A NIGHTMARE,” Joe Matt sighs. “All those years, all that money, all that work. None of which I’ll ever get back.” Mr. Matt, the graphic novelist best known for his absurdly self-centered autobiographical comic “Peepshow,” is sitting in a prefab booth at Daily Donut in Los Feliz, a neighborhood spot favored by quiet elderly customers and infrequent rushes of teenagers seeking afterschool snacks. He is speaking of his quest for the perfect collection of Frank King “Gasoline Alley” comic strips, from 1921 to 1960. Mr. Matt, who owns no home, car, computer or cellphone, estimates he has spent upward of $15,000 on his mission since 1994.
[snip]Until recently the market for many of these projects was limited to other collectors, and weak sales doomed some earlier multivolume series like “Little Orphan Annie” in the middle of their runs.
But today’s collections show more commercial promise, thanks in large part to graphic literature successes like “Maus,” “Jimmy Corrigan,” “Ghost World” and “Persepolis.” Fantagraphics says it has sold about 100,000 copies of the first volume of “The Complete Peanuts” since 2004, and it issues new volumes twice a year. The publisher has also sold 10,000 to 16,000 copies each of the first three “Krazy & Ignatz” collections and is issuing an eighth volume next month. “The Complete Dick Tracy” sold out a 7,500-copy printing last October; a second printing is due in late February, with Volume 2 scheduled for April.