What Does Your Collection Say?

By | Thursday, February 27, 2020 Leave a Comment
In the days before Wikipedia, when I ran my Fantastic Four website, I put together what was then THE definitive article about the alien race known as the Skrulls. The earliest copy of it the Internet Archive has is from 2001, but I'm sure it was at least a few years old at that point. I recall writing it in one of the apartment's my first wife and I had and, since we bought our house in 1999, the article must pre-date that.

The reason I recall writing that in an apartment is because of how I wrote it. Basically, I went through my collection and pulled out every comic I had that featured the Skrulls in any way. They sat in a stack on the floor next to the drafting table I was using as a computer desk. As I remembered other stories that included Skrulls from my collection, I had to go into the other room, sort through my long boxes to find the issue, and then bring it back to the pile I was making. It was a bit of a pain going back and forth between rooms to keep getting books for research, but it was more annoying having to reach from the relatively high stool needed for the drafting table to pick a comic up off the floor.

However, that was still a better prospect than a couple years later after we bought our house. While we now had an actual desk I could use to work from, my comics collection was on an entirely different floor and I had to trudge up and down a couple flights of stairs if there was another issue I needed to dig out. So when I wrote my article about the Negative Zone, it wound up being a bigger pain in the butt every time I needed another piece of reference.

my personal library
So when I moved into the house I'm in now, I was very keen to create a room that not only housed my entire comics collection, but to make sure it included a work space where I could write. I was trying very much to build a working library. When an artist designs/builds their studio, they try to include all the tools and materials that they use on a regular basis so they don't need to interrupt their creative flow while they're working. I very much wanted to do the same thing from a comics research perspective. In my case, though, the tools I use are basically a computer and monitor; and the materials I use are comics and books/magazines about comics. Back in the 1990s, that would've been mostly limited to any Fantastic Four comics and some extended Marvel books. But these days, my areas of interest are decidedly more diverse -- from webcomics to Jack Kirby to original art to newspaper comics... with healthy doses of manga, European comics, minicomics, etc.

This week, I'm working on my next article for The Jack Kirby Collector. It's a piece on how Jack drew The Watcher. So I'm pulling out a range of 1960s Marvel comics (and some later reprints -- I'm not made of money!) using the internet to quickly sort out which issues actually featured the character, which ones Jack actually drew, and when they were originally published. And that's all pretty much within arm's reach. Tomorrow, I might switch over to something about newspaper comics and need to grab a Doonesbury collection or Holtz's American Newspaper Comics encyclopedia, also both within arm's reach. Maybe I'm working on a piece about webcomics and grab one of Brad Guigar's books on the subject, or a Girl Genius trade paperback.

The point is that I've organized and set up my collection around how I use it. If I exclusively read comics for entertainment purposes and didn't study them, my library would probably have another couple rows of bookshelves in place of a desk and work space. If I was just a huge fan of Spider-Man, I might have fewer bookshelves in favor of a large TV setup where I could watch the movies and shows, or play some of the video games.

I love seeing how other people have their collections set up and/or organized. In part it can provide some ideas for me, but more interestingly, I use it to see how get a better understanding of how they use and interact with their collection. It says a great deal about who they are as comics fans, I think; that's not a matter of judgement -- it just showcases how we all don't come to the medium with the same ideas and conceptions and understandings. A fact that many people seem to forget from time to time!
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