Collecting Comics and History

I come to my love of history through my father.  He was fascinated with it and there were always history books around when I was growing up.  I would have been a history major if I could have figured out a way to get a job out of it (not that my Economics Degree did me any good).  My most interesting classes were the ones talking about what had happened and why.

While not being an absolute statement, I think that a lot of comic collecting, at least for my generation and those before me, has some to do with the enjoyment of history.  Finding out what happened before.  I stumbled upon a blog that i will probably spend days going though.  It is Jim Shooter (  He is currently talking about what was going on when he became EiC in the late 70’s.  For me this is fascinating.  I was reading some comics then (and have certainly bought many that were produced in that time period) so it is intriguing to me.

But how does the enjoyment of history relate to collecting comics, you ask?  Well, kids, there used to be a time before the internet.  Where information was not as easily discovered.  What was the first appearance of Black Manta?  You had to dig through the Overstreet Price Guide looking for that little line saying First Appearance of….  Or maybe find a fanzine or an issue of Amazing Heroes that dealt with it.  But then there was the real fun stuff.  I remember some book was making reference to something called Project Pegasus.  What the heck was that?  If I was lucky, a wise editor would put a little box in a panel saying (See Marvel Two-in-One #42), which would be a little help only if your local store had it (I couldn’t expect mom to drive me all around town).  Or you’d put it on you want list to look for at the next show.  So there was always that desire to know what happened before.  What was such and such’s origin?  When did he change costumes?  Who was this dead character they were always talking about (ie, Jean Grey)?

So, a lot of my back issue searches were to find this knowledge.  And I can’t be alone.  Certainly a lot of collectors collections developed due to the desire to have all, or a love of a certain character (or creator).  But I also have to think that a lot of it developed from a desire to know what had happened before.  To complete the big picture.  And through the search of history, I know far more names than I should.  That is part of what I like about Jim Shooters blog.  I am familiar with these names and he is giving more info on them.  It was what I enjoyed about Wizard, the back stories.  It’s why I enjoy magazines like Back Issue and Alter Ego.  Stories of what went on before, how things came about.  Shooter’s current post talks about how bad things were then for Marvel, but so many people talk about that time like it was great (ie Marvel’s top books used to sell a million copies, so since they aren’t any more, comics are DOOOMED!  DOOMED, I say!)

Things are different now.  Now, if someone comes in and asks what was the first appearance of  the Brothers Grimm, I can find it easily online.  If you are reading a book and it references something you don’t know about, getting the information is easy.  But it makes the back issue hunt a little less fun nowadays.  But it is this rich history that will keep the love of reading comics.  Someone posted a Newsarama link on my Facebook page about what all DC will be destroying with this reboot in the way of stories that can now no longer have happened.  1) I find this hilarious that people have already determined the ramifications of the effect of stories that they haven’t read and 2) DC is well aware of their rich history and I am sure that all of this has been taken into consideration.  Why would DC suddenly make their entire history irrelevant?  What if, instead, they have decided to add some stories into that history?  What if they decided to further enrich what has gone on before instead?  That is something I could get on board with.  And the history fan in me wants to see how it all happens.

So, come join me on the fun weekly stories that are being added to the history of comics, but don’t forget to look back at what came before and try to find something to sink your teeth into and dive through the back issues for.


Posted in Opinion.


  1. All 52 issues for $99? I didn’t know Colin was doing that. That’s a great deal! I’d love to know how many customers take advantage of that. I’m going with a similar offer from my retailer and it’s a great move.

  2. I feel Colin is coming from a different place then most because he’s a retailer. It explains the extremes. At the beginning, lots of fear. Shortly after, defense of DC.

    I totally get that. In fact, it’s what really makes the Podcast standout amongst all the other comic books discussions you can listen to.

    That said, as someone who is only a reader, I don’t have to be all in or all out. I can be cautious and it doesn’t affect anyone else or my income!

    That said, I’m nervous…not angry. Those who are angry (protesters at SDCC) are wasting a lot of time and energy because they haven’t read the stories yet not do they know the whole story.

    I can justify my nervousness because a partial reboot is a difficult maneuver. It’s far more complex than a complete reboot. Those involved are going to have a really hard time picking and choosing what to keep and what not to because the DC Universe is very interconnected.

  3. Thanks Matt.

    What I was going to say in a long much more detailed post boils down to this.

    By DC doing a soft reboot they have the potential to upset both the existing readers and the potential new readers they are hoping to pick up.

    How you ask?

    Well for existing readers it’s a bit of a pain because of all the speculation about what is DC history is changing an what isn’t. It’s hard going into a soft reboot not sure if what made your favorite character great in your eyes will still be there after the reboot. A hard reboot eliminates this.

    For a potential new reader the same thing goes. They don’t know how much history they are gonna need for a character they maybe interested in.

    So by going the route of the soft reboot DC has the potential to alienate both existing and potential readers.

    What this soft reboot boils down to (only in my opinion) is that this was a mandated change and not something that flowed naturally thru the DCU. I don’t believe that as much forward thought was put into this reboot as some people may believe and because of that in 2 years (give or take a couple) another crisis type event will have to take place to reset the DCnU.

    That being said I will be taking advantage of Colin’s 52 for $99 deal and giving the DCnU a chance to prove me wrong and would suggest (if you can afford it) that you do the same.

  4. Colin I agree that people are over reacting. But so did *you* if I remember the day DC announced this 🙂 You’re just experienced enough to come to your senses sooner.

    I do wish that DC would publish a list of what is changing in terms of history. Would just be nice to know.

    Shawn: I could remove the captcha but then we would get tons of spam. I could require an account on the site to post comments and get rid of the captcha. That is Colin’s call.

    • Matt, I was never upset about the reboot. What upset me was the throw away line in the press release of “Same Day Digital Release” with no further explanation. This has been the “other shoe” we’ve been waiting for since the iPad first came out.

      • There is no way DC would do a hard reboot and discard 75 years if history. Especially with Warner Bros looking to tap the history and characters But, how do you make Superman relevant again? New storylines and new creative teams won’t do it. Even a new #1 wouldn’t have any real lasting impact.

        But I already have 10 more requests for the new Justice League than I ordered total of the last issue. My guess is that Superman numbers are in the same neighborhood. So it is having a positive impact on orders and interest in the books.

        What is going to be changed? Don’t know yet, but making the characters younger and less grizzled would be good. Red Lantern never lost his arm – good. But clearly the whole JasonTodd thing happened. I am sure more info will come out as to the changes, but they don’t want to play all their cards 2 months ahead of time.

  5. Well I had a nice long post to put up on here and forgot the CAPTCHA Code at the bottom before hitting submit and it wiped out my post. Now I know why I don’t post on here more often.

  6. Right. I just mean for people to relax. We don’t know what is coming. I doubt DC is planning a relaunch that will mean that Crisis on Infinite Earths, Blackest Night, Final Night, Identity Crisis, Starman and New Teen Titans never existed. You have to remember the short attention span insanity that exists out there. How many people will read the headline or read the article as fact, not as a Newsarama guess? Now there will be people out there spewing that since New Teen Titans never existed, they are done and DC is stupid and Marvel rules, yadda yadda yadda. I can’t even bring myself to click on the comments on the article.

    And it could all be true. All I am saying is, let’s wait to see what has happened, what changes are made. My concern is that the entire article is speculation and 100% negative speculation at that. We don’t need the comic news media putting more negative commentary out there. Especially at a time that DC is actually trying to do something so positive for comics right now.

    I have no problem discussing it, but I’d rather know what we are discussing. What if the Cyborg is the FP Cyborg, who after the first Justice League story arc (which maybe deals with the after affects of FP on the post FP DCU), no longer exists and the Vic Stone we know proceeds as he did in New Teen Titans? And how many people would complain if they negated Cry For Justice?

    People also need to remember that these are not the only DC books that are going to be put out in the next 6 months. If you are relaunching the main DCU, is that the time that you also want to relaunch Earth-2 for JSA? No, that will come in October or November. Which would negate the concern over Starman and JSA and the rest.

  7. Also, that was the reason my enthusiasm for comics was coming in late in the history of comics(early 90’s) and working my way back while also moving forward. That’s really something that I loved experiencing.

  8. I did think the Newsarama article I posted was interesting not because it was something to fear but it really showed what a “knock-on” effect that the whole of the DC has when things are changed.

    That doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world or that it’s negative, just that cannon continuity does make an impact on stories. I don’t have a bias to be overly positive or overly negative about the changes DC is making. I have no financial interest if this succeeds so I don’t need to be a cheerleader for this move that DC is making. On the other-side, I don’t benefit from being overly negative about this because I’ve already pre-ordered each of the 52 issues and, more importantly, I have yet to read any of the books that have been written.

    I do think having a conversation about what will and won’t be cannon is valuable, however. If you are invested in characters, it’s important to understand their histories and how their histories are connected to other characters. For any story to matter, you have to understand the characters in the stories. That’s why a complete clean break is simple, easy, and clean cut for the reader. This partial break, is cause for concern because the impact of events within the stories can swing wildly one way or the other depending on which experiences the character has had (i.e. canon stories).

    The impact of a story is affected greatly if a character interacts with a character in the story for the first time vs. many years of working together. Take a character like Kyle Rayner. He became very close, eventually, with Wally West over the coarse of many years of stories. They initially butted heads and did not gel. As members of the Justice League, both made significant changes in growth as characters.

    If this growth is erased because, in the DCnU they had never been part of the JLA, how would you approach reading a story with these two characters in the same book? The subtext of the previous relationship would be removed completely. Yet, some of their experiences are cannon while others are not. It gets really complicated. This is why the Ultimate universe really succeeded for many years. It was a clean break. When an analog character met another for the first time it was their first interaction. Sure, you brought some of your baggage along (you knew how it went when these characters first met in the 616 Marvel Universe) but, within the context of the story, it was easy to comprehend because it was fairly clean.

    In short, these changes aren’t the end of the world. I understand we haven’t had a chance to read any yet. I just think we are aloud to make educated guesses as to what will happen as long as we don’t get upset about them because they are just guesses. However, I would welcome a pleasant and reasonable debate with anyone who says canon doesn’t matter in the context of fictional serialized story telling. I argue, it’s one of the most important aspects of serial story telling and more so in a shared universe. Partial changes to canon are inherently messy and much more difficult to execute. That said, I wish them luck!

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