New Year, New Bookshelf! As far as resolutions go, promising to get those piles and piles of comics organized and looking beautiful is a great one: it’s achievable, cheap, simple, and has an instant payoff. Just looking at shelves of beautiful comics, knowing that all of your favorites are at your fingertips…that’s a warm glow to keep you going in a cold January.
The question is not whether to organize your comic collection—it’s how to do it. Especially for new collectors, the options seem endless. How to keep all those comics in a way that is beautiful, useful, and makes sure that they stay in good condition, just in case they’re worth money one day. If you’re looking at how to organize your growing comic collection this year, we’ve got all your questions answered right here. Happy sorting!
Substance: Categories, Titles, And Types
Before we get to all the ways to make a comic collection pretty, let’s deal with the more practical aspect: how to actually sort it. Comics can be complicated, especially for new fans used to shelving book collections either by author or genre, but this way will make it much easier to find exactly the book that you are looking for.
- Separate single issues and trade paperbacks (collected volumes). Most people like to store and shelve these separately, even if they have both formats for a single title, because they are very different in terms of size and physical requirements. Trades sit nicely on a shelf, whereas single issues need a little more care. Separate by publisher. Most people choose to organize by publisher, simply because it’s convenient (and because it’s how this would be done in most comic shops). Marvel comics will live on one shelf, DC on another, Image on another, and indie titles will be grouped together. This is optional, of course, but if you have a large collection, it will help speed up the search when you are looking for a specific title.
- Separate comics by title. While traditional books are most commonly sorted by author, this is less common with comics. Some fans of a particular artists or writer may choose to separate that one creator’s work, but this makes actually reading through a title difficult, because multiple creators will have worked on the title over the years. Using titles makes diving back in to re-read is much simpler.
- Make sure each title is in numerical order. Simple enough! Comics are helpfully numbered, so stick to keeping each title in chronological order, unless you worship chaos.
- Alphabetize. Who doesn’t love a good alphabetical order? Once you already have things split by publisher, title, and issue, alphabetizing is the last step to making sure you can find your comics as quickly as possible. You know, for all those comic book emergencies.
Of course, comic universes are wild and complex things, and there are plenty of spin-offs, prequels, and alternate universes that can get confusing. How you deal with these is personal preference, depending on how complicated you feel like making your life (or that of anyone coming by to borrow a comic). The simplest thing is just to go by title, although some do like to group by overall team/family/character, so that a shelf will have all of the X-Men characters, the Flash family, the Avengers, etc. in one place, rather than scattered throughout the collection based on the title itself.
Now, you should have some nice neat piles of comics, sorted by publisher, number and title, waiting for a shelf to live on!
Style: Shelving, Boxing, And Beautifying
The traditional way of storing comics is simple: put single issues in order in a longbox, a specially designed box of heavy cardboard, the perfect size and shape to store comics upright. They also fit smaller trades, although these are usually just shelved.
However, the traditional way isn’t always the best, especially if you want something that looks good in the living room, or that helps someone understand exactly where each title might be. If a wall of white boxes doesn’t appeal to you, we’ve got some other ideas for you!
- Head to IKEA. The home of cheap(ish) furniture includes a collection perfect for comics: Kallax (formerly Expedit). These cube-based units are just the right size to hold trades as well as any of the storage options we’ll cover below, and you can mix and match longboxes, trades, and display cubes for collectibles. You can even get specially made drawers fitted. Perfect!
- Decorate boring boxes. Longboxes aren’t exactly pretty, but that doesn’t mean they have to stay that way. Decorate each box with labels or a full collage of comic images that show exactly what is inside each one. If the thought of collaging with actual comic pages makes you gasp and clutch your pearls, print off pages and images or photocopy them, then get busy with scissors and modpodge. Or, if that sounds like too much work, take a color copy of your favorite cover, and simply stick it to the front.
- Get chummy with files and folders. If you don’t have longboxes, don’t like them, or they would be hard to get hold of, consider using magazine files or ring binders and plastic wallets. You can decorate the magazine files just like the longboxes, or use ring binders with comic art already on them if you aren’t a crafty type! You could even match ring binders to your decor, if you want something subtle. Both of these are also smaller than longboxes, which means lighter and easier to pick up.
- Invest in a comic rack. This is for those serious collectors who have always dreamed of home feeling like a comic book store! You can buy rotating comic racks online (or if a bricks and mortar store is closing). Just don’t put your most valuable books on there, as they will be exposed to the light, which may fade them.
Get creative, too. These are only a few options to spruce up your collections. Filing cabinets can also be a great way to store comics, and there are amazing new designs that don’t look like they belong in an office. Pull-out shelving under beds is a great place, too, and then you don’t even have to get up to read!
Whether you want your shelves to shout your love of comics from the rooftops, or you’d rather sneakily integrate your collection into a stylish home, there are so many options. Share your bookshelf porn with us on Twitter or Instagram by tagging @quirkbooks.