Grand Central NYC Midtown Comics location

The Simple Joys of Paper Comics

I visited Midtown Comics in Manhattan a couple weekends back.  That’s it on the second floor in the picture above — a floor above the sandwich shop, and one floor beneath the spa. The giant Superman shield on the corner is a dead giveaway.

After picking up a couple of comics that I was looking for, I perused their ridiculously large collection of trades and hardcovers. (I also looked through the stacks of Funko Pop figures for Uncle Scrooge, but only found Dewey, Webby, and Donald.)

They have an enormous amount of everything.  The Superman and Batman sections, alone, are insane.  You don’t realize how much a company puts out on a regular basis until you see all those six-issue trade collections of the sixth monthly on-going issues that didn’t last to a seventh issue, due to sales.  Or, they rebooted and took a new title.

There are also the families of titles that surprise you with just how many different versions there are of them.  Picture “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” or “The Transformers.”  You’d be surprised at how many varieties of those properties there are floating out there.

 

What I Was Looking For

As I scanned the shelves, I looked specifically for translated European albums.  There aren’t too many of those in print.

Midtown has always had Asterix books.  I bought a bunch of those albums from the stores going back a decade or more.  Today, that selection is down to only a volume or three. One of those was a coloring book. It was huge.  The other books were the new “Asterix and the Chariot Race” and, as luck would have it, one of the three albums I didn’t own yet, “Asterix and Obelix All At Sea.”  It’s a latter Uderzo-only album.

Since European albums come from different publishers and don’t have immediately recognizable characters in North America, they’re strewn all throughout the rest of the graphic novels. There’s no “Les Bandes Dessinees” section.

The exception to all of this is the selection of titles from Humanoids.  They get a whole section under “H.”  I was surprised at how many things they have out there that aren’t just “Metabarons” and “Incal.”  That style of comic is their bread and butter, but not mine. That’s why you don’t see too many Humanoids reviews on this site.  But I did see a few books I hadn’t heard of before or that looked interesting.  They even published a book drawn by Matthew Lauffray (“The Book of Chaos“) that I might just read digitally now for review here.

They also print lots of books from France that feature American creators, from Kurt Busiek to John Cassaday to Butch Guice.  (And Geoff Johns and Guy Davis and more…)

I saw a couple of Francois Schuiten’s books, “The Leading Lady” and “Samaris”, which IDW publishes.  Those were racked by their titles in alphabetical order with everything else.  There was no separate Schuiten section. I’d probably be the only person who would know to look it up that way, probably.

There’s one other discovery I made that morning in the comic shop:

 

Magnetic Press

Magnetic Press logo

The big surprise and delight for me was in the books from Magnetic Press.  They don’t get all their titles racked under “Magnetic.”  Their titles are spread out alphabetically, also.

But the books I did chance across were beautiful, with very similar high end production values.  These are solid, heavy hardcover books with great paper stock and a trademark rounded corner on both right-side edges of the book.

I saw their print edition of the great “The Ghost of Gaudi” that I reviewed here, and it’s amazing. The paper doesn’t destroy the coloring. It’s not so thin that you can see right through it. It’s just what you’d want.

All the reasons I prefer digital these days were destroyed by those Magnetic Press books.  They know how to work the post-production system to get the results they want.

If you ever see a Magnetic Press book, you’ll know it.  They stand out once you know what to look for.  Be sure to open those books up.  They are a great selection of translated European albums.

You can follow them on Instagram, though their Panel of the Day program seems to have withered on the vine, unfortunately.

Lion Forge bought Magnetic Press about a year ago, but they continue to publish as an imprint under Lion Forge’s banner.

Check out their catalog.  Honestly, I haven’t read anything yet from them beyond “Ghost of Gaudi,” but having picked up and perused a couple of their releases and seen the preview pages of some others, I’ll be jumping on board for lots more in the future.  They have an impressive group of books here.

 

So, Yes, Paper Comics

I still love them.  They’re beautiful objects when they’re done right.  The work the Magnetic folks do, in particular, should not go unnoticed.

But there’s something great about having a whole line-up of spines on your bookshelf from the same series.  My bookshelves have that for “Invincible” hardcovers and “Asterix” books (a mix of soft- and hardcover), Fantagraphics’ various Duck books, etc. I love that sense of completeness, organization, and neatness.  It’s the one bit of “collector’s mentality” I still have left in me.

There’s also something fun about the discovery process of looking up and down a set of shelves at a comic shop for whatever surprises you might find. It’s the same thrill you used to get at comic book conventions while perusing longboxes looking for something interesting, or for a great deal on a much-wanted book.  Finding something is a ton of fun.

 

 

Crowded Shelves

One more thought:

Every Christmas, there’s a comic book series or two that I add to my wish list.  The Fantagraphics reprints of Don Rosa’s Duck books have been Christmas gifts for the last three years.  This year, the  seventh and eighth volumes in that set are due out in a slipcase on December 12th.  Thanks to Amazon Prime, that can make it to my Secret Santa in time for the holidays.

Here’s the top shelf of my bookcase:

My top bookshelf with oversized albums, like Asterix, Lucky Luke, and Fantagraphics Duck books.

The Don Rosa Library books are outlined in red.

I have a real problem.  Where will I fit those two hardcover books?  Which books also on that shelf — including Asterix and Lucky Luke series — will need to come down?  That’s a big chunk of space.  Maybe all the odds and ends French books will need to come down.

The Batman book doesn’t really belong up there and will be first to go.

Past that, I don’t know.

I need a bigger bookshelf…

And a bigger house…

I still love paper.

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