library card

“Hey…when can I get that back?” The Trust Involved in Loaning Comics

I just let a coworker borrow books 7-10 of Y: The Last Man, my out of print edition of We3, and a copy of the first Unwritten. My shelf has this giant space where these comics belong. I’m not nervous, believe me, you’d see what I’m like when I’m nervous. But it did make me reflect on how we hand over comics and trades to people and how that can sometimes be a sticky little transaction.

It’s an act of trust–you’re hoping that the recipient doesn’t just pack up and leave the country after you’ve handed over that stack of minicomics you had accumulated since 2008. I know I’ve mentioned before that I’m on my 3rd copy of The Watchmen due to friends borrowing, moving, and forgetting where they placed it. Books one and two of Sandman aren’t the same edition as the rest of my set thanks to past relationships. (That’s why my next plan is go for Omnibus, and if you want to read the tomes, you come to the shrine I build for it).

Also, can I ask: how long is too long? How quickly do other people digest comics compared to me? Libraries usually circulate books for 3 weeks, right? But that gap in the bookshelf looks bigger and bigger by the day. Maybe I shouldn’t have handed out that many trades all at once! Leave my friend on a cliffhanger just like I experienced waiting between buying books nine and ten…

Beyond the initial trust issue, there’s also that pang of  “Oh god, I hope they like it.” I want to snatch the books right out of their hands right after I’ve given it to them. You’re as much sharing a work you personally love as the work reflects back on you. “I dunno, Mike gave me Gotham Central to read. He likes it?” (Yeah, I do, and you should too. In effect, this also helps you weed out bad friends). This is especially flares up when you’re trying to encourage a new reader to enjoy comics. Yes, Dan, my best friend, I’m looking at you. Granted, I’m not loaning you my copy of Hawkeye, but the fact that I encouraged you to pick the trade up has me on the edge of my seat in anticipation of your ‘thumbs up’ or ‘thumbs down.’ It’s that fear of the encounter when they finally return the books to you. “Oh…hey…here they are. Not too bad…” Ouch. Compare that to a real “wow. That last part? That last part had me in tears.” Me too! It’s so refreshing to hear that! I thought I was the only one! We always talk about comics connecting. Letting friends borrow your comics is a pure act of that connection.

For all my hang ups about people having my stuff and as much as I look forward to getting my comics back, I really can’t wait to talk all about it with my friend.

Maybe borrow some of their comics too…

Mike Balderrama

When Mike was on vacation with his family in the summer of 2002, he walked into a North Dakota comic book shop to avoid his parents and picked up Steampunk #12—what would be the final cliffhanger issue of Chris Bachalo and Joe Kelly’s failed series. Enamored with the artwork, the quirky story, and confusing-but-archetypal love-story-through-time concept, he visited all the comic book shops in Connecticut to collect the back issues. Thanks to the fledgling and shady comic-sellers online, he managed to get all 12 issues, the prologue comic and preview comic, as well as the two trades that collected all the issues. While Mike isn’t sure why he felt the need to tell you this, he does want you to know that he loves making comics, talking about comics, reading comics, and complaining about how he wishes he could write comics. He’s a Classicist and has a big thing for myth and storytelling, plus he does museum stuff. He once worked at RISD and got a contact high off of a lot of awesome creative people.

  • smiller824

    I keep a spreadsheet with book, who has it, and what date. It’s saved me on several occasions, but I’ve still managed to lose a few in the process. I had to replace a SIGNED Superman For All Seasons (fortunately I was able to get to another Con where Tim Sale was present). Currently my only thing on loan is Gaiman’s Black Orchid. I think.

  • buddyblanc

    I’m currently trying to deal with the fact that some comics I think I lent a friend went mysteriously missing when his ex-girlfriend moved out. Hmmmmmmm.

  • Matthew

    I like buying people thier own copies of my favourite comics at birthdays and christmas. That way, I don’t have to lend them mine. Success!!