Bags and Boards? Why?

And they say people never change.


Over the past year or so, I have realized that my attitude towards comics–the actual physical form of comics–has been changing. No, this is not another diatribe bemoaning/celebrating the digital medium, this is more of myself learning how not to take everything so seriously…I guess. I don't know.  Let's figure it out together,shall we?


The first massive change is that I no longer ask for bags and boards when I get my comics, which may not be surprising until you realize that at my comic book store, bags and boards are free. Now, I know there are several of you out there that don't do this, in fact, I remember listening to the guys talk about how unless you are getting special mylar bags and acid-free backings, storing comics naked is actually the best way to keep them in tip-top shape, but, like, I always got bags and boards, even when I was a kid – I wanted to make sure the comics would kept in the best possible condition for as long as possible, right?


Of course, there are downsides to not getting bags and boards, depending on how you store your books (especially if you store them for a bit in a regular bookcase, as I do, before throwing them into a box), there is a very real possibility of bending, or even tearing the pages. I woke up the other morning and I had bent up the little rug that is next to my side of the bed, and I found a few Thor issues that were just all kinds of bent up from my carelessness, and I literally felt this:


– What?!, I'm never gonna be able to flatten that out.


Thor? Have I read these? Nope. Okay. Weak.


Then, it happened:


– So they're bent, so what?


So what?  SO WHAT??????


Like, literally, if someone had bent my comics up as badly as I done, even a year ago, I would have been a bit more irritated than that. I mean, I remember spilling bit of orange juice on issue #3 of 100% and feeling bad about that for weeks! (I still am kind of pissed about that, to be honest)….But, like…for the vast majority of weekly issues I don't care anymore, because, aside from a select few titles, a select few runs, I know I am not going to be keeping these comics around all that long.  


Which, for me to even be able to write that sentence is kind of a big deal.  But this is 2010, you know?  Like…like…we are at the beginning of a time when if you need a specific piece of media, you'll be able to get it.  Pretty much no matter what–you'll be able to get it. Yes, you'll probably have to pay, but you'll still be able to get it, and unless you really, really like the current advertising in comics these days, you won't be missing anything.


I have a ton of Bendis/Maleev issues of Daredevil. I might have most of their run and I love it–I cherish it and I keep those books stored nice and neat, for that time when I want to go deep into that cramped closet, find that heavy-ass box, remove the issues, then battle with opening and closing each bagged comic, being very careful not to catch the comic on that old tape that's gotten extra-sticky over lo, these many years.  (Don't you just hate that? All that time and attention to taping the damn bag only for the tape to tear off part of the cover?)


Now, perhaps it is just me getting older, but I have realized, much to my chagrin, that I would rather read these books in a trade, preferably one of those sturdy hardcover omnibus editions, especially if those tomes had all of the covers in the appendix.  Holding the original book…for the most part…doesn't…well, right now, it just doesn't have the emotional impact I thought it might have, at least compared to the emotional impact of throwing my back out.


Which brings me to my second change of thinking. With very few exceptions, I don't need to keep my comics around. I know, it's blasphemy, but, honestly, as the years go by, we should be able to read these stories in the future, either in a trade or in digital form–options that are relatively recent.  I mean, back in the day, sure–without trades and, later digital comics, your only recourse is to either keep the books or hope you can find the books at a shop or show. And, of course, this kind of revelation, not necessarily needing to keep the original format around, is happening all over the place. If I have access to a high quality digital version of a piece of music or film, what is the point of my owning the CD or the DVD/Blu-Ray?  Of course, for some films, I like having the Blu-ray in my library but that's for reasons that go beyond "just" faithful reproduction of the audio and video–yes, there is a quality difference, but I also just like having the movies at arm's reach.  When I went to binders for my several hundred CDs, I kept a few because the packaging was particularly cool, that represented the particular era particularly well.  


The same is obviously happening with comics, but I would hasten to say it's not necessarily about digital reproduction here. In many cases, the trade hardcover is going to be a better reproduction of the story than the original comic book printing. Bigger pages. Better color. Cool backmatter. But you know all this.


So there are two feelings that this realization generates for me:


1 – A mild relief. Now that I am not as concerned about the individual books, I know, for the most part, that if I want to go back to a title, I should be able to get those stories whenever I want and not be so concerned and persnickety about how my books are treated. (And for the record, that doesn't mean I won't be pissed if someone rips my book on purpose or whatever–the book still cost money!–I am just not going to be that bent out of shape if my comic gets bent out of shape.)


2 – A mild annoyance. If I am thinking of weekly paper comics as placeholders, if you will, for a digital version at some far off point, if I know that, eventually, I will be able to get this comic digitally later on, why can't I just get it digitally now?  This is more the class digital comic book debate, and I am not going to do that here–this is just the feeling I get. Yes, I will still prefer the trades in some cases, but I bet, as time goes by, I will desire fewer trades and be satisfied with "just" a digital version.  Time heals all wounds, including consumer desire, it would seem.

I think the gentle tyranny of "keeping things around," has been felt by folks for many generations, especially in societies where status and accumulation of stuff go hand in hand. I am sure that everyone feels the urge to purge themselves of all this extra crap, but resist doing so because the purge necessarily results in loss of said crap. Space was usually the deciding factor in those purging reckonings, you know?  No space = get rid of stuff = more room for stuff.  However, we are at the point where this is not true anymore. Like, you ever look at that Skymall catalog in the airplane and see those shelves that hold 5,000 CDs?  Like, sure, we scoff at that, but until relatively recently, if you wanted all your music around, that was what you did–buy a big ass shelf. I have many friends who are still trying to get rid of their once-prized collection of several thousands records, which took up a huge amount of space and required great muscular ability to manage.  But we now have technology that converts all that stuff, all that weight, size and volume…into, well, nothing! Just 1's and 0's in a digital space. A 12' stack of books can now be stored in a tablet, a slab of metal and glass that is a half an inch thick. We still have access to what we value, we just lose the physical unlocking of that experience.  


And, of course, since all transitions from physical to digital lose something, we are losing the accidental encounter of media–like, if I am looking through my Beatles playlist, I am not going to accidentally find an old Rolling Stones track (though you can go on shuffle and have the discovery experience, you just have to turn on the opportunity for it, which is another mindtrip on its own).


The only monkeywrench in this happy story? The reliance on the publishers to be able to afford to bring the past and present physical reality to the digital future reality.  What happens if Marvel doesn't think digitizing that three issue Strange Tales series is worth it?  They aren't going to tell anyone, right? So, there's a risk–which, depending on your passion about the book, will decide whether or not you are going to give away that physical book (or assume you can get the book from a retailer at some future date for a higher produce).  This is why I have a few short boxes of books that I won't be giving away or selling.  I just like knowing that I can get to the books whenever I want. Of course, accessibility is another story, which is why I have the Whedon/Cassaday Astonishing X-Men hardcover omnibus even though I have all of the individual issues in the closet–accessibility, laziness; whatever, dude.


So, yes, people change as the years go by, as technology provides opportunities to think about things in a different way.  What doesn't change is the desire to tell and experience stories, and we are very lucky to have so many ways of experiencing comics that we can actually argue about which way is "better." Who knows? Maybe by not bagging and boarding my comics, I'll miss out on that mysterious looking guy who wants to offer me a bunch of money for that particular issue of whatever it was, only to be denied the bag of cash because of a bent spine.  That's okay–the guy's check would probably bounce anyway–it's a risk I'm happy to take, as long as I can make sure I can keep my comics, whether they be in a hardcover trade or streaming to my TV, as close to me as possible.  In the meantime, I'll skip the bags and boards and just live my life.


Mike Romo is an actor in LA who has about 30 empty bags and boards just in case. You can send him an email and follow him on twitter.


  1. Great read. I agree wholeheartedly.

     I also have that Astonishing X-men Omnibus even though I own the run in some combination of trades, and issues. I like having there in my shelf without having to dig into some box, and pull out 25 different issues. I just really don’t have the time to sort/arrange my single issues in a way that makes them accessible, and gives me enough value. If I like a run of books, and read them in issues, I will be sure to pick up the trade to re-read, and have it readily accessible.

     Also, agree on the digital comics front. For example, I have the entire run of JLA:GL on my ipad. I recently read issue 10, and forgot what happened in issue 9; so what did I do? I pulled up issue 9, which was right there on my ipad, and I was able to instantly refresh my recollection. I didn’t have to dig through a  longbox, and pull out issue 9, which I would have never bothered to do.

     I stopped buying CDS a long time ago. I really don’t care about the CD. I will never listen to the music off the CD once I put it in itunes. At that point it’s just taking up space. I purchase all my music from Amazon, and itunes. It’s simpler, and easier.

  2. I’m not going to comment on trades vs. floppies or digital vs. paper. Let me present another aspect to the discussion.

    About 10 years ago, we had moved to a new (used) house, and a lot of stuff was still in the garage as we were settling in. Among those things were several longboxes of my comics. Little did I know but I had stacked these boxes right below where the water heater was in the attic (see where this is going?). The builder used a cheap pan around the water heater, which did not retain its integrity over the years. And the water heater was at its end of life. Needless to say, when the water heater went, all that water leaked down through the garage ceiling, onto the things below it – including those longboxes of comics.

    I would estimate 90% of the comics in those boxes were bagged and boarded. Of those, 99% escaped unharmed due to the bags. All the comics that were not bagged were a total loss. I still have holes in my collection to this day from that disaster.

    So, how often are you going to have a natural disaster/act of God/mechanical failure of this magnitude, that impacts your comic collection? Probably not often, but this is not the kind of thing you can plan for. If it does happen to you, bags just might be your saving grace.

  3. It is the HOT topic right now to talk about how everyone is getting rid of their paper.

    Like shedding your back issues is some kind of penecostal revival and everyone is healed and cleansed throught it.

    Hey consume in any format that works for you.

    But has it occured to anyone that as paper comics production diminishes – the value of the copies you have will go Up again?

    Yes- the collector boom will probably never come back- but when something is rare it is more valuable.

    If you already have them why not keep them and see what happens – be judicious with your new purchases but hold the line

    on the existing ones- after all you took the time already to safe guard them.

  4. i realized this a few years back

  5. I totally encourage other people not to use bags and boards.  It may be a flawed thought process but, here’s why:

    A friend of a friend had a copy of Ult. Spider-Man (it was an early issue I’m not sure the number) with no cover.  When I first saw it I about went crazy since I was filling out my Ult. Spidey run and this was surely an issue I could have used.  Our mutual friend put it in perspective.  That may be one less copy out there for sale, meaning that when I find a copy it’ll be worth more because there are less on the market.

    So in 100 years my copy of a bagged and boarded Death of Superman will be worth 50 cents instead of 25 cents for your copy that has been having to hazard the elements… (These prices do include 100 years of inflation)


  6. Welcome to the club, Mike.

  7. Good stuff.  I’m not sure what to do.  But I don’t use tape.  Never use tape.

  8. I have stopped bagging and boarding issues that I buy for reading. But I have some that are signed by the creators which I will never open to read again, so in that sense, I still bag and board.

  9. I bag and board everything. It’s actually quite nice. I use the boards as impromptu bookmarks if I have to stop reading the issue in the middle. Works quite well.

  10. bag and boarding is funny. I like to keep my things in nice condition. Comics are so fragile that they get ruined whenever you touch them. But then i know that comics are basically worthless in resale value, so it makes no sense to treat them like presious objects. 

    I don’t buy bags and boards. I only use the ones my comic shop gives me when i buy new issues, OR sometimes i’ll put complete runs or minis in one bag. Currently i have all my Flash and Brightest day issues in one bag for easier organizing.  

  11. Great article Mike.  Not being an issue buyer, I went to FCBD last year and didn’t know what to do with the free floppies I bought and ended up trying to stack them with my trades/hc’s without bag/board.

    I watch the digital medium grow and mature with great interest, as for other than those gloried stories I want in trade/HCs digital will be my reading future.

  12. Good article.

    I fall somewhere in a gray area. On the one hand, I do like bags and boards…but I only use them to gather my comics together for easy reference. I usually put 3-6 comics in each bag (it’s easy to find ones that are somewhat oversized). I usually put a whole storyline, or approx. 5 issues of a run in one bag. It’s just easier that way.

    As far as preserving the pristine quality of a comic, I also fall in a gray area. I’m not picky. When I order back issues online, I always go for the cheapest quality. (At Midtown comics the versions marked "G" are so much cheaper than those marked "NM".) All I care about is readability…but I don’t want my comics bent either. If I accidentally bent last week’s issue of SHIELD, I’m not going to go out and buy another copy, but it’s going to annoy me, because while rereading the issue I’m going to see that bent there.

    I dunno, I think a lot of it has to do with whether or not you’re a reader who rereads things. I get the impression that most people on (or at) iFanboy hardly ever reread anything. So of course you guys don’t care whether single-serving comics get beat up. But I’m not that way at all. I reread a ton of stuff. I want my comics in fairly nice shape so I can have a good rereading experience…but I’m not anal retentive about it the way CGC people are. No way.

  13. One thing I can never get over is the idea that the consumer never really owns the digital copy. The only thing that can take my comics out of my possession is an act of nature. I can live with that, but not a glitch or a system shutdown.

    Also, I find the idea that the majority of comics will be available in some easily accessible format at all times has no basis. It’s never been true and never will be true, in any format.

    I plan to keep my comics and want them to be in as good a condition as possible for as long as I own them. In the event that I give them to someone else, I want to keep them in a comparable condition to how I first read them. To treat them any other way is to put them on a level of disposability that I can’t stand by. But I can understand it.

    The music thing drives me nuts. Most high quality MP3s are noticeably below CD quality. The digital files are incredibly portable, but not the way the tracks are supposed to sound in most cases. And I will never understand keeping the disc but not the case/artwork. Do people get rid of slipcases or dust jackets for books? Presentation is key for me.

  14. @ghettojourno: I look at digital single issues sort of like I do going to the movies. I pay a fee to experience a story (a digital single issue; seeing a movie at the theater) and if I really like what I read/watched then I’ll buy it in a more permanent format later (a trade paperback; a Blu-Ray).

    I pay to see the movie but I don’t own it. I can’t take it home with me and watch it as much as I want. I can with a digital single issue.

  15. I bag and board everything, but I typically ebay about 90% of what I buy anyways.  I consider the bags and boards an investment in guaranteeing someone will purchase my stuff off ebay.  Anything I do hang onto, I like to have bagged and boarded to keep them from getting bent.  It’s not so much for the value of the thing, but a bent ass comic drives me nuts.

  16. @conor I get you. The theater going experience/home video also has some similarities to buying a monthly/buying a collection, or watching TV shows/buying the collection, especially when introducing extra content. Unlike a film or TV series, a monthly can always exist seperate from a collection. A film in a theater or a TV show is like a concert; unless a recording/collection of it is produced for public consumption, it only exists as a memory. The digital format is a fun way of experiencing a work, but it as a substantial package/potential place-holder doesn’t hold weight for me. I understand that it does for others and, despite my objections, I can’t begrudge anyone for experiencing a work by any means necessary.

  17. I bounce back and forth on the issue, though after spending $50 on 500 bags and boards this weekend I might be going more towards nude books.  My current system is long runs and minis that I really enjoyed I bag and board.  Right now I’m in the process of going through my books and donating everything that I don’t "need".  In other words if I don’t think I’ll ever go back and read it its gone.

  18. @conor If you’re going to look at the digital issue that way, then you must feel that the digital issue has to be considerably cheaper than its print counterpart, right?  Movie in the theater usually half of what a Blu-Ray would cost.


  19. @tenblack: Not in NYC when I pay upwards of $15 for a movie ticket. (It’s not a perfect analogy, nor one about price.)

  20. @conor – damn, is at night w/ 3D?

  21. @rjspring: 3D is around $20.

  22. jesus conor $20 for 3d.  in Ireland its just €12

  23. start rant 

    and the movie industry wonders why their box office numbers are so crummy compared to home sales… of course netflix is starting to offset those numbers now – so gouge the consumer even more to make up the difference with the ‘3D Revolution’ that will probably just die off as a fad like it did in the 50s

    end rant 

  24. I like bags and boards because the book is a work of art I respect.

  25. Conor’s movie analogy is pretty good. But you know what? I barely go to the movies anymore. The cost/return ratio is just getting way out of wack. If I can rent the movie at a fraction of the cost, or buy the dvd for nearly what it would cost to see it in the theater once, why would I see tons of movies at the theater unless I have tons of disposable income (which I don’t)? I can make sense of seeing movies at the theater at a certain price. Same is the deal for a kinda one time digital read of a comic. But in both cases, the price is too much FOR ME AT LEAST. If you have full price digital comics, I’m either going to buy the same priced single issue, or better yet, just wait for the trade. It’s cool, as I’m sure there’s people who are the complete opposite of me. So I’m sure the industry will be just fine. But for myself personally, the digital conversion seems to be pushing me more and more to trade waiting.

    One other thing. I don’t mean to crap on anybody for their opinions at all. But I kind of feel that there seems to be this big trend of thinking amongst iFanboy of late. Basically saying that "You’re comics aren’t going to be worth anything. So bagging and boarding is stupid." I think think this mindset is totally legit in terms of CGC’ing comics. Yes, none of this crap is ever going to be worth anything. Trying to keep your books in good shape for re-sale value is absurd and a total waste of time. I totally agree. But here’s where I take VERY SLIGHT objection to this type of thinking. I like my books in good shape. But it has nothing to do with speculative value. I just like the things I own to look nice. Yes, I’m borderline OCD in that regard. As are a lot of comic readers. I like my dvd cases and other things that sit on my shelf to look nice as well. I don’t do this because I want to be able to sell my random possessions for big bucks down the road. I don’t even bag and board, myself. But I do go out of my way to keep my books looking nice. And I can totally understand why someone would choose to b&b strictly for that reason, with zero speculative desire factoring in. I’m not exactly going to tell those guys, "Oh man, you don’t know the freedom you’re missing." If they want to stick their books in plastic wrap. Have at it, I say.

  26. This is actually a topic I have thought about since I have a lot of comics that I would like to re-read but just haven’t done so since I dont to get all those comics out of the boxes, take them out of the bags and boards. If I had them in trade format it would make things so much easier. But I keep bagging and boarding just as a habbit now and I just cant fathom putting all my floppies in a box where they will get all bent or torn when I take them out.

  27. I don’t buy nearly as many single issues as I used to so have no problem with bagging and boarding my favorite series (Scalped, Hellboy, Unwritten). I don’t bother with my Marvel or DC books, though.

    On the music front, I will never get rid of my CDs and vinyl to be replaced by compressed digital files. I love music too much to tolerate crappy sound quality on my home stereo. To me, it’s akin to being forced to read my Absolute New Frontier in black and white on tiny newsprint paper. To each his/her own.

  28. I’ve gotten to the point where i hate my longboxes with a passion (moving a lot will do that to you) and i prefer trades. The thing is i won’t buy a trade of something i own in issues, so i’m starting to bind complete runs myself into a nice little custom trade (don’t attempt without ninja bookbinding skills…hehe) that i can keep and ditch the bags/boards. 


  29. @Paradiddle: Two of the three books you mention are DC books.

  30. @Wally, use a filing cabinet.

  31. @jumping—metal filing cabinets weigh MORE than cardboard boxes. lol

  32. @Conor – When I say DC I mean non-Vertigo or non-Wildstorm superhero titles set in the DCU.