Monday, September 29, 2008

All right, fine

Tom Spurgeon has one of those posts which naturally appeal to OCD-type comics fans, which is to say all comics fans: 50 things every comics collection needs to have. I agree in spirit with about 85% of what's on here (possibly because it casts my personal library in a good light), but some of the format suggestions strike me as a little...I don't know. Too nostalgia-oriented? Too book collector snobbish, as if to valorize antiquated formats which require some degree of searching over newer formats which (at least in my experience) are easier to find/more convenient/cheaper. Then again, I've never quite agreed with Tom's fascination with the American comic book as a format; I'm perfectly willing to read things on a computer screen if that's the only option available. Or if it's the most convenient, as is the case with a lot of minicomics which later show up on creators' websites. And minicomics are the ne plus ultra of a format-matters sensibility, so you can see where I'm coming from.

So, since Tom specifically encouraged it, here's my list of what I have, don't have, sort of have, and don't think I need. With frequent commentary because, well, you know. And I'm using the format Tom suggests rather than the one Alan and Matt use because I'm an argumentative kind of dude.

(EDIT: I don't want to sound too critical of what Tom's done with this list; I'd like to point you all to this comment I left at Sean Collins' blog. Specifically this:

...overall it's a great resource for someone looking to build up a collection (I wish I'd had access to it c. 1997), and yet another great conversation-starter.

Just wanted to make that clear!)

Bold = Things I do have
Plain = Things I don't have
Italics = I have some but probably not enough
Underline = I don't agree I need this
Some of these are combined in the list below. Yes, there are things which I own but don't believe are really vital. It's like I get to have an argument with myself AND Tom Spurgeon!

1. Something From The ACME Novelty Library
All pamphlet-format.

2. A Complete Run Of Arcade
There aren't that many issues of Arcade, granted, but a complete run is a little hard to put together. I've got all the Crumb stuff in other forms; additonal issues of this are a luxury, not a necessity. Great anthology, though.

3. Any Number Of Mini-Comics
It's not a large number, and there aren't any old ones. I'd like to remind the jury that I was 13 and living in rural South Carolina on January 1, 1990.

4. At Least One Pogo Book From The 1950s
I've got several of the Fantagraphics collections. Have I ever mentioned in this space that I think Pogo is the best comic strip of all time?

5. A Barnaby Collection
I like Barnaby just fine, but isn't Krazy Kat a more serious requirement?

6. Binky Brown and the Holy Virgin Mary
I even remember where I bought it: Criminal Records in Atlanta.

7. As Many Issues of RAW as You Can Place Your Hands On
I've only been able to place my hands on a couple of copies of the second volume, though.

8. A Little Stack of Archie Comics
Not an Archie fan, but I can see why someone might want them on hand for a complete comics library. Of course, it's that line of thinking that encourages people to buy Eagles albums, just for the sake of what-if-someone-comes-over-and-needs-to-hear-"Taking-It-Easy."

9. A Suite of Modern Literary Graphic Novels
Who doesn't have this? I mean, who doesn't have this and is still reading, rather than dismissing the whole endeavor as pointless, so long as Crisis on Infinite Earths isn't specified as a must-have? (Note: as I write this, Chris Mautner hasn't linked to this on Blogorama. But when he does, I'm guessing that at least someone will make this suggestion in the comments. UPDATE: Coming back to finish this up, I notice that Chris has linked to it, but no discussion of COIE yet. Who will pick up the slack? Comment-leavers at the Beat, which has yet to link to the story? Or, more likely, the often apoplectic comments field at Comics Should Be Good, which also hasn't covered the story, but probably will because it seems like it's totally in their wheelhouse?)

10. Several Tintin Albums
If by several you count one of those hardcovers containing three albums. Which I do.

11. A Smattering Of Treasury Editions Or Similarly Oversized Books
Do those old issues of Acme Novelty Library count? Or Goddess of War? Okay, I see that they would. Moving on...

12. Several Significant Runs of Alternative Comic Book Series
Hate, second volume of Love and Rockets, Jim, The Nimrod, probably a few more I'm forgetting.

13. A Few Early Comic Strip Collections To Your Taste
See #9 above.

14. Several "Indy Comics" From Their Heyday
I'm not sure exactly what qualifies here; I know Tom Spurgeon doesn't mean it this way, but his description reads as "books which aren't Marvel or DC (or, presumably, Valiant or Image or...what's the other one? Ultraverse?), but which aren't really good enough to count in #12 above." I think I probably have a few of these somewhere in one of my boxes, like an issue or two of American Flagg! or Scout, but I wouldn't fault anyone for not having any of these.

15. At Least One Comic Book From When You First Started Reading Comic Books
Again, I think I have a few of these lying around, but it's not because I planned it that way. I won't deny the pleasure of reading old issues of Who's Who, of which I have a nearly complete set. Ditto The Official Handbook to the Marvel Universe, except that it's way less fun to read because the art is so, so much nicer in Who's Who. Still: I know it's worded in a way to include those who started reading comics as adults, but there's the unpleasant whiff of nostalgia here.

16. At Least One Comic That Failed to Finish The Way It Planned To
I really liked Atomic City Tales. It's one of the comics I bought, along with issues of Hate and Underwater, on my first trip to a alt/indie oriented store.

17. Some Osamu Tezuka
I might suggest "as much as possible" as the proper wording here.

18. The Entire Run Of At Least One Manga Series
Dragon Head for me. I'm missing some volumes of Cromartie High School, and it's not clear that it will ever be printed in its entirety in English anyway.

19. One Or Two 1970s Doonesbury Collections
I was about to argue against the wording again, but I see that this is in reference to the peak of the strip itself, rather than the method of delivery. Okay. BTW, am I the only one who doesn't see a lot of these old paperbacks in used bookstores? I mostly run across the bigger collections from the 1980s.

20. At Least One Saul Steinberg Hardcover
I actually feel worse about the lack of Al Hirschfield in my collection.

21. One Run of A Comic Strip That You Yourself Have Clipped
What century are we in again?

22. A Selection of Comics That Interest You That You Can't Explain To Anyone Else
Does my larger-than-can-be-easily-justified Valiant collection count? I say it does.

23. At Least One Woodcut Novel
Yeah, I need to get some of these.

24. As Much Peanuts As You Can Stand
As much as I can stand = whatever I can find used or remaindered. I like Peanuts, but not like I like Pogo or Popeye.

25. Maus
(Somewhat) funny story: when we moved this summer, my two volumes of Maus got packed into separate boxes, reunited only when I finally got around to stocking the bookshelves. That's probably the most time they've spent apart in a decade.

26. A Significant Sample of R. Crumb's Sketchbooks
Remember when Gary Groth put this at #1 in that Comics Journal top 100 comics issue? I'm pretty sure it was Groth who did that; I could be wrong. Anyway, it's not such a ridiculous notion.

27. The original edition of Sick, Sick, Sick.
I actually don't own anything by Feiffer, one of the more gaping holes in my collection. What can I say, it's just not a priority right now.

28. The Smithsonian Collection Of Newspaper Comics
Bought at a used bookstore in Columbia, SC, in the same shopping center as Manifest and the old Heroes and Dragons. Also recommended: that two-volume slipcover thing from the 90s, which I bought at Heroes and Dragons.

29. Several copies of MAD
Underlined only because I would have worded this as "A chunk of Harvey Kurtzman's satirical work." Of course, anyone owning copies of The Jungle Book, Trump, or Humbug probably also has a lot of early Mad in their collection. You know what was awesome? The late 90s reprints of Kurtzman-era Mad which were sold on newsstands, each reprinting three issues of the comic. I basically have the complete Kurtzman run in Mad thanks to those things. Anyway, my point is this: Kurtzman Mad/Trump/Humbug/etc: absolutely necessary. Feldstein Mad: not so much, though it's not the worst thing in the world to have lying around.

30. A stack of Jack Kirby 1970s Comic Books
Yep, assuming we're counting reprints here.

31. More than a few Stan Lee/Jack Kirby 1960s Marvel Comic Books
See above. Oh wait, Tom specifies the originals here. Hmm. I almost want to agree on the basis that the recolorization/decolorization kind of robs these books of some of their energy. I don't actually own any of these in comics form, but my father does (when do I get that part of my inheritence, Dad?). But these comics are so good that I don't think it hurts the experience too much to have them in the various reprinted formats. I'm leaving this in bold.

32. A You're-Too-High-To-Tell Amount of Underground Comix
Again with the original format? I mostly own collections, but I'm not un-bolding this.

33. Some Calvin and Hobbes
The sort of thing I could talk my parents into picking up at Sam's Club back in the 90s. I think they were supposed to belong to the family, but they're in my garage/library now.

34. Some Love and Rockets
Well, of course.

35. The Marvel Benefit Issue Of Coober Skeber
I'd like to have a copy. I would have eagerly bought it when I came out, but there was that whole living in South Carolina thing I had to deal with.

36. A Few Comics Not In Your Native Tongue
Yes, but they're not good ones.

37. A Nice Stack of Jack Chick Comics
I would like to have more. I'm almost tempted to say that the proper way to obtain these is off of park benches, etc., but that undermines a lot of the criticisms I've been making here.

38. A Stack of Comics You Can Hand To Anybody's Kid
It's not quite 2 feet tall, though.

39. At Least A Few Alan Moore Comics
Even the "where's Crisis?" people would have this.

40. A Comic You Made Yourself
Yes, but I don't know if I think it's that important. The joke back in the 90s was that the only people interested in alternative comics were aspiring alternative cartoonists--Evan Dorkin did a story about it. Not a joke you'd expect to see today, thankfully.

41. A Few Comics About Comics
Doesn't everyone have a copy of Understanding Comics?

42. A Run Of Yummy Fur
I've got four collections containing material from this series (Ed the Happy Clown, The Playboy, I Never Liked You, The Little Man). I'm counting that.

43. Some Frank Miller Comics
I have Batman Year One and a few issues of Sin City, which is plenty. I might buy Daredevil: Born Again if I saw it for the right price. I don't think one necessarily needs anything by Will Eisner--I don't think I own anything besides Comics and Sequential Art--but I'd say Eisner is much more essential than Miller.

44. Several Lee/Ditko/Romita Amazing Spider-Man Comic Books
See the response to #31 above. Good point about Marvel Tales, but I'd rather have the high-end reprints or an Essentials collection, because I think the collision of classic Ditko art and advertisements for Bonkers fruit chews or Clearasil is a little unsettling.

45. A Few Great Comics Short Stories
I'd like to have the complete run of Rubber Blanket, though. Only two more issues and I'm there!

46. A Tijuana Bible
Where the hell do you find these things? At the local speakeasy?

47. Some Weirdo
Three issues, to be exact.

48. An Array Of Comics In Various Non-Superhero Genres
Everyone has this. I would probably specify EC here.

49. An Editorial Cartoonist's Collection or Two
I keep thinking about buying some Herblock (my all-time favorite), but never manage to do it.

50. A Few Collections From New Yorker Cartoonists
I would probably have framed this to include Playboy cartoons as well, but the point stands: I have no Charles Addams in my collection.


-A collection of an alternative weekly strip. Everyone needs some Matt Groening and/or Lynda Barry in their collection.

-Some modern European comics. I'd recommend Trondheim or Sfar, of course. Actually, I'd recommend a lot more than them, but they're the best starting point.

-Some Krazy Kat collections. I mentioned this above, but I thought it was worth mentioning again.

-A collection of Crumb's non-sketchbook work. Preferably something from his late 70s/early 80s peak. I know the early psychedelic stuff was more influential/historically important, but I don't care. Oh, okay, you need that stuff too.

-At least a little American Splendor. Come on, now. This is obvious, isn't it?

-At least one long-ish work without words (or dialogue). Really, though, everyone needs a copy of Cave-In.

-Art Out of Time or a collection of work of a similar spirit: Everybody has a copy of I Shall Destroy All the Civilized Planets now, right?


LurkerWithout said...

Fantagraphics/Kitchen Sink/etc have Tijuana Bible collections in their catalogues. Same for the "adult" publishers like Bud Plant or AMV?AMW? I forget. Anyways, they always seem to have a volume or three of collected Tijuana Bibles...

Or of course there is the internets...

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