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Jamie S. Rich | Shelf Porn!

by  in Comic News Comment

A couple of years ago, Matt Fraction started a Flickr pool where comics professionals took photos of their work desks and posted them. It was then, looking at all of these images of neat and clean surfaces, that I discovered that most people working in comics are liars. Okay, that in itself is a lie, I already knew that. I was an editor long enough to hear every excuse a cartoonist could invent. (“How many grandmothers do you have, and why do these old ladies keep changing apartments? It’s the third time you’ve had to ‘help move’ in six weeks!”) Lying about why your work isn’t done isn’t necessarily the same as lying in every day life, though, and so posting photos of your work space that were dishonest and staged was a whole other thing as far as I was concerned.

Desk after desk was spotless, immaculate, the very height of order and organization. Yeah, right. Just like I wore that nice shirt and had my cowlick pasted down every day I went to school, not just yearbook day. Pull the other leg, Swifty, that one gives milk.

I know those scumbags all cleaned up their desks and then took the picture. I know that, as a species, comics creators are dirty, sloppy, scatterbrained louts. No way do they keep a clean desk! So, I took pictures of my desk as it was every day, a paper and pen version of a trailer park after a tornado.

You know, just like it is now:



That second one is a close-up of what we comically call my reference shelf, full of old drats of manuscripts, dictionaries, and, for whatever reason, a biography of the band Suede. Good luck getting any of them out without causing an avalanche.

I’ve turned having a mess into a work of art, and like all works of art, they begin with a single idea, a seed of something that blooms and sometimes grows out of control. A garden with many a lovely flower but with also a ton of weeds. Once my desk was organized, now it has grown wild.

So, too, are my bookshelves organized at their core, but they have long since been overgrown. Examine them shelf by shelf, and you will find order, a method to the madness, but the fences need to come down, more acreage is required.

This is the main room of my apartment, and since it is the place where I watch movies, either for review purposes or entertainment, the spot in my home that I look at almost as much as I look at the my computer and my desk:


I designed this bookshelf myself for my dad, a carpenter, to build. He ended up having my cousin do it, and they picked a ridiculously sturdy wood, making that the heaviest piece of furniture I own. Every time I move, I threaten to leave it for the next tenant to deal with. Maybe I should just get a cartoonist to help me? You know, coz they are so good at moving. (In comedy, that’s referred to as a “callback.”)

Top row left is my vanity shelf, full of books I’ve written and books by close collaborators like Joëlle Jones and Marc Ellerby. Below that are two sections of Oni Press books, which are now totally inadequate to handle the load.



There are various different sizes to the compartments because I designed it to hold not just books, but CDs and LPs, too. That means it’s a deep shelf, going at lest a foot back to accommodate the vinyl records. Believe it or not, but fifteen years ago when this was built, just about everything I owned could fit in this monstrosity.



I can’t keep that lower left shelf as densely packed as the rest because Sadie will just pull the books out to get back in.



To the left of the TV is the above shelf, full of Criterion DVDs, and to the right of the room, the area below.



One of the big pluses of my apartment is that the kitchen has a wide cabinet space with two shelves and glass doors. I use those two shelves, as well as the cabinets underneath, for more books. One of the many reasons not to have a significant other is that there are no arguments over whether or not this is a misuse of the kitchen. Yes, that’s right, it’s my desire to have my space the way I want it that keeps me single. It has nothing to do with me being old, ugly, and rotten of personality.






My kitchen also has room for this shelf:




That about covers my books, but I have more DVDs and CDs in my bedroom. This here is to the left of my desk.


And by the door as you come in:


The door is rarely closed except to get back to that other shelf, which is probably how that ancient Madonna poster has survived. It’s like she’s shushing folks so they don’t figure out what is hiding back there.

I’m about out of space in my place, so I’d better make some big money soon so I can afford to move someplace larger. Either that, or I’ll need to learn to live with less stuff. Nah, money and moving is probably easier. Plus, I know some comic book freelancers that could use my relocation as their dodge to get out of work.