Thursday, May 11, 2017

Chew the Fat: Handling a 'fixer-upper' comic?

Redartz:  Good day, everyone! In the course of your comic buying over the years, have you ever acquired some books that really had been through the wringer? Comics that look as if the dog had spent a good afternoon gnawing on them. Or that had been folded so much you could have made origami from them. The sort of comics not likely to show up on a dealer's display wall.

I have, many times. There have been comics with covers hanging by a sliver of paper, or even completely detached.  Torn books, stained books, books only a comic fan could love.  that is where today's topic comes in: what do you do with them? I'll start by saying that there is some debate in the hobby as to my practice: the repair and retouching of comics is certainly controversial.  Some collectors won't even touch a repaired book. And their reticence is understandable,  given tales of unscrupulous dealers who sell such comics without disclosing the repairs.  The books I will be referring to today, though,are not intended for sale (and if they did end up for sale, the repairs would be fully detailed in description). The work I do is solely to make an essentially unreadable book handleable, and a bit more pleasing to my eye. And , as I'm by trade an art framer, it gives me a chance to combine professional skills and my favorite hobby. And a caveat: any book of better than VG condition, or any book of any likely resale or collector value, I won't work on. And now, a couple examples:

 A recent purchase of a stack of mostly coverless comics did include a few with covers. One was an early issue of Justice League, and it looked like an interesting one. It's cover was detached, center pages loose, and the paper at the staples was shredded. 


 As the cover was already separated, it made things a bit easier. I applied archival acid-free document repair tape to the inside of the cover at the spine to seal the tears, removed the staples, reinserted them through the cover and back through the pages (which themselves frequently needed a tape repair, see the photo right above).  I then took a dry cleaning pad (it is filled with powdered eraser dust, squeezing it produces a powdery coating over the surface, see the photo at left), and squeezed it over the cover  I then used a circular motion, moving the pad over the surface of the cover, allowing the eraser dust to remove surface dust and dirt. I then placed the book between some weighted books to help flatten the reconstructed spine. The finished result is a comic, with cover, that now holds together enough to be read.


In some instances, at this point, I will take the pencils and do a bit of color touch-up. Prismacolor pencils work nicely fot this, as they are lightfast, and blendable, and their reflectivity closely matches that of a comic cover. 


 Here we have an example in which the cover reeeeally had some issues. I found this at a flea market for three dollars, and bought it just as a lark. As it turned out, I found a cover (no interior) for sale on ebay for a few dollars, and bought that. When it arrived, I simply switched the covers. A bit of prismacolor touch up, and voila. A before-and-after illustration. And again, this book is just for my own enjoyment. Both for the mere possession of such a prominent book, but also for the fun and creative challenge of the repair: faced with a ruined, worthless book, to what extent can  you save it and make it a bit more presentable?


Of course,some of the books I've accumulated don't even justify this kind of attention, such as these unfortunates. In cases such as these, if it is a book of any interest, I scan the pages onto my laptop. Then I can clean up the images, download a cover, and transfer the whole thing to my tablet. I have a growing file of scanned comics done in just this manner, including some oddities: for instance, a 1957 Lil' Abner issue featuring "Sadie Hawkins Day" and the Shmoo. 

Finally, for books that aren't even that complete, I have a stack that I use as 'raw material'. They are great to cut up and use as decoration on boxes, shelves, and ornaments; with the application of a layer of acrylic medium or Mod Podge. In this way, any pile of books can be put to some use. 


Finally, here's a look at some of the 'tools of the trade'. Shown is a set of Prismacolor pencils, tweezers (helpful for removing and replacing staples), a sharp blade, dry cleaning pad and archival document repair tape.

 Now you know what I do with those dog-eared wonder books. What do you do with yours?


Charlie Horse 47 said...

Red - Talk about a "labor of love." Hats off to you buddy!

One of my favs in my collection is a really beat up copy (Poor -) of DC Secret Origins #1. Bought it at a drug store with my aunt. Way too emotionally attached to throw it away.

Now if you know of a way to restore the cover to my Avengers #2... Got it via mail order in the mid-70s sight unseen. ("All comics guaranteed to be very good or better, promised the dealer!") When I took it out of the bag, the tape snagged the front cover. There went some of the yellow cover! (Even though I think yellow covers detract from the desirability of a comic, less is not more in this case!

Doug said...

I have no stories like this, and never did.

But I found today's post fascinating, and thank you for sharing your various restoration procedures. I'd previously read about some methods, but to read today your accounts alongside the images you posted was informative and entertaining.


Humanbelly said...

Okay, the full five stars on this post, Red-- ha!
It's like Reed Richards casually asking, "Hey, what do YOU guys do when those pesky pocket-dimensional rifts pop up your household continuity of reality? Here's what works best for me. . . "

Beyond some horribly battered issues that I tried to hold together with bargain-brand scotch-tape back when I was, like, twelve-- I've never done anything at all to restore an issue either. Books with detached covers-- I simply set the cover aside while reading, and put it back together after. And the majority of issues suffering from utter crumble-tude pretty much got that way from my own youthful readings and kid-handlings-- or from the similar journey they took before coming into my possession. I know it's antithetical to the conventions of comic collecting, but some of those creases and smudges and tears, etc, are part of what I love about the dearer books in my collection because they carry and represent memories all their own. I've mentioned a few times in the past the very special, peculiar joy I find at coming across cookie crumbs, or a flattened chocolate chip, or obvious spaghetti-sauce drops in some of those older books when I pull them out in these later years. The youthful comfort-food + comics connection is a special little tiny piece of heaven that flies in the face of any condition appraisal, y'know? (for me at least--heh--)


Martinex1 said...

I have to ageee. Marvelous post and I liked it quite a bit.

I never did any reconstruction. I just seemed to constantly do something stupid to get them in that condition. Some distant memory seems to have me recalling drawing curly hair and beards on characters. So I may have been the five year old cause to some of your repairs.

Like HB said I wouldn't have any idea where to start. It is like Macgyver in action and my hands are not that steady. Cheers for a very different post.

Mike Wilson said...

Yeah, some of my older comics are pretty mangled, but I've never really tried to repair them. I don't think I have any coverless comics at the moment, but I used to have a few (Amazing Spider-Man Annual #18 with Scorpion disrupting JJJ's wedding comes to mind).

It's not just comics either; my Unwin paperback of The Hobbit from 1979 is falling apart, but I still haven't repaired/replaced it.

Edo Bosnar said...

Very impressive repair work, Redartz. Like others here, the only repairs I ever did - back when I was a kid - involved scotch-taping my books back together, especially covers that fell off.
Otherwise, in the first roughly 2 years of my comics reading career, at about the ages 6-7, I often did to my comics the type of stuff you now find yourself fixing (like that enhancement of the FF cover you have pictured).

Charlie Horse 47 said...

Red - I wonder if you share DNA with Mr. "Chop" of the Chop Collection I saw at C2E2???

Have you, for any reason, put different contents on the inside of a cover that didn't correspond with that issue? E.g., stuck an FF story inside a Justice League cover? Or mix pages and create your own comic?

Redartz said...

Thanks for the comments and kind words, everyone! Much appreciated. It was a fun subject to write about- just another element of that great hobby we all love. Some folks build models, I try to repair shredded comics...

Charlie- Your Avengers 2 would be a challenge. Other than the tape damage, what overall condition is the book in? If fairly decent, I'd not even attempt anything. If the book is pretty rough, maybe. Kind of like the situation with my FF 48, a pretty expensive, key book. It was essentially worthless, probably fair- condition. As I was just doing it for my own fun, changing the cover worked out. Of course the same thing could be done with your Avengers, looking online for a loose cover.
As for your second question: no,never played 'switch' with the contents! Love your story about "Mr. Chop". But I'm too obsessive/compulsive to change a book like that... :)

HB- very good point about the sentimental value of personal 'comic wear'.Your crumbs would bring a smile to my face, were I to encounter some! No doubt I left some in a few books as well (or more likely, Reese's Peanut Butter Cup stains). Of course, the books I 'play around with' aren't books from my past, they're just extra pickups with no sentiment attached. So they become fair game for some fix-up fun. It is a small kick to see just how much difference you can make working on a really rough book. Or maybe I'm just a bit weird. Or both...

Marti and Edo- it would be cool to see a few of the books you 'decorated'! Seeing that little bit of youthful you would really add a sentimental touch to those comics. You still have any of them?

The Prowler said...

I will say this about that:

I don't even have all my comics boarded and bagged!!!

As mentioned before, I do run into the occasional cover pulling away while scanning. I don't fix it, I just move on.

My comic book problems:

I own some issues from Half Price Books and their price sticker is stuck right in the middle of the cover. Don't want to try to peel it off and damage the cover. I just leave it.

Trying to scan Giant Size or Annuals, the staple is not in the spine. Makes it hard to get the page on the scanner.

I have also probably acquired some of Doug's old comics. Some of mine are missing the Value Stamp!!!

Speaking of missing pages. I used to remove pages and hang them on my wall. From what I can tell, I never put them back...

Things I haven't even attempted yet, Treasury Editions!!! Should I just take those to FedEx or Kinko's?

Personal Note of INSPIRATION: The top of my scanner peeled away. When I put it back on, I didn't have it lined up correctly. When I would scan, the small part of black showing kept registering as image. Didn't hurt the scan but it also kept the "Automatic" setting from just scanning the page. I removed the top, made sure it was aligned correctly and BOOM. Every thing works now. Thanks Red!!!

(You got a fast car
I want a ticket to anywhere
Maybe we make a deal
Maybe together we can get somewhere
Any place is better
Starting from zero got nothing to lose
Maybe we'll make something
Me myself I got nothing to prove

You got a fast car
I got a plan to get us out of here
I been working at the convenience store
Managed to save just a little bit of money
Won't have to drive too far
Just 'cross the border and into the city
You and I can both get jobs
And finally see what it means to be living

See my old man's got a problem
He live with the bottle that's the way it is
He says his body's too old for working
His body's too young to look like his
My mama went off and left him
She wanted more from life than he could give
I said somebody's got to take care of him
So I quit school and that's what I did

You got a fast car
Is it fast enough so we can fly away?
We gotta make a decision
Leave tonight or live and die this way

So remember when we were driving driving in your car
Speed so fast I felt like I was drunk
City lights lay out before us
And your arm felt nice wrapped 'round my shoulder
And I had a feeling that I belonged
I had a feeling I could be someone, be someone, be someone

You got a fast car
We go cruising, entertain ourselves
You still ain't got a job
And I work in a market as a checkout girl
I know things will get better
You'll find work and I'll get promoted
We'll move out of the shelter
Buy a bigger house and live in the suburbs

So remember when we were driving driving in your car
Speed so fast I felt like I was drunk
City lights lay out before us
And your arm felt nice wrapped 'round my shoulder
And I had a feeling that I belonged
I had a feeling I could be someone, be someone, be someone

You got a fast car
I got a job that pays all our bills
You stay out drinking late at the bar
See more of your friends than you do of your kids
I'd always hoped for better
Thought maybe together you and me find it
I got no plans I ain't going nowhere
So take your fast car and keep on driving

So remember when we were driving driving in your car
Speed so fast I felt like I was drunk
City lights lay out before us
And your arm felt nice wrapped 'round my shoulder
And I had a feeling that I belonged
I had a feeling I could be someone, be someone, be someone

You got a fast car
Is it fast enough so you can fly away?
You gotta make a decision
Leave tonight or live and die this way).

Anonymous said...

I have picked up the occasional back issue to find the Marvel Value Stamp cut out.
I weep for mankind.
My old comics as a kid have long since "gone to the clearing at the end of the path," to quote Roland the Gunslinger, so I had to replace 'em at a pretty penny.


Dr. Oyola said...

Prowler, I have bought a few Half-Price Books and other comics with a stick on them and this is what I do. I fold a dishtowel over the comic cover and get an iron on medium to high heat and rub the spot where the sticker is. The glue melts allowing you to carefully pull the sticker off. It takes work and some time, but generally an successful endeavor (though for some comics that have had the sticker on for years it works less well, as the sticker breaks apart in peeling).

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