A KC Column by KC Carlson
I turn 60 years old next week.
I know, I can hardly believe it either. I barely feel 59.
We’re having a bit of discussion around here about whether the 60th or the 65th is the milestone year. (I would argue against the 65th, mostly because the government has already decided that I can’t actually retire until I’m 67. Little does the government know that I actually stopped working for them long ago.)
Since I’m a Beatles fanatic (when I’m not thinking about comic books), maybe 64 is the key year. It certainly has a good beat and you can dance to it. (Note: Joke designed to be funny only to those over 60 years old. Additional note: “Funny” may actually be pushing it…)
I COULD BE HANDY, MENDING A FUSE
Okay, subhead, be quiet now…
OK, COMIC BOOKS IT IS (sigh…)
So, in my 60 years (technically only 56 years, since I started reading/collecting when I was 4), I have accumulated over 80,000 comics. That I have right now. I hate to think what the actual, overall number would be if I hadn’t periodically sold or traded or donated a lot of them over the years. (I got rid of a lot of the original issues, if I had the stories reprinted in significantly upscaled formats, such as Archives, Masterworks, and Omnibi, to name just a few.) We’ve also given out a hundred or so kids’ comics over the years at Halloween when we lived in Virginia. (No takers in our neighborhood in Wisconsin, however. Apparently, not many kids in our area.)
It’s very possible, and I have no way to easily or practically prove it, but as many as 100,000 comic books may have passed through my collection over the years.
The only way I could have done it was to work somewhere in the comics industry for most of my life. Otherwise, I never could have afforded that many, but as an employee, I often got comics for cheap or free. Beginning in my teens, I worked for the local magazine distributor, not in the distribution warehouse, but delivering the Chicago Tribune in my neighborhood. So, not exactly working in comics… But, in addition to my actual pay, I was allowed to go into the back of the warehouse and take as many stripped comics (logo cut off and returned to publisher as unsold) as I wanted out of the garbage. So, they weren’t “mint”, but this was when I first started collecting everything I could get my hands on (including Archies and other kids’ comics). And I kept this paper route/connection as long as I could — even into early high school.
From there, in college, I helped a head shop start carrying regular comics and got an early education into magazine distribution, which lead to finding out about comics’ nascent Direct Market Distributors, which lead to my working at Capital City Distribution, which led to working at DC Comics (twice), Westfield Comics (also twice), Krause Publications, and writing about comics and their history for more than 20 years now. From working at CCD, Westfield, and DC Comics, I traveled extensively to at least 37 different states, including Hawaii, and Canada and England. I worked hundreds of comic conventions and trade shows, did press checks, advised a few retailers, wrote for and edited publications about comics, as well as edited comics and comics collections themselves. And that’s only what I can remember these days.
If you met me at one of these shows, I hope you forgive me If I don’t remember you now without some prodding. Other than a small handful of friends, the only person I remember meeting “on the road” was Johanna.
I’ve never collected for the monetary value of comic books (or speculated on what they might be worth someday). I was first and foremost a reader of comics. And I liked keeping them around so I could read them again! Ah, I wish I had more time to do that today. Now, I’m behind on so many titles I may never catch up — unless, of course, I live to be 80 or 90.
Also, when nobody is looking, I like to go into the comic book room, dive around in them like a porpoise, burrow through them like a gopher, and toss them up and let them hit me in the head. Explains a lot, no?
(Also means that I don’t care much for bagging, boarding, grading, or slabbing either.)
AH, THE STUFF YOU’LL ACCUMULATE…
Obviously, Johanna has her own comic book collection. She’s much more selective than I am, and her main interests are far different than mine, as she collects mostly indy comics, graphic novels, and manga, while mine is mostly of mainstream superhero action/adventure stuff with some weird fringe stuff on the side (Archie Comics, 80s Indy comics, and funny animal stuff). What we have in common is that J. and I both collect vintage romance comics — when we can find any affordable ones! We also have a huge interest in comic history and own hundreds of (mostly hardcover) books about comics and vintage comics reprints. One of the reasons I’m so far behind in reading floppies is that I usually grab a new book to read, ignoring the regular comics while I’m reading the history.
Having also been somewhat “damaged” by some of my experiences working in comics (which was not always all fun and games, as much as I try to make it sound here), nowadays I often have to really be in the mood to read comics. When I am, I usually binge-read for a day or three. I still have many creator friends whose work I regularly follow. (Except for the current series where my all-time favorite artist is working with my all-time least favorite writer. Any guesses?)
It’s at times like these milestone birthdays that I start looking back at the accumulation. In all its quantity, it’s full of memories — stories I enjoyed reading, books I worked on, and work by friends I’ve made.
KC CARLSON SEZ: There used to be even more comics “crap” around here. For a while, I had every copy of Diamond Previews for at least 10 or 15 years in my garage. Before moving, we donated them to the Comic Arts Collection at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). Since, amazingly, this did not fill up their truck, I asked “Have any interest in about 30 years’ worth of Rolling Stone magazines?” Those now live at VCU as well. We’ve been in Wisconsin for about four years now, so we’ve got another four years worth of Previews and RS for me to box up and deliver to them during our next cross-country trek.
WESTFIELD COMICS is not responsible for the stupid things that KC says. Especially that thing that really irritated you. You should all be happy that I didn’t tell you about the many boxes of comic book promo material (posters, buttons, bookmarks, LSH Flight & GL Power rings, etc. etc.) we’ve accumulated over the years. That’s probably gonna be the stuff that’s actually worth $$$.