Collecting Comics #1 – Hard Vs. Soft

As someone who recently stopped purchasing monthly comic books and finally made the move to “waiting for the trade” (or even longer, in most cases, since I need to get a job before I can start collecting properly in any way, shape, or form), I thought I’d take a moment and discuss my thoughts on collecting comics.  Not the act of buying and keeping issues as they come out or scouring back issue bins for a good read.  Collecting comics, into collections.  Trades and hardcovers, that sort of thing.

In general, I like trades.  They’re lightweight, pretty enough for what they do, which is collect and bind a series of issues into a nice little inexpensive package for later perusal.  A great way to keep up with a book without having to follow it regularly.  But comics companies, like all entertainment providers, are in the business of making money.  And to do so, they upped the game.

I don’t know how or why hardcovers became a trend in the industry, but now it’s almost customary on the big sellers to be released first as a hardcover, and then a trade paperback version follows several months later.  It’s kind of contrary to those who want a good, reasonably recent chunk of books in an inexpensive package, because the company can charge more for a hardcover.  By making the customer wait a indeterminate amount of time for a trade version, they can sort of “trick” you into buying a hardcover because if you want to keep up with “current” events, you have to buy what’s available, unless you want to buy the monthlies.

My main gripe with hardcovers, however, isn’t really the price.  It’s the dustjackets.  They’re so pretty and dapper and look great on the shelf.  But, hardcovers suggest permanence, of having a book forever, in a way that mere trades do not.  Having a hardcover feels like having a proper book with a secret inside.  You open it up, and there are comics in there!  My eight-year-old self just squealed with joy.  But the dustjackets, which are oh-so-pretty, can and do tear.  And what we are left with underneath is a dull old single-color hardbound surface, the polar opposite of what comics have always meant to me.  Basically, I just wish that comics had the colorful dustjackets as the actual covers, printed onto the hardbound surface that they hide with those silly dustjackets.  So yeah, pretty when I buy them, and although I do take care of my books, accidents can and do happen, and I’m left with a shattered illusion of forever in a ugly hardbound shell that’s nowhere near as exciting as what I signed on for.

So, I find it odd that, finances and pet peeves about dustjackets aside, I find myself drawn more and more to that illusion of permanence.  In the “good old days”, the only hardcovers I bought were Sandman, and I never got all of those in hardcover, unfortunately.  They were something beyond the spandex which I loved, but it felt like more to me, and I wanted to have a permanent copy of them.  The only other time I would consider a hardcover was if it wasn’t coming out in any other format.

That changed when the owner of my local comic shop, who had seen how I’d been getting into the Avengers recently, put a copy of the Marvel Premiere Edition Hardcover of Avengers: Under Siege in my hands and told me he had saved me a copy.  Now, truth be told, I had somewhat of a dilemma.  I mentioned earlier about how I don’t really like hardcovers.  Add to that I was low on extra cash that month (the shop is a town or two away so I only went once per month), and the fact that I had planned on picking up something entirely different that day, and I didn’t want to buy it right then for those reasons.  But two things made me do it anyway: one, someone took the time out of their day to consider what I might enjoy reading, and two, I trust the guy.  So I took it home and read it.  And promptly became addicted to hardcovers.

I felt like such a traitor to myself for changing my mind.  But the illusion of permanence in a temporary world can be a very powerful thing.  I now wish I had everything in hardcovers.  I asked for hardcovers for my birthday (which is coming up soon).  I want them and want them bad.  I now hate my Green Lantern trades even more because I want the pretty hardcovers instead, but vowed never to switch to hardcovers for those out of principle.  I still love my trades, but I wish they were hardcovers instead.  With no dustjackets, mind you, just the cover image on the hardback front of the book.

For my next installment in this series, I plan to discuss my pet peeves when it comes to the actual contents of these collected editions of comics, but for now, I just wanted to confess my newfound love for hardcovers and beg for any spare ones any of you might happen to have lying around that you don’t want anymore because I’d give them a good home.

Speaking of which, I’ve been meaning to start posting my feelings on comics in general for a while now, but a contest and the potential of free swag is too good to allow me to put it off any longer.  Eternal Lizdom is offering up a free copy of Return of the Dapper Men signed by the creators, Jim McCann and Janet Lee, as a prize.  For more info, please visit:

http://eternallizdom.blogspot.com/2011/01/are-you-dapper.html

And to answer the question in your post title, Lizdom, no.  No, I’m not dapper in the slightest.  But I would like to be.  If only I had a book on the subject…

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