INTERVIEW: 2015 Guinness World Record: Largest collection of comic books

Guinness2015_p172

CREDIT: Guinness World Records

“It’s in the record books”

A phrase I’ve heard numerous times in my life now it’s true about me, I’m on page 172 of the 2015 book!  From the Guinness Press Release:

Since the age of 8, Californian, Bob Bretall amassed 94,268 unique comic books as of May 1, 2014. Bretall’s collection weighs an estimated 8.3 tons – as much as 118 adult men! The 52-year old has said he will never sell any of his comics, and will “leave that to [his] kids when it becomes their inheritance to do with as they will” — though he hopes they will keep at least a few in remembrance!

NOTE: My record was updated with a new total in Aug 2015!

This has hit a bunch of web-sites around the internet, I’ve been tracking them on the ComicSpectrum site, but let me know if you see a mention somewhere that I’ve missed!

They didn’t publish the entire interview I did with them in the Press release I saw.  Since I have that information (I wrote it, after all) let me reproduce it here:

GUINNESS INTERVIEW:

I try to distinguish myself as a private collector, since there are people who own comic book businesses and are actively buying/selling comics who have far more comics than my 94,268 (actually 1000 or so more since I did my record verification with Guinness on May 1, 2014).

A comic dealer has inventory, in my opinion, NOT a collection. My comics are not an asset of a store/business and I have actually read 90-95% of them. I also bought them as individual comics and not as bulk buys of “I will buy 100 long boxes of comics for pennies a comic” like many people who are in the business of comics do to build up their back-stock.

It is also useful to note that my record number of comics are all unique/different comics and does not count/include duplicates. When a store claims to have 1 million comics you can bet that there are a tremendous number of duplicate issues in that total and that total will continually go up & down as they sell inventory and then buy up comics to replenish that inventory. My number goes in only one direction. UP!

How old are you and where are you from?
I’m 52 and currently live in Mission Viejo, CA (about 60 miles south of Los Angeles). I was born in LA and have lived my entire life in Southern California.

What is your occupation?
I work at a software company that creates apps for mobile devices. I am in charge of all program management and software process. I have both a Bachelors and Masters degree in Computer Science.

When did your fascination with comic books – and collecting memorabilia – start?
8 years old. I had read the occasional comic book before I was 8, but it was at that age that I discovered my passion for comics and started collecting them every month.

What was the first comic book that started your collection?
Amazing Spider-Man #88 by Stan Lee (writer) and John Romita, Sr. (artist). I have not missed a month of buying comics since then (around July 1970).

What is the most expensive and valuable comic book you own?
Sorry. I do not like to emphasize the monetary aspects of collecting comics. Too many stories about comics collecting focus on how many $$ everything is worth instead of the great stories and characters. I do not do it for the money and I don’t try to rationalize it as an investment and I’m not into it to make money, I have a regular job that pays the bills just fine. I’m never going to sell any of my comics, I’ll leave that to my kids when it becomes their inheritance to do with as they will (though I hope they’ll keep at least a few of them as a remembrance).

What is your favorite comic book and one you could never part with?
I’m never parting with any of them, but my favorite is the one that started it all, Amazing Spider-Man #88. It’s actually a replacement copy, since I really thrashed the original copy I had when I was 8, reading it hundreds of times and cutting out the Spider-Man picture. The copy I have now has been in my collection since the early 1980s and I’ve had it autographed by both Stan Lee and John Romita, Sr.

Is there a particular comic book that you really want to own but don’t currently?
Amazing Fantasy #15, the 1st appearance of Spider-Man. I have every other appearance of Spider-Man except this one. Unfortunately, it’s too expensive at this point, I wish I had bought a copy 25 years ago.  I have plenty of reprint versions of this issue, but having an original would be nice.

Who is your favorite comic book character?
My favorite comic character of ALL TIME would have to be Spider-Man. Since he is the character who got me into collecting I have some loyalty to the character.
I would like to emphasize that there are a LOT of things besides super-hero comics out there. Only about 25% of the current comics I read are super-hero comics.

My favorite comic right now is Saga (from Image comics) by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples.  My current favorite Publisher is Image Comics, I get about 40 comics a month published by Image.
My top 12 comics at any given point in time can be found on my web-site here:
https://comicspectrum.com/Bobs_Top_Comics.html

And your worst?
There are no bad characters, only poorly executed stories. Any character can be great given the right creative team.

What is your favorite comic book film adaptation?
Avengers.  (Well, since I originally did this interview, Avengers has been replaced by Guardians of the Galaxy)

Where do you keep your comic book collection?
The bulk is in my garage. I have racks that hold all the comic boxes. I do keep some of it up in my comic book room. You can see pictures here (scroll about half way down the page):
https://comicspectrum.com/Bobs_Comic_Room.php

How do you keep track of your collection?
I use the ComicBase database software and have been for many years.  While there are lots of different collection programs out there, I find that this one works best for my collection of 95,000 comics and at this point I wouldn’t want to re-enter all those comics in another program!

As I read comics, I put them in a long box.  When that long box is filled it is alphabetized and entered into the database where we note which box any given comic is in.  This makes it fairly easy to find any comic in my collection using the database.  I use the software when we were verifying my collection for Guinness.  There were a lot of random books in my collection called out to verify that I really had all the comics I say I have.  “Show me Amazing Spider-Man #50”.  I’d go to the box it was supposed to be in, riffle through the books to the proper location in alphabetic order, and there it was!

Are you still collecting? When will you ever stop?
Yes, I currently buy 140+ new comics every month and also collect a variable number of back issues every month. You can see what I’m currently buying each month on my website here: https://comicspectrum.com/Bobs_Pull_List.html

In addition to my comics I have hundreds of comics-related statues on display in my comic room. I have over 300 Marvel comic busts from Bowen Designs and 100s of other assorted busts and statues from other manufacturers. I have 500+ action figures that are no longer on display and are in boxes in my garage. In addition to that I have numerous pages of original comic art, sketches, and other related items/toys. You can see a lot of this stuff in the pictures on the “Comic Room” link provided above.

What do your friends and family think to your collection?
My family is quite supportive of my hobby. My wife & I have been married for 29 years and she knew I was a comic book reader/collector from the time we started dating. She does not read comics, but helps me organize my collection. She actually enters all the comics into my comic book database each month after I have read them! That is love!
My two sons have grown up with comics their whole lives. My older son reads about 30 titles per month from what I buy and is a big fan of web-comics. My younger son is more of a manga/anime fan than of traditional American comics.
The majority of my friends are also comic book readers/collectors, so they’re generally just in awe of my collection.
I try to share my love for comics through my website (https://comicspectrum.com ) which is a “not for profit” hobby of mine. I know a LOT about comics, collecting, and the comics industry and I try to share as much information as I can with others.

How does it feel to make it into the Guinness World Records book?
It is AWESOME to be in the Guinness World Records book. Getting this record is the most extraordinary thing that has happened to me in my collecting career so far.
Whenever hear about a record like this, it’s very common for them to say “I know a guy who knows a guy who has WAY more comics”. My response is that records are made to be broken, and those people with more comics should be applying to Guinness to break my record! Just remember, you cannot count duplicate comics!!

And then there were additional questions asked on Facebook today on some of the threads talking about my record that I thought I’d take some time to answer here:

Look at how he treats his comics, they’re all over the floor (referring to the picture in the Guinness Press release)
Well, obviously I don’t keep my comics all over the floor!  That was staged for visual impact when the Guinness folks were at my house.  It took a while to get them all put back away after the Guinness folks left.  Also, my room is not painted the super-hero blue you see in the press release photo, that was added via photoshop for visual “pop”.

How do you find time to read 140+ comics every month?
It’s actually not very hard at all.  That breaks down to about 35-40 comics a week, which is 5 or 6 a day.  I read at least 2 or 3 every day (I write comic reviews on the ComicSpectrum review Blog so need to keep up on stuff).  I also catch up on comics reading on the weekends.  It’s easy for me to read 20+ on a Saturday.
Look at it this way, I can read 40 comics(what I read in a week)  in about the same amount of time that it takes to watch 2 football games (and I don’t watch football).  Nobody every asks a sports fan how in the world they can manage to find the time to watch a couple of football games each weekend!!
I’m not knocking people who watch sports. If that is enjoyable to you it’s a great use of your time. Reading comics is enjoyable to me & I use the time I don’t spend watching football to read my massive pile of comics.

But 140+ books a month, how do you keep all those storylines straight in your head?
Good question!  The main thing that helps here is that I try to read a lot of variety.  I found that when I was reading a lot more super-hero books that the stories all started blending together in my head.  That’s not to say they are all the same, Charles Soule’s She Hulk is very different from Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye, and that helps me keep them straight.  So, in addition to trying to read super-hero books that each have a very different “voice” to the storytelling, I read many genres of indie books.  Brian K. Vaughan’s Saga, Matt Kindt’s Mind Mgmt, Brian Wood’s The Massive, Ed Brubaker’s The Fade Out. Terry Moore’s Rachel Rising.  These are all so different that I have no trouble at all keeping them straight in my head.

Do you collect trades?
Of course.  I have almost all of the Marvel Masterworks and DC Archives,  Another Rainbow’s Carl Barks Library and Russ Cochran’s Complete EC Library ans 100s of others.  I prefer hardcovers nowadays.

How/where do you spend all that money on comics?
First, I get a pretty good deal on my new comics from Discount Comic Book Service.  I’ve been with them for 9 years and they’ve been great to me.  I also visit a local shop in Orange County, CA – Comics Toons N’ Toys – pretty much every week.  They have a fabulous selection of new comics, they carry pretty much everything that comes out and offer a discount off cover price on every new comic sold!  I talk about a lot of the places to buy back issues (that I buy every month) on the ComicSpectrum site.
Second, I have been collecting for 44 years, this collection didn’t appear overnight.  When my kids were little and money was tight I was absolutely not buying 140 comics per month.  I cut back to probably 20 or so titles for a number of years.  Providing for my family has always come first.  But now, with one son out of college & in the workforce and the other nearing college graduation, I have the luxury of being able to buy more comics.  I don’t spend money on a lot of other stuff, this is what I enjoy.

Is your collection insured?
Absolutely!  http://www.collectinsure.com/

Do you buy bags & boards every week?
I buy them by the 1000 about every 3 months (It’s a bit cheaper that way) .  You can check out my blog with more info on bags/boards/boxes here.

Collecting is for fun not a competition!
I agree. I stumbled into this record when I realized that Guinness World Records had not yet created a category for largest comics collection.  I didn’t set out to have this big a collection when I was 8.
I submitted, did all the necessary work documenting & verifying my collection and am the 1st person to hold this particular record with Guinness.
I fully expect someone to surpass me, but do the work!  Don’t just shout out on internet message boards that “I have more comics than that guy”

NOTE: My record was updated with a new total in Aug 2015!

Other Questions?  Post a comment below!

Bob Bretall: bob@comicspectrum.com
https://comicspectrum.com/ Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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8 Responses to INTERVIEW: 2015 Guinness World Record: Largest collection of comic books

  1. Pingback: 60th Anniversary – 2015 Guinness World Record: Largest collection of comic books | ComicSpectrum News

  2. John Elder says:

    Way to go Bob! I like your attitude.

  3. Pingback: The World’s Biggest Comic Book Collection – 2015 Guinness World Record | WitComics

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  6. Gabriel Lowe says:

    How and where do you get comics so quickly and how much do you think an original comic of the spiderman annual would be? Including a daredevil and another spiderman comic? That’s so cool how you have so many comics I’ve been collecting since 5 years old but you are amazing!😀

    • Gabriel, not sure what you mean by “how & where do I get comics so quickly”, if you could clarify that question I’d be happy to try and answer. In general, I’ve been collecting for 45 years, so the amount of comics I have were not really amassed that quickly, but over the course of many many years.

      Re: The cost of specific back issues. These are going to vary widely in cost depending on the grade you are looking for and the place you buy from. I have some guidance on places where you can find what people are selling back issues for on the ComicSpectrum website… look here: http://comicspectrum.com/Buying_Back_Issues.html

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