It’s been a long while since we’ve provided you, our fellow nerds, with a primer. The purpose of this series is to take an in-depth look at specific sub-genres of nerd culture, and today’s article does not stray from that premise. Without further adieu, let’s take a look at art of comic book binding.
I’m going to ask you to bear with me over this next paragraph, because we are going to have a tiny history lesson. Unlike some of our previous primers, bookbinding goes back a long way. Remember hearing about Johann Gutenberg in history class? Well, he is responsible for creating the movable type printing press, which allowed for faster printing. Faster printing meant more books, and more books meant more focus on the art of bookbinding, which really took off in the late 15th century. Also happening in the 15th century: the Aztec and Inca empires were at the height of their power. Fun fact: initially, books were shelved with the spines facing inwards, and the title inked onto the edge of the pages. It wasn’t until Jean Grolier commissioned beautiful bindings with with lettering on the spine that they began to shelve them spines out, as is the custom now (stay tuned for my next primer on watching paint dry!).
Look, I know this might be boring for some of you, and possibly jarring since you are here to figure out if you want to get your DOOP collection professionally bound, but we really take book-bindings as they are now for granted. You’re right, though… it’s time to move onto the next portion of this primer.
Choosing a Bindery
Deciding whether to get your comic books professionally bound is a big decision. I imagine a good sized portion of the comic community cringes at the thought of someone cutting the spine off a book and stitching it to a bunch of its comic book brethren. Having said that, comic book binding is great for collectors like me that don’t intend to sell their books, want to keep them easily accessible, and don’t consider short boxes home decor.
I decided to give binding a shot because I have four short boxes filled with modern era Valiant Comics sitting in the back of my closet next to an expired fire extinguisher, assorted batteries, and our winter coats. A one-of-a-kind hardback book (that I helped design, no less) filled with some of my favorite comics was just too good to pass up. After doing some research on the Google, I decided to go with Herring and Robinson Book Binders. Herring and Robinson is a family owned library bindery that began business in 1920. Before I decided to pull the trigger, I gave them a call to learn about the binding process. They graciously answered all my questions during my initial phone call, and stayed in touch via email throughout. Ultimately, it was their customer service that won me over.
Prepping Your Books for Binding
First and foremost, it’s important to decide which series or event you are binding. For my first foray into binding, I chose my X-O Manowar collection, which included issues #1-50, two #0 issues, and two annuals. Once you choose your books, it’s time to get them into the order you want. While each volume could be up to 2 1/2″ thick, I decided to break my collection into two volumes so the gutter loss would not be as bad. The first volume would include issues #1-25, and the second volume would include #26-50, with the #0’s and annuals put in according to when they were released.
Now comes the hard part… if you want to take away some of the thickness, or you find it more aesthetically pleasing, you can remove the ads throughout the comic as long as it doesn’t include any of the actual panels. While yes, you are technically cutting into a comic book which could be considered blasphemous, it’s for the greater good. I decided to remove the last few pages of each book, because these usually contained previews for upcoming Valiant titles, which I didn’t need. To do this, I simply grabbed my trusty Wrath of the Eternal Warrior box-cutter, and cut just to the right of the center line to avoid the staples. Some binderies also prefer the buyer to remove the staples prior to sending, but Herring and Robinson don’t require this. Once the pages are removed put the issues back in the correct order, place some comic boards on the top and bottom to protect the pages, and wrap them with a few rubber-bands.
I have included some photos of how I prepped my books below. They are not for the faint of heart…
The Eternal Warrior always wins
Placing Your Order
Herring and Robinson provides a myriad of options for customizing your book. You can have double lines, single lines, die-stamps, lettering, and choose the placement of everything. Then you have to choose the type and color of the binding, and the color of the lines and lettering, add a ribbon or headband, it’s… let’s just say you have a lot to think about . I spent a lot of time figuring out exactly how I wanted the spine to look. I eventually settled on double lines at the top and bottom, sans-serif lettering, the buckram material in royal blue with silver lettering. Herring and Robinson provides the following order form, that has a diagram of the spine and front cover, so you can show them exactly how you want it to look by sketching it out.
Now, pack the order form in with your books, make sure it’s well protected, and ship it off to Herring and Robinson. The wait begins.
The Final Product
Their website says it will take 6-8 weeks for the order to be completed, but after only 4 weeks I received my invoice and tracking number. I’m not going to lie, when I saw that my package was out for delivery and my mailman was running later than usual I stared out my window like Michael Scott stares at Toby. The wait paid off when I pulled these beautiful books out of their package:
For a price tag of around $30 a book, I ended up with two beautiful, one-of-a-kind books that will look great on my nerd shelf. The quality of these books is mind-boggling. They are solidly constructed, and feel great to the touch. But, is comic book binding for everyone? Probably not. There are those that cringe at the thought of ravaging their comics with a razor blade. Those of you, like me, who don’t plan on selling your collection, want to be able to display them proudly, and can make it through the prep, comic book binding is definitely worth it. I am beyond happy with how my first foray into bound comics turned out, and I will definitely be sending more over the next few months.