Over the past few years, I have slowly built up a second comic book collection, this one far more curated than the “buy anything on the stands” or “I have to have EVERY Marvel comic they put out” approach of my youth. That first collection, shared—and largely bankrolled for the first quarter century or so by my older brother—has been slowly sold off over the years. But every now and again I would come across a book or three which ignited a warmth in me, a slow, four-color fire that burned brightly. That first DC Tarzan by Joe Kubert for $5.00? Sure, I want that. I used to have that. The run of DC’s Bat Lash comics by Nick Cardy? Why, they’re absolutely beautiful. I want those. All those fondly-remembered 12-cent Marvels, when the entire Universe was just aborning? If the price is right—or even if it’s a tad high—I want those, too.
I’m not sure how many books I have right now, but the majority of them are ones I had as a kid in the sixties and seventies and bought again years later. Sure, it’s all nostalgia, and somehow it got amplified during the pandemic. Maybe too many late-night eBay searches, maybe too many podcasts running down “Marvel by the Month.” Maybe too many episodes of Cartoonist Kayfabe on YouTube that made me curious about things like Gene Day’s work on Master of Kung Fu. All those things made me very nostalgic and curious about these books that had come and gone, partially forgotten, partially remembered, and maybe not quite as appreciated as they should have been back in the day.
The four rotating sides of my Spinner Rack, side by side.
A number of years ago—let’s say five, it’s my favorite number—I bought a brand new spinner rack. It was meticulously manufactured to copy the spinner racks of old, and I slowly began to fill it up with old comics: Certainly Marvel and DC, but also Charlton and Harvey and King and Tower and even a few Classics Illustrated. My collection has now outgrown the 40 pockets that lie ten-to-a-side on this metal marvel, and overflowed into four black, hard-plastic, storage boxes, minutely curated and ordered in such a way to make sense only to the dark recesses of my collector mind. And you know what? I’m totally fine with that, because it brings me a lot of joy. I rotate the sides of my spinner rack each month to show me a different row of comics. I regularly replace them with other comics, either newly purchased or taken out of those black boxes. And some nights, when I’m a bit down and lonely, I stare at that rack—it’s right across from my couch, right next to the TV—and it gives me an incredible amount of joy. I suppose I’m a conspicuous consumer; owning things have always mattered to me. I don’t go to libraries, I go to bookstores. In my mind, if a book is worth reading, it’s worth owning. On a recent trip to Portland, my visit to Powell’s Books was a bust, but my visit to three comic book shops—Cosmic Monkey, Floating World, and Excalibur Comics—was a revelation when it came to back issues and other comics oriented publications.
Recently, I’ve experienced a number of podcasts and Instagram posts about the history of comics, all of which showcased the person or persons involved own experiences with buying and loving comic books. It dawned on me that I have my own particular and highly personal history with comics, especially those on my spinner rack, which I’ve taken great lengths to bring back into my life. While I’m still laboring on my ongoing series, “My Life in Comics,” which chronicles my love of comics and my 20-year career at San Diego Comic-Con, I know it has only a few chapters left before I’m done, so why not start something new, something more ambitious (not a word I use to describe myself very much in retirement), and write a bit about these books that I stare at and that sometimes stare back.
So here we are: Starting next week, I’m going to attempt a weekly series called “Tales from My Spinner Rack.” If you’re expecting a page-by-page, panel-by-panel critique of specific comics, you’ve come to the wrong place. These posts, some short, some long, will be more about my personal connection to these comics, with maybe a little bit of a history lesson thrown in for good measure. I’ve realized how much I enjoy re-reading these books along with the ancillary joys of collecting; Creating want lists, hunting books down in stores or online, and the simple, tactile joy of compiling a collection, bagging and boarding each issue, placing them in the correct order within your collection, both in your mind and in reality. Who’s my target audience for this? It’s simple: It’s me. Everything I write on this blog is for me. If someone finds it and reads it and enjoys it, great. I welcome you, but this is all for me.
So that’s what “Tales from My Spinner Rack” is going to be all about. Can I do this for 52 weeks straight? I guess we’ll find out together, won’t we? And there will be graphics (see the teaser below). How deep can I dig this commitment hole? Tune in next Wednesday for my own version of “New Comic Book Day,” with Tales from My Spinner Rack #001: Fantastic Four #45.