HI. I’M KC. I’M A COMIC BOOK COLLECTOR.

KC Carlson by Deb Hayden Lockhart

KC Carlson by Deb Hayden Lockhart


A KC Column by KC Carlson

I’m told it’s good to stop every once in a while and reflect on things, as well as admitting everyday faults and failings. Particularly at this time of year.

I’ve been reading comic books since I was four years old. I taught myself to read (with some assistance) by reading comic books. Admittedly, they were simpler comics starring ducks and mice and “smarter than the av-er-age” bears and blue hound dogs, all of which I also saw on TV. I obviously loved those characters and those comic books, because I read them over and over again to near-death. I still have many of them. No one else would want them, because they aren’t “worth” anything to anybody else. I wouldn’t give them up for all the money in the world.

Walt Disney's Comics & Stories #351. Cover by Carl Barks

Walt Disney’s Comics & Stories #351. Cover by Carl Barks


But I still wasn’t a comic book collector yet. Sure, there was always a big pile of them somewhere in my room (often under the bed or stashed in closets). But I didn’t consider that a “collection”, at least then. I wasn’t yet interested in getting every issue of those series. I didn’t need to — I still enjoyed re-reading them. I would get new ones every time we went on a long road trip or any occasion when my parents thought I would be bored without something to do. My mom also had a rule that any time we went into a new grocery or drug store that had a comic rack, I was allowed to pick out one new one. My grandmother gave me a subscription to Walt Disney’s Comics & Stories for my birthday every year starting at age 5, and every year after that, up to and including when I was in college. I remember some of guys in my dorm mail room giving me crap about that. I just smiled and said “Better than cookies…”

A stripped comic

A stripped comic


Sometime around 1966 or 1967, the woman who lived next door to us started giving me comic books with the logos (although I didn’t know then what logos were) cut off. She worked at Woolworth’s (a long defunct “five-and-dime” retail chain), and was allowed to take as many “stripped” comics home as she wanted. (In old-school magazine and comics distribution, unsold copies of these items were stripped of their logos, issue numbers, cover price, and other essential information — and those “strips” were returned to distributors and publishers for credit on those unsold copies. The rest of the magazine/comic book was then supposed to be destroyed, but as we know now, thousands of them survived and were passed-along — or even sold — after the fact.)

She had been been giving her sons these “stripped” comics for years, but by then, they had gone away to school and “grown out” of comics. When we moved in next door, my mom told her about my “weird” hobby, and suddenly, I had a new regular supply of completely “free” comic books. And most of them were comics (and publishers) that I never previously paid attention to. It was then that I was exposed to DC Comics for the first time — and DC Comics had superheroes! Specifically, The Flash and Justice League of America.

DUMB DUMB DITTY DITTY WAW DIDDLEY DO

This, in turn, led to me to do some really ridiculous things. Including:

Poor coverless comic

Poor coverless comic


1) The “stripped” covers of the books bothered my 10-year-old sense of aesthetics (although I wouldn’t know what that word meant for a few more years). To cope with this, I started removing what was left of the cover and throwing it away, leaving me with coverless comics. But they were fully coverless comics — not some weird partial random amount of cover! But then, these new coverless comics didn’t match my older comics which all had covers, so of course, I had to “fix” that, also! Soon, ALL my comic books were coverless. Perfect!

D’oh!!

Of course, years later — when I could actually afford to buy back issue comics — I had to spend a lot of money re-purchasing all these coverless issues of The Flash and Justice League of America. As a reminder of this folly, I did keep my complete run of coverless Gold Key Phantom Blot comics, which I still have today. Stupid stupid stupid…

Superman #138 cover by Curt Swan & Stan Kaye

Superman #138 cover by Curt Swan & Stan Kaye


2) Suddenly, I loved superhero comic books and couldn’t believe that I had ignored them for so long. From that point on. most of my allowance was devoted to getting more superhero comics. All were DCs, such as Superman and Batman and, eventually, Green Lantern — which for some reason was hard to find in my area. Very seldom did any of these titles turn up in my “freebie” piles of stripped comics.

The downside of now reading “grown-up” super-hero comics (and, yes, I’m snickering as I type this) meant that I now felt too grown-up to keep reading all of the kids’ comics that I was reading — so I stopped buying/reading them “cold turkey”. (Whatever that meant — it used to mean what we ate at Thanksgiving because it seemed to take hours to get everybody to the table at the same time!)

The Adventures of Bob Hope #95. Cover by Bob Oksner

The Adventures of Bob Hope #95. Cover by Bob Oksner


But I wasn’t completely through with comics for younger readers. Through DC’s house ads, I learned of the existence of things like Sheldon Mayer’s beloved Sugar and Spike, comic books about Bob Hope and Jerry Lewis (crazy people on TV!!!), and even wacky books about super-hero kids like The Inferior Five and rock ’n’roll teenagers like Swing With Scooter. These were always favorites, even when I thought I was completely besotted with superheroes. (And truth-to-tell, you wouldn’t have to look too far to see superhero elements creeping into all of those titles at one point or another. Remember Super-Hip?) At DC Comics in the sixties, superheroes (and gorillas) were Best for Business.

(Why no Marvels, you ask? Because as I was growing up, the kid across the street from me (Hi, Mark!) also collected comics, almost all Marvel Comics. We frequently traded series to read, so I read his Daredevils while he read my Batmans… Avengers for Justice League… and so on.)

The older I got, the more comics accumulated, and at some point I had to figure out how to organize them. That used to be easy. I had an antique bookshelf with multiple adjustable shelves growing up, so there was a shelf for superheroes, there was a shelf for funny DC Comics, and a shelf for my kids’ comics. Eventually, those kids’ comics went into storage to make room in the bookshelf for specific shelves each for The Flash and Justice League and Batman and Superman and one for esoteric (another word that I wouldn’t learn until years later) DCs. Before long, I needed another bookshelf. And then another. And another. Thank goodness somebody eventually created specially designed comics boxes. I was an early, devoted purchaser. Now I buy comics boxes by the case — and I go through them so fast that they’re still a fairly frequent purchase.

Not KC's collection, but you get the idea

Not KC’s collection, but you get the idea


Today, an entire (large) room in the basement is devoted to the comic book collection. There’s somewhere between 450 and 500 short boxes of comics in that room and with 175-200 comics per box… well, you do the math. Obviously, they no longer fit in my now very old antique bookcase — so that now houses my collection of Archie Comics collections: Archives, Hardcovers, TPBs, and those crazy 1,000 page oversize digests!

WHAT WAS I TALKING ABOUT?

There’s obviously more to this ongoing life story of collecting comics, and I’ll add to it on occasion from time to time here when I’m not busy yelling at the comics industry to GET OFF MY LAWN!!! Yes, I am now officially an old person. Proof: I just got called to serve as a juror in Federal Court. Hey, at least I’ll get paid for that! (more comics more comics more comics…)

Fantastic Four #564 cover by Bryan Hitch

Fantastic Four #564 cover by Bryan Hitch


But before I go, a tip of my fuzzy purple hat to my editor Roger Ash, who, over at his Facebook page is mentioning what he’s thankful for each and every day this month. Sadly, I’m not quite that ambitious, so I’m gonna do a big turkey drop of thankfulness all at once here. (BTW, if you don’t get mentioned here, you should be thankful for that. Right, Beau?) I am thankful that I know at least three people are reading this. (Two of them are Roger and my wife/proofreader Johanna, who both have to read this.) I am thankful that I still have something to say after all of these years and that people are still interested in hearing about all the crap that spins around and around in my head each and every day. I am thankful that the world isn’t always as screwed up as I usually think it is, and like Chumbawamba said — when we get knocked down, we get up again. I am thankful that my sick friends and relatives are still with us, and I hope to be saying that again next year. And the year after. And the year after that. And…

I am thankful to everyone at Westfield for allowing me to be silly and goofy most of the time — now going on (and off) for over 30 years. Jeepers. I’m thankful to the entire comics industry for being equally silly and goofy for over 75 years — giving me and my friends Wayne and Beau and Bob and the other Bob and Roger and everybody else who used to contribute to the blog endless silly and goofy material to write about. And special thanks to C. Everett Silly and Mortimer Goofy for lending their names to this bit, which has now gone on waaaaay too long.

I’m thankful that’s over! See you next week!

___________________________

MR. CARLSON: As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly.


WESTFIELD COMICS is not responsible for the stupid things that KC says. Especially that thing that really irritated you. Sometimes I wish Westfield was a wacky radio station…

Classic comic covers from the Grand Comics Database.

 

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  1. wayne blue Says:

    I always read your column.