Friday, January 11, 2013

From the ashes... Part 2

In my previous post, I chronicled my history as a comic-book collector, and explained why, after more than two decades of the hobby, I quit reading and collecting comics.  From early 1999 until late 2012, I never bought a comic-book, and rarely re-read my existing ones (my beloved Hawk and Dove series from the early 1990s being an exception -- I re-read that series about once every couple of years).  What happened in late 2012 that got me back into the "comics collecting" game?

Colin on his birthday with his new Cap toy.
As with the cessation of collecting, my resumption of collecting resulted from the confluence of independent factors.  The first factor, and probably the primary catalyst, was my four-year-old nephew, Colin.  In the last few months, Colin has become very interested in superheroes, and asked Santa Claus for Batman and Spider-Man action figures.  He wasn't very familiar with the Avengers, so I decided to get him started on one of my all-time favorite heroes, Captain America.  As you can see, Colin liked Cap a lot too.

Colin's interest in superheroes over Thanksgiving began to rekindle my own. When looking for a superhero toy to buy him, I started with action figures. Since I knew Santa was already being asked for Spider-Man and Batman, I decided to try some other characters he might like. Besides Captain America, I also searched for another favorite of mine, Superman.   This is where the pure chance factors in.

The Crisis Supergirl action figure
I did my searching, as I often do, on Amazon.  If you've ever used Amazon, you know that when you select a product to examine on their site, you are also shown, at the bottom of the page, an array of similar products that other customers who bought your item also liked.  So when I looked up the Superman action figure, Amazon showed me an array of other related superhero figures, and one of them was the old school, so-called "pre-Crisis" version of Supergirl. This action figure, which retails for about $29, caught my eye immediately.

To understand why this particular figure caught my eye, you have to realize that Supergirl has had several incarnations over the years.  Supergirl made her first appearance in Action Comics #252, in 1959 (long before I was born). She existed for 26 years in the DC universe as Kara Zor-El, cousin of Kal-El (aka. Superman).  She wore a variety of costumes, with the final one, in the early to mid 1980s, being the one shown in the picture.  Then in 1985, during the "Crisis on Infinite Earths" story-line, DC comics killed Supergirl off, and erased her entire existence from their continuity. For years, she languished, until a shape-shifting creature called "The Matrix" (before there was a movie by that name) took on the shape of a female with a Superman costume, and started calling itself "Supergirl." Since then, there have been several other versions of Supergirl and her costume. But this version of the character, and the costume, was always my favorite.

When I saw this action figure, with only two left in stock, at Amazon, I simply could not resist it.  I was already in mild shock that DC comics would bother to produce an action figure for a comic series from 30 years ago, and an incarnation of a character that has not been seen for just as long.  Knowing that with collectibles like this, one must strike while the iron is hot, I decided to go ahead and buy this action figure in early December 2012. This started me thinking about comic-books, and I dug out my old Supergirl comics from the early 1980s and started re-reading them.

The second event that happened was a long, involved IM chat between my good friend Stuart Johnson, and myself, regarding comics.  He told me that DC comics had recently rebooted its entire universe, the so-called "New 52" comics, which I realized could help get me over the hump of not understanding what the hell is going on in these continuing series. Most of the DC comics were on issue 15 or lower, so it should be fairly easy to cotton on to what is happening. And the continuity had been (sort of, though not entirely) reset, so I did not need to know all the 13 years of history I had missed before jumping in.  So that made me start considering comics.

But then Stuart told me something else. Although he reads many comics, he does not buy paper copies anymore -- he only buys electronic copies (eComics).  At first, I flat-out rejected this idea. Comic-books are collectors' items, aren't they? The whole point is to buy them and keep them in good condition.  But then he asked, had I ever re-sold a comic I collected? (No.)  Did I really have the room to keep hundreds (or thousands) of back-issues in boxes or on shelves? (No.) And wasn't the main thing I liked to do with comics to read them and enjoy the stories? (Yes.) Well, eComics allow you to do that... with the added bonus that some companies, like DC, give you a discount on older issues after they have been out for a few weeks.  He mentioned the website he used for purchase -- ComiXology -- and I said I would think about it.

But what really sold me on the idea of eComics was my visit to the ComiXology website.  Because one of the toughest thing about comic-book collecting is that, if you decided to start collecting an ongoing series (say, because you've heard it's good), you have to start in the middle and then either accept that you are not able to read the older stories, or else pay an arm and a leg (and do tons of shopping and traveling to conventions) to get all the back-issues.  And what I discovered was that eComics let you avoid all that.  The ComiXology site offered all the New 52 comics from the current ones (#15 or so) back to #1. This meant that, instead of what I would have had to do on paper (start with #15, and work forward, while also working backward little by little), I could start at #1 and work my way up.  Instead of having to haunt the comic shop to make sure I bought every issue, I could buy and download what I wanted, at my convenience.  And it even meant that some very expensive, rare, old back-issues (like the original 1960s X-men) were now available for no more money than a current-print comic.

I realized that eComics would take some getting used to, but this seemed like the way to go.  So I tried it. I bought X-men #1, as well as a few New 52 titles in their #1 issues, such as Supergirl, and Avengers Assemble #1.  I read them on my tablet, and really enjoyed them.  The ComiXology App is fantastic, allowing you to either read whole pages, or to read one panel at a time.  And the comics are always in mint condition, never have misprints, and take up no physical space.

And so, between Colin's interest in superheroes, my love of classic Supergirl, and the prodding of my good friend Stuart, I started collecting comic-books again.  In the month since, I have continued to read seven or eight eComic titles, and read #1-4 of those series. I also decided to start an action figure/statue collection of my favorite heroes, such as Supergirl, Hawk and Dove, and Batgirl.  I plan to make a display with these collectibles when I buy a house later this year (say, in a curio), and to go with the statues, I decided to buy the Batgirl and Supergirl comics on paper, as well as buy the Hawk and Dove trade paperback (from the New 52) to go with the existing back-issues.  I've been to my local comic shop three times in the last month -- the first three times since 1999.

I will write more about my plans with regard to the physical collecting that I've started doing in future articles.  For now, the point is that I have returned to comics after a 13 year hiatus... that I have risen, like a phoenix, from the ashes. (Hopefully the comic companies won't tick me off and turn me into Dark Phoenix!)

As I re-enter the comic-book collecting world, and the world of superhero collectibles like figures and statues, I thought it would be fun to chronicle the process, and allow others to share in the experience (and perhaps, learn a thing or two from the mistakes I will inevitably make along the way).  I also had lots of thoughts I wanted to "get down on paper," and blogging is a good way to do that (without the actual paper).

It has been a fun ride so far, and I have greatly enjoyed some of the comic-books I've been reading (not all, but some).  I will write more about the comics and the collectors' items as I buy, read, and display them. Feel free to join me for the journey, and leave comments for me to read.

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