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...