Comics and the Moving Van

You have to be very careful when you’re packing up bookshelves. You have to plan like you’re playing Stratego with Napoleon. You have to assess the shape of the box before putting twenty years of Tetris training to practical use (see, Mom? It was only an almost complete waste of time) while at the same time remembering to occasionally pause and ask yourself, “Am I sure I will not want to read this issue of Peter Porker, the Spectacular Spider-Ham again before this box gets to its destination?” More important than all of that, though, is the cardinal rule: those floppy, gossamer bundles of thin, insubstantial paper will, when collected in box form, suddenly weigh seven metric tons. Do not just fill the box with books because they fit. Books are heavy.

I was reminded of this today as I scrambled down my staircase like a frightened lemur, trying desperately to get out of the path of an entirely book-filled box which I had lost control of in my feebleness at the top of the stairs and which was now chasing me down like the boulder at the beginning of Raiders of the Lost Ark. “All books,” I thought. “What a rookie mistake. What have you been collecting for the last 23 years, Beanie Babies?”

I packed up these books– which thankfully did not crush my legs or pin me to the basement stairs, where my wretched cries would echo unheard– because we’ve started the process of selling our first house. We were talking about some aspect of the neighborhood we didn’t like the other night when the conversation started to make me cranky, so I decided to end it by piping up with, “Ah, screw it. Let’s just pack up our bindles and go somewhere else.” I inevitably happen to say my craziest or dumbest thing during the one moment all week when anyone is listening to me, so ten days later there we were, emptying drawers and bookshelves so that the place would be tidy when prospective buyers walked through and quietly judged the way we live our lives. For some reason, the real estate lady tells me, displaying an AT-AT and a Jenga-lookin’ “to reread” pile of House of M comics in your living room makes regular people think, “I could never live here. I am not a shut-in,” so into the boxes they go. Let’s hope I don’t end up missing that “to reread” pile because I ran out of comics to catch up oHAHAHAHA I almost finished writing that with a straight face.

The bookshelf I emptied out today was the one I call “the Almighty Trash Heap.” The moment we moved in here over three years ago I designated a spot, an off-to-the-side little nook, where I could dump the new comics I’d just finished reading until I could take them up to my office and organize them in their longboxes. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that this “spot,” as of this morning, was now the entire bookshelf stacked from top to bottom with comics in random order, making it look for all the world like Kevin Spacey from Se7en lived in my house. I am extraordinarily lucky to have found a woman who would spend the rest of her life with a man who piles AT-ATs and comic books all over her house in this way without ever asking, “Hey, is there anywhere besides the middle of the living room this could go? Like the garbage can?” Actually… I bring reams of bizarre, perhaps-age-inappropriate reading material about cartoon characters in their underwear into the house every week, and nobody even asks me about it. What am I doing downstairs? Recording a podcast? Weaponizing Play-Doh? Nobody has any questions. I’m suddenly not sure whether any of this is good or bad. I guess we’ll have that conversation the first time the baby gets her hands on an issue of The Walking Dead.

Thing college graduates think every time they move: “As an adult, I once fit all my worldly possessions in a 12′ x 18′ dorm room, which I shared with another person.” Of course, I wasn’t collecting comics at the time.

One of my first memories as a homeowner is of reading comics. All of the boxes were unpacked; all of the movers had gone home; and my wife had gone to bed, leaving me alone in the darkened solitude and quiet of this strange new place. (Well, actually, we live on a busy city street, so it was more like “leaving me alone in the traffic punctuated by an ambulance siren every twenty minutes or so,” but still: solitude.) Finally having a moment of calm to myself, I sat down on the sofa and read the latest issue of Amazing Spider-Man. He had just started bunking down at Avengers Tower and doing Tony Stark’s laundry. JMS and Mike Deodato were at the helm, and Peter was running around in that ridiculous robo-glove that made dressing in a red and blue unitard seem like a relatively reasonable way to acquit oneself. “This whole thing is wrong,” I thought, “wrong wro-wrongwrongwrong,” to the tune of Sisqo’s “The Thong Song.” (Don’t you judge me.) Later, as I was fumbling around trying to figure out which light switch worked the ceiling fan and which one worked the garbage disposal, it hit me: if Joss Whedon were writing it, all this penthouse apartment hoo-ha would just be the set-up for the real drama, when Tony puts Spider-Man in an untenable position and he has to turn his back and undo it all. Let’s hope that JMS has something in mind at least half that good.

It’s a funny ol’ world.

I thought about that comic again today, and I thought about how, for Spider-Man, all of that 2005 stuff was only a couple of months ago. I may measure the years of my life by the comics I read, but in the comics themselves the years pass very differently. Spider-Man’s been running around since the sixties, and he’s still barely old enough to rent a car. As I packed the kitchen, I thought about that axiom they use to explain “Marvel time”: in the Marvel universe, “now” is always “seven years or so since Fantastic Four #1.” In my delirium, I then did the geekiest thing I will ever, ever do: I did the math. I divided 565 issues by seven years and realized that, if you were really going to be a stickler about it in 2009, the FF would have to have had 81 issues’ worth of adventures every year since the day they got powers.

I don’t know why I did it. I was so bored. After doing that math, the next thing I did was sing that Quizno’s “we love the saaaahhhhbs” commercial from five years ago.

Anyway, it still seemed sort of reasonable. Sure, by pure math-nazi standards that would mean they saved the world from Galactus seven months into the job, but comics time is no place for the math nazi. Besides, I feel like I’ve been packing 80 issues of adventure into every year of my life lately. Hell, the year we bought this house, I also turned 30, got a new job, got married, and saved the multiverse by becoming one with the speed force. Most of that is even true.

Still, given the complications, maybe DC has the better approach. DC handles their time a lot like moving, actually. After a while, the DC Universe looks around and goes, “Yeesh, how did everything get this cluttered? And look at what’s become of the neighborhood! Listen: let’s pack up the good stuff, donate everything else to Goodwill, and start over with a clean slate down the road. Someplace with some new fixtures.” Sure, occasionally they try to hang big old curtains in a small new window, but you have to admire them for being willing to pull up those stakes and give it a shot.

Jim Mroczkowski has something for you in a lovely 3 bedroom, 2.5 bath, and for no extra cost he’ll even throw in a cat who doesn’t know his ****ing place. Interested parties are encouraged to enquire via Twitter or e-mail, if only to have the weirdest “how I found my house” story ever.


  1. I’m moving later this year as well because my fiance is finally finishing med school and getting real job that requires us to move out of state.  One of the big things we’ve talked about is what to do with my comics.  To put it in her words, "I’m not carrying any of that heavy crap!"  Luckily, I have a buddy that is willing to come over and help me carry my long boxes and three tall book shelves filled with trades.

  2. I love that I was jist expecting a rant and I got a rant with philosophical undertones. Now I want to dust Heidigger off again. If you’re looking for a place ti dump the extra floppies VA hospitals will usually take a good chunk for returning vets. I cant imagine how awesome it must be to introduce your adorable daughter to your hobbbies. In 20 years, you cant both rant agaisnt the lack of digital comics 🙂 Thanks for a laugh.

  3. The cat who doesn’t know its place line made me laugh so hard I started coughing. Thanks Jim.

  4. we love the subs!    yes sir we do, someone hand me a banjo

  5. Thats was great man it made me laugh at the idea of moving, which in reality is a scary scary thing. My two least favourite things physical labour and new people. Listen to the moving song by Jeffrey Lewis.

  6. Nice article!

    Has the little-ski seen the Quizno’s subs ad, by the way?  These got reposted on facebook recently and my nephew saw them for the first time (if you weren’t born when this aired, it’s new to you!)  He has a new favorite song.  So, depending on how you feel about "we love the sahbs!" being sung at you constantly in baby-voice, you should either expose her immediately or lock up the Internet forever, just in case.

  7. Fun article, I didn’t really know where it was going at first but it was entertaining the whole time.  I’m also really glad I don’t collect singles, seems like a hassle.  

  8. Nice article.

  9. Cause they are gooood for us!

    Fraggle Rock, Quizno Sub creatures, and putting a cat down a notch?

    That equation equals to best article ever.

  10. When we bought our first house, the comics and all of the home theater equipment was moved by me personally, everything else done by Starving Sudents. I know where my priorities are dammit

  11. Oh my gosh that was funny. "Most of that was even true" had me cracking up. Great article man

  12. A while back I had a "time to reread" pile that sat next to the "get around to reading the first time file." But eventually they comingled and that old Machine Man miniseries got mixed up with unread issues of The Invisibles. Every so often I dive back into the long boxes and find 20-30 more issues that I know I have to read again, simultaneously realizing that they are soon going to end up scattered around the bookshelves in various states of unreadedness, only to trigger yet another bout of the sigh-and-head-shakes from my wife.

    I think if I ever move again I’m going to have to start packing months in advance so I can block out some good time to read things before they go into boxes. Or maybe I’ll give up the self-delusion that I’m a person who has time to read (or re-read) anything anymore, and just look at the pretty pictures.

  13. Moving is more and more difficult as time goes by for a comic collector.  Very sobering.

  14. We did the whole moving house thing just 4 weeks ago and I have to admit that the whole comic collection only added to the stress.  We paid for movers this time but I felt so guilty about all those long boxes that I just had to pitch in and help them.  Still, on the plus side I’ve got a much nicer study/reading room type place which I’ve just finished decorating. Mmmm, extra book shelves….

  15. recently moved 26,000 comics–yes 26,000! it was a bitch but worth it–they love their new room

  16. So on what number is F4 now?

  17. great article!! very intriguing and i love how im in the same situation lol

  18. Ok, according to my calculations each issue of a marvel comic is roughly the equivalent of 6 hours of "marvel time". Which is bizarre now that the page count has decreased which means each page occupies more time than say, 30 years ago. So time moves by more slowly on a micro level whereas it is a constant macroscopically?

  19. Oh no no; I did not mean to encourage the doing of more math. I can’t have that on my conscience.