It bears considering that some bored schmuck once devoted a few minutes of his time to an ideal design for long-term preservation of a single issue of a comic book serial. It also seems remarkable that another bored schmuck (or three) then created an ad plan and marketed those suckers to comic book stores and fans. Clearly, comics have arrived in some mainstream way that includes industries designed just to aid and abet hordes of reliably rabid Avengers fans. And, of course, collectors. Who sell to fans.
As a reader of comics, archival storage bags intimidate the hell out of me.
For the first five years of my comic-buying life, I bagged nothing. Then, someone informed me that I was KILLING MY COMICS. I then panicked and bagged everything. Once I’d gotten over the initial terror, I realized just how much that was costing me and just bagged the stuff I liked. (The reasons that I was purchasing comics that I didn’t like would fill another article.) Finally, irritated that I still wasn’t carrying the donkey correctly, I only bagged comics that I thought would be valuable down the road. (Spoiler: NONE WERE.) The result is a ridiculous mishmash of idiotically preserved comics randomly peppered throughout my already random collection. In addition to being haphazardly bagged, they are now more difficult to open and read thanks to my scattershot but meticulous preservation efforts.
This year, I realized how very foolishly I was behaving and decided to look into this bagging stuff scientifically. I will now share what I discovered with you so that you don’t have to go through the same stupid shenanigans.
Bag science says that you bag everything: one sterling book and one acid-free board to one pristine mylar bag. Polypropylene bags are available, and indeed they are somewhat more cost-effective than mylar, but resist the urge to budget – these are comic books we’re talking about. Only mylar is worthy.
And the inclusion of boards is non-negotiable. Seriously. That book could bend. It could happen, and if it did, it would be your fault for not putting an acid-free piece of cardboard on it. Archival quality, obviously. You can get them on the Internet with little trouble, but remember: don’t scrimp! (That said, if you *must* use common sulfate-backed boards, make sure and rest the comic on the glossy side. Otherwise, doom will result.)
Wash your hands before handling the comic. Wear clean, undyed cotton gloves whenever you must touch it. Never hold the stapled edge lest you bend it. I assume that a hazmat suit is appropriate at some point in this process, presumably the part involving Fort Knox and a million rows of tomb-like, acid-free storage boxes in a dark and severely temperature-controlled vault, but that’s a piece I haven’t stumbled across quite yet.
Nowhere in this process does one actually read the comic in question.
To be perfectly honest, I never see anyone at my friendly neighborhood comic book shop whipping out the white cotton gloves to pick up their latest Deadpool spinoff. Granted, I can only imagine my regret in twenty years when I open the plastic storage bin where I keep my back issues of Prophet to find that they’ve all turned into hard, miserable lumps of mildewy ex-fun. But as ludicrous as my comic preservation style was, at least I’m getting to read the books I like while they’re being discussed. I have a feeling I’m not alone in this. Anyway, I don’t have anywhere near the kind of self-control that would allow me to exclude myself from Black Widow. Or a Black Widow re-read.
That’s why I’ve scrapped the bag concept for all of my comics except the ones I truly loathe. I don’t mind bagging awful books, because after all, I never read them anyway. (Once again, another article.) The rest get bent, worn, torn, loaned to friends, not returned, trampled by children, attacked by cats, and read to pieces. They tend to accumulate more coffee stains, and it excites hysteria on the parts of some of my more traditional associates, but at least when Saga updates, I get to enjoy the ride.
I guess it comes down to why we buy these things in the first place. As far as I’m concerned, a comic book is essentially a continuing story and a connection to a community, as well as my weekly lifeline to sanity and all that. For other fans, the reasons may have more to do with various fun and visually appealing hermetic seals. Both philosophies are probably insane, but whatever.
What’s your bagging philosophy? Do you have one? Comment!