The (re)Collection Agency #9: A Conversation with Michael Sharp

Welcome to the ninth installment of The (re)Collection Agency, a post series where we bring you informal talks with comics scholars and teachers about their comics reading and collecting practices and how that intersects with their work. The idea is to open up the discourse a bit to integrate the personal experience of comics reading and material culture with the scholarly side of comics through historicizing, interpreting, and archiving. In the introduction of the first installment I explained the origins of the term “(re)collection,” as I coined and theorized it in my dissertation project. While this and the coming installments of The (re)Collection Agency do not specifically focus on (re)collection, the idea behind it energizes my inquiries and seeks to narratively suture the idiosyncratic experience of reading with a scholarly context that asks that reading serve a further critical purpose.

(photo by Michael Sharp)

I first met today’s guest, Dr. Michael Sharp, when I was a doctoral student in the English department at Binghamton University. As I reached the end of my coursework, I needed to take one more class and my advisor suggested an independent study. I approached Michael about doing an independent study on comics since he was the only professor teaching comics in the department and, to that point, despite working with comics in my scholarly project (though not to the degree I am these days), I had never taken a comics class before. We settled on a study involving Love and Rockets and pluralistic Latinx identity (or at least that is what I ended up writing my final paper on for the study), and this work would end up being the foundation for a chapter of my dissertation and later my first academic publication of the Journal of Comics and Culture.

Dr. Michael Sharp and Gabby.

In addition to teaching English at Binghamton University, you may know Michael Sharp best as Rex Parker, author of the incredibly popular daily crossword blog Rex Parker Does the NY Times Crossword Puzzle (once featured on CBS News). He also maintains the vintage paperback blog Pop Sensation where he writes about the covers and descriptive copy of one of his thousands—yes, thousands—of pulpy paperbacks.

In talking and getting to know Michael Sharp back in Binghamton, I was struck by how, despite being about the same age, our exposure to comics (especially superhero comics) was so different, not having the same base of nostalgia to work against in our critical approach to the medium. I thought it’d be great to sit down and discuss comics and teaching them with him, along with other related interests, to consider his approach and what has changed since we first met in his office to talk comics back in 2011.

Osvaldo Oyola: So, I want to start with something I found funny… I noticed when doing some research for this talk that in at least a handful of articles or interviews about/with you, the reporters love to play up the “alter ego” thing with you when it comes to your Rex Parker “persona.” I even saw you referred to as “mild-mannered Binghamton University English professor” by day and “crossword master” by night. I thought it was hilarious, especially since “mild-mannered” doesn’t seem to describe you at all!

Michael Sharp: Yeah there’s some superhero language in there for sure. It’s bizarre. Maybe it’s also related to my alias, which sounds very comic-booky. REX Morgan meets Peter PARKER.

OO: Ah yes, I can see that.

MS: And yeah, also stereotypes about crosswords and their solvers kind of precede me, so writers end up seeing me through that filter of preconception.

OO: What are those stereotypes? Old? Bookish? White?

MS: Yes, yes, and yes. Also dull, “mild-mannered,” the opposite of ALIVE. To be fair, there are a lot of old bookish white solvers, and I am one of them (old-ish, anyway). But still…

OO: So (as I think you know), I know next to nothing about crossword puzzles, but I’ve been trying to think of some meaningful connections between them and comics.

MS: Boxes. They both involve different ways of reading, different forms of pattern recognition.

OO: Oh yeah. I hadn’t thought of that. I was thinking more along the lines that they both emerging from early 20th century print culture? Newspapers?

MS:  OMG, yes! Reminds me of something I just read…I’ve been reading Comics Before 1945 by Brian Walker. It’s all about early newspaper comics. Giant coffee table type book. Here in front of me as I type.

OO: Oh cool. I don’t think I know it.

MS: So, this bit quoted in Walker’s book is from someone named Will Lawler writing in Editor & Publisher in February 1914:

The largely unspoken reality about the newspaper business is that it’s nowhere without non-news content. Comics drove circulation massively in early 20th century. The connection with crosswords is that they also drive circulation. Take the crossword out of the New York Times and see what happens to dead-tree subscriptions. To say nothing of the money from standalone crossword subs. The very fact that the NYT is doing millions in stand-alone subs tells you all you need to know about how reliant they are on (cheap) crosswords.

OO: Interesting to think about how stuff like comic strips and crossword puzzles keeping newspapers going. I was just thinking about back when we used to buy the newspaper to get movie times—not exactly news either.

MS: Yep. Newspapers have learned they actually don’t have to pay crossword makers “good salaries” because most are hobbyists just happy to see their name in the papers. So, the papers make huuuuuuuuuuuge profits on the crossword. Crosswords prop up their other “more important” business. And everyone accepts this because everyone agrees that crosswords aren’t “important.” It’s backward. Pay me. I have so much respect for the early comics artists/writers who were like “Give. Me. All. My. Money.” Bud Fisher (creator of Mutt and Jeff) is a damned hero. Those motherfuckers at the newspapers are making shit-tons off your work so Get Yours.

OO: So there seems to be some kind of economic parallel with comics, at least in the middle part of the century during the periodical comics boom when Marvel and DC (or their progenitors) were making money off poor-ass artists.

Doomsday Clock #1. Look at this ridiculousness.

MS: Capitalism is gross that way. Ask me if I read the new Watchmen

OO: Ha! Did you?

MS: I had a look. But even if it was great (it wasn’t), I just couldn’t do it.

OO: Do you mean Doomsday Clock or Before Watchmen? Or both?

MS: Both.

OO: I did the same: took some looks but couldn’t do it.

MS: Invent your own shit, big-ass DC writers!

OO: Well, DC Comics seems to have a policy now of fucking with Alan Moore on purpose.

MS: I try not to care too much about it all. But Watchmen is dear to me, so… no.

OO: Do you teach Watchmen often?

MS: As often as possible. Trying to shoehorn it into Brit Lit I.

OO: So how do students unfamiliar with comics/superheroes react to it since it is riffing on the genre?

MS: No one is “unfamiliar” in this day and age. The riffing is beyond most, it’s true. Though I have some students who know way more about the DC/Marvel universes and their histories than I do. Students are largely fond of Watchmen, though I realize as I’m teaching how explicitly grown-up it is. Like, the whole premise is that you are a beleaguered 30-something (or older), who has had your hopes and spirits crushed by geopolitical realities.

OO: I may be misremembering, but weren’t you posting relatively recently about a class of yours generally hating Watchmen? (it might have been someone else).

MS: I don’t think they hated it. They don’t love it like I love it. They don’t really get the nostalgia or disillusionment the way older people might. They don’t feel it. They just think Rorschach is bad-ass.

OO: Ha yes. Well I remember thinking that too in my teens.

MS: But they do appreciate the innovation and experimentation on a formal level, and the meta-comics-ness of it all. It is a GREAT comic for teaching the lost art of PAYING ATTENTION

The New Frontiersman, a radical right-wing newspaper in Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’s Watchmen.

OO: It was a revelation when it hit me that Rorsarch is essentially the MAGA superhero personified (though, obviously wouldn’t have had the “MAGA” language back then). Like Steve Bannon could have run the New Frontiersman.

MS: But at least Rorschach is explicitly reactionary. Like, it’s not really dressed up.

OO: And yet, something plenty of readers miss…

MS: Of course. Probably because he does hurt very bad people, and he is explicitly not down with the Collective Lie. “Fuck alllllll this shit” is an appealing message when you know the world is fucking insane.

OO: Yes. I mean, you are talking to a guy who has “I would prefer not to” tattooed on his arm. So, I get it.

MS: Ha. And Rorschach dies for the cause, man

OO: So, this discussion of teaching Watchmen emerged from our discussion of any overlap between crossword puzzles and comics. In preparing for our talk, I was also thinking about the push and pull between/among solvers/readers and creators/constructors regarding the conservative impulses in the field. This point was inspired by the fact that I most commonly visit your Rex Parker blog when some subject explodes due to older white solvers objecting to efforts to make crosswords more inclusive through considering what’s at stake for different people in choosing particular clues, answers, and themes. I feel like this is an echo of what I see on comics Twitter on the daily regarding more non-white non-male and/or queer characters and creators in (mostly superhero) comic books.

MS: Very good observation. There’s definitely a traditionalist/inclusionist divide in the solver universe, though it’s not as stark as in comics. The crossword world just doesn’t have an army of dedicated man-baby misogynist trolls. Instead it has sneering (largely) older (largely) white solvers who miss the good old days, and who have not yet (and never will) accept that hip-hop is a mainstream cultural phenomenon worthy of crossword inclusion. There are two layers to the representation problem in crosswords (as I guess there is in comics as well): the representativeness of the form itself (i.e. do the answers in the puzzle cover a representative breadth of human experience?) and the representativeness of the business (i.e. are women and people of color adequately represented in the industry?). The latter problem is the more tenacious; easy enough for same old white guys to buy some young dude’s word list and start including rap stars in their grids, but getting numbers up for women/POC crossword makers, to say nothing of editors? Hoc opus, hic labor est.

OO: So, let’s jump back – how’d you end up teaching comics?

MS: Uh… I guess I just asked if I could, after I’d been reading them on my own for a few years. I got into comics very late (my early 30s).

OO: Yes, I saw in a Pipe Dream article (the Binghamton University student newspaper) that you said you got into them because you went hunting for that Rawhide Kid comic that came out in 2003?

 MS: Yes! The paths we travel…weird. I was teaching crime fiction in the ’90s in grad school, and my interest in Batman was a natural outgrowth of that, and then… I was also very into the Simpsons and so the fact that there were Simpsons comics also got me into the comic book store, got me into the idea of starting a pull box, etc.

OO: What about the Rawhide Kid interested you? Did you know the character?

MS: No. But it was a news event. I heard about the new Rawhide Kid series on NPR. If they were gonna turn old characters gay, I was gonna show up to see what that looked like. At that point I already had a heavy interest in mid-century popular fiction, largely because of my crime fiction obsession, as well as my enormous collection of vintage paperbacks (1939 to roughly 1969).

OO: Did you read comics as a kid at all? You must have read some…right?

MS: I was just thinking that my first memory of a comic book… Well, there are two. It’s very clear to me that I had access to the earliest X-Men comics in some form. A trade paperback of some kind maybe. When I reread those in my 30s I was like “I know…these stories.” But actual comic books? No, not really. I remember very clearly having to go somewhere with my mom and wait for her to do…something. Maybe an appointment she had, so she sat me in a store or cafe and to occupy me she bought me a Howard the Duck comic (!?!?!) I was…like 8? 10? I have no idea where or why she picked that one. I just remember it being way the hell beyond me. But the image/sensibility stuck. And yet I still did not begin reading comic books. And never read them regularly until I was out of my Ph.D. program.

Now newspaper comics, comics in MAD, those I was tooooootally into as a kid.

OO: Yes, well I totally count those. As I have said before (probably in one of these talks) it took me a long time to realize that I was shortchanging myself and comics by only counting when I started reading cape books.

MS: Agreed.

OO: In truth, I had been reading comics from before I could read: newspaper strips, Archies, Disney comics, etc…

originally published January 29, 1954.

MS: My god, Peanuts.

OO: Peanuts is divine.

MS: Like … it’s imprinted on my soul. Just the vibe of that whole world. The cartooning. The way it got at childhood sadness. Took kids seriously. Nothing like it.

I was way into Garfield as a kid too (4th-6th grade). Not as cool, but it’s the truth. Pretty sure Garfield sheets replaced the Star Wars sheets on my bed at some point.

OO: I was always more of Heathcliff kid.

MS: In terms of childhood influences, my earliest and best education in political awareness came from Bloom County. Peanuts was my childhood. Bloom County was my adolescence. Both are incredibly special to me. I was raised by both. Also, by my mom and dad, but those comics shaped my tastes and my worldview in formative, formidable ways.

OO: I used to cut Bloom County from the paper and wallpapered my room wall with them in high school.

MS: YEAH, you did. That comic feels impossible now. I feel so lucky to have been 12-15 years old when it was at its height.

OO: I also learned a lot about politics from before my time from a Doonesbury collection my uncle gave me when I was like 12 or 13. And MAD too (back when it was political).

MS: To me, Bloom County was like what if we did Doonesbury with the sensibility of a precocious child as opposed to a world-weary Yalie back from yet another summer vacation on the Cape.

OO: It is surreal to think about how Bloom County used to mercilessly go after Trump – and now a cartoon character is president.

MS: Bill the Cat, man. Tell me the dude in charge now is more competent than a burnout cat. You can’t. Bloom County… I can’t remember anything about the Reagan era except through that lens. I seriously learned everyone’s name, all the cabinet members etc. from Bloom County. So much MEESE.

OO: I knew who Ed Meese was because of Bloom County. I don’t think there’s been much scholarly writing about BC – I know they did a roundtable on it on The Hooded Utilitarian a few years back.

MS: I much prefer the Bloom County approach to “the world is total bullshit” (as opposed to the Rorschach approach). I got humor. Never got violence.

The Donald’s brain in Bill the Cat’s body. . .

OO: So, you had no uphill climb between rekindling interest in comics and deciding “these are worth thinking about more deeply and teaching”?

MS: I went from “ooh, new interest” to teaching pretty fast. Teaching is a great way to learn something. A great way to justify learning something new. I was really interested in the highbrow/lowbrow divide between “graphic novels” and comics. Interested in the publishing difficulties, the fact that bookstores didn’t know what to do with them, etc. They were a form that were both conventional and designed to thwart conventions. So much to talk about when it comes to comics.

OO: So, what is your impression of your students’ expectations when they come into your comics class? Do they think it will be a blow off elective?

MS: Looking for a chill class to round out their semester? I dunno. My classes aren’t chill, but … still they persisted.

OO: Ha. my classes aren’t very chill either (though I have yet to teach a dedicated comics course). I just work comics into whatever else I can.

MS: I don’t really satisfy anyone’s expectations, but I think students generally learn something new and often develop real new loves. Life-changing sometimes. For example, autobiographical comics have been ways to get at difficult subjects. Students frequently have an option to make their own comic at the end of the term, and the work I’ve gotten there, even from “non-artists,” has frequently been stunning.

OO: Yes! So many comics scholars I know do something similar and swear by it. I love the idea of it, but sometimes imagine trying to do the same in a different literature class—”Write a short piece of modernist fiction”—and have to laugh.

MS: Of course. But comics is different, somehow.

OO: Yes, the engagement as a reader and creator are both very different.

MS: Creation as a form of analysis. Students in my class are always making comics in relation to something we’ve read.

OO: Have you read Unflattening? by Nick Sousanis

MS: I haven’t

OO: Amazing work (and very nice generous guy). It is his published dissertation in comics form. An Ed.D degree, so it is about drawing comics as a form of thinking and analysis.

MS: Cool.

OO: So, what are the comics you tend to assign (aside from Watchmen) and what are you tired of?

MS: Lynda Barry is probably the most…liberating / influential artist we read. People react all kinds of ways to her stuff, some of it negative, but by the end her whole aesthetic and approach to storytelling and self-expression has left its mark on a huge swath of them. The way it has on me.

From Lynda Barry’s Syllabus (2014)

OO: She is pretty amazing. Syllabus is a book I return to a lot.

MS: Syllabus is great. I went to her writing workshop at the Omega Institute three years ago. Just amazing.

OO: Oh. I’d love to do that!

MS: Yes, you would. I want to do it again, frankly

OO: Do you draw at all?

MS: Not really. I mean… Sometimes in my notes I draw, or in my journal, but nothing more than doodles and sketches most of the time.

OO: Yeah, me too. I am just an occasional doodler.

MS: I make my students in all of my classes draw every day. Sometimes I join them. Exercise stolen from Lynda Barry. Very nice way to begin class. Looking at 45 3-minute sketches of (whatever) can be very illustrative, too.

OO: I think “Sketchnotes” are a growing trend among comics scholars.

MS: When I took notes on My Favorite Thing Is Monsters, much of what I wrote was in the form of illustration—roughly copying things from the book.

OO: God, that book… I am scared of it, it is so good.

MS: That book is great, especially the way it fucks with the whole idea of “What Is Comics?” (especially vis-a-vis “real” art, museum art).

OO: YES! The way it incorporates high and low in the same spread is amazing.

MS: It’s not paneled, each page seems like a separate canvas, and yet it’s sequential art… It’s super formal and informal simultaneously. The lined paper conceit constantly reminds you that the whole book (the whole genre?) is rooted in sketching, in experimenting, in marginal ways of seeing/thinking. But then the art, especially the figurative art/faces, gets super-polished… like the best portrait art. So, it’s a roller-coaster, that thing.

OO: Another book that is great for developing “paying attention” as a reading skill. I need to read it again.

MS: Same. Probably will when the next volume drops.

OO: Have you taught it?

MS: Yes. First time just this past spring.

OO: How’d it go? I’d be a little intimidated

MS: Hard to say how it went because it was the last thing we did, and they were working on final projects. I needed to give it more time. Students seemed to like it, but when you teach something like that at the end of the semester, mostly what they take away is “it’s long.”

OO: Ha. Yeah. I frequently have to remind myself that student reactions often have to do with a lot of circumstances beyond the material itself or even my teaching.

MS: To go back to the original question about what I am tired of teaching, I’m tired of Dark Knight Returns, though I teach it out of obligation, and when I haven’t taught it, I’ve missed it. It’s useful. It’s just… there’s only so much room on the syllabus, man.

OO: So, you mentioned before thinking about using Watchmen in Brit Lit. Do you incorporate comics into your “regular” literature classes often?

MS: Crime fiction, I have. Others, not so much. If I could think of a way to do it that made sense, I would, in a heartbeat. A solid graphic novel of Beowulf or Sir Gawain would be cool. Not instead of, but alongside, the medieval poem itself.

OO: Right. I make sure to assign Los Bros Hernandez in my Latinx-American Lit class.

From “Venus Tells It Like It Is” in Luba in America by Gilbert Hernandez (2001)

MS: Los Bros should be required reading in all classes. That is one that makes some of my students go “whoa, hold up, what!?” “This is… What is this!? Sci-fi punk realist tragicomedy? Soap opera, space opera?”

OO: Don’t forget women’s wrestling!

MS: OMG!

OO: My student reactions to Los Bros tends to be overwhelmingly positive. Or at the very least, strong feelings.

MS: The strongest positive reaction I’ve gotten from students to Los Bros comes from queer women, interestingly.

OO: Well, that makes sense… Since that was a big chunk of their audience back in the day.

MS: I know, but… there’s something beautiful and unexpected about it, honestly. It seems obvious, given the women at the center of Xaime’s stuff, but the fact that these straight dudes (right?) in the early ’80s were dealing with women characters this complexly, this sympathetically, this fearlessly…I dunno. It’s remarkable that their stuff is so good that they virtually never (that I know of) get any “what would you know about being a ______!?” criticism.

OO: I actually owe finally reading Love and Rockets to you.

MS: That is so weird.

OO: I don’t recall how we landed on that as the subject of my independent study.

MS: I figured you already knew it well!

OO: No. I what I remember—however it came up—is that I was like, “This is a good excuse to finally read this.”

MS: Yes, see! Giving yourself a formal reason to do what you’ve been wanting to do for a while: genius. I still haven’t explored the whole decades-long universe. I know the early and late stuff. But there’s a vast middle I’ve yet to explore.

OO: I know the early and middle best, it is the newer stuff I know less well, especially Beto’s.

MS: Oh right, I also know Beto’s stuff less well generally.

OO: Also, given the direction of my scholarship, it is funny that that independent study was the only formal “comics class” I have ever taken. Other than that, I read a couple of one-off works incorporated into other grad seminars: Kyle Baker’s amazing Nat Turner, and the god awful Brooklyn Dreams by J.M. DeMatteis and Glenn Barr.

MS: Comics is the kind of thing where people just make up their own “expertise.” It’s kind of beautiful. My classroom is always humming with various expertises (plural).

OO: Yes. In fact, that is something I am always trying to conceptualize in my own work and am trying to write a paper on for a conference.

So, moving on… I vaguely remember you saying that you tend to have a stack of stuff from your pull-box waiting around to be read. . . is that still the case? Is there much ongoing stuff you are following currently?

MS: I was just trying to get out from under piles of comics this morning. I probably read 30-40 ongoing titles.

OO: Wow.

MS: I realized that if I want to keep teaching comics, I need to have at least a rudimentary sense of the Marvel / DC universes. I choked down EVERY RECENT MARVEL MOVIE (back to 2008). Among the things I get monthly are, all the Batman comics, pretty much. Wonder Woman, Superman. In Marvel, it’s Black Panther, Thor, Captain America, Hulk (these have all recently rebooted in one form or another). Then there are the Image titles, maybe ten of those (Saga, Sex Criminals, etc.). Then assorted other stuff. The new Berger Books imprint at Dark Horse is pretty great. Reading Mata Hari and Incognegro: Renaissance.

OO: What are the stand-outs of your regular books?

MS: Good question. Tom King’s current run on Batman is wonderful. He’s my favorite Batman writer in ages. Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is never not funny. That book is a great reminder that humor and even silliness are great things, especially in superhero comics. My god, nothing gloomier than a superhero comic that takes itself relentlessly seriously.

OO: It is what I love about Ms. Marvel: the humorous self-awareness, while also taking the internal stakes of teenagers seriously.

MS: Both Sword Daughter (Dark Horse) and Nancy Drew (Dynamite) just started and I really like both. Leah Moore and John Reppion’s Sherlock Holmes reboots are great fun—their latest, The Vanishing Man (Dynamite) is in the middle of its run right now. Oh, and Terry Moore has rebooted Strangers in Paradise! I’m still catching up on old Strangers, as well as his last series (Rachel Rising), but I’m amassing new issues as I catch up.

I have recently discovered DC’s Silencer, which is fantastic (WOC main character, woman antagonist, cool overall premise… Plus if I could have a superpower it would definitely be SHUTTING OUT ALL NOISE).

OO: I never ever heard of it. Is it new?

MS: Silencer is pretty new, yes. Romita Jr.’s’ art was what drew me in, but I’m staying even though he’s not on art anymore (for now).

OO: Funny, Romita, Jr is one of those artists I liked in the 80s, but his recent stuff turns me off.

MS: I found Romita’s Silencer stuff very much like his earlier stuff. Weird. He’s one of the few artists whose style I can identify at a glance. I like that. I like when artists have discernible styles.

OO: I’ll check it out. His art might also work for a different book. The last time I paid attention to his work was in one of the bajillion Avengers reboots of the last 10 years or whatever.

MS: Avengers, ugh. So, I don’t do well with comics that feature a million brands competing for attention. I’m reading both Justice League and Avengers, but … barely.

OO: Yeah, when it comes to those kinds of books I find myself more often going back to Silver or Bronze age for a historical/cultural look rather than any current interest in the books.

MS: I read some Deadpool recently, for the first time, because my former student Jordan White worked on Deadpool comics for a while (he’s an editor at Marvel). I love the humor of them, though in general I’m not a big “laugh at ultra-violence” kind of person. I get it, but it’s not really for me.

OO: Yeah. . . I can see that. I always take it as a sign of the skill of the creative team when they can make use of characters (like Deadpool) I tend to not like and yet I am into it. The recent All- New Wolverine series was like that. I have no interest in Wolverine, no interest in X-23, and yet the series was one of my faves.

MS: I scrupulously avoided virtually all Marvel properties for a long long time. I associated them with a kind of teen boy fandom I wanted nothing to do with. But I’ve thawed and am beginning to appreciate that there is much that is worthwhile going on in that universe. Credit Ta-Nehisi Coates for getting me to give that world a shot.

OO: Yes! I remember you telling me when we first met in your office to discuss my independent study back in the day that you disliked Marvel, and I found it so weird because I was looking at it from the perspective of our being peers in age, and Marvel was the shit in our childhood.

MS: I know, but it was someone else’s shit, from where I was sitting. I went from D&D to baseball cards to… I dunno… but I was a snobby kid where reading was concerned, despite the fact that I was not, in actuality, a big reader.

OO: Interesting, say more about that? Snobby how?

MS: There was something hokey (and still is) about the wish fulfillment boy fantasies of many Marvel heroes, and especially about the whole “allow me to deliver a full speech, complete with subordinate clauses, as I fall from this window…” thing in superhero comics. I can suspend disbelief a lot, but orations or conversations mid-fight always struck me as so fucking dumb.

I thought comic books were for a certain kind of emotionally stunted / not very intellectual boy. And I had intellectual pretensions as a kid. Mostly because intellect was all I believed I had going for me. It’s dumb. I was a teenager. Whatever. I forgive myself.

OO: Yeah. I had feelings like that too but was horrible at following through because I kept liking dumb shit and still do to some degree.

Ok, so last question: So, I know you collect those pulp novels and blog about them. I was wondering what your perspective is on your comics buying/reading? Do you see yourself as a collector in any regard?

MS: I’m looking at the short boxes and bagged and boarded comics all over my office and trying to think of a way I can credibly say, “Me, a collector? No.”

OO: Hahahaha.

MS: I am not a collector in any kind of rabid, formal, completist, obsessive sense. But yeah, for personal and teaching purposes, I amass comics and keep them in their own storage system.

OO: Cool. Yes. One of my pet projects is expanding the way we think about “collecting.”

MS: I really should write about them. That’s how I justified having the thousands of pulp paperbacks I acquired in the 90s when I wasn’t writing my dissertation.

OO: I’d love to read what you have to say about them (and The Middle Spaces is always available if you want to pitch something). So, we’ve come to the end. Two hours flew by! Thanks so much for agreeing to do this.

MS: Sure thing.

OO: And I hope readers will soon have an opportunity to read your writing on comics along with your usual insightful analysis on crosswords and your glimpse into the world of mid-20th century pulp novels!

Thanks again to Dr. Michael Sharp for his time and insight. Readers should follow him on Twitter for frequent doses of his sharp wit (even if crosswords are not your thing).

(This interview has been edited for length and clarity).

 

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