Saturday, July 19, 2014

The "Phantom Ninja" Incident

If you didn't know, I'm autistic. I have Asperger's Syndrome, to be specific. If you've ever been friends with an autistic nerd, you know there are things the person is a fan of, and then there is the thing. The Thing. That one thing that an autistic person is currently obsessed with and latches onto like Velcro. In my case, there are those works of fiction I like and then there's The work of fiction that I can't wait for the next installment of and have pull myself away from spending too much money on merchandise of every time I go to Wal-Mart. Ninjago was, and is still at time of writing, that Thing.
While waiting impatiently for the release of The LEGO Movie in the United States, to give you a rough idea just how long this stupid mess has been going on, I got hooked on another LEGO themed series: Ninjago: The Masters of Spinjitzu. The show is currently airing its third season, which is only eight episodes long. This means the story is really tightly written, but it also means that somebody at either LEGO or Cartoon Network got the bright idea of stretching out their investment by airing two episodes every three months.
If you've ever seen a fandom during a long hiatus, especially one mid-season where every episode ends with a cliffhanger, it's not pretty. Weird fan art starts popping up. Horrible puns flood discussions. People start foaming at the mouth. Okay, maybe not the last one, but I'm pretty certain their brains start foaming at the proverbial mouth. And few nerds start showing symptoms of "Where the heck is the new episode of my show?" faster than college students like me who have nothing else to look forward to on the weekend. But even at the corner of "They haven't even given an airdate" and "We had to wait 2 years for this season to even start" there is hope in the growing realm of tie-in comics. Ninjago has a line of graphic novels, also released every few months, with pretty good stories that seem to be getting better every issue. Volume 9 was great, and news came that Volume 10: "The Phantom Ninja", would be released early May, smack dab in the middle of the break between two sets of episodes. I ask my comic book store to add the Ninjago graphic novels to my pull-list and mark my calendar.
Except my calendar turns out to be wrong. "The Phantom Ninja" is pushed back to the end of the month.

Another thing that makes "Seriously, we still don't have an airdate" syndrome worse is midterms. There was nothing I wanted more after midterms than to celebrate with an iced tea and that stupid graphic novel. Despite a glistening pile of My Little PonyAdventure Time, and The All New Invaders sitting on the counter before me when I got to the store, I slumped over on the counter as all the anticipation escaped me and left me a deflated husk. All the same, I snagged my comics, gabbed a bit with the clerk about how excited I was for "The Phantom Ninja", and went on my way.
The new release date for "The Phantom Ninja" rolls around and I rush into the comic book store as soon as school is out. The clerk pulls a heaping pile of comics out of my box in all its cartoony glory, but one is missing. And not just any one. The one. The comic for The Thing is missing. The clerk apologizes, saying it must have been misplaced, and orders a new copy to set aside for me, saying it'll take them several weeks to get a new shipment. The only thing that irritates me more than having my expectations shot down is unforgiving people, and the store is usually really awesome to me, so I'm cool about it and head home to enjoy a great arc of My Little Pony and wait for a couple more weeks.
Again, it's misplaced the next time I come in to pick it up. I slump over on the desk again. "How on Earth do we still not have an airdate for the next episode" syndrome is in full effect, and it's not like I'm the only one who orders the comic either. The Ninjago comics are insanely popular, and if I don't get one put in my box, I'm not going to find it on the shelf. I let them re-order it again, because I like the store.
And let's face it - there really isn't a reason to buy anything except straight up, standard size comic books at comic book stores except because you want to support them or you're too impatient to wait on shipping. With comics, you either have to wait a until you want to buy a lot of issues and pray they still have all the issues you need to get, or pay shipping costs every time an issue comes out. Going to a comic store is more convenient, and they often have discounts for people who have a subscription box. Graphic novels on the other hand, can usually be found in regular bookstores or bought online at a good enough discount to warrant the shipping cost. With graphic novels, you're paying for convenience at most, doing a store you love a favor at least.
I don't manage to get to the comic store again for another month or so. The comic store is a few bus stops away from my school, but my house is further. It's summer vacation, and I don't have much reason to head to that part of town. I wind up over there for a nice lunch out, and take a detour to pick up a big pile of comics.
A pile that still does not include "The Phantom Ninja".
They forgot to set it aside for a third time, and the clerk - the same clerk who has been there every time I've slumped onto the front counter and chatted about how "Golly Gee I can't wait for the new Ninjago graphic novel to come in" - starts to order it for me again. He assumes I want them to order it again, but I've officially had it and tell him I'm just going to order it online. The response I get is still echoing in my head.
"Well, if that's your prerogative," in this tone that made it clear he wasn't happy with me.
Well, yeah, that is my "prerogative". (Can prerogative even be used that way?) I left with my pile of comics and steam coming out of my ears, debating whether my next visit would be the one where I closed my box. The fact that a store with two employees who both knew me lost the same comic three times was insane. A part of me even recalled stories of sexism at comic book stores and wondered if something dubious was going on, but with no proof of that I didn't want to jump to any conclusions. It turned out the store hadremembered another thing: I'd started picking up a new Adventure Time micro-series at issue 3. Upon closer inspection of my new comics, Issues 1 and 2 were included to complete my collection. How they remembered which issues out of 6 I didn't have but couldn't remember a comic I was obsessed with was beyond me, but it earned them back enough points for me to not give up on the store yet. All the same, I ordered that book online.
My book shipped out to me super quickly, and I started to get all excited again. Comics were on my mind as my pile was growing too big for my bookshelf, so a few days later I put in another online order for comic storage supplies. I may have forgiven my local store, but I still wasn't feeling like going out of my way to buy some giant cardboard boxes and carry them home on the bus.
And that's when the comedy rule of threes came in. First, the book was delayed. Second, the comic book store messed up. And now, it was finally my turn to dun goof, at 1AM nearly 2 months after the graphic novel had been released.
I realized, to my horror, that my default address on Amazon - the address I had sent the comic too - was my old one, and I was just past the cutoff date for mail forwarding.
Say what you will about customer service being outsourced to India, but it was a huge relief to be able to panic to somebody who could help in the middle of the night. I called Amazon and explained the situation, apologizing all the way. I had never made this mistake before, and it couldn't have happened with something else. It had to happen with this evil, evil little comic.
As I tell this tale of a huge nerd's epic quest, I still do not have the book in hand. But when I do, oho, when I do, I am going to post an unboxing video with "Ode to Joy" or something similarly gleeful in the background as I spin that stupid 90-page book about plastic ninjas that can't possibly me as good as all the hype I've built up over it around like a small child. Because seriously.