2021 Interviews

Collecting Movies with Tucker Lucas

Collecting Movies with Tucker Lucas

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Tucker Lucas works in media production for H2M in Fargo, North Dakota. He’s an ensemble member of Theatre B.

Greg Carlson: What is your collecting philosophy?

Tucker Lucas: I’ve been thinking a lot about this the past several months, as my collecting in general has spiked up again. I suspect this might be true for many people looking for ways to cope with the pandemic. The things that I collect and the things that I like to keep near me are things that I find precious in some way — objects that I like and that I appreciate for aesthetic or emotional value; things that bring me back to a time and place.

When I look at my collection, the things that I’m acquiring right now are things I would have been interested in collecting when I was 10. Comic books are the primary choice, but also movies and old video games that I played as a kid.

GC: Didn’t your dad get you started with comics?

TL: I collect specific comic books that remind me of the ones I was given by my dad when I was five and wanted to learn how to read. He gave me all his old comics from the 70s, mostly Bronze Age Marvel stuff. The Amazing Spider-Man, Captain America, Power Man and Iron Fist and some Westerns. I became obsessed with that type of object. I imprinted on the design of Marvel comics from the 70s. The smell of the yellowed paper. They bring out so many emotions that I like having them around.

GC: For every collector, there is an element of curation. As long as I have known you, things in your collection come and go. For other collectors, and I am in this group, once something comes in, it never leaves.

TL: It really depends on the item. I adopted that rule about four years ago when my comic book collection was getting out of control. I was buying huge amounts of comics every week. You could get them so inexpensively, I thought, “Why not?”

As the numbers grew, I realized I wasn’t getting what I wanted from collecting. I was hoarding. I thought about it and realized I did not care about so many of these comics. I realized what I really cared about and did a massive purge. At the peak, I was hanging on to about 4000 comic books and now I have around 1700. It felt great to let go. When I look at my comics now, I know that everything on the shelf is special to me. If I take anything off the shelf, I can tell you why it’s there and why I have it.

GC: Beyond the prominence of comics, movies and video games, do you keep anything else?

TL: Trading cards and some books. Only in the past year have I concentrated on movies. For the longest time, I did not care much for keeping physical media.

More by Greg Carlson: Collecting Movies with Film Archivist Alicia Coombs

GC: What changed?

TL: I never really collected physical copies of movies as a kid. I had some, but they weren’t really given a place on my shelf. It took me not caring about physical media for a long time before I developed an appreciation for having the object.

An analogy would be this: I wasn’t into collecting vinyl records even though I have always kept music in some format, usually just digital files. When we worked together on A Perfect Record, the short documentary about collector Dean Sime, I could see how much he was getting out of record collecting — similar to what I get out of comic collecting, even down to the look of spines on the shelf and the beautiful artwork.

Now, when I listen to OK Computer, I take the time to put it on the turntable. It’s an intentional experience.

GC: Like Dean says, the process of listening to a record is very tactile.

TL: Right. Now everything is digital and online — and that’s the world I have been living in. My experience of consuming media is like hooking my brain up to a firehose. There is so much of it, I can’t really appreciate it. By hunting down physical media, I can re-establish a relationship with these older movies that I love.

When I decided this past year to collect movies, I recognized a big pitfall. You can go to a thrift store and find ultra cheap VHS and DVD and even Blu-ray. Once again, there was a danger of hoarding. So instead, I wanted to give a present to 10-year-old me. My first goal of movie collecting is superhero content — any and every movie and TV show, both animated and live action.

The reason I want to do this is from a memory. Around 1994, my dad and I were getting into his car in front of his house. It was summer. He turns on the radio. I hear the DJ say, “Rumors of an X-Men movie in the works.” And I remember saying out loud to my dad, “That’s not gonna happen.” Little did I know that the future would be an embarrassment of riches for superhero movies.

So now I am building the shelf of that content.

GC: You recently said something about collecting the same title on multiple formats.

TL: Yeah. I wasn’t sure I would like it, but I do. To me, certain aspects of curation are an absolute blast. One is the hunt. Looking for and finding a treasure. Two is creating the display. Putting it up and making it look a certain way.

For a long time, that was why I didn’t collect movies. I think most movie packaging is pretty horrible, pretty ugly. A lot of garbage design.

GC: DVD gets my vote for the worst packaging mess. From the Amaray/keep case to the snapper cases and the digipaks and super jewel cases, they were all far too bulky. If you want to preserve lots of content in a small space, DVD misses the mark.

TL: I’m not sure Blu-ray learned many lessons from DVD. It is not just the plastic case, it’s the design of the artwork. I just pulled my Blu-ray copy of The Avengers and it pales in comparison to the cover art of any comic in my collection. I can just randomly take a comic off the shelf and the cover is going to be gorgeous — here is Uncanny X-Men 260. This is fantastic. It’s a Jim Lee cover. It’s an image of Dazzler’s stalker. Kind of two-tone pink in the color scheme. Absolutely beautiful cover.

So, to make a long story longer, collecting the same title in multiple movie formats makes the display more interesting to me. I have X-Men on VHS and DVD and Blu-ray. If they had released X-Men on LaserDisc I would have picked it up. At some point I would buy the 4K.

More by Greg Carlson: Collecting Movies with Rob Dunkelberger

GC: Even the spine of a VHS conveys more information than any of the disc formats. I love the thumbnail squares featuring characters from the movie. I agree with your argument that most major studio covers are lacking. Some labels care. Vinegar Syndrome’s 4K release of The Beastmaster in the fancy magnet-clasp box is one example. The Citizen Kane 70th anniversary set is very nice. Criterion’s Showa era Godzilla set. Of course, then you have the problem of all these different shapes and sizes to contend with. Maddening for the perfectionist. But you like the different shapes next to each other!

TL: Yes. I also have all the players ready to go for every format I own. I am still an analog video nerd, because that’s how I first got into video. I love my professional-grade CRT monitor paired with a really nice VCR. It is poison to the eyes if you try to watch analog content on a 4K television. Absolute nonsense. But if you stick with the tech designed for the format, it will look fantastic.

The reality is that there are titles that will only be available on a given format. My favorite edition of Blade Runner is the director’s cut on DVD. Not the Blu-ray. To my eyes, the DVD version plays back with a more dreamlike quality at that lower resolution.

GC: What movies in your collection are particularly prized by you?

TL: Superhero movies may be the primary collecting focus but they are not the only movies I have. I enjoy collecting animation across formats. Disney Black Diamond clamshells are fun. I have a copy of King Kong vs. Godzilla that was given to me by my good buddy Mikey Sunram. It’s an import from Japan. It contains the original theatrical cut with English subtitles. I can’t read the text on the cover except for the word Godzilla. I grew up with the American cut. As a kid, you didn’t know that more than one version existed.

When I met Mikey and he found out I liked Godzilla, he gave me this VHS tape as a gift. When I put it in, it rocked my world. It was like watching a brand new movie. I will cherish this tape as long as it lasts. When I look at it, I think of enjoying Godzilla as a kid. And I also think of my friendship with Mikey.

GC: I love those connections we all make.

TL: My comics make me think of my dad and my friend Matt Burkolder. He gave me the original run of Watchmen. He also gave me the first 15 issues of Wolverine volume two. It’s illustrated by my favorite comic artist, John Buscema. It was one of the last things Matthew gave to me before he passed away. So even if there is some monetary value, it cannot compete with the emotional value.

GC: Was there a movie that got you excited about film and filmmaking?

TL: It was my first visit to a shoot. I was a kid when the Blenders made a music video at Ben Franklin Junior High, where my dad taught. Before that, I had no concept of what making movies looked like. So now I saw camera people and makeup artists and there were multiple takes of different shots. Blew my mind. Around the same time, I started playing with the VHS camcorder at home.

The structure of moviemaking is similar to comic books. Essentially sequential art. And montage. And creating illusion.

More by Greg Carlson: Collecting Movies with Writer-Director Rachel Carey

GC: Like storyboards come to life.

TL: I grabbed on right away. Our next door neighbors were the Boswells. And I was friends with Ryan. Ryan’s dad Paul was a huge movie fan. In the basement of their house was a massive wall covered with VHS tapes. This man was a movie lover. He had the Universal monster movies. I watched Creature from the Black Lagoon for the first time at the Boswell house.

I remember telling Ryan’s dad I wanted to be a moviemaker. And he said, “You want to make movies? Let me show you something.” And he grabbed a sheet of paper, and he wrote out the concept of the wide shot, the medium shot, and the close-up. I thought, “This is what I’m seeing!” It was the first time cinematic language was deconstructed for me. And that was when I became absolutely hooked.

GC: What did you see in the theater that changed the game for you?

TL: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles landed at a prime age for me. The cartoon was out, and I was already obsessed. I remember sitting in the theater — packed house, kids sitting in the aisles, just shoved in everywhere. The lights go down and the crowd is insane. It was surreal and it transported me. The closest I have come to that feeling was watching Avengers: Endgame.

Jim Henson’s Creature Shop effects were so good. Even now I think they hold up. As a kid, it was completely real. Completely real. And there are scenes in that movie that I still play in my head. I paid close attention to the framing. There is a part where April gets jumped by the Foot Soldiers and Raphael defeats this group in three moves. The fight takes 10 seconds, maybe not even. It is a cool moment, the way it is edited together. Intense and really neat and as a kid I thought it was the most amazing thing ever.

I can remember every single frame of that movie, I have watched it so many times. I keep it on every format. I owned it on Blu-ray before I had a Blu-ray player.

Greg Carlson (@gcarlson1972) is an associate professor of communication studies and the director of the interdisciplinary film studies minor program at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota. He is also the film editor of the High Plains Reader, where his writing has appeared since 1997.

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