You know, since I've been reading and collecting comic books for most of my life, I guess that entitles me to a little bragging about my collection from time to time.
Not in a snotty "Ha, ha! I've got something you don't!" way, but rather from that sense of pride I get when talking about my collection with people who at least have a prayer of knowing what I'm talking about.
If talking "old comic books" isn't your thing, there are at least 500 other blogs that discuss this week's new comics, Manga and/or Joe Quesada, so off you go.
As for the rest of you...to the Geek Cave!
I've been reading comics since about the age of five, and collecting them since I was eight. Over the decades, I've put together some pretty comprehensive runs on a variety of titles, but none of them more comprehensive...or quite as satisfying...as my fifty-one (and a half) year run of consecutive Superman comics. In other words, every issue of Superman published from October of 1955 to the present.
First, a little clarification on the "Fifty-One (and a half) years" claim.
The Superman title made its debut in 1939, following the Man of Steel's debut and instant success in the pages of Action Comics. The title's numbering continued until 1986, when then-hot creator John Byrne was signed up to revamp the Superman mythos. As part of all the hoopla, the Superman title was rechristened The Adventures of Superman, though it still retained its 400+ numbering. A second volume of Superman was then launched, starting with issue #1. This numbering system continued until 2006, when Adventures of Superman once again became just Superman, now numbering 660 issues strong. So, despite the twenty-year title switch, the run between issues #100 through #660 remains unbroken.
With that said, as fun as the sheer numbers can be, I think the aspect of my Superman collection that pleases me the most is how it's encompassed all of the various eras and methods of comic book collecting.
Back in the day, I started out like most casual fans-turned-collectors did...by regularly buying comics at the newsstand or the spinner rack at the local 7-11, and then "saving them"...diverging from the standard custom of either tossing them aside or, worse yet, letting a kid brother obliterate them.
Later on, as the late 70's and early 80's rolled around, comic book specialty shops entered the picture, offering both new comics and boxes of older comics, which gave young collectors like me the opportunity to pick up issues from the 60's and early 70's for shockingly cheap prices (by today's standards, that is).
By that point, I realized I was in this for the long haul and created The List, a handwritten "laundry list" of the issues I needed to complete my run of Superman comics. I (rather arbitrarily) chose Superman #100 as a logical and reasonably attainable starting point, since issues earlier than that seemed beyond the reach of an allowance or a summer job's salary.
Another good source for picking up back issues were the modest comic book conventions of that time...essentially just glorified swap meets compared to today's sprawling multimedia circuses. Still, they were a fantastic place to nab hard-to-find back issues, as well as the occasional good deals on high-demand "key" issues.
Toward the end of the decade, I started reading The Comics Buyer's Guide, a weekly newspaper devoted to comic books and comic collecting...and pretty much the definitive source for industry buzz and information. In the pre-internet age, CBG was the heartbeat of both the comics biz and fan community. The CBG was also packed with dealer ads, as well as extensive classified ads, selling anything and everything related to comic books.
These advertisers (from all over the country) were invaluable when looking for those really hard to find issues. A great example of that was when I was searching for Superman #202 (1967), a perplexingly rare "All-Bizarro" 80 pg. Giant. I needed the issue to connect two major "train cars" of consecutive issues...and it was simply nowhere to be found until I came across an ad in CBG featuring the issue. Not wanting it to slip away before I could get my money to the guy, I actually called him long distance in Georgia to hold the issue. After a little arm-twisting, he agreed and I had my coveted "linchpin" issue on the way.
Well, through the first half of the 1990's, comic shops, conventions and dealer ads remained the primary sources for filling in the few remaining gaps in my Superman run (approximately issues #100 through #109)....most of which were either impossible to find or far too expensive.
Enter the Internet.
After taking my first wobbly steps onto the Internet in late 1996, I soon discovered a burgeoning "virtual community" of comic book fan and dealers, with information and want lists exchanging at unprecedented speed. A few years later, I came across (and was immediately hooked by) the online auction powerhouse eBay, which finally broke the pricing monopoly enjoyed by the "syndicate" of traditional comic book dealers for far too long. Sure, most comics still sold for close to the "official" price guide numbers...and the tendency of auctions to drive the values higher was definitely in effect...but there were also deals to be had by bidders cunning and patient enough to find them, giving little guys like me at least a fighting chance to get what we were looking for.
Is "Big Game Safari" too strong a term?
In fact, I would think most collectors (of anything) would agree that the real fun of finding that elusive "Holy Grail" item isn't so much displaying it in your "trophy hall" as it is the "hunt" to track it down.
In the age of internet sales and eBay, I have to admit that some of this "hunting" aspect has diminished (if not completely disappeared), as comics that once might have taken months, if not years to track down can now be instantly located and purchased with literally the click of a button.
It's for this reason that I'm grateful my Superman collection has encompassed all eras and methods of "The Hunt"...as I still remember what it was like to search hard for something, locate it, and cross it off The List.
So...there you go. Fifty-One (and a half) years and 560 consecutive issues of Superman comics...and it only took me thirty years to do it!