Sunday, September 10, 2006


Cheap trades and the internet have shot the traditional comic shop back issue market in the spine. It’s so easy to get that elusive issue of Iron Man through an internet auction and in a world where you can get a comprehensive amount of the Thunderbolts series in trade form, why bother looking?

It’s a shame, in more ways than one. Without an idiosyncratic selection of back issues, all comic shops begin to blend together. There are always the wonderful exceptions, but the formula is depressingly easy to replicate: A good selection of the latest issues from the big boys, a few independent comics that everybody likes, and the usual merchandise, much of which is getting creepier by the day.

Of course, there are benefits. Trade paperbacks are sexy and you get a good chunk of story for your money. It’s made it a piece of piss to get complete runs of series. The work of a creator like Alan Moore can be almost completely bought in trade form.

But still, while an internet auction can have a fair amount of excitement as you bid for that one issue you want more than any other comic that has ever existed, it’s still impersonal and strange. You might have to resist the odd temptation to buy complete runs of Power Pack on E-bay, but is it really as much fun as buying them one at a time, building up a complete collection over years?

Personally, when it comes to buying comics, nothing in the world beats the feeling of finding that elusive issue of Hellblazer that Gaiman did in a pile of New Universe crud. Digging through piles and piles of ‘80s Starman comics, only to turn up a few early issues of Matt Wagner’s Grendel that you never dreamed of seeing before.

It might be a real bitch reading a series out of order, but if it was good enough for William Burroughs, it’s got to be good enough for us geeks. Narrative cutup gives new perspective on the overall story, getting Frank Miller’s Daredevil comics when you see ‘em cheap sees Elektra return from the dead dozens of times, poor old Matt Murdock going from bad to worse to good again.

Ironically, the worst thing about collecting this way is when the goal is finally achieved. It took me 15 years to get all the stories in the original Love and Rockets series, but when I got the last the brief sense of jubilation was replaced by… nothing. Got ‘em all now. What’s next?

(And how come a week after I finally cave in and get the Chelo’s Burden book for $50 after never seeing it anywhere for more than a decade, it shows up at the local second-hand bookshop for $10 the next fucking week? Is the Universe laughing with me, or at me?)

Still, at least there is always something new. Once you’ve got a copy of every comic Garth Ennis ever wrote, there is always those early issues of Cerebus, or those three issues of John Byrne’s Next Men, or the latest Complete Peanuts book to find.

Besides, once the back issues vanish completely from comic stores, they have to go somewhere, don't they? They don't just evaporate. The dream of that perfect comic book shop, with copies of every comic ever published for sale, lives on...

3 Love Letters:

Blogger maggie said...

Sometimes you find uber rare and valuable issues of Raw Magazine hidden at the back of some old antiques store like I did last week! They were in the $5 bin. Can you believe it??? These are the moments I live for.

Collecting comics doesn't just end there. Soon you will move onto collecting original artwork, prints, posters, toys, sketches... IT NEVER STOPS!!!

It's an addiction.

8:39 PM

Blogger Smith said...

I LOVE finding the good stuff. I even have a specific noise I make when I see them. Kind of a strangled wahoo. It just slips out.

Luckily I haven't got too much into all the other stuff around comics, although it helps that I don't live near a comic shop and have never been to a convention in my life. I'm sure the bug is just waiting to bite.

10:21 PM

Blogger Leigh Walton said...

yeah, and you can't send telegrams anymore either.

3:53 PM


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