Geek, General, Strange, Trends

The 50 Things That Every Comics Collection Truly Needs

I casually read comic books when I was younger–a few random Weapon Xs, a stack of Dark Horse comics from my older brother–but I never fully committed to the culture of it all. I’ve always been intrigued with both comic authors and illustrators, let alone their rabid fans, but it’s always been difficult to find a way into their niche world without feeling like an outsider.

For those interested in the bizarre and always fascinating world of comics, Comics Reporter drafted up an exhaustive list of essentials for comic collectors, from the time-honored to the painfully obscure. Even if you’re not a connoisseur of comics and the culture, you have to applaud the scope of the article, brought to you by the esteemed team of experts over at CR.

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1. Something From The ACME Novelty Library

The great thing about ACME Novelty Library is that nearly every single thing Chris Ware has done under its banner has been worth collecting in one way or several, right down to — or even especially — the sheets from the weekly newspaper in which the comic’s pages originally appear. The sketchbooks that have appeared in two volumes as ACME Novelty Datebook are worthy of your collection as well. Ware is a game-changing giant of comics, both as a cartoonist and as a designer.

*****

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2. A Complete Run Of Arcade

One of the two or three great comics being made during the 20th Century’s lousiest period for great comics, the fallow era between the heyday of the alternatives and Jack Kirby‘s DC resurgence and the rise of the indy- and alt-comics movements signified by RAW, Love and Rockets and the extended narrative era at Cerebus. You can see Arcade‘s influence in every great anthology that’s come since, and nearly all of it holds up as compelling comics today — in fact, nearly every contributor is a significant cartoonist right now, which is astonishing.

*****

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3. Any Number Of Mini-Comics

Sub-Suggestions: At Least One From Fort Thunder, One From Before 1990, One From Tom Hart, One King-Cat, One From Kevin Huizenga

You should really own a lot of mini-comics, a giant basket full of them if you can stand it, and part of their appeal is that as handmade objects your collecting of them will be haphazard and hard to control. Mini-comics are simply handmade comics, really, and as such afford an opportunity for insight into an artist unmatched by other art forms and approximated by things like clipping JD Salinger’s New Yorker shorts, or getting bootlegs of the Grateful Dead, or watching Hal Hartley’s pre-feature short movies.

Of the sub-suggestions, the pre-1990 work might be the hardest for you pick up, but you could go with some Gary Panter or a charming superhero take-off or maybe something from stick-figure king Matt Feazell; that work is still out there to be found and through eBay and the occasional clearinghouse like Rick Bradford’s Poopsheet Foundation it’s remarkable how frequently old mini-comics come to be available. People forget how amazing that burst of early ’90s Tom Hart minis was, and they still hold up as perfect little comic books; a lot of the second-generation alternative cartoonists did great minis. Kevin Huizenga is the best cartoonist of this current, still emerging generation, Fort Thunder was the most important comics collective of the last 15 years and King-Cat Comix and Stories is a top five post-1980 comic book series in terms of its importance and impact.

*****

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4. At Least One Pogo Book From The 1950s

I’m sure the new Fantagraphics Pogo series will be lovely, and will have the advantage of presenting everything published (I’m not sure the paperbacks do that), but the 1950s collections are well-designed, nearly perfect little books and the only comics that many people of that generation kept into adulthood.

*****

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5. A Barnaby Collection

Maybe someday someone will pay the Crockett Johnson people enough money or whatever it is going to take to have them sign off on a complete collection of Crockett Johnson’s mighty Barnaby; until then, you can find the two hardcovers for pretty cheap through places like abebooks.com and the softcovers that came later for slightly more. Your favorite cartoonist probably has one or the other or both already. There’s nothing really like Barnaby now, and it’s still funny in a way comics weren’t before and haven’t been since. I could read these for a solid week as a substitute for food and sleep.

Dive into the rest of the list here.