All comic book readers know the creeping fear that goes along with moving house and with it, moving the comic books. For me, packing has revealed the scope of my collection (which was all shelved until recently), and once I’ve moved, there’s the nagging fear that there won’t be room in the new place. And what sort of order do I put them in? Alphabetical by author, or by title, or by publisher? Chronologically organized by when I read them? Is that too chaotic or will it be more instinctive for browsing? Gah!
I’m sorry that I wasn’t able to write a column last week, but what with apartment hunting, then packing to move, landing two new design clients (I’m doing a small website and making elements for a big one), and then also prepping to fly to Seattle for Emerald City Comic-Con next week, I ran out of time to write a column (or do anything much.) In fact, I had no time to read my comic books and certainly nothing to write about because I was in a bit of a panic.
Since then I calmed down a little. I’ve got two weeks till I actually move, two days until I leave for Emerald City Comic-Con, and I think I’m going to make it. As a reward, I made some time to relax and read comic books. Now because I only have a limited amount of down time, I had to combine two things, so I went for a sauna and while I was there, I read some comic books. Due to the damp, steamy environs of the Japanese bathhouse where I got to sauna, I had to choose reading materials that could withstand the steam (or at least ones I didn’t mind getting a little beat up. And here, once again, is my personal preference for the printed comic. You can’t take a bloody iPad into a sauna, can you?)
For my disposable reading I chose the first 4 issues of Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E. Months ago I bought these on a reader’s recommendation in response to my article about the lackluster women-centric titles in DC’s new 52, he thought I’d like this more. And I did! The sauna was dimly lit and eerily quiet, so I reasoned that it would compliment it the moody, Vertigo-esque look of the comic. In retrospect, I realize that I was expecting something more popart-tastic, like the hysterically irreverent Wachowski brother’s book called Doc Frankenstein. (I loved that book, why didn’t they keep that going?!) Anyway, this was much more B.P.R.D. in tone, and even some of the characters were reminiscent of Hellboy’s little friends. These first four issues definitely gave me enough of an intro to know that I like reading it well enough, and I’ll probably read a bit further to see how it departs from the B.P.R.D. model once the introduction period is over.
Now the last time I read a comic book in the sauna (yes, I’m that weirdo reading comic books while the other ladies read fashion magazines) I read a short run of Superman / Batman, which I have to say was actually more compelling while sweating. You see, while I thought that the murky eeriness of Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E. would be atmospherically appropriate to the relaxed mood of the sauna, I found the darker colors and more organic pace made it hard to focus on while my blood pressure dropped. It was just a bit too sleepy. Weirdly, the punchy, no-nonsense nature of the Superman / Batman story was a bit easier to enjoy in the sweaty sauna. I felt more involved and engaged by it, as if the dynamism of the superhero masculinity provided a counterpoint to the physical environment. In future I’ll keep in mind that sometimes a comic books with totally opposite energy of an situation can work better than one that is more overtly complimentary.
Now I’m back home and packing (well, in-between writing this I am.) With the comic books are all packed, I’m feeling less ambivalent about them, more appreciative of the print medium, despite the quantity. We’ll see if I feel the same once I’ve paid the moving company.
It isn’t the furthest move I’ve ever made, but it is far enough that I need to get professional movers to help me. When I initially phoned movers for cost estimates, I thought that I would have about 10 boxes of books. Now that I’ve packed the comic books, action figures (I also have a substantial collection of boxed female action figures), and all of my design and photography books it comes to over 30 of those large Diamond boxes (kindly donated by my local comic shop.) Theoretically, this stuff is all non-essential to my life, I don’t need it, but I have to say, I really like it. Whatever may now be universally available via the internet as information and imagery, it’ll never beat having it all around me, existing in the physical world.
I used to be pretty tidy, organizing my belongings and clearing up other people’s messes. Over the years I have learned to channel my slightly compulsive behavior into my graphic design work which has allowed me to loosen up. Now I’m at the point where I no longer notice a certain level of lived-in-ness (essential since I spent the last three years sharing a house with my little brother), but the impact of this relaxation is a more disorganized comic book collection and I fear the chaos when I unpack. Initially, I packed meticulously, putting action figures into a boxes with related comic books (to balance out the weight). For example, I packed my Swamp Thing figure in with the Hellblazer comic books (because Constantine first appeared in a Swamp Thing comic.) But by the end of the packing, I was down to shoving random figures in with random boxes, and now there are at least 4 boxes of unread, totally disorganized comic books and weird action figures. Ideally I’ll remember to unpack them first so that I can have something to read when I arrive in my new place… I just need to remember which boxes are which. Wish me luck!