“Knowing which flaps to fold in, in which order” is pretty much advice for everything in life.

§ November 12th, 2018 § Filed under retailing § 6 Comments

So I was putting together some of those fancypants comic book short boxes for display…you know, the ones with the graphics printed on them as opposed to just the plain white boxes you normally see…when I got to thinking.

I’ve noticed over the years, the many, many years I’ve been at this, that when someone first comes across a comic box for the first time in its flattened form, it can be a little puzzling to figure out just how to assemble it. I mean, okay, it’s not like the Hodge conjecture or anything, but it can be easy to start folding the wrong bits first during a first attempt at putting one of these boxes together.

Anyway, the thing I was thinking about, beyond “I wonder how many hundreds, if not thousands, of these boxes I’ver personally assembled over the years,” was “how did people out there first learn how to make one of these?” And thus, I attempted to discover the answer using that most solid of statistical tools, the Twitter poll:

As you can see (or maybe not see, as I’m still trying to fix the images-not-loading-in-RSS-feeds thing…will be working again soon, I hope!), the majority of respondents openly lied informed me that they puzzled out these cardboard contraptions on their own. Only a third as many had to have somebody show ’em, and a just a bit less than that don’t know how to do it at all (more on that later).

Like I said, putting these boxes together isn’t enormously difficult, so it doesn’t really surprise me that the first option was the one that received the most votes. But I’m still surprised that the “someone showed me” result was so relatively small. Just from my experience selling comics and related accessories for decades, the next question after someone asks to buy their first comic box is usually “how do you make this thing work?” And that’s not a criticism or a comment on their skills or anything…I perfectly understand that a person may decide from the get-go “rather than waste time trying to figure out how it works myself, I’ll save the effort and just have this nice young gentleman with the flowing mane of beautiful blond hair show me how to do it properly right off.”

And really, it’s no problem. It’s just a matter of knowing which flaps to fold in, and in which order. Someone responded to my poll, noting they learned from the box itself, which had printed instructions, something I forgot to consider since I hadn’t seen one of those in years. I don’t know…for some reason, I was picturing this as arcane nerd knowledge, passed down in oral tradition from learned experts to the gathered supplicants, who would then teach the skill to the generations that follow.

That last option, about still not knowing, isn’t a huge deal. Some people may not store their comics in boxes, or don’t have enough comics to even fill a box, or may not be comic collectors at all, and just answered my poll because they follow me on the Twitterers and decided to show me a kindness. I mean, the poll’s range was largely biased toward comic fans, as most of the people on Twitter that follow me and aren’t Russian spy-bots are also people who are into comics.

Which of course doesn’t mean there aren’t collectors who don’t know what to do with these boxes. I noted to someone on Twitter that I’d seen my fair share of boxes where whoever tried to assemble it started off with the wrong fold or flap or whatever and just decided to give up and duct-tape the thing into a box-like shape. And someone working for another comic shop on Twitter verified that they’ve also seen the dreaded “held together by tape and probably a lot of cursing,” so it’s likely a widespread phenomenon.

Anyway, just one of those thoughts that goes through my head when I’m at the shop putting together my one millionth comic box. …Okay, maybe “one millionth” is exaggerating a little, but not by much.

6 Responses to ““Knowing which flaps to fold in, in which order” is pretty much advice for everything in life.”

  • Thelonious_Nick says:

    “just decided to give up and duct-tape the thing into a box-like shape.”


    Are comic boxes really so different than regular moving boxes or whatever? I think I got my first comic box around 6th grade (mid-80s) and have folded many dozens since then. It might not be the easiest thing but I don’t recall ever having such a problem I would completely give up.

    When I delivered for Domino’s in the summers in college, time at the store when there’s not a delivery ready to go is spent folding the surprisingly complicated pizza boxes. New employees kind of fumble around at it, while experienced deliverers can do 15 or more a minute. I know, because we’d have races.

  • John says:

    In the 30+ years I worked at a shop I would always ask the customer if they would like me to fold it for them when they purchased boxes. About 90% said yes, and many of them were long-time buyers that I had assumed knew how to do it.

    For my next trick, I would close my eyes and fold the box (and lid) in front of them while explaining the process.

    Since I know approximately how many we were ordering over that time, and how many of those I folded for customers, store stock, myself, I’d guess the number of folded boxes for me is easily 30,000 to 50,000 over the last 35-40 years.

    Assuming those boxes are all still in play and holding comics – that’s about 10 million comics sitting in boxes I folded. I feel old…and tired from all those boxes.

  • Thom H. says:

    Imagine how much more complex the task becomes when you put together those sliding cardboard drawer boxes at home. I’ll admit it took me a little while to understand the directions.

    For reference: http://www.collectiondrawer.com/comics

  • Cleophus says:

    I once knew a guy who claimed to have invented/designed the long box, Dave Alexander(Kascynski), he worked at Marvel on the business side in the 80/90s, started a couple comic shops in the area, Amazing Fantasy and Tenth Planet. I don’t know if it’s true or not.

  • Casie says:

    I think you built my first one for me but then I got brave and said, “We’re gonna build this one at home, Mike”. One hour after about three or four attempts I had a brand new long box..with a couple extra dents and folds in it.
    Oh! And Happy belated Anniversary to you and your fab store, friend! It’s a happy little world, ya built there.