Monday, February 27, 2012

Comics: Dark Confessions of a Comic Book Collector

When you look at the numbers, it doesn't look good. I've got about 10,000 comic books, digests and magazines. Not a bad horde, actually, stuffed into about 22 long boxes and about a dozen short boxes. When you consider that some of these were purchased at the newsstand (okay, convenience store -- I grew up mostly in the suburbs and not down the street from Freddy Freeman's newsstand in Fawcett City) as far back as the mid 1970s, that's probably not all that many.

Or maybe it is.  It's all a matter of perspective. Let's see...
Persective from a Wife / Mom / NASCAR fan: "How much money did you waste on those things? Are they worth anything now?"
Perspective from a Fanboy over 40: "You've only got 10,000? That's not bad... I had that many back in 1992... To bad the market crashed on 'em."
Perspective from a Fanboy Under 30: "You've got 10,000? Cool! Do you have any of that old school stuff like New X-Men or before Spider-Man #300?"

I've got some cool stuff in there (yes, I've got the obligatory 1980s books like Frank Miller's Daredevil, some early New X-Men, Wolfman & Perez's tenure on Teen Titans, and so on). But I've also got some stuff that most people would puzzle the average fanboy and fangirl. No, I'm not talking about the embarrassment that was Team America, or Stan Lee's "New Universe" debacle. (And by the way, this team has NOTHING to do with the awesome film, Team America: World Police by the South Park dudes.) No, this isn't embarrassing stuff, it's just stuff I like that's a bit outside the norm for most collectors of my age.

Things like funny animals, Archie (I still subscribe to a few titles which I will discuss in future blogs), Ren & Stimpy, and ALF. Yes, the comic book devoted to the irascible Alien Life Form that starred in his own titular TV travesty. Okay, ALF wasn't that bad, it's just I can't resist a good alliteration when I get the chance.Over the years I've collected more than a long box full of odd titles like ALF, Ren & Stimpy, James Bond Jr. (no kidding, I found JBJ #1 neatly bagged in that aforementioned long box), and even Bill & Ted's Excellent Comic Book.

Yup. Got a whole box of this stuff... which leads me to my a confession of one of my darkest secrets. You see... the fact is, I've got a lot of these odd comics. So many so that it's cost-prohibitive to board and bag them all. Good bags ain't cheap. Oh, they're not overly expensive (even in today's economy). But the truth is, with thousands of comics, I just can't afford it. So, I do something dark and loathsome... I double-bag some of my comics.

I'll wait while your collective gasps travels the world via cyberspace. I know, some of you have just spewed your Super Big Gulp all over the screen. Others may have accidentally dropped a puppy or shrieked in horror. I only pray that no one was driving while reading this on their smart phone and crashed into a bus-load of nuns (I often wonder why so many nuns travel via bus... I always picture it as some sort of scene out of Where Angles Go, Trouble Follows).

Even though this particular clip has nothing to do with nuns in buses, you can watch the theme song clip from Where Angles Go... while you recover (think of this as a "Family Guy" cutaway gag).

We now return you to your regularly scheduled confession of a dark secret. Yes, I said the unthinkable: I double-bag some of my comics. That is to say, I take a perfection good bag and board and put two books in the same bag! Yes, that's right, I grab all that pulp goodness and I just stuff it in there. I said it and I don't care who knows it.

Go ahead, write to me and tell me how the back of the board isn't 100% acid free and that, over time the book will become damaged. Go ahead, and I will laugh in the face of your superior knowledge! Yes, laugh and scoff. Because, you see, I know the risks. I know that -- at some point in the distant future -- the cruel hands of time shall pass forward on the clock of eternity and these books might be less than perfect.  I know, and I don't care.

You see... it's an ALF comic. I seriously doubt it will ever be popular enough to sell for the big bucks it will take to save the family farm (okay, not my family's farm, but someone else's). I enjoyed it when I read it (and even reread an issue recently for the awesomely funny X-Men parody) and I want to reasonably protect it from moisture and marauding kitties (I'll tell you about that particular danger some other time), but I'm not going to pay 15 cents or more to protect each and every single copy. I'm just not going to do it. So, I got the larger Silver Age bags and fit 14 issues into three bags. They're snug, but they actually fit quite nicely. I could probably get two more issues into the set if I had do.

Yes, you heard me right. I got 14 comics into three bags. That means I'm not just a double-bagger, but a multi-bagger.  Bawah hah hah. Again, I know not the meaning of the word "contrition."

All kidding aside, I've had many of these comics in storage since the mid 1980s. In fact, the bulk of my horde has been in storage for 12+ years, and to be honest, they look fine. The bags have not significantly degraded. They are still firm and clear without any oil residue. Likewise, almost all the backing boards are crisp and clean with no image transfer on the backside. In short, multi-bagging these comics has not harmed them.

There are a few exceptions, though. I did find a few books where the bags were feeling weird and oily. These were from before 1982 and they have a soft, matte feel to them (if you know what I mean). These were very old bags, and in the past 30+years, even in storage in a dark box in a climate controlled storage facility, they obviously degraded some. The comic inside feels okay (no staining or discoloration of the cover or the interior pages where they touch the plastic on the outer edges).

Those are the bags I've replaced. I'm hoping the new-and improved plastics will last more than 30 years. After that, it may not be my problem any more. By that time, they'll probably be looking to preserve ME in a mylar bag!

Comic Talk returns on Wed. with a discussion of bags and boards
Check back on Friday for a rant about why I hate buying groceries at night!

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