A strange thought struck me this week. I have read a lot of comic books. Being that I’m a comic book collector that doesn’t seem like such a strange thought but it really is. When I say I’ve read a lot of comics what I mean is that you’d have to work hard to find a person who has read more comic books than I have. That didn’t use to be the case but now I think it is and that’s what a just realized.

When I was growing up in the 1970s I collected comics (I consider 1976 to be my official collecting staring point) and so did a few of my neighbors. Lots of kids read comics at the time but fewer did as we grew older. By the time I graduated high school I probably knew no more than half a dozen people who collected comics. We had all probably read the same amount of comics whatever that amount was.

When I went off to college my major was art so I met more comic book fans. By the time I graduated I knew at least another ten comic book fans and, though many of them didn’t buy as many comic books as they once did, we probably all read around the same number of comics. We were all about the same age and had read a lot of the same ones.

After college I worked in the offices of Marvel Comics. There almost everyone read comics. And they read a lot of them. Being that I was only about 22 years old there were a whole bunch of people who had been reading comics for a lot longer than me. I never thought of myself as being a person who had read a lot of comics while I was there. Especially since I hadn’t been reading many Marvel comics for a few years at that point. There were people there who were reading and had read every Marvel comic. That’s a lot of comics.

A lot of time has passed since my Marvel days. It’s been almost thirteen years since I last worked there. Because of Facebook and the internet I’m still in touch with a lot of the people who I used to work with and many of them are my friends. We all have comics in common. But the strange thing is that a lot of them really don’t keep up with comics anymore. They occasionally buy and read some but mostly don’t. Meanwhile I have kept on buying and reading comics. That means the number of comics I’ve read has been steadily growing over the years while a lot of other people’s number hasn’t.

Since I consider my comic collecting to have started in 1976 that means I’ve been collecting comics for forty two years. That’s a long time. I’ve had a pull list (a pull list is where a comic shop sets aside the comics you pre-order for you to pick up every week) at a local comic book store since 1983. Before then I used to go to the local newsstand to buy my comics every week. Most of my comic book friends haven’t had a pull list in a least ten years.

At a conservative estimate of five comic books a week times forty two years means I’ve read just short of 11,000 new comic books. Those are fresh off the stands copies and don’t count back issues, collected editions, borrowed copies, and now digital comics. So 11,000 is now my starting point for having read a lot of comics. How many people have that big a number? But as I said that’s just the starting point.

I know that number is an underestimation because my database tells me that my current collection stands at about 11,500 comics and I’ve gotten rid of thousands of comics over the years. I think my collection peaked out at about 15,000 comic books years ago. Plus I actually read all those comic books. I watch comic book haul videos on YouTube and a lot of people buy comics that they either never intend to read or never get around to reading. Sometimes they buy then just to have them in their collection and sometimes they buy them with the intent to get around to reading them someday. Sometimes back issues are so cheap that a person buys them just for the hell of it. But not me. I’ve read every comic book I’ve bought.

Then there are the collected editions. I probably have a thousand of those on my shelves. They collect anywhere from five to ten copies of a comic. So that’s another five thousand comics I’ve read. I’ve gotten rid of a lot of collected editions over the years too. I’m still fairly new to digital but I’ve read a bunch of comics on my iPad over the last two years. Maybe five hundred of them. Once again that may be a low estimate.

It’s really that pull list number that made me realize I’ve read a lot of comics. I’ve bought comic books ever week for forty two years. Sure there were some weeks I couldn’t make it to the shop but since I had a pull list that meant I didn’t miss the issues. They held them for me until I could make it in.

So how could someone who hasn’t gone to the comic shop in the last twenty years have read as many comics as I have? They almost certainly haven’t. So a lot of the people who I knew at Marvel in the 1990s and who I then considered to have read at least as many if not more comic than me have a static number. Mine has kept growing steadily. It would be hard to catch up. I never even skipped a year like so many people I know have.

So that’s my strange realization for the week. I’ve read a lot of comic books. More than I realized.