Sunshine, Sand, and Comics: Hardcovers are for Winter

The snow shovel has been moved from the trunk of the car to the storage space. A bus load of grade-schoolers have taunted me from a moving bus. The seasons are changing. After a winter that entailed shoveling a car out of a drift every Wednesday, the summer can not arrive soon enough.

The exact moment that summer arrives for me is when I can sit outside and read a comic book. I get out the lawn chair and mini table. A summer shandy is poured, I kick up my feet, and crack open a floppy. Warm weather and comics have always been intertwined in my mind. It probably goes back to being a kid in the summer. No summer job yet, no school to go to. Just a stack of comics I have read a thousand times and an afternoon to spare.

My personal summer tradition is to read Crisis on Infinite Earths. The long box that has the singles is pulled out of the closet, the issues are pulled and I set to work on the porch, or lawn depending on where I am living.  I do it every summer, without fail. There isn’t a day on the calendar I have marked for this occasion. Eventually there will be a nice day and the light bulb will go on. These cheap little magazines have a hold on me that is hard to describe to people. I always have couple comics in my shoulder bag. Just in case I get caught on a park bench in the sun. I usually bring a good size pile of comics with me when I hit up the beach. More than a few of my old issues have sunscreen stains on the edges and a little bit of sand in the spines.

I will now give some of you time to recover from that revelation.

Most of my comics are not in bags  There are no boards anywhere near them. There is rather large pile of comics that I need to file away sitting in the guest room. I am rough on my comics, BUT THEY DESERVE IT. I live a rough and tumble lifestyle.

We live in the era of the slipcase, extra big edition. Those aren’t the type of books that you take out of the house. You don’t even take them out on the deck. Absolutes, omnibuses, bronzed double bound…these are winter books.  The out of doors are the purview of water logged Metal Men issues and a dog eared essential, and maybe someday the digital issue. It is personal nightmare that we will have a day when deluxe hardcover is the only way to buy a comic book. (Digital save me!) In this hell-scape iFanboy adds a new element to their review section where people can grade the dust jackets on the books. Those shelves of hard covers look like retirement homes for comics to me. I just dry heaved. Books need to breathe!

I don’t want to seem like I am up on a soapbox telling people how they should enjoy their comics. By all means buy what you like in the format that you like. This is simply an appreciation for an aspect of comics that seems to be in flux. Comics are my favorite form of pop culture and like all pop culture they have an element of the disposable. Not disposable in the sense of just throwing it away when it suits you, but in the sense that you don’t need to worry about breaking it. (I realize I am probably pushing the definition of disposable in a non orthodox direction, but let’s not get nit-picky dictionary nerds.) They don’t have to be a precious object that needs to be protected. There is a sneaky strain of durability in being perceived as disposable.  I can bring my ratty old copy of Marvel Team-Up to the beach and not have to worry about it. That is truly a beautiful thing. A perfect piece of pop entertainment in an easy to carry format. When you don’t worry about where can bring a piece of art, it becomes a part of your every day life. It isn’t a relative you go to visit twice a year, but a friend who has barbecues all the time.

The remarkable strength of being disposable extends beyond just the physical format of the book. Like any really great medium, there is plenty of depth in comics if you want to dive in. That said, you can also hang in the shallow end with an Arnold Palmer if you are looking for a respite from budget arguments. There is a story for everyone and escapism of all types. If you like to beat the heat by hiding in shadowy corners of a crime book, that is covered. If you prefer intergalactic wars, you got it. You can jump between genres all you want, because the investment is all up to you.

The movies studios have found this disposable nature profitable and we are about to have a summer of nerdtastic movies. As the comic movies start rolling in and we here the love and complaining from the grouches (me!) and the talkie aficionados, always remember that they are just comic book characters. There are tons of great Green Lantern stories, and tons of bad Green Lantern stories. The same goes for Thor, or Cap, or The Avengers or whatever else they are working. These movies won’t change a single one of those stories or guarantee the quality of anything in the future. They are disposable in the best possible way. Summer fluff for a rainy day.

It is beautiful out. Now do me a favor and go read comics outside. It is good for both you and the comics. 


Tom Katers burns easily.



  1. Can’t relate to reading comics at the beach, but I do enjoy reading my comics with my legs dipped in the swimming pool. You have me sufficiantly excited for the summer now!

  2. This has been the Midwest’s first “nice” week all year, and I’ve spent every night and lunch hour perched out on the porch reading comics. At night they’re on an iPad, but the principle is the same.

    Unlike you, I’d never have dreamed of doing this when I was a kid. I was treating my comics just as roughly as I do now– cramming ten of them in the same bag, for example– but I believed I was taking good care of them. I missed out; this is now one of the singular pleasures of my day.

  3. You always hear the quote about how books that are worn out are books that are loved. I think there is a lot of truth in that. Getting out the ol longboxes and reading through old issues is so much fun. All too often we fetishize these comics we have..with boards and plastic. Their is a good reason why they are printed on crap paper and bound cheaply…they are not meant to last. Wear them out with lots of fun reading!

    I started taking some of my comics out on my lunch breaks and sitting in the little park area across from my office building. It can be fun and refreshing.    

  4. My favorite thing to do on summer weekends is take a gigantic pile of comics to the park and read in the sunlight.  I can’t wait for it to be warm out in Seattle!

  5. God I respect you

  6. Bravo, Tom!  I have never bagged or boarded a comic in my life – you jam them in the longboxes tight enough they aren’t gonna get wrinkled anyway.  My comics go everywhere with me – shoved in my briefcase to read anytime I have a spare moment.  They may not be pretty but they are very well-loved.

  7. Tom, being originaly from Wyoming with the long winters I hear what you are saying, and yet now from Phoenix we only have two seasons Fall and then Summer. Giddy Up!

  8. I’m in Scotland. We don’t do summer.

  9. Love reading comics under the sun! That’s how I read all of Sandman one summer. Also a lot of Hellblazer.

    A couple summers ago I read a lot of Exterminators and Jack of Fables on the beach in Ft. Lauderdale. Good times.