Analyzing a Collection

By | Tuesday, August 02, 2022 Leave a Comment
I mentioned last week that I had just picked up the comics collection a friend of mine had willed to me. I've skimmed over most of it at this point, and gone through about a third with a somewhat closer eye, and I inadvertently found myself analyzing how he collected comics. I had done something like this with a collection I found back in 2015 but that was almost entirely speculation. Since I knew who this collection came from, I've been going through it with a little more insight into his interests and preferences.

Some aspects of it were something of a "given" going in. I knew he liked both Starman and Transformers, for example, so I'm not at all surprised to see a lot of those books. He had a number of Elric titles and, while it wasn't top of mind when I thought of him, I do recall him mentioning that he liked the character at some point. But those all had the feel of regular comic shop visits; he went to a local comic shop on some schedule and pulled down the latest issue(s) of those titles. Fairly typical comic fan behavior.

But the interesting finds have been the ones where there was a more specific and considered purpose behind which issues he picked up. There were a number of Dr. Strange books, but no more than a handful of issues across a range of titles. Same with Iron Man. But it didn't take much additional scrutiny to notice that several of those issues featured Dr. Doom as the villain. He was following the character almost as readily as the Fantastic Four but, as a villain, he would show up sporadically in a variety of titles.

But not all those issues featured a common character like that. So how else was he collecting? Well, I found a number of reprint style books. A number of books like Marvel Tales, Classic X-Men, and Marvel Super Action. He would take an interest in a character and try to look up the earliest stories to see the original conception and earliest developments to get a better understand of how they got to be the character they are now. And while you can do that now by purchasing any of a number of different reprint collections, that's really only been a viable option for the past 15-20 years or so. Before that, reprints were harder to come by, particularly for 'regular' issues -- you were mostly forced to look at either the original back issues or reprint titles. So rather than tracking down the earliest issues of Avengers, he picked up Marvel Triple Action. It would've been several years since those had been available new, but the reprint titles -- even as back issues -- are almost always far cheaper than the originals.

He's also got a variety of titles from more independent creators -- I found one book with a hand-written note from the author thanking him for supporting their crowd-funding campaign -- and a few creators like Eddie Campbell and Seth, folks who Matt seemed to pick up virtually everything they did.

What really strikes me about the whole collection, and his whole approach to collecting, is how very similar it is to my own. And despite that, there seem to be very few direct overlaps. We apparently took very similar approaches, but largely targeting different characters and different creators. But while he focused more on Spider-Man, I have more Moon Knight. He's got more Alan Moore and I have more Neil Gaiman. I'm probably not going to like some of his comics as much as the ones I purchased for myself, but stylistically, they're incredibly similar. I don't think we had any direct influence over each other on our approaches (we both suggested specific titles to one another from time to time, but never methodologies) so it's interesting that we landed on the same idea independently. And that we thought alike in that way is probably a large part of why we were friends for a quarter century!

It's a novel prospect, looking through someone else's collection and trying to ascertain why they purchased what they did and how they approached the hobby in general, particularly if you know the person in question and can use what you know of them to see how the personality you know informs how they collect.
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