by KC Carlson
PREVIOUSLY ON KC COLUMN: KC and his wife Johanna successfully moved all their belongings — including a ginormous comic book collection — over 1,000 miles from Virginia to Wisconsin. KC previously lived in Wisconsin more than 20 years ago. Ironically, the new home is just one mile down the road from the apartment where he lived when he first started working at Westfield Comics.
I’m really starting to hate boxes.
I don’t have anything personal against boxes. I’m just tired of dealing with them every day. For the last couple of months, there hasn’t been a day that I haven’t either
* packed or unpacked at least one box
* moved boxes (always heavy ones) to the correct floor of the house
* tried to guess what was in a unlabeled box with five or six (always heavy) boxes on top of it
* marveled at the sheer number of boxes that the movers labeled BOOKS that only had one or two actual books in them and otherwise completely full of something else
* cut down empty boxes (almost slicing the tip of my thumb off at one point)
* made trips to recycling to dump empty boxes.
I actually dreamed that I was EATING cardboard boxes one night. (Probably my fault for eating too many cheese curds!)
I’ve got nobody to blame all this on but myself. Because not only do I have this 50-year-old (and counting) comic book collection, I also collect music in all forms (45s, LPs, cassettes, CDs, Laser Discs, and DVDs). Plus I have an extensive collection of books and magazines about music. My wife and I both collect books: Hers are mostly genre fiction and indy comics and manga collections. Mine are almost all non-fiction, including media history, episode guides, and comic book history and selected collections. Three rooms in the new house are specifically for collections: the Comics Room, the Music Room, and the Library. Plus, we have a strange bathroom in the basement that includes an alcove (for no apparent reason), which has turned into a great storage space for our hundreds of DVDs and Blu-rays. (Who builds a bathroom with a foyer?)
The comics room has a concrete floor, because of the weight.
Because everything that went onto the moving van was inventoried, we now have a box count. We moved 480 comic book short boxes. About 20 of these were filled with DC Archives and Marvel Masterworks, six were boxes of Johanna’s indy comics (finding them is next week’s project), and a few had odds and ends, like desk supplies and electronics cables. So let’s call it 450 short boxes of comics. Figuring approximately 150-175 comics per short box, that makes my collection somewhere around 70,000 comic books. Oh my.
This is why we now have to pay people to move us (or have generous corporations offer relocation benefits). We don’t recommend letting the habit get to this stage, because at some point, you become a prisoner of the collection. Worse, we know people who have more stuff than we do. Which is a small consolation — although come to think of it, we haven’t heard of them moving in years.
Oddly enough, the comics were the easiest to deal with of anything that had to be moved. This is because they all live in their own boxes — no need for packing or unpacking! On the load-in, most of the comics were on the main floor, so it was a straight shot out the door onto the truck. On the load-out, they had to go into the basement — one flight down. The movers asked if they could use a ramp on the stairs, and I said sure, as long as they were careful. So most of the 450 comics boxes were slid down the stairs on a ramp of taped-together wardrobe boxes, under my supervision. This was a great plan. Only one box took a tumble, with the lid flying off and the comics spilling out. Of course, it was a box of Uncanny X-Men, but there was no major damage. Luckily, they all fit in the room that had been set aside for them to live in.
When Johanna linked to my previous Westfield column on moving, some interesting discussions started about moving and storing comics, eventually leading into whether owning the “actual artifact” was worth it these days with the digital revolution of comics in full swing. Ownership seemed the major issue — you don’t actually “own” a legally obtained digital copy; you’re just “leasing” it from the service or publisher. Your access to that issue depends on their servers letting you have it. So while no one’s expecting pending catastrophe, you’re still dependent on those agencies not going out of business or deciding to change direction (as happened with Microsoft and digital music). If they do, you will literally be left with nothing when the files disappear. So much for your digital “collection”.
I would actually love to go digital, as it beats dragging around all of these boxes of steadily degrading pulp. But the fact is that nobody can yet guarantee that the digital files that I “buy” today will still be available to me 20 or 30 or 50 years down the road. Well, there’s actually no guarantee that there will be a “me” that far down the road, but at least the physical comic books can be willed to a trusted friend or donated to a favorite archive when I’m gone — or even sold off to aid in our eventual retirement.
There was a digital comic service that I quite enjoyed, but it’s no longer around, due to publishers changing their licensing agreements to sell comics individually instead of in long runs. My favorite digital archive for comics was the DVD-ROMs produced by Graphic Imaging Technology (GIT). From 2005-2007, they had the license from Marvel to produce massive collections of comics on disc. The first one they did was 44 Years of Fantastic Four, which included over 500 issues of FF for (originally) about $50. Most of their other titles (including Amazing Spider-Man, The Avengers, The X-Men, Captain America, Iron Man, Ghost Rider, and The Incredible Hulk) were at least as generous. (I think GIT had volumes for both The Mighty Thor and Daredevil in the works when Marvel pulled the license.) GIT also produced special Diamond-Exclusive DVD-ROMs collecting all the crossover books from both Civil War and House of M.
In 2008, Marvel solicited their own versions of Iron Man and The Hulk DVD-ROMs, tying in with the then-current movies for both. Except Marvel’s versions were only the first 50 issues (or stories) of each. (For Iron Man, this didn’t even cover all the Tales of Suspense stories.) Given their skimpy nature (and relative high price compared to the GIT versions; Marvel’s were $30 for 50 issues), and that if you were into digital at that time, you already had the awesome GIT collections, the Marvel collections apparently didn’t get the advance numbers they expected, and both discs were canceled before they were produced.
Also in 2008, GIT tried doing decade collection (called Bronze Age Series) DVD-ROMs of three Archie Comics titles in the 1970s: Archie, Betty & Veronica, and Jughead. Plans were afoot for Archie Silver Age collections of the same three titles, covering the 1960s, but they never materalized.
GIT was also responsible for digitally archiving MAD Magazine, National Lampoon, The Complete Star Trek (comics, featuring runs by Gold Key, DC, Malibu, Marvel, and Wildstorm), Looney Tunes comics, and Scooby-Doo comics. (The last two were both from Gold Key/Western.) Sadly, I don’t believe the company is still in business (their website is just a placeholder), but the discs they produced still trade on the secondary markets for big bucks, mostly because they offered much greater value than the current downloadable single comics only. (Some of the Marvel volumes have asking prices of $150-500. On the other hand, some of their other products are available for $15 or so. Look around.) Instead of $2.99 or $3.99 for one digital issue, most of the GIT discs offered digital comics for pennies, once you considered how many were in a set.
I know newer generations don’t think this way, but ownership is important to me. Which is why I’m still buying things that I can physically put in a box. Or on a shelf. And have to keep for the rest of my life. Or do with it whatever I want, regardless of changing company policies.
KC CARLSON: Back in Wisconsin! (Sorry Wisconsin!)
WESTFIELD COMICS is not responsible for the stupid things that KC says. Especially that thing that really irritated you.