More than Just a Hobby
Collecting comic books is more than just a hobby; it is a lifestyle. As a lifelong collector, I would know.
Unlike other media which are meant to be consumed once and thrown away, most comic book readers go out of their way to preserve them and collect them.
Whether they keep them in plastic seal bags (with a plastic board to avoid bending) in a box, or displayed around the house, for collectors, comics are sacred items deserving to be protected.
Granted, not all collectors are the same and not everyone collects for the same reasons.
For instance, some collect comics as a financial investment. Their main goal is speculation. They collect comics to resell and make a profit. Those collectors are not true fans. Most times they do not even read the comic to keep them in mint condition.
True fans will read the comic and reread it many times. They do take good care of them.
These fans may want to collect them because they are a fan of the artist, they love the cover art (the cover artist and interior artist are not usually the same in comics), or they are a fan of the writer or has an attachment to a particular character or superhero team.
In honesty, I dislike speculators and I consider them one of the ailments hurting the industry.
They are bad because they support some of the most puzzling corporate decisions comic companies do (the never-ending crossovers, the multiple special edition variant covers, the more-is-more-mentality, etc.).
Also, speculators help artificially inflate the price of certain comics and even buy lots of comics to create a demand. Bad.
However, most fans are not speculators and are open to discussing and sharing their love for their hobby.
Should you collect comics too?
Collecting Comics as a Hobby
Grown-up men collect Hot Wheels, eighties action figures, baseball cards, CD/records, films, train sets, and other weird stuff and people do not bat an eye.
However, a grown man collects comics and people look at them weird. Talk about double standards.
Comic books do get a reputation as ‘low brow’ and childish. And yet, this is a stereotype based on misconceptions.
If anything, one of the main problems of modern comic books is they are hardly child-friendly. Also, many comic storylines are complex and of literary value.
Comic books have grown and matured although, for the general public, they are still stuck in the fifties.
Meanwhile, modern comics are not afraid to treat hot issues like racism, war, economic inequality, terrorism, drugs, gender/LGBT issues, and human trafficking, among others.
Some of the most touching cultural milestones in comics were:
- the HIV/AIDS Hulk issue
- the gay wedding of the X-Men’s Northstar
- and the Legion of Super-Heroes‘ White Triangle storyline which was an analogy for white supremacy groups, but in space.
These comics tackle those issues before it was socially acceptable or politically correct.
In effect, you could argue they contributed to changing the political discourse.
Hence, there is nothing childish about collecting comic books. So stop feeling guilty or self-conscious about it. It is not like you are collecting porn.
The first question someone wanting to enter the hobby should ask is:
Do I collect a particular character or series, or should I collect a particular creator?
My advice, read widely and collect what you like.
Some fans love particular creators and collect everything they write or draw. Likewise, other fans collect certain series because they are attached to them.
I am a little of both. I would collect anything Legion of Super-Heroes. At one point I had so many Daredevil and Fantastic Four comic books I did not have space in my bedroom.
Nonetheless, I would also collect runs from favorite creators like Mark Miller, Peter David, Grant Morrison, Brian K. Vaughan, Brian Azzarello, or Warren Ellis.
Buy and collect what you enjoy and feel fondness. Otherwise, it will become a chore, not a passion.
You are not collecting comics to become a millionaire or to win a Guinness record (although it happens to a lucky few). You are collecting for your enjoyment.
The Thrill of the Hunt
Comic book collectors (and I will admit I am one) have a collector’s or completist mentality. They feel they have to own every single issue ever publish or their collection is incomplete. Yes, we are guilty of that.
We search high and low everywhere for those rare, hard-to-find issues.
Indeed, we are motivated by what I call the thrill of the hunt. Searching comic books stores and flea markets for missing issues (and better yet, finding them) gives the collector such a high.
But what do you do once you have a complete series? Read it and save it to read it again later, of course.
I grow up reading comic books since I was five. I read them in Spanish and threw them away. What would I give to have back my childhood paquines y tebeos? (that is Spanish for comic books, by the way).
We as fans are attached to certain characters because their ideals and values align with us.
For example, people who believe in an eye for an eye philosophy will be drawn towards Wolverine and the Punisher.
Likewise, people who are self-made men will love Batman, and idealistic people will be attracted to Superman.
My heart belongs not only to the Legion, but to Superman, Captain Marvel (the Shazam one), Green Lantern, Flash, Aquaman, Zatanna, Black Canary, the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, Daredevil, and Spiderman also have a place in my collection. Archie comics and Larry Hama’s GI Joe run too.
And do not get me started on particular artists. What would I give for a Curt Swan original art?
Also, it is a safe, not too expensive hobby. It promotes literacy. And it is wholesome (unlike porn).
Moreover, there is no better time to start collecting than now. The internet has made comic book collecting easier (there was no Google, eBay, Comixology, or CBR.com) when I was growing up.
We are spoiled in terms of the resources available online.
Thus, to summarize:
- comic books are a hobby but can become a lifestyle once you collect them seriously.
- you should collect what you like not what is trendy.
- there is nothing childish about collecting comics.
- and hunting for comic series is thrilling.
Finally, to answer this blog’s question, why collect comics? Because they are modern myths and superheroes are good role models, as well as fun.
What are you waiting for? Today is Wednesday, which means new comic book day. Go to your friendly local comic shop and start your collection now.
Reader, do you collect comic books? Do you follow a specific creator or character? Share your thoughts in the comments section.