The other morning, my bff in comic books, Jim McClain (who is not part of Unshaven Comics, but exists perhaps as our ”big brother” in comic bookery), met me for brunch. As we’ve done in the past… we kibitzed about life, love, kids, and all things nerd. We dished and gossiped about Alley Folks we’ve rubbed shoulders with. We waxed poetic about what we liked, loved, and loathed across the Star Wars galaxy. Fun was had by all. Great conversation and amazing egg dishes aside, Jim was meeting me so that he might rid me of my comic book collection.
You read that right.
Every book I’d amassed since college had been piling up — some bagged and boarded, others less so — and I recognized that I’d not needed a single floppy copy for the better part of nine and a half years (the time in our home, which the wife and I are cleaning up a bit at a time to contemplate a springtime move). In the interest of no longer keeping treasure that could otherwise be of value back in the marketplace, I gifted to Jim two long boxes, seven or eight short boxes, and a tote-bag of comics.
Jim has already started sorting and valuing them. I wish him, and those who purchase from him, the best. There are a few real gems to mine there, too.
So, the real question then is why. Why was I so cavalier in gifting a collection away at a whim (for what added up to a delightful breakfast)? The answer is fairly straight-forward:
I’m still not over feeling played by the big two.
When I left comics, I’d realized how cyclical publishing comic books had become. Epic event that changes everything you thought you knew! Followed by launching / re-launching tons of titles. Followed by them canceling those rare gem weird titles that didn’t match the sales of staple books. Followed by a dormant period where the books that weren’t canceled being allowed to find themselves. Followed quickly by a new epic event that throws any good work being done down the drain in order to drag fans into another spin cycle. Rinse. Repeat.
Both Marvel and DC were guilty as sin for doing this, and I got burnt out.
Every time I’d choose to invest my money and my interest in a book, I couldn’t get beyond an arc or two before something jammed the gears of progress. And every time a novel idea occurred — Peter Parker’s body being controlled wholly by Doc Oc, Dick Grayson adopting the mantle of the Bat, a new Green Lantern of Earth being chosen — the idea would have a spark of something amazing, find a groove, and then die a quick death to return to the status quo. And trust me: I know I’m citing some old arcs, kiddos. But each time I crawled out from under a hole to peak into my local comic shoppe? I saw the same big ideas that I knew wouldn’t last any longer than they took to spike sales.
Dark Nights: Metal? The Venom-Verse? DC You? Rebirth? Marvel Now? All-New, All-Different? Legacy? Fresh Start? Slap a fresh coat of paint on an old idea, and reset a few dozen books. As soon as you fall in love with something, the creative team changes, and that idea is forgotten. Each team hoping to hit on an idea that might show up in any number of other mediums or properties. I respect the grind, but not for $20 a week to stay current. And $20 a week is modest to insulting if you’re really trying to stay up to date, and you know it.
Ultimately, I recognized I needed to change the way I’m a fan. I’ve learned to support creators during Kickstarters and inside artist alleys. I’ve picked up trade collections for stories, so that I might treat them as I would a great movie on Netflix. Get in, get out, and ensure my enjoyment begins and ends within the confines of the story presented. No chance to be let down by in-between arc stories that carry no weight. No filler artists phoning in passable work while the next big team ramps up.
“But Marc,” I hear you begin, “why not keep those books so that your kids might start their collections?”
Well, I’d given it a lot of thought in fact. And it brought me full circle to the start of my collecting days. You see, I started my collection with books I wanted. I realized “gifting” books I no longer had a desire to keep was only gifting potential unwanted garbage on my brood. I’m confident in my children’s desire to forge their own path down any nerdy or not-so-nerdy road they choose. It also helps that my oldest (who turns 8 this month) does like comics, and I’ll be glad to start letting him choose what he wants without my input to shade it. So, like any amazing parent? I’ll send my boy to read Bob Harrison’s great comic reviews here on Pop Culture Squad, and then buy them any book approved by Mike Gold!
And that will build a far better collection then the crap I just gave away. 😉