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.