Comic book bouquets and boutonnieres

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Venture capitalist asshole billionaire ordering one made from mint condition Action Comics #1 in 3… 2… 1…


“upcycled” is another new and interesting way to say “destroyed”. (Do you have something old that others enjoy, but not in good enough condition to gouge someone over? You could accept it and just let it go cheap to your FLCS, or you you could make money from hipsters convinced that it’s better as a custom napkin set!)

It’s strange that people keep slicing up comics this way. If you had a friend who loved ordinary books, you probably wouldn’t go to Half-Priced Books looking for a nice, cheap hardback that you couldglue shut and turn into a decorative doorstop for her.


Would you complain if you found said comic book in a dumpster? How about a Readers Digest Condensed Book (which often have pretty bindings but are barely worth the paper they are printed on)? The point is that these comics and many other books would end up in a landfill or recycling bin anyhow. . Why not turn them into something useful and nice one more time (not to mention many people would probably keep them afterwards just for the neato factor.)

The difference between tossing the comic in the trash and tossing it in the tradh by way of turning it into bric-a-brac is minor. Whether it’s as cuff links, a bouquet, coasters, or a collage, no comic fan – the people being targeted for this sort of stuff – is happy to see something which was once persued and joyful rehashed into things like this.

Nor do record lovers like seeing it happen to old vinyl. Nor do film fans like seeing it happen to reels of 45mm print. Nor should anyone like seeing it happen to mammoth ivory. Hell, we used to make mummy (yellow) paint out of corpses no one loved anymore.

You want to do it? I can’t stop you. The material is cheap, and that’s society’s ultimate judgment on its value. Clearly, not worth as much to most people as it is to some. But I’m not going to pretend it’s lovimg tribute.

I’ve written at least three long responses to you, and trashed them all. It boils down to: I love comics and books as well, but if there is nothing unique and special about this specific item, what makes them too sacred to be recycled (and this is from a librarian)?

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Sorry for the delay. It’s been a week, and I hate typing on a phone. But since you took the time, let me respond. (I apologize for the length of the post.)

This isn’t some deep-seated fear and loathing. I’d never make it through the day if it were. But seeing things cycled in this way generates the same baseline depression as seeing a dead squirrel on the road: sad, needless waste. And if you look at some previous comments I’ve made, it’s not just about this maker – who seems to at least be one of the more responsible of the bric-a-brac makers I’ve seen – but the entire notion of taking things that are limited and useful and loved as-is and transforming them into a disposable novelty.

Our material culture is brittle. Everything is going to rot away eventually, even pieces of our material culture that seem big right now. The Life of General Villa was a film that actually influenced U.S. foreign policy 100 years ago, and no prints are known today. Johnny Carson, Doctor Who, and other TV shows 50 years ago weren’t curated very well, or were even taped over. Widely-read periodicals from 25 years ago (think industry or fan magazines like Wizard, or its spin-offs like Toy Fare and InQuest) are not impossible to find on eBay, but aren’t digitized and are vanishing fast. Websites from even 5 years ago or more are still pretty poorly curated. Every once in a while you’ll hear about a “lost episode” turning up on a tape in some TV station, or a film that was mostly reconstructed from 3 partial prints. But that’s really rare. Usually you find something might be lost well after it good and truly is.

In the case of comics, it’s hard enough keeping them from rotting away when they’re locked in a shrinking niche of collectors cycling them around. Once we talk about taking something out of circulation to turn it into bric-a-brac, it rubs me the wrong way. Sure, it may not have been a beloved piece, even a bit damaged. But even those become more valuable eventually, by simple virtue of surviving this sort of attrition.

That’s the first issue. The second issue is a question of respect. For comic fans – and maybe this is less universal now, so let me say “fans of a certain, old stripe” – even the paper books are something treasured. You have memories invested in them. You invested more time into finding complete runs. You share them with close loved ones. You pass them on to your kids, who you pretend will care. If you didn’t have some sort of appreciation like that, you wouldn’t have kept them in the first place, or you’d just by the trades, or download them. These “upcycled” objects which are supposed to further share your fondness for the original comics are on some level very disrespectful to the original comics. I have to hope my comics won’t end up like that someday (even though, if I being honest with myself, someday they surely will.)

As I said, I can’t expect to impose my sense of nostalgia on anyone else. The comics are cheap, they can buy them and do what they want. (And as I said, people have done just that with everything from prehistoric mammoth ivory to Egyptian mummies.) That doesn’t mean I have to enjoy it.

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