The Comics We Can’t Pack

Posted by on December 2nd, 2009 at 11:08 AM

My husband and I are moving across the bay from San Francisco to Berkeley, which means the hour dreaded by all good nerds has arrived: we have to pack away our comics.  And there are a lot.  By now we’ve got almost everything boxed up, from Andrew’s Essential Marvels to my five shelves of kitchen manga (you know, in case I’m in the kitchen and I need to read manga).

It’s the stuff still left unpacked that interests me.  Here are the comics we’ve kept handy up to the very last minute.  Could this be a bold new rubric for measuring one’s favorite comics?  The Comics You Can’t Pack?  What’s odd is that few of the comics I’d normally list as my favorite or most-read are among the reserve.  Instead, we’ve got:

1. Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol

Not only are all our Doom Patrol paperbacks still out, they occupy the prime comics real estate in our apartment: the spinner rack.  Thanks to their sudden prominence, I finally got around to reading the entirety of Doom Patrol.  But I swear they weren’t there a month ago.

2. The Judas Contract!

I didn’t think either Andrew or I was a huge Teen Titans fan, and yet here we are, still rereading Marv Wolfman’s 1980s run.  Which is fine, because there’s a lot of good stuff in there.  Wolfman’s New Teen Titans kind of straddles the gulf between 1970s superhero flamboyance and 1990s superhero grit.  On one hand, you’ve got all those dark villains and  complex motives and characters dying.  On the other hand, the main bad guy is named Deathstroke the Terminator, one of those names I can’t say without getting a big grin on my face and loving comics.  (Other such names: Big Barda, Monkey D. Luffy, Walt Wallet.)  Also, this is the storyline where Robin becomes Nightwing, in one of those scenes where characters speak their own logos.  It’s all such pure comickry that it’s hard for me to write the title without adding an exclamation point.  The Judas Contract! See?

3. All Harvey Kurtzman comics

Maybe this is just because we haven’t finished packing the Ks, but all our painstakingly collected Kurtzman stuff is still out.  Holy crud, do we actually own My Life as a Cartoonist, the autobiography of Kurtzman written for grade-schoolers unwisely considering a career in comics?  I didn’t even know we had that.  I read it as a kid and it failed to scare me away from the comics industry, as any account of Kurtzman’s life as a cartoonist rightfully should.  Harvey Kurtzman should replace Robert Crumb as the official Best Cartoonist.  I’m kind of over Crumb.  Maybe we could do it as a rotational thing: for the next five years we all assume Harvey Kurtzman was the greatest cartoonist of all time, and then for five years we switch over to Jack Kirby or Lynda Barry or something.  Speaking of which, Barry’s What It Is is still unpacked.

4. Calvin & Hobbes paperbacks

All the skinny old Abrams ones, like Yukon Ho! and Something Under the Bed Is Drooling.  I miss comic-strip collections with titles taken from gag lines in the strip.  I like that the Fantagraphics Krazy Kat collections kind of have that going on.  Anyway, Calvin & Hobbes seems like a classy choice for keeping on the shelves, and right next to it is Fun Home, the classiest comic of them all (you can tell by all the Proust).  I was about to pat myself on the back for our excellent taste, but next to that is The Essential Human Torch, and now I don’t know what to think.

5. A whole bunch of comics reference books

First and foremost is Jason Thompson’s Manga: The Complete Guide, which we can’t even keep shelved because I pull it for reference every couple of days.  It’s possible that Manga: The Complete Guide is only really useful to people who write about manga on the Internet and don’t want to just make up facts, but for the three of us, it’s indispensable.  Also still on the shelves: lots of animation art books (Before the Animation Begins, The Disney That Never Was, The Art and Flair of Mary Blair), which we need for reference way more often than seems logical, and, mysteriously, The World of Steve Ditko.

From Hell, Bone, and the two big Love and Rockets hardcovers are still on the shelves too, but I assume that’s because we haven’t gotten boxes with the reinforced bottoms yet.

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