Deciding what comics to bind and what bind maximizes your enjoyment of them can be the trickiest aspect of comics binding. The possibilities, while probably not endless, can add up quicker than you might think. Getting to a satisfying decision starts by asking yourself why you bought those comics in the first place. The same batch of issues can end up in wildly divergent binds simply because different people have different takeaways from them. Was it a particular character that intrigued you? Or storyline? Maybe it was the creator or creative team?
Let’s take Allred & Milligan’s X-Force run (#116-129) from the early 2000’s as an example.
First instinct would be to drop these 14 issues into their own bind, right? But if you were more of an X-Force fan in general, they might be volume six or a larger X-Force bind series. If not quite a fan of the team, Milligan’s spin on superheroics might land these issues in a Quesada/Jemas-era Marvel anthology bind or a Morrison-led X-revamp anthology. Being a huge Allred fan could have you include them in an artist-focused bind.
All valid decisions, yes?
Now let’s take that last option a step further. Say you decide to use those comics in an Allred-focused bind . . . what about the issues he didn’t draw, like Darwyn Cooke’s #124?
Yes, it’s drawn by a different artist, but still written by Milligan and, IMO, one of the best issues in the run. You want it out of the longbox just as much as the other issues, but where should it go?
- Do you still include it, just for completeness sake?
- Does it wind up representing this run in one of those other anthology books?
- After a quick scan of your collection, you notice having some other loose Cooke books, like his Solo issue, the Doop/Wolverine miniseries and a trade of the Brubaker-written Catwoman run with Cooke’s ‘Trail of the Catwoman’ backups and Selina’s Big Score in it. Does it find a home in the Cooke anthology you just cobbled together in your head?
- What if you like that idea but want to keep the Catwoman material for a separate Selina Kyle bind series? That could prompt some longbox diving at your next con to pick up other Cooke comics, like his Jonah Hex or The Shade one-offs.
We’ll cap the postulating there, but see what I mean about the possibilities adding up quick? Those examples came directly from answering the questions from the introduction:
- Being drawn to the Catwoman character specifically over Cooke’s work more broadly kept his work in a Catwoman-centric bind over a Cooke spotlight.
- Fancying story over art would keep that X-Force run in its own bind rather than being split over several others.
- Enjoying art over story would have probably led to splitting that run.
And it bears repeating that none of these choices are more correct than the others. The main goal is still achieved; the material is still easier to access on the shelf than in a longbox no matter how you decide to bind it. Now it’s just grouped more in line with your particular connection to the material.
Since we’ll be jumping into the column proper next week, this seems as good a time as any to give a little backstory about how Shelf Bound came to be and what I’m looking to achieve with it.
MULTIVERSITY COLLECTION, WE HARDLY KNEW YE . . .
Shelf Bound comes from my comic binding hobby colliding with my fascination with the late, lamented Multiversity Collection column.
From May 2013 to February 2014, Multiversity publisher Matthew Meylikhov ran a series of articles called “The Multiversity Collection”, where he and a group of Multiversity staffers pitched `ultimate’ omnibus collections of their favorite comics, a la The Criterion Collection. An unabashed Criterion fan, Meylikhov wanted to gather “the greatest comics from around the world” and (virtually) publish them “in editions of the highest artistic quality, with supplemental features that enhance the appreciation of the art of comics.”
And for 10 months, that’s exactly what they (and guest curators like Michael Moreci and Joe Keatinge) did. Books like Jack Kirby’s Fourth World, Hugo Pratt’s Corto Maltese, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, The Complete Seaguy, and more were presented with backmatter unreal yet tantalizingly close.Continued below
But the Collection had run its course my the time I joined Multiversity full-on. Not that they had exhausted the ideas for books; far from it. The behind-the-scenes requirements and logistical coordination, I was told, simply made the column impractical in that form.
I completely understood. But I never lost hope that someday, somehow, it could come back. I kept asking myself over the years: “What form COULD it take?”
Answering that wasn’t easy, to be honest. I thought long and hard about just reviving the old column as more of a one-man-show, but that makes it “The Greg Matiasevich Collection”. And while I think my taste in comics is broader than the average fan’s, I do skew to certain types and genres of books over others. Multiversity, at its best, reaches far and wide in its scope of comics coverage, so good conscience wouldn’t allow me to do something ostensibly in the site’s name without a certain level of input from other staffers to retain that scope. And that brought me right back to the square one of unsustainable logistics.
Finally letting go of the straight-up Multiversity Collection revival idea made me fall back to just wanting to talk about the who/what/when/where/why of binds I had made or was considering. No pressure, no self-imposed need to choose books that were all things to all people . . . just talking about comics I wanted to talk about.
Then the two ideas started to merge: talk about the binds in general, and then how to make them as close to a pie-in-the-sky Multiversity Collection-style release as possible.
I liked that idea. I REALLY liked that idea.
And Shelf Bound was born.
THE MULTIVERSITY OF EARTH-2!
As I kind of alluded to at the top of the column, putting together a good bind is as much a mental exercise as physical, at least for me. Once I figure out the broad strokes of how I want to collected Material X, I put on my fake publisher cap and think, “If *I* were the publisher, how would I put this book out?” That exercise builds the platonic ideal bind in my head, which I then scale back to a practical compromise. For the aborted relaunch originally, and for Shelf Bound now, I have a specific publisher ideal and publishing environment in mind for this exercise.
This will make more sense next week and moving forward, but I’m treating the books we showcase in Shelf Bound as being published by the Multiversity of Earth-2, where instead of writing about comics, we license & publish collections in the same manner as Criterion licenses films from their original studios to release ideal home video collections, or (closer to comics) Titan Comics used to produce B&W collections of seminal mainstream work for the UK market back in the 1980’s. Earth-2 Multiversity releases repackage comics into various collection types of differing styles and amounts of backmatter depending on the needs of the material.
- Omnibus – I can hear the “duh”s from here, but since omnibus seems to be used as a catch-all for big books, we’ll clarify here that for the purposes of this column, ‘omnibus’ means a straight-forward chronological/publication-ordered collection of one particular series. My Usagi Yojimbo binds from last week would go here.
- Album – A bind focusing on one particular story. It can be complete by itself or part of a larger ongoing narrative or series. Think of a Flash: The Return of Barry Allen or Spider-Man: Kraven’s Last Hunt bind.
- Monograph – A bind or bind series focusing on a particular creator or creative team’s output. The Allred or Cooke bind mentioned above would be a monograph.
- Anthology – A bind of comics centered around a particular non-creator-related theme or idea. An anthology bind looking at interesting takes from the early days of Image Comics MIGHT look a little something like this . . .
To take this thought experiment a little further (because why not?), comics on this Earth-2 are as popular as our own Earth, but stay in print as oversized-issue “bumper” reprints or manga-style disposable “phonebooks”, NOT the deluxe graphic album market spoiling us today. Any Multiversity-published release mentioned was conceived as the first high-quality collection of its contents.Continued below
SENDING OUT THE CALL!
Second, and more importantly, while most of the early books will be from my library or my wishlist, I want future book ideas to come from you, the faithful reader. Give me some ideas about comics you think are shelf-worthy! Shoot me an email at email@example.com or follow me on Twitter at @gregmatiasevich and let’s have some fun!
Next week sees Shelf Bound kick off its monthly run in earnest with a deep dive into the one book EVERY comics fan needs on their book shelf!