Back to the comic book store

I’ve been collecting comics books since 1977 when I picked up a movie tie-in for Star Wars at my local Acme supermarket.  I collected random Superman, Hulk, Spiderman, and Captain Marvel (DC) issues that caught my eye (strangely this included a Captain Nazi issue), with no regard whatsoever for story continuity.  What passed for special effects in those days was better than what I saw on TV or movies, and that really grabbed my attention.  It was very short lived and I think I collected until around 1980, right after Empire Strikes Back.

Many years later I found myself checking out the comics stand while spending a summer at my grandmother’s.  I had stopped at a local library a few years before and spent hours reading through a Marvel Best Of hard back collection, which included a Captain America story with the Red Skull and a Thor/Loki story.  I think it was about 1984 when Secret Wars and Longshot miniseries came out.  I had a lot of time to kill and was guaranteed a good stream of comics each week because of their low cost compared to going to the movies all the time.  Marvel was coming out with a good number of acclaimed new titles such as New Mutants and I got wrapped up in the various cross-overs and tie-ins.  I really got into Captain America, and being a fan of mythology I also got into Walt Simonson’s Thor. After that summer I signed up for a number of mail subscriptions and later tried out a few delivery services which required a pick list.  I took my love of comics with me to college where I continued to collect through out the years.  I did get into the Batman series with the great DarkKnight Returns and Killing Joke, ironically right before the 1989 Batman file was annnounced.  Somehow I missed the original runs of great series like V for Vendetta and Watchmen, but caught them years later when they were first collected into trade paperbacks, probably around 1991. I continued to collect and grab back issues and trade for stuff missing from my collection.  I collected all the way back to the beginning of Walt Simonson’s run on Thor, all New Mutants issues, and some really old XMen titles.  I even was part of a group of comic writers on a mailing list COMICW-L run by Bill Hayes back in 1992-1995.

Having landed my first real job in 1994, I slowly began to stray away from comics as I found less and less time for it.  I had moved to a new place, dismayed at how many long boxes of comics I had t0 transport. The perennial problem was how to catalog all these and try to sell them off.  It turned out the comics market bubble was just bursting, reducing the value of that collection to pretty much zero.  Most of the small independents closed shop around this time.  Since they it’s been in the back of the same closet, moved once again in 2004 when we changed houses.  Slowly I’ve added to the pile during the years as I’ve collected a few interesting one-off issues.  But still I find it hard to catalog them, knowing that I’d have to pick and choose which to part with.

Recently in 2008 I came back to the comic scene.  I found a number of quality titles, like Kingdom Come, Superman: Red Son, and The Dark Knight Strikes Again.  With the Death of Captain America story in the news, I thought I would catch up on my old favorites.  I found out that Marvel had killed off some of the old series in order to relaunch.  Thor was gone, as part of the Avengers Disassembled series, but soon came back.  I soon got all the Civil War and World War Hulk stories, since Marvel now quickly republishes their titles in graphic novel format.  Secret Invasion just came out and ran through a number of titles to be followed up by Dark Reign.  And then I stopped collecting altogether.  I realized I was falling into the same trap of following the publishers’ cross-overs ad infinitum.  I lost track of how many Wolverine titles there were, and how many X-Men family titles, and all the threads that run through the Marvel universe. The first few Marvel Ultimate books were interesting, but then it just became another origins rehash like Marvel 2099 which silently died away. It always became too complicated and confusing to collect these titles.  Seeing the upcoming Wolverine movie, I have no interest in the Deadpool character, which I saw as one of Rob Liefeld’s lesser creations (an author/artist that I always avoided), and for the first time I feel a disconnect with the character.

In order to keep it simple, I decided to go back to the basics of my collecting.  I’ve decided to stick to the Captain America and Thor comics.  I want to go back and check the Miller-Lee Batman and Robin stories, which are a prequel to the Dark Knight Returns series.  I’ve caught up on those few titles and plan on raiding the graphic novel shelves of my local stores (Comic Fortress and Steve’s Comic Relief in Mercer).  But for the time being, I can only see myself buy a few real favorites and trying to keep a lean comics diet, saving my attentions for those really special comics that will provide some literary sustenance.

These days I’ve also been paying attention to a lot of web comics.  Check out my favorites and pass on those you might recommend.