Bagged & Boarded

I never really collected comics. Oh, I had comics aplenty – some of them ones I had inherited from my older brothers, others that I bought myself, from back-issue bins and garage sales and, yes, sometimes even brand new. I got them, I read them, I bagged and boarded them, and I kept them, but it was never really a collecting thing for me. I didn’t have specific “white whales” I was in search of, and I didn’t keep anything for its value down the road (thank goodness).

I just bought what I wanted to read, read it, and, eventually, years later, sold it, rather than move a box of comics one more time. By the time I sold those earliest issues, I had largely fallen out of the world of the tights and capes crowd, and when I did read comics, I was what they call a “trade waiter,” meaning that I tended to wait until a collected edition came out and pick that up, rather than reading individual issues as they were released.

There was something about the organization and completeness of trades that appealed to me – still does, really. But recently, when I started thrifting with Eli from Analog Sunday, I got back into single issues. Old horror comics, mostly, and movie and video game tie-ins. Weird one-offs that only ran for a few issues. Things that were never collected into trades, and probably never will be.

And as I started picking those up, I was reminded of the other thing that gets lost when you only read comics in collected form. Not just the forgotten titles that disappear into the dustbin of history. The ephemera that goes along with a single issue. The ads, sure, that’s part of it. I recently read a Darkman comic from 1993 and virtually every ad in the thing was either for Dungeons & Dragons or DragonStrike, which was a trip. But also inserts and other oddities that are probably still ads, really, but take on other dimensions.

Recently, I picked up a random issue of Time Masters from 1990 out of a back-issue bin. What drew my attention was that the cover looked, at a glance, like early Mignola. But when I flipped through it, I found an unexpected treasure. A stapled-in fold-out guide to Nightbreed, which had only just hit theaters.

This delightful piece of forgotten marketing ephemera was much more interesting to me, personally, than the comic – and also worth the price of a cheap back-issue. And it would never have found its way into a collection.

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