Bob Bretall (USA) was just eight years old in the summer of 1970 when his older brother gave him a coupon for 10 comic books.
After going to his local comic book store and picking up a copy of Amazing Spider-Man #88, Bob “fell in love” with the character, beginning his lifelong passion for reading and collecting comics.
In 2013 he was awarded the record for the world’s largest collection of comic books with 89,613, and 10 years later, Bob, now 61, has over 138,000 and counting.
This total only includes the number of unique comic books he owns, not counting any duplicates.
Bob stores the bulk of his collection in his garage, which contains almost 500 long, rectangular boxes, each full of hundreds of comics.
He keeps his more treasured comics inside his house, in what he calls the “comic book room”.
One such comic is a copy of Amazing Fantasy #15 – the first appearance of Spider-Man – signed by Stan Lee. This comic, worth tens of thousands of dollars, is graded – confirming its authenticity and condition – and is framed in a “slab” with UV-protective glass.
Spider‑Man has always been Bob’s favourite superhero because that was the first ever comic he owned, and he liked reading about the “human problems” that Peter Parker faced.
Bob’s comic book room doesn’t just contain comic books though; he also uses it to display his large collection of memorabilia, including items such as a replica of Thor’s hammer, Mjölnir; a replica of Captain America’s shield; and hundreds of character busts made by acclaimed sculptor Randy Bowen.
The room also contains a “shrine” to Stan Lee, whom Bob credits for getting him into comics. “He wrote the very first comic that I picked up off the stand and read,” Bob said.
The centrepiece of the shrine is a copy of The Stan Lee Story - a “giant-size extravaganza” about Stan’s life - which Bob contributed to by lending the book’s creator, Roy Thomas, many items from his collection, which Roy photographed and included within. A complimentary copy, signed by Stan himself, was given to Bob. It was one of the last things that Stan signed before he sadly passed away.
In addition to the comic book room, Bob has a secondary room devoted to his collection which he calls the “library”. One set of bookshelves in the room houses 331 Marvel Masterworks, which are collected editions of comics from the Golden Age (1938-1956) and Silver Age (1956-1970).
On the opposite side of the room, Bob has a similar setup for DC comics. The room also has a closet containing boxes of comics stacked from floor to ceiling.
In addition to regular comics, Bob owns several “artist editions”, which are scans of the original artwork at 100% of the original size. “It’s a fascinating thing for a fan and collector like myself to be able to read and see the original art,” Bob said.
Nowadays, Bob buys his comics from two different online subscription services, as well as his local comic book shop. He prefers buying online due to the discount he receives, in addition to the fact that he can order in advance, so he doesn’t have to worry about his desired comic being sold out.
Bob estimates that he reads 100 new comic books per month, of which 25-30 are “superhero books”.
The rest of his reading comprises independent comics of various genres, such as sci-fi, crime, and romance. “I would like to emphasize that there are a lot of things besides superhero comics out there,” he said.
Bob is often asked how he finds the time to read so many comics, however, he says it only takes him 10-15 minutes to read one comic book. “In the amount of time it takes someone to watch a football game, I can read 10 [or] 15 comic books,” he explained. “There’s plenty of time for whatever hobby you enjoy.”
Bob sees collecting comics as a “fun hobby” and is not concerned with collecting rare, high-value items. “I want books that I can read because I enjoy reading the stories and I enjoy the characters,” he explained.
“My main advice is: find something that you’ll enjoy reading.”
As he continues to buy and read new comic books every week, we’ve no doubt that Bob will continue to hold this record for many years to come!
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