On the Carrying Capacity of Comics

By the time you read this I will be on the road. I’ll be driving to my parents’ house, which is just the beginning of my holiday travels. I may not have Ron Richards status, but I’m on the move a lot and since travel time usually equates to having slightly more time for pleasure reading, I figured it might be good to break down just how I decide which comics get to travel alongside me. The problem of transporting comics comes up often among collectors. We all have enough books to know our friends dread the next time we need help moving, but I think the rare permanent move is overshadowing the small scale temporary trip.

I don't see any comics in there, do you?

Obviously one of the first things to think about is your mode of travel. I’ll start with planes because I think that’s one of the most straightforward situations. Frankly, comics aren’t worth it. I’m sure plenty of people, including Ron, will disagree, but when it comes to air travel you really have to think about your weight to entertainment time ratio. Comics weigh a lot for how long it takes to read them. Sure you could bring 10 trades of your favorite Vertigo series, or you could bring a decent sized novel that takes up far less space. Unless you have a Sherpa to help you during your travels, I just don’t think it’s worth hauling quick reads around. The exception to this rule is when you’re traveling to a place where you know comics are likely to be purchased. My bag had nary a single issue when I left for NYCC, because I knew I’d need the space for the trip home. We scoff at those folks who lug roller bags around the convention floor, but maybe they’re legitimately coming straight from Terminal C? On the other hand, the issue of heavy comics on planes is one of the best aspects of digital comics. They don’t weigh a thing! But you aren’t allowed to read them during takeoff and landing…

What about a road trip? There are many facotrs to consider. Will you be doing most of the driving? None of the driving? Driving at night or during the day? And of course, how long are you staying wherever you’re going? Will it be a place where you’re likely to buy new comics? It may seem silly to worry about all these details, but do you want to be stuck in the sticks without a single new panel to be read? No, you don’t. So take this seriously. Me? I have a travel short box.

Pictured: Maybe my greatest idea ever.

It sounds extreme but I’ve found just having a short box ready to toss in the car is the best bet for having the comics I want with me when I’m away from home. My to-read pile far exceeds the capacity of a short box so part of my packing ritual is selecting the books I might be in the mood to read during my upcoming journeys. The box even fits nicely in the rear seat well of my car. The hardest thing with my travel box is leaving extra space in it when I know I’ll be returning with more books than I had when I left. I suppose I could bring a second empty box, but that’s just crazy…

And I couldn’t write this column without a quick conservation disclaimer. It can be hard to estimate ahead of time, but it is worth keeping in mind that you probably can only get through so much literature on any given trip. And each extra pound of weight means more fuel the vehicle has to use, thus more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. I try to reduce my carbon footprint as much as is reasonable, and eschewing a book you probably won’t even have time for seems like a worthwhile sacrifice to me. This mentality could save you money too because gas isn’t free, so it’s not all hippie propaganda. Ultimately you’re going to bring the books you’re going to bring, but ask youreslf: is it worth the extra few dollars in  petrol to make absolutely sure you have your Lost Girls hardcover that you haven’t read after a year anyways? And no, I don’t care to comment on where I came up with that specific example, thank you very much.

And if you’re travelling by train? I don’t know what to tell you. I have a fair number of friends that commute by rail, but actually travelling from town to town? Enjoy your Golden Age single issues, I guess. Carry as many as you can, seeing as how I’m not sure they’ve even invented bags and boxes whenever you’re from.

So those are my ideas on the conundrum of travelling with comics. I laughed heartily at the recent Around Comics episode lamenting the purposeful inconvenience of our collected editions, but I also know I want them and I want them with me when I travel, so these internal debates persist. But what about you, dear reader? How do you travel with comics? A separate suitcase for your hardcovers? Or a Kindle full or prose? I bet with our collective intellectual might we can find the optimal solution to this persistent and pernicoius problem once and for all!


Ryan Haupt just hopes his iPad battery lasts if he gets caught in an avalanche this week. If he doesn’t survive, just bury him in a pile of unread graphic novels while playing 21 episodes of his podcast Science… sort of.


  1. When going to a comic convention would it be better to bring a backpack than a small roller suitcase?

    • Probably depends on how much/what you intend to buy, the quality of your backpack and the strength of your neck, shoulders and back muscles.

    • I think a backback is better. I usually spreadout my signings throughout the convention (if it’s a 2+ day convension) This way you dont have tostress about getting EVERYTHING sign at once and you get to enjoy time with people/friends.

      The roller kind of looks annoying to other people in line because they assume you have like 10,000 books you want signed. But if you’re mindful of others and don’t care about dirty looks, it’s fine.

  2. my wife might beat me up if i tried to bring a shortbox of comics/trades on a roadtrip. “Are we moving?…am i ‘that’ boring..etc etc?” so not worth it. =)

    i used to bring a few trades in my carryon, but even a few makes that carryon bag kinda unwieldy. For my money the iPad is the best way to go…its already coming with me for internet or work reasons, so its just the best way for me. I recently just used that on vacation and was more than happy.

  3. I have considered buying a couple of these to transport comics. They hold 15 bagged&boarded or 20 loosies:


    Anyone tried them yet?

    • I have two of these. I initially bought them for traveling (for which, they work great!), but now I use them for every trip I make to my LCS in place of getting yet another plastic bag to throw away. Highly recommended.

    • That looks great. I will have to try one. Thanks for the info.

  4. Space is important to me when traveling, especially with kids, so if I have the opportunity to read comics on a trip, I’ll only bring a collected edition or two. I don’t care about weight if these are editions I really want to read, but also, they have to be Essentials kind of big or have a lot of stories, as I don’t want to be stuck in a car or plane with a fully read book just sitting there.

    Singles are too much trouble to store or keep safe in a bag. On previous trips to Boston to visit the in-laws, I usually didn’t take comics because I knew I’m coming home with more than a few (and yes, those I would read on the plane). Shortboxes? My wife would kill me if I tried to bring a short box along. In fact, she wouldn’t let it out of the house, and again, we need the room for all the kids’ stuff.

    Ah the kids stuff. When I was a kid, we’d take 8-hour long trips to two different grandmothers. One year when I was 12 or 13, I bought a TON of Fantastic Fours and Daredevils in the 100s in a Knoxville comic shop. I got through the Daredevils over the remaining days of the visit, but read the FFs (about 50 of them) in the car. All the way home. Eight hours straight.

    My brain was fried for days after getting home. I have since learned to look up from a stack or collected edition from time to time, and enjoy the view. And communicate with my family.

  5. My wife and I pack a fun bag for our trips; it will include usually 3 comic book series (one for each of us, one for both). On top of that, usually a few novels, some madlibs, maybe a crossword book, and some paper and pen for games, ideas, directions, etc. Gotta be prepared. After all, there’s still down time when you’re traveling.

  6. Digital. Yes, you have that take-off/landing issue, but that’s what the SkyMall catalog is for. In fact, that’s probably why the electronics ban continues to exist. Otherwise no would look at SkyMall.

    Even if I’m not traveling, the amount of time I get to read is more than doubled by carrying my tablet around with me. Just accessing the books is easier even when home. Even though I hate the multiple-apps-for-multiple-comics model, digging through apps for a title is a lot better than digging through piles of issues.

    And really I think trains are coming back. I hear more and more about people traveling by train, and I’ve made some in-state trips that way. Sooo much more pleasant than air travel, roomier, and I think you have a higher carry on allowance, so you can bring more floppies. Of course you’ll have to, because it takes several times longer for any trip over a couple hundred miles.

  7. Hah! Guess I am, surprisingly, one of the wives who would kill her husband for bringing a short box on a trip. We have a no reading rule in the car, because I’m your wife, not a chauffeur. Generally we talk and for rides longer than just errands we do things that involve both parties, like listening to something on NPR (which usually inspires more talking) or listening to a book on tape. Granted we’ve never done a huge road trip, so there might some leeway on an 8+ hour trip, especially for naps.

    Speaking of naps, the plane conversation is null and void because I’ve trained myself so well to sleep on planes that even eating peanuts makes me sleepy.

  8. I’m kinda like George Thorogood, except instead of one bourbon, one Scotch, and one beer, I usually bring one unread trade, one prose novel, and one iPod. For example, last Christmas home was the first hardcover NextWave, Lovecraft’s “At the Mountains of Madness”, and half a dozen new records (and various podcasts).

  9. I don’t know why anyone would need or want to bring more than a trade or two when they’re going on vacation, or going to someone else’s house to visit.

    As far as moving to a different house, things like furniture, televisions, pets, paintings and clothes are all more cumbersome than comics, which can fit into compact brick-like longboxes.

    Basically, whether articles like this are intended as such or not, this is all just propaganda to get people to “go digital”, even when it’s not always necessary in each and every particular decision in our lives.

    • Look dude we all love paper and the fresh smell of ink and the sometimes musty smell of old comics. But sometimes it’s nessary th download a few trades on your kindle or even a novel……..Mayb the grreat book Astro Van by Josh Flanagan!!!!! **COMMENT REMOVED BY ADMIN FOR VIOLATION OF TERMS OF SERVICE.**

      P.S great book Josh!!!

  10. I like to roll with about three trades and a novel or one non-fiction book. That’s usually good for a week or so. More than that is too heavy, and it would have to rain a lot for me to read that much on vacation. Sometimes a few floppies are fun.

    Also, a lot of places we stay have the “old books as semi-decor” and a lot of those old books are great page-turners. Usually cabins, B&Bs and beach houses have some good books on something local, folksy or outdoorsy.

    Then when I come home I lock myself in my office and read comics for days.

  11. I always have my messenger bag on me, and I typically have up to 2-3 weeks worth of my pulls in the bag. Never know when I’ll have downtime at work to pull out a couple of issues.

  12. While I am by no means hopping on the digital train, Ms. Firevine got a Kindle Fire, and I am considering grabbing one too for this reason. It’s not for an Android power user, or really, even an advanced user, but it’s fine for her, and fine for light use when on the road. I considered getting a Galaxy Tab for this same use, but this guy (http://www.womensconference.org/assets/Uploads/Nick-Vujicic.jpg)could count the number of times I have traveled in the past decade on his fingers, so I can not justify a $500+ purchase to read comics on. If I do load some up for game night, or whatever other reason, I just stack ’em in a reusable shopping bag. They’re actually pretty good for it, and are plenty sturdy.

  13. Back at school during a sports carnival, a nerdy comics friend of mine lugged around a long box to read while the healthy, happy, attractive students competed – and we lived in the middle of nowhere rural Australia so there was hours of travel involved.

    Another time, I almost missed the start of an inter-state cross country race because i had just brought The Dark Knight Returns, I was so amped up by the book i came in 3rd. that’s a humble brag