Tom Spurgeon wrote a post on Sunday called The 50 Things That Every Comics Collection Truly Needs. In it, he lists and explains his choices. Now, I didn’t originally read the post – instead, I read other people’s reactions to it, in a meme kinda way. But, when I did, I was taken aback at the list, mainly because I don’t have very many of the books mentioned on the list, but also because of how elitist it felt. Obviously, it’s a personal selection and opinions differ, but it seemed to suggest that the only collection worth having is filled with esoteric and snobby books – the equivalent of a DVD collection full of black and white foreign films from before 1960, or a ‘proper’ book collection made up of Shakespeare, Chaucer and Proust.
It’s not just sour grapes on my part for having my collection of comic books is so very far from great. Or the stupidity I feel that I hadn’t heard of quite a few things on the list (Arcade? Barnaby? Binky Brown? Saul Steinberg?) Or the presence of comics that I don’t like and wouldn’t have in my collection (I don’t like Peanuts, I don’t like Jack Kirby – sacrilege, I know – I don’t like Archie and never want to read one [perhaps it’s a US/UK thing], and I’ve never got into the autobiographical comic book scene [sorry, Alan]). Or the items that seem to be on the list for the sake of showing off to other comic book collectors (Tijuana Bibles? Woodcuts? New Yorker cartoonists? An entire run of one manga series? Comics not in your native language?). It feels like snobbery to me, but I am one of those boring types who likes what he likes, so what do I know?
You can read the whole list at the original post, but (to make things shorter) here are the things that I can actually say that I do own on the list:
10. Several Tintin Albums (a cheat: my girlfriend owns these)
12. Several Significant Runs of Alternative Comic Book Series (I have some Eddie Campbell books)
14. Several “Indy Comics” From Their Heyday (I have the first series of American Flagg!)
15. At Least One Comic Book From When You First Started Reading Comic Books (well, obviously)
33. Some Calvin and Hobbes
39. At Least A Few Alan Moore Comics (that’s obligatory, isn’t it?)
41. A Few Comics About Comics (Understanding Comics, Hicksville)
43. Some Frank Miller Comics (but not that many)
48. An Array Of Comics In Various Non-Superhero Genres (Usagi Yojimbo, Sandman, Preacher, Transmetropolitan, Criminal, etc.)
Not very much, is it? I shall have to live with a less than great collection. I know these sorts of lists are supposed to initiate discussion more than being definitive (and there is discussion at the end of the original post), and I do disagree with many suggestions, and I haven’t read enough comics to be able to post alternatives, and my tastes are too narrow to be part of the discussion, but it still left me with a strange taste in my mouth. I guess I shouldn’t let other people try to tell me what I should have in my comic book collection …
[EDIT: I had to mention Chris Sims’ response to Tom’s original post, in which he turns the whole thing on its head with ‘Twenty-Five Things Every Comics Collection Truly Needs To Be Awesome‘. God bless you, Mr Sims.]