Collecting 960 300 Paul Levitz

Psychologists say the pursuit is often more emotionally rewarding than the achieved goal. I’m not sure when that’s true and when it’s not, there’s some truth in it. I spent decades of my life collecting comics, and found much joy in the hunt. Back in the day, hunting through long boxes at dusty used bookstores or the early conventions, hunting for the elusive one or two last issues that would finish a run.

I wasn’t a wise collector if you measure by value achieved. $130 for ACTION #1 seemed ridiculous, as did most of the prices of Golden Age treasures. And when I completed my runs, I bound them into book volumes that made them easier to read and reference, but probably far less salable. But the pleasure of reading through long runs of characters I loved, or being able to flip pages to find a story or moment that I called…

For many years, I was able to continue collecting by filling in minor gaps. The Silver Age DC runs of the Superman titles, the major heroes of the Justice League all were long done. Maybe I should get those few JERRY LEWIS issues that guest stared the heroes? The major heroes are done? Well, there’s still the mortal adventurers: RIP HUNTER, THE SEA DEVILS and the like. Not stories I loved as much (sorry, Jack, George and Bob, but Mort and Julie were more to my taste) but the art was often lovely.

The character-less anthologies never held a place in my heart. I collected and kept a few great runs: the early Warren magazines that Archie edited, the start of THE WITCHING HOUR when Dick was working with both and other greats, even the beginning of GHOSTS when Leo was writing the whole book. And the entirity of the HOUSEs, since I’d go on to work on so much of them. But none of the romance titles, or the early war books before they went series (and in a couple of cases, not even after). But after finishing everything else, to keep at least a little collecting spirit burning, I went deeper into the gaps.

It’s only the old stuff that matters. Books from my childhood era, or thereabouts. Nothing wrong with the modern, but it’s not what I imprinted on. I want to hold something that feels like I could have found it in the neighborhood candy store.

It’s not as much fun to hunt on Ebay, or on the massive websites of the big back issue dealers, as it was digging through the boxes. And I don’t get to many conventions these days. But I still play collector occasionally. The past year or three I’ve very slowly assembled the handful of Mlle. Marie stories, a tiny gap. Some lovely art by old friends: a very young Mort Drucker, Jerry Grandinetti at the peak of his realistic period, Ross Andru.

And now, what next? Or should I simply be content with the shelves groaning under the weight already resting on them.

1 Comment
  • I read a book of essays on collecting recently (how obsessive is that?!) and what I came away with was mainly we do it to gain some form of immortality. That’s why it hurts to think our collection may not be appreciated, after we’re gone, by others as we appreciated it. My conclusion after reading the book was I should just enjoy what I have, and realise it may all end up in an auction house and someone buy it all for a pittance…but I’ll be gone and I had fun along the way! The hunt is the thing as a complete collection closes down the excitement of the chase.
    Here’s the book – but be warned it’s academic!