By Andrew A. Smith
Scripps Howard News Service
It’s been a few years since I experimented with software for managing comics collections, and if ComicBase 14 is any indication, they have become astonishingly sophisticated – and possibly indispensable.
As background, let me say that I’ve always had some sort of archival system so that I could find various comics. With more than 150 longboxes in the Comics Cave – not to mention more than a dozen bookshelves – having a system for finding individual books is a necessity. And since I’m always on deadline, finding individual books quickly is a priority. All of this has given rise to Captain Comics Rule No. 1: “If you can’t find it, you don’t own it.”
And to tell you the truth, the system I’ve used since the 1970s – loose-leaf notebooks describing comics and their location – has served me well. I have bragged over the years that I could find most books in the Comics Cave in three minutes or less, not only because it was true, but because it annoyed computer geeks that my plain old paper-and-pencil system was still superior to their electronics. (Of course, I usually avoided mentioning that if I couldn’t find a given book in those three minutes, I would never find it at all. Akin to Edgar Allen Poe’s purloined letter, the easiest way to lose a comic book is to mix it with 60,000 other comic books.)
So although I dabbled with electronic filing systems and various spreadsheets in days gone by, I saw them as a novelty. My notebook system still worked better, and besides, it would take a system a quantum level better than the notebooks to induce me to do data-entry for 60,000 comics!
So imagine my shock that ComicBase 14 by Human Computing is just such a system. It’s amazing how this thing has anticipated my every need or want.
First, let me say that it’s the most comprehensive listing of American comic books I’ve ever seen. It easily eclipses the increasingly irrelevant Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide,
long the Bible of comics buying and selling. It’s on a par with the Standard Catalog of Comic Books,
with whom they are partnered (and which is produced by Comics Buyer’s Guide,
for whom I am a Contributing Editor). But it’s superior in that it can update electronically with the latest releases. (With a print edition, of course, you have to wait for the new edition, and pay for it all over again.)
And not only does it have the most books (450,000 of them), it has the most information about those books – date of publication, plot summaries, guest stars, creators, even those hard-to-find circulation numbers that are so important to researchers like myself. And you can search for books by those categories, so if I wanted to, say, find everything Stan Lee ever wrote, I could do so with a simple command. It can do everything Microsoft Excel can do, but it's modified especially for comics collections, and the Sigma commands are in plain English.
Plus, it connects to the Internet to continually update back-issue prices as they average nationally. I have not the slightest idea how they aggregate all that information, so I am pretty impressed.
And it’s flexible. It has customizable fields, which is where my notebooks become superfluous. I have named Custom Field No. 1 “Location,” and it is there I list the box number for each book. And since it’s electronic, I can change huge amounts of information with a few key strokes. If, for example, X-Force
outgrows the box it shares with X-Factor,
I can move those books to a new box and change “Location” in ComicBase with a couple of clicks. Those kinds of changes were pretty labor-intensive with my notebook system.
Plus, there are tools like “Find & Replace,” “Mass Change” and so forth. Great googly moogly, that’s going to save me a lot of erasers!
ComicBase comes in various forms. I have the “Archive” edition, which includes copies of most comic-book covers, plus movie trailers, TV pilots and other audio-visual toys. I could spend all day on this thing!
As I implied earlier, I can give no greater recommendation for ComicBase 14 than that I am willing to invest the time to input data on 60,000 comic books. I’m convinced that it will prove to be time well spent in the years to come.
ComicBase 14 varies in price from $49.95 for the basic “Express” program to $399 for “Dual-Layer Blu-ray Disc,” with all the bells and whistles. It’s available online at www.comicbase.com
Contact Andrew A. Smith of the Memphis Commercial Appeal at