Wednesday, June 20

Library-Bound Comic Collection

I have read and collected comic books for as long as I can remember, since no later than 1967 when I would have been five years old (turning six in November of that year). Early on, I started wishing there were a way to present my collection in a more prestigious form than as individual magazines stacked on shelves or stored in boxes. I wanted to be able to read them like “real” books. This was doubtless spurred by my parents' presenting me with the original Superman: and Batman: From the 30's to the 70's volumes sometime in 1973, nice, big hardcover books with a treasure-trove of stories. (Actually, the Batman volume was my brother's but since he wasn't really into comics even as a kid it was de facto mine.) Various birthdays and Christmases netted other such collections as Jules Feiffer's The Great Comic Book Heroes, Stan Lee's Origins of Marvel Comics and Son of Origins, Secret Origins of the DC Super-Heroes, The Collected Works of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, and the like. But for current comics there didn't seem to be anything like those great books in sight. Comics were seen as disposable entertainment, little of which would merit preservation.

I did try to make my own. I remember one misbegotten attempt to tape and glue a stack of Teen Titans comics into a volume with a cardboard cover over it. It did not turn out well.

Sometime in the mid 1970s, there came an offer for “comic binders” in various of the comics I was buying. I'm not really so sure how to describe them, but here's a go: A metal spine crenellated at top and bottom, bolted to a soft plastic “cover.” The idea was to use big rubber bands running the length of the spine, down the middle fold of the comics' spines, to hold them in the binder. They came, as far as I know, in only two colors (blue and red) and only two sizes (about an inch wide, meant for a dozen or a year's worth of comics, or about two inches wide, double that). Since pictures are worth a thousand words, here's a scan of a couple of the original ads as well as pictures of empty and filled binders.

from Superboy #212 (Oct 1975)
from Superboy #218 (Jul 1976)
An open binder, showing the crenellated metal spine
(and a sticker "bookplate" I afixed)
If I remember correctly, I ordered one or two of the smaller size and maybe as many as eight or ten of the larger ones – not all at once, I think.

One thing I quickly determined was that the rubber bands didn't hold well. They tended to break pretty quickly, exacerbated by rather sharp edges inside the crenellations. I hit upon a solution of using a very long nylon cord, starting it at front top and running it back and forth, up and down the comics' middle folds around the crenellations. I also quickly found out that I could cram way more than the “rated” number of issues into a binding.

At one time I had a good number of such bound volumes: Four double-size volumes of X-Men, basically covering from 1975-1983, a double-size one of Levitz's Legion of Super-Heroes, Marvel's entire run of John Carter, Warlord of Mars, a single-size volume of Superman comics, ICG's wonderful series of Official DC Comics Index issues and others I'm not sure about now. Frankly, I had to list all of those from memory except the X-Men volumes, which I still have (although I plan to sooner or later properly bind those as described below). I would afix stickers with handwritten, sometimes calligraphied, spine information and type up table of contents information that I would tape inside the front cover, all of which can be seen above.  The result was not all I would hope for, mainly because of the pliability of the covers and the great disparity between the width of the spines and the thickness of the outside ends of the comics. They would not stand up straight on a shelf in any kind of neat line, nor even stack neatly. But they did make fairly readable, if a bit unwieldy, faux books.

All of this is mainly to show how long my desire to make my comic books into “proper” books has endured. At some point I purchased a volume on hand bookbinding but quickly perceived that to do it right would require more time, expense, skill, and patience than I was willing to devote or develop.

To be sure, at times I would look at the bound volumes of magazines in library stacks and think, that would be a nice way to have my comics, but I never pursued it because I figured it would be way more expensive than I would be able to handle. Really, during the previous century only during the latter half of the 1980s would that not have been true because I was gainfully employed. Before that I was a teenager or in college, and through the 1990s I was in graduate school or desperately seeking academic employment as a newly credentialed Ph.D. In fact, for much of the 1990s my comic collecting hobby was curtailed to only one or two titles – Legion of Super-Heroes and Legionnaires.

It was only with my securing a tenure-track position in 2000 that I started having enough disposable income to start ramping up my comic collecting once again – slowly at first, but one title would lead to another and another and another. Boxes such as this, perched everywhere:

A small part of my collection before binding.
(Think of this times five or ten!)
I honestly do not remember exactly how I first learned of the growing community of comic book binders. I remember it was in the early summer of 2008, about the same time I discovered comic book podcasts, and it may have been through one of the interviews that Comic Geek Speak did with Jim Jasek of Library Binding Company in Waco, Texas. Or perhaps I came upon one of the two message boards that are devoted to the hobby [ here and here ; and apparently supplemented subsequently by this website/blog. ] It all happened in a quick blur on one afternoon in June. The main thing I remember is sitting there in front of my computer in dumbstruck, slackjawed awe at the wonderful bound volumes of comic books I was seeing. I was hooked immediately. I remember grabbing what at that time was a fairly organized listing of the comic books in my collection and quickly working out just how many volumes I could make up with little or no effort – ha!

That was my initial intention – just bind up the series that were near and dear to my heart, things that even in the “Great Comic Book Sell-Off of 1990” when I went back to graduate school I had not been able to part with. Most important among those, central to my comic book collection for all my life, was the Legion of Super-Heroes. There was quite a bit more, however, things like the aforementioned X-Men comics from the years that will always be in my opinion their best, things like Byrne's Fantastic Four and Superman runs, Simonson's Thor run, and so forth.

But before I would entrust one of those valuable (both in monetary terms and sentiment) sets of comics to what I as yet could only consider an unproven process, I knew I would have to get a couple of test volumes. And it so happened that a series had concluded about a year before that seemed tailor-made for binding – DC Comics' year-long saga, 52. This series comprised 52 weekly issues published from mid 2006 to mid 2007, telling a more-or-less cohesive story (actually several concurrent but vaguely related stories) about a year in the DC Universe without the big three heroes, Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. I had enjoyed it immensely, and was eager to read the series again as a whole rather than as weekly issues. It had, moreover, been collected into a set of trade paperbacks, so if worse came to worse, I could always easily replace the story in my collection.

Therefore, I set about “prepping” the books for binding. Following the lead of various examples I'd seen on the message boards, I knew that I wanted to include some kind of tables of contents for the two volumes into which I divided 52. I also decided I would include some prefatory material.  The series  52 was an immediate follow-up to DC's 2005-2006 event mini-series, Infinite Crisis, which comprised in addition to seven main issues, five “specials” that were not collected into DC's hardcover edition of Infinite Crisis. There was, moreover, near the end of 52, a “spin-out” series of four comics entitled World War III, expanding on the events of the main 52 series. I wanted to include all that. Finally, I wanted to remove all “four-page ads,” that is, double front/back ads that were in reality one sheet of paper connected through the binding. (It's also possible to remove single front/back ads, leaving a loose single leaf at the other end of the “through and through,” but I wasn't brave enough to do that just yet.)

Here is what I got back:

Wow! I was hooked! Over the next couple of years, I sent off box after box of comics to Waco, receiving back volume after volume of nice, library-bound comics. By mid 2010 (I'll get to the significance of that date later), this is what my bound-comics shelves looked like:

Quite an improvement over the “before” picture further above!

Unlike many others who post their finished projects on the aforementioned message boards, I go for a “no-frills” approach to binding. I like the simple, uniform, almost “law library” aspect presented by my spines. I always include a table of contents and index of sorts, and have varied somewhat in how elaborate those might get. But almost always I have my comics bound with simpe buckram cloth covers. I choose the colors of both the covers and type on the spine depending on what seems appropriate for the series being bound. Occasionally, for a particularly special one-off volume or small set I have requested imitation leather, and on one volume (so far) I have added the decorative head- and tail-bands just inside the top and bottom of the spine, as well as a ribbon marker.

But enough general information. Let me go through my growing collection of library-bound comic books, adding a bit of commentary and adding some more pictures here and there....

The second set of books I had bound was the first fifty or so issues of the James Robinson-created, mostly Geoff Johns-written JSA from ca. 1999 ff.  Unfortunately, I did not take individual pictures of them.  You can see them in the picture above -- the dark green volumes on the top left shelf, one in the center, one at extreme right.  Generally speaking, the left shelves contain DC Universe bound volumes in order of publication of the constituent comics, with priority given to the opening date for each volume.  Why only the first fifty or so issues?  Because at that point I had switched from buying the monthly issues to buying the trade paperback collections. In fact, sometime around 2005-2006 I had pretty much stopped buying all monthly comics, preferring to wait for the inevitable hardcover or trade paperback publisher's collection because I like books so much better than I do the individual issues.  The only monthlies I kept buying were the perennial core of my comic book collection, Legion of Super-Heroes, and the various DC events that I was too impatient to keep up-to-date on.

Next I sent off three volumes.  Two were another set, the 2007-2008 follow-up to 52, entitled Countdown.  You can see them in the center of the second shelf at left, white with red printing.  Countdown is a controversial series.  Meant to be a year-long lead-in to the next big DC event, Grant Morrison's Final Crisis, it ended up contradicting major plot points pretty blatantly.  Morrison being Morrison, and having the sales clout to back it up, he happily continued writing his story the way he wanted to without regard to what other writers had done.   Nonetheless, there were parts of Countdown that I enjoyed.

Along with Countdown, I sent off what to this day stands as the thickest single-volume bind I've had done, the early 2000s police procedural Gotham Central.  It was only forty issues, and with all ads and back covers removed, it was just doable.  Splitting it into two volumes of twenty issues each would not have worked because issues 20 and 21 were right in the middle of one of the distinct multi-issue story arcs that characterized this series.  You can see this volume at extreme left of the second shelf at left, with a grey cover.  One thing that also distinguishes this volume is its custom frontispiece by one of the primary artists for the series, Michael Lark, drawn for me at Dallas Comic Con in August 2009:

By this time I was pretty comfortable with the process of binding, and confident that my comics would not go astray in shipping or be mangled in the process.  Thus far I had limited myself to fairly recent comics that, if worse came to worse, were easily replaceable in DC's own trade collections.  Now I was ready to tackle one of my long-term projects -- my forty-plus years' collection of Legion of Super-Heroes comics.  That's what mostly fills the top two shelves at right, bound in royal blue buckram printed with gold.  I started with the first library bound volume on the top shelf, and slowly, one or two at a time, worked my way through the series from 1981 to present.  That was when Paul Levitz began his legendary 1980s run on that title, which is one of the high points in Legion history.  As yet, I left earlier issues unbound.  (The three trade paperbacks immediately before that first Legion volume are DC's own Showcase Presents series reprinting the Legion stories from the very beginning, in 1958.  My unbroken collection of issues doesn't start until 1967.)  (By the way, the poster above the shelves is of the Legionnaires ca. 1997.)

Along with that first LSH volume, I also did the first 25 issues of Superman-Batman, the issues by Jeph Loeb, in black buckram with red print -- second on the second shelf at left.  After that, Loeb left and there were alternating writers and artists, so I dropped the monthlies and bought the occasional trade.

Following an order of three more volumes of LSH, I sent off a volume of the first two years of Ed Brubaker's Catwoman (black with silver print, second from right on top) along with a one-volume full run of Walt Simonson's Orion (red with silver print, fourth from right on top).  Orion is significant because it is the first series I purchased as back issues for the express purpose of binding it, and in fact except for the trade paperback of the first five issues I had not read it until I did so in this volume.  There have now been other series I have bought specifically for binding.

Four more volumes of LSH took me through 1994, the end of the "Five Years Later" story line initiated by Keith Giffen after Paul Levitz left the title, and the end of the top shelf at right as it stood mid 2010.  Next I sent off the first of what would become eight volumes of the "Post-Zero Hour" "Reboot" Legion -- a total reimagining of the series.  (For a brief overview of the weird and confusing publication history of the LSH, see my post for the sixth Legion of Super-Heroes #1 as part of DC's "Post-Flashpoint" "Relaunch" last fall.)  Along with it went the first 26 issues of the 1990s L.E.G.I.O.N. series -- a conceptual spin-off of LSH but set, unlike LSH itself which is set a thousand years in the future, in the present of the DC Universe (light green, fifth volume on the top-left shelf).  It's the first of an anticipated four-volume bind of that series and its follow-up, R.E.B.E.L.S., but I've never gotten around to doing the other three -- partly because I haven't gotten around to buying the back issues.  I had actually read most of the series as it came out in the 1990s, but then sold them just before our final big move in 2000.  At the time, seemed better than lugging them with us.  Finally, rounding out that order was a single-volume collection of the full Jack Kirby's Fourth World series by John Byrne from the late 1990s that Simonson's Orion actually followed up.  This, too, I bought as back issues intending to read the bound volume because I enjoyed Orion so much ... but I've never gotten around to JK4W.  It's also red buckram with silver print to match Orion, and sits just left of center on the top left shelf.

Next up were a couple of really special projects.  After the commercial success of both 52 and Countdown as year-long weekly series (despite the mixed critical reception of the latter), in 2008-2009 DC tried one more such series, a critical examination of the place of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman in the DC Universe -- Trinity.  Again, the reception was mixed, but I really liked it.  So once again I had it bound, this time in bright red buckram with gold print.  By this time I was taking individual pictures of most of the orders as they came in, including sample shots of the interiors, so you can see my Trinity set a little better here:

The two volumes at left, bound in textured maroon imitation leather with gold print, contained something I had spent a good bit of time thinking about and accumulating any parts I had missing -- an overview of the DC Universe Events, conceptually from the early 1960s, early in the Silver Age, through the early 2000s.  Events were typically big cross-overs, originally between the heroes of DC's 1940s Golden Age, the Justice Society of America of "Earth 2," and those of DC's present-day, the Justice League of America of "Earth 1," often dubbed "Crises," hence several of the later big Events were called "Crises."  There was no way that I could possibly include all the Events of those forty years, of course -- so I included a good number of text page summaries.  Here are some sample pages:

I was doing somewhat more detailed tables of contents by now, including
a statement of provenance for the issues and a calculated "replacement value"
based on their collectability, and finally a binder's colophon.
Text pages covering the original "Earth 1/Earth 2" cross-overs
that ultimately led to 1985's Crisis on Infinite Earths.
Crisis on Infinite Earths, which I have in the publisher's collection as well as still having the original issues, effected a more or less "hard reboot" of DC's super-hero comics, collapsing Earths 1, 2, and many others, into one with a supposedly unified history, which was recounted in a short, two-issue History of the DC Universe which leads off my own volume here.  Crisis proved to be a runaway financial success, and other such crossovers followed.  Within ten short years, however, enough inconsistencies had emerged in the stories that were being told (based on misunderstandings and disagreements over what elements of pre-Crisis history were and were not retained) that another attempt was made to reboot the stories -- 1994's Zero Hour:  Crisis in Time, which rounds out the first volume of my DC Universe Events set.  At the end of Zero Hour was a large foldout schematic of the "new" DC Universe history:

The second volume comprised DC's post-Zero Hour events up through the magnificent crossover with Marvel Comics, JLA/Avengers.

Next up I sent four volumes:

Two more volumes of post-Zero Hour "Reboot" LSH, of course, followed by a Superman and a Batman.  Superman was the first of three volumes  containing the New Krypton story arc that encompassed all the Superman titles --  Superman, Action Comics, Supergirl, and various specials and ancillary mini-series -- over well more than a year in 2009-2010.  I bound it in royal blue buckram with red foil printing.  Batman took up the Batman-family issues that took up from the end of the No Man's Land story arc of 1999, which I actually read in Greg Rucka's novelization form early in 2001 and which actually triggered my escalating return to big-time comic reading.  I had long since accumulated issues and trade paperbacks taking up at the point NML ended (New Year's 2000) and had, through the 2000s, made Batman the second pole of my comic collection, alongside Legion of Super-Heroes.

Incidentally, that Superman:  New Krypton volume represents a bit of a change in my comic-buying habit.  For years, I had been occasionally following the adventures of the Man of Steel through the publisher's collections, mainly trade paperbacks.  With the beginning of the New Krypton saga, I made the conscious decision to start buying the issues to create my own hardcover collections.

In order, my next order comprised:  1) Justice, a twelve-issue fully-painted series by Alex Ross starring his largely Silver Age Platonic Ideal of a Justice League of America, bound in red buckram and gold print; 2) The Wanderers, a short-lived late-1980s spin-off from Legion of Super-Heroes during its height of popularity -- bought for binding mainly to have the LSH-related material complete, but unread to this date, I'm sad to say -- bound in standard LSH royal blue with gold print; Justice and Wanderers were my first two thinner binds, about a dozen issues rather than my more typical 24-plus issues; 3-4) Final Crisis, the Grant Morrison-driven DC Event for 2008 plus all its ancillary series, bound in two volumes with textured maroon imitation leather with silver print, is, I believe to this day, the single most beautifully bound book I've had made; and 5) Since I was starting to bind my Batman  comics post-No Man's Land and had read the prose version of NML itself, I bought up the trades collecting a series of story-lines leading into NML, telling how Gotham City was beset by disaster after disaster, both natural and manmade, until it was formally declared a "No Man's Land," and bound them under one cover in Batman grey buckram with black print, with the title The Decline and Fall of Gotham City.  I had to self-correct a goof of my own making in the printing of the inclusive dates at the bottom of the spine myself.

Again, from left:  1) Another volume of post-NML Batman, mainly focussing on the big Officer Down crossover within all the Bat-titles that took Jim Gordon out of the picture for several years.  Generally, at this point I was just reading Batman, Detective Comics, and Gotham Knights, but Officer Down pulled in Robin, Nightwing, etc.; 2) An Aquaman volume, about which more below; 3) Superman:  For Tomorrow, Brian Azarello and Jim Lee's attempt to duplicate the year-long success of Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee's earlier Hush story line in Batman.  They didn't, but this story had some neat features for me, including the prominence given to a Catholic priest and dealing with some of the religious aspects of the Superman mythos; 4) a volume of Legion of Super-Heroes ephemera -- some out-of-continuity specials including the full-run of the short-lived 2000s animated series tie-in, the various Secret Origins presented in the 1980s title of that name, and so forth; and 5) Another Reboot LSH volume.

The Aquaman volume contains some of the earliest comics in my collection, from 1968-1969, some of them my originals from when I was a kid.  I previously wrote of my enduring love for this character.  That two year period presented one of the first extended story lines I ever followed, The Search for Mera, which DC Comics has hitherto inexplicably not collected.  Given the age of the comics, I was concerned they might not hold up well to the process of binding, but I communicated directly with James Jasek of Library Binding Co., and he personally oversaw them while they were in the plant.  He was that kind of guy, easy to work with, eager to please.  And when I received the finished book back, I saw just how much the process of binding can improve the appearance of rather tattered old comics such as these.  Here are some pictures:

Some issues had been restapled...

... and even had chunks missing from the edges of the covers.

I chose teal buckram with copper foil print as my color scheme.  I'd had this volume in mind from the beginning of my library binding projects, but a few months before, Jasek had announced that several colors of buckram cloth would no longer be available from his own source.  He offered to hold some of each of those colors for anyone who would request it for specific projects, which I did.  I think it captures the spirit of Aquaman's traditional green and orange costume quite well without being quite so garish.

Look how smooth the edges are after binding, as a result of
trimming about an eighth of an inch all around.  Especially for
older comics with wide margins around the panels, this causes
no loss of art whatsoever.

The unsightly chunk missing from the cover of this issue is
now hidden in the gutter!
For Silver Age comics, the wide margins around the panels
means there's no appreciable gutter loss of art, either!
All in all, this is probably the single volume I'm proudest of in my collection.

I had started binding comics in the summer of 2008.  By this point we were at the end of 2009.  I actually received the box with the Aquaman volume back from the bindery on my birthday in November.  But a couple of months earlier, in September, we had had a bit of a scare.  Library Binding Company was in talks to be bought by a larger bindery that had no interest in continuing offering service to individuals as opposed to institutions such as libraries.  The little community of comic book binders went into a tizzy, and I think that all of us started searching for alternatives that could offer the same service and excellent price that Jasek had provided.  I found a small "mom-and-pop" operation fairly close to home, only about a hundred miles from me, and decided to give them a try.  The price would not be so good, and there was no way they could possibly handle the volume that had been flowing through LBC.  Finally, they were not set up for the "oversewn" type of binding that I had been getting, rather providing almost exclusively "signature-"  or "Smyth-sewn" binding.  It's a far more labor intensive process, but with the advantage that there would be absolutely no gutter loss.  That was, however, perfect for a project I had in mind, which had such small gutters that oversewn binding would hide some of the text -- ICG's Official DC Comics Index series.  They were able to "tip in" a table of contents.  I chose a brown imitation leather cover material with gold lettering.  Here are some pictures comparing the result to an LBC-bound volume:
Because I forgot to specify trimming the edges, the
finished book stands taller -- which is okay with me
as it's a reference volume.

Some of the gutter margins are even closer - but Smyth-sewing
allows the books to open completely with no gutter-loss.
All in all, quite an acceptable result, for about twice the price of LBC.  As it happened, LBC was not bought, but it was reassuring to know that there was an alternative bindery close to home.

But the prospect of losing LBC in the middle of binding my Legion of Super-Heroes set spurred me to send all of the remaining Reboot issues to complete that run at least:

Then another pair of books:

At left is the first volume of Batman (2009) post-Final Crisis, when Bruce Wayne is presumed dead and Dick Grayson assumes the cowl, and containing the entire Bat-family of titles.  Unfortunately, I've not followed this up.  I have all the issues -- Batman Reborn represents my return to buying the Bat-titles as monthlies expressly for binding, after several years of waiting for the trade -- but I found determining some kind of story order in which to bind all those disparate series to prove ... very difficult....  (What I really mean is that it will rapidly drive one to drink!)

At right is the full run of the 1970s Marvel black and white magazine version of Doc Savage, which remains the most faithful comics version of the great pulp hero, bound in textured green imitation leather with copper foil print (in lieu of bronze).

The next batch, from right:  1) Another volume in Batman post-No Man's Land, taking its title from the then-current third Bat-title, Gotham Knights, which focussed on Batman's relationship with his Gotham City allies; 2) The great Green Lantern/Green Arrow stories from ca. 1970 by Denny O'Neil and Neal Adams -- not the original issues, but rather a 1980s reprint series, bound in black imitation leather with green foil print; and 3) The second of three volumes containing the New Krypton saga from the Superman titles, this one entitled Two Worlds from the name of the panel at San Diego Comic Con 2009 covering the Superman titles.

This is a two-volume set collecting DC's 2009-2010 event, Blackest Night, with all of its ancillary series as well as a multitude of special issues both within regular series and extras.  Since Blackest Night developed out of the Green Lantern title and mythos, I gave it the same color scheme as the Green Lantern/Green Arrow volume I had done recently.

Little did I know that these would be the last books I would have bound by Library Binding Company.  In May-June 2010, it was suddenly bought by another bindery.  I have some pretty hard feelings surrounding this sale, not least the shabby treatment that I believe was given to Jim Jasek as well as the other employees of LBC.  This is not the forum to go into the whys and wherefors, except to say that I will never give the purchasing bindery any of my business although they actively solicited it.  Nor any of the other binderies that tried to capitalize on the situation offering their services for what I consider to be unsupportable prices.

In any case, the picture of my shelves of bound comics shown near the beginning of this post is more or less of the books I had bound by LBC, as of mid 2010 when that company was sold and dismantled.

Once again, however, there was a flurry of message board activity as a new company was sought that could offer anything like the high quality and affordability that Library Binding had offered.  Within fairly short order, one was recommended through the forum -- Herring and Robinson Book Binders near San Francisco.  I have found Joel Martinelli there to be as easy to work with as Jasek was,  with prices almost as good and quality every bit as good, perhaps better.  The main drawback for me has been considerably higher shipping prices to get my books there for binding -- San Francisco is much farther away from north Louisiana than Waco is!  But I have been able to continue binding my collection for an acceptably minimal increase in cost, which is what I wanted.

Of course, my first order with H&R was a bit of a trial, with comics that would be relatively easy to replace if things went awry.  All were recent, and mostly collected by DC.  1) Superman:  War of the Supermen completed the New Krypton saga.  I knew going in that H&R did not have red foil, but the enamel-like red works pretty well as a substitute; 2) Two volumes contain the entirety of the "Threeboot" Legion of Super-Heroes, another (in my opinion unneeded even though it was by longtime Legion fan Mark Waid) attempt at jump-starting the Legion for modern readers (again, see here for my thoughts on this).  If anything, the gold foil printing from H&R came out crisper than I ever got from Library Binding.  It really pops out at you.  One thing you can see maybe better in this shot than any previous is the conceit I played with in the inclusive dates at the bottom of the spine.  The Legion stories are largely set in the future of the DC Universe, exactly one thousand years in the future, to be precise, so that's what I date my LSH volumes -- hence, "3005-3006," etc.

Overall, I was quite impressed with the quality of Herring and Robinson.  My second order with them dug 'way back into my Legion of Super-Heroes collection.  With the "Threeboot" volumes I had bound my way from 1981 almost to the present (late 2010).  The "Threeboot" Legion was followed (eventually) by another Legion title, but as yet I did not have enough issues accumulated to make up a volume.  So I worked backward from 1981 all the way to the beginning of an earlier LSH revival, basically when they took over Superboy's own title in 1973 after languishing for several years as back-up features.

At present, those four volumes are the earliest library-bound original comics starring the Legion of Super-Heroes that I have done.  There are a couple of reasons for that.  1) DC's black-and-white reprint volumes, Showcase Presents the Legion of Super-Heroes, presents all the Legion stories from their beginning in 1958 up to the point I bound back to in four convenient paperback volumes.  2) Although I own several years' worth of earlier comics prior to that point, all the way back to 1967, those are some individually valuable, collectible issues that I have been hitherto loath to bind.  Although I never have put a priority on the collectible value of my comics as some kind of "investment," being much more of a comic reader than that kind of fan, the fact is that binding does indeed ruin the individual collectible value of an issue.  The trade-off, of course, is that it creates a convenient, easy-to-read, and good-looking volume that stands proud on any bookshelf.  (Between you, me, and the virtual wall, however, I figure my desire to have those earlier issues bound will ultimately win out....)

Next I sent off two sets of two volumes, each set comprising the entirety of a series from start to finish, plus a thin volume comprising the entirety of a short series spun out of the 1970s Legion.  All were comics that I had bought over the past couple of years specifically for binding:

1) Arak, Son of Thunder was a series that lasted for fifty issues back in the early-mid 1980s, telling the story of an American Indian blown by a storm across the north Atlantic during the late eighth century to have adventures in the early medieval Europe of the Age of Charlemagne.  It was DC giving Roy Thomas, who had successfully fostered the Conan franchise at Marvel Comics through the 1970s free rein to play with his love of both the swords-and-sorcery genre and his love for history.  I loved the series when it first appeared, but it had nonetheless fallen victim to the “Great Comic Book Sell-Off of 1990” when I went back to graduate school.  I had always regretted letting it go, and as soon as I got heavy into binding I started accumulating back-issues with this set in mind.  They are bound in navy blue buckram with gold lettering.  (Incidentally, this is the only snafu H&R has made in one of my orders.  I specified black buckram.  Joel Martinelli was horrified when I pointed it out to him, and offered to rebind the books for free.  I assured him it was not that big a deal, that I'd just brought it to his attention for quality-control feedback purposes.  These two volumes are a stand-alone set, not meant to match anything else, so as long as they match each other, who cares?*)  2) Captain Marvel:  The Power of Shazam is the series helmed by Jerry Ordway in the 1990s -- which I did not read as it was published.  I was aware of it, but my comics reading during that decade was severely constrained by graduate studies.  And a lack of disposable income!  ... I've written elsewhere of my love for the original Captain Marvel -- including the fact that I'm not bound by trademark limitations to refrain from using his proper name on these volumes I have created!  The color scheme here was obvious:  red buckram with gold printing.  And, 3) Karate Kid was a short-lived series telling of the 30th-century Legionnaire's self-exile to the 20th century to prove himself worthy of the hand of his beloved Princess Projectra of Orando.  I had read these as they came out, had sold them off because in and of themselves they're only so-so ... but the obsessive-compulsive collector mentality now insisted I must have this volume to complete my Legion of Super-Heroes collection.  So I bought the full set off eBay and bound it in LSH royal blue with gold printing.

I received those last five volumes back from Herring and Robinson early in 2011.  For personal reasons that I'm not inclined to discuss in this blog, they were the end of my comic book binding for well over a year.  But I have recently jumped back into it.  In fact, it was my receipt of my first order since early 2011 just last week that finally spurred me to set about putting together this long-promised post about my library-bound comics collection.  As is usual with me, this post ballooned beyond all reason in its making.  But you can now expect periodic entries chronicling this collection as it expands.  Beginning, hopefully before too very long, with an entry on that most recent set of books.

But this is enough for now, I think!  

Cheers!, and Thanks for reading!
* * *
* Nota bene:  To be fair, for all their quality and customer service, the late, great Library Binding Company had made their share of mistakes, too.  There were a couple of misprints on spines, and where the mistake was on their end rather than mine I did take them up on their offer to correct the errors because those would be visible on the shelf.  Once they bound an entire section of a book upside down!  That was a tough one to call; I'm certain the mistake was on their end, but decided that, since it would be an added expense to them to correct and it's not visible when the book is sitting on the shelf, I would live with it.  Nobody's perfect, after all.


  1. I didn't read everything because I'm at work but that's crazy! It looks really good and I can't imagine the feeling of shipping off some of those books for someone to mursh together. Looks really great!

  2. Thanks ... There's always a feeling of trepidation on sending, but I know there'll be great satisfaction a few weeks later.

  3. Great post. I've wanted to bind the comic books I'm keeping so it will be easier to read them in the future. 2013 might be the year I finally do it. Your post reminded me and has inspired me. Thanks.

  4. Very cool. I've been doing this for years (there's a great bindery here in Seattle). My MO is to buy up whole runs on eBay or bagged sets at my local comic store. some of my best editions are the "Baxter paper" reprints that DC and Marvel did in the early 1980s of stuff like Neal Adams' Batman and Starlin's cosmic saga. DC's Millennium Editions from 2000 also make a nice set of classic works without mutilating scarce older issues.

    1. "some of my best editions are the "Baxter paper" reprints that DC and Marvel did in the early 1980s of stuff like Neal Adams' Batman and Starlin's cosmic saga. DC's Millennium Editions from 2000 also make a nice set of classic works" -- The Green Lantern/Green Arrow volume is that Baxter-reprint series, and I have indeed considered assembling a set of the Millennium Editions as a nice selection of "historic comics."