Collecting and reading comic books is a fun hobby that combines artistic appreciation, storytelling, and archiving. Experienced comic book collectors know how to handle their comic books. However, if you are just starting to appreciate comic books, you may be unaware of the proper handling etiquette.
To properly handle a comic, manga, or even a graphic novel, you must minimize the chance of chemical and physical damage. Even when you are done handling a comic, storage and shipping protocols maintain the pristine quality of a comic that we all appreciate.
Chemical damage in comics presents itself as brittle paper and discoloration to yellowish-brown color. In the 1980s, the United States introduced paper standards that created a historical shift in the paper used to create comics. Before the paper standards were in place, the paper was made of highly acidic wood pulp.
Now 60 pound cardstock, the comic book standard, is made without lignin and the acid that comes with it. Accordingly, chemical damage mitigation is different for modern comics and comics made before 1990.
UV light exposure is the primary catalyst for comic book degradation. Lignin, a component of the paper used in the silver age of comics, absorbs UV light and decomposes into chemical compounds that give off the yellowish-brown appearance.
UV light is present in sunlight and many artificial lights like fluorescent light bulbs. Comic book enthusiasts must store and handle their comics in places absent of UV lights. An LED light or an incandescent light bulb is ideal for reading because they exude nearly no UV light.
Modern comics use 55, 60, or 80 pound cardstock which are all advertised as acid and lignin-free. The Society of American Archivists considers paper with less than 1% lignin and a pH value above 7 to be acid-free.
The acid-free designation occurs at the time of production, but acids can be added to the paper post-production, which leads to degradation. Lactic acid is common in sweat, so comic book collectors need to wash their hands before handling their comics to avoid transferring acid to their new or old comics.
Physical damage includes tears, creasing, cracking, bends, and any other permanent blemish caused by mishandling or environmental disturbances. Comics are prone to physical damage because they are thin, light, and usually only held together with two staples.
There are common handling protocols to reduce the likelihood of physical damage to your comics. Be gentle when opening the book and allow pages to fall on their own to reduce the pressure you put on the pages and spine.
Hold a comic in the open palm of your hand and never fold or roll the book like you would a newspaper. Do not let the covers fall beyond 180 degrees, or the spine will crack.
Temperature and humidity cause physical damage if they are not within an acceptable range. Humidity causes wrinkling in the pages, and cold temperatures cause the spine to crack. Avoid this by handling and storing comic books in 35% humidity and room temperature (68 degrees Fahrenheit).
Comic book storage for those unconcerned with preservation looks like tossing comic books onto a big pile on a bookshelf. This permanently bends the comic book and allows dust and UV rays to further degrade the book. Since your collected comics spend most of their lives in storage, it is vital to store them correctly with boxes, bags, and boards.
Sleeves protect comics from acidic degradation and keep the book clean in storage. Comix Well Spring sells resealable sleeves for comic books, manga, magazines, and standard books.
Backer boards stand your comics upright inside the comic sleeve. They stop the comics from bending and maintain the health of the spine.
Comic boxes are long boxes that store your comics out of any potential UV light exposure. They also create another barrier between your comics and harmful dust accumulation. Comix Well Spring has shipping boxes specialized for shipping comic books. They also serve as a good storage option if you do not have a comic box.
Protect Your Comic Book Collection With Comix Well Spring
At Comix Well Spring, we know how important it is to keep your comic book collection in pristine condition. Whether you are a seasoned collector or just starting to find your love of comic books, you can trust Comix Well Spring to deliver high-quality products for the safety of your collection.
Contact us today to learn more about our products and printing services. Also, read our blog for information on all things comics.