When you think of the average comic book collector what kind of person crosses your mind? A pimply-faced teenager lining up to purchase that elusive first day edition at a comic book convention? A forty year old avid collector wearing an Iron-Man T-Shirt his teenage passion for comics reignited by the plethora of superhero movies that we have seen released to cinemas over the last decade?

Well, it will probably surprise you that one of Melbourne’s largest collections of comics, graphic novels and trade paper backs belongs to Greg Reilly – a former architect and TAFE lecturer who is aged in his early 80s. In the office of his North Balwyn home there are shelves that you can swear you can hear groan under the weight of the thousands of comics that sit on them.

These are the prized possessions, the ones that will stay with Greg for life. At the front is his ‘new – to be read’ pile, that is filled with the comics that he has recently scored during his latest visit to his favourite comic book store. In his garage are boxes and boxes of more comics that he says are up for trade with other collectors or to be sold to the younger generation of comic book collectors – a number that is forever on the rise. At his last estimation Greg says that it is likely that 10,000s thousands comics have gone through his hands over the years.

It started way back when Greg was a small child growing up in Carlton. “My mother used to buy me comics to read when I was sick in bed,” he says with a laugh. “None of them ever remained in my hands though. They were things like Action comics, Archie & Jughead and Casper The Ghost but they were all passed onto other kids in the neighbourhood or thrown out. To be honest back then they were pretty bland and when I discovered things like Enid Blyton with The Famous Five and The Secret Seven and I moved onto those and lost interest in comics.”

Greg’s passion for comics didn’t reignite until he was in his 40s and it soon turned into a raging love affair that just simply couldn’t be extinguished. “When I started my teaching course at uni the Art Teacher said to me ‘have you seen comics lately they are very different to what they used to be.’ Most of the other people in the course thought he was a bit of a twat for saying that but I thought I should go and check them out. I did and I realised that they were totally different.”

Talking to Greg you soon feel that he isn’t a collector interested the main comic-book publishers, Marvel vs DC, range in fact super-heroes don’t seem to interest him that much – he is a more serious collector. “I loved things like Gru The Wanderer and I like good story-telling,” Greg explains. “For me it all comes down to the story-telling in the end so I have loved a lot of the titles by Warren Ellis over the years and a lot of the more obscure stuff. At the end of the day comics are as much literature as they are art, not a lot of people realise that.”

Greg takes us through more of his collection and the inevitable has to be asked – what does his family think of his ever-growing collection. “Well the grandkids love it,” he says laughing out loud. “They love what I give them to read but for the rest of the family they look at all these and think holy shit how are we going to get rid of all that crap when he dies? And we never, ever talk about how much it has cost me in front of my wife.”