Panelology – Cataloging My Addiction

by Brandon
Heroes Con in Charlotte is always one of my yearly fanboy highs. What’s not to love about it? It blends a wonderful comic book friendly environment with good, solid deals. When I go to Heroes Con, I always feel this elation that is hard to describe and even harder to calculate. I’m not necessarily one of those fans who thinks things through well when I show up at a convention, or even normal shopping for that matter. I never bring lists. Does that make me less of a fan? Probably. But I'm okay with that.

There was a guy sifting through a trade paperback bin next me early on Friday during this year’s con. He had a notebook with pages upon pages of titles he needed to pick up. This wasn’t a floppy, flimsy notebook either. We’re talking about a solid 1 1/2 – 2 inch thick three-ring binder. This man was serious. As he found what he was looking for, he highlighted each selection and breathed a heavy sigh of relief. I thought that this type of anal-retentive comic book accounting was a bit silly. Who has the time or patience to catalogue what you currently have, let alone what you need? Moron. Go read a book to children or the elderly. Volunteer at a soup kitchen. Clean your house. Just do something besides sweating out the details of your collection.

That is what I thought until I had a major Mr. Magoo moment.

I would like to think I have a good memory for useless or esoteric things like comic books, and I do. But going through a long box of back issues there on the con floor, my brain went dead. I was looking at some issues of the second volume of Ghost Rider, a favorite of mine back in the '90s because I thought I wanted to a biker. It’s true. The allure of the open road, tattoos, and leather jackets was pretty strong. It wasn’t until later that I developed a fear of motorcycles, an aversion to wearing leather, and some serious inhibitions about living into my sixties with a tattoo of a rebel flag on my arm. But still, I have a soft spot for Ghost Rider. I live my biker dreams vicariously through the exploits of the Spirit of Vengeance.

As I looked through the box, I couldn’t remember what issues I had in my collection. I remembered buying some issues a few months before, but had I bought the first ten issues or the first thirty? I couldn’t remember. Somewhere in the halls of fairness, the aforementioned moron with his big thick notebook was laughing at me as he highlighted yet another priceless find to make his comic book collection just that much more awesome.

I left without buying a single issue of Ghost Rider. I’m so cheap that I will literally let an issue fall back into the dark abyss of the dollar box than buy duplicates of an issue. That really pisses me off.

I got home and had to reason with myself. It was time to catalogue my comics even though I still thought it was kind of silly. I have said here before that I don’t consider myself a collector, but more of a reader. I mean, seriously, collectors are kind of odd people and I’m not odd people. I’m perfectly normal. Why would I want to catalog my precious belongings? I read them, have my fun, and I throw them in a box to be pulled out and read again somewhere down the road. So, no, I’m not a collector.

As my fiancé likes to point out, the thousands of comics that currently reside in my second bedroom tell a whole other story.

I’m a closet collector. There. I admitted it. Full disclosure; I feel a little dirty admitting it, but it is true. I enjoy reading comics, but I hate organizing and counting things. I would make a terrible librarian. I could read all day at the library and be perfectly content to pick up my paycheck on Fridays, but the second someone tells me to go shelve a book in order, I’d be inclined them where the can stick their Dewey Decimal System. Order isn’t my thing. Being OCD is one thing, whereas being neat is something else entirely.

Somewhere around the middle of July, I found the right program to use, Comic Book Database. It was free and it was online. My wallet was cool with that. I know some folks use Excel or Word, but I’m too lazy to organize those in any reasonable fashion. Comic Book DB is pretty user friendly. Now, if only we could get the user to finish the job. Almost two months, and I still have about six long boxes to go.

And guess what? Typing all of that stuff into the computer sucks. It’s just as mundane and excruciating as I had originally imagined. Not only is the manual labor monotonous, but the gasps of horror over some things I have found in my collection were frequent and shocking. But it’s necessary.

And the cataloging process isn’t a total bummer. It is fun going back and looking at all of those comics. I love remembering not only the craft of the stories, but where I was at in that particular point in my life. It’s kind of neat in a cheesy Hallmark sort of way.

The fact that members can edit the content is very Web 2.0. I feel geeky in the "I edit Wikipedia for fun" kind of way when I do, but the feeling passes rather quickly. From a collector’s standpoint, I can also clearly see the huge gaping holes in my collection. I guess if I weren’t so cheap I could fill those gaps in quickly. That is, if I actually stay on top of this.

I know there are probably a million ways one could go about the cataloging of comics, but this one seems to be the least painful for someone as lazy as I am. Maybe my fine readers have a better way. Maybe you don’t. Maybe you’re like me, stuck in the miasma of fanboy lethargy. Let’s hope not, because I now feel like this is a worthy exercise for any collector. Yes, you too can catalog your collection like that overzealous three-ring binder guy and me. If I can do it, you can do it. No pain, no gain. Quitters never win and winners never quit. Yeah!

Can I stop the inspirational Vince Lombardi speech now?

You can look at what I have documented thus far by clicking here. Warts and all.

That’s all for now. Next week, I’ll offer up some suggestions for essential books that every comic collector should own. I promise I won’t put Dark Knight or Watchmen in the list. I promise, really.

Until then…


Dan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dan said...

http://www.comiccollectorlive.com/ has both a free collection software and provides collectors a place to buy and sell comics.

Mister said...

Hi Brandon another cool post there.

I recently decided to catalogue my collection of trades, and it wasn't that hard a job. Keeping it updated is though. I keep buying new books, and forgetting to add them in.

I did mine in Excel, and the autofill function came in really handy, especially when finding the duplicates I had managed to buy over the years.

It also highlighted that I had ready only about half the books I've bought over the years.

Chris Ware said...

On top of my Word files, I use http://www.comicspriceguide.com. It costs me $45 a year (it's free if you have less than 100 comics), but I figure, I can use it for insurance purposes because, not only is it a database, but they provide values for each issue as well. The values aren't random either. They look at eBay auctions and other factors. So yeah, I'm pretty anal when it comes to cataloging...

Brandon said...

Wow, thanks for all the input here guys. I'm lazy and hate monotonous tasks like data entry, so this was a chore for me. An interesting chore, but still a chore.

The General said...

Yeah, my collection is a trainwreck right now. I definitely appreciate what you are saying about the necessity of cataloging it, but just haven't made it a priority. Too many other things I need to do first.

Someday though.

I do admit that when I go to conventions these days, I bring a small list of X-titles I need to fill in gaps in my collection. It give the convention a little more sense of purprose. Like you, Brandon, I had one too many momments where I blanked on what I had, and what I needed.

Brandon said...

It's sad to blank out because we're fanboys. We can't really blame acid.