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Friday at the End of the Road

This is one of those weird little fan milestones that I not only never expected to actually reach, but I honestly thought it was impossible.

A little background first.

My personal Golden Age of comics, that period from when I first fell in love with them to when I finally left them behind me (when I was young and foolish enough to think I could, y’know, DO that) was from Feburary 1968, when I picked up my first DC 80-page Giant — Flash #178 — to when I gave up trying to follow the X-Men, which was the last Marvel book I was even trying to keep up with. That was around, oh, the Wendigo story in #140, I guess. Which would make it roughly September of 1980.

Thinking I had outgrown comics, I sold off the collection I had, went off to college, met a girl, did a lot of drugs, got thrown out of college, got dumped by the girl, met a different girl and moved in with her, broke up with her, tried to go back to college and got thrown out again, did more drugs and drank a lot… well, I won’t go on with the story of my blighted life in the early 1980s. It would bore you and depress me. Suffice it to say that I crashed and burned pretty hard after a few years of that. I moved to Seattle and cleaned up my life as best I could, and part of that was getting hooked on comics again. That was in 1984, and I remember the book that got me interested — it was The New Teen Titans, because I heard Dick Grayson had quit being Robin or something.

I picked up part one of The Judas Contract and then started hitting comics shops to get back issues. Pretty soon I was branching out to the Bat books, and after another year or so I was back into it as deep as I’d been when I was thirteen. And I’ve been, well, embroiled with comics one way or another ever since.

..but here’s the thing. After I sobered up, replacing the first collection (that I’d gotten rid of bit by bit, for dope money) was just a hobby, a little grail quest I’d pick at. I’d never expected to be able to actually DO it.

But I was looking at the Top 100 Storylines Countdown thing Brian’s got going on and noticing how many of them seem to be placing on the strength of childhood nostalgia. That got me thinking about that first collection of mine, the comics that really hit me hard when I was a kid. Things like my first time seeing THE Batman– “Half an Evil,” with the return of Two-Face.

Or when Jack Kirby showed up on Jimmy Olsen and his in-your-face version of Superman fried my little eyeballs.

Even stuff like the 100-page reprint books DC did in the 70s, or the Lee-Romita Marvel Tales. Reprint books like that are generally regarded as throwaways by collectors compared to first-run stuff, but I was a reader, not a collector, and for me they were like history books– they had a huge impact on me.

Then it hit me. I’d picked up a couple of DC Archives for cheap last week– Justice Society stories from All-Star. I’d wanted them because of the JSA reprints I remembered from those old Justice League Giants.

And I’d also bought the new Thor Essential… even though it reprinted some stuff I already had here in hardcover, because I really liked that Len Wein run from the seventies and now finally I’d get to see the rest of it.

So I’d just added those three books to the library. It dawned on me that when I pick up the next Essential Daredevil, which is to say my pre-ordered Volume 6 that’s supposed to be out in a couple of weeks…

…that’s it. That replaces everything I got rid of, the first time around. When the Daredevil book gets here, it’s all back.

But that’s not the crazy part.

The crazy part is that it’s all in collected editions. Books. Trade paperbacks and hardcovers. All of it.

The JSA hardcovers have the stories I remembered from the old Justice League 100-pagers, and the JLA itself is covered nicely by the Showcase Presents collections I have here. Not to mention the Crisis on Multiple Earths paperbacks. And theme collections like Zatanna’s Search.

Of course, most of it’s in Essentials and Showcases. But I used to have a bunch of other stuff those don’t cover and those comics are all here in trade paperback and hardcover too. The Kirby Jimmy Olsen I have in two volumes… and the Newsboy Legion reprints that were in the back of those comics are here as well.

Of course, classics like “Half an Evil” and Kryptonite Nevermore are in collected editions today. And other fondly-remembered comics like the Gold Key Tarzan.

And my beloved Lee-Romita Spider-Man… hell, that was one of the first comics hardcover collections I bought, back in 1992.

Even the weird short-run shit like Shade the Changing Man, and Stalker, they’re all in the Ditko DC omnibus. Marvel’s Doc Savage — both black-and-white and in color– are here in nice new DC trade editions.

It’s not just the lead features, either. Even the odd little backup strips and reprint things that were in a lot of my seventies comics– I have those here in paperback. The Batman comic with “Half an Evil” also had a Robin solo feature and a newspaper strip reprint. Those stories are both in books on the shelf behind me as well.

I’ve talked about living in the Age of Availability before, and I really do love it… but I never, ever expected that I’d really be able to replace my entire childhood comics collection and have it all neatly shelved in my home library. I remember how hard it used to be for me to even buy comics, let alone keep them– earning the money for them, fighting with Mom over them, my brother swiping them… and now they’re all here. On the bookshelf.

That just blows my mind. I feel weirdly like a racing dog that’s finally caught up to the mechanical rabbit.

So now, I guess I’ll have to think of a new ongoing back-burner comics collector quest. I imagine I’ll come up with something.

See you next week.

18 Comments

Oh, that’s awesome, Greg.

I have a few comics that I stupidly traded away when I was early on into comics collecting that I haven’t replaced. I think I’d be able to replace them in trades either now or in the not too distant future. Granted, mine were early ’90s books, but the sentimental value is the same. Wolverine 51 and the Marvel Tales issue that reprinted the first Hobgoblin are 2 of the 3 I bought with a gift certificate and from there I’ve been hooked ever since. Reading all I could about comics and characters, and obsessive list making from Overstreets….

Dang, I need to find a copy of Jeff Rovin’s Encyclopedia of Superheroes, because that book was one of the ones that really did it for me. The one local library had a copy, but I believe they must have sold it off at a sale, and I missed it. Off to look it up….

This is beyond nerd, but the one thing I miss in tpb collections is the letters pages. I know there’s probably next to no appetite for wasting reprint pages on those, but I always loved reading the letters in my 90s Batman books, I guess it was like a better-moderated proto-internet. I bet Sandman, for example, had some great discussions in the letters, particularly if it was Gaiman doing the replies.

Gavin, I’ve picked up a few issues of Sandman in cheapo bins (not primo copies, but readable decent condition ones) solely because I wanted to read the original letters pages. It’s interesting to find out what the readers were talking about with the book at the time the book was coming out. I believe that Shelly Roeberg/Bond did the replies, iirc.

Same reason I got hooked on Cerebus, I think. Lively back matter (as the kids call it these days) that hinted at how big the book was. And seeing things like a picture of Rich Johnston WELL before bleedingcool or even Lying in the Gutters at CBR is a kick.

I agree with Gavin on the letter pages, and it’s part of the reason why if I want to read an old title that is readily available in bargain bins, I’ll choose the actual back issues over trades.

I’m a little bit in the same boat as Greg. I got out of comics for 4 or 5 years after college. But it wasn’t until I was back into comics that I started selling off my childhood collection. I worked in a used book store and didn’t make much money, but knew I could get pretty good prices for my stuff from work, so I sold a bunch of stuff that I figured I’d never want to read again. About half of it I’m still ok with the fact I sold, but the other half I wish I still had. I’ve just recently replaced the entire “Original X-Men” run on X-Factor, all out of bargain bins. Used Comixology to get the various crossover X-Men issues from Inferno, etc., for cheap. All told I think I replaced 70+ issues for around $30.

Interesting, you started to get back into comics right when my initial interest began to dwindle, and my personal golden age ended (1984/85) after a roughly 10-year run. Anyway, congratulations on that milestone.
If I had room in my current house, I’d probably try to do something similar myself, because your point about the Age of Availability is pertinent. In fact, based on the web-searches I’ve done, I think in many cases it would be doable to simply repurchase the actual original issues I had, as so much of that stuff from the ’70s and ’80s (barring the still ‘collectable’ stuff like the Claremont/Cockrum/Byrne run on X-men, Miller’s first Daredevil run or New Teen Titans) is really cheap. So much for our comics becoming these priceless collector’s items worth thousands, which everyone was saying back then…

And Gavin, you’re not alone in missing the letters pages in the reprint books. I think not including them in the Essential and Showcase volumes was a particularly bad decision.

Good to know I’m not alone!

If anything, I think there’s more need for letter columns in this day and age, where you pay $3.99 for a comic you can read in under 5 minutes. A couple of pages of text at the end would improve the reading lifespan a little.

Let’s see, I know Sex Criminals from Image has a letters page (at least in issue 2) and I know there are a few others around. Joe Casey’s books at Image (Sex and Bounce) have back matter, I believe. Astro City at Vertigo has one letter and the rest of a “letters page” online, which is an interesting compromise, at least. I’m blanking on others, but yeah, letters pages are awesome. In old comics, it’s fun to see the same names around, and to see that some people went on to become comics creators themselves.

I like the letters pages in old comics as well, I always thought Stan’s Soapbox was awesome and still read them today. Trades always seem to lack that special something.

I have always thought that the books (trades, back issues etc ) I am buying now was to recreate what I used to have as a kid. The good thing is most of what I used to have I can get again except for a complete run of Master of Kung Fu which I regret parting with. I’m hopeful that the rights issues can be worked out and it gets reprinted. They are almost to the sweet Superman 70’s stuff in the Showcase books so I hope they continue those. I also want the 60’s, 70’s Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane stuff but I have gotten those cheaply in back issue but want them in the Showcases for availibilty and ease of reading. It is amazing that so much is available. Now the time to read everything on the other hand.

Also enjoy old letters pages. One of my favorite things is reading future pros like mark gruenwald or Kurt busiek’s letters. Lots of other guys too, but those two wrote a lot of interesting letters.

While I usually buy trade or hardcover collections, I’ll get individual issues if they’re cheaper. I bought a bunch of recent X-Factors cheap (15-30 something) to bring me up to the point at which my trades/hc’s start (Secret Invasion tie-ins).

As much as I like the availability of trades, digital editions, etc, I miss hunting down back issues. There was a unique joy and satisfaction in completing runs of Howard the Duck, Suicide Squad, Journey, and the rest. I liked the letter columns as well, especially in Steve Gerber comics and those edited by Mike Gold. I can’t say anything negative about getting, say, Superman: Phantom Zone for a reasonable price, but it’s not the same.

The Crazed Spruce

November 9, 2013 at 8:51 am

I lost over 2,000 comics in a house fire about 12 years ago, and I’ve been thinking of doing the same thing. I’ve downloaded a few (both legally and otherwise) over the years, and I ordered a couple of dozen through an online retailer, but I never really made an effort to replace everything. But I think you just might have motivated me to step up my efforts.

Quite a few Marvel books have letter pages still. Daredevil and Deadpool both do, and Deadpool’s especially is pretty entertaining since it’s the writers responding to letters as Deadpool. Fearless Defenders did, too, but that’s going away. Thor, FF and Fantastic Four also do. I’m sure there’s some others I’m forgetting or don’t know about.

It is kind of surprising that the Essential/Showcase editions don’t include the letter pages. I guess it would probably mean one less issue of actual comics, but that’s a trade off I’d gladly take. Seems like plenty of other people would, too.

Maybe they should just do an Essential/Showcase edition of all of TM Maple’s letters. I’m pretty sure that guy read and wrote in on every single comic the Big 2 put out for decades. I’d totally buy that.

that is cool greg that you wound up thanks to the essential /showcases and marvels essitnals that you regained the collection and some memories reading the original stories when young for it proves that a comic fan never truely leaves the fanbase. plus a trip down memory lane for you too.

Most Marvel books still have letters pages. I can’t think of one off the top of my head without a letters page.

The Avengers books don’t have letters pages. They all have an info type page, and it’s the same one in all issues. X-Men Legacy also doesn’t have one. Not sure about any of the other X books.

Almost all of the Marvel stuff I’m currently buying has letters pages (off the top of my head, “X-Men” and “Young Avengers” do for sure, and the first issue of “Amazing X-Men” had a ‘please send us letters to print’ blurb in the back). I agree that it definitely adds something to the reading experience. Reminds me of the old days.

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