We Interrupt our Regularly Scheduled Program…

Well, I’ve been trying to upload week four of Roy Powers for hours now, and Blogger seems to have gone belly up for posting images. So we’ll have to wait until tomorrow to find out what happens to Roy next.

Since we’re limited to a text only post today, let me touch on an issue that I read about in the Wall Street Journal a few weeks ago. Been meaning to comment on it anyway.

According to a front page article in the WSJ (which, sorry, I can’t link you to since they are a pay site), it is becoming apparent that the current generation has not inherited the collecting bug from their elders. The writer talked to many veteran collectors of various things, and it seems that very few of their children have any interest whatsoever in their parents’ collections. Most seemed to think that the moment they kick the bucket that their collections will be dumped in the trash or sold in a yard sale.

Now most of the collectors they talked to were interested in truly ephemeral things (plaster pigs, promotional pencils, etc.) and I guess I can understand the kids showing no interest in preserving or continuing such eclectic collections. But there were examples that seemed a bit more tragic, like the comic book collector who expected his kids to, at best, sell the whole lot on eBay as soon as he kicked the bucket, and at worst put them all out for recycle pickup. Another guy who collected antique toilet paper fully expected his kids to use his collection for its original purpose after he was gone.

The writer of the article pointed out, quite correctly, that the current generation may just find their own collecting manias, most of which will stem from nostalgia for their own childhoods. Perhaps today’s teenager will eventually be an avid collector of vintage iPods and cell phones.

But the writer also notes that today’s teenagers don’t seem to get the collecting bug. Most of the collectors of prior generations became packrats when they were young. When I was a teen, most of my peers collected something – whether sports cards, comic books, stamps, coins, dolls or whatever, all sorts of things had their fans. Today’s typical teen is completely caught up in the entertainment culture, with its 30-second attention span and voracious need for constant distraction, and there is just no room for the slow paced process of building and enjoying a collection. For instance, can anyone imagine today’s teenager spending an evening steaming stamps off envelopes, categorizing, attaching hinges, pasting into stamp books, and consulting references to learn about the people and places shown on those exotic stamps from around the world?

Now this isn’t a rant against “those darn kids today, they’re just rotten.” Every generation says that about the next, and I’m not about to fall into that trap. If kids today are not interested in collecting, that just means that they’re different from previous generations, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

It does, however, make me wonder if newspaper comic strips will suffer the same fate as that antique toilet paper. Might comic strips be an exception to the rule, since they are still published in the daily paper to garner new fans? Will the presence on the web of sites that showcase classic (and not so classic) newspaper strips draw in young fans who start reading them for entertainment, and then get the bug? Or is comic strip collecting going to go the same route as, say, dime novels, whose remaining fans probably don’t even count in the double digits?

What do you think? Are comic strips going the way of the dinosaur? Is there any way that we as fans and collectors can keep the interest alive? Or could the syndicates do more to breed the comic strip fans of tomorrow? Are any readers here under, say, 30 years old? Does anyone know of young collectors? If you have kids, do they show any interest in comic strips?

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