Ah, January! Named for Janus, the two-faced Roman god of transition who looks simultaneously to the past and future ... It’s a traditional time for rebooting our lives: analyzing what was great about the past and what the projects are that we’d like to do better ... As we consign 2013 to history and analyze our new calendar of 2014, it’s a good time to consider ...
With the demise of Comics Buyer’s Guide, I ended up woefully out of touch with much in the current comics world, and my pull list at the comics shop became more and more limited, just because it wasn’t in my routine any longer. I increased the scope of my Twitter feed, so I could respond more quickly to what was going on from the creators whose work I’ve found to be so much fun, but I saw many good things there and then didn’t get around to following up.
On the other hand, we’re now in a world in which we don’t have to lose sight of the old while we’re following the new. So I began to dole out for myself such treasures as Fantagraphics’ first Barnaby collection: the work of Crockett Johnson, probably best known for creating Harold and the Purple Crayon. (Although his name seems bewilderingly lost in most of the acknowledgements from the animating company that built on his foundation.)
So I’m determined to pay more attention to Diamond’s Previews in order to fill my shelves with more of the volumes we never thought we’d see when Don and I were first collecting. We live in a Golden Age of reprints—and I don’t want to miss the treats that are being restored to the world.
And, of course, I want to renew my attention to new projects. Darwyn Cooke, for example, has just released his latest graphic version of Donald E. Westlake’s “Parker” novels (written under the pseudonym Richard Stark), Parker: Slayground. That’s a must-buy. But technically it’s from 2013, even though I won’t be able to get to it till 2014, so I renew my vow to be on the lookout for more gems, as they ship to the shops.
Are you using Previews (or your local comic shop’s staffers) to plan your purchases for 2014?
Among the many magic moments of last year was daughter Valerie’s telling me that, after years of trying, she’d managed to get her son, Devon, to sit down with her for a regular story time after she got home from work every day. Ten-year-old Devon is on the autistic spectrum and finds reading difficult—which means that reading for entertainment is a challenge. But she located a series that has captivated him (and her): Jeff Smith’s Bone.
They developed a routine of doling out a “chapter” (issue) per night, complete with reading characters in funny voices, sounding out complex words, rereading choice passages, and so on. I got into reading because Mom helped me do the same sort of thing in the 1940s; comics can be a compelling learning tool. (I’m now rereading Bone for myself at the same pace so I know where they are, but it’s been hard to restrain myself from looking ahead. By the way, what happened to Kingdok in “Earth & Sky” in Book Four: The Dragonslayer really shocked Devon; Smith created a compelling world in his epic.)
The rules Devon has set up, by the way, are excellent: no reading ahead, no sneaking a peek (though reading cover copy is fair game), they share it for the first time together, and they won’t start another reading project till this one is done. But he posed one question in the meantime that was a challenge: “What can we read next that’s like Bone?”
That’s a fair question. The best answer I could come up with is the rich series of Donald Duck adventures created by Carl Barks. For starters, I found a beat-up copy of one of the Dynobrite issues to kick off the project. For a follow-up, I bought him the two-volume Christmas set from Fantagraphics. But no peeking till Bone’s nine volumes are cherished properly.
Are you finding other ways to enjoy comics besides entertaining yourself with what’s out there? Have you shared your comics love with others who might benefit?
Conventions were wonderful. I met new friends and reconnected with old ones. I had the opportunity to introduce Glen Weldon (comics spokesperson of NPR’s “Pop Culture Happy Hour” podcast) to the wonder world of Comic-Con International and he blogged about it memorably. I ended up at a number of other comics events in a variety of locales, appeared on a few panels, enjoyed Free Comic Book Day in Madison, WI, and ended the year at the kickoff for the “Milestones” exhibit at the magnificent Geppi’s Entertainment Museum. (Note: At that debut, son Stephen and I were able to hang out with many folks I get to see only now and then. Do grab the opportunity to take a look, if you’re in Baltimore. There’s nothing else quite like it. It makes clear—as little else does—how events affect popular culture and vice versa. “Milestones” focuses on African American contributions to pop culture, including comics, and runs at least through March.)
So, yes, it’s time to get past coincidence and start to plan event-connected adventures for 2014. I’ll be at Comic-Con, as ever—and have begun a “to do” list I’m putting together for that.
See you at comics events this year? Have you begun to plan?
It took years for me to decide to do it, but I made a major change in my comics collecting in 2013. Steve Borock (whom I told ages ago, when I first met him, that I thought encapsulating comic books was silly and pointless) addressed my growing concern over the damage that might occur to my pretty-doggoned-good-condition comics. What damage has been done in the past has largely occurred when I pulled comics out for research purposes. (When I told Valerie once about hearing a comic-book cover tear slightly at the staples when I was scanning a splash page, she responded, “Why don’t you just tear up $100 bills?”) So Steve and Lon Allen of Heritage Auctions plowed through thousands of comics to pull the ones that were in good enough shape and of sufficient interest to bring bucks at auction—enough bucks to enable me to replace them with copies in crummy shape and still have cash left over so’s to fund my declining years and grandkids’ needs and such.
Auctions will continue through the year—and re-creation of my collection will begin. Money goes directly into the account set up by My Money Guy, with capital gains tax subtractions and collection replacements kept in mind.
How’s your collection doing? Can you get at what you want? How well are you taking care of it? (Comics are fragile: damaged by heat, light, moisture, and other exposure to the environment when you’re not actually reading them. High prices for old comics are a testament to the dwindling number that survive in good condition.) Have you set goals?
House cleaning. My incredible kids helped to clear Stuff out of my house. Sample: Valerie and I piled up costume jewelry accumulated over several decades. For what I’m keeping, she installed a vast number of cup hooks on the back of my closet door and sorted a bunch of smaller items into drawers, and we turned the rest over to Granddaughter Grace and to two daughters of a friend of Stephen’s. Reports to me are that all three distributions were successes, and not the least of the bonuses is that I can locate at a glance the remaining decorations for which I hunt in frequent pre-con packing frenzies.
But that’s only the slightest indication of the processes of 2013. My dining-room table is now in the study for better sorting. (I don’t hold many banquets in my house—and, often as not, meals in the house are consumed while watching TV anyway.) More than 1,000 Beta tapes are in boxes. (Yes, they should go out; but some are not replaceable at this point; sigh.) On the other hand, the comics collection is in a state of wild disorder. Point is ...
... House cleaning. Yep. Still much to do, and that includes continuing to complete my Excel files of what I have on hand and consolidating and interfiling contents of boxes of left-behind comics as I build a new want list.
Do you have a list of what you have? Is there a backup of that list somewhere? Does the list include an indication of where you have what you have? (Valerie turned up items for which I’d been looking for a couple of decades.) What are you still looking for? How will you find it?
In short, 2013 was memorable, and my goals for 2014 are designed to make the new year even more memorable. In a good way. What are your goals?
Maggie’s World by Maggie Thompson appears on the first Tuesday of every month here on Toucan!