Friday, June 22

Library-Bound Comics: Superman, Aquaman, and Warlord of Mars – with details on Preparation

It was receipt of these books last week, on 13 June, that finally spurred me to finish the long-delayed comprehensive account of my Library-Bound Comic Collection as it existed prior to this order, an account I began several months ago and added a little to from time to time but never took the initiative to actually complete. Now that that task is out of the way (obsessive-compulsive completist that I am), I feel that I can move forward.

I actually sent off a total of eight volumes – the most I've ever sent at one time – back on 20 April. So this box, containing five volumes, represents only a partial completion of that order. Actually, by the time of this writing (21 June), I received notice a few days ago that a box containing the other three volumes is on its way, too. But I'm going to go ahead and cover what I received last week. A couple of months turnaround is pretty standard, although I've been reading on the message boards of late that Herring and Robinson is currently being inundated with orders slipping in under the wire – a few weeks ago they put out a notice that there would be some modest price increases effective 1 July. I imagine the increased work load will result in a temporary lengthening of turnaround time.

In the box I sent on 20 April there were the following:
  • Three volumes of All-Star Squadron;
  • Three volumes of Superman;
  • One volume of Aquaman; and
  • One volume of A Princess of Mars.
On 13 June, the box I received contained all but the first of the above items.

Since this is my first account of a current binding order, I'm going to go into a bit of detail on the preparations I went through. I'll leave All-Star Squadron for a future blog entry, however.

The three volumes of Superman comprise the foundation of the post-Crisis on Infinite Earths “reboot” of the character helmed by writer and artist John Byrne, beginning with the 1986 six-issue miniseries, The Man of Steel, and continuing with the first 22 issues of the all-new Superman title as well as issues 584-600 of Action Comics, issues 424-444 of the original Superman title, now renamed Adventures of Superman, and the first issues of Annuals for the three titles. I bought these issues as they came out on the stands back in 1986-1988, but had dropped them when John Byrne left. For a little over two years, however, as overseen by Byrne, the original comic book super-hero was reimagined in some of the best stories he's ever had, one epic narrative interweaving among those titles from month to month.

To those comics I added, for this binding project, the first issue of Roy Thomas' Secret Origins from 1986, an homage retelling the first adventure of the original “Golden Age” version of Superman, a character recently (at the climax of Crisis on Infinite Earths) consigned to limbo; a four-issue miniseries from 1987-1988 telling the history of The World of Krypton as newly reimagined by John Byrne; and finally, to round out a third volume that was ending up rather light, I included a round-robin seven-part story from a few years later (1991) that bounced Superman back and forth through time. I had been clued into that story in the first place because it tied in with the Legion of Super-Heroes that I was currently reading, so I had sought out the issues. One of the great things about designing your own comic-binding projects is that you can include whatever and organize the issues however you want!

The volume of Aquaman is similarly idiosyncratic. I gave it the individual title, The Atlantis Chronicles, but it contains in addition the subsequent miniseries Time and Tide. Aquaman is a character who has foundered (floundered?) around quite a bit over the years, and although I did not like what little I knew about where author Peter David would ultimately take him in the 1990s, I had heard nothing but good things about the two miniseries (1990, and 1993-1994) with which he began his several years' association with the character. Most specifically, the podcasters at Comic Geek Speak recommended them in their “Spotlight on Aquaman” episode (#840, 5 May 2010). In my recent (last couple of years') renewed enthusiasm for the character, I decided to acquire the issues and bind them unread for later enjoyment.

For older comics such as these I tend not to remove any ads or back covers, rather preserving the completeness of the individual issues, so that was one task that I didn't have.

Nor did I remove such extranea from the volume I have entitled A Princess of Mars. These are actually from the recent Dynamite Entertainment franchise, Warlord of Mars. Claims by the Edgar Rice Burroughs Estate – and their attempts to use trademark law to trump copyright law – notwithstanding, the early books in ERB's Mars series are in the public domain and available for anyone to publish, adapt, and use however they see fit. I have been buying the individual issues of the various Dynamite series in the franchise pretty much from their inception in 2010, and consider them to be by and large faithful to the spirit of ERB's vision. You can see more of my thoughts in my various blog entries covering the individual issues.

Central to this volume is Dynamite's adaptation/expansion of the first ERB novel, A Princess of Mars, retold in the first nine issues of their main title, Warlord of Mars. I follow it with their first Annual for that series, which tells a story of Tars Tarkas on the eve of our meeting him in that original novel. Then I include the first two story arcs, five issues each, of Dynamite's second title, Warlord of Mars: Dejah Thoris, telling stories of a much younger princess of Helium, long before the advent of John Carter. One major reason I would not consider removing the back covers of these issues is that Dynamite routinely publishes several different covers for each issue, but is gracious enough to depict them all via thumbnails on the inside back cover.

All of the issues I wanted to include in these various volumes having been accumulated, whether from my existing collection or filling in holes via online back-issue vendors, and the order I wanted to place them in each volume having been determined – “mapped” is the common term on the message boards – my first task was to make up a title page/table of contents. I tend to go pretty simple on this, just including some kind of logo and the contents of the volume. Sometimes if there are distinct story arcs, I will specify those as well. I also typically put a publisher's logo at the bottom of the contents, a statement of the replacement value of the contents, and finally a “colophon” regarding the collection and binding of the volume, e.g.:

The calculated replacement value of the comics in this volume at the time of binding was $83, based upon the NM (9.4) values reported at

This volume was assembled by
Kent G. Hare
out of his personal collection,
and bound by


These I print out on higher quality paper than mere typing paper, usually using cream colored paper rather than stark white.
Then I have to cut them to an appropriate size to match the dimensions of a comic book. Here are some pictures illustrating my decidedly low-tech process.
My template
I position it to allow for binding loss on the
left and about a 1-in. margin on the right

Lightly pencil around the template

Cut with a razor-knife and a metal ruler along
the pencil lines.  Note:  Use a good cutting
surface to keep your wife happy.

... And the page should lift right up.

Next, I make a simple mock-up of what I want the spine of the book to look like. I don't get fancy – like for most of what I do, OpenOffice or Microsoft Word suffices. I print out one per volume, including a description of what type of binding I want over to the side. That last is a relic of when Herring and Robinson did not have a dedicated Order Slip. They do now, via an online and saveable pdf form (here) (in fact in the past couple of years they have constructed an entire corner of their website devoted to comic binding – here), but rather than trust hand-drawn and -written instructions for the spine, I still do the more or less full-size mock-up that I then print out and reduce via a copy machine to dimensions that will fit in the box they provide. It's not an elegant process, but it works. And for redundancy's sake, I throw a copy of the full-size mock-up in the box with the comics as well.

For filling out the Order Slip, of course, you need to determine what colors and materials you want, and how elaborate you want the “extras” to be. H&R's website shows what-all's available. As I've said before, I generally go for the simplest possible bind to minimize cost. For A Princess of Mars, however, I went for a little extra.

I have bound several other Superman volumes over the past few years, so I have an extablished color scheme. From H&R's Color Charts (here) I got the name and number for #588 Royal Blue Buckram for my cover material, and specified Red printing for the spine.

Similarly, I had bound another Aquaman volume a couple years ago, but with a color scheme I was afraid I could not duplicate. As I understand it, Teal Buckram is no longer in production and available anywhere. However, looking at H&R's Color Charts, #538 Marine Blue appeared very close. Communication with Joel Martinelli at H&R confirmed that they could do Copper printing as well, so that's what I specified.

A Princess of Mars was a new series for me, binding-wise. I wanted this volume to be a little extra special, so I checked out the Imitation Leather cover material. Mars being the Red Planet, the choice was obvious – #1804 Textured Burgundy, with Gold printing.

I filled in the online Order Slip with all the required information, including the various color specifications above for each volume, and printed them out – a total of eight for the box I was sending. Each volume of Superman counts as a separate book, of course; ditto for All-Star Squadron. I also printed out the spine mock-ups, reduced them on a photocopier, and cut-and-taped each onto its appropriate Order Slip.

All that remained then was packing up each stack of comics with its specific Order Slip. I wrap each stack in newspaper, taping it snugly.

The bare stack of Aquaman comics...

... With the table of contents, ...

... The Binding Slip, ...

... And the Binding Slip folded to fit atop the stack.
The stack is bound up in newspaper...

...And at this point I got so caught up in what

I was doing that I forgot to take any more pictures! 
I then put the stacks in a box inside a thick plastic garbage bag (in case the shipper leaves the box where it can get wet), filling in any gaps with crumpled up newspaper so that the box is pretty solid. Tape the box up snugly, take it to a shipper, pay the shipping cost, and off it goes. I generally use FedEx despite the higher fees because it gives me peace of mind. It also gives me a Tracking Number that can be checked online to see its delivery status.   

I figure it's also a good idea to send H&R an email letting them know the box is coming.

Then wait. Generally, from north Louisiana to California, the transit time is about a week. Usually, H&R will send an email confirmation that they have received the box.

Eventually, an email will come that the books are on the way, and you can arrange payment for them.  H&R offers a couple of convenient options.

At the top of this post is a picture of the five books I received last week. Here are a few more pictures, including interiors and details.

Note: At the last minute, after I had printed out the Order Slips, I decided to add more extras to the Princess of Mars volume: Head and Tail Bands, and a Ribbon Marker. I made the changes by hand to the Order Slip – and overlooked the fact that I needed to specify colors. Not to worry. H&R sent me an email pointing out my omission, at which point I specified a Burgundy Ribbon Marker and Burgundy and Gold Head and Tail Bands. I really like the results, but am going to reserve these kind of extras for special books like this one. Call me cheap – I can take it!

I usually put an itemized list of the comics
with their "book values" at the end of
each volume.

Cheers!, and Thanks for reading!

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