Maggie’s World 065: Obsession
Could it be argued that obsessive collecting has its basis in research?
I’ve read issues #103, #104, #107, and #110. But things happened in the issues I don’t have.
So I have to search for #105, #106, #108, and #109.
Once I’ve found them, I can settle down to read the complete sequence of events that led Character A to defeat Villain C—oh, and in the meantime, I’ve just discovered that #106 introduced Sidekick G! Bonus!
It’s a compulsion to uncover history.
And the same thing goes for researching creators’ storytelling styles.
Or maybe it’s simpler than that.
Maybe I just like almost everything I’ve ever seen by a writer or artist—and the idea of finding more makes it a justifiable quest for more enjoyment.
Whatever the motive, the compulsion to complete a collection is often basic for a collector.
There used to be a story that pseudonymous cousins Manfred Lee and Frederic Dannay (who wrote mysteries together as the equally pseudonymous “Ellery Queen”) set out to build a complete collection of all the detective novels that had been published. When they achieved their goal, according to the tale, they donated the entire collection to a research facility of some sort—and began to build a second complete collection.
I can’t find that anecdote in a quick online search, so it may be apocryphal. But it sure sums up an appeal of collecting. An appeal, not necessarily the appeal. In any case, completists are not a new phenomenon. Because, as in the current world of “Gotta catch ’em all” exemplified by Pokémon, one of the driving forces is a simple yearning for completeness. And some of its motivation can begin with enjoying a popular work and exploring its sources.
Admire a Creator?
Many bookstores and libraries have the work of Shel Silverstein (1930–1999) on their shelves. Wiki says his books have sold more than 20 million copies. But people who grew up reading The Giving Tree, A Giraffe and a Half, or Where the Sidewalk Ends may not know that his professional career began by working as a cartoonist with an adult audience. (To digress: That Wiki entry quotes Otto Penzler calling Silverstein a Renaissance man; building a complete collection of Silverstein’s creations would be a challenge but a heck of a lot of fun, and you can start with other information in that entry.)
The original publication of Take Ten (renamed and published for the mass market by Ballantine as Grab Your Socks!) says this on its jacket: “Here is Take Ten, the first collection of Shel Silverstein’s cartoons, taken from Pacific Stars and Stripes, Army Times and his untapped top drawer.” It’s fun to note that the jacket copy was obviously written in expectation that the first Silverstein collection would not be the last.
Or Maybe a Character?
There’s an ongoing project at the moment aiming to examine a rich supply of decades of work by Walt Kelly (1913-1973).
His best-known creation was Pogo Possum, introduced in Animal Comics #1 (1942). [Digressing: As an admirer of Kelly, I became a completist in my search for the 30 issues of that Dell series from Western Printing and Lithographing Company. Challenges included looking for Kelly’s work in stories he didn’t sign. He didn’t sign the feature in #16 based on the one-shot Famous Studios character “Cilly Goose.” Nevertheless, a completist would react to the characters’ conversations: Cilly: “I make the best turnovers in Gooseberry Hollow.” Her brother: “The best turnovers you ever made were three somersaults on the cellar stairs with your foot in a bucket.” And … Cilly: “There are contests you can enter—boxing, wrestling, sprinting …” Her brother: “I used to belong to a Western Sprinting and Lithographing Company. I can do the twenty yard lithograph in seven days flat.”]
In any case, created for comic books, Pogo went on to appear in its newspaper-strip format starting in 1948. But a Pogo completist couldn’t limit the search to newspapers.
Heck, once Pogo grabbed the attention of a wider audience via the Simon & Schuster collections begun in 1951, he popped up in a variety of unexpected spots.
Pogo Primer for Parents (TV Division), for example, was published in 1961 by the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (Social Security Administration, Children’s Bureau). Its message: “T.V. watching could be a normal part of a balanced whole. Just like radio, comic books, formal education and love… …Also milk.”
Oh, Go On! Try to Catch ’Em All!
When Don and I first began determined collecting, we printed wantlists in our fanzines. It was a time in which we were still unable to find such basic information as the titles associated with Dell’s line of Four Color comics. We’d have been looking for all the comics by Carl Barks, if we’d had any idea of the identity of the creator we then knew only as “The Good Duck Artist.”
It’s never too late to begin to build your own wantlist, although some projects would be more intimidating than others, of course. A wantlist for all publications with work by Jack Kirby, for example … Did I use the word “prolific” earlier?
Well, at least in that case, building the wantlist has been done for you already. (Check out TwoMorrows’ Jack Kirby Checklist: Centennial Edition). Now, all you have to do is get to work on your collection! Catch ’em all! How long could it take?
Maggie’s World by Maggie Thompson appears the first Tuesday of every month here on Toucan!