About once a year, we give Stately Beat Manor a really good going-over — tossing out unwanted pamphlets, moving some stuff into storage, organizing permanent additions and so on — and after doing so we write a post with our thoughts about storage and hoarding and so on.

This is that post, c. 2011.

I assume most of you reading this are borderline hoarders, like The Beat. Your shelf porn resembles a splatter film. You have more longboxes than you do pieces of silverware. Your home contains at least one Billy. You have at one time — perhaps even at this very moment — made use of some kind of  software to catalog your collection even if it was just Excel or Google spreadsheets. You know the drill.

Herewith, some observations on comics and collecting comics.

Art supply stores have some awesome storage options.

Screw “The Container Store” and all that expensive bullshit. I made a trip to A.I. Friedman, the venerable art supply store here in NYC, and came away with two items that I’ve long thought would be very useful. #1 was a cheap portfolio for storing artwork, flat posters and the like. All of that stuff had been sitting in an unsightly pile on top of my Expedit, and now it looks all sleek and organized in a black portfolio like all the cool kids carry. Less than $15 and you’re good to go.

The second item was one that I did not know existed. Cool-looking poster tubes in colorful plastic! Alvin Ice Tube 25 Inch Clear

You know all those unsightly rolled up posters from Con and so forth? Now they are super sightly! The tubes have a strap for when you are banging around the Javits or wherever.

I should add that this was a prime spot for purging. I live in a New York Apartment and don’t really have room for an art show. I saved a few key pieces –some nice screen prints various folks gave me over the years, Ben McCool’s first signing poster, a giant poster from RETURN OF THE KING that shows Frodo and Sam in a very gay embrace on the skirts of Mount Doom – you know the kind of stuff that will make a great art show some day.

I was pleased to note that although it had started out as an art and office supply store, A.I. Friedman has been attempting to adapt to modern times with a huge section of laptop and iPad bags and covers. Although it was large, it was dwarfed by the row upon row of racks of Moleskine and Moleskine-like little notebooks for jotting important thoughts. Everyone may own a tablet soon, but to be truly profound, a ponder must be scribbled in a little wee bookie.

A pamphlet is a fleeting thing.
Every time I do a purge, it’s easier to get rid of these suckers. I will, however, never get rid of my original runs of SANDMAN, PREACHER, and INVISIBLES because they had the cool letters pages which were all the contact we had with the industry before the internet.

BUT — which edition to keep?
As we wade further and further into the Golden Age of Reprints, deciding which edition to keep becomes harder and harder. Which is better the original Epic edition of MOONSHADOW…or the new one from Vertigo? (I did not flip them open to compare repro, which would have been the right thing to do.) For my favorite series — like SWAMP THING or PREACHER or PLANETARY — I now have the pamphlets, the original paperbacks, perhaps the hardcover, and now the DC deluxe trade series AND an Absolute edition. Can you keep only one? How about keeping two, one for reading one for display? So many great books now have multiple editions — HICKSVILLE, SAME DIFFERENCE, BLACKSAD — the newer one is usually the best updated and corrected one, but not always. And sometimes things are just cool for their own sake. I love the collected hardcover edition of Brian Ralph’s DAYBREAK, but getting rid of the cute Bodega editions seemed so wrong.

If money is no object, assembling a collection of the greatest comics of all time is now an afternoon’s work.

Comprehensive editions of the major work of nearly every cartoonist who appeared in the Masters of American Comics show are readily available: Winsor McCay, Lyonel Feininger, George Herriman, E.C. Segar, Frank King, Chester Gould, Milton Caniff, Charles Schulz, Will Eisner, Jack Kirby, Harvey Kurtzman, R. Crumb, Gary Panter, Chris Ware, and Art Spiegelman.

Kurtzman and Crumb — among the more prolific — would be the hardest to assemble, and the Gasoline alley reprint series didn’t get too far. But handsome editions of Little Nemo, Krazy Kat, Popeye, Dick Tracy, Terry and the Pirates, Peanuts, THE SPIRIT, and Kirby’s major works for Marvel and DC have all been collected. Spiegelman’s output is slim but most of it is in print. Ware’s and Panter’s work has been in so many formats that a complete set is basically impossible — but the emblematic work is not hard to come by.

Looking beyond this lauded group, the key work of the Hernandez Brothers, Dan Clowes, John Stanley, Alan Moore, and Herge is all available. Lynda Barry is getting the complete works treatment. You can buy Little Orphan Annie reprints and Prince Valiant and now Pogo. Anders Nlsen, John Porcellino, and Carol Tyler have been collected.

Our comics heritage is accessible — and that has never existed in this country before. Huge props to Fantagraphics, IDW and Drawn & Quarterly for leading the charge on this.

Many master great cartoonists have now had the resources to publish a body of work that could potentially stand the test of time.
While I was writing about Chester Brown the other day it dawned on me how important it is for an artist of his caliber to have his work in print. This is a guy who started out drawing a story about a man who couldn’t stop shitting, after all, and now he’s a master.

The best part of cleaning up is organizing everything, and putting all the books by one author together. It gave me great pleasure to assemble a single shelf containing the works of Bryan Talbot, Carla Speed McNeill, Richard Sala, and Paul Pope. Not that they have anything in common…and that’s the point. Sala’s work is so consistent and marvelous for over nearly 30 years; FINDER gets deeper and more magical with every page; Pope’s works are sporadic but create a lyrically violent world of sex and drugs; has there ever been a cartoonist who tackled so many subjects as Bryan Talbot? From child abuse to dystopic science fiction, steampunk funny animals, and a a scholarly exegesis on the history of one town?

Putting together the works of Posy Simmonds, Rick Geary, Kyle Baker, Marjane Satrapi, Seth, Tom Hart, Natsume Ono — that there is some good shit, and it’s only scratching the surface.

Man, there have been a ton of books about comics in the last 10 years.
I counted three separate surveys of artists in their studios, and a surprising number of “The [finite amount] of GNs you must read!” surveys. These are not all going to fit into the house, so some culling is going to occur. I can tell you one thing up front — I’m keeping the ones by Paul Gravett. Also, cartoonist bios. Haven’t read them all!

The self-publishing scene has sure improved in the last 15 years.

In a long unopened short box I found an envelope of comics that had been given to me at a long ago SPX back when it was a Sim-model self-publishing fair. They all looked so horrible that I chucked them all — behavior quite unusual for me. By contrast, even the student publications from last year’s SVA show were so professional and cute looking that I couldn’t bear to do anything but shove them into another shoe box.

What do you do with mini-comics?

Not just minis but little publications like SULK and MORNING STAR and so on. You can make colorful piles of them on one cube of an Expedit or put them in a mag file or just shove them in a shoebox…but none of these solutions seem ideal to me.

• While I was cleaning up I found a few promising first efforts by cartoonists little heard from since. Maybe I will do a few spotlights on them over the next few weeks. Also, at least one publisher, when their books were assembled, displayed such an odd esthetic that it deserves a thorough retrospective which maybe I will do before I die. No promises.

• I love my paper world.


  1. It’s odd that I don’t hoard anything but geek stuff. No piles of newspapers, tea sets, old tools or dead cats. Just comics, art, statues and action figures. And that stuff is in storage or displayed in the “man cave” downstairs. Everything else about the house pretty much qualifies as “normal.”

  2. “I will, however, never get rid of my original runs of Sandman, Preacher and Invisibles because they had the cool letters pages which were all the contact we had with the industry before the internet.”

    Right there with you, and ditto for Starman, at least while James Robinson was answering the letters, and Denny O’Neil’s run on the Question (I still need to work my way through all of his reading recommendations)

  3. After many decades of compulsively buying Marvel comics, I finally sold the entire lot (about 8700 comics!), and am now rebuilding my Marvel universe via Masterworks and trades. I’m buying them one at a time in reading order. The other stuff (about 5000 more!), I’m slowly selling on ebay by the long box and replacing with trades if necessary. It was difficult to part with the core of my collection for some reason, but I certainly freed up a ton of space. It’s was interesting to go through all those long boxes and find stuff I never read or even knew I had. Fortunately, I have a dedicated room and an understanding wife.

  4. I believe the Vertigo “Moonshadow” has the final chapter missing from the Marvel/Epic edition. If it is the Graphitti Edition, place it in storage. Those early hardcover limited editions are rare, and you’ll probably be able to sell it in a few decades for thousands. (Jon J. Muth has a huge following as a children’s illustrator, J. M. Dematteis is ready to become an overnight sensation.) Sure, almost every hardcover published by Graphitti and Eclipse has been reprinted, but those 1980s editions are usually signed/numbered/tipped in.

    Mini comics… I suspect that DVD shelving/storage would work best for that size.

    Chucked minis? *SOB* The Lost Generation of comics… most will probably never be read, but will probably still give an insight into the era, just like all of the black-and-white indy publishers during the 1980s. Surely a university with a fanzine collection would have given them a nice home… Or Ohio State, or Michigan State, or Virginia Commonwealth…

    This isn’t the Golden Age of Reprints, this is the Renaissance. Old Masters are being rediscovered, comics heritage from other cultures are being imported, and new creators are being inspired and encouraged.

    Portfolios are nice, map cases are nicer. (Check out Colleen Doran’s studio…
    http://adistantsoil.com/2011/01/26/martha-stewart-craft-furniture/ )

    Oh, and if you have a lot of back issues… try a lateral file cabinet, with dividers. I saw this at Legend Comics in Omaha, and works perfectly! Stack figurines, Absolute Editions, mattresses on top!

  5. Sometimes I feel I’m the only one left in the world that still loves single issue floppies, and owns less than ten trades/archives/hardcovers. I just love owning each and every issue of a series/mini. In fact, if I own a trade, I’ll usually go searching for the single issues so I can get rid of the trade (just did this with Frank Miller’s Ronin, and the Pander Bros. Grendel run.) Crazy, I know! I do it all backwards?! Ha!

    Every time I try to purge my collection, it turns into when you try to clean out your closet or the attic or something. Stuff you haven’t seen in ten years, and yet you suddenly go “Oh, that looks good! I’ll hold on to this to read next! Wow, I should read this too!” just to put them back into their boxes, to be unearthed ten years later, again.

  6. I am with Nathan. I recently found a #3 of a four-issue series, and I debated the cost of buying the trade over the #1, #2, #4 and the single issues won out. The old ads and letter cols can’t be beat.

  7. For mini-comics, while it doesn’t work for HUGE numbers, I have found that having some small tins on a coffee table with assorted mini-comics in them are a great thing to have out when guests come over.

    For larger numbers, I originally kept them in hanging file folders; now I use the plastic shoeboxes from (yes, yes) the Container Store. They’re just the right size, they can then be put on shelves or under the bed or in the closet, and they’re quite durable.

  8. Given unlimited storage space, I’d be right there with you, Nathan. I prefer the single issues by a mile.

    But eventually I ran out of space, and transferring my new purchases to digital via the iPad, plus replacing some old floppies via Comixology and the Dark Horse app seem to be the way of the future for me.

  9. I’ve gotten pretty good about not keeping doubles of comics I have in TPB form, or TPBs I have in hardcover form. The exceptions to that are when something is autographed.

    I need to do another cleaning soon.

  10. I have a long box full of mini’s, but … yeah, it feels like such a mess and not really that good for them. I know artists like the flexibility of making comics in whatever shape they want, but the reality is that a standardized side is best for preserving and story everyone’s really beautiful work over time. No matter how carefully I sort minis in my boxes, some of them always end up getting a bit bent up by the weird ways their weight lies on each other. Oh well…

    But profiles of some promising talent that disappeared would be awesome Heidi! I have often thought about this too!

  11. For mini-comics, put them in photo albums. The plastic sleeves for photos are perfect for holding minis, then the albums go on shelves

  12. Another guy that prefers floppies over trades.

    I love having multiple full runs of comics. I love the ads and the letter columns, I love the way they feel and the way they smell.

    I used to have lots of trades and hardcovers but found that I hardly ever looked at them. The shiny paper and overly vibrant colors just bug me for books that were printed on newsprint. They just don’t look right. So, I solld all of the monsters that were clogging my book cases and filled a ton of whole in my collection.
    I’ve bought comics for over 35 years but only have around a 1000 comics total. Ever since I was a kid I have constantly traded and sold of chunks of stuff that I bought “just to read”.
    Toys and stuff I get rid of all the time too.

    On occasion my collection has been pretty huge but I’ve always been able to keep it under control. It seems to me that if you buy so much stuff that you can’t organize it and keep it that way, you are probably buying too much stuff.
    I guess that’s why I have never had my pull-list break 30 comics in a month (and usually it sits around 10-15) because I also don’t get the folks that read 50 to a 100 or more comics a month. I don’t see how anyone can really enjoy and appreciate what they are reading if they just zip through a huge volume of stuff like that all the time, let alone ever getting to re-read something.

  13. I guess it was about six or seven years ago that I seriously began to rein in my collection. At the time I did some serious soul searching and I found that I was actually more of an “accumulator” rather than a “collector.” So I’ve become much, much more disciplined about the stuff that I buy and keep. Now I only hang on to the stuff that I re-read over and over again.

    The first thing I did (and this was actually back in the mid-1990s) was to give away almost all of my floppies to friends (I think I have less than a dozen floppies left, and I only hold on to those because they have not been collected yet). It’s amazing how much mediocre stuff I bought when I was younger. So no more long boxes. The boxes are unsightly, and I really hate the magazine format. So no love lost there.

    Then, I deliberately limited myself to two large bookcases to house my entire book collection (graphic novels, art and design books, and “regular” books (fiction and non-fiction)). My modus operandi now is: if I run out of room, rather than let the new stuff pile up I force myself to get rid of some older stuff to make room.

    I’ve found that once I make the decision to get rid of something and remove it, it’s amazing how little I miss it or even think about it. Again, forcing myself to concentrate only on the stuff that I actively revisit over and over again has really helped me become a more discriminating collector. Whereas before I wanted to have the most comprehensive and representative collection possible (with at least one sample from all the “greats”), by actively and deliberately pruning my collection I have identified those artists whose work I really like. There were a lot of cartoonists whose work I held onto for years simply because of their reputation in the field, but which I never, ever looked at. So now I keep only what I really legitimately like. Now my favorites really are my favorites.

    This all tied in with a desire to purge myself of many of my material possessions. It’s not like I’ve become a monk and given everything away, but in doing a personal inventory I found that I wanted to get off the treadmill of simply acquiring more and more stuff. I’m much more selective now and much, much happier because of it.

  14. This essay is certainly topical for me as I “thinned the heard” a bit during the long Thanksgiving Day weekend.

    Comics-wise, I got rid of some manga from the 1980s, but the bulk of the stuff I got rid of were general subject reference books that were usefull for a cartoonist to own in the pre-Internet years, but are basically obsolete paperweights now.

    For example, some of my encyclopedia-of-animals-type books, or books featuring cities of the world, seemed profusely illustrated 30 years ago, but compared to the simplest Google search today, are woefully inadequate.

    So I packed them up in two boxes, took them over to a nearby “Half-Price Books,” and came back with 20 bucks in my pocket.

  15. I also like single issues over trades, at least for things like ongoing superhero serial comics. But I find I buy a lot, lot less of them in recent years, because as the series are written for the trade, each individual issue is less satisfying. So I don’t follow a lot of series I probably would have casually picked up in the past, and then don’t have a particular reason to pick up the trade later. Especially when so many are ‘events,’ and they’re already onto the next event by the time the trade comes out.

  16. I am so glad to find out I’m not the only person who has no idea how to store or file mini-comics.
    Especially those not mini at all.

    What do you do with broad sheet comics?
    Or the big big comics like Kramers 7 or George Sprout?

  17. I’ve read comics for a long time but I’ve never had any urge to keep them – I might have maybe ten trades in my house at any time but that’s it. I read them, I sell them, I buy something else.

  18. Bart — I like the photo album idea, but it would also require some investment, so that is for the future. But what about Morning Star sized stuff?

    The Expedit is the basic building block for all collections. It holds a DOUBLE row of comics-sized trades in each cube — useful if used as a room divider. Each pile is a little less than a short box, so its roomy.

    I’ve made a “Tallboy” shelf on top of the Expedit for George Sprott and smaller. They can be piled up and still look attractive, as the interior decoration books tell you.

    I use one cube of the Expedit for the little oddsized books…they look cute but it is stuffed to overflowing.

    Kramer’s Ergot #7 has been converted into a small side table.

    BTW those minis I threw out for SPX were horrible and from people you never heard of again.

  19. I’m also in the process of culling my comic/toys/books collection, keeping only the stuff I love.

    The rest I am selling/donating/throwing out.

    Like another poster said, you’d be amazed by the amount of stuff you DON’T miss when you get rid of it…

  20. I first need to organize and consolidate my “collection,” some of which have been sitting in boxes since the ’80s and ’90s. It’s gone in spurts, but I did start inventorying stuff using stashmycomics.com (it exists in the cloud, but you can download the lists as spreadsheets).

    I started using 3-ring binders with plastic inserts to save some of the nifty postcards, 8×11 art, etc., that I often get at Comic-Con. They make great scrapbooks. (I started using this to archive some of my own promotional postcards, bookmarks, etc.)

    That sounds like a great way to save minis too….

  21. I sold most of my comics, and only kept the autographed comics and anything before 1960.
    I bought a pile of DC Showcase and Essentials, which are fine. And I still pick up trades and monthlies, in any condition that’s readable but not musty.

  22. I’m on the go a lot and move frequently. I haven’t had a place to call home in 2 1/2 years. I have all my floppies from when I was a kid in storage. Any floppies I’ve bought in the past, I dunno, few years usually get tossed unless it’s something like Ganges. I kinda hope to have a problem of organizing a home someday.

  23. When I was young I bought and read everything. From the late 70s on. At one point I had over 40 boxes that I would move with. 5 years ago, I realized I enjoy comics for reading and not for some fantasy retirement and after selling at a yard sale most of them, every year or two I give all but one box away to neighbor kids ( which is hard sometimes cause you realize that some comics aren’t for kids) I keep only a long box now… a few classic fun comics. The new problem is I’m buying and enjoying so many new DC books that they are starting to stack up faster than I’m use to. Maybe after the 6 month, I’ll gather them together, re-read my favorite and then give them away to a kid(s) that I think will enjoy and might want to buy more. I do buy trades of what I’ve bought monthly if I feel I might want to re-visist later. I say, enjoy the books… read them while eating pizza…re-read them if you’re bored and then find a kid that might be the next you.

  24. I just moved and have been going through a painful self-examination of “am I hoarder like those folks on the TV?” I think the answer is no but it still has been an eye-opener. No couches were buried, so I think I’m ok. If you want to see some really bizarre collections, go look on some of the hard-core Golden Age boards. The collectors will post photos of their tailored, beautiful displays, but then have a gun lying there next to the comics!! Apparently so people don’t get any ideas for a heist? WEIRD and DISTURBING.

    This was the fascinating sentence to me:
    • If money is no object, assembling a collection of the greatest comics of all time is now an afternoon’s work.

    That is AMAZING. And true — and, arguably, it really doesn’t take an infinite amount of zeroes to do this, not even close.

  25. For minicomics–

    The best thing I’ve found is old silverware wooden boxes. They’re like jewelry boxes for silverware, usually lined with velvet, and the minicomics look great in them. You can store the cool wooden box on your bookshelf or elsewhere.

    They usually have a little divider in them that helps separate the forks and knives, etc., but these pull out easily (just grab and pull, it’s usually held in by two nails) and then you have a perfect little velvet display case.

    And I LOVE minicomics. Here’s hoping that even if “floppies” disappear, minicomics will flourish (and I think that’s very possible).

  26. @ Brad
    “The collectors will post photos of their tailored, beautiful displays, but then have a gun lying there next to the comics!! Apparently so people don’t get any ideas for a heist? WEIRD and DISTURBING.”

    Not weird and disturbing. Maybe they like guns. Maybe they like super-heroes with guns. Lord knows, the golden age comics and the pulp magazines were filled with characters using firearms.

    One collector of THE SHADOW displays a dark hat near his collection. It was difficult to find a hero (or villain) who wasn’t wearing a dark hat and cloak in the 1930s.

    Or brandishing a gun.

  27. Thinning the Comics collection?

    ANYTHING and EVERYTHING is candidate for “culling” to me, well…

    Except for:

    Stuff I collected from way back then— those MARVEL STAR WARS, Miller/Janson and Janson DAREDEVILS, post-“Death of Phoenix” Clairemont UNCANNY X-MEN are safe. Have always been a selectivecomics reader/purchaser, so never had to really worry about longnoxes taking over. And even if I have the Collected versions, these floppies with their ink and woodpulp smell will remain safe. Memories of childhood, etc, etc, or adult fetishism thereof, you decide.

    Trade collections in either pb or hb book form that are First Editions (such as those rare, OOP
    initial collected appearances), AND those pbs and hbs I’ve received as Bday/Xmas gifts from family and friends— if even not my choice(s), they stay with the others on my bookshelves. Sort of a book collector this way, and I’m happy with how my Comics Library have built up.

    And most importantly, comics I have SIGNED by the Writer/Artist— have managed to have gone through a HUGE checklist of Comics creators sign and autograph a good part of my collection over the 20+ years of attending Comic-Con, floppies and hbs both, including many of the above. In addition to having my personal copy of their work signed, nothing like having the opportunity to personally talk and discuss with
    these creators, if only just for the merest of minutes… esp. with those Comics folks no longer around. The autographed comics and books serve as mementos of this experience, so, I don’t think I’ll be parting with any of these soon!

    As for the rest: yeah, I often get “buyer’s remorse” with certain comics purchases over the years… so those do manage to get tossed into the Donate pile. Usually these are ‘experimental’ buys just to check out maybe something I’ve missed out on— but thankfully I’ve bought them cheaply from the discounted/Used longboxes or from a Used Bookstore, so I didn’t really lose much. And ever since a BOOK*OFF opened near me, taking those piles of 4-for-$1 samplings of MARVEL and DC’s supermegacrossovereventof[last]year!
    floppies bought at Comic-Con, and those mistaken
    thought-I’d-like-this purchases, I can get credit to buy even more ‘experimental’ buys
    there.(Which can include the latest floppies and pbs/hbs, as it seems like other Comics reviewers bring in their “comp” copies for credit at the store.)

    /happy owner of just 3 longboxes and a medium-sized Comics Bookshelf

  28. My intention is to minimize the size of my physical collection by obtaining digital copies of comics I enjoy, whether from Marvel’s awful and unreadable but completely legal series runs of PDFs on DVD to less legitimate sources. I give away most of my floppies as soon as I fill a short box, which usually takes me two or three months. I only buy trades for stuff I really like or feel reads better in that format, like Mouse Guard.

  29. I’ve got a few years before things get ugly in the Comic Book Room, and hopefully digital pricing will reach the point where it makes sense for me to do so before that time.

    Meanwhile, on my Want list, I do try to make a note of what is out there as both floppies and a trade, and only buy the floppies if I can get them for less than the cost of the trade.

    One thing that I’ve noticed slows me down is that I refuse to buy anything and not read it before filing it away. So time may do as much to prevent things from getting out of hand as money or space.

  30. For oversized books, libraries usually have a “folio” shelf where books are laid flat. Usually, it’s good to use a double-sided bookcase, and lay the books across two shelves. Otherwise, if you stand the book on edge, the thin spine might warp over time.

    If you want something stylish, try an atlas stand. The shelves are on runners, and there’s a nice angled shelf on top for reading. Two to three volumes can be stored in each shelf. Place it next to your map case holding your original art and posters. (You can also use your map drawers for thin oversized books and magazines.)

  31. For the last 2 years, while culling/purging my collection of aforementioned comics/toys/books, I’ve stockpiled stuff that I can’t sell and NO ONE wants.

    My job accepts donations for the ‘Toys for Tots’ program every year at this time. This is the stuff I donate b/c hell, hopefully a kid out there will appreciate it more then I would!

    With the comics I make sets of 5-6 assorted comics per bag, all kid-friendly comics, of course. With this years TFT I must have donated at least 200-300 comics, we’re talking a long box+ worth.

    It felt great doing it. :-)

  32. Hey Torsten – I’ve been thinking about using lateral file cabinets. Any idea of what the long box/lateral drawer ratio is? Most of them look like they’d hold nearly two boxes per drawer, but that really sounds wrong.