From Comics Buyer’s Guide #1689:
“To be a book-collector is to combine the worst characteristics of
a dope fiend with those of a miser.”
- Robertson Davies, Canadian journalist and author, 1913-1995.
“Comics collecting” is the theme of this issue. There was a time
when I considered myself a collector, then, almost two decades ago,
my life got busy/complicated/stressful and I suddenly found I was
more of an accumulator than a collector.
Before that “change of life,” there were comics I collected. For
a while, I wanted to collect every Batman and Superman comic book.
I made a pretty good start with Batman. At one time, I owned the
first hundred issues of Batman. Granted, most of them were little
more than reading copies and I sold them when there were bills to
be paid, but, for a while, I actually had a complete collection of
Batman. Since then, what with DC making Batman insane and really
unlikeable, my interest has waned.
Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen was another favorite of mine. I owned
and still own quite a few issues of that title and other Superman
and/or Batman titles. They are buried deep within my now-infamous
“Vast Accumulation of Stuff” and will eventually come to light as
I unearth boxes from my storage unit.
The downfall of much of my “comics collection” was owning a comic-
book shop in the late 1970s through the 1980s. Whenever the store
needed cash and/or stock, I would sell it comic books from my own
collection at ridiculously low prices. The effectiveness of this
was diminished by considerable employee theft. My trusting nature
has generally worked against me.
After I closed my store and during periods when good-paying writing
gigs were frequent, I started collecting certain titles that either
caught my interest or which I remembered fondly from my fan days.
The former category included Candy, a teen humor title published by
Quality Comics, and the black-and-white reprints of American comic
books published by Alan Class in Britain. The latter included Bob
White’s Cosmo the Merry Martian (Archie Comics) and Gorgo, Konga,
and Reptisaurus from Charlton.
These purchases were made in the years B.C., which, in this case,
stands for “before college” or before Sainted Wife Barb and myself
sent our children Eddie and Kelly and most of our money to The Ohio
State University. Eddie graduates this spring, but that’s unlikely
to change my collecting habits or lack thereof.
My focus these days is on selling off about 80% of the comics and
books I own. I did complete my “Presto Kid” collection, managing
to find good condition copies of the four issues of Red Mask that
featured the magician cowboy.
With the goal of someday having wall space to hang them on, I have
also commissioned a pair of drawings from friends of mine who are
also among my favorite artists. The theme of these and any future
commissions is “Black Lightning and some other character I really
like.” So Thom Zahler teamed Jeff Pierce with Darkblade from his
Love and Capes, and Terry Beatty teamed him with Ms. Michael Tree.
Of everything I created or wrote in comics, Black Lightning remains
my proudest accomplishment.
What would I collect if I had the funds, space, and time to indulge
that habit again? I don’t know if my current habits would change
all that much. I’d probably collect hardcover reprints of comics
from the 1940s through the 1970s. I’d start collecting Alan Class
comics again. I’d complete my collections of Gorgo and the other
Charlton monsters. It might be fun to gather all the comic books
published in the month of my birth. But my basic plan of reducing
the amount of stuff my wife and kids will have to deal with when I
shuffle off this mortal coil would curb my accumulating impulses.
It could take me a decade or two to read all the books and comics
I own right now. By the time I hit 80, moving around comics boxes
might not be the fun exercise it is now.
Will the collecting of old comic books survive the digital future?
I’m confident it will, at least through my hopefully long lifetime.
Beyond that, who knows?
For now, I relish living in what I consider the true golden age of
comics. It’s a era when readers can buy classic and not so classic
reprints from the whole history of the American comic book, as well
as great new comics and graphic novels from all over the world. I
may not care for much of what is produced by industry giants DC and
Marvel, but there are still new DC and Marvel titles I enjoy very
much. In any given month, there are dozens of comics and graphic
novels worth reading. Indeed, though my minuscule budget doesn’t
allow me to purchase many of them, my local library system provides
me with dozens of collections and manga volumes every month. It’s
a good time to be even a financially-challenged comics aficionado.
It may even be the best of times to be one.
Here’s to the comics collectors of the world. Just remember: lift
with your knees.
Sainted Wife Barb occasionally enables my collecting/accumulating
in spectacular fashion, like when she and our kids gave me The MAD
Fold-In Collection: 1964-2010 by Al Jaffee [Chronicle Books; $125]
for my 60th birthday. The boxed set contains four hardcover books
reprinting all of Jaffee’s amazing fold-ins for those years. I’ve
been enjoying them a year at a time.
Early on, Jaffee explains how he conceives and constructs the fold-
ins and makes it seem so simple. He draws the final image first,
cuts it in half, and fills in the middle. It’s about as simple as
brain surgery. Jaffee makes it look easy, which is ever the way of
the true genius.
What both impresses and saddens me is how many of the problems and
woes Jaffee used as fold-in fodder are still with us today. From
1972, we get concerns about FBI wire-tapping, industrial wastes in
our air, China, prisons, medical expenses, and a comparison between
politician promises and the porcelain throne. I wish more of our
leaders had read and learned from MAD.
This boxed set is a treasure. You get the original fold-in on the
left side of each spread and the folded-in version on the right.
Which saved me the heartache of having to fold the pages of these
Even if you take advantage of the bargains to be found online and
elsewhere, The MAD Fold-In Collection isn’t cheap. But, man, does
it deliver a lot of bang for your bucks.
I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.
© 2012 Tony Isabella