When I moved to Memphis last year, I knew I’d be moving into a smaller space and that I had to pare my “stuff” down. A lot. That meant not only books, clothes, and CDs … but comics, too. Over the last few years, I had regularly been shedding comics I’d read (and may or may not have enjoyed reading) but didn’t want to keep in my collection. This time, though, was different. I also got rid of comics I’d liked. Comics I had actively collected. Comics I’d held on to for decades in some cases. Comics that were sometimes hard to let go of.
But, ultimately, comics that no longer spoke to me saying “hey, I’m worth the space on your shelf!” Not only random issues of incomplete series, but full runs of once favorite titles. Comics like…
- Champions (Marvel, 1975-1978) was one of my favorite superteam comics, featuring an oddball mix of heroes (even for 1970s Marvel!): Angel, Black Widow, Ghost Rider, Hercules, and Iceman. I discovered it nearly on the eve of its cancellation, and loved tracking down their appearances, especially the Mantlo/Byrne issues that came at the end of its run. It all went (partly because I hadn’t read them in years, partly because Marvel collected them as a trade a few years ago) … except for the Godzilla crossover issue, which is less likely to see print again.
- The Human Fly (Marvel, 1977-1979) was another Bill Mantlo comic, but one I followed from the very first issue (which I read over and over again when I first got it as a kid). I kept a couple of these, the first issue (of course), and some with Frank Robbins art. While Mantlo had a nice arc of character development in this title, it was another one I hadn’t read in years, and wasn’t likely to re-read.
- The Bozz Chronicles (Marvel/Epic, 1985-1986) was a lovely little David Michelinie/Bret Blevins comic about an alien stranded in Victorian London. Like many comics of that era (the NINETEEN-eighties), it ended way too soon, but the news of a planned Dover reprint collection made it easier to part with this gem.
- The Joker (DC, 1975-1976) actually headlined his own comic for nine issues, and I had all of them. Now I have none.
- Kobra (DC, 1976-1977) was another villain who starred in his own title. I guess I was a sucker for these.
- John Byrne’s Next Men (IDW, 2010-2012): While I still think John Byrne’s first Next Men series from the 1990s was one of his better projects, this sequel series never really clicked for me. I think I let go of both series, actually, but with my remaining comics largely inaccessible, I’m not sure. Guess I’ll be surprised once I unpack them!
- Men of War (DC, 1977-1980): while I never really followed war comics, something about this one just clicked for me. Partly it was getting in on the beginning of Ulysses Hazard’s origin as “Gravedigger” (another Michelinie creation), partly it was the mix of stories it had during its “DC Explosion” issues like Howard Chaykin on Enemy Ace and Jerry Grandenetti on “Dateline: Frontline”. Another title I’ll remember fondly, but didn’t keep in its entirety.
- My Incredible Hulk collection was one that was a little harder to let go of. I was close to having every issue since the title began (#102), and had been picking up a couple of issues at a time when I went to conventions. And I also had a nearly complete run of Hulk reprints in Marvel Super-Heroes, to boot! (I found it interesting to compare all versions as I read through the Essential collections; sometimes the Essential covers were not the original cover, or even the MSH version, but one patched together from both versions. Weird.) It just felt like way too much Hulk to move, so I pared it back to ending with #467 (the last Peter David issue, which in many ways was the end of “my” Hulk, anyway), and let most of the reprint issues go, too. Which left me seriously thinking that I’m done collecting Hulk: I certainly don’t have as much incentive to track down comics from the #110s if I’m not going to have the whole run any longer.
- My Jim Aparo collection was another one that was hard to parse out. I kept the bulk of the work from my favorite comic book artist, but also let a lot of it go (including his acclaimed Spectre run in Adventure Comics #431-440, which I also had in a nicer edition from the ’80s). Many of his horror comic covers, and his later work inked by Bill Sienkiewicz were easier to let go of, though. (While I like both of these artists, Sienkiewicz ‘s scratchy inking style was a terrible fit for Aparo’s more fluid style. I don’t know who paired those two together so often, but I hope they regret that choice!) This was another large and much-loved part of my collection that I no longer have the incentive to complete (although the fact that most of his comics I still needed were the harder-to find 1960s Charlton titles helped)…
Even with letting all these (and many, many more– I pared my Uncanny X-Men comics back further than I ever have before, shedding all my Dave Cockrum and Paul Smith issues) go, I still have what feels like to me a lot (especially when I’m lugging longboxes!) of treasured comics. I still love reading comics, but I haven’t really considered myself a collector of new comics for some time. Maybe now I’m no longer a comic book collector at all.
Of course, that consideration may change once I get the space to unpack and organize those comic books I did choose to keep. There are still those Don Newton Shazam! stories I haven’t read, after all…