Saturday, February 18, 2006

 

Mystery Strips of E&P - "A" Listings

Here's your chance to rescue some obscure strips from the graveyard of undocumented features. As many of you know, Editor & Publisher, the trade journal of the newspaper business, publishes an annual syndicate directory. They've published them since 1924, and they are a treasure trove of information. In fact, my friend Dave Strickler has published a book wherein he lists all the features that appeared in those directories (his website is here).

Most of the E&P listings are for standard mainstream features, but they have also listed many additional more obscure stuff over the years. Some are from tiny syndicates (including self-syndicators), others are strips that came from mainstream syndicates but ran only for a short time in few papers. Others are true phantom features - strips that the syndicates tried to sell but failed, amateur cartoonists who deluded themselves into thinking their feature was publishable, and so on. Many listings these days are for strips that run only on the web.

The E&P syndicate directories, then, are a valuable source of information, but full of pitfalls if we just assume that all the features listed actually ran in newspapers. And as most of you know, I'm working on a project called the Stripper's Guide Index that seeks to document every recurring comic strip and panel cartoon feature that ran in US newspapers. The most important rule that I have for including a feature in Stripper's Guide is that I have to have seen it for myself actually running in a newspaper. One reason for that rule is the E&P phantom strip listings - some other researchers have fallen into the trap of documenting features based only on that resource with absolutely no additional evidence to support the existence of the feature. I won't let that happen in Stripper's Guide.

A reader recently suggested that I should publish more on the blog about features that are a mystery to me, in hopes that you guys will be able to provide information. Of course I'm only too happy to oblige. So today I'm starting a series of posts listing the E&P information on features that I've not been able to find running in any newspaper.

Here's the deal. What I need from you is documentary proof of the feature's existence. Photocopies or scans of a few sample tearsheets work great (especially if you can provide dates and the name of the paper), but I can also when necessary check out leads, like "sure, I read that one every day in the Splutburg Chronicle back in 1970-71." On the other hand, please cool it on leads like "that sounds vaguely like something I half-remember from somewhere".

So what do I offer in return? Undying gratitude of your peers, of course, goes without saying. Credit in Stripper's Guide for your contribution as well. But let me sweeten the pot. For documentary proof of any feature listed here I will reimburse you with a goodie package of collectible old newspaper tearsheets from my collection. Your goodie package may also include original art, old comic books, reprint books or magazines. Believe me, I'll make it worth your while. Sound fair? Great. Here we go with the list of mystery strips for the letter "A". Each listing shows the title, creator(s) credited, the syndicate, the format and the years listed in E&P.

AC In DC - Edwards De Lon - Future Features - daily strip - 1996
AD-LIBerties - Ney Talbot - N.E.W.S. - daily strip - 1949-50
Abe Martin Junior - E.B. Sullivan - Dille - daily panel - 1938-39 (apparently replaced Abe Martin these two years?)
Academy Of Fame - A.S. Curtis - Curtis Features - Sunday strip - 1946-50 (suspect this might just be “Medal Of Honor” under a different title)
Ace Of The Staff - Leon P. Snowe II - Trans World News - daily strip - 1978
Acme Woods - Dyke Williams - Dickson Features - weekly strip - 1980
Ad-A-Line - Henri Arnold - Editors Syndicate - daily panel - 1955 (FOUND! in Great Bend Daily Tribune)
Ad-Ribs - Bob Poet - Richmond Syndicate - daily strip - 1979
Adam Apple’s Adventures - Don Herold - Dille - daily panel - 1932
Adam’s World - Wayne Phillips - Consolidated - thrice-weekly panel - 1974
Addled Ads - Harry Lutke - Chicago Sun-Times - daily panel - 1950-51 (FOUND! in Lowell Sun)
Addles - Shar Durksen - American International - daily panel - 1993-97
Adventure In Nature - Robert Peterson - American International - daily strip - 1988-98
Adventure, Culture And Humor In Proper English - uncredited - Cartoonics - daily and Sunday strip - 1942
Adventures In Death Valley - Stanley Miller - Matz Features - daily strip - 1940 (probably advertising comics?)
Adventures In Wonderland - Bob Pilgrim - Independent Syndicate - daily strip - 1930 (FOUND! by Bill Mullins in the LaCrosse Tribune and Leader Press - thanks Bill!)
Adventures Of Arsene Lupin - Maurice LeBlanc and Georges Bourdin - Service Cooperative de Diffusion d’Articles - daily strip - 1948 (French - did it run in US?)
Adventures Of Melisse - Melisse - Melisse Syndicate - daily panel - 1950
Adventures Of Mister A. Worm - Charles Sarka - F-Bean Syndicate - weekly panel - 1926
Adventures Of Skuddabud - Columba Krebs - Skuddabud Creations - daily strip - 1936-38
Adventures Of Ted And Jed - Raymon Naylor - Feature Sales Syndicate - daily/weekly strip/panel - 1936
Adventures Of Tiny Turtle - Brint Schorer Jr. - Tiny Features - daily strip - 1968-71 (FOUND - turned out to be a coloring and game page - not qualified for SG listing)
Afterworld - Todd Schowalter - Plain Label Press - daily/weekly strip - 1992-94
Agile Man - Rex Walthall - Dickson-Bennett International Features - daily strip - 1981-82
Agony - uncredited - Interpress of London & New York - weekly panel - 1976-81
Ahead Of Time - Ken Muse - Dickson Features - weekly strip - 1980-81
Air Fair - Dick Locher - Winford Company - daily strip - 1971-73
Air-Sub DX - Carl Burgos - Watkins (Brooklyn Eagle) - Sunday strip - 1939
Aladdin McFadden - Jim Lavery - Arthur J. Lafave - daily and Sunday strip - 1937
Aladdin And Company - Jaime Diaz - Ed Marzola & Associates - daily and Sunday strip - 1976
Alan O’Dare - Carl Pfeufer - Smith-Mann - Sunday strip - 1951-54 (probably topper to “Chisholm Kid”)
Albert - Robert Nunn - American International - daily strip - 1992-95
Alexander Gate - Gene Mora and Frank Bolle - McNaught Syndicate - daily and Sunday strip - 1970-71 (EDIT: existence verified by Jeffrey Lindenblatt!)
Alfonso - Romano Garofalo, Regnal Adams, Charles Russo - Dickson Bennett/American International - daily strip - 1982-91 (Alberto Becattini says this is an Italian strip there titled "Mostalfonso")
Algy - Gene Rowls - Bryl Syndicate - daily strip - 1936
Ali Baba - Ostrup - Select Features - daily panel - 1948
Ali Katt - Walt Trag - unknown syndicate - daily strip - 1958
Alias The Skull - Kevin Miller and David Watkins - Suzerain - Sunday strip - 1993-95
All In America - Tom Ward - Winford Company - daily and Sunday strip - 1972
All In The Family - Bill Murray - Minority Features - weekly strip - 1980-2003
All-American Family - Lesnier - Popular Press Features - weekly panel - 1951
Almighty Dollar - Lo Linkert - Feature Associates - weekly panel - 1980
Along The Rail - John Williams - Community Features - weekly panel - 1980-81
Alpha Ant - Leonard Bruce and the Humane Society - Leoleen-Durck - weekly panel - 1983-88 (presumably a giveaway?)
Amanda y Rocinante - Resurrecion Espinosa and Dorthy Torres - self-syndicated - weekly strip - 1996-present
Amateur Etiquette - Dick Calkins - Dille - daily panel - 1925-30 (FOUND! in Edwardsville Intelligencer - more of an illustrated column, not qualified for SG listing)
Amazing But True - Albert Edward Wiggam - Dille - daily panel - 1931-32 (early name of “Let’s Explore Your Mind”?)
Ambitious Ambrose - Oscar Hitt - Wheeler-Nicholson - daily strip - 1926 (found! in Lowell Sun)
Amby - Dwight Parks - Dille - daily and Sunday strip - 1958 (never ran -- see comment by Ger Appeldoorn below - thanks Ger!)
American Scoreboard - Henry Riddick and Antoinette Leeds - Family Features - weekly panel - 1948
Amos The Analyst - Mick Stevens - Lew Little Syndicate - daily panel - 1966-67
Anabel And Rupert - Reub Allen and M.O.Doyle - Columbia Inc. - daily strip - 1935
And Bob Created Woman - David Watkins and Kevin Miller - Suzerain - daily strip - 1993
Andy Lane - Eustace Adams and Dick Brown - United Feature - unknown format/frequency - 1933
Anggie - Dawn Munson - American International - daily strip - 1992-94
Animal Chatter For A Clean Environment - Emil Abrahamian - self-syndicated - 1995-96 (ran in Arab News - ever is US?)
Animals On Parade - John Meissner - self-syndicated - daily panel - 1939
Another Day Another Doll - Henry Gaines Goodman - Beroth Features - daily panel - 1958-61
Anthracite And Bituminous - Ferd Himme - Lowry Cartoons - weekly panel - 1932 (ad panel for coal??)
Antics Of The Allens - Leonard Merrill - Thompson Service - weekly panel - 1932
Antoinette And Cleopatra - Joanne McGuire - Copley News - daily strip - 1979
Aphrodite - uncredited - Interpress of London And New York - weekly panel - 1985-97
Apple A Day - Richard Gerchak - Community Features - weekly panel - 1980-81
Applesauce - Dick Calkins - Dille - daily panel - 1924
Aram - Piet Wijn - Douglas Whiting Ltd - daily strip - 1959-60 (Dutch - ran in US?)
Ardith - Ken Muse - Dickson-Bennett - daily strip - 1982
Are You A Kopy Kat? - Robert Gill - National Features - Sunday strip - 1980-82
The Aristocrats - Bob Kane - Ledger Syndicate - daily panel - 1967-70
Armadillosaurus - R. Shirley - Famous Features - weekly strip - 1995
Arnaki - Aspro Coolidge - Mid-Continent - thrice weekly panel - 1978-79
Arnie - Arne Stockholm - Singer Features - weekly strip - 1973-99
Around Town - Rube Weiss - Blakely Features - weekly panel - 1970-76
Around The Dial - uncredited - Audio Service - daily panel - 1927
Arty Facts - Ray Fisher - Singer Features - weekly panel - 1983-99
As You Were - Jim Baker - Pioneer Press - daily panel - 1972-99 (FOUND! in Elyria Chronicle-Telegram)
Assignment Top Secret - Bill Barry - Adventure Features - daily strip - 1981-93
The Astronits - Pat Anderson - self-syndicated - daily strip - 1970-79 (found printed a single time in the Cedar Rapids Press - still looking for more evidence)
Astronuts - Dave Berg - Singer Media - weekly strip - 1994-99
At Andre’s - Sandy Brier - McClure Syndicate - daily panel - 1961
Atila - William Grosso - Colombian Comics - daily strip - 1990-96
Aunt Effie - Edgon Margo - Queen Features - weekly panel - 1939
Auntie’s Antics - uncredited - Keystone Features - daily strip - 1938
Auto Comics - Kenny Hall - Avanti Features - weekly panel - 1996-97
Auto Sense - Jack Williamson - Associated Editors - weekly panel - 1925-26 (FOUND! in Oshkosh Daily Northwestern)

Comments:
This is just the A's? Holy cow!
 
most of these i never heard of, of course. and yes, some of these appear to be strips that they wanted to distribute --
Didnt "Assignement: Top Secret" ran their samples in the MFG (Memonee Falls Gazette weekly strip paper)? Or was than one of Barry's other strips? anyway, he has an interview there too, if you hadnt already been through all of those.

If Bob Kane did a newspaper strip - but didnt tell anyone about it, that would be news! very unlikely.....

i recall publicity for ALEXANDER GATE, but dont think it actually saw print either....
 
Hi Steven - yeah, there's a lot of these that I'd bet money against, but I figured if I omitted some of the more unlikely ones naturally those would be the ones that someone would be able to help with.

Regarding Assignment..., I've seen the samples. It has always seemed to me that the material published in MFG, plus the advertising the guy did in E&P was more than enough to have gotten the strip in print somewhere in a real paper. Besides, the guy did several of these adventure strips, and the art was pretty darn decent.

On Alexander Gate, I'd swear I saw a tearsheet of that once ages and ages ago, figured that would be the most likely title that someone could document. But we shall see...

Best, Allan
 
This is a great idea. I would suggest not giving up on the idea after only a few letters.

I'm in the process of annotating the fiction of Dorothy L. Sayers, and I get about 20 e-mails a year from people suggesting corrections and additions to the work. I was surprised and gratified at the response.
 
I found a paper that ran Alexander Gate The Evening Capital in Annapolis Maryland they started running with daily dated November 30, 1970 they ran it for sure thourgh July 1971. The next reel is from November 1971 the strip is not there anymore.
 
Hi Bill -
Sorry, I was unclear in my post. I didn't mean I was going to give up after 2 letters, but just take some time off the project before plowing on ahead with this very time-consuming list. I'll definitely go further.

On the other hand, if I really do get no leads at all I will eventually cut my losses and pull the plug rather than plowing on to the end.

I'll be especially interested to see, though, if people Googling on the web for their relatives will stumble across this material and recognize their kin. I've been amazed through the years how many children, grandchildren, and such will track me down looking for information about their relations.

Best, Allan
 
Way to go, Jeffrey! Did you find this through the Godfrey Library site, or was it a microfilm run you indexed?

That's one mystery strip that we can tick off the books! Thanks, Jeffrey, and I'll send you a goodie pack when I get back home.

Allan
 
Hi Allan,
Afterworld did in fact run from 92-94.
Best,
Todd Schowalter

http://www.studiotodd.com
 
Hi Allan - I drew two features for Miller Features syndicate in the 90's - Double Bill and Two's a Crowd, both weekly features. Double Bill was a split panel game-type thing where the readers spotted eight differences in the drawings. It appeared in Canadian weeklies, and one that sticks out was the Yellowknife N.W.T paper, whose name I forget. Bill Buttle
 
Hi Bill -
Thanks for the info! As a puzzle feature Double Bill doesn't qualify for the Stripper's Guide index, but it's good to know we can stop searching for that one. Anything more you can tell me about "Two's A Crowd"?

Thanks, Allan
 
You are indeed a master of the obscure listing Ad-Ribs among your mystery strips. The strip was originally titled "Mad Ave," but changed at the suggestion of the late cartoonist Roy Paul Nelson who was a journalism prof at the time for the University of Oregon.

Ad-ribs appeared in only 1 newspaper, Oakridge Oregon's Dead Mountain Echo in summer 1980. Never inked a deal with Richmond Syndicate, although we did negotiate. Thanks for bringing back the memory.

Bob Poet
Lake Tahoe, Nevada
 
Hi Bob -
Thanks so much for the info on Ad-ribs! Any chance that we might get to see a sample of the strip, or could you tell us the specific start and end dates?

--Allan
 
I knew a family down the block with the name Lutke. Mr Lutke had been drawing a comic strip named Rock Sudson(sp)(Suds as in beer, kind of an Andy Capp). Just as I was moving out of the neighborhood I heard he had received a syndication offer to publish the strip. Did you ever hear of it? This took place in Bergen County,(Ridgewood) New Jersey 1971. In reference to: Addled Ads - Harry Lutke - Chicago Sun-Times - daily panel - 1950-51 (FOUND! in Lowell Sun)
Peter Zabriskie
 
Hi Peter -
Sorry, I have no info about Rock Sudson. Lutke would have had trouble getting that syndicated as US syndicates frown on liquor being used in strips. Andy Capp, being a foreign feature, for some odd reason gets a pass (and not just on the liquor, but on wife beating too!).

--Allan
 
Hi! I wrote/drew "C.B. Gordon" during the cb /trucker craze from 1978-1981 for a handful of CB trade publications/newspapers. Sort of the "HoneyMooners" with two kids added to mix and all revolving around the life of a trucker on the road. Of course, the craze faded out, especially with advent of cel phones.
Went on to drop "der" from name for length reasons. I'm still freelancing full-time with many clients, including directly for the Disney company, as well as my own projects and characters. Returned to the newspaper field three months ago with editorial cartoons that are in two newspapers and hoping to grow client list from there. Busy all the time which is always a good thing!
Best,
Mark Marderosian
 
Hi Mark -
Thanks for the info on CB Gordon. Are you saying, then, that the feature never appeared in 'mainstream' newspapers? If it did, do you recall any names?

--Allan
 
Hi Allan,

That's right, it appeared in small weekly newspapers and trade publications, especially those devoted to the fad, not "mainstream" newspapers like I'm working with now.
Best,
Mark
www.markmarderosian.com
 
Hi again Mark -
Small weekly newspapers would qualify for a listing in the Stripper's Guide index, as long as they were general readership news titles. Trade papers and such don't qualify. Can you give me an example or two of the weekly papers that ran the feature so that I can determine one way of the other?

Thanks, Allan
 
HI Allan,
Sorry about this, especially after having opened my mouth: It was thirty years ago and I sadly have no copies of its appearance or remember the names of the publications. That's why it was neat for me to see the name again. Except for a small tear sheet that I sent around to potential clients (that is buried in some file somewhere in the house) I have no other records.
Again, I'm sorry after all this that I don't have more exact historical info.
 
hi. i am looking for an italian comic called "the mystery of the apple" which was hosted on a site which has recently vanished. i discovered it through wikipedia- looking up this obscure book:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_beginning_was_the_end

i viewed the comic once, very surreal and obviously from the 1970's, but sadly it has since evaporated. i was wondering if you knew anything about this obscure comic?

thanks for any efforts into this!
 
Couldn't even hazard a guess. Perhaps one of our Italian readers can help?
 
I am in contact with Dwight Parks; son who confirmed to me that Amby was offered to papers, but as it got less then 20 papers interested, it was never started. A charming strip about a well dressd philospher bum, it lead to Park's Betsy and Me assignment. There was a package made, about which David Parks scanned a couple of pages for me. I will write about it in Hogan's Alley #317.
 
Hi Ger --
I don't plan to live long enough to see HA #317, but I'm going to guess Tom will move it up to the next issue if you ask nicely ;-)

Thanks for the info on Amby -- another one off the list!

--Allan
 
Don't know if this is the first year they did it, or if it something that has been ongoing, but the 2009 E&P Directory is online at
http://solis2.365media.com/NLSEP/search.aspx
 
I've been running some daily strips in a scandinavian magazine. Basically translating them and stripping them down moderne language and thinking though many were good old classics with more like a 50s perspective. Planning to publish all the strips on http://www.mrpink.dk soon, but for now we just publish in an old fashioned printed magazine - maybe more cool...
 
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Friday, February 17, 2006

 

Part VII - How I Store and Track my Collection

My collection is quite a bit bigger than the norm, so my storage problems are probably worse than the the typical fan or collector will encounter. In any case, I thought you might be interested in how I store my collection. Beyond the bagging and the boxing, if you just store your collection in any old nook and cranny you'll have trouble tracking the stuff down when it's time to reread or sell.

I keep track of all my daily runs, and most of my Sundays, with a database. I use an older version of Paradox because I'm comfortable with it, but any decent database program will do just fine for tracking a collection. For dailies I track pretty much the same information as I write on the bag labels (title, date range, count, and source paper), plus I add the size (in newspaper columns), what I paid for it, and any notes about the run, including condition if there are any problems.

For Sundays I track the title of each strip, the date, the newspaper, the format (full, half, third, tab, etc.), number of colors (in case the sheet is not printed in full four color), the topper strip if there is one, condition problems if there are any, and the strip title that appears on the reverse. I include that last piece of information because I regularly resell Sundays and I want to make sure that I don't resell a strip that has something rare on the reverse, or offer to sell a minor strip for a couple dollars only to find that there's something very valuable on the other side.

In both my Sunday and daily databases I have an additional field that tells me where the given item is stored. As you have seen, I store my Sundays in the boxes described yesterday. On each box I simply write a unique number, then as I buy Sunday tearsheets and put them in the current box I'm filling, I add the Sundays to the database with that box number referenced. Then if I need to retrieve a Sunday I just have one box to check.

You may not like this system because you end up with boxes that contain a mish-mosh of material. And that's certainly going to be the case. Every one of my boxes contains a miscellany of material, usually with something from every decade of the previous century, all rubbing elbows with each other. But I'm okay with this because it would be a huge job to try to keep all of a given title or even era or genre together. In fact, I once tried to do exactly that when I started collecting Sundays, but it became apparent quickly that I could end up spending all my time just doing the drudge work of categorizing and filing material into a vast array of boxes. And it really would be an impossible task, anyway. If you keep a box for your Terry And The Pirates, say, and another box for your Steve Canyons, what do you do when you get a batch of tearsheets that have the two strip together? And if you think the chances of that are awfully slim, let me pass on to you Allan's Rule of Sundays - Sundays of a Feather Flock Together; in other words, junk gets backed with junk, and the rare and collectible get backed with the rare and collectible. It's a rule with exceptions, but it's pretty damnably and eerily accurate.



In figures 43 and 44 you see my Sunday storage boxes all snug in their storage area. I used to just stack the boxes up on top of each other in a big pile, but that was a real pain when I had to get at a box a dozen down from the top of the stack. Luckily I found a storage system that is absolutely perfect, and, believe it or not, absolutely free! These are bakery tray carts from the supermarket. I happened to find several of them out for the garbage behind a local grocery store and immediately saw their potential. You see, where each of the bakery racks can slide on to the cart, I instead can slide a stack of two of my boxes. The typical cart can hold about 30 boxes, and as a further bonus they have wheels so you can move your entire collection at a moment's notice.

Now before anyone accuses me of stealing bakery carts, I swear to you that these were out at the grocery store's dumpster ready to be hauled away. Why I don't know, other than that some were slightly banged up, and some had sticky wheels (fixed in a jiffy with some WD-40). Since my first discovery of the bakery carts, I keep my eyes peeled and am amazed at how often a cart or two is out at the dumpster. What are those people doing to their bakery carts?


Dailies I keep in banker's boxes; the ones that have a drawer that pulls out the front. I recommend somewhat smaller boxes then the ones I use unless you have a really big collection. With the quantity I store, though, the big boxes are more practical. Just like I do with the Sunday boxes, I number the banker's boxes and record that number in my database of daily strip runs for all the dailies that go in that box. Again as with Sundays, I don't really try to keep particular titles together in these boxes. I just fill them as I buy material, whatever it might be. Figure 45 shows the storage area for my dailies, 46 shows one of the boxes. The shelving units are necessary because these banker's boxes are not sturdy enough to be stacked more than four high.

And that's the end of my rather extended series on storing a comic strip tearsheet collection. Hope you've enjoyed it!

Comments:
Question for you: What would a collection (100) of George Clark comic strips be worth? Anything? please let me know. Thanks for your time...T
 
Sorry T, I don't do appraisals. You can figure out the value of most anything these days by watching for similar stuff on eBay for awhile.

--Allan
 
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Thursday, February 16, 2006

 

Part VI - Storing Sunday Comic Strips

Yesterday we did the classroom work on storing Sundays, today we go into the lab and get to the practical side.

Let's start with bagging. I'll be honest and admit that I bag very few of my Sunday comics. I should but I don't. Two reasons; first of all, the bags are very large so they get a bit pricey, especially at the rate I'd be using them. Even cheap polypropylene at the size needed (20" x 30" for full sheets) costs 15 to 25 cents per bag. There's a lot of Sundays that really aren't worth all that much more than the price of the bag. Second, I find that the large bags needed to store full newspaper pages are unwieldy and it is easy to damage the strips when trying to wrestle them into these monsters if you don't take great care.



I do have a trick that makes inserting Sundays into a bag a less risky and acrobatic proposition. All you need is a cardboard backer a little smaller than the size of the bag. Lay your Sunday section or page on the board (figure 23). Then lay the board on a flat surface, and get one end started into the bag (figure 24). Then lift the combination and slide the bag up along the board (figure 25). Now just pull the board back out of the bag, leaving the Sunday inside (figure 26, 27). To make this even easier, use 4 mil bags - they don't cost much more, but they're much stiffer so they're easier to load and they provide good support to the contents.



This trick brings up the question of backer boards for Sundays like we use for dailies. They are available from Bags Unlimited (the size we'd want are marketed as "Rock & Personality Poster" backers - 20" x 28"), but they are quite expensive at about $2 apiece. I reserve these for very fragile and valuable items. Remember, if you're going to use backer boards, make sure to get acid-free.

The real challenge to storing Sundays, though, is not so much the bagging of individual pages or sections, but storing your collection so that you can access the material easily. As have many collectors when they started out, I used to store my Sundays in any old cardboard box I could find that had large enough dimensions so that the sheets could lay flat in the bottom. Trouble is, the boxes you find that can handle a Sunday laying flat in the bottom are usually huge boxes, the sort of thing that a refrigerator comes in.

Tall boxes really don't work well because as your collection grows, not only do the boxes get very heavy, but finding a particular Sunday in such a large pile of material gets to be a major chore. What I wanted were short boxes big enough to handle even the biggest jumbo Sunday page (up to 20" x 30"), preferably with a lid that can be removed (rather than having to deal with flaps). Many moons ago I found the perfect thing. Kodak used to make a lovely thin box of the proper dimensions. They were for storing large scale negatives; the ones used in some printing processes. Unfortunately, even 20 years ago Kodak no longer made the product or the box, so I was stuck with only a few of these perfect storage boxes.

I spent several years looking for alternatives and found nothing. I finally resigned myself to the idea that the boxes would have to be custom made. However, being the cheapskate that I am, I wasn't about to go pay someone to build custom boxes, especially in the quantity I need. Enter my Dad, about as handy a guy as you're ever likely to meet. I challenged him to come up with something that fit my requirements. He did, and now he'll walk you through the steps of building the perfect Sunday comic storage box. I photographed him making one of his masterpieces.

The raw material for the boxes are large pieces of flat corrugated cardboard stock. You'll need pieces that are a minimum of 24" x 32". It takes two pieces of that size to make one box (base and lid). You can get cardboard flats through most shipping supply companies, including Uline. However, the shipping on large pieces of cardboard can get pretty expensive, so if you can find a local supplier you'll probably save quite a bit. Check the Yellow Pages under Cardboard, Boxes, or Shipping Supplies.



The tools you'll need to build your own storage boxes are shown in figures 28 and 29. You'll need a box-cutter, a square or some other straightedge, a tape measure, a medium size Phillips screwdriver, packing tape, glue, a pencil and a set of four (or better yet, eight) clamps. You can substitute clothespins or the like for the clamps in a pinch (ha!).

First you'll need to cut the cardboard to size. Cut one piece to 31" x 24 1/4"and the other to 30 1/2" x 23 3/4". The first one will become the lid, the second the base. Mark the cardboard using your tape measure, then place your square and cut along it (figure 30). If you're the forgetful type, like me, mark the pieces to indicate which is the base and the lid. You'll need to keep that straight while building the box.

Now that you've got the cardboard cut to the correct dimensions, you're going to form the vertical sides of the box.
On the piece that is to become the lid, make marks 1 1/2" in from the edge along all four edges. On the base, do the same, but make your marks 2" in from the edges (figure 31).



Now put your square or straightedge along each of these lines you made and run the Phillips screwdriver along the lines (figure 32). You'll want to press firmly when doing this. You are trying to put a deep score in the cardboard. The Phillips screwdriver will make a rather wide and messy looking score line, but we found that this method works best - a thin score doesn't fold up nearly as well. Figure 33 shows what the scores should look like.



Once you've got all eight scores completed (four on each piece, that is), the next step is to use your box-cutter to cut tabs at each of the corners. Figure 34 shows the cutting of a tab. Make only one cut at each corner. You don't want to cut off those little squares, just free one side of them. Figure 35 shows what you're trying to do. Now this is really important. Cut the scores in one direction on the base, the other direction on the lid. In other words, if you cut along the long edge on the base, cut along the short edge on the lid. If you make the same cuts on both pieces the lid won't fit well on the box.


Once your cuts are made, fold the tabs up as shown in figure 35. Then fold up the entire length of the scores along all the score lines as shown in figure 36. Work the fold back and forth a bit so that it's relatively happy about staying in a vertical position. If you don't make these creases so that they stay vertical, the final result will not fit together very well.




Now take your glue and put a daub on the outside edge of each of the tabs (figure 37). Don't slather on a whole bunch of glue - it's not necessary and will just take longer to dry. After gluing each tab, stick the glued side to the adjacent vertical. Get it nice and square and clamp the two pieces together, as shown in figure 38. You may end up with a little bit of the tab sticking up past the edge of the adjacent vertical. No problem - you can trim that off with the box-cutter after the joint is dry. Figure 39 shows our piece all clamped up. Set each piece aside and wait for the glue to dry - about 10-15 minutes.


Once the glue is dry take the clamps off. For a little extra strength in the corners, tape each edge on the outside (figure 40). Use wide packing tape so that you can fold some of it inside the box. Not only does this strengthen the box, the smooth surface also makes the lid mate more smoothly with the base.

If you don't plan to bag your Sundays be sure to lay a bag in the bottom of the box. We don't want newspaper touching the cardboard. Figures 41 and 42 show the completed box, ready to start storing your collection.



Reading through these instructions you may think building a box is a pretty big job, but it's a lot easier in practice than it is to explain. The whole process of building a box takes no more than a half-hour or so once you've done a few. My dad was able to build the one you see in the photos in about 45 minutes, and that was with me stopping him constantly to take pictures and write down the steps. And of course the process becomes a lot more streamlined if you build a whole batch of boxes all at the same time, which is the way he normally does it.

Tomorrow we'll finish off this series with a quick tour of my storage area plus a few words about how I keep track of the items in my collection. If you have any suggestions or concerns that you think should be incorporated into this series, now would be a great time to let me know. Also, I'd love to hear about and pass along any hints, tips and techniques you use for storing your collection. Unlike most collecting categories, there are no real tried-and-true, set in stone methods for storing a comic strip tearsheet collection. I'm sure a lot of you have developed your own techniques for dealing with the problems of storing tearsheets.

Tomorrow: Part VII - Storing and Tracking a Large Collection

Comments:
While at the Octoberfest in my area Sunday, Oct. 8th, 2006 I came across a booth of a furniture maker. He was exceptionally good. I saw chests and dressers but I was particularly thrilled to see
a blueprint cabinet. You don't see those any more. They are excellent for storing flat art work
or in your case newspaper pages. I think this man could build what you want in a storage unit but I've always wanted an old blueprint
file. He was also very reasonable and his work was very attractive with a Quaker woodworking quality.
If interested his card info is:
THE WOODCHUCK
Charles Boyd
940-659-3567
charlieboyd@yahoo.com
1529 Teichmann Rd.
Gordon, TX
Trunks, chests, etc.
I couldn't afford his cabinet but I'm keeping his card.
 
After many years of reading this I finally took the plunge and decided it was time to make my own boxes. Hope they turn out ok. Now where is the glue......
 
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Wednesday, February 15, 2006

 

Part V - Storing Sunday Comics, A Preamble

When storing Sunday comics we try to play by the same rules as we do for dailies. Cool, dry and dark are still our top priorities, and limiting air circulation is a close runner-up.

Sundays should be stored flat and unfolded. I've heard of some collectors who like to roll them up and put them in tubes, but I find that comics stored that way can easily get damaged when they are inserted and removed from storage. Long-term storage in a tube also leaves the paper with a permanant curl that is not only unattractive but makes them a real pain to read.

When newspapers come off the press they are folded on the page gutters. This fold goes along with the grain of the newspaper and is the only fold you should allow when storing newspapers. The secondary fold that most full-size papers get for delivery and display on newstands (the one that limits us to seeing the top half of the front page) is across the grain and we want to store newspapers without that fold.

If you're not familiar with the idea that newspaper has a grain, you can easily see it for yourself. Try tearing a piece of newspaper long ways (perpendicular to the lines of type). The paper will tear easily in a straight line. Now try tearing the other way - you get a messy jagged line. Much like the wood that the paper is made from, paper folds and separates with ease along its grain, while cutting against the grain is a much harder and messier proposition.

The secondary fold is made across the newspaper grain, and it damages the internal structure that holds the paper together along that crease. We don't want to perpetuate that fold because as the newspaper ages, the paper along that line, already weakened, gets weakens at an even faster pace. When we handle a newspaper that has been stored using the secondary fold for a long period, that line will tear as soon as it gets any undue stress. I have lots of vintage Sundays that look to be in nice condition, but because they were stored for years doubled over like that (before I got them, of course) I have to use the utmost care in opening them to keep the paper at that fold from just letting go.

Another issue is clipping Sunday strips. It is quite common for collectors and fans to clip a Sunday section so that they can store each different strip title separately. This may be convenient, but from the standpoint of preservation it is an unfortunate practice. You may have heard historians talking about "losing the context" of some artifact. Admittedly we aren't dealing with pottery shards from ancient Greece, but the root problem is the same. By splitting a Sunday section into its component parts we lose some of the intrinsic value of the object.

I have plenty of rare Sunday comic strips in my collection that I bought already clipped, and I have no way to learn more about them. If I had a complete section I'd be able to tell what date it was printed, what city it came from, which paper printed it, perhaps which syndicate supplied the comic strips. An isolated comic strip with no date, newspaper name or other identifying information is the equivalent in comic strip history to Egyptian hieroglypics with no Rosetta Stone.

Now to be pragmatic about this issue, I realize that many collectors only care about certain favorite strips, and they prefer just to buy a run of that title. They really don't want to be saddled with complete sections when they only care about one portion of one page. So, with commerce being king, comic sections are going to be clipped to resell individual strips. However, I can say from watching the market that there is a growing interest in complete sections, and they are fetching better and better prices, sometimes more than the sum of their parts. Fans are starting to recognize that complete comic sections are an interesting and valuable historical snapshot of a time and a place. Early Sunday sections, especially those from before the 1920s, have long fetched much higher prices complete than in parts, and the trend is slowly turning the same way on more recent vintages.

My suggestion, then, is that whenever possible you should keep your sections complete. You may find that somewhere down the road, if and when you decide to sell material from your collection, that the extra storage space needed was a small price to pay for the eventual reward.

Tomorrow we'll start dealing with the more practical aspects of storing Sunday comics.

Tomorrow: Part 6 - Storing Sunday Comics

Comments:
Allan, are you at this time able to post the rare and unusual comics you have. Us comic collecting freaks, if we know anything, would be able to help shead some light and hopefuly be able to offer much needed assistance.
 
I'm posting that mystery material as I encounter it (see the post on The Doonks from last week, for instance). Any information you folks can share on any of the obscure material that I post is, of course, very welcome.

If you want a real challenge, I'll try to dig up a list I started a few years ago of titles that appeared in the E&P syndicate directories but that I haven't been able to verify through my research.

I posted the list on the CSC awhile back and got no response at all, so these are definitely toughies.
 
Yes, please post the list and any information that you know of, if you are able to. I really like the blog you do and it's so cool to see what you have that allot of us may not know about. I am sure there are a few people who don't do the e-mail grops and won't see the see that information and might be able to help. Also, thank you so much for the hard work you do to post this blog. The very helpful tips the past week or so are awesome. This is alot of helpful information, I really need to get my collection in order too.
 
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Tuesday, February 14, 2006

 

Part IV - More About Bagging Daily Comics

Yesterday I walked you through the process I use for bagging my daily comic strips. The method I outlined there applies to most situations, but there are some cases that call for a slightly modified procedure.





The first problem situation is shown in figure 11. If I bagged this daily run in the smallest bag I could, I would end up with a small air pocket along the edge. This is a bad situation because we want to get as much air out as possible, and this little void along the edge defeats that purpose. So I dump that bag and go with the next bigger size (see figure 12). This bag has a lot of extra room, but we'll take care of that. I fold over the excess, making sure to make the fold tight against the edge of the strips (figure 13) and then securely tape this fold. I snug the fold up as tight as I can without warping the strips, then tape first in the middle, then tape the two ends (figure 14). I then cut off the excess at the open end and tape the bag shut as usual. While this procedure could probably be done with the smaller bag, I find that trying to fold over and tape such a tiny excess is a lot harder to do and rarely comes out looking decent.

The second situation comes about when bagging either very fragile material or a very small count of strips. If we bag these as normal we end up with a very limp floppy package, and we can easily damage the strips in handling. A typical example of a short run of large dailies is shown in figure 15.
This short run of strips from the mid-1910s are brown and a bit brittle, so I want them to protect them better than just a bag can. Here we take a cue from the comic book collectors and use backer boards. With all the different sizes of strips we might deal with, we may need a lot of different sizes of backer boards. I solve the problem by buying the largest size I might need (18" x 12", which, by the way, works for tabloid Sundays as well), as shown in figure 16, and then cut the boards down as needed (usually I get two or more backers out of each sheet, even with very large dailies).

Since I typically use backer boards with more valuable dailies, I make sure that the boards I buy are made with acid-free coated stock. These cost more than your basic dime-store poster board, but I think it's worth it for the peace of mind that you don't have something acidic touching your strips, slowly but surely burning them into brittle oblivion. I buy my backer boards from Bags Unlimited (http://www.bagsunlimited.com), but similar products are available through artist and framing supply shops. I pay about 75 cents per sheet.

Because I want the backer boards to fit snugly in my bags, I cut them just shy of the size of the bags, not to the size of the strips. I find I rarely need them on small strips, so I only keep a supply of 5", 6" and 7" wide backers that fit into my larger bags. Cutting the boards down to size on a table saw about ten or so at a time works pretty good, and there's minimal fraying to the edges. If you don't have access to a saw, your local printing company has a wonderful cutting machine about the size of an Escalade, and they'll be happy to cut a batch for you for a small price. You may also have to occasionally cut custom sizes, but a ruler and a box-cutter make short work of these sheets. Figure 17 shows the completed job with the backing board in the bag protecting the dailies.


This takes care of all the basics of bagging dailies. However, if you're a real stickler for a professional looking job, and the idea of folding bags just won't cut it with you, there's one more option you can consider - customizing bags to your needs. This is not really quite as big a deal as it might sound at first blush, but there is a pretty hefty initial outlay for equipment. Figure 18 shows a device called a heat sealer. These cost, depending on the size you buy, anywhere from about $50-$150. The size I have (18") is at the high end of that range, and you'll need one that long if you plan to work with large dailies. Heat sealers are available from Bradley's, Uline and other companies that specialize in bags and packaging materials. The one I use I particularly like because it's portable (most heat sealers are meant to sit on a bench, and you bring the work to them), I bought it from Art Marko at National Shrinkwrap. They sell a great product, and their instructional videos do a good job of bringing you right up to speed on the use of the equipment.

The heat sealer is a pretty simple device. Inside the main body of the sealer is a wire, and when you activate the sealer it gets red hot. When you press the sealer down on a piece of plastic it makes a clean cut in it. If you press it down on two pieces laying on top of one another, it not only cuts it but seals the two pieces together. This is the magic that allows you to create bags of virtually any custom size you need.



I don't recommend that you make customized bags from scratch. It is much simpler to take the bags you have and resize them to fit your needs. That way you only have to make one new seal, not three. Let's walk through the process. First I take a bag, preferably a good deal larger than what I need, lay it on the set of dailies and mark the size I need (figure 19). Don't forget that the bag must be a bit larger than the dailies since there is a thickness component to consider. I mark my line with a Uni-Ball micro pen - these thin marker pens mark well on plastic while most regular ballpoints do not.

Then I carefully line up the sealer on my line and press it down to cut and seal a new edge on the bag (figure 20). Never do this with the strips inside the bag - you'll burn the edges. The newly resized bag is shown in figure 21, and you can also see in the background that you get a second small bag out of the process (bonus!). Also you can see the smoke wafting through the picture - this is normal. The heat sealer is burning the plastic off of its wire element.

If you measured and cut well, your strips will fit like a glove in the newly made custom bag (figure 22). Once you've got the strips in, you'll probably feel the urge to use the sealing tool again to seal the fourth side. Don't do it! You can't get a tight fit without burning the edges of your strips, and you don't want to be melting plastic right up against them. Seal the bags as normal with tape. Besides, if you seal it, you'll need to build a new bag any time you get a hankering to reread the strips!

Tomorrow: Part 5 - Storing Sunday Comics

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Monday, February 13, 2006

 

Part III - Bagging Daily Comics

Daily comic strips come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, so I keep a supply of a lot of different sizes of plastic bags on hand. For bagging daily runs I keep all the following sizes:

2" x 18"
3" x 18"
4" x 18"
5" x 18"
6" x 18"
7" x 18"
8" x 18"

I buy the longest bags I can (18"), then just snip off the extra that I don't need. That allows me to use the same limited assortment of bags to store newer small dailies and the gargantuan ones from the 1910s. I can also store panel comics, which can be as small as the one column variety at less than 2", to giant 4 and 5 column panel cartoons.

There are many companies that sell plastic bags. Some specialize in servicing collectors and they charge a premium. I buy mine from one of the many bag companies that caters to businesses. Businesses, especially manufacturers, buy polyethylene bags in bulk for packaging their products. The bags are made out of the same material as the ones you would buy from a collectors' supply house. There are three differences between a 'manufacturer' bag and a collector's bag. A manufacturer bag typically does not have a flap at the top - the two sides are cut flush. This makes no difference to me because I will be cutting off one end anyway, so I'd lose the flap if it was there. Second, manufacturer bags often have a short plastic tail below the bottom seal. Collector bags are usually cut flush to the seal. A meaningless difference in my opinion. Third, manufacturer bags are most readily available in 2 millimeter and 4 millimeter thicknesses, whereas collector bags are typically 3 millimeter. I actually prefer the 2 mil to the 3 mil because of the way I seal my bags (more on that shortly). The 4 mil thickness, while it may offer more protection and perhaps durability (?), I find too stiff to work with using my method for daily strip storage.

I buy my storage bags from Uline (http://www.uline.com) and from Bradley's Plastic Bag Company (http://www.bradleybag.com), but there are plenty of other suppliers. Just to give you an idea of how cheap the bags are priced, the latest Bradley's catalog lists the 2 mil 4" x 18" size at $1.87 per hundred. Obviously keeping yourself supplied with bags will not break the bank.


In figure 1 you see an assortment of the storage bags and other materials I use for bagging dailies. Nothing exotic or expensive here. One item of special note is the sheet of labels. I label every bagged daily run with the title, the dates, the count and the source newspaper. Figure 2 shows a close-up. The labels I use are 2 5/8" x 1" and come in sheets of 30 labels. The sheets come blank, of course, and I just run them through my printer to add the text to all the labels on the sheet. Then I hand write the specifics about each daily run as I bag it. Of course, there's no need to use a special label, you can just write the information on a scrap of paper and insert it in the bags with the strips.

Okay - let's bag a typical run of dailies. Here I have a run that I bought from another collector, a 2 month run of Jane Arden dailies. I start by counting them (figure 3) - even if the previous owner provided a count, I always verify it. You'll find when counting newspaper dailies that your fingers will quickly get loaded up with gunk, which makes it hard to separate the sheets. I put a little bit of SortKwik, available at office supply stores, on my fingers (figure 4). It makes them a bit tacky and separating the sheets is much easier. I admit that I worry about the residue, minute though it might be, that I may be leaving on the tearsheets. However, I find that I just can't be sure of an accurate count without it. A safer alternative are the little rubber 'condom' things that you can put on your fingers - these would be safe, but with my big ham hands they don't fit very well.

One quick aside before we go on. Notice that the strips I'm bagging in the photo are cut so that there is a reasonable gutter area outside the strip itself (kind of chintzy along the bottom, actually). If you are clipping strips yourself, be sure to leave some room around the strips - never clip them right to the panel borders. Many collectors, myself included, won't buy strips that have been clipped without a gutter. This is not just because of our delicate aesthetic sensibilities. Paper, as noted earlier, ages most quickly along the edges, so if a strip is clipped right at the panel borders aging results in the edges of the strip turning brown, and eventually brittle. With a gutter around the clips, even if they age badly we will still have the strips themselves in decent condition - the gutters will bear the brunt of the aging process. Okay, back to bagging...

Once the strips are counted and I've filled out the label, I next determine which bag they'll best fit in (figure 5). A simple matter of checking sizes and picking the smallest size. I try to get a tight fit (remember - we're trying to get as little air in there as possible), but if I can't get a good tight fit with the bag sizes I have, I may actually go up one extra size over the minimum. I'll expand on this point in part 4. The Jane Arden strips fit snugly in a 2" bag.

Once I put the strips in the bag I cut off all the excess plastic except for about an inch or so (figure 6). I then press out as much air from the bag as possible, and fold over the cut edge. I do a 'Christmas present' fold (figure 7) because I find that this seems to seal the bag better and keep air from seeping back in. Note that I have a piece of tape at the ready on the end of a finger. This way I can immediately seal the bag, not giving that darn air any chance at re-entry (figure 8).

Here's the final product, from the front (figure 9) and the back (figure 10). I always put the label on the back so I can see the whole top strip.

Tomorrow: Part 4 - More About Bagging Dailies

Comments:
I'm loving the posts at this time on how to bag your strips. this is awesome information, thank you so much. As for the bags, what do you by from uline, I have never purchased anything from them and don't know much about them. Also another thing have you ever been to www.bagsunlimited.com I bought book sleeves from them about 5 years ago and have not seen what they offer for comics. Keep up the awesome work.
 
Bags Unlimited has good products, but they're much more expensive since they are serving the collector market. They also have a very limited selection of bag sizes. I do buy from them, but only items I can't get at Uline or Bradley's (specifically, acid-free backer boards, which I can't find elsewhere).

As to what I buy from Uline, that's covered in the post. 2 mil polyethylene bags in the sizes listed.

Best, Allan
 
Hi there,

I just thought it may be of some interest to you to know, a while back i came across a british labels company who sold me a batch of plain labels at a really low price. If you are at all interested then it may be worth visiting their website so see if you could save some money on your labels.
 
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Sunday, February 12, 2006

 

Storing Comic Strips Part II - Another Enemy of Newsprint


In addition to minding the 'big three' factors discussed yesterday, there is one more thing you can do to help your newspaper keep its youthful complexion. Newsprint that is kept away from circulating air seems to age far slower. The less exposure to air the better. If you look at an old bound volume of newspapers, or just an old book printed on cheap pulp paper, you'll find that the outer page edges are much browner than the page bodies. The difference seems to be that the middles of the pages weren't exposed to air. In a tightly closed book, everything except the page edges gets no air circulation - apparently this is an environment hostile to the agents of paper deterioration.

So to give your newspapers an even longer life you can eliminate, or at least limit, the amount of air circulation to which they are exposed. The basic way to do this is simplicity itself - just stack your newspaper tearsheets in a pile. This protects them almost as if they were bound like a book.

You can very easily go one better than the 'book' method of storage, which still leaves the outer edges exposed to air, by tightly bagging your newspapers to eliminate the air circulation all but completely. But once we consider bagging our newspapers, we hit the $64,000 question - which materials are suitable for bagging newsprint? If the bagging material reacts chemically with the newspaper, we could be causing much more harm to our precious cargo than we are trying to avoid in the first place.

Archivists tell us that the ideal material for bagging newsprint is Mylar. We are told that it is totally chemically inert and thus cannot react with the contents. I don't doubt that they are right. There's just one little problem - the stuff costs an arm and a leg. I suppose if you are trying to protect some rare and valuable 1890s Yellow Kid pages that it is reasonable to shell out the big bucks for Mylar. But 99.9% of newspaper comics are simply not worth that kind of investment. They're scarce, yes, valuable ... not so much.

Instead I use good old reliable polyethylene plastic bags. They cost mere pennies per bag and come in a practically infinite variety of sizes. Now I've read the reports (mostly from companies selling Mylar ... hmmm) that claim the plastic 'outgasses' nasty chemicals that will supposedly destroy my precious collection, but I can only tell you what I have learned from personal experience. I have plenty of newspapers that I placed in polyethylene bags as long as thirty years ago, and to my eyes the paper inside has not aged one bit in that period.

I will admit that I have seen old polyethylene bags that have not aged gracefully - some have a tendency to get a bit cloudy or yellow, and I've even found a few that have gotten slightly tacky to the touch (but on the outside only). When I find one of these I just remove the newspaper, toss the bag and substitute a new one. I've never seen the bag yet that has actually done any visible damage to its contents.

Before we go on, a few words on other storage methods. First of all, please don't paste or tape your comic strips into albums. The glue that comes in contact with the newspaper will usually turn it brown. Besides, if and when you decide to sell your comic strips you'll find that most collectors won't buy strips that have tape or glue on them. Same goes for laminating - most collectors want nothing to do with laminated newspapers, and rightly so. Lamination is irreversible, and the process, which involves high heat, is terribly damaging to newsprint. Not only that, but studies have shown that lamination does pretty much nothing to protect newsprint - it continues to age unabated inside that plastic shell.

It's also probably not a good idea to put your comic strips in those photo albums with the sticky clear plastic overlays. While I don't have any personal long-term experience with the effects of this storage method on newsprint, I have seen photos in such albums that have been damaged through a reaction between the photographic emulsion and the plastic overlay. If those albums can hurt photos, they can probably hurt newsprint too.

It is also a bad idea to store unbagged comic strips in cardboard boxes. Most cardboard is highly acidic, so much so that it can chemically burn paper that touches it. Cardboard is fine if the the strips are bagged, or if the cardboard is lined with some more innocuous material.

Tomorrow: Part 3 - Bagging Daily Comics

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