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.