Robot 6

Send Us Your Shelf Porn!

Welcome once again to Shelf Porn! Today’s Shelf Porn comes from Joshua Strasburg, who lives in the Blue Beetle’s hometown, El Paso, Texas. Joshua shares his history as a collector as well as look into his comics closet.

There won’t be a Shelf Porn next week, as I will be out of town, but we’ll be back in October. It would be great to come back to an in-box filled with Shelf Porn submissions, so send them to me at jkparkin@yahoo.com. Also, if you use any comic book or graphic novel themes in your Halloween decorations, we’d love to feature them, too … so send us your pictures!

Now let’s hear from Joshua …

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My name is Joshua Strasburg. I’m a long-time comic fan originally from Niagara Falls, New York, now working as a church administrator in El Paso, Texas.

I started collecting comics at age 11 after buying GI Joe # 90 and some Marvel trading cards, then wandering into my local comic shop–the House of Fantasy in Niagara Falls–and randomly picking up a copy of Quasar #23. The New Warriors made me fall in love with superhero comics and Maus made me fall in love with “indie” books. I collected and worked at the House of Fantasy for a while, but quit comics in 1995 because I was frustrated with the lack of decent writing in superhero comics. When the first Astro City miniseries ended, I quit both collecting and the shop.

In 2000, I again randomly wandered into the House of Fantasy, this time out of nostalgia, and splurged on a hardcover copy of Astro City: Life in the Big City, which collects that first miniseries I loved so much. After a friend introduced me to the indie scene of the day and tipped me onto what Vertigo had been doing in my absence, I was hooked back in and started collecting again almost immediately.

After a few years, though, if found that I just couldn’t afford to keep up with my ever-widening interests and desire to read EVERYTHING on the racks. I eventually landed on a perfect solution: switch to trade waiting. With the lower price point issue-for-issue, trades and graphic novels were the perfect way for me to keep up. And besides, they look good on shelves and don’t require all those white cardboard boxes.

But being the obsessive completest that I am, I had to find yet another way to reduce costs so I wouldn’t get carried away with buying all those $15 trades every week. That’s when another like-minded friend tipped me off to the difference between “collecting” and “amassing.” He made me realize that a collection should be a set of great books that I’m proud to own and happy to show off, with no crap or filler to take up space. By ditching the concept of simply amassing as many books as possible, I made the switch from quantity to quality.

So how do I decide what’s good? What stays and what goes? My criteria are:

1. The book has to be good … duh. But more than good, it has to be “re-readable”–that is, I have to want to re-read it (and I do re-read my books).

2. If it’s not particularly good, a book can make the cut if it has nostalgic appeal (such as the first collection of The New Warriors).

3. If it’s not especially re-readable, a book can make the cut by virtue of being part of a larger series which is re-readable overall.

Basically, if I read a book and decide that it was OK but I’ll never read it again, then it gets sold on Ebay. So after all that, what makes the cut? Here’s the collection at present:

This is the closet in my spare bedroom where I hide my collection. I say hide because I need a place to keep it out of the hands of my 3-year-old daughter, who would spend hours coloring in the pretty pictures and making me a very sad daddy.

When I open the closet, I’m almost a little surprised at just how many books are in there. I’ve actually been a little nervous about it lately, because the wooden shelves are starting to tilt and tip. Right now, the comic boxes on the left are doing a lot to help keep the shelves from collapsing. (Sorry for the blurry pic. The lighting is strange in that room.)

The top corner of the top shelf: You can see that I normally organize my books alphabetically by title, starting with digits before letters. You may not be able to see it but the first book on the shelf is 3 Geeks: An Eclectic Potpourri of Reading Pleasure.

The middle of the top shelf: Since I’m limited at present to the space inside this closet, I have no room for Kramers Ergot 7, one of the prized pieces in my collection. You can see a lot of non-superhero books on this shelf, including Blankets, Box Office Poison, some Best American Comics collections, some of my B.P.R.D. books, some of my Calvin and Hobbes books, and the aforementioned hardcover Astro City: Life in the Big City, along with most of the other Astro City collections.

The other end of the top shelf: Again, sorry for the blurry photo. Here, you can see my complete Calvin and Hobbes collection.

The second shelf. The books standing up in the back are the ones I’ve read and have made the cut, while all the books piled up on the front of the shelf are ones I haven’t read yet. Ever since I went back to school, I don’t have as much time to read as I used to but I haven’t cut back on my purchases, so the new books keep piling up. But I’ll read them all eventually! You can see in this pic that I’m a fan of Ex Machina, Fables, The Goon, Hellboy, Invincible, etc.

I wanted to zoom in here to show the only toy currently on display: a custom Munny decorated by my good friend Mike Alvarez, who has lately been overwhelmed with orders for custom toys. This is an early one he did that doesn’t really show off what he can do these days, but I like it because it’s Twiggles, the main character of the graphic novel he and I made together: Ooh, Pie!

The third and fourth shelves: Lots more books that I haven’t read yet piled up on the front of the shelves, as well as the only other non-comic item: a bottle of Fancy Froglin Hot Sauce with a label designed by James Kochalka. I’m a big Kochalka fan so I bought this immediately when I found it but I have no idea why it was made or when. I’ve never opened it so I don’t know if it’s any good, but it’s a neat piece.

The bottom shelf: Here you can see even more books piled up on the front of the shelves, but these are books that I’ve already read which, sadly, don’t fit on the shelves in their proper place. I really need to make or buy a better shelving solution–I hate not having the books alphabetized correctly. (Notice, though, that each pile is alphabetized–except for that Y: The Last Man book which I just got today.) You can also see in this photo one of my other prized pieces: Absolute Watchmen. Even though I think Alan Moore has gone a little nuts in the last few years, Watchmen will always be my favorite comic. I even have a Watchmen tattoo.

This is a bad of a stained wall, but you can see my three short boxes–the only comic boxes I still have! I used to have tons of these, but now I only need these three to hold my comic singles. I’ve pared down almost my entire collection of singles since starting the trade collection because I usually get rid of the singles when I get my hands on the trade. Why be redundant? On top, I keep a pile of books that are not comics but comic-related. These included The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon, the Soap Lady by Renee French, The Voice of the Fire by Alan Moore, the Bone Reader by Jeff Smith, and some others.

I couldn’t resist showing off this photo of my (fresh) Watchmen tattoo: Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes.

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Comments

4 Comments

Better spread out hardcovers books. You wouldn’t want to have them tilting over the edge, bad idea.

Add a simple piece of wood as “bracket” in between top, button and subsequent shelves for support.

Oh, by the way, nice closet collection.

Cheers!

Yeah. Nice collection and nice use of the closet. I agree with Nicholas there about adding some support – though the Peruvian earthquake shelf porn is still on of my favorites.

NIce stuff. Kudos on the Chabon, that is seriously one of the greatest books ever written.

Thanks for the chance to be on the site, JK! Now I wish I would have taken better photos. :) Right after these were taken, I went to the Small Press Expo and added another huge stack of books to the already tilting piles.

Nicholas, HDO, Benjamin … thanks for the comments. I’ve been meaning to work on a safer, more stable shelving system for a while, but have only just recently started working on it. The first step was to break down some of those piles on the front of the shelves into smaller, lighter piles and move some of them off onto the floor (temporarily) to take the weight off the shelves. Next, I’m going to get rid of the wooden bookcase and install wall-mounted shelves with better stability.

I love the Shelf Porn feature so I’m stoked to have my collection on here. Thanks again, Robot 6.

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