Bookshelf 1 with Asterix, Ducks, Invincible, etc.

Rearrange Your Bookshelf

Going back to the archives and December 3, 2013 for this one. I think this is one a lot of you can relate to, even if for different reasons.

I’ll have an update at the end.

 

CALL TO ARMS: RE-ARRANGE YOUR BOOKSHELF NOW

If you’re anything like me, you take your bookcase for granted. Today, it’s time to look at those shelves with fresh eyes.

Comics are a physical medium (mostly) that fits neatly into boxes. A lifetime of collecting monthly comics leads to longbox euphoria. The more you have, the better you feel. At a certain point, though, that number overwhelms you. That neat lineup of boxes against the wall piled six high or stuffed across a closet that’s not quite walk-in but still bigger than a breadbox begins to spread out. Boxes occupy any space you have free, from the corners of the home office to the basement closet where, of course, the boxes start a few inches off the ground in case of water issues.

In modern times, hardcover collections, trade paperbacks, Absolute Editions, Artist’s Editions, Omnibuses, albums, manga, digest-sized format, and what-have-you create a new opportunity and a new problem. We feel more respectable with a properly presented arrangement of comics on a bookshelf in a noticeable space. Rather than longboxes organized by chronological release dates and kept out of view, bookcases get arranged by series, by creator, or by genre. Do you separate your superhero collections from your more artsy books? Are certain creators given a pride of place? Are there characters that stretch out across a three-foot span of shelf?

As much fun as this new opportunity is, it has also created a problem. We’re far enough into this brave new world of collected editions that we likely have more books than shelves. Bookcases line available walls, but so does the furniture. Desks, beds, couches, tv stands, dressers, etc. There’s precious little space for bookcases, even though they use the available vertical space far more effectively than the rest of your furniture.

Many books sit in boxes while a percentage of the collection gets to reside on the bookcase for all the world to see and access. Admit it: your bookcase is arranged in such a way as to show off a part of your collection as much as it is to organize it.

You arrange your bookshelf to show off as much as to rearrange.

In my case, I have a single large IKEA Billy bookcase. It stands about seven feet high and three feet wide. The shelves are adjustable, so I have tall books on the bottom and top two shelves, with the smaller standard trade paperback sized editions in the middle. The bookcase holds an enormous number of books, but it’s still only part of my total collection. I wish I had space for more, but right now there’s only another three shelf bookcase in the master bedroom. That only snuck in there because half of the top shelf holds my wife’s books.

It is the taller case that is the pride of my collection. Here’s the problem: It’s remained stagnant for far too long. I did a mini-“Shelf Porn” write up of the bookcase in 2008. Until recently, it looked largely the same. There’s a messy part in the middle that’s always evolving, where I keep recent books I want to read or recent reads I might review or random things I have no space for. I love that shelf; it’s the most chaotic and often enjoyable shelf. Everything else — especially above it — is neatly arranged and looks impressive, but it’s not reflective of the comics reader I am today.

I want my bookshelf to mirror me and my reading tastes, not my decorating tastes. So I folded up two new boxes and began dumping books from their long term home on bookshelves into the cardboard domicile. These are not books I dislike, by any means. They’re books I still have fond memories of, whether it’s for the story or art, themselves, or the memories of reading them originally and the time and place they’ve fit into my life.

I don’t mean to sound so grandiose about it, but we’ve all known that feeling. We’ve all cracked open an old comic and had a flood of memories wash over us of that comics shop, the weather that day, the conversations we have about that issue, that time the book’s creator signed it, etc. We often have emotional ties to our comics. It’s OK to admit to it. It’s why you haven’t thrown out so many of the crap comics you thought were awesome when you were eight, isn’t it? (Hint: They’re likely not all that good if you go back to them today. Trust me.)

But those books had to go. I wasn’t about to pull them out to reread them. I hadn’t done that for much of the last five years, and there’s little chance I’d be doing it again in the near future. The Brian Bendis/Alex Maleev run on “Daredevil” was a fantastic run for the character and made for a nice set of hardcovers across the shelf, but I have no desire to reread them all again right now. I haven’t even flipped through any of those books in years that I can think of. I don’t need them sitting three feet away from the desk where I write Pipeline every week. They’re OK in a box that I can get to later, should I need to.

It hurt a little more to dump the “Ultimate Spider-Man” hardcovers, but I never picked up the last couple collections, one of which is now long out of print, and Marvel pulled the rug out from under me and stopped publishing those glorious oversized 12 issue hardcovers. I think I’m still bitter about that. The six issue hardcovers that came after those books look and feel puny. Still, I think that series is the best extended run of a Marvel/DC comic book series in the last 25 years. Love the book. But, again, I haven’t opened them up in a long time and don’t think I will anytime soon.

Also heading out: the “Ultimate Fantastic Four” and “Ultimate X-Men” collections. They looked nice when lined up together, but none are high on my Must Re-Read list at the moment.

Comics bookshelf

“Groo”, “Usagi Yojimbo”, “The Smurfs”, and even the “Flight” anthologies. In putting this together, I’ve realized I missed a couple of editions of “Flight”. Hope they’re still out there somewhere to find…

 

It’s a bit of a work in progress for me right now. I don’t have many pictures to share because the results are uneven. The books don’t line up neatly yet. The shelves are a bit chaotic. They’re not even full. I’m still attempting to piece things back together. For example, I’m lining up all the “Groo” and “Usagi Yojimbo” collections I have to put across one shelf. Those have been scattered for too long, but I’m slowly bringing them together.

It’s another side effect of this project: It’s focusing my wish list. I’m finding myself more interested now in buying books to fill out this bookshelf. It’s helping to re-prioritize the series that I sometimes set aside for other items of interest. I have more “Spirou and Fantasio” books to get from Cinebook. I’m missing a lot of “Usagi Yojimbo” volumes. I’m a few volumes behind on “Largo Winch” now, and Fantagraphics is putting out those “Donald Duck” books faster than I originally thought they might. Or, you now, time flies and you lose track of what’s out there…

I’m also bringing more of my European comics back together. I’m sure that comes as a shock to none of you who’ve been reading this column lately. But the top shelf is predominately “Lucky Luke,” “Asterix,” and Carl Barks Duck books. I have far too many Duck albums from when Gladstone put them out in the 90s to fit on the shelf today. I did manage to put a sample of them alongside the beginning of the Fantagraphics reprints on the top shelf, though. Do I need both sets of reprints? Yes, of course I do. Fantagraphics is doing an amazing job with the recoloring efforts, and their annotations are always thought-provoking, even if I do sometimes thinks they’re overthinking things.

“Blacksad” is up there, too, as are the Marvel reprints of “Ythaq,” from the late, lamented Soleil series. The small collection of French language albums I have starts at the end of the shelf, featuring “Les Femmes En Blanc,” “Melusine,” and “Marsupilami.” Can’t get enough Lewis Trondheim. “Belladonne” is too tall and got pushed down to the next shelf. A man could go broke buying Pierre Alary’s work at StuartNgBooks.com. I’m tempted to try it. They would certainly pretty up the bookshelf, right?

 

Bookshelf 1 with Asterix, Ducks, Invincible, etc.

The top two bookshelves gets some of the taller books, including all the French albums. From “Asterix” to “Cities of the Fantastic,” plus “Lucky Luke” and a few art books. Yes, that’s even the Blue-ray of “Red”, which I picked up on a Black Friday sale this weekend.

 

Because it’s the only shelf they’d fit on, I have the “The Ulimates Omnibus” up there alongside “Batman Hush Unwrapped,” “Spawn” volume 1, and the first year of “Haunt.” I still haven’t read that last one, but I do want to. The other two are up there for the art, as I try to spotlight (for my own purposes) more of the different art styles of comics. The next shelf down features art books by Todd McFarlane, Frank Cho, and Francois Schuiten. Picture a buxom woman with a long cape blowing against the odds of physics in the wind as she stands in front of a ridiculously detailed drawing of a bizarre cityscape.

I love comics.

The other Marvel Omnibus in my collection is on that shelf, as well, collecting the Todd McFarlane-era “Amazing Spider-Man” run. I still pop that book open from time to time to random pages to relive my earliest comics collecting days. I remember the pages I slavishly redrew for myself and the ones I got most excited about.

I have a selection of Will Eisner books on that shelf, from “Last Day in Vietnam” to “The Building” and even “The Princess and the Frog.” Eisner’s work is still hugely educational, entertaining, and inspirational. It’s a couple of generations on now, but his work still influences today’s artists, likely in ways they don’t even realize.

Rearranging my shelves also gave me the chance to dig back up the three “Leave It To Chance” hardcovers from James Robinson and Paul Smith. The “Smurfs Anthology” series will go there. The Eric Shanower/Skottie Young “Oz” series will be there, as well.

I’m not sure you could be on further opposite ends of the art spectrum as Lewis Trondheim and Francois Schuiten, but they do share shelf space at my house.

On and on it goes. There’s a small section for comic strip collections, though the pride and joy of that section of my collection are too big to fit on a bookshelf: the complete “Far Side” and “Calvin and Hobbes.” Still, I love having “Bloom County” up there. The Artist’s Editions, likewise, don’t fit on the shelves and are still stacked in the closet, still in their original packaging for protection. When you want to lug one of those out to read, it’s worth the extra effort to dig in. There’s nothing casual about an Artist’s Edition.

Currently, the bookshelf looks far messier than it ever has. There’s a greater diversity of shapes and designs to books. There’s a problem with books of similar theme being too different in size and forcing me to break them apart in different ways. I wish the whole thing looked neater, but I’m very proud of the collection of books I have up there to glance over at. The bookcase looks new and refreshed. It’s been far too long.

What about you? Do you have that one bookcase that’s been stocked full of the same books for years, while newer books languish in a dark corner somewhere? Have you noticed your interests in comics changing? Have you been thinking that with all the books you’ve accumulated over the years, that you could have a themed bookcase?

Why don’t you try changing it up? The books you put away aren’t going away. They’re just moving out of the way. Give something new a try. Rotate some books. It might be just the shot in the arm you need right now.

Bookshelves reflect me, not my decorating tastes.

 

The 2o16 Update

It’s time to go through this process again, I think. I did make some changes after that column, nearly three years ago.  I don’t think it was enough, though.

Bookshelf with movie "Art Of" books

The biggest change is that one of the middle shelves now hosts a collection of “Art Of” books I’ve started to collect in the last three years. These are the behind the scenes books packed with visual development stuff from animated movies like “Tangled,” “The Penguins of Madagascar”, “Big Hero 6,” “Zootopia”, and “Home.”  No matter what happens with the final movie, the artists who work behind the scenes on these movies are always inspiring.

I’ve cleared out more books from the top shelf to fit in more Duck books and more Cinebooks albums.

That’s probably about it.

The “Amazing Spider-Man Omnibus” came down from the shelves after I finished writing The McSpidey Chronicles, in which I reviewed every single issue of “Amazing Spider-Man” that McFarlane drew, plus a couple others along the way.

And the books I said I intended to put up, I did.

I’m starting to get antsy, though. I’m wondering which books I’d want to have up there now.  Which ones might I want to read again soon?  Which ones best reflect my current tastes and comic moods?  I’m not sure.  I have to admit, I like the books that are up there now.

If there’s one soft spot, it’s in the middle of the shelves, where a lot of Image trade series are sitting, many of which I haven’t read.  I want to, but I keep avoiding them.  Maybe it’s time to tackle them head-on, instead, if only to clear room on the shelves?

We shall see.

(I’m still bitter over Marvel dropping those “Ultimate Spider-Man” hardcover format books)

11 Comments

  • anduinel September 16, 2016 at 10:03 am

    I reeeeeallly should do this. Instead, I’m assembling another shelf. XD At least it’s for the greater good — I do a LOT of lending to friends interested in comics and I’ve managed to create a few more fans of hobby, and it helps to have a variety at my fingertips.

    Reply
    • Augie September 16, 2016 at 12:09 pm

      I’d happily put up another bookshelf, but the wife is against taking up that much more wall space. I try to explain the closet space that’ll free up when those boxes of books shift to the shelves, but there’s no convincing some people… =(

      Being the lending library, though, I can understand how your careful arrangements might not hold very long. So screw it, throw everything up there.

      Reply
  • The Telltale Mind September 16, 2016 at 11:07 am

    My shelves get rearranged a little wee bit every time I buy something. I also do not put them in any sort of order – everything is random except when it comes to a set of something. I like the chaotic nature of it all and keeps it fresh when I am looking for something to read.

    Reply
    • Augie September 16, 2016 at 12:10 pm

      That’s the old advantage of surprise. You never know what you might re-discover that way. I used to have one shelf that was kind of a holding zone for a random assortment of books. It worked like that for me for a little while, but then I became blind to them all together.

      Also, it seems so many things I want to read are on volumes 2 or 3 now, so I need to keep them near each other somehow. The struggle is real…

      Reply
  • Mario Lebel September 16, 2016 at 11:08 am

    Like every long time comics reader, I’ve reached the point of having no more free space for my growing collection. This despite my complete move to trades 3+ years ago. (I admit there is a single (pun!) exception: I buy Island magazine edited by Brandon Graham and Emma Rios. It’s grand!)

    This space limitation forces me to routinely go through my bookcases and pull out stuff I know I won’t reread in the future or things I never enjoyed in the first place. I put those comics in a box designated to books I’m selling. Sometimes they stay there for months before finding a home. Other times I take the lost-cause-I’ll-never-find-a-buyer trades and hardcovers and bring them to the used bookstore where I trade them in for a credit which I then use to buy used science fiction and fantasy novels.

    Like you I use the Billy bookcases from IKEA (the only IKEA furniture in my home as I usually hate the store, but I liked the price of these bookcases). I have three of them, side-by-side in my basement. It’s a literal wall of books and I love it. My wife not so much. Mostly because the finite space devoted to my comics and novels means I have to fill every empty space on those shelves. This results in the top shelves, the designated shelves for paperback novels and manga, are “double parked” as my wife puts it. A row of books in front of another row of books. I’ve also got books stacked sideways on top of those. It’s an eyesore, really, but it’s hard to cull your collection because of the reasons you point out (memories!).

    So that’s my solution right now. Cycle through the lesser loved books to make room for new treasures and to solidify my current favourites as triage survivors. I’m still trying to figure out a solution of books that come in weird sizes. I currently have a full shelf dedicated to non-standard sized comics. It’s a mess, but a glorious mess.

    It’s great that you point out that sorting through you bookcases results in more shopping. That is too true. I actually looked at my comics recently only to realize that I’ve two trades behind on one of my favourite series of recent years, Chew. I’ve got to catch up! With the series ending it’s a perfect time to do so.

    Interesting look how you manage your collection.

    Pardon me for being judgemental, but Batman Hush? Eeeewwwwww 😉

    Reply
    • Augie September 16, 2016 at 12:13 pm

      Yes, go catch up on “Chew”! I just read issue #58 the other day and it’s only getting crazier…

      Batman: Hush has some nice art. The Harley Quinn issue, in particular, is spectacular. The story isn’t my favorite, but I don’t hate it. I mostly enjoy it for the art, though. I’m an old school Jim Lee fanboy, so it works for me. =)

      Love the “Wall of Books” idea. Someday, I hope to get there somehow…

      Reply
      • Mario Lebel September 16, 2016 at 4:20 pm

        Yeah, i’m just giving you a hard time. You like what you like and we should all be comfortable with that. I admit that even for me the high point of that book is the art, but I struggle with Alex Sinclair’s colouring. Especially the first few issues. It got better near the end. I’m pleased to say that I think he improved his colouring of Lee/Williams art on All-Star Batman.

        Reply
  • Colin Taylor September 16, 2016 at 2:16 pm

    About 3 years ago now we moved house and glory of glories I had a nerdcave at the back of the garage all of my own. After a while I had the chance to get to grips with knocking it into shape. I chronicled the process over at the 2000ad Message Board (my favourite place for comics chat, they are a cantakerous but wonderfully diverse and informed crowd, who by and large are immensely friendly) and it was a delight.

    http://forums.2000adonline.com/index.php?topic=39695.375

    I don’t know which I enjoyed more, the process of setting up my nerd cave, or sharing and discussing the decisions made with that crowd of people who love comics too. Its far to longwinded and self induligent to expect anyone here to run through it, but one day I’d love to do something with this collected nonsense.

    I’m happy to report the thread comes back to life ever so often as someone else wipes out their good stuff and whoops it out for the rest of the internet to see.

    Reply
  • Colin Taylor September 17, 2016 at 2:02 am

    Ha! Just looking back at the thread I started realised that I referenced this article when it first ran. Arh the circle of life is complete…

    Reply
  • ed September 17, 2016 at 3:09 pm

    Bookcases reflect who you are— scattered, individual, and as incomplete as you. Your comics collection tells yourself and others what your likes and dislikes as much as your books, cds, dvds, etc.

    I’ve long gone past in having a “rounded” collection of things long ago. There maybe stuff that I don’t have or missing in my collection, and I’ve accepted they’re not for me, and other people are much more into them— they’re not for me, so I buy stuff and have things that I REALLY like.

    That’s an editing process that really cuts down on material possessions! That new comics/book/cd/bluray isn’t for me, leave others to buy them (and talk about them), so I don’t have to clear space to add them to my shelf. There’s already previous things occupying the space.

    Of course the problem is when there’s new things you ARE interested in comes in… (Gotta make space for that collected Kurtzman TRUMP hb when it arrives.)

    There’s a Carlin joke in there somewhere.

    Reply
  • Eric van Schaik September 18, 2016 at 3:33 pm

    Ikea is also my friend. Sometimes I had to buy new ones because they coudn’t stand the weight. Because of that all my Absolute Editions and Omnibuses are on the lowest row, while I would like them to have the highest place, but such is life. From time to time I have to make room for new stuff. Stuff that I can’t sell goes to the school of my second son. He goes to special school because of him being autistic. They are very pleased with it to use for English lesson (I life in Holland). Of the 5 bookshelfs 4 1/2 are us comics, and 1/2 for european stuff. The cat killed most of Lucky Luke and Asterix and because of the newly translated version of Spirou I don’t know if I have room for them. Maybe that is sacrilege but i prever Spirou and Gil Jourdan over the other 2.

    Reply

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