Librarian Lou's Big Bad Voodoo Blog

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Binding Comic Books #1: Justice League International

I don't really buy new comics anymore. I may pick up a few trade paperbacks a year (only when they're heavily discounted), and I rely on inter-library loans to furnish me with others, but the days of waiting for new comic Wednesdays, scouring the spinner-racks, buying, reading, bagging, and boarding comics are over for me. I've sold or donated boxes and boxes of comics over the last few years, and just don't have the interest I used to.

That said, even though I've greatly downsized my collection, I still have a few complete runs that I wouldn't ever want to part with, sentimental favorites from years past. But I noticed that while I'll often reread trade paperbacks on my bookshelf, I almost never delved into my remaining longboxes to reread bagged and boarded single issues, even the really terrific ones. Sure, sometimes they get reprinted in trade paperbacks, but who wants to repurchase things they already own (albeit in an inferior format)? Not I. And half the time the new TPBs are expensive (and only reprint four or six issues in a shot), or they skip issues or reprint things out of order, and they always seem to trickle out slowly. At least I know I have all the good stuff already.

That's when I had an epiphany: what if I had my all-time favorite comics bound into collected editions of my own? That would eliminate longbox clutter, allow me easy access to old classics, and even create one-of-a-kind new collectibles. Like so many great ideas, it had already been done... but that made it even easier for me to move forward with it. To start with, I envisioned binding the classic Justice League International run co-written by Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis into four hardcover volumes. The first volume would be Justice League International, followed by Justice League America (the same series with a title change), Justice League Europe (a spinoff book that ran concurrently, starting when International changed its name to America), and finally, Justice League: Breakdowns (a crossover that ran back and forth between the two titles, leading to the end of the Giffen/DeMatteis era on both). I had all the comics, including Annuals, Specials, tie-in issues from other series, random crossovers, and whatever else was needed to make these volumes truly complete. But who could help me make this happen?

Library Binding is based in Waco, Texas, and they specialize in the kind of comic binding projects I had in mind: . Their prices are amazing: $15 (plus shipping) for binding a stack of comic books into a simple, sturdy, no-frills hardcover book with custom text stamped into the spine. We pick the cover and text colors, which are included in the base price, and they trim the edges nice and smooth and even remove the staples in the process. Special features like fancy fonts, front cover stamping, and custom logo dies cost extra. I corresponded with experienced bookbinder James Jasek several times via e-mail with all of my questions and concerns, and the man had the patience of a saint. Eventually, I was ready for what most comic book collectors would consider a nightmarish scenario. I started tearing pages out of these beloved old comics.

Needless to say, I wanted my custom-bound books to be as nice as possible, so I figured I would prep my comics for binding by removing all the double-sided ad pages and back covers. Nobody likes ads breaking up a story, which is one more reason trade paperbacks are so much nicer than single-issue comics. Plus, this would decrease the size of the volumes I had planned, allowing me to fit more issues into each bound book. I went through over 100 comics and very carefully tore out every offending page, which constituted a real history lesson in the comic books, video games, and junk food of the late '80s and early '90s.

(This isn't a great picture for showing you the size of the stack of ads I tore out, but it's the only picture I took. Trust me, there were a LOT.)

I only wished some really fastidious fanboys could have seen me in action, as they surely would have panicked and gotten offended. It seemed counterintuitive, ripping out pages -- essentially "destroying" the priceless collectibles we've gotten conditioned to think of comics as. But I've moved past that. The best comics are reading material first and foremost, deserving to be accessible for revisiting at any point, like good friends. Instead of destroying these old issues, I saw myself creating something new. Something better. Something that could be displayed proudly on a bookshelf instead of taped up in mylar and surrounded by cardboard, shielded from the light of day.

In the end, I had my four volumes planned out, and divided the comics into four stacks to get them ready for Library Binding.

I filled out their binding slips with everything I wanted and sent them off. Was I nervous? You better believe it! But I had seen samples of the beautiful work Library Binding did, and I knew my beloved Justice League International comics were in good hands.

About a month later, I received a package at work. The books were ready! How did they come out? See for yourselves!

I added custom Tables of Contents to each volume:

And the books lay open flat, unlike most "official" published trade paperbacks:


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