Reorganization Opportunities

You may have noticed my lack of column these last 2 weeks. During the time I usually write and post my columns I was loading and then driving a very large truck to move across the country. I arrived week ago, the truck is unloaded, the bookcases are assembled and ready, and now the final question remains: how should I organize my comics in my new place?

We had to get a 2nd truck for the furniture...

This is a question that comes up often in our subculture, and there’s good reason for it. We’re talking about a collection of books (in my case single issues don’t get shelf space) that take up a sizeable amount of space. Furthermore, the collection is ever growing, and how you organize now may not work depending on the way your purchasing habits evolve in the future. You may been a die-hard fan of the Ultimate Universe, so you leave yourself lots of shelf space for that to continue expanding, but then maybe they decide to reboot the Ultimate Universe and you find the execution middling at best, now what? These are the ideas that really get under my skin, which is why I’m asking you lovely folks for some additional input.

My Situation:

New place is a townhouse, the way we’ve arranged the furniture is that I have one bookshelf downstairs in the main living room space and two bookshelves upstairs in my office that will also double as a guest room if anyone ever wants to stop by (please call first, thanks). The bookshelf right next to my desk will probably not be comics exclusive, but I still need a general plan in mind before I start unloading books.

Option 1: By publisher

While I would never consider organizing my other books by publisher, in the world of comics publisher seems to be the de facto organizational method, and not without cause. It’s pretty easy to keep track of everything, and if you tend to favor one publisher over another it’s easy to leave in room for expansion. This is pretty much how I organized things in my old place, and I did my best to give it a sense of flow to boot. For example, if you looked at my shelf where I kept the majority of my Batman and Superman books you would have noticed a trend. On the far left would have been Batman family books. Catwoman, Nightwing, etc. (I think Robin was over with Teen Titans due to space issues). Then you’d have the actual Batman books, following by the Batman/Superman books, then into Superman then into Superman-family or Superman Elseworlds books. I like that system a lot but it doesn’t always work so is inconsistent at best. And I rarely buy superhero books in trades these days, and you need the collected universe to make the bleedover method work. So if I’m being honest I am leaning away from organizing by publisher, but if you can convince me then I will abide by your logic.

Option 2: Alpha by Author

Like most of the other staffers here at iFanboy, I tend to follow creators more so than particular characters, so I think this one has the potential to be very interesting. I know I went through phases of purchasing back when I had a regularly patronized LCS, but as the majority of my purchasing happens online or at conventions these days, I imagine my habits have become far more sporadic. I think having a spreadsheet with all my comics would be the better way to see some of these trends, but I highly doubt I’ll take the time to actually create that sort of monster so this may be my only chance to explore my collection through this particular lens.

Pictured: Endless possibilty

Option 3: By Genre

There is an ethos espoused by are community when we are attempting to be taken more seriously, and no, it has nothing to do with sound effects and who comics aren’t just for anymore. I’m referring to the whole “comics are a medium, not a genre; superheroes are just a genre within comics, not all of comics.” With that idea in mind I think it might be fun to try and see just how genre diverse my collection is. Obviously there’s a big chunk of superheroes, but I do pride myself on buying a lot of different kinds of books. The coolest potential about this option is seeing just how the indie books end up getting sorted. Most of my Marvel and DC books will be superheroes, but not all of my Dark Horse books will fit in the same category, to say nothing of having a Nonfiction section of books, which I get excited just thinking about. I think this method has the best chance of showcasing some cool books while still keeping everything relatively easy to find, but with the downside of being the most difficult to predict in terms of expansion tendencies. Regardless, with my move towards more and more digital, I might be willing to run that risk and see where this new mode takes me.

It probably seems like I’ve made up my mind, but I haven’t, I assure you. I came home the other day to find my girlfriend unpacking short boxes randomly and putting them on the shelf. This was not cool. I hadn’t developed a system yet, was I supposed to just put them all on the shelf and THEN organize them? I know myself, and I know that once they’re on the shelf my motivation to move them again will be approaching zero, thus my motivation to get it right in round 1, which is where you come in. What’s your system? Do you it? What’s your favorite of these three I’ve presented? Or do you have a wildcard? Help me out iFabase, you’re my only hope.


Ryan Haupt isn’t sure there’s enough oxygen at his new elevation to give him the strength to unload all these boxes. Here him huff and puff on the podcast Science… sort of.


  1. I keep titles together – all of Y The Last Man is grouped together in order, for example, but otherwise I have very little organization to mine. It’s mostly determined by size and weight. You don’t want to put the big heavy books, your Hellboy Archives and Ex Machina hardcovers, in the middle of the shelf, because the shelf will start to bow. The Wednesday’s Comics collection is crazy gigantic, so it determines how tall that section of the shelf is, so the other tall stuff has to go there, too. etc, etc.

    With an almost-two-year old in the house now, at some point in the near future I’ll have to start taking content into account. Can’t leave Sin City on the lower shelves anymore.

    • This happens all the time with the type of six-foot bookshelves I buy. They come with three movable shelves, with a fixed shelf at about crotch height off the floor, plus the base and the top become two additional shelves.

      I usually keep some bigger and heavier books on one of the bottom two shelves, to balance out all of the really tall or cross-stacked stuff that I’ve crammed into that giant middle bay. That means figuring out where one shelf is going below the middle fixed shelf. Then depending on what’s left over, I figure out the height of the remaining top two movable shelves. This puts the top of the middle bay as high as possible, so I can store almost anything there, be it Wednesday Comics or Acme Novelty Library or a book of Mucha posters.

      The fixed shelves are pretty strong, so the base and middle get crammed with the biggest and heaviest stuff. The movable shelves are the weakest, so they get loaded until they just begin to bow. I also put very shallow shims under the front, to counteract any inertial forces when pulling giant library books off the top.


  2. I go alphabetical by title for now, but my collection is still relatively small. Once it gets to the point of several boxes I like the idea of going by publisher first and then alphabetical by title.

  3. i’ve always wanted to organize my records this way, perhaps it’s worth challenge for comics:

  4. I organize my comics by publisher and then alphabetical order within. I’ve got 2 DC long boxes and way too many Marvel long boxes that I’m trying to sell. I’ve also got a few boxes of comics from independent publishers.

    You’ve got me intrigued about organizing them by genre though.

    I was thinking about keeping my current organization method (by publisher) but making the independent comic books more accessible. Whenever someone comes to me looking to start reading comics I usually point them toward something nonsuperhero.

    Put any TPBs in alphabetical order on the shelves.

  5. Ok, my system is Publisher followed by Alpha for alot of reasons you’ve stated easy to follow, expand, etc. However option 3 sounds really compelling.

  6. I don’t have enough trades or graphic novels to justify worrying about this. But I encountered a similar conundrum with my history books. I have three bookcases worth for research and from school. To maintain some order, I divided them by region (Europe, Asia, US) and then divided within that my time period (pre-colonial, Revolution, Early Republic).

    Something similar would make sense for the comics. Do it by story/character and then divide it out timewise. Batman, Superman, Spidey, Walking Dead: alphabetized and then coded by time.

    But good luck: there’s nothing worse than a disorganized bookshelf.

  7. By publisher, then alpha by title. Easy-peasy.

  8. Thankfully I have a big blue bin with a triangle arrow on it where I place comics I no longer want. A magic fairie comes along and whisks them away while I sleep.

  9. I’ve never considered organizing by publisher first. That is a good idea though. Right now I just go alphabetically by title. Then for random 1 or 2 issues for a title I put them alphabetical in a ‘Misc’ file. Then I put all Trade Paper Backs together.

  10. Alpha by Publisher and A;pha by title

  11. I’ve kept mine chronologically (by week) and add boxes as they fill up…each box is numbered, so my oldest books are towards the lower numbered box. I made a simple app that maps what is exactly is in each box and in what order the books are in, so if I wanted to search for something, I can quickly locate it. Now I just have to build the robot arm that will pull it out for me.

  12. My collection had not been organized in at least 20 years until recently. 60 long boxes of comics unorganized can easily become an eyesore so I “hired” a good friend who works at my LCS to help me. He has been organizing by publisher and then alpha. The new 52 books have been put in separate boxes to separate them from what I consider the “real” DC stories. Also we have subset of universes such as Age of Apocolypse, New Universe, Ultimate Universe, etc. It has really been a fun undertaking but a lot of work too.

    • My god you said New Universe like the comic book company from the 80’s that tanked?I collected every issue from Starbrand,Kickers Inc,Merc,etc.Never thought I’d here that name mentioned!

    • That’s very similar to how we do them; alphabetical by company, and then alphabetical by sub-category, then alphatbetical by title. So far Marvel, we have main Marvel, then Marvel 1602, New Universe, Ultimate, etc.

      Wildstorm is tricky. We have an Image comics section, and within it Extreme, High Brow, Homage, Shadowline, Todd McFarlane Productions, Top Cow, Wildstorm. Wildstorm was then bought by DC. So as a result, that section has books from Image (early Wildstorm), Wildstorm (solo imprint) and DC in it.

      The basis is just organizing it so that things that would be read together are grouped together. Within Marvel, we keep all of the X-Men books together, ditto Thor/Journey into Mystery, etc. If I’m enjoying Exiles, it makes sense to me that Blink’s mini-series is within the same area.

    • @BIG AL WILLIAMS: Starbrand is one of my favorite books of all time !! The Pitt one shot where Pittsburg was destroyed when Ken tried to transfer the power of the Starbrand into a dumbbell was awesome!!

  13. my long boxes are organised by title and chronologicly. My bookcases however are absolute chaos, deliberate chaos though. I really like having to search around the various shelves to find the book I’m looking for, more often than not it will end up with my picking up something I didn’t expect or (more likely) completely forgotten about.

  14. With my trades on my shelf and my issues in long boxes I go alphabetically , really makes finding a certain book or issue extremely easy for me there is no other way I don’t see the need to go by publisher

  15. Alphabetically by title by year.

  16. I organize my comics by year as well. My boxes really just end up being a chronological order of comics and series.

  17. At home, I seperate one shots and limited series from ongoings, which are stored in short boxes, then arrange alphabetically by company and then title. I have around 15 long boxes and 3 short, so I don’t really need anything more complicated than that. When I catalog for the library, I classify everything alphabetically by character (or title, if the character is too obscure), then subdivide one shots and ongoings by creator. The main ongoing (e.g. Avengers) is assigned a base number for the character, with almost identical numbers for each subsequent volume, in order chronologically. If a character has more than one on-going title (e.g. West Coast Avengers), then I add a number for that title to the base. So, for example:

    PN6728.A9 Avengers (1963-1985)
    PN6728.A9b Avengers (1985-2004)
    PN6728.A9 B875 1998 Avengers Forever (creator: Busiek)
    PN6728.A9 W478 West Coast Avengers

    I would prefer to seperate the ongoings from everything else, but that isn’t easy to do without creating really long, really hideous numbers. Other libraries will also subdivide by company, but, frankly, it’s already complicated enough as it is.

  18. I’m normal with a slight twist, split by publisher and then alpha by CITY and then main character. If you do it just by title then one character is spread all over the place and that’s totally unhelpful. First, I was going to just do alpha by character, but then I realized city is better so that if I’m looking for Batman, Nightwing, Catwoman, etc… they’ll all be near each other.

    Another thought. If you sort by publisher you can do Marvel, DC and Other (including marvel/dc imprints). Sort the other by genre and you’ll, for the most part, have genre sorting intact for the whole thing since main Marvel/DC is largely superhero. Worked better prior to the new 52 incorporating vertigo into main universe canon, but still…

  19. Genre alphabetical

  20. I realized about a year ago that single comics look nice and colourful on the shelf if put in current bags/boards. So I abandoned the concept of long boxes altogether. They look nice even without the bags/boards.
    Now if it’s not good enough to make the shelf then I give it away or recycle it. This rarely happens.

  21. I organize by publisher, and then within publisher I organize alphabetically by title. Then I have new issues displayed, keeping out a months worth of books, and rotating with new issues, and filing them into the other boxes as the month progresses. Then with story arcs, if they span into other series that I don’t typically read, I file them together in order under the main title that the arc spawned from (ie most recently Night of the Owls is under Batman)

  22. i go by publisher, and then alpha by title, but I alphabetize by the character if he has a lot of books, so I consider “amazing spider-man”: spider-man, amazing and “web of spider-man”: spider-man, web of. So that all of a hero’s or group’s books are together.

    • That’s a great idea for the characters. I was getting really frustrated the other day, because I am a stickler for alphabetical order, but I couldn’t decide: is Incredible Hulk under ‘I’ or ‘H’? is Amazing Spider-Man under ‘A’ or ‘S’??

      You have solved my problem for me! Thank you! 😀

  23. My longboxes are by year, then alpha by title. This makes adding new books extremely easy, because they just go on the end – no more “box shifting” to move a few from each box down to make room. I left room in a few of the boxes where I know I’m buying most of my back issues, which is done chronologically as well.

    For trades and books, though, it’s kinda like this:

    First – by size. So all of the “storybook” sized books are together, separate from the trades, for example. All of the hardbacks are together as well.

    Then, by publisher. Then by title.

    With bookshelves, you might as well break things up into smaller batches because you can only set so much on a shelf.

  24. I used to agonize over things like this and then I finally came up with my current system: I put my trades (single one and done trades) in order of my love for them, basically a top 100. I then put entire series/collections of particular titles together and placed so the spines look good as a whole when you step back. (like say the Hellboy Library are all black with gold leaf, I try to either put another series that is similarly black next to them or else something that looks good by them). Then a shelf of Miscellany. Done.

    When you go to grab a book you know where it is in the main group and if it is from a series/collection the fact that there are 5+ all together means you aren’t hunting for a needle in a haystack. I keep the stuff I most re-read or reference closer to my seating area too. That’s it. It makes life way easier and it looks good aesthetically when you step back which gets overlooked with all of the other forms of organization. It’s not like organizing the Library of Alexandria, just a 5×5 Ikea Expedit or 2×3 shelf like pictured above.

  25. Autobiographical.

    No but seriously I recently changed by comic book room around, mainly because the fiance wanted to make it into a joint comic book/ sewing room (I Know…). I now have a book shelf in the lounge room for trades organised by Absolute, Hard Covers, soft covers and alphabetical throughout.

    Single issues are now alphabetical with some exceptions, FF is in with Fantastic Four as it would come after Flash, Countdown comes after 52 and before Final Crisis.

  26. When organizing my books I do divide them into DC Marvel & other. Then within publisher I divide Marvel into Avengers & X-Men. (that’s all there basically is anymore) my DC books are separated by the new 52 labels (young justice, justice league, edge & dark got merged, etc.)

  27. For trades in my living room, it’s actually by size and color… I have to hunt a little to find something sometimes, but it sure does look nice!

  28. I recommend utilizing more than one system. I have a box (or shelf space) for each category:

    -Comics that I specifically bought for the creator
    -Complete runs (like Ex Machina, Scalped)
    -Comics that I’m currently following.
    -Random issues/Trades.

    This multi-system separates comics you don’t touch much from the comics you’re currently following. Also, you have different reasons for buying different comics so organizing them should be a natural extension of that. If I buy a random issue of Angel and Faith simply because Chris Samnee illustrated it, it wouldn’t make much sense to file it away with other Dark Horse books. I keep it with my other Samnee books. But If I happened to buy a random issue #1 of a Dark Horse book (for no other reason than to try it out), that goes in my Random Dark Horse box.

    Think about WHY you purchased the comic and file it that way.

  29. I have back issues due to a car accident, so I use half-boxes. When I move, they’re easier for me to pick up and move around. I own some of those steel/wire/whatever, shelves, so I put them on the shelves about 3-4 to a shelf. My current apt. has a “den” with a recessed desk area, and that holds about 8-9, I think? At least 8.

    When it comes to organization, publisher is kinda out for me, as I’m mostly Marvel. I have an Avengers box, a 2 Spider-Man boxes (one for Amazing, and another for minis, Avenging, Venom and Scarlet Spider), a Cap/Iron Man box (Inv. Iron Man, Cap, Winter Soldier) an Ultimate box, a Marvel events box and a Marvel catch-all box. Then, I have a Transformers (IDW) box. Then, I have a few boxes for licensed properties, such as books based on TV shows (Charmed, the Whedonverse) and stuff like Voltron and Army of Darkness. Then I have another catch-all box and a box that’s all DC, as I started with some New 52 books and I’m still getting some (Flash, WW and Justice League and Earth 2).

  30. I go mostly by publisher. Dark Horse, DC, IDW, Image, and Vertigo get alphabetized within their own sections. Marvel takes up two bookshelves on its own. All other publishers are intermingled, sorted alphabetically by title.

    Digest and manga-sized books are sorted alphabetically by title regardless of publisher on a smaller bookshelf.

    Given my collection of roughly 1,000 trades/HCs, this is the only way for me to know exactly where everything is. It also makes for easy browsing for my friends that borrow my books.

  31. Go Rob Gordon High Fidelity style and do it autobiographical. Sorry I can’t see anything about pop culture organizing and not think of that. In reality though I mainly have trades and keep my Vertigo together,then my DC, my Marvel and then it gets a little crazy because I’ll do my more self contained indie(ish) in another group. So I’ll have Irredemable, Locke and Key, Sleeper etc. Then I do my over-sized books: Omnibuses, Absolutes, one-volume editions.

  32. I like shelves to be nice looking. I typically split by publisher and then by series or creator. I’ll group each series chronologically, but I won’t due alphabetical. Instead I try to group books of the same size together to create a uniform shelf. It’s why I’ll do a single series all hardcover or soft for consistency. I always have to rethink things when I get new books to add to the shelves. But it’s so cool to see all of the Parker books side by side.

  33. I organize it by superhero or series title (if it’s not a superhero book), all in alphabetical order from animal man to x-men. The alphabetical and numerical within that.

  34. I recently had to move my comic collection. I decided to organize it by publisher first and then by character family. I am trying to reduce my collection first by looking at which storylines I have multiple versions. I am then trying to find my favorite versions to keep and discard the others. I am currently prioritizing what to keep in issue, in trade paperback, or hardcover so as to minimize space but to have the storylines in a form I can most enjoy. I tend to prefer book sized hardcovers as my preferred method of keeping favorites.

  35. I go by publisher and alphabetically but sometimes I’m still confused

  36. Alphabetical all the way. Anything more is too tedius with 55 long boxes. Of course, tedius is having to stay in shape in order to sift through comics. I was > < that close of getting drawer boxes until bang-your-head-against-the-wall finances got in the way.

  37. A completely personal system.

    Comic books by issue: Longboxes in the closet. Shortboxes out for reading and recent filing.

    By publisher, by sub-universe, alphabetically, with mini-series wherever I feel they fit best, or in another box.

    Trades and hardcovers: Generally by era, then publisher, then by title, then size or type.

    Books about comics, giant oversize books and books featuring favorite artists or eras all over the place.

    Does that help?