Things I Can't Throw Out: Mass Market Paperpack Reprints Of Classic Comics And Humor Magazines

by Derrick Bostrom

Nowadays, there's a thriving industry devoted to archiving the best of twentieth century periodicals. If it's not being sold on DVD, it's been issued hardbound on acid-free paper. If nothing else, there's always the share bloggers. But when I was a kid, you could only read ABOUT the great comics. You might be able to piece together Harvey Kurtzman's non-MAD/Little Annie Fannie career from third-party sources, but you'd never actually get to see of it without doling out some seriously hefty coin.

Sure, Peanuts never went out of print, and back then Pogo trade paperbacks weren't yet impossible to find. And the occasional fan publisher would bring out the odd EC reprint or coffee table book devoted to classic newspaper strips. But for me, the real gold came from second hand book stores (remember those?) or rummage sales. I remember when I was twelve years old, finding a coverless copy of Kurtzman's "Trump" Number 2 from 1957, for probably no more than a dime (ten comics for a dollar, no doubt). The following year, when I became a Kurtzman fanatic, I was astounded to realize what I had. The same goes for the odd paperbacks I'd pick up during a dull summer vacation day, or inherit from older friends and family. Years later, I'd realize that the poorly printed black and white paperback of sci-fi comic stories was actually reprints from EC's "Weird Science!"

The days when you could find these kinds of old mass market paperbacks by accident in the back of a thrift store are pretty much gone. Reading them is out of the question. These things are so old, it makes my hands dirty just to get near them. Some of 'em are so brittle I can't even open one without the spine shattering and the pages turning to powder right before my eyes. But I can scan the covers and share them with the rest of you. Meanwhile, I'll be pre-ordering my hardbound reissue of Kurtzman's "Humbug," set for release this fall. And if someone doesn't hurry up and release reprints of "Trump" and "Help!," I may be tempted to share them myself.