Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Why Oh Y do You Taunt Me So?

I was able to say no to the Ex Machina oversize hardcover that collects books I already own. I was able to say no to the Gotham Central oversize hardcover that collects books I already own. But DC has bested me. I simply don't see how I'm going to withstand knowing that there's a Y: The Last Man oversize hardcover that doesn't grace my shelf. I just couldn't take it.

I'm excited about my decision to buy this one. No second guessing this one. I'll enjoy the book many times I'm sure because it's the best series I've ever read. But I have opened the door to double dipping, and what's good for the goose is good for this gander, so I'm afraid it's only a matter of time before I start wondering if an upgraded version of Ex and Gotham wouldn't be welcome after all.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Mmmmm, Covers...

I've been known to buy comics solely for the covers. These books are never to be opened, just enjoyed behind a clean, shiny mylite2. Here's one I have my eye on today. I don't even know who the character is, but I'm considering adding it to my next order. It's the cover to New Exiles #9 ready to ship in August. Alexander Garner's colors are vibrant and enticing. I suppose the woman's face is a little too manaquin, but those colors...those beautiful, beautiful colors...

I also considered briefly the new Secret Invasion: X-Men #1, but then I realized that there were other characters on the cover other than Emma Frost. Once I spotted those other characters, I realized just how stupid the cover is and I crossed it from my list. Still, Emma's looking better than ever...

Of course, this is all fantasy. I won't buy either. Once you slap the title's logo on either of the books, they lose their luster. Besides, I have a house to buy.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Final Chapter?

I went to Barnes and Noble to pick up another Star Wars book. After looking over 5-6 copies, I found one I could live with. Nothing particularly interesting about the book or the purchase, just the fact that I still collect these damn books without reading them. And with 95% of my book collection in boxes in my garage, I'm not even sure I can use the whole "but the spines look so cool on my shelf" reasoning.

Then again, this is the final chapter in the "Legacy of the Force" series. Now's my chance to quite for good. [cue laugh track]

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Just Say No

Has it really been two weeks since I last posted? Time flies when you can't think about collecting. In the last couple of weeks, my mind has been focused on my new home pretty much non-stop, so not only have I not had money to devote to my hobbies, I haven't had time either.

But tonight I placed my order for comics shipping in July. I spent a whopping $41 with shipping. It's like, for the first time in years, I'm curbing my spending. Sure, I've spent under $50 before, but let's face it, anytime I did, it was more to do with the lack of interesting books and less to do with will power.

Not this time. Tonight I found plenty of books I'm interested in, I just decided to say no. And it worked. Who knew? So instead of spending money on comics, I'm saving it up so I can buy a lawn mower, or a new fridge, or the washer/dryer combo. Sure, it'd be cool to move into my new home with a bigger stack of things to read or a shorter list of cards on my list, but you know what? Buying a TV or patio furniture is more important right now.

Wait. Does this mean I've finally grown up? God, let's hope that doesn't last...

EDITED TO ADD: You know, it's funny. Despite all of what I said, I still managed to buy Savage Sword of Conan Volume 4. I still haven't finished volume 1 because I'm not even sure if I like it. So it's good to see that at least some things never change.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Third Time's a Charm

Today is my third wedding anniversary. That's right, three years ago today Stephanie and I tied the knot. It's the best thing I ever did, no question.

While we've been planning a few events for tonight, we've also been fantasizing about what we're going to do with our new house. That's right, just last night we signed the final paperwork that set the whole home buying experience in motion. We close on June 12.

The last few days, with the house and the anniversary talk in the air, I've completely forgotten about collecting. Jumping on eBay to find more football cards, or dusting my first edition books, or soaking in my favorite Adam Hughes covers has been the farthest thing from my mind. Throw the warm Spring weather in the mix and you get a tempered collector's mentality. I'm looking forward to a much needed break.

Although I don't foresee adding to my collections in the coming weeks, I do consider it a necessity to make some more cuts. First thing on the chopping blocks: My Marvel run of Star Wars comics. After that, I feel the dam about to burst. In other words, I don't imagine moving into the house with any comic books.

Let the selling begin...

Monday, April 21, 2008

Buy High, Sell Low

Trying to get rid of a few items to make room on my bookcase. For now, just a few unwanted hardcovers. Based on other eBay auctions, I'll be lucky to get even the cover price of one of these books, let alone price I paid for the bunch. But that's a risk I have to take with a home purchase in my future...

For those interested in what I'm offering up this first time around on eBay, check out my auctions.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Upgrade Central

Noticed a bad trend happening over at DC. For the second time I've noticed an oversize hardcover of material already collected in tradepaperback. This time it's Gotham Central, my all-time favorite series set in Gotham City. But just like Ex Machina, I already own all of the trades. So do I need to upgrade my reading material?

I'm not even sure if this is really a collector's question. It's not the collector in me that is considering the upgrade. I don't feel this urge to own every version of the books I like. As far as the collector goes, all I care about is the first rendition of my favorite stories. For novels, that means a first edition hardcover. For a comic, that's the monthly issue. This is neither.

Instead, it's all about my preferred format. Book publishers make this so easy on me. I love hardcovers and I love the first rendition of a book. Well, those are one in the same. So for me, this is uncharted territory. I dig hardcovers and the oversize art, but does that equate to spending more money on the same story?

I skipped the Ex Machina hardcover collection, but I'll be tempted again once I actually see or hold the thing. Yet one driving factor will be whether or not DC will publish the rest of the material in hardcover, or will my bookcases always look stupid with a mix of hardcovers and softcovers of the same title?

I know it's all about money, but why can't there be a little rhyme and reason behind how comic publishers produce their collected material?

Monday, April 14, 2008

A Fond Farewell?

So I'm reading through DC's solicitations for July 2008 when I'm suddenly thinking it's time to start buying more monthlies. I don't know why, exactly, it just feels like the right thing to do for some reason. When I notice that Catwoman is starring in Detective Comics, I think, what the hell? I might as well dive into a few series to see what's going on. Hell, maybe I'll start reading every issue with Catwoman in it.

Then WHAM! that dream comes crashing down when I read the solicitation for Catwoman #81 and I spot the last words on the marketing blurb: FINAL ISSUE.

Well that blows. I know the title isn't the best on the shelves, but ever since Brubaker took over, I really liked the character. So much so that I was considering reading more of her. I guess that won't be happening now.

I just hope that Adam Hughes takes over the cover chores of another book before too long. At least he's giving her a nice send off. It's almost as if she's telling DC to kiss her well-formed ass.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

What Exactly Are You Doing?

I don't know anything about this Final Crisis thing other than the fact that DC has been leading up to this explosive, life-changing event for what seems like four years. But one thing I do know is that the cover to issue 3 is fantastic. It's downright spooky, and sexy at the same time. It's one of the few covers I've seen in awhile that makes me actually want to read the book to see exactly what the hell's going on.

And knowing me, I'll be buying it to find out. Then again, I'm doubting those red bars on either side of Wonder Woman will be on the final cover, so who knows if that will make the image better or worse. Only time will tell.

Saving Money with Previews

My interest in comics hit an all-time low today when I placed my order for books shipping in three months. The damage came to a mere $52 with shipping. That's the lowest it's been since I started using DCBS a few years ago. And nearly half of that price came with Drawing Words and Writing Pictures, a how-to by Jessica Abel and Matt Madden (which should be a fantastic book).

You know, that isn't exactly true. Yes, that $52 is less than any other order I've placed with DCBS, but my interest in the few comics I did order is actually pretty high. So maybe that's the key? Instead of buying a bunch of comics I'm hoping will be good, I'll buy much less and focus on those that I'm much more positive will be solid reads.

Either way, I saved a few bucks this time around, and that's never a bad thing for a collector.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Same, Only Different

I was surfing Amazon.com this morning and found myself focusing on searching for any and all books devoted to the Green Bay Packers. So I emailed Jason.

"I've decided that I'm totally into buying books on the Packers," I wrote.

He wrote back, "You're just now realizing that?"

"No, I guess not, I just like thinking about it."

Anyway, in my search I discovered the soon-to-be-released updated version of Green Bay Packers: The Complete Illustrated History. I read the first volume and loved it. Now the question is would the information on the 2007 season and Favre's retirement be enough for me to buy the same book twice.

Any modern comic collector understands the variant craze. I'll admit that I've played the sucker a few times and paid out the nose for a comic that is a little more "rare" and features a different cover than the regular version. But this is different, right? This isn't some variant, it's just an updated history book. And wouldn't buying this put me on the edge of a slippery slope? If I buy this one, does that mean I have to buy next year's volume, too? In ten years, will I have 10 volumes of this same book?

Only time will tell, I suppose, but I'm guessing that anyone who's read this blog more than a few times already knows the answer to my questions.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

That's Not Art, That's Just Cool

I might be pulling further and further away from comics these days (don't worry, it's like a rubber band, I'll snap back before Marvel reveals who's a Skrull) but my football card habit just keeps on truckin' full steam ahead.

It's crazy how much I love the Packers. With each passing season, I get more and more drawn into every aspect of the organization. I find myself watching the news earlier and earlier, following the team's transactions throughout the off season. And with every passing year, my collecting gets more and more frenzied, too.

I posted not long ago that collecting comics is so subjective. We collect these pieces of art based on our personalities and what we find appealing. As you've seen, I'm currently learning that fewer and fewer comics strike my fancy, and I'm pulling away from collecting them altogether.

Sometimes my book collecting is at odds with my book reading, too. I'd say that about 30% of my first edition novels remain unread (it's probably more than that, but I hesitate to actually do the math). I have enough books to keep me busy for a few years, but I keep buying them to continually update my collection. At the same time, however, I'm not buying them for the sake of the collection either. It's not all about quantity. I don't get excited by the number of books I have. Instead, I buy them with the hopes that I'll not only one day read them, but that I'll enjoy the story, too. So yes, in other words, nearly half of my collection I have no idea if I actually like.

There's something off putting about that notion. I would never buy a painting with the hopes that I would someday grow to like it, yet here I am, with books and comics all over the place that have yet to strike a chord with me (unless you count my love for cool spines, but you get the idea).

Football cards are totally different. There's no artistic value to them whatsoever. They are 100% collectible items. I could make the argument that they have historical significance to football fans, or that the design work is artistic, but let's face it, I buy them for my collection and nothing more. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy the hell out of 'em: putting them in sleeves, scanning them, posting them to my website, writing about them, talking about them, organizing them, reorganizing them. I get more mileage out of these cards then any kid who puts 'em on the spokes of his bike.

No, I buy a football card to cross it off my list. To finally be able to say I have a complete set. To be the first one on the block with the complete Packers master team set from this year or that brand. While many might scoff at the very notion, I think it makes the collection all that much more significant because there's no other point. It's a collection that doesn't try to be high brow, or intellectual, or cool. It's just a collection.

I think that's why the list of cards I own keeps growing. While I often second guess my book or comic collections or change my requirements for what I consider to be quality art, I'm always going to be a Packers fan and I'm always going to have this urge to buy cardboard. And I'm totally cool with that.

When you look at my comic or book collection, you'll know that what I read says a lot about who I am. My taste in art reflects my soul. For football cards, the collection says nothing more than the fact that I'm a huge Packers fan. Well, it might also say that I'm a little obsessive compulsive (what's the deal with buying the same card ten times, anyway?) and I need to get out of the house more, but you get the idea.

Nope, these cards certainly aren't art...but they're certainly cool.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Just Another Sucker

I haven't updated my blog for awhile because I don't have much to say that hasn't been said. I'm tired of comics and I'm considering selling off the bulk of my collection; not only the trades and OGNs, but also the single issues. It's serious this time. I mean, I look at my collection and wish it would suddenly disappear. I'd rather have the extra space then these books filling up my bookcase and closet.

Of course, that way of thinking won't stop me from heading to Mile High on Wednesday and getting the new issue of Wonder Woman.

Yeah, it doesn't make any sense to me either. Then again, I never said anything I wrote or felt about collecting would make sense.

Actually, the idea of buying a book when I'm this turned off by comics makes my stomach turn a little. Sure, I'm hoping the Gail Simone story will somehow work for me, but the odds aren't in her favor. So yeah, it really doesn't make any sense.

But wait, it gets better.

See, not only am I planning to get that Wonder Woman, I'm also considering spending $50 on a book I know I won't like. Go figure. But something about the Star Wars: Luke Skywalker, Last Hope for the Galaxy hardcover collection has me intrigued. Not so much for any enjoyment I might get out of reading the book, but more about pure speculation. I know Star Wars fans are die hards, and I also know that most of the Marvel omniboo prices on the secondary market went through the roof before Marvel went back to press. I'm not sure if I'll pull the trigger, especially when I realize that every time I've bought something with the hope of turning it into a profit, those plans failed miserably. Plus that cover looks like crap. Sure, it's not the actual cover, Dark Horse is only using the image for "solicitation only," but what does that say for the actual cover?

Yeah, comics suck, but I'm still a sucker.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Spinal Injury

Perhaps I spoke too soon about the latest Hard Case Crime cover. As it turns out, the spine isn't uniform with the rest. It's one of those books that contains two novels where you read one and flip the book to read the other. So the spine has the HCC logo on the top and the bottom.

My good friend Jason pointed it out to me. The only reason I hadn't noticed is that I was heavily medicated when I bought it. That and the fact that I haven't put it on the shelf yet. Now I'm not sure I even want to.

Stupid spines!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Never Judge a Book...

I love these Hard Case Crime covers. Makes me actually want to read one of 'em. I'll have to try that some day.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Spring Cleaning

Two things happened this week. First, I realized that most of the comics I read aren't very good. Second, I had surgery on my knee. As you can probably guess, that second one gave me plenty of on the couch, which translated into plenty of time to read more and more comics. I was hoping to find some that really turned me on to the format again, but unfortunately, what I found were more books to get rid of.

Of the 10+ books I read in the last few days, the only series I liked enough to keep and possibly read again was Catwoman. It started with Cooke's Selina's Big Score and continued in the Brubaker-penned series. These two really created a character I like, with situations that go much deeper than the typical superhero books. As a matter of fact, I plan to keep reading the book under the new writer (Pfeifer) because Brubaker actually got me to care for Selina, Slam, and Holly.

Other books didn't fare so well. While I enjoyed The Other Side by Aaron and Stewart, the story didn't have the emotional impact I was hoping for. I found myself thinking, "This part is supposed to make me sad." It was almost as if I could tell what the storytellers wanted me to feel, I just couldn't feel it.

There were still others that were decent reads but still left me feeling cold, such as Supermarket by Wood and Kristian, Filler by Spears and G, and Hazed by Sable and Rodriguez. Essential X-Factor Volume 1 made me realize I had bad taste as a kid, too. Right now I'm diving into the hardcover Superman/Batman titles I have. If I remember correctly, the first volume was pretty good, but the series went downhill from there.

I'm not sure where I'm going with this post. I guess I'm growing more and more disillusioned about comics everyday. My plan is to read every book I own and get rid of anything I don't plan to read again. On top of that, I've already read through the newest Previews and I won't be ordering more than a few books.

I should mention that there are plenty of great comics I won't be reading this weekend. I love Invincible and Walking Dead and The Goon and Y: The Last Man. It's just that those titles make up less than a third of my shelf space, and I'd like to believe that there's something more out there, even if it means I have to go out and find it.

Well, I'm off to read some more. I have plenty of reading material left to go through. I just hope I can find something that I like before my entire bookcase is stripped clean.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Comics Suck

For the last month and a half, I've put aside all prose and focused my reading time on comic book tradepaperback collections and original graphic novels. Want to know what I found? That comics suck. At least most of them.

I know that sounds harsh. I also know that there are some great stories to be had in comic format. Unfortunately, those stories are few and far between. What I've found in the last month (and in the last five years) is that most comics are a fun diversion at best. And when it comes time to defend comics, everyone mentions a few key classics and moves on, continuing to read more and more garbage with the hopes that something new will come along that will fit in with those other greats of the format.

Unfortunately for this collector, I can't remember the last comic that grabbed me by the balls and wouldn't let go. The last comic that toyed with my emotions in such a way that I couldn't get rid of that feeling for days. Is it too much to ask for a comic story to make me feel something? To come away from the book changed in some way? Can't comics be good enough that they're more than just a way to pass the time?

I can think of a large number of novels and memoirs that impacted me in that way. I can think of an even larger number of movies. Sure, I realize that for every movie or book that strikes a chord for me there are 1000s that wouldn't, so in theory the same should hold true for comics. It just doesn't seem that way. It seems that bad comics are the norm, not the exception.

I realize that something else might be at play here. Maybe it's just that for movies and books, I've learned to pick and choose which ones I'm fairly certain I will enjoy and that the older I get, the better I am at picking winners.

With comics it's a total crap shoot. With comics, you can use Previews to order a book three months in advance, or you can base your purchases on word of mouth and reviews. With the former, you're basing your purchase on little more than assumptions because the solicitations give you very little to go off of. And don't get me started on reviews. I'm yet to find a comic reviewer who is unbiased enough to write a review that actually helps me make an informed decision. You get fan boys who love everything, or you have indie fans who love everything. Still others are trying to break into the business and would never go so far as to say which comics stink for fear of pissing off the wrong people.

Yet as my trade and OGN collection continues to grow with books I'll never read again, I need to put some serious thought into how I purchase these books. Using Previews isn't working for anything new. Sure, if I've read the title or writer before, I can be certain I'll enjoy this next volume. But for something new? How do you make an informed decision on a new comic?

I'm not sure what the answer is, but you can bet this month's order form will be anemic. After that, who knows. Perhaps it's time to do away with the whole buying new mentality, and only buy those key books that attain classic status years after they hit the shelves. The collector in me balks at that idea. I can't imagine how hard it would be to find pristine first editions that late in the game. But maybe it's time to quiet that part of me and focus on the reader, the part of me who loves comics and wants to see comics succeed. Of course, that might be a difficult proposition because the only way I can get back on that bandwagon is actually reading something good, and doing so consistently.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

A Close Call

Drove down to Mile High after work today just to get the latest issue of Catwoman (gotta keep my Hughes cover collection alive). Naturally, I had a look around despite the fact that I have too many trades and graphic novels already. Next thing I know, I'm this close to buying a Star Wars collection. Even went so far as to talk to Aaron and a customer about which series is the best.

Somehow, I talked myself out of it (okay, not really...the one I wanted wasn't a first edition), but then I was immediately drawn to the Catwoman collections. I was about to pick up one of them when I realized I never read the last one and still have it on my shelf, untouched.

It was almost as if I felt bad for driving that far for a single comic, so I was looking to buy more to make the trip worth it. Or maybe it's the fact that spending money is a habit, and only getting one $3 fix wasn't enough.

Regardless, cooler heads prevailed and I picked up just the one issue.


Monday, March 17, 2008

Favre From Over

It's Sunday. I’m in Boulder to celebrate my wife’s birthday with eating, conversing, and shopping. I’m already having a fantastic day when we step into the Boulder Bookstore. I have blinders on as I rush past the new fiction shelves and make my way for the newsstand. I’m a man on a mission. I mean, if any bookstore in Colorado is going to have copies of the Sports Illustrated Brett Favre tribute, it’s going to be in Boulder. They may be out of the latest issue of Vegetarians in Need or Fun with Tofu, but a football magazine should be readily available…assuming they ordered any in the first place.

I turn the corner just past the new fiction shelf and head for the magazines. My eyes are drawn immediately to the bottom row where I see, in all their glory, at least 20 copies of the Favre tribute. It’s as if I've died and gone to Cheesehead Heaven.

I spend the next 10 minutes looking at each copy, weeding out the obviously unacceptable ones and slowly narrowing down my choices until I have three copies to choose from. I look at these three with even more scrutiny. My attention to detail pays off as it turns out one of them has a slightly off-center spine. Just like that, I have the two copies that are going home with me.

I’m not done yet, though. I can’t head to the cashier without looking over the eight copies of the weekly edition of Sports Illustrated; it has a tearful Favre on the cover and features a story on Favre’s retirement so I might as well pick up one of those, too. It only takes me a few minutes to choose the best copy because all but one has serious spine damage. How this one copy managed to escape unscathed is beyond me, but it’s clear the Collecting Gods are smiling down on me today.

I’m all smiles as I walk to the cashier, yet there’s a tugging at the back of my mind. Something’s amiss. Disaster is looming. But the feeling is elusive; I can’t pin it down. Maybe it’s the excitement of getting my hands on these magazines, but for whatever reason, I discard my instinct to hide.

At the cash stand, the big woman with too much cleavage for a bookstore clerk pushes herself off of the counter with a huff. She takes one last slurp of her 80-ounce drink and puts it on the counter mere inches from my pristine magazines. The cold sweat on the plastic cup drips onto the counter.

Her nonchalance paralyzes me. If I were on my game, I’d make an excuse and pull back to get my bearings, to make a plan. But my judgment is cloudy. I’m not thinking straight. I can’t move. The collector in me is yelling to grab my magazines and run, to move over to the next cashier, the one who’s handling Stephanie’s books with care. Anything to save those magazines.

I hesitate. And just like that, disaster strikes. Only it does so in slow motion.

“Oh, Beckham is quitting?” the slob says, reaching for the magazines.

My heart plummets. What did she say? Quitting? Beckham? What?

Her large left paw slides under the spine of the top magazine, the green one. Her thumb presses down on the spine as her other digits push up from underneath, bending the magazine into an L-shape. The spine buckles. I can almost hear it scream as a white crease spreads across the pristine forest green cover.

“Oh, that’s just Favre,” she says, letting the magazine flop back to the counter as she turns to enter prices into the computer.

I’m numb. Her voice is distant, muffled. I can’t respond. All I can do is stare at what once was a perfect spine. I hand her my credit card, a zombie unaware of my surroundings.

The next thing I know, I’m outside with Stephanie, walking to the car.

“What’s wrong?” she asks with worry in her voice. “Honey, are you okay?”

“Did you see that? She totally bent the spine. Practically folded it in half,” I tell her. I’m not really sure where I am. I’m still in a daze.

I don’t speak again until the magazines are set safely in the backseat of the car and we’re reading a menu at some Latin lunch spot. I can’t read the menu; my mind is still fighting its way out of the fog. It takes awhile, but I finally start to get my bearings.

“Can we stop at another bookstore on the way home?” I ask.

Stephanie just smiles and says, “Of course.”

Ah, that’s better. Not as good as already having a nice copy, but it’s a start. This whole Favre thing is far from over, but at least I have a plan.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Where Are You Favre?

I think Favre left the game too early, but who knew the Sports Illustrated magazine would vacate store shelves so fast, too? I mean, I'm living in Denver, Colorado. Why the hell can't I find this damn magazine? It's only been out for five days, and I've searched everywhere all week, stopping at a couple of different spots everyday. I've tried supermarkets, numerous book stores, sports card shops, you name it. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Not even a beat up copy lazy customers read in the store.

I know Favre has a big fan base, but are there really that many Favre fans that I can't find one single copy? Or is it more realistic to think that all of these magazines went straight to Wisconsin?

Good grief, I just want a nice, pristine piece of history. Is that too much to ask for?

Friday, March 14, 2008

Now That's Just Plain Savage

When will I ever learn?

I headed down to the local comic shop today to pick up a copy of the new Wonder Woman. The previous Gail Simone issues were fantastic, and this is the last issue with a cover by Terry Dodson, so I figured I better buy it. I'm still not sure if I want to "collect" the title, and I'm also tossing around the idea of collecting Terry Dodson covers, so either way, until I make those decisions, I might as well stay current and enjoy the story, right?

So I'm at a comic shop buying a book for reasons that don't exactly add up, when the entire equation takes another turn for the worse. As I'm selecting the best copy of Wonder Woman 18, I spot a copy of The Savage Sword of Conan Volume 2, the new black and white collection from Dark Horse. Lucky for me, it's got several dings on the cover and spine, so I put it back.

Who cares, right? I can find the book later. Besides, I'm not enjoying the first volume that much anyway. Sure, the art's gorgeous, but the stories themselves are consistently weak, seemingly written from a template with little originality or drama. So putting the second volume on the shelf seems to make the most sense.

That's what I tell myself anyway, until I spot three more copies of the book on a shelf near the front counter. Naturally, the selection makes me stop, and I find one that's in good enough (ie perfect) shape. I flip through it, see that the art isn't as good as what I'm seeing in the first volume, and walk up to the counter to buy it. (Yes, you read that correctly.)

"Didn't I suggest you buy this book last week?" Aaron asks as he rings me up.

"Yeah, but I'm not done with the first volume," I say. "And it's not that good anyway."

"Then why are--" Aaron starts to ask, but I cut him off by holding up my hand and shaking my head.

"Don't ask."

As I walk to my car, I ask myself what makes me think volume two will be in any better than the first one and thus worth the purchase. The answer is nothing. Nothing at all. If anything, I'm sure I'll like it even less based solely on the art I saw while flipping through the book.

At this point, you might be asking yourself, "Then why did you buy it?" God, I have no idea. If I did, I wouldn't be writing this damn blog every few days.

Actually, that's not entirely true. There was a least one more factor at play that I didn't mention: the damn spine. That's right, I knew volume one on my shelf would look okay, but with volume two next to it, they would create quite the nice pair. And as they say, one book is just a book, but two is a collection.

Yep, it turns out I now collect The Savage Sword of Conan reprints.

Good grief, what's wrong with me?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

First Edition Book Guy

In The Simpsons Treehouse Of Horror VIII, The Homega Man, Comic Book Guy walks down the street reading a comic book. "But Aquaman, you cannot marry a woman without gills, you're from two different worlds," he says.

He spots a missile approaching, and says, "Oh, I've wasted my life."

To a minor degree, that's how I feel today. Only without the humor.

See, over at the Collectors Society, delekkerste started a thread about a first edition hardcover copy of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged he recently purchased. He tells the story of how important the book is to him, and how he not only purchased one copy, but he also picked up an upgrade because the first wasn't pristine enough.

I quickly threw a couple of comments into the mix, mostly about my growing collection of modern first editions. Two things happened not long after: The conversation turned to how modern firsts are practically worthless, and then I admitted to "collecting" Jodi Picoult.

Good Lord, I've wasted my life.

Don't get me wrong, my moderns bring me plenty of joy and I don't care too much about their value on the secondary market (after all, books are meant to be read, not collected, right?). I've always been content watching my collection grow one $25 book after another, but seeing the pictures of the Rand books was enough to make me second guess myself.

I've been reading and buying first editions for almost 15 years, and I've always wanted to own a first edition copy of one of the great classics, like Catcher in the Rye, or In Cold Blood. Hell, even a first edition of Ender's Game would be a special treat (especially since I have 20 or more of Card's other, lesser known and less expensive novels). So what the hell is keeping me from making one of those larger purchases? What's keeping me from becoming a true book collector who researches old volumes before making an informed purchase?

Is the power of instant gratification really so overwhelming that I can't save the money? I mean, think about it. On just one shelf of the bookcase behind me, I have 12 first editions I've never read. One shelf. I don't even want to count the others because my guess is I've read less than 40% of the books I've purchased in the last 10 years. Assuming I bought them at some sort of discount, the books on that one shelf cost me at least $200 not to read.

Don't get me wrong. I know that $200 won't pay for many of the books I'm interested in (the Salinger book sells for $10,000+), but wouldn't that $200 be better served as a down payment to something...bigger? Something more important than a modern book I can find at any used book store?

For example, what about those Barsoom books I've always wanted? My love of Edgar Rice Burroughs is no secret, so why not start a serious collection of Burroughs books instead of spending my money on Jodi Picoult or those damn Star Wars novels I don't even like?

At this point all I have is questions I don't know the answer to. I've asked myself these questions before, and nothing ever comes of it. My guess is tomorrow I'll surf some online book shops, research costs on a few books, and get as far as emailing a bookseller about a particular book's condition. After that, I'll go back to buying something inexpensive I won't read, then I'll BroDart the cover for its protection.

After that, as I'm putting the new book where it belongs on the shelf, I'll question my reasons for making the purchase. And because the answer is too elusive, I'll smile at the new book's spine and just shrug.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

The Real Reason I Buy Picoult

"I still can't believe you bought another Jodi Picoult book," Stephanie said today as I showed her the newly organized bookcase.

"Why?" I asked, knowing full well where this conversation was going.

"You don't even like her," she said.

"Her books are okay," I said.

My wife just looked at me, waiting for me to admit the real reason I have three of her novels sitting on my shelves.

"Okay, do you really want to know why I bought that last one?" I asked. She responded in the affirmative, but her eyes told me she'd just as soon clean the toilet. "Because they look cool on the shelf."

"I knew you were going to say that," she said, walking over to the books and pointing at them. "I saw them and knew you'd like the fact they say Jodi Picoult real big, with the book title in the same font right next to her name on all three. You're such a sucker for marketing."

I just laughed. As she walked off down the hallway, I shouted after her, "But you have to admit, they do look cool right next to each other."

And they do. I might not be the world's biggest Picoult fan, but after buying two, I knew I'd be a collector just because they have a nice, unified spine design. They look great together. As a matter of fact, I can't wait to get more (although I'm hoping that future volumes are the same height...the spines look great next to each other, but it bothers me that each new one is slightly taller than the last).

Hell, the nice set design is the same reason I buy Ben Bova's "World Tour" books and that's why I have the entire Dune prequel/sequel series despite never having read a single one. That's right, I haven't read any of them, but they look great sitting next to each other. And the more I get, the better they look.

Same goes with the Hard Case Crime books. Of course, I've read a few of those, and they're great reads, but its the covers and the spine unity that keeps me coming back for more each and every month. I just love standing in front of that shelf, soaking in the cool, cohesive look of those spines.

Call me a sucker all you want, but I might be one of the few who gets extra enjoyment each time I look at my bookcase. As they say, don't judge a book by its cover, judge it by its spine.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Now That's Eclectic

I had one of those experiences at the bookstore today where I had to pause and question my sanity. I stood just inside the entrance of my local Borders, turning copy after copy of Change of Heart over and around in my hand, trying to find the perfect copy, the one with the tight spine, snow-white pages, and flawless dust jacket. This OCD episode wasn't weird in and of itself, and neither was the fact that a 35-year-old man was looking to buy the latest Jodi Picoult book, although you might find both of them to be on the crazy side.

No, what was weird about today's trip to the bookstore was walking up to the counter with the Picoult book and a second novel I found just moments later. What an interesting pair they made. On the one hand, you have the Picoult novel, loved and praised by housewives around the world, and on the other, you have Zero Cool, the latest Hard Case Crime offering by John Lange, soon to be devoured by men seeking an escape into the darker side of crime. The cover of one book features a young girl standing in a room of soft, warm light, which gives off this feeling of both sadness and fright. The second cover features a half-naked "broad" and screams sex and dark, pulpy violence.

"Who the Hell am I?" I thought to myself, soaking in both covers as I waited in line. For the briefest of moments, I felt...dirty, like I was some sort of dysfunctional pervert. I looked at the Picoult cover and thought, "What would Jason think?" And then I looked at the Lange cover and thought, "What would Mom think?"

Don't get me wrong, I don't feel ashamed about the things I like, and even though my friends like to laugh at my taste, it doesn't bother me (neither does the questioning look the cashier gives me as she rings me up). Instead, what's a little off about this whole episode is that this weekend I'm going to slide that Picoult book onto a shelf where it will be surrounded by a detective novel here, a science fiction novel there, a horror novel right there, and a memoir over there.

Most readers (and collectors) I know tend to lean towards one, maybe two genres. But not me. I need to be all over the map. I can't pinpoint exactly what I like, and if a stranger were to look at my bookcases, he might wrinkle his brow or shake his head, wondering what this eclectic collection says about its owner. Meanwhile, I just shrug, being no closer to an answer myself, but content enough in the knowledge that I'm getting some level of enjoyment from each of the books in my rag tag collection.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

A Legend on Cardboard

As you probably already know, Brett Favre announced his retirement today. I'll admit to being a little saddened by the news. Was he really leaving? But I'm an adult, so after the initial shock wore off, I thought less about myself and more about the Packers future. Just how the hell will be Packers do anything next year with Aaron Rodgers under center? That's when Favre's retirement hit me. This could be a loss the Packers feel for years.

Then the whole retirement issue hit even closer to home: I didn't have nearly enough Favre cards in my collection. Not three minutes after hearing the news, and I was wondering if anyone would notice if I ran home and checked eBay before prices really go through the roof.

Naturally I calmed myself down and didn't skip the rest of the day at work to surf for Favre cards (of course, if they'd just let me access eBay at work it would be so much easier for all of us). But even as I spent the day reflecting on the great quarterback's career and how fortunate I was to see several of his games, not to mention how fortunate I was just to watch the entire Favre era from beginning to end, I also spent some time considering my collection, which as cool as I think it might be, just happens to be way too thin on Favre cards.

Why is that? How could a Packers fan who's been collecting cards consistently for nearly six years not have enough Favre cards. Well, see, at the beginning of the 2007 season, I sold off all of my Favre cards, at least those that weren't produced by Topps and SP Authentic, the two sets I collect year in and year out. I'll admit that even at the time, it felt funny letting them go, but I knew that it was for the greater good of the collection. It wasn't so much that I was getting rid of Favre cards, it was more about adding to my Packers collection.

I'm a team collector. I want every Packers card from Topps and SP Authentic that I can get my hands on, so it was somewhat liberating to sell those cards that didn't fit the specific requirements I had set for my collection, even if they were "rare" or had a piece of a Favre game-used jersey.

Now, however, I wonder if that's true. Sure, I love the fact that I have every 2007 Topps Chrome Packers card, but are 5 Brandon Jacksons and 8 David Clowneys really worth even one Favre jersey card?

At the time, definitely. The thrill of the hunt had me by the balls, and being the first to show off the rainbow set was kinda cool. But now that I look back and the excitement of those stupid colors has worn off, I think I would rather have a handful of Favre cards.

Sure, my collection is nice, tight, and focused now. And not many people have the entire rainbow of 2007 Bowman Chrome Packers cards (not even me, apparently...why the hell did I never finish that set?). But now the best Favre cards I have are a graded 1991 Topps and a handful of his SPA gold cards numbered to 25. Not all that exciting. Not when you consider that Favre is the greatest QB to wear the green and gold.

So even as I type this, I search eBay for Favre cards to buy. The analyzer in me is screaming for me to at least first buy those expensive Favre autographs that are on my list, so that way I'm at least sticking with the standards I've set for my collection. But those are costly and hard to find, so I'm not sure if that will satiate my desire to do something in Favre's honor right here, right now.

Oh, I got it. I can start another collection. Yeah, that sounds about right. It's the least I can do to pay tribute to Favre for all the excitement he's given this Packers fan.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

How Many Times Must I Buy This?

I'm heading to Florida for an extended 4-day weekend of relaxing, eating fish, and visiting Stephanie's parents. I don't have any reading material for the plane (or rather, nothing I'm willing to risk damage to by taking it on a plane) so this afternoon I headed downtown to the used bookstores on Broadway to see if I could find any Edgar Rice Burroughs books.

Of course I found plenty. I wasn't at Fahrenheit Books for more than three minutes before I had reading copies of books 4 through 8 of the Barsoom series in my hand. I was scanning the rest of the ERB shelf when it struck me: I had books 1 through 6 in a box somewhere in my garage. All I needed to do was open the right box and there was no need to buy most of those reading copies.

Not only that, but this would be the fifth time I bought this series of books. I read the set as a kid, then again in high school, then again in college, and once more a few years ago (these copies are the ones in the box somewhere). Why the hell couldn't I just keep the same copies and read them more than once? Why did I find myself buying the same books over and over again? Or perhaps the better question should be, just how many copies of these damn books must I buy?

I didn't have time to answer that. Instead, I hurried over to the rare paperback corner and found some fine Ballantine first print copies of books 6 (The Master Mind of Mars) and 9 (Swords of Mars). Now these were two books I had no problem buying: I've never had copies with these covers, they were in great condition, and they were first prints of these versions. Perfect.

When I noticed the 50% off sign in the window, I knew I wouldn't be digging around in my garage any time soon. With seven Edgar Rice Burroughs books in my hand, I headed for my car. Of course, before I made it there, I stopped by two other bookstores and found the first three books, too.

When I got home, I poked around online and found a whole bunch of other versions of these same Mars books: different publishers, different cover art, different cover pricing. There are at least 5 different covers from at least 3 different publishers (the UK versions might be the coolest), and I know I'll eventually have them all. I just need to do some research first. See, with books this old, there's no readily apparent marks to distinguish a copy as a first print. At least, not that I can tell.

Yep, it looks like I have plenty of research to do. Not to mention more books to buy. So I guess I have the answer to my question, after all: "at least a few more."

Monday, February 25, 2008

Good Guys Finish...Never?

I spent some time this weekend thinking about which comics I might want to start reading again, and of course, that led me to thinking about which titles I might want to start collecting. Thankfully, I didn't get far. Why? Because after tucking my new Adam Hughes comics into their plastic cocoons and sliding them behind their brothers and sisters in the closet, I poked around my other boxes of comics. And what did I find? A whole bunch of incomplete sets.

That's right. In all of those boxes of comics I'm currently "collecting" I found a whole bunch of unfinished runs. Star Wars: 80% complete. Warlord: 80% complete. John Carter: 30% complete. And the worst of the bunch? Further Adventures of Indiana Jones: 97% complete. That's right, 97% complete. All I need is the last issue, #34. Good grief. I need one more issue? That's it? One?

Why the hell couldn't I finish that set? After years of "collecting" that title, why am I still without that one book? Is it expensive? No. Is it rare? No. So what gives?

I'll admit that my collections are rather modest. I just want to own some mint copies of the books I read as a kid. Because I read most of my comics in the early 80s, none of these books are particularly difficult to find and none will put too big of a dent into my wallet. Maybe that's part of the problem? Are they so easy to find that it somehow makes the "hunt" unfulfilling enough that the notion of still hunting is way more exciting? Would putting the collection to rest be so anti-climatic that it's not worth my time to actually do so?

I've stated before that the new stuff is often more important than the items I already own, but it looks like I'm taking that idea to the extreme. Not only are the things I haven't bought more enticing, but the collections I haven't started are even more so. Why else would I be looking into new things to collect when I haven't got a single complete set in my comic boxes? (Don't even get me started on my Packers collections or my book collections. Those are even worse, with one incomplete set after another.)

For now, I've managed to temper my lust for new things to collect (unless you consider my request for help finding the artist to do my next Dejah Thoris commission). My hope is that I can keep my desire for new things under wraps until I can at least get closer to finishing some of those sets.

And who knows. Maybe if I actually finish something, the feeling will be so overwhelming that I can't help but try it again. Just don't hold your breath...

Saturday, February 23, 2008

I Bought a Comic...

...okay, I bought seven. Well, nine if you count the trades I picked up, but who's counting? And I gotta say, it felt great. I walked into Mile High Comics and for the first time in ages I walked out with more than the latest Previews. Buying books online saves a lot of money, but there's nothing like talking with a friendly, knowledgeable clerk (Aaron is one cool cat) about comics and then actually holding something physical when you turn over the money instead of getting an email that says you'll get your merchandise in 7 to 10 days.

So what would bring this comic collector out of hibernation? Adam Hughes. The man's got talent, and I couldn't see my Hughes Catwoman collection fall short of completion. I owed it to my collection, right? Or maybe it's something else entirely, something closer to what Aaron said: "So you just like girls with big boobs?"

Before we go down that path, let's take a step back for a minute and look at what drove me to stop collecting monthlies in the first place. Nearly a year ago, I realized that monthlies had fallen out of favor with me when I realized I had a stack of unread comics. Those books ended up in white boxes and I read the arcs I already owned in tradepaperback form. I liked reading the entire story in one sitting, so what was the point of the monthlies? Within a few months I sold all but what I considered my essential comics, and it was clear I had broken the comics collecting habit.

Flash forward to football season. In the heart of the NFL playoffs, I was scurrying to buy up every Green Bay Packers football card I could find. Ebay was loaded with 2007 Bowman and Bowman Chrome cards I needed for my sets, and I was quickly getting over my head with expenses. Football cards aren't cheap when you're buying 10-15 a week.

I needed money to support the seasonal expenses, so I turned to my comic collection and decided to trim the fat. The Packers were heading to the NFC Championship game, and all that mattered was football. Aside from my near-complete runs of Indiana Jones, Star Wars, and Warlord, and the graded John Carter books, I could get rid of anything in my collection. Or so I told myself.

I quickly sold my graded X-Men books. And then my Spider-Man issues. No big deal, really. Not when I knew this additional money would help pad my Packers collection. I was running out of books to sell, but next on the chopping block were all of my Frank Cho books.

I pulled them out and went through them to determine exactly what I had. God those were lovely covers. Cho really knows how to draw "real" women. Did I really want to give those up? I considered this for a couple of days before deciding that Hell yeah I wanted to sell those books. I needed that new Brandon Jackson autograph. So off went those comics with covers of big breasted women with large thighs. No harm, no foul.

Of course, I still needed some money, and the only thing substantial I had left was my box of Adam Hughes comics. Just as I did with the Cho books, I cataloged my Hughes books. Along the way, I really soaked in the art of each cover and I knew it would be hard to part with them.

Still, I began checking eBay for recent auction values. They were hit or miss, and I wasn't exactly sure how much to expect from the 50+ comics I had. One night, as I was looking at some recent sales, I found myself looking at newly listed items, too. And just like that, in the blink of an eye, I went from selling to buying.

"Ooh, Catwoman 74. That's a nice cover. Why did I stop buying that series? And wait a second. I never bought Red Sonja 8, the one with the Hughes cover. How could I have skipped that."

I spent the rest of the week figuring out which recent Hughes covers had hit the shelves during my absence. The pain of the Packers loss to the Giants was still weighing heavy on my chest and here I was making the switch from football cards back to comics.

Now here I am preparing to put this stack of Catwoman and Red Sonja books into Mylite 2 bags with fullback acid free boards. god it feels good to be back. Yet as I think that, I turn and see that I still haven't put away the recent football cards I got in the mail last week.

Oh well, football season is over, right? Those cards can wait another six months. For now, I have more comics to buy...