It’s 2012, but the collector’s mentality still has its hooks in me. What about you?
In my capacity as a writer for iFanboy, I have spent a lot of inches deriding the guy who blocks the New Releases shelf at the comic book shop going through each Deadpool trying to find the one pristine, unsullied copy for him to get slabbed in Lucite, the guy who gives this week’s issue of Detective Comics two stars and then goes downstairs to bag, board, vacuum seal, and enshrine it in his home for all time.
“Imagine if you tried to physically keep a copy of every episode of every show you ever watched on television in your house, whether you liked the show or not,” I’ve said. “Would that not make you a diagnosable insane-o? You keep a boxes and boxes filled with every periodical you ever bought? If your grandma was doing that with TV Guides, you’d put her in a home.”
In my dotage, I’ve started waging an obsessive war on clutter like you only can after a couple of years of slipping on Fisher Price Little People. (Parenthood: It’ll Grinch Ya!™) Anything I haven’t seen my wife or kids touch in more than two days disappears like a Soviet dissident, and I’ve gone after the boxes in my basement with a backhoe. On trash day, our lawn looks like we’ve just been evicted.
And the recycling bin? Well, lately it’s had more than a few comics in it.
Do you ever go through your longboxes and purge? As you’re putting away your most recent purchases, you notice that run of Force Works in there and think, “Come now. You are never going to give those more than an irony-filled riffling again as long as you live, and you don’t want to inflict them on the troops or the kids at the children’s hospital. Donations are supposed to be an act of kindness. It’s time to bury these at sea and clear out some room.” The more I have schlepped up to my office with armloads of comics to file into boxes that are already so heavy that they have permanently warped the shelves they’re on, the more ruthless I have gotten with my recycling. I have become utterly unsentimental.
Or so I claim. But I have a huge weak spot.
Ever since I was a kid, I have had runs of The Avengers, Captain America, Fantastic Four, and Uncanny X-Men, as well as gigantic, whale-choking runs of The Amazing Spider-Man and The Incredible Hulk. They date back to my earliest days of reading and in some cases span all the way up to when I quit in the nineties. These are the books I put in bags to protect them, although being ten I saved money on bags by cramming in a dozen at a time. I earnestly believed I was protecting my investment, but as an adult I now see that many of these treasures now look like I kept them in a a bird cage with an angry falcon precisely because of the way I “protected” them. Nonetheless, they were mine and I loved them.
The thing is, back before the iPad was even a glimmer in Steve Jobs’ still-glimmering eye, a company called GIT Corp. was licensed by Marvel to publish DVDs with entire 500-issue runs of these books on them in PDF form. I have every one of these DVDs. So I have digital copies of all the issues I bought as a kid, and many more issues besides.
There is no reason whatsoever for me to keep these books anymore.
So why haven’t I gotten rid of them?
I’ve had these DVDs for five or six years. All the issues stayed up there in the boxes. Mr. Tough Guy has no mercy when the comic’s just a couple years old– “Fear Itself: The Home Front? Bah! Into the garbage chute, flyboy!”– but when he gets to the box that’s about to self-rip because of Peter David’s Hulk run, suddenly Mr. Tough Guy is alone in a room arguing with himself.
“B-but what if Adobe’s next reader doesn’t support these files anymore? I won’t be able to look at these issues again.”
“Even though you haven’t looked at them again as it is for at least ten years.”
“Never mind that. All those issues Todd McFarlane made his name with are in here, and I have kids to put through college.”
“Listen to yourself! Those things are on eBay for cover price, you fool! The nineties are over!”
Still the pounds and pounds of paper persist. This week, during the latest schlepping upstairs/alphabetizing/box shuffling/back throwing out/filing/life-choice questioning/day-I-was-born cursing, I did another purge. After wrestling with myself for twenty minutes like I was trying not to turn into a werewolf, I finally took all those old runs out of their boxes.
And moved them downstairs.
(I think it was the smell of the paper that melted my resolve.)
It’s hard to shake a habit so ingrained into your psyche. You don’t just stop doing something you’ve been doing since you were eight years old, no matter how unsentimental you may think you are. While I love getting my weekly reading as an intangible file (it alphabetizes and files itself! you purge by hitting a button!) those old stacks still have their claws in me. I may never shake it. I’m still figuring out whether that’s a weakness or a strength.
Jim Mroczkowski wishes he’d never seen that episode of Hoarders.