Mick vs The Marvel Universe – 02 – Logistics is the ball and chain of comic book reading

Right so here we go. As I mentioned I’ll be starting my return to the Marvel comic universe with Spider-Man specifically The Amazing Spider-Man #546. This follows on from the controversial One More Day storyline which followed on from the controversial (or just plain shit) Civil War crossover event. That’s enough background, lets see how it turned out.

I’m not going to do an issue by issue breakdown. I’ll likely briefly summarise major events, react to stuff I liked and, of course, complain about stuff I did not. There will almost certainly be spoilers. Well lets get to it.

Or not.

I had a fairly extensive collection of digital comics, from buying them here and there to scanning them in. I also had the layered, and if I’m being honest, obtuse folder structure to go along with it. As previously mentioned I haven’t been reading American comics in about a decade. However I hadn’t mentally made that break until about 2016 or 2017 so I was still accumulating them (and if I’m going to fully engage again I’ll need to start accumulating again). When I was keeping up with releases (via Previews usually) I had enough passing knowledge to keep things organised and up to date manually.

But as I have no fucking clue who is publishing what these days and even what was and is being published I needed to find some help. I already had ComicRack (the best comic organisation software, now sadly abandoned and maintained by fans) installed to manage my digital manga collection in order to serve it to myself via Komga.

I’d only lightly used it for scraping metadata and honestly manga is easy to organise. It’s all one folder for each series, done. Publisher doesn’t even matter. I knew ComicRack was capable of much more. But as I would learn over several days that power came at a price (at least I didn’t let my uncle get killed to learn that, burn on you Parker).

The first stumbling block was creating a new instance of ComicRack with it’s own separate database. This took more fiddling that I’m proud of. Largely because I didn’t realise it closed to taskbar and I was confused why command line changes and subsequent “launches” weren’t having any effect. Once I got that out of the way I had the joy of delving into plugins and scripts, helpfully centralised by the ComicRack reddit community, but not particularly well documented, or with out of date documentation.

But I persevered, reading thirty pages of documentation on prospective organisational schemes, trying to make sense of allegedly very helpful but incredibly obtuse posts, boring my twitter followers with my agonising categorisation dilemmas,

I eventually had things partially set up and was ready to start importing comics. Only I wasn’t. My filenames were honestly often a mess so the first step was to make use of my old friend Advanced Renamer to get my filenames cleaned up. Then I imported them to ComicRack and started converting them all from CBR to CBZ because I could embed the metadata in CBZ.

That done I started scraping metadata from Comic Vine. This was incredibly slow. Both because of the search limit and because it is an inherently tedious process exacerbated by my filenames not always being the same as Comic Vines entry. When I eventually had the metadata ready I had to experiment with using the Data Organiser plugin to correctly tag the files using a schema based on my desired categorisation and the files metadata. Then it was the turn of the Library Organiser plugin and its numerous layered profiles to spit the files out into the folder structure I wanted.

This process was a lot easier to write about than to carry out. It often went wrong and the poorly documented plugins and attendant scripts required a fair bit of trial and error to get things more or less working as I wanted. I could also, to save time and processing, only work on smaller subsets of comics e.g. all my Amazing Spider-Man. But ironically some of the categorisation relied on everything being in the Library.

So at the moment (Sunday) I’ve spent the last five days trying to get all the metadata correct and all the major sorting rules working. Once I’ve all that done it’ll be adding all the files to the library and doing final processing (and cursing when it fucks up).

On Sunday I’d lost a good bit of steam for organising my collection. So I decided to just make a copy of my reading lists and start reading them. I finally overcame my parsimonious nature (largely because I was too lazy to look for a USB-C lead) and upgraded my copy of Chunky (the best iOS comic reader I’ve found) to the professional version. This allowed me to use SMB shares with it (which was when I realised I had not in fact re-enabled SMB 1.0 since my last OS install) and saved me having to figure out how to set up a secondary Komga server for comics.

But sadly I couldn’t pull myself away until I at least had my Marvel collection sort of done. Which I managed to achieve late Sunday, with around 10,000 comics converted to CBZ and with complete (enough) metadata. The files for the various plugins should put them in the right places. As I’d been doing them in batches I just needed to import all 10K and run the scripts (and cry as my machine explodes).

But wait! What’s this? Is it another pile of comics I’d sorted into reading lists and put (hidden!) on an external drive? Yes, yes it is. While there were likely to be countless duplicates I needed to import and scrape them (because I used a different naming system for reading lists which works for them but does not aid easy or quick comparison). That took me through to Tuesday.

Most of Tuesday was spent cursing my old naming scheme and the scraper plugin. I got about half of the ~7K comics tagged but the other half just would not play ball. As I didn’t feel like going through ~3.5K comics manually I ended up resorting to another program ComicTagger. It’s much more limited, by design, it’s just for tagging, than ComicRack and it is also rather janky. But it does have one excellent feature which is that it can match by cover. It doesn’t always get a hit but it’s reliable enough to cut way down on what I’ll need to do manually. I left that running over night. Somewhat inevitably when I checked in the morning Comic Tagger had crashed.

Well it’s now been a full week since my initial post and I’ve read a grand total of zero Marvel comics. I sort of feel like I lost track somewhere along the way and now it’s more about getting things organised than it is getting things read. A not uncommon occurrence if I’m been honest. I have a weakness for data hoarding and organisation (also procrastination but hey you knew that).

Today was more metadata scraping, after playing with ComicTagger’s obtuse and undocumented options I managed to greatly increase the identification rate which helped a good bit. So as I’m posting this I’ve all the metadata entered for my Marvel comics. All that’s left is running the auto sorting script and working out the inevitable problems. I might even celebrate by reading a comic. I had intended to start with Spider-Man but I’m leaning more towards Hickman’s run now as it feels fresher.

No of comics (still) in reading list: 259

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