You know, it's really a good time to be a comic geek.
And I'm not just talking about the wide range of comics to choose from, or the high quality of writing, or even the plethora of comic related movies, TV shows, and the like, although all of those are cool. But the thing that makes me the happiest to be a comic geek at this point in time is the proliferation of comic books at public libraries.
Growing up I was always a big reader of all formats, but one of the happiest days in my young life was the day when I first memorized that magical Dewey Decimal number: 741.5 , the number for all things comic related. Granted, the pickings in the 741.5 range at the Miami* Public Library were pretty slim, comprised mostly of comic strip collections. And while these collections did introduce me to the denizens of Dogpatch and the freaky world of Charles Addams, it was the small number of volumes devoted to comic books that really grabbed my interest. The actual comic book collections was limited to some "so-and-so through the ages" style collections devoted to showing selected highlights from the 30s through the 70s of the Dark Knight, the Man of Steel, and The Big Red Cheese. Oh, and Marvel's The Superhero Women, which featured such noteworthy characters as The Cat and Shanna the She-Devil.
Now, while these minimal number of collections were nice, and did introduce me to many of the mainstays of the DC universe, it was the comic related reference books which I found myself endlessly fascinated by. Filled with references to characters I'd never heard of before (Hydro-Man? The Black Terror? Captain Triumph?), these historical records of the evolution of the comic industry were a goldmine to my comic-hungry young mind. Even better, some of them actually included reprints of full stories from the Golden Age, such as the origins of Crimebuster
the Golden Age Daredevil
and the aforementioned Hydroman
These glimpses into the past merely whetted my appetite for more, and I would spend many years grousing about the difficulty of reading every comic I wanted to read without it costing me a small fortune.
But now times, they have changed.
In the past several years there has been an explosion in the number of public libraries which regularly purchase TPBs for their collections; my own local library has a standing order for all things related to Supes, Bats, Spidey, and the Muties, plus a few other odds and ends for good measure. But even with a great source for comics at the local library level, there's an even better source.
The wonders of Inter-Library Loan.
For those of you unfamiliar with it, ILL is a process by which you can ask your local library to contact other libraries throughout the country in order to borrow something your library doesn't own. It is thanks to ILL that I was able to read the entirety of Cerebus, Bone, Castle Waiting, SpyBoy, Love Fights to name just a few. True, not everything is available through ILL, and there are many things which I'll purchase even if available through ILL just to help support the titles, but for someone who wants to read anything and everything and yet has a fairly limited budget, the power of the library is an effective tool. Plus, the more comic books get circulated, the more money libraries will be willing to spend on purchasing new collections, which, in my opinionation, can't be anything but good for the industry.
So, do yourself a favor: the next time you're curious about a title, but aren't quite ready to part with the cash, take a trip down to the local library and see what's what -- you might be surprised.
*OK, not FL, and therefore pronounced My-am-uh not My-am-ee