Yesterday was the final moving day at the old Publishers Weekly office. One last day to shovel everything into a box. Every move comes with a purge purge purge mandate, and since we’re moving to a smaller office, the need to travel light was particularly urgent.
(Some background: as part of Reed Elsevier’s dismantling of their RBI trade magazine division, PW was purchased by former publisher George Slowik, and PW is now part of a brand new company, PWxyz. Although The Beat blog has moved to it’s own website, I’ve worked there on and off as a part time freelance editor for six years, and I’m continuing in that position. Since I coordinate the comics reviews, I get…a LOT of comics and graphic novels.)
After I’d packed up boxes and boxes of reference books and current review copies and books I’d been meaning to get to and so on, I was left with a few short boxes of, well, let’s call them “comic books”. YOu may call them by a different name, but that’s what they are. Lovingly curated boxes which I’d been sorting through and winnowing out through my previous two moves. It was late, I was running out of labels for boxes, and since I’m moving to a shared work space, it just wasn’t fair to drag all that stuff along with me. Stately Beat Manor is full up. My storage space is full up. My parent’s attic is full up. It was time to make a decision. What the hell to do with all those comic books.
And so, I just dumped them out.
Over the years, we’ve (myself, PW’s Calvin Reid and a succession of brave interns including Cheryl Lynn, Ada Price, Laura Hudson and Kate Fitzsimons) tried to dispose of our comic books in a responsible and pay it forward way. We’ve sent them to the troops. We’ve sent them to the children. We’ve given loads of boxes to dealers. We’ve given them to friends. But in the end, it was too overwhelming.
At first I was upset. All those great covers. All that history. But then I remembered all the collections in my storage unit and on my shelves and I thought to myself, “Are you ever REALLY going to look at those comic books again?” You didn’t need to call in CSI to figure out the answer to that question.
As collectors and hoarders alike know, it isn’t necessarily the act of diving into our collection like a dolphin, burrowing through it like a gopher and throwing comic books into the air and letting them hit us on the head that is satisfying. It’s knowing they’re there, feeling secure in the complete run and the alphabetical order. But going through life you acquire so much baggage…so many comic books.
In time, a line is drawn.
After a little while, I began to feel liberated. Then empowered. Then, I wished I had time to go through ALL my comic boxes and chuck the whole damn lot. (Well, except for the Miraclemans and the Flex Mentallos.) Because it just isn’t necessary to have boxes and boxes of comic books AND shelves and shelves of trade paperbacks collecting those comic books, let alone the Deluxe, Omnibus and Absolute editions of those comic books.
And besides, if I really, REALLY need to read some particular comic book… there’s going to be a digital edition, right?
As if by design, I note that Comixology has launched the beta version of the online comics reader.
The Web reader lets you zoom into each panel and click arrow buttons to go to the next one. Or you can look at the whole page. It is not as satisfying as swiping with your fingers on an iPad, but it does the job if you are on your computer. If you’ve purchased comics in the iPhone or iPad apps, they are available in your library in the Web reader. There are also some freebie comics you can check out.
Very very few of the comics I had to leave behind are available in a legitimate digital format. VIrtually all of them are available illegally. But I think that is going to change. And we’re all going to change with it.
To be continued.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.