I’m in a staring contest with the long boxes on my bedroom floor. I won’t blink. I won’t let them beat me. I’m a grown man, standing in my room, hands on my hips, giving my comics the stink eye. Well, how dare they take up so much space. Who do they think they are, positioning themselves next to my wall, alphabetized, organized for easy access? “You think you’re better than me?” I say to myself, out loud. For too long they’ve mocked me with their cumbersome size and ridiculous weight. Moving them is just a pain in the butt, and when for whatever reason I have to, I usually… don’t. The space I could be using for other things like a mini-fridge, or a loveseat, or a bed for my dog who has to sleep outside because she comes second to my comic books, is taken up by these long boxes and it kills me. “That’s why I’m going digital,” I say to myself, everyday, out loud.
When I started collecting, I wouldn’t have dreamed of it. Digital comics? You’re out of your mind. Going digital spelled out doom for print comics back in the day. It was like joining the dark side, and betraying your Obi-Wan looking local, comic book shop owner. Saying the words, “digital comics” sucked the air out of any shop in a second, and when you bounced the idea off of your compatriots, the riptide of digital shaming would drag you away. It’s not like that anymore though, and that’s great. Digital comics give the casual reader better accessibility to comics, while also providing a wider berth of variety. One day in the future, the common comic reader will not know the struggles of organizing long boxes, or waiting for re-orders, or what the black hole of back-issue collecting looks like. That’s pretty awesome… Right? If digital is selling that convenience I’m longing for, why am I having such a hard time making the jump?
Well, the smell. That new book smell, baby. Putting your nose right up in the binding and taking a whiff. And the feel. Those thin pages that could crumple to the touch, and the way you slide your fingers when you turn them. Slip them in their bag and boards, slow about it, no shoving or pushing, tape it up and then look at it. Take a gander at how gorgeous it looks under that plastic and how it feels. Firm, right? Then, move over to your long box, put it in there and forget about it until you become afraid that you’re missing a certain issue of the current run and dig in there to find it, not remembering whether you placed it in there alphabetically or numerically or some other weird method you have of filing, until you pick it out, glance at the issue number and put it back satisfied or stressed out. Usually, I always end that episode stressed out. With digital comics I can access my cloud, see what I got, if I’m missing anything, not worry about damaging my books, not worry about losing my books. I can buy issues with a click instead of running down to my shop, waiting in line, risking the chance that they might not have what I want in stock. It’s so easy! It’s so simple! It’s so boring and skips that important part of the print experience that I happen to value!
In any relationship, there’s going to be a struggle, an imbalance. You start dating, you fall in love, they move in, they have stuff, they move your stuff to make room for their stuff. You love them, but they can bother the crap out of you. They’re difficult, stubborn and that’s okay, because they’re human and also because you’re choosing this. Your unconditional love outweighs all the work it takes to make sure you two are okay. Same with comics, right? Did I just compare falling in love to comics? Yup, and you know I’m right.
So can I manage to take the good with the bad? Is the leap to the full-on digital comic experience too extreme? Maybe I’m overthinking this. After all, those long boxes aren’t, uh, alive. They don’t have feelings or needs. They’re low-maintenance and stationary. But, at the end of it all, my long boxes and comics hold some of the best memories, stories and art I know, and I’m not sure if I’m willing to give up that physical touch for digital comics.
Crap, I blinked.
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