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 (http://www.jimshooter.com/). 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.