Pipeline: The Browning of the Boards

A New Purge

Adventures of Superman #489 with a cool Tom Grummett cover
(Photo: Tom Grummett, Doug Hazlewood, DC Entertainment)

The reorganization of my comics collection that I mentioned in last week's column has been a lot of work, but a lot of fun. It's more than just a reorg, though. It's also a purge.

I'm hoping to get rid of half or even two-thirds of my collection when all is said and done. I'm pretty confident I'll hit that 50% mark. It might take some more work to get to two-thirds; I can be a hard person to convince to let go of things.

For sure, some things are not going. Comics I've had letters printed in are first on that list. That means I've been opening up a lot of comics I likely haven't touched in 20 or 25 years to check the letters column. I forgot I had a letter printed in "Superboy," and even one in "The Kents" and another in the Marvel Knights' "Punisher" series.

Comics that will likely never be reprinted are also not going anywhere. All the Marvel vs. DC comics from the 90s? CrossGen titles? "Boris the Bear"? Those aren't going anywhere.

And then there are the ones with such nostalgic appeal. Those are a little trickier, because so many comics pique that emotion right off the bat. I've had to train myself to be more ruthless. Part of that is the "Adventures of Superman" #489 cover you see above, from a time when I was a devoted Superman reader. Tom Grummett did lots of amazing work in the Superman offices in the 1990s. But I haven't looked inside this comic in more than two decades...

Much of the rest is easily replaced with collected editions, or digital copies for a smaller price. I don't need the monthly comics around here anymore. I like having them and they're a great way to read comics, but I want some elbow room instead.

Yes, there are a few high ticket comics in the mix that will be going, too. They're there to sweeten the pot for any potential buyer. Plus, I don't want to be bothered with getting things CGC-graded and then deal with eBay auctions.

In the end, I picture a collection that fits on bookshelves more than longboxes. I have a dream of having a library of books-with-spines instead of magazines-with-staples. There's just something cooler about that to me now. My biggest problem there is just that I lack the wall space to put more bookshelves on. Thus, there will always be boxes.

Browning of the Boards

The thing I wanted to show you from these recent efforts, though, are some of the backing boards. I pack two comics in per bag and board, one on each side. I use the Silver Age size. They give you a little extra room around the outside of the comics, and enough space to fit two comics and a board inside. You can save lots of room -- and money -- that way.

If you leave an old-fashioned newsprint comic pressed up against those pieces of cardboard long enough, though, funny things start to happen. Let me show you an example from one bag from 1992. It's from the "Adventures of Superman" comic seen at the top of this column. I doubt this bag has been opened in at least 25 years.

Acids, papers, and cardboards have a long time to mix and commingle in that period of time. Check this out:

Backing Boards become brown mirror images of back covers

The back cover's mirror image is imprinted on the dull surface of the backing board. In fact, it looks like a second back cover can be seen on that board, as well.

I'm seeing this everywhere. The comics don't look any the worse for wear, but all of their inkiest areas are burning brown images onto the cardboard backing boards.

In many cases, it's better or not existent at all on the glossier side of the board. That's the treated, non-acidic side. But I'm seeing it on both sides often enough that I wouldn't counsel you to just stick with the glossy side. Give it enough time, and everything is up for grabs.

This isn't necessarily new information. I've heard people say before that bags and boards are only good for a set number of years. But seeing is believing. The old advice says that you should swap them out every so many years. That's always seemed like a big and expensive project to me, though now I can see what they say that.

The writing is on the board. And it's sepia tone!

Here's my favorite backing board that I've seen with this:

Batman Returns back cover ad burned into a backing board

That's from an ad for the "Batman Returns" movie. It was a simple silhouette shape. And, again, some other lettering appears at the top, so it looks like I had two different comics in this bag at different times.

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