I find comics endlessly fascinating. Not only do I enjoy reading them, I enjoy talking about them and writing about them. I enjoy reading about them historically or academically. And I enjoy shopping for them and collecting them. When it comes to this hobby of ours, we all read different comics. But we also read those comics in different ways and we have different approaches to collecting them. What kind of a collector are you?
I’m An Explorer
First off, I’m an explorer. I love discovering new things. I’m interested in new characters and new comics and even new companies. I love the thrill of finding something new. That includes comics that are new to me, even if they were published before I was born.
As an explorer, I love rummaging through bargain bins. I did that a lot when I was first starting out, but I still like to hit the occasional flea market or convention hall. One of the best things about bargain bins is that I can indulge my curiosity relatively cheaply. That’s how I first sampled T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, the kung fu hero Yang and the feminist anthology Action Girl. I’ll even buy something that’s been damaged. That’s how I was introduced to Astro City. I picked up a free copy that had been torn.
My explorer side was one of the reasons why I was so captivated by the comics of the early ‘90s. I know that older fans couldn’t stand the new trends but I loved the way that whole new worlds were unfolding before me. I still have a fondness for those early Image, Milestone, Ultraverse and Valiant Comics. Along the way, I’ve also gotten in the ground floor of CrossGen, Invincible and The Walking Dead (though I got off that last elevator pretty quickly).
Of course, exploration isn’t only about new titles. I also enjoy stories that explore new eras and new worlds. I have a particular fondness for alternate universe stories like Tangent Comics and the Age of Apocalypse. And I get admittedly giddy at stories set in the future like DC’s One Million or Batman Beyond.
I’m An Immersionist
My second prominent trait is that of an immersionist. When I find something I like, I want to absorb as much of it as I can. I want to fully immerse myself in that story, in that setting, in that world.
For example, after I read that one issue of Astro City that I had picked up in a damaged discount bin, I went out and bought the latest (undamaged) issue that was still on the stands. And then I went and bought every issue that had come before it. Within a couple of weeks, I had a complete Astro City collection. Of course, trade paperbacks make it a lot easier to do that. There are a lot of titles in my collection for which I have the first trade and then single issues from there on out- Fables, the previously mentioned Invincible, Noble Causes, and so on.
Being an immersionist, my wish list never grows shorter. Every comic I read piques my interest in at least two more. I want to go back and read earlier adventures for the same character. Or I want to go out and pick up other books from the same era, the same author or the same genre.
As an immersionist, I’m often mistaken for a completist. I admit that there’s a fair amount of overlap. But I also know that my collection has a lot of holes in it. For a long time, I had a complete run of New Teen Titans except for one issue. I got excited about something else and went immersing myself in that before I had tracked down that one remaining issue. I’m still missing about a dozen Silver Age issues of The Avengers.
I’m A Team Player
Third, I’m a team player. I like team books. Sure, I’ll collect a solo title like Thor- especially if it has a good creative team attached. But I gravitate toward the team books- Uncanny X-Men, New Teen Titans, The Mighty Avengers, the Legion of Super-Heroes.
I like the group dynamic- the blend of personalities and the interaction between characters. I like the interplay of multiple storylines. I like the sense of camaraderie and the depictions of friendship. In a way, modern superheroes are the heirs to a long line of chivalrous societies- David’s Mighty Men, King Arthur’s Knights of the Round Table, Robin Hood’s Merry Men, and so on. By the way, I like those older teams too.
I’m A Reader
Finally, I’m a reader. I’ve always been a reader. I read big books like Tom Clancy, James Clavell, Stephen King and Leo Tolstoy while I was in high school. And I was an English literature major in college. I like stories. And that’s also true of comics. That doesn’t mean that art is unimportant. Bad art can make a good story unreadable and great art can convey much more than words, especially when it comes to facial expression and body language. But when I review a comic, I know that I’m going to focus on the story. I might even forget to mention the art, despite its importance in conveying that story.
As someone who is primarily a reader, I don’t pay particular attention to the state of a comic. I previously mentioned that I’m not above buying a torn or ragged comic. I like to keep my comics in good shape- I know that I’ll want to read them again someday- but I’m not a fanatic about it.
These qualities aren’t unique to comic book collecting. I find that they’re similarly expressed in other fandoms or hobbies like music. I like finding a new artist and then picking up every album they’ve ever put out. I’m more of a lyricist than a musician. And I gravitate towards bands or at least toward solo artists who have a band or grew out of a band (ie. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers or Sting & the Police). These qualities are part of who I am, and who I am as a comic book fan. What about you? What kind of a collector are you?
Oh, we’re not too different as collectors, Chris, you and I.
Your first paragraph fits me to a “T”.
For your “Explorer” paragraphm I might substitute Dark Horse, First and Eclipse for Image, Milestone and Ultraverse.
“Immersionist” is a term I’ll have to let roll around inside my head for a while. In the meantime, I’ll stick with the term you reject: completeist.
I like team books, too, but not so much that I’d think of myself as a “Team Player” (as you’re using the term).
I’m out of time. I’ll be back next week to discuss being a reader and address your off-the-main-topic points about music.
I'm definitely a reader as well, so much so that collecting has always been secondary (although I've certainly enjoyed combing through bargain bins to complete runs). I've gone from buying monthlies to trade waiting to reading library copies almost exclusively, which obviously isn't collecting at all.
I'm certainly an explorer also, and an immersionist. When I have been a completist I've usually regretted it: you wind up paying a lot for something that isn't that great a read.
But I've never been a fan of team books. Since they're pretty rare outside of the superhero genre it's not much of an issue.
I follow what you're saying about musical tastes being similar, at least when it comes to collecting recordings. I'm always more excited to hear something new than to revisit old favorites. Big divergence in the details, though. I'm a musician, so music always matters more than lyrics for me. And the majority of my listening has no lyrics, anyway.
I've been all of the above at one time or another. I would say I'm still an Explorer; I frequent back-issue bins and multiple comics stores and try indies and offerings from the Big Three that I missed/didn't want when they were new/didn't want to pay full price for when they were new. And back in the day, I was very much an Immersionist; that's how I got my complete runs of the various Jonah Hex titles, Master of Kung Fu, Howard the Duck, Hellblazer, Tomb of Dracula and long (long!) runs of Batman, Detective Comics, Superman, Action Comics, Amazing Spider-Man, Daredevil and many, many others. And off-and-on (currently off), I've followed The Avengers, The Teen Titans, Justice League of America and Justice Society of America.
I’m back, and I’m back to your first paragraph where you said, “Not only do I enjoy reading them, I enjoy talking about them and writing about them” (emphasis mine). There was a time I posted to this board about every single comic book I read, without fail. Once I realized that I can read faster than I can write, however, I cut way back on my posting in order to get more reading in. Also, I tend to move from “project” to “project”, and the ones I choose can be quite time-consuming. For example, I’m currently in the midst of re-reading the first 150 issues of Spider-Man, then moving on to select stories from the “Clone Saga.” I am currently near the end of the Lee/Ditko run, and for the past couple of weeks it has been all I can do to muster the will power not to slow myself down by posting.
On the reader/writer (i.e., “poster”) side, I’ve come down firmly on the side of reader. On the reader/collector side, being a collector allows me to be a reader. Similarly, on the completist/immersionist side, being a completist allows me to be an immersionist. So there is the overlap. I am all of those things, but being so is all in servive of being a reader first and foremost.
Hold on, something I have to deal with just came up. Back later.
An Exlorer? For sure. When I go to big conventions I love going to Artist Alley and picking up a selection of self-published books. Always have been. Most of it is material that will never even make into Previews. That is why I would really like to hit up STAPLE again, just a ton of great comics there.
I'm really not an immersionist myself. I would call you a binger. I take a different tact, and not sure what you would call it. When I find something I like, I like to savor it, and come back to it periodically over time. For instance when I discovered John Sable, I would read a trade. Come back weeks or months later and read the next one, etc.
I used to be a team type of guy, but the past few years there has been so little that has interested me. Really just the Legion and the last version of the Thunderbolts. Neither one of them has a version being published or I am interested in, so I am collecting no team books right now.
I am most definitely a reader as well. Besides comics I usually have at least 2 books I am reading at all times.
For the most part I've never been a completist. I will flit around from interest to interest. One year I will be into Marvel Team-up and then next I will be really into Weird War Tales or Adam Strange.
I would also call myself an Unloader. As I have mentioned elsewhere on the board I've decided to sell a bunch of my comics after moving them 4 times in 12 years. I realize I won't be re-reading most of them, so I am fine with selling them to whoever. Especially, newer comics since I have less of an attachment to them.
As to music, I totally agree a lot of the above applies to me as well. Especially, the Explorer tag. I am constantly looking for the next tune and/or band that does it for me. As an old roommate said about me,"Travis has...uh...eclectic tastes." I can easily go from Trance to Hip-hop to Old School Country to Classical Music and everything in between and then some.