At their heart both the graphic novels and tradepaperbacks on my book shelves and the periodical pamphlets in my short boxes are the same thing:they are all comics. However,I think they serve very different roles,both emotional and practical,in my life as a reader. As such,if I want to establish goals and purpose for the weeding of these unique sections of my collection,I need to look at them as separate but interconnected entities. Here then is a start on goals for the weeding of:the floppies.
The comic book collection obviously serves a slightly more nostalgia filled role in my life. This was where it all started. Of the chicken or the egg we know which came first,the comic book. These are the items which will more directly relate to a time or a place when they were first purchased. There will more more unique and irreplaceable items in this part of the collection. This should be the part of the process that hurts my soul more to cut out.
But at the same time,this is the part of the collection which is most likely to be reproduced elsewhere. The rise of the tradepaperback and hardcover collection over the past twenty years (another thing we have Alan Moore and Frank Miller to thank for) has meant that most anything can and will be collected in another form. And if I only have it because I want to read it,then I can get the book and get rid of the original form,right?
And that connects to one of the most important things:I do have these because I want to read them,right? I’ve never been the kind of person who bought as a value collector who immediately bagged and boarded and boxed them away. I wanted them to read and read again. Heck,I have X-Men comics that might be worth something if I hadn’t brought them to scout camp and Cerebus collections that lived in my backpack for weeks on end. So,like libraries that remove old reference books because no one is using them anymore,I should be able to get rid of books that I don’t,and probably won’t,read anymore?
But how often do I actually re-read comics at all? If I have a book its on a shelf and I can easily scan and find it if I’m in the mood. If I want to re-read comics I have to head over and dig-out the right box and pull out a stack of comics. And if they are in bags I have to pull them out to re-read. So I don’t really do that very often,except for the most important ones. I know I have found that ever since I took all my CDs out of their jewel boxes and put them into binders to save on space,I almost never listen to old records. I listen to my most recent physical or digital purchases,because they are at hand,but only go into the deep collection when I need to. Is the same the case with the comics?
So based on those initial purposes of the collection:nostalgia,uniqueness,and re-readability (or return-to-ability?) here is a first batch of goals…
- Cut down on the multiple copies. If I have good collected editions of them,get rid of the originals. It will be hard,but I think it might be time to get rid of the complete Promethea’s,no matter how good it was,if I’m going to justify picking up the really nice Absolute books at some time.
- Limit the nostalgia pieces:Yes,I know how groundbreaking it was buying the first issue of Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol on a newsstand when it first came out. But now that I’ve got the complete story in a series of collected editions,I probably don’t need the complete story in single issues just because of what it meant to me once.
- Will I Re-Read This:This is actually very important,and will be repeated when I look at the books too. Do I have something just to have it? Or do I have something because there might come a day when I want to read it? I had a roomate once who said he wanted a CD collection so that no matter what his mood he could go to his wall and pull some music that was exactly what he wanted. It is easier to fill that need with movies,when you can go online and rent any movie either immediately or within a day,or music,where most anything is available digitally on-line,or word-books,when I can do the same with the library. But that doesn’t mean I need every comic ever printed. I need to answer the question:will I return to it or was this a passing desire? This will actually connect to the final point,the reading collection.
- Cull the random:The boxes are full of random comics bought for a story or a cover or a character. Get rid of them. These are the dregs from quarter bins or impulse buys from Ebay or the new releases shelf. The just isn’t a reason to keep everything. And many of them fall in the following category…
- The “Artist”Collections:It is always good to follow creators whose work you like. But at one point I started creating all of these mini-completist collections,mostly as a way to justify keeping random comics by various artists and writers. I have several long boxes filled with strange pieces by really good creators (Steve Pugh,Ladrönn,Scott Morse,Ed Brubaker) that really may not have a home in the collection I am now trying to create. Following an artist was just one more excuse to start gathering more and more material. I can probably choose one or two that I find important enough (you ain’t getting my Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez or P. Craig Russel books,or really any of the artists with more than two names) but for most of them it has just been an excuse to buy and keep more things. Save the best,dump the rest.
- Start a reading collection:This would be a box of books that would be bought,read once and most then passed on. There are many comics,especially superhero books,that don’t really fill a long-term need. But on a temporary basis they can be fun and fill a need for some escapism or soap opera. These would be the equivalent of going to a movie,so to speak. I enjoy going to a movie,say My Bloody Valentine in 3D,because it fills a need I feel,but there isn’t a need to have a permanent copy of that film. If something is good enough,then keep it or buy a collection later on. It would be very important that this mini-collection be under constant examination and that I regularly sell or even,hell,throw out these so that they don’t gather. Not every book is an heirloom. Some comics I can just “rent.”
That is a start. I actually plan to start going through the comics this weekend,the first phase before I start going through the bookcases. I’m going to use these as my jumping off point but I’m sure more thoughts will occur as I go. I’ll let you know how the initial attempts work out. And look on Ebay for many of the vicitms over the next few weeks.