Thursday, June 08, 2006

Every Penny

When I went out with Stephane last weekend and talked geek nonstop for three hours, one of the things we discussed was how we store our comic collection. I cringed at the thought of his hodge-podge organization, and he laughed endlessly about my need to categorize everything, as if tracking each of my purchases was somehow overly obsessive. He seemed to accept my desire to alphabetize, and he certainly understood the notion that I need to have everything in pristine condition, but those extra steps I take seemed to confuse my friend and give him great amusement.

But Stephane isn’t the only collector who finds my methods to be a bit anal. Over at the Collector’s Society, svndst1030 wrote, “I used to be like that but I realized how much time I was wasting so I just went to being somewhat organized.” Although he was partially joking and still feels the need to be organized to some degree, I can’t help but think that not only am I not wasting time, I’m actually getting optimal enjoyment from every comic I buy, making them worth the price I pay, if not more.

Let’s take the latest issue of Catwoman as an example. Including shipping and the Mylite2 bag with acid free full back, the issue cost $2.30. In theory, just reading and enjoying the comic a single time is worth $2.99, the book’s cover price. But for me, I enjoyed it many more times, but not by reading the thing over and over (God no, how could I keep the thing mint?).

The first thing I did was stare at and enjoy that gorgeous Adam Hughes cover. Not his best effort, but it still took a considerable effort on my part to tear my eyes away and finally open the book to start reading. Of course, reading takes me a little longer than the average comic reader, too. Not only do I soak in each panel, I also turn each page so slowly and so gently you’d think it would turn to dust if I put too much pressure on it.

Next I took five minutes to enter the issue into my Comic Collector database. Here’s where I store all the information I can think of for that issue: creators, issue number, title, date purchased, purchase price, storyline, characters…you name it. I spelled it all out in this database, loving every mundane moment.

Then I scrutinized the covers, the spine, the pages, looking for every miniscule defect I could find. I spent maybe three minutes on this task, and I enjoyed every second (well, except for that one deflating moment when I noticed the color-breaking spine crease near the top staple on the front cover. D’oh!). After putting my grade report into the database, I searched my Catwoman collection to see if there were others with similar defects on the front cover (lucky for me, this was the first and only). Had I not been taking the time to add the details for each and every issue into my inventory, how could I determine if I was having a consistent problem with spine stress? Just one more advantage of “wasting time.”

After that, it was time to put the book into its bag and seal it up for all eternity. There’s something therapeutic about putting a comic in its clear plastic bag. It’s like returning a baby bird to its nest. It just feels right. It’s natural. Peaceful. And after it was all sealed up, I looked at that cool Hughes cover again, enjoying it even more behind that shiny wall of protection. How does a thin piece of plastic make comic art look better? I don’t know. But ask any fan who uses Mylar bags and he’ll say the same.

After all that, I still wasn’t done. There was even more value to be had for my $2.30 because I now had to flip through my other comics, peaking at each issue for the briefest of moments as I looked for this issue’s final resting place. Once I found its spot, my heart warmed yet again. “Goodbye friend,” I said to myself, already looking forward to the day I’d revisit her. “I’ll be in touch.”

And when I closed the box to shield my precious from the light of day, I said a prayer and thanked the universe for such a lovely thing as a good comic book.

Yes, I spent close to 45 minutes on something most others are lucky to spend 15 minutes on, speeding through on their way to the next story. And for me, it wasn’t a waste of time. Oh no, it was anything but.


Chris Partin said...

AMEN! This is what I try to explain to people when they wonder why I don't read my comics over and over again. Dude! I just spent 30 minutes or more reading and putting the comic into inventory. Sheesh! I'll read it again next year. LOL.

Great post!

James W. Powell said...

Thanks Chris. It's just interesting what most people call "being anal" I call "getting enjoyment out of my purchase." I love every step in the process, and appreciate the fact that I get more enjoyment than the average fan.