During a discussion with a good friend of mine, the topic of comic books was broached. My friend said he was looking forward to framing old, worn-out copies of classic comics on his wall thus declaring them noteworthy pieces of art in their own right…and I’d have to admit he’s got a good point. (Although framing them brings to mind CGC coffins protecting our comics from death by oxidation and acidic fingerprints by burying them alive.)
Of course, there’s a long history of art and heirlooms gaining aesthetic and sentimental value through the natural course of aging (cracks in the paint, patina on the bronze, faded jeans, etc.) and my friend’s notion especially makes sense in light of intentionally-aged comic book posters and t-shirts. I’m also not saying it’s just fine to go rip up some comics in order to make them look cooler as there’s a difference between the natural happenstance of time-worn nicks, creases, or browning and the artificial slices of a box cutter. And like anything, there’s a balance within the scale of wear-and-tear appreciation. It probably doesn’t make the damage more endearing just because there’s a huge chunk missing from the cover. I’m thinking more along the lines of examples pictured below:
My friend has also opted to hold onto his cover-only version of Batman #14, the Penguin’s first appearance. Who knows, maybe someone will come along with a faceless version of the same issue and spawn a new Frankenstein to be put on the market; I know from first-hand experience that there are people out there making money on marrying covers with bodies because of the time I listed a cover-less early appearance of Wonder Woman in Sensation Comics for $100 that literally sold within seconds of listing it on eBay to one of those matchmakers. Which brings up comic book restoration…was something gained or lost in the process below?
We should also be keeping in mind the historic value of an artifact. What has more value: a printing press that Gutenberg used to print the Bible that was then relayed to several users and caretakers through the ages or a printing press that Gutenberg never used and was lost in some peat bog of an archive only to be uncovered in pristine condition? Both of the artifacts have their merits, as do comics that were actually enjoyed and have scuffmarks and rolled spines to prove it.
Some years ago, I’d actually purged hundreds of comics from my collection based on condition (well, that and the smell and residue of cat urine) and now I’m wondering if some of the most ragged-looking ones would have held charm for me now. I do still have one of my father’s old comics, Tom Landry and the Dallas Cowboys, a Christian-themed issue of which my father has fond memories. I included some pictures below and one might get an additional backstory from the extreme wear and scribbles of toddler ownership.
Still, I’m kind of disappointed that it isn’t old enough to have liverspots.
But before you go out tearing up walls of houses from the former half of the 20th century looking for old comics stuffed away as insulation, I wouldn’t recommend huffing the mildew seeping from that stack of water-damaged Baby Hueys either…
P.S. Send pictures of your own worn-out, possibly sentimental comics to firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll tack them on to the end of this blog post with yellowed Scotch tape.