Today we reached a major milestone when a FedEx truck pulled up at my door: The 3,563rd comic book from our corpus and we officially concluded the process of acquiring all of the comic books. This was an incredibly long and involved process. We began acquiring the corpus books in earnest about fourteen months ago and we purchased comic books from more than thirty dealers. We bought comics in retail stores, at conventions, online, by auction, and by old-fashioned honest-to-god catalogues. Our final books were purchased over the past month from The Beguiling, from Lone Star Comics, from ComicConnect, and from Ebay.
When we began this process, we understood that there was going to be a LOT of work to do. Our checklist basically looked like this:
Write our coding protocols
Establish our Sampling Frame (list of every comic book published 1934-2014)
Randomize the Sampling Frame to construct our corpus
Purchase all the comics in the corpus
Produce/Acquire digital copies of all the comics in the corpus
Build a tool for recording data
Code the corpus at the Book level
Code the corpus at the Story level
Code the corpus at the Page level
Code the corpus at the Panel level
Code the Paratexts (ads, letters pages, editorial pages, etc)
We are now at the point where we have finished six of these eleven tasks. At the moment, we are coding all of the corpus books at the Paratext level, which should take the remainder of the academic year (we are almost half-way done this task). We are also working on producing digital copies of all of the books, and we have a research assistant tasked with this thankless task. We hope that this will also be wrapped up by the end of this school year.
That would leave us only with coding Stories (next year), Pages (summer 2020), and Panels (the 2020-21 school year), which, not so coincidentally, will carry us exactly to the termination of our initial funding period.
Frankly, I never really anticipated that we would get to this stage in our first round of funding, and we fully anticipated working from digital scans of some of our earliest (and, therefore, most expensive books). That would have been challenging for some of the work that scanners shy away from for copyright reasons (the Mickey Mouse Magazine that was in our final box, for example). This is a major milestone for us, but I have to admit that I will miss the active process of hunting for books at cons and shops - it always gave me something to do!