According to Paul O’Connor, when a story is told visually with words and pictures, it engages your senses by harnessing the power of your imagination in a way only a few novels and films can match. This experience is what led Paul to dive deep into the world of comic books and become the mastermind behind the successful blog, Longbox Graveyard. But now, with decades of new and old content, characters and stories, how does Paul store, discover, and bring these senses to life? The answer is Pinterest.
Can you give us a background? How did you get introduced to comics and then pursue it as a serious hobby?
As noted in my very first entry on my blog, Longbox Graveyard, the “Golden Age” of everything is “twelve”. I first discovered comics when I was twelve, and the hobby took deep root right from the beginning. I drifted in and out of comics several times in the years that followed, only to return more committed than ever before, founding my blog to chronicle my attempt to pare down my comics “accumulation” into a “collection,” while also coming to terms with how comics have changed in the four decades since I plucked my first funnybook off the rack.
What excites you about comic books?
There’s so much nostalgia now - revisiting comics from my youth, remembering what they were like the first time around, reflecting on who I was then and how much of me is still that little kid from the 1970s. But I’ve also developed a healthy appreciation for the form in its own right. When a story is told visually, with words and pictures playing together in proper measure, a comic can deliver a tale in a way few other forms can match. Comics don’t tell internal stories so well as novels, and they don’t tell external stories as well as film — but they are very good at telling fantastic, visual stories that engage the senses by harnessing the power of your imagination to create sounds, voices, and the passage of time in very personal ways that film cannot match. The best comics provide the immediacy of film with the deep character development of novels — those are the comics that excite me the most.
Was there a moment, or maybe a specific comic, that was the catalyst for the blog?
For the blog, specifically, the catalyst was sitting in a movie theater next to my twelve year old, seeing the first Thor movie, and having him turn to me and say, “Do you have any Thor comics, dad?” And the answer was that I had hundreds of them, but with no easy way of finding them or sharing them with my son, because my collection was scattered all over the garage in a kind of graveyard of comic book long boxes. With that realization, my blog was born, to keep me on track as I brought order to my collection; it has since grown to become a more general comics blog, but still focuses on the comics from the 60s, 70s, and 80s that I most enjoyed as a youth.
We’ve been browsing through your boards, learning about various protagonists, antagonists, and even new characters we’ve never heard about such as your “Malibu characters” boards! How do you use Pinterest?
I started off using Pinterest to warehouse images that I needed for Longbox Graveyard — as a visual pinboard, it’s superior to sorting through lists of file names on a computer. That “Malibu Comics” board results from putting together a retrospective panel on Malibu Comics a couple years ago for San Diego Comic-Con. Likewise, many of my Pinterest boards grew out of articles originally published at Longbox Graveyard, but while a board might be colonized by Steve Ditko Spider-Man images captured for a specific blog, over time the board will grow into its own thing as I pin similar images during my daily trips around the web.
Are there any new characters, comics, or anything unknown in the comic book world you’ve uncovered or discovered via Pinterest?
Collecting images for Pinterest has brought some new-to-me artists to my attention. I’ve come to appreciate both Bruce Timm (who has his own board at my Pinterest page) and Des Taylor — they come to comics from the pinup and animation traditions, which are fields I don’t know very well. I love how their work is at the same time modern and nostalgic, with cheesecake elements that don’t feel exploitative. I’ve also come to a renewed appreciation for comics artist Steve Rude while assembling my boards — I find myself collecting his images more and more — and may not have realized how much I like him if not for Pinterest!
We caught your “Bad guys” boards with a variety of eclectic artwork. How does art play in terms of your comic experience, especially via Pinterest?
I’m more interested in characters and narrative than art for its own sake, which is why many of my Pinterest boards show full comics pages or panel sequences rather than pin-ups or covers. That “Bad Guys” board, in particular, is kind of a catch-all board for images that don’t have a home on a character-specific board just yet (which accounts for the eclectic nature of the art on display). When I notice that board has a dozen or so images of a specific comics bad guy, I’ll split them off into their own board, such as my “Galactus” and “Red Skull” boards
This is probably a very hard question, but is there a comic or character that is at the top of your favorite list, and why?
That is hard to narrow down. There are my sentimental favorites from childhood, like Captain America, and slightly more contemporary comics runs, like Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing, that spring to mind. Every comic that I’ve reviewed gets a letter grade at Longbox Graveyard, but I don’t review everything I read — there are several current comics that I enjoy, but I leave those to other sites. If I had to go to a desert island with the work of only one creator, I could happily read Will Eisner’s The Spirit for the rest of my days, but I don’t expect The Spirt himself would crack my Top Twenty comics heroes. There are books I like for the characters, books I like for style and craft, books I like for nostalgia, and everything in between.
For a comic book novice, where would you advise one to start?
For a true novice there’s still no better point-of-entry than a good comics shop. Unfortunately, a good comics shop can be hard to find. If you walk into a shop and it feels like some dank cave, or a boy’s club, or someone’s bedroom, then don’t waste your time. But if its a vibrant shop with clean fixtures and recent stock, and a friendly staff that listens to you before making recommendations, then you’ve struck gold — they are absolutely worth your business. My only advice (with any shop) is for new readers to visit on weekends, rather than mid-week when the regular customers come in to pick up their new comics, as those are peak hours for comics shops and you may be lost in the shuffle. The other things new readers should keep in mind is that superhero comics, for the most part, aren’t terribly similar to their big-screen counterparts save in the broadest outline, so someone enjoying Christian Bale as Batman may be adrift when they walk into the store and see a dozen different Batman titles on the rack. Again, this is a place where a good shop can steer you in the right direction and keep an open mind as you explore this art form. I’d any new reader a dollar that they’re going to end up liking something they’d never considered when they walked through the shop door.