a KC Column by KC Carlson
Since my last column, I’ve made a big decision regarding my comic collecting. Except for an occasional #1 or other special issues, I’m done buying individual “floppy” comic books. I’m switching to collections instead. Right now, this is primarily for Marvel comic books. I was also intending to do this for the few DC titles I still read, but with my unbelievable luck, almost all of the DC titles I read will be cancelled in the next month or so. Ah, DC… what did I ever do to you? Except try to produce entertaining comic books a long, long (long) time ago…
I know I’m quite late to this particular party. I’m also sensitive to the comic creators who think (or are told by their publishers) that most of their ability to make royalties (i.e. payment above and beyond their basic page rate) will come from standard format comics. I’ve been told several creators have appeared around the internet pleading their cases for not trading up to trades. I actually think it’s long past time for publishers to step up and make this right. The increased quality of what’s actually going into a large percentage of those collected editions (both hard and softcover formats) is making a lot of these collections (and their multiple printings and formats) major profit areas for publishers, whether they want to admit it publicly or not.
ADVANTAGES OF MAKING THE MOVE TO COLLECTING COLLECTIONS:
Nicer package overall. Marvel’s floppies these days don’t even have real covers anymore. They’re the same paper as the regular interior paper stock, which makes them prone to all kinds of incidental damage from just simply handling them, magnified as more touch them from the distributor to the comic shops to the customer. Collections always have thicker, cardstock covers (or even better — hard covers), and the interior stock is generally both glossier and more physically substantial than what you see in the floppies (at least Marvel’s).
Less susceptible to damage. Continuing from the above, if you care about reading your comics, it’s easier to do so multiple times without worry if you’re reading a book-format comic.
Easier to carry around. If you want to read a comic while you travel or commute or simply loan one to a friend, your collected edition will survive the trip in much better shape. Plus, it’s a lot easier to keep track of one spine than six to eight stapled comics. My wife throws a trade paperback into her work bag to read at lunch, but doing that with a handful of comics will result in a lot of crumpled paper.
Extras. The first thing I noticed about collected editions was that all the good ones include all of the variant covers, and if they’re doing it right (and not scrimping on a signature) all the variant covers are reproduced at full size. (None of this four — or more — covers to a page stuff, cheapskates!) Introductions by the creators are always nice, and on some books (you know the ones that I mean — some modern comics cry out for them!) annotations are sometime worth the extra cost for the bigger book. Depending on the artist(s), alternate cover sketches, character designs, and other artistic ephemera are always much appreciated.
A more satisfying read. This is the main reason I’m writing this column, and the main reason I’m making the switch. I realized I was buying floppies month to month and then waiting until I got all the pieces together before reading them anyway — because reading a complete story all in one sitting is infinitely better than reading upwards of 50 or so different series one month at a time while trying to keep all the storylines straight. Kids may have the brain space and time to read and reread comics and keep track of the details, but as an adult, I want a satisfying single read instead of a puzzle to assemble over six months (or more, if delays happen).
Becoming a customer instead of a collector. A lot of the above adds up to thinking of comics as a way to convey a story instead of an artifact to protect. That’s a big change in mindset for some people (including me!), but given that the collector’s market for anything newer than the Silver Age is all but gone these days, I think this transition is healthier for both me and the industry.
Easier to store. Bookshelves are easier to acquire and rearrange than hundreds of comic boxes. Plus, they’re more decorative to look at.
Better resale value. Of course, no one wants to buy comics assuming that they’ll get rid of them after. (They’re much too expensive these days to throw away casually.) But if you need to trim down the collection before a move, say, or you find that your tastes have changed in a major way several years down the road, then there’s a much bigger market these days for a used book than for leftover comics.
Your local comic shop might be interested in buybacks or trades, depending on the item and its condition — but don’t assume that this is a service automatically provided by them. It’s rare for them to do so, because collections generally stay in print for much longer than the sales life span of an individual comic book issue. Generally, your LCS can just reorder additional copies of the collection in question — and probably much cheaper than you were expecting to get for your used copy.
It’s important to remember that the TPB or HC you just bought new, is considered used by the time you make your payment and walk out the door. At that point, you should never expect to get back 100% of your cost on any collection you bought at a comic shop, no matter how nice a condition you keep it in. (For you adults out there, it’s just like how your new car depreciates in value by several thousand dollars the second you drive it off the lot.)
Besides, as a consumer, you presumably “consumed” the book by reading it, so you should expect that experience to have been worth something. Remember, a lot of people participated in the making of that book, and they expect to be paid for their work.
You might have better luck at a local used bookstore, if there’s one in your area. Or there are several online marketplaces that make selling books easy. Large, reputable companies like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and eBay offer ways to get your books to a new home.
(Keep in mind any mail order sale will require you to carefully wrap your collection securely so it is not damaged in transit to the new buyer. I recommend surrounding individual books with stiff corrugated cardboard slightly larger than the item(s) and mailing in a padded bag. Anything over 2 or 3 books should be shipped in a box w/packing peanuts or lots of wadded up packing paper. Use media mail for your best rate at the post office. And make sure you read the rules for whichever online marketplace you use so you know what you’re signing up for.)
SUMMING UP/SHUTTING UP
Anyway, back to my point. I’m ditching the floppy. Now, you may be thinking that I’ve only opened the door here. Given these arguments, some might ask, what about going digital and eliminating the space needs altogether? And if I’m no longer interested in individual issues, what should I do with all those I’ve accumulated?
Stay tuned, true believer, for future columns to answer those questions and more. (Or if you have other questions to ask, feel free to comment below. Unless the question is “Can I have your comics?” I bet you already know the answer to that one…)
KC CARLSON: No comics reading this week! Not when there’s something like 137 hours of WrestleMania-related events to watch between now and Sunday! Recommended: WWE NXT: Takeover Dallas on Friday night! Sadly, only available on the WWE Network. DAMN YOU, VINCE!!! (shakes fist in air…) But I hear that the Network is only $9.99 this month…
WESTFIELD COMICS is not responsible for the stupid things that KC says. Especially that thing that really irritated you. Roogalator!