Bookalanche

November 29th, 2009.

Day Three of my ordeal. As the nights grow ever colder, all hope of rescue has started to fade. My legs, pinned to the earth under all the rubble, are losing circulation and getting that falling-asleep-and-waking-up, pins-and-needles feeling. I would cry out, but it would only cause another avalanche. Provisions are all but gone; I only came up here in the first place with a 32-ounce McDonald's cup full of Diet Dr. Pepper, and I didn't realize I'd need to ration until it was too late. I may not have long now.

so many piles of comics!At least I can type out this journal to keep my mind occupied as my body lies helpless. I would be quite mad by now if I hadn't spent most of Day Two slowly burrowing with my free hand to rescue my phone from my pocket. Now, almost entirely immobilized and starving to death, at least I have some means of recording what may be my last words. And also playing Scrabble.

I'm sure my loved ones are still doing all they can to save me. From the other side of the door, my wife shouted yesterday that she had called the fire department and told them that her husband was buried under 7,000 comic books in his office closet. She said they told her to call back when the comics were on fire. Personally, I think she's lying to get the DVR to herself for a few more days, but I can't find out one way or the other. I still can't get a cell phone signal in here; goddamn these holofoil covers! Why did they all have to fall around my head? F***ing nineties! "Collectible," they said. I have collected my own demise!

Maybe my wife is just trying to teach me a lesson. Who could blame her, really? She warned me a dozen times that something like this could happen. "You can only stack paper so high," she said. "Where there used to be visible surfaces in this room, there are now only piles of Daredevil," she said. "Are you really planning to sit down and read Great Lakes Avengers again someday?" she asked. I heeded none of her warnings, and now I shall die entombed in a complete run of X-Factor.

Oh, how angry the movers were when I had them lug all of this up here in August. "You can't fill a box this size with just books!" one hissed at me, hastily adding "sir" to preserve his tip. Karma has given him his revenge this day. Those movers are laughing somewhere, even as they nurse the backs I broke just so that Spitfire and the Troubleshooters wouldn't get moldy in the basement.

It all started so innocently. I didn't want comics to take over my house, and I didn't want to be someone who has a storage unit across town filled from floor to ceiling with books he will never have time to read again even if they invent replacement bodies in the next few years. When I had accumulated ten long boxes of comics, then, I decreed, "I shall not buy another box! When the time comes to store new comics, I will make room by getting rid of older, crappier comics. This way shall I avoid becoming a hoarder, and only masterpieces will survive in the boxes, as Misinterpreted Darwin intended."

For a while, this is exactly what I did. Old comics got "loaned" to children or donated; entire years (1992) got recycled outright. Then things started to get busy. It became all too easy to finish reading the week's books, then just drop them in a small pile on my desk until I could deal with them later. Then the pile ceased being small. Then it ceased being a single pile. Then the desk ceased being a desk. Then the piles moved to the closet, on top of the boxes they were meant to fill but now dwarfed. Then came Friday, when I came upstairs, absentmindedly threw Cowboy Ninja Viking #2 on top of Area 14, and set off the wobbling, rumbling bookalanche that threw me to the ground and pinned the door shut.

What a fool I've been. Why did I keep so many? Imagine all the TV shows you watch, and imagine keeping a copy of every episode in your house for years after you watched it. Just in case it might be worth something to someone. Just in case you wanted to see that Ice Road Truckers again in 2021. Your kids would put you away, if they could find you in there.

"But I paid $3 for it," I'd think. "I'm not going to pay $3 for something, use it once and throw it out." Why not buy a backup copy of every cheeseburger you've ever eaten and keep it in your freezer, too, Jim? At least then you'd have been able to eat your way out. You couldn't find anything in these piles even if you had wanted to reread it. They were just stacked newest to oldest, like rings on a tree.

I swear, if I make it out of this, I am going to be more reasonable. I am going to enjoy my comics; I am going to appreciate them fully; but by God, I am going to treat them like periodicals. I am going to save the ones I love– perhaps in a convenient, attractive Drawerbox from CollectionDrawer.com (wink!) — and the rest are going right back out the door. Also, if I make it out of this, I am going to buy a bullhorn and stand outside of someone's office until the major publishers stop killing trees and go digital, dammit. DIGITAL.

Oh, no! I shouldn't have shouted "DIGITAL" out loud! The Spider-Man stack is giving way! This is the end! Avenge me, my child! Avenge me! ARRRRRRGGGGHHHH

 


Jim Mroczkowski did not type out "ARRRRRRGGGGHHHH" while dying; his fingers just happened to be crushed on top of those keys. Final respects may be paid at Twitter; indeed, we're approaching a time when that'll be what you do instead of sending flowers.

Comments

  1. What a loss. I will miss your wit, Jim.

    As somebody who loves single issues, I am quickly growing fond of the idea of digital comics. Give me an issue for a buck and a nice device to read it on, and I’ll be set. I can buy the hardcovers of the books I like the most. 100 years from now, people will scoff at the very real tragedy of a skilled writer being buried underneath a mound of comics. I hope they can be that lucky.

  2. I’m gonna start buying backup cheeseburgers

  3. Perhaps you could fashion a crude rocket out of a discarded cigar tube, some baking soda, and some lemon juice (a la Principal Skinner).  Attach it to a retractable vacuum cleaner cord and you are home free.

    I think you nailed it when you mentioned your wife.  Mine simply won’t let me keep mine piled up all over the place.  They must be filed away so as not to offend the delicate sensibilities of our many illustrious guests. 

    I have a small issue with your TV episode analogy.  If you had purchased and downloaded episodes of your favorite shows would you delete them after viewing them or would you save them on your hard drive forever (or at least until their format is no longer viable)?  Think about how we keep our digital music stored.  We don’t delete songs after listening to them.  We often place them in little alphabetical folders on our hard drive.  That might be a better analogy.

  4. I often look at my trades and hardcovers and try to think when the last time I read them was.   If the answer doesn’t fall within the last three years, up on ebay the books go!

  5. You just reminded me of a harrowing reality that I must one day face…I share a studio apartment with my girlfriend, and can JUST fit 4 longboxes into my space. I’m dreading the day I have to get another, because there is honestly nowhere to put it!

     

    I sometimes have my own mini bookalanche (a book landslide?) when I make a pile of the books I either haven’t read yet or havent put away in the boxes because Im too lazy. Of course, after a few weeks, this pile grows quite a bit, and prohibits the space that I need to perform my lesser tasks, like working and eating.

     

    Good stuff!

  6. Wherever he falls there shall he be buried! 

  7. Its funny you chose ten long boxes as your cutoff point as I have done the same with drawer boxes.  At this point all ten have something in them but only 3 are completely full.

    I only save those issues that I am going to reread or that have historical value of some sort or both.  The rest get given away, sold, or more likely, traded in for new comics.  As I only read about 12 titles a month, I think I should be okay for quite awhile.  

    That being said I want to go on record as saying that the idea of digital comics sickens me.  Comics are intended to be written entities that both contain art and are art in and of themselves.  Digitizing comics dilutes this experience by reducing the comic the way that powerpoint reduces a presentation.  Emphasis is on the panel at hand, without attention to where it fits among the other panels on the page, how the page as a whole impacts our experience.  This may seem insignificant, but would Watchmen or Fell have been quite so amazing if read panel by panel without regard for how the panels fit together on the page?  Digitization also reduces the aura of the art itself, rendering covers superfluous.  In effect, digitization would mean that instead of reading comics we would be looking at a series of pictures of what once were comics.  The difference is the difference between looking at the Mona Lisa and looking at a picture of the Mona Lisa.  It also opens a slippery slope to digital art which is a separate problem in and of itself.   Finally, while it may mean a wider readership, it disconnects the story from the context, time and place within which it was written.  While this may seem insignificant, the experience of reading the Phoenix saga interspersed by ads from the early 80s is part of the experience of that comic – it is firmly fixed in a time and place.  

  8. Interesting article, but I don’t agree with much of it.  I’m a collector of many things, and as somebody already mentioned, I don’t see how comics are different from movies or music.  When I buy a dvd, I keep it if I enjoy it and trade it if I don’t.  With comics, it’s more difficult to get rid of them for profit, as it is with cds.  That being said, I’ve bought a couple metal filing cabinets and stored my comics alphabetized by company, then title.  My girlfriend and I have 8000 comics at this point, with only 5 long boxes under our bed. 

     I know I’m blessed because she reads comics as well, so we often will go back and pull out old series and read through them together (just this year, Savage Dragon, Excalibur, and Wildcats) and although not all the issues are great, read together it’s really great.  On the off chance I have a kid someday, it’ll be a great selection for them to peruse, along with the movies and thousand or so books that we’ve housed in an attick that’s been turned into a library.

     I should mention, this is all in a 1000 square foot, 2 bedroom, one bathroom home.  Some creativity and organization let you keep all the stuff you really want; forget long boxes they look cheap and only hold 250-300 comics anyways.

  9. Clearly your wife will have a Viking funeral for you and your books. That way she can get them out of the house when you’re gone.

  10. I no longer collect monthly issues so I am sitting waiting for the digital age to catch up with my needs.  However, I do have about 15 long boxes of issues that I have collected previously.  There are some things I would like to keep but much of it I would be happy to get rid of.  I have been going back and forth on having the good stuff bound.  It might actually increase the chances of my reading it again if it is bound on a shelf as opposed to being bagged up in a box in my garage.  It is turning into one of those someday I’ll get to it type projects.  Great article as always Jim.

  11. I don’t want these comics anymore.  Someone take them.  But bring them back to me when I need them or video shows.

    But yeah, I’m over keeping issues.  That being said, I can’t just throw them out.  That would wound me.  What to do…

    And what if my son wants them?!  Argh.

  12. Sullivan85 made a good point when he mentioned eBay. I hear it’s a decent way to get rid of a bunch of comics if you can bundle up a decent run.

     

     

  13. The main library in the city does book/comic book/whatever drives. You can donate them to the library.

  14. @comicbookchris

    Wow, the idea of even sharing a studio apartment is pretty bad in the first place.

    Drawerboxes? 

  15. This article comes two days after I walked into my bedroom, and the tremor caused a literal avalanche of comic books to begin sliding down from the three-foot high stack they were in, spilling in slow rhythm onto the floor.

    I don’t bag or board, but I’ve been saying for MONTHS now that I need some more boxes. Still, I forget every week, while I have many comics already boxed, I still have about three giant stacks, each ranging from 1-to-3 feet in height, all waiting for boxes. 

    And keep in mind: I’ve been doing this for too damned long. I spent my 20’s hitting cons and local shops and diving in quarter bins, and I probably have a good 50 boxes still in storage, along with another 10 short boxes in my house, all in addition to the current unseemly stacks. This has become so unwieldy that i don’t even know how to get rid of them. It would take all my vacation time this year just to organize them and decide which series I want to keep. It may be time to just start getting rid of all of them. I feel like this should be one of the labors of Hercules.

  16. @Josh

    Ohh be careful of the "what if my son wants this" I’ve been saying the SAME thing since my lil guy arrived. The thing is…kids have to make their own discoveries don’t they? I now take that thought of getting a book ‘for the kid’ as a severe warning sign…

     

  17. He isn’t saying he’s going to load the comics into his kid’s room.

     

  18. Yeah, I’m not planning on trying to make him like anything.  But my thought was more along the lines if I get rid of everything, and someday he wants to see what was such a big part of my life.  But really, I have enough books that the issues are kind of moot.

    Sounds like a column.  Hmm…

  19. Comics are not just old magazines or newspapers or yellow’d books. Comics are art. I would find it very difficult to throw a comic in a trashcan.

  20. @Camden: Yellowed books are art as well.

  21. Josh: I have every intention of indoctrinating the children, but they’re never going to need those issues of New Mutants. It would be harder than a geneology project just to explain what they were.

  22. If Jimski’s dead, who will brighten my Monday mornings? Does this mean there’s a job opening?

  23. I do have a lot of digital comics on those DVDs they used to sell, got a bunch of em before they stopped selling them on Amazon. Also I have a subscription to Marvel Digital, which I use to catch up on certain titles (X-Men for one), to avoid having to buy 10 trades. But there is something about having a nice trade or hardcover in your hands, that I can read on the couch or lying in bed.  For the really good stuff I buy the trades, because I can only sit hunched over the computer reading comics for so long before I get distracted by incoming email or online poker.  

      So I mainly read digital at night when there’s not enough light to read by (I hate turning on bright lights late at night) and physical books during the day.

     

  24. MY answer to the book/space issue is simple – buy a bigger house.  Seriously.  You get older, you make more money, you have a family, you need more space.  Make sure to buy something that has a room just for you!  The economy needs it! 

    😉 

  25. I sometimes think of giving away chunks of old comics, but I would actually feel bad giving someone a run of Heroes Reborn Captain America. Or worse, some poor, well intentioned mother randomly grabbing some stuff at Half Price Books for her sick son will get home to discover she inadvertently picked up my (free! it was free with some order! I swear!) copy of one of the Marvel swimsuit issues.

    I keep them to protect the world!

    Those drawer boxes are nifty in concept, but too expensive and awkward next to all my old-style long-boxes. I guess if you have all drawers it’s nice, but a mix is a pain.

  26. The day when I can wake up Wednesday morning, fire up my computer and have it automatically download my pull list of books that I can then sync with my eReader type device, cell phone and what have you will be a very good day for me. I have been reading single issues for a while now and have amassed about 8 longboxes. I hate seeing them stored in the corner of my bedroom. I know I will never read 90% of them again but I’ll be damned if something I paid over $4 for is getting thrown out! That’s just horrendous. We had the sensation of freeing ourselves from our CD collection some years back, and I enjoyed that feeling quite a bit. Just recently I’ve (pretty well) done the same for movies and TV shows. For comics, I will be estatic.

  27. I love Comics.  I have several long boxes full and need a few more for the issues left on my shelf.  But I don’t think of getting rid of them, that would be insane for me.  Although I do get rid of old movies and television series from time to time, but that’s different.  I don’t love any of my possessions, other than comics.  Playstation, Television, anything but comics could be thrown out and I would be fine.  That’s more room for comics. 

    I generally keep/buy comics for one reason, and that is the joy of looking back at an old issue and saying "Yeah I remember that!"  If I had only the comics that I read yearly then I would have a very boring experience saying: "Oh yeah, that same crap for the one hundredth freaking time!"  See the difference?  REDISCOVERY  makes every comic in my collection worth having. 

    But you guys do what you want, I could be as strange as my family says and my opinion mean nothing.

  28. I just throw my issues onto my bookshelf. Seriously I do. It’s all stacked up on two columns; one side is ‘A-M’ and the other is ‘N-Z’. No protection, no boxes, no nothing. Just collecting dust as I speak. I might get strips of paper and label which comics are what to stack em better. But my method is good for me. It’s gonna suck when there’s no more room on that bookshelf……

    But we’ll get to that juncture when the time comes. 🙂

  29. Now that I have 40 longboxes, I keep wishing the comic companies would agree on an iTunes-like central digital comics service. It’s gotten to the point where I have to spend an entire day every couple of years just integrating new books into my existing collection and I can barely walk the next day. I hate the thought of giving them away, but I don’t have the time to sell them on eBay.

  30. Is BitTorrenting comics that you’ve already paid for stealing? ‘Cause that would solve the problem.

     

  31. I just bought a Kindle and the first thing I did was renew my subscription to a couple of magazines that I still wanted to read but had let lapse because I didn’t have any place to put them.  Partly because of all the comics around my house.  It was so easy!

     Now if I could have gotten a comparable color device and similar mechanism for comics.  . .well, consdier me a convert to digital.  That still doesn’t solve the problem of all the boxes of stuff in this house.  One day.

  32. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    The going theory is that my room is ten degrees warmer than other rooms in the house because the books are serving as insulation. 

  33. I love the feeling of the weekly trip to the lcs and the anticipation of the Monday pull list – but I very much prefer the way collections look on the shelf.  It’s a tough call because I have a lotof memories entwined with the single issues, especially the older ones from my childhood.  I also don’t find that you can make enough on ebay to fund changing the singles to collections for the bookcase.  The trouble is do you just keep going forever, until you do indeed succumb to mortality surrounded by a raging sea of floppies??

    And my son, who’s seven now, likes to read issues of the Batman animated comics and Brave and the Bold, but I find that’s more to do with sharing something with me.  The things he’s found on his own are Star Wars (from Clone Wars to working backwards to the classic trilogy) and Transformers, among other things.  I wonder if he will actually come to embrace the idea of the superhero or not (he’s only got a year to go til he’s the same age I was when I found Secret Wars and Batman # 385)

  34. As a new comic book reader, I just recently filled up my first long box after about 6 months of collecting. That did not take too long. I’ve decided to cut back by buying only the titles which I feel are really good and need the financial support to survive (I’m looking at you, SWORD). I am also sticking with books that read well monthly as opposed to trades. I’m seriously considering dropping GL after BN because I think it would read great as a trade, and I have no worries about that title going anywhere. I’m also thinking of binding the books that I do have once I’ve gotten a good run together. I’ll probably bind Thor starting with JMS and ending with Siege, and then probably switching to trades after that. We’ll see.

    As for the future son discovery thing, I too hope my children find some interest in my single issues. I don’t think I need 40 long boxes to leave for them, though. If I only collect what I really absolutely love in single issues, that will cut the chaff and also be more potentially appealing to them. I think Josh has the right idea. Keep what you love, and if your children are interested in what you love, it’ll all work out. Don’t buy something for your collection because you think your future child will like it. It would be better to buy that issue as a direct gift, I would think.

    And as far as digital comics go, I disagree about the digital medium inherently changing the art. If you have a Kindle like device that reproduces the color and definition of a full comic book page, there should be no complaints. Reading panel by panel is not a digital limitation, it is a device limitation

  35. For me I’m gonna start on the Book Binding hobby. I hate, HATE bags and boards. I never get out my comics once they go into a bag and board. I don’t care about condition or value, I just want to read them again.

    Its something you might think about doing if you have a small series that you love and like to read over and over again, say, such as Gotham Central.

  36. I’ve been toying with dropping singles issues and going trades only – I bag and board all my issues, and have 5 short boxes (no room to store long) just about all full (only been collecting issues for about 3 years).  I think I keep the singles issues in a strange sense of completism – I know I’ll never have the full run of X-Men from #1, but part of my brain tells me ‘At least you’ll have the complete run from 475 onwards…’ 

    That same idiotic part of my brain made me, despite already having them all in trades, going back to get the full issue runs of Whedon’s Astonishing and Grant Morrison’s New X-Men.  I got a strange sense of ‘Look what I did, I’ve got them all!’ but now they’re just sealed in bags, forgotten in favour of the trade if ever I want to read them.

    How many people actually do bind their issues once they’ve got a decent run?

    And as for the digital comics vs hard copies, I shall quote a recent episode of Doctor Who.  ‘The smell of books.  You need the smell.’

  37. When I hit 20 long boxes or so, back in the late 90’s it came to a head.  My ‘long box room’ had to be converted to a ‘small child room’.  I was conflicted about it enough that I stopped buying issues regularly for about 5-6 years, picking up trades only.  When I went back to issues, I put aside the collector in me and dumped the majority of my collection in a series of yard sales.  Now, with some exceptions, I only keep certain titles and the rest give/sell after a story arc or a year’s worth or so.

     I have 2 floor – ceiling bookshelves in my office that house all the remaining issues.  Divided into 4 sections; silver age stuff, Kirby stuff, Captain America, and misc runs and titles that I haven’t found in trade.  I have no idea what I will do when it’s full, other than the Cap run takes precedence over all.

     Bring on digital.  Not this phone stuff, but real big hi-res stuff.  Open a comic and hold it to a 19" 4:3 monitor… works for me.

  38. I just had a bookalanche the other day.  I had been stacking about 5 weeks worth of books on top of my longboxes and my cat jump up on them and scattered them.  At that point I decided it was time to bag and bored them.  To my surprise, I ran out of tape ARGHHHH!!!!!  No fears I finally was able to file all my comics away.  I’m working on filling my 8th long box and I am really considering switching to the drawerboxes.  When they are shipped are they already put together or is assembly required?

  39. I love comics, but I am saddened by Hoarders every week.  I don’t want to be those people.  ARRRRGGHH!!

  40. Huh, I’d never thought of getting my comics bound. I’ll have to look into that.

  41. I purge my collection about every 3 months for books that I won’t read again.  I can’t stand clutter.