There are certain debates that never occur to me until the subject is brought up. One of the more recent examples of this is the concept that there is a difference between collecting and reading comic books. Apparently there is a sect of fandom that believes that if you say “collecting” and mean “reading” that you are somehow holding comic books back as an art form.
In all honesty there might be something to that. If you are going to advance the notion that comic books are a legitimate art form and make it more accessible to the general population any association between comics and collecting might hinder that. I guess if you wanted to put comic books on the same level as books or music or films, which people buy and collect in the sense that they keep them to watch later than you would have to take the buying for later investment notion out of the equation. Comic book companies don’t help this either because while they do produce material for the mass audience to buy, consume and keep if they feel like it they also produce variant covers and such for dealers to sell later at a higher price. Add to that the fact that since the sixties the mainstream media has usually harped on the fact that these things might be worth some money and a case can be made that saying or writing collecting when you ultimately mean reading might be the thirty some odd year old guy with a lisp, overbite, glasses, acne and living in his Mom’s basement stereotype holding the industry back.
I’ll get into comics becoming more mainstream another day because if I start down that rode the point of this post will get lost in a hurry. What I will get into is the fact that at the end of the day comics are a unique animal and I mean that beyond the combination of text and images to tell a story. While they certainly started as disposable media comics have evolved into something more. When the stories were 99% one and done it was easy to pick up an issue and never have to worry about picking up another. Once the stories started getting more complex and continuing into the next issue they became a bizarre synthesis of collectible and entertainment. Publishers started taking notice of this fact and by the seventies you would see the words, “First Issue Collectible” popping up on the covers for new books. So quite by accident the continued stories created a sense that the books need to be bought on a regular basis (thus creating a collection) and when the powers get wind of this they start creating collectibles for the readers to buy. Wash, rinse and repeat for thirty years and suddenly the concept of collecting and reading become intertwined.
That’s how it is for me at any rate. While there are books I read and don’t buy on a regular basis they end up in the overall collection, so the concepts are inseparable. I know there are people that read but don’t consider themselves collectors and I know there are collectors that send their books off to be slabbed without even cracking them open to check out the art. That’s fine. If that’s how someone wants to roll go for it. For me personally when I say I collect a book you can put good money on the fact that I will read it and if I say I am reading something you can bet that I am collecting it too. To me they are two different ways of saying the same thing.
The problem I have with the overall argument of reading versus collecting is that it really doesn’t matter. With the proliferation of trades and hardcovers in mainstream books stores and even Wal-Mart and Target it is safe to say that there the perception that comics are for everyone is well on its way to being cemented in the public consciousness. If someone wants to buy ten copies of the variant cover to Secret Invasion #1 so they can send it off to CGC and sell it to someone willing to pay for it then let the free market sort it out. The same goes if a person wants to buy the latest issue of Amazing Spider-Man and treat it like a red headed step-child when they’re done. The great thing about comic books is that they are entertainment and we have the luxery of arguing about the particulars and no one being wrong because they are not a necessity.
In all honesty I think the concept of collectibles is on its way out. People seem to be using services like Netflix and the like to watch movies, people buy songs piece meal on iTunes and comics are well on their way to becoming digitized, so collecting movies and CDS and comics is fast becoming archaic. The current generation is going to be raised to think of entertainment as disposable and only some of us old fogeys will hold on to our comics and our DVDs and our action figures watching as time marches on and the next era begin.
Personally I am cool with such things. There is a difference between raging against the dying of the light and whining because they may not publish comics as periodicals anymore.
There really is.
More to follow…