know? Heh.
"Will we ever see you again?" you ask? Well, but of course! I intend to return after my two year hiatus to write a "Part Two" to this feature, describing what it was like for me to be away and what predictions of mine came true. Heck, maybe, if I have some kind of free time, I'll write a short article in the field writing what I'm going through and send it Michael Hutchison's way via snail mail (I probably won't have access to a computer, either!).
If you have any questions or comments for me regarding my mission, go ahead and crank out an e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. As long as it gets to me before April 4th (the date I enter the Missionary Training Center) I'll be sure to read it.
I'm glad to have spent some time among the Fanzing staff. It's been great fun and has given me some writing experience to hone my skills. These guys are the greatest and have the potential to take this mag further than CBR has come. I look forward to coming back and wish the best of luck to not only the Fanzing staff, but to you, the readers. Keep this website going strong -- it's up to YOU. Give the writers the praise they deserve, and most importantly, KEEP BUYING COMICS. If this industry is down the tubes when I get back, I swear I'm going to go after each and every one of you!
Wish me luck, y'all!
"I should have known it was going to be this way, Michael! You know why? It was the kids!....
... They called me Elder Shark!"
-Mark "the Shark" Gillins
19-year-old Fanzing Wonder
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