Oct 18, 2017

Constructing a Collection - On Condition

One thing I've had to come to terms with in this hobby I've chosen, as with most hobbies, is that there are different reasons that people devote themselves to it. I definitely define myself as a "comic collector." It would be the height of ridiculousness for me to deny that. My collection continues to grow, and will do unless some catastrophic event forces me to stop. So I collect. But why I collect is an interesting question.

This morning, as I was sitting and having a cup of coffee before getting ready for work, my Mum (who, at the time of writing, was visiting) came downstairs, brought a cup of tea into the living room. She put the tea down next to The Avengers v.1 #270, the comic I was reading for my project, and told me I should put it away. The comic was sitting on top of its bag and board, and she was concerned about what would happen if she accidentally spilled her tea on it. There were two concerns: one, how would it damage the comic, and two, how would I react?

I told her it didn't really care - if the comic got wrecked, I'd try to find another, and if it was still readable, then no harm done.

This was a bit of a revelation for me (as well as for her, I think!).

Similarly, the most expensive comic in my collection, My Greatest Adventure v.1 #80, is valued online at about $2000. I still take it out once a year or so and read it, regardless of its value. To me, a comic is a comic, and to not read it is to deny the use for which the comic was created. But not everyone feels similarly. Indeed, there are collectors who would "slab" such a comic, have it graded and sealed inside a plastic case so as to cease any further damage and to allow the value to increase. This is what I mean when I refer to the why of my collecting. I collect to read, to create an archive of stories in a particular format. Others collect to accumulate, to invest. In both cases, however, the condition of the comic can come into play.

There is a categorization in my database called "No Cover." Unsurprisingly, this refers to comics in the collection that have come to me coverless. What I really need to do is also add a category for comics that come to me missing center pages. In general, unless a comic is absolutely unreadable, or, as is sometimes the case, unrecognizable (water damage and mold are terrible for this), it will find its way into my collection. Coverless, I still have the stories within. Centerless, I'm occasionally missing a couple of pages of story, but not the vast majority. I keep track of the condition of a comic, but that condition has little to do with whether or not a comic has a place in the collection. Indeed, not worrying so much about condition can often make acquiring very old comics much easier. Some of my oldest pieces are coverless, and I've enjoyed them nevertheless. Occasional Archie comics I've picked up at garage sales for ridiculous prices are missing center pages, but the rest of the stories are intact. For me, considerations of condition are intrinsically tied in to considerations of readability. A comic that cannot be read, or comprehended at all, due to damage is really the only thing that I won't collect. And that happens only seldom.

Thinking through condition is fundamentally tied to our reasons for collecting is the short way of saying all this. If you are collecting for the purpose of investing, or reselling, or even of looking at comics as individual pieces of art, chances are you're looking for the best examples of a particular comic that you can find. And that you can afford, of course. If, instead, you are collecting to read, then condition becomes less important. And less important you consider condition, the broader your collection is likely to be. I certainly would not have the collection I do if I worried overly much about the condition of the comics in it.

Now, in closing, let me be clear: I like to keep my comics in as undamaged condition as I can. In order to increase the longevity of a comic, one should try to keep them as safely as possible. I want to be able to read my comics for a long time to come, and if they are deteriorating that won't be possible. And in a way, I see my job as a collector when it comes to damaged comics as being someone who will preserve that comic from seeing any more deterioration. Some comics come to be damaged through use, through, really, being loved. The way that I continue to love these comics is to make sure they are still readable, still capable of being used for the purpose for which, in my opinion, they were created. The ultimate goal, of course, is for the collection to become a reading library, but that's a project for another day.

Oct 17, 2017

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 965: Avengers v.1 #273, November 1986


The sh*t hits the fan, so to speak. As the Avengers are all out attending to personal matters (in the wake of Namor's departure and the Quicksilver debacle of the Annuals), a sinister plot unfolds that leaves the mansion in the hands of...

But that would be telling. And I'll inevitably reveal it in the next couple of days. What's for sure is that things are going to get brutal and unpleasant for the Avengers over the next couple of issues. In the same way that Mr. Stern offers us a wonderful example of how a team like the Avengers works, he's equally as adept at showing us what their opposite team works like. And opposite in every way - as good as the Avengers are, the mansion conquerors are evil.

Oh, let's just say it, shall we? It's the Masters of Evil - and, in my humble opinion, the best version of that group that's ever come together. The proof of that will be in the pudding. Or the next few issues.

To be continued.

The Earth-H Files - Captain America and the "Sore Sir's Apprentices"

From Omega the Unknown v.1 #8, May 1977.

Oct 16, 2017

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 964: West Coast Avengers Annual #1, 1986


When I was entering all the pertinent data on yesterday's comic, I realized that I only bought it a couple of years ago. I can't imagine what I must have thought was going on when I read today's comic back in 1986 when I got it. Or, for that matter, why I didn't pick up the Avengers Annual at the same time.

Ah well.

Today's comic is sooooo much better than yesterday's. Steve Englehart has a nice handle on the Avengers, and Mark Bright is a very gifted visual storyteller. Check out his run on Quantum and Woody if you don't believe me. As the Avengers run from the government, the question on all of their minds is who has betrayed them. Unfortunately, that cover leaves little to the imagination, so there's not really any surprise when Quicksilver reveals himself, and then tries to kill both teams. It's interesting. When I first read it, I wondered why Quicksilver had become such a dick. I mean, he's never been the most personable of the Marvel characters (a trait he shares with Alpha Flight's Northstar), but to completely reverse directions and threaten his comrades with death? And to hold such prejudices against the Vision when he himself is a victim of them due to his nature as a mutant? Not that members of minority groups are somehow exempt from prejudicial attitudes, but given his experiences, you'd think Quicksilver's definition of what constitutes life might be a bit more broad than the average.

Reading it now, I'm struck by how this is an example of the events of someone's life piling up until that person breaks. What we have here is a young man dealing with a remarkable amount of pressure, a remarkable amount of change, and, most likely, a pre-existing mental illness. It wasn't something that was talked about much back in the 80s, but there's definitely an undercurrent of psychological distress playing out here. I still think Quicksilver's a dick, but now I understand that perhaps some of that comes from an inability to properly process everything that goes on around him. I have similar troubles, and all I do is teach. This guy is involved in grand cosmic adventures on a regular basis. I probably would have fallen apart too.

To be continued.

A week of Sad Monster miseries!

Sad Monster is making a return to the Web for a few days!

Sad Monster Comics

Oct 15, 2017

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 963: Avengers Annual #15, 1986


One of the things I've been doing as I read through the Roger Stern-scripted issues of Avengers is to skip over any that aren't written by him, regardless of whether or not they were part of the regular story.

I probably should have stuck to my guns. Now, this is not to say that there's anything wrong with Danny Fingeroth's script in this issue. It's a good, full-cast Avengers story, and deals with the current problems in the ongoing title to do with the status of the team vis a vis the American government. But, as with annual 13, the Steve Ditko art in this issue is just abysmal. Even with the inks of Klaus Janson over top, the art is totally stiff and uninspiring - very unlike early Ditko Marvel. I know the guy's a legend, but this is just really poorly done comics.

I'll move on to the West Coast Avengers annual that finishes this story, but thank goodness we're getting back to the regular team in a couple of days.

To be continued.

Oct 14, 2017

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 962: Avengers v.1 #272, October 1986


Namor makes his graceful(ish) exit from the team this issue. It's been a strange few issues of his being a member. I don't feel like much happened. There was the Secret Wars 2 stuff, the weird Kang arc, and his introduction. I don't even think he was in a couple of the issues. This quick wrap-up to his story really feels like it might have been a larger plot that had to be hurriedly finished. It's a pity, as Namor added to the team a bit of a foil for Hercules, whose disdain for the Wasp, regardless of chain of command, is going to get him in trouble soon. Namor at least recognized the Wasp's ability as a leader, and was able to keep a lid on the Prince of Power.

So the Avengers help Namor and Alpha Flight rescue Marinna, who, now monstrously transformed, swims off, and the Sub-Mariner after her.

There's a couple of annuals coming up next, a favourite crossover story with the West Coast team. And then we start what I think is one of the best superhero stories I've ever read. I've very excited, and a bit trepidatious that it won't live up to my memories. Guess we'll see soon!

To be continued.