Comic books are made to be read. But along the way they’ve grown to become a collectible in the minds of some, leading to an interesting bifurcation of fandom: collectors and readers.
My Friend Dahmer cartoonist Derf Backderf is a longtime fan who, while downsizing his collection, wandered upon the uniquely placed Certified Guaranty Company (CGC). The avowed comic fan who followed his hobby into a career was shocked at the degree to which comics collecting had subsumed the readability of comics, especially given that “true collectors” would hermetically seal their comics in CGC “slabs,” leaving them unable to be read — you know, the original intent for the comic.
“For someone who has devoted his life to making comics, and who takes several years to painstakingly craft each one … to be FUCKING READ! … this is an abomination,” Derf wrote in a long post on his blog. “For baseball cards, fine. because you can still read everything on the card. With a comic book, 90 percent of the contents are lost forever! Most of these “collectors” wouldn’t know the difference between Wally Wood and Wally Walrus. They’re just collecting a number. It’s an affront to everything I hold dear.”
Derf, who has been reading comics since the mid-1970s, covers the growth of the secondhand comics market and the rise of collectability through the Overstreet Price Guide and now through CGC. Because of this severe leaning toward collectability limiting the readability of comics, the cartoonist has started what he calls a “one-man crusade against slabbing” by buying CGC books and “then free[ing] them from their plastic coffins.”