Organizing Collections

By | Tuesday, May 31, 2022 3 comments
One of the perennial challenges in collecting comics is: how do you organize them? There are any number of methods, and I've heard librarians and bookstore owners both complain of inconsistencies in how comics get sorted. I've always found it a bit odd to go into a bookstore, look through their graphic novel/manga section, then hike to another section of the store to look up the comic strip collections, which are frequently near if not within the the humor section. Even the adventure strips like Dick Tracy or Terry & the Pirates. Or sometimes they'll all be over by puzzles and games. Never quite made sense to me.

I suppose it ultimately boils down to what makes the most sense to the individual. Everybody's brain is wired a little differently, and they have different priorities. So maybe it's easier for you to keep all your Phantom stories together, and someone else might keep all their Mort Walker stories together, and someone else might just have all their books organized chronologically.

For me, I have my personal collection split up into five sections:
  1. Floppies/Pamphlets
  2. Graphic Novels/TPBs
  3. Manga
  4. Prose Books about Comics
  5. Comic Strip Collections
The floppies, graphic novels, and manga are then just in alphabetical order by title. The books about comics are alphabetical by author. And then there's my comic strip collections.

I wrestled with this one for a while. I didn't want to use the author names for the same reason I don't use them in organizing floppies: over long stretches, the creators on any given title can change. Chronologically doesn't make sense either since there'd be lots of overlap, regardless of whether you used the original publication date or the reprint publication date. Title is a bit awkward, too, since many collections don't actually use the proper name of the strip in the title.

I ultimately decided on using the title of the strip. Those have been known to change, but not all that frequently and certainly not within the confines of my current collection. The problem that does arise, though, are collections of political cartoons. These are generally unnamed, and only ever referred to as "that political cartoon by..." So I guess they get filed under the author's name? I'm not terribly keen on that because now my bookshelf reads...
  • Charles Addams
  • Barnaby
  • Glen Baxter
  • Big Nate
  • Bizarro
  • Bloom County
  • Calvin & Hobbes
  • Ron Cobb
  • ...and so on...
It works, but it's kind of clunky. Especially since everything else in my library is organized a lot more simply.

So my question today is: how do you organize your comic strip collections? What makes sense and/or works for you?
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Matt K said...

There is a system to how I organize my comics, sort of, and at times I have given thought to what it ought to be. I'm pretty sure that the most recent time I did so was at least a decade ago, when I moved to this apartment, however.

In theory I have comics grouped by Marvel, DC, and other publishers. (In practice, accommodation of storage practicalities means that both of the latter two groups have spatial gaps between some of the files within them.)

Below that level, order is… "made up?" lol

Comics from "independent" publishers are mostly alphabetical order by title, but I think there are some exceptions. I think I file "Electropolis" separately from "Terminal City," but may file "BPRD" and "Hellboy" together. Elric comics are their own group essentially.

Among the Marvel books, I have large "family" categories for Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, Avengers, mutants, 2099, and "other." (Plus Transformers is all in a group even though at least three or four publishers are involved.) Within those categories I'm not sure that there even is any order, other than issues of a given series are together by volume/issue number. This too has exceptions, e.g. I mostly file issues of reprint series as though they were the original issue reprinted.

Do you have trouble finding anything? Like you want to locate a particular issue again to re-read, are you able to locate it without difficulty? I think I'd have difficulty with a system like that but I've always been... publisher agnostic? For lack of a better term. I obviously know the distinctions between Marvel and DC and Dark Horse and so on, but I don't really care.

Matt K said...

Mostly, no. I think that the limited size of the collection (and the fact that I'm long past the days when I made substantial ongoing additions to it) prevents location problems in this case. I just know the collection well enough that I know, most of the time without even thinking about it, where things are.

Again, I think the last real reorganization was at least 10 years ago, and I actually had to think when I was posting this morning "how do I have them sorted…?" I probably have less of an idea where particular issues are filed, than I have a spatial sense of what section of what level of what shelf they are on.