‘I’m up to over 4,000’: A look at comic book fandom
When you walk into Ryan Ulrich’s Lethbridge man cave, you’re greeted with a shelf stacked with white boxes, each filled with an assortment of comic books. The 45-year-old has been collecting since he was in high school and his collection is starting to get fairly extensive.
“I haven’t finished cataloguing yet but I’m up to over 4,000 [comic books],” Ulrich said.
Ulrich loves the artistry and storylines in comic books, and also the thrill of the hunt.
“The search — you go through boxes to find that one that you don’t have,” Ulrich said. “It’s something that you don’t have that you really want. It could have come out last week, or came out 30 years ago.”
After 30 years of avid collecting, one of Ulrich’s greatest joys is buying and selling his comics at trade shows.
“Now, they’ve filled the hole that they were missing. They found that one comic that they were looking for and they were just so happy to find it and it cost them two bucks,” Ulrich said. “Who cares, right? But the joy on their face when they find that.”
Ulrich has a fairly substantial comic collection, but it’s nowhere near the biggest in the city.
“Oh, we’ve got a few [people] that are in the 30,000, 35,000 comic book range,” Showcase Comics and Hobbies manager Dylan Purcell said.
Purcell says comic sales are up at Showcase Comics and he believes their adaptation into television and movies is increasing popularity.
“That’s good for comic books,” Purcell said. “We don’t see a direct correlation between sales of say Black Panther and the release of the Black Panther movie, but I think it helps the strength of the comic books if pop culture is embracing the heroes.”
Purcell says there’s also an emotional aspect to collecting comics, recalling a time he saw an old friend at the Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo.
“I hadn’t seen them in probably 15 years,” Purcell said. “I’m sure we both forgot the other person’s name because neither of us used the other person’s first name, but we remembered the comics we liked and collected. Because, when you’re talking about something you love, that’s an emotional conversation.”
As for Ulrich, he says his days of collecting are numbered.
“My wife often asks me, ‘When are you going to stop?’ And I told her, ‘When I’m 55, I’m done,’” Ulrich explained.
But those who know him aren’t so sure he’ll be able to halt his hunt for the “next” comic book.
“Ryan always does that, ‘Oh, I’m going to sell them at 55,’” Purcell mimicked. “I’ve seen him buy comics where he just loves the cover, or he loves the storyline. Ryan talks at length about the comic books he owns, and some of them, I think he loves too much to let go.”
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