To the box or recycle bin?

Why do we keep things?

I am not sure if it’s because I am neurotic or because I sometimes slip and have caffeine too late in the day, but there have been several nights — like, several — when I’ve thought to myself, “what the hell am I going to do with all those comics in my closet?”

I’ve written about my storage situation before and you know it’s not good. Sure, I have the illusion of a process that makes me look like I know what I am doing, but at the end of the day, I have to come to terms with the fact that not only do I have no more room in my closet, despite my Tetris-like arrangement of boxes, and I have already gotten rid of a small box’s worth of comics. Yes, I want to give some to Neb but I haven’t done that yet and yes, I think there are more to get rid of… but…

I mean, I am writing about getting rid of comics. That’s not good, but that’s the position I am in. When does content become contents? Let’s take a step back: not so long ago, when you went to go get music, you got a CD. To listen to that music, you had to get the CD and put it in the player. When you were done, you put that CD on the shelf for future listening. Same thing for records, tapes, videotapes and DVDs. The trend now, obviously, is putting everything on a hard drive — from music to movies, from pictures to books (both audio and digital).

Yes, we have digital comics, but what’s kind of interesting is that while you can get many new comics digitally (eventually), how about all the old ones? You can digitize CDs and DVDs (let’s put aside the legal aspect of it for now, I’m talking box management right now) and stick ’em on the hard drive, but with comics… I mean, I don’t see anyone starting off a “scan your comics” business. (Can you imagine that job? Oh, man.) So, we’re kind of stuck with your old comics and, for the time being, the new comics are going to rapidly become old comics — more stuckitude.

It wouldn’t be so bad if you’re the kind of comics reader who buys a few issues a month and relies mostly on trades. But if you are on this site regularly, you are most likely Not that person and buy around, what — a minimum of 6 comics a week? At least, 24-30 comics a month? At least? It adds up! And there’s no end!

And that’s fine, that’s good. That’s the fun of it, this storage and collection management. But let’s dig a bit deeper: when you have music and movies, the replay value is pretty obvious. Movies and music –pretty much can be enjoyed by yourself, or, more often, with other people. This is one of the reasons we keep this stuff around, so we can share it with other people. I mean, listening to Barry White by yourself is fine, but listening to Barry White with that special someone… I mean, that’s kind of why you got that CD in the first place, right? And those candles?

My closet. notice the clothing ->

But comics, honestly — unless you have an overhead projector or something… this is a single, one person experience (which is one of the reasons they are so awesome). Even books can be read aloud, but comics? You and the page, my friend, you and the page.

A transcript:

“What’s that?”
“Another box.”
“For what?”
“More comics?”
“Yeah, I got more comics this month and I don’t have any room on the shelf, so I am putting them in this box.”
“And then where’s the box going to go?”
“In my closet?”
“In your closet that has 12 comics boxes in it?”
“Is there room?”
“Yes, once I get rid of some clothes.”
(wait for it…)
“Why don’t you just get rid of some of those comics?”
“Because… because I might read them later…!?”

That’s right. Because we might read them later.

And when, is that, really? For me, it’s when I am in a nursing home, with no job and nothing to do all day. Like, when I am 97, when all I can do, really, is sit and read. I have crappy eyesight, so I admit it’s a stretch. But I am not sure if I will be able to lift the damn boxes when I am that old, so now, even as I write this, I see a hole in my logic.

<— My co-worker’s closet; as you can see, no pretense of clothing storage. I like the box that’s on top of a box below, leaning against the closet wall. Love that.

The thing is — I have gotten rid of regular books, no problem (well, some problem, but I still get rid of them), I get rid of clothes, I even bought binders for movies and CDs (which I really did not want to do but it just made sense)–but what, I am going to find some massive binder for comics? NO!

Let’s pull back one more level — why do we keep anything in the first place? I was in a play in college called You Can’t Take It With You. I honestly don’t think I really understood the title back then but I sure as hell do now. It’s not like we contributing to society by keeping these things and, I don’t know about you, but I don’t spend any time going over all this old stuff, but I still keep it around. Why? Just because I spent money on something have I been conditioned to think that I should keep the object around? Is that it?

Now, I don’t have any kids — I am not sure I am going to have kids in the future, either — but I can see maybe making the excuse for saving them for my future kids, but even that’s dicey. I would have to totally not care for the books, which might be good…

(An aside: What’s with the bagging and boarding? I mean, it keeps them nice and straight and keeps those spines nice and straight and maybe help you get an extra 1/8 of a penny for them, but… why?)

I gotta wrap this up, I know. I have to get rid of some comics and I am thinking, hard, about how to deal with my comics intake. Maybe digital versions, I mean, maybe I will adopt that. I don’t want to. Like a good but not great relationship, I don’t know where this is going. I don’t want to travel with 28 long boxes.

Sure, I can whittle. I can get rid of issues I know I will not read, and I think that’s what I am going to do this weekend. There are always those issues where it’s one big fight scene or just one lame thing after another and it doesn’t do anything to the main plot and the art is bad and even though it makes the collection “incomplete” you know you are not going to read it — you know what the cover is and you know you will just roll your eyes… so… recycle it. 

I am going to try it. I have many, many issues of Ultimate Spider-Man. I have to ask my self, do the covers mean that much to me? I can just replace the entire collection with trades be done with it, if the stories, few of which I can actually remember or even care to remember, are just so vital to my life that I need to reread them. All those 100 Bullets? Good stuff, but I dropped the book, so I can get rid of those 50 issues without blinking. Same thing with Ultimate Fantastic Four (except maybe that one run with Pasqual Ferry). But then I wouldn’t be able to go back and say, “Oh, I actually do have that issue where so and so inked this and what’s-his/her-name-wrote blah blah blah.” Then I can bask in whatever resulting praise that might follow. So I need this praise? Jeez, I need a raise more than I need the praise, son!

It’s supposed to rain on Saturday. If it does, there’s a charity out there somewhere that’s gonna get a ton of comics for the holidays.

How about you? Am I thinking about this too much? Do you stay up late at night wondering what you are going to with your collection? Do you think people like me should even buy comics? Is this just part of the lifestyle? Would you ever replace your floppies with trades? With (gasp) digital versions?

Thanks for reading.  I think I feel a little better now.

According to his manager, Mike Romo is still an actor in LA, despite the relative lack of work. He is thinking about moving to a new apartment down the hall…one that has a much bigger closet. He can be reached


  1. "Am I thinking about this too much?"

    Yes 🙂 

  2. Most of us likely share this same dilema.  For those of us stressing on this, perhaps we all need to develop our own version of a "records retention" policy as a compromise.  For example:

    1.  Keep most books for a defined period (e.g., 3 years).  Anything older we are very unlikely to go back and re-read with all the new stuff coming out.

    2.  Donate or trash books older than the established deadline (this is easy to do if you store your books chronologically)

    3.  Keep ONE longbox for "exceptions" to the rule; intended for those issues which may have some actual good resale value (older/valuable issues).  If this box fills up then it will force you to sell some of them, to make room for new issues.  Only spend $$$ boarding and bagging what goes in this one box.

    This may sound extreme because we (comic readers) tend to be pack-rat collectors by nature.  You have to decide if it’s any less extreme to be moving clothes, furniture, etc; just to accomodate your ever burgeoning comic collection.  I refuse to pay for a storage unit to house comics which I’ll probably never read again.  I find the minimalist approach appealing, but as with most things, its much easier said than done.

    "The things you own, end up owning you in the end" to paraphrase Tyler Durden of Fight Club.

  3. is a charity that accepts (preferably recent) comic books for soliders abroad.  No, I am not a paid endorser — but I have sent them several shipments of books I’ve read and decided I don’t want to keep.

    Also, I am starting to narrow the focus of what I buy (much less what I save) to a few specific characters (in my case, the Superman family).

  4. As I’ve said before, in the pre-Neb days I would go through a biannual culling. I looked at the boxes in my closet one day and said, "I will not buy or house another box." Since then, when the box fills, I go through it and say, "Really? Are you going to read the Avengers issues with Sue Storm and Gilgamesh again? Given that you don’t remember buying them in the first place? Toss!"

    This is one of the many, many, many ways that digital comics are superior to paper. Buying the DVDs of these series have cut a vast swath of space in the closets of Ski Manor.

  5. Um, I’ve decided to just have two boxes, one for Marvel and one for DC and (apart from trades, of course) that’s IT!!!

    I know what a hoarder I can be and I went through some boxes of comics stored from my childhood a few weeks when visiting my parents. I didn’t store them well and most of ’em were yellow, stank and in no condition to be read again.

    I do love to see how other ifanboys store their comics though, that video of Josh the other day was disturbingly compelling.



  6. My house can hold up to 16 short boxes and several bookcases of trades.  Anything more than that and the wife starts to ask questions.  My process:

    I have 15 boxes full of books I keep…the 16th box is temporary storage.  Once the temp storage box gets full I begin to place them in permanent storage.  I remove a comic from permanent storage for everyone I put in.  This is a great way to never exceed your limit and also makes you question what you are currently reading.  I mean if you don’t want to keep it forever do you want to even spend you money on it?  

    Sometimes this is painful…sometimes it isn’t, but it works for me.

    Great article Mike. 

  7. I don’t have enough monthlies for them to be a problem, storage-wise.  For TPB/OGNs, I have a three teir system.  There’s my primary books which occupy a bookshelf in my office.  Everything I love is here.  If I get a new book I want to keep on the shelf, I need to bump one off into the secondary bookshelf in my storage cage.  They’re in there, lined up in the chronological order they went in.  If I pull a book off to read it again, it goes to the back of the line.  If a book gets kicked off of the primary into the secondary, then the books at the front of the line go into the giveaway pile.  While the occasional premium book gets sold, 99% of what’s in the giveaway pile gets given away, either to friends and family or to the friends of the library.  It’s a system that works for me and prevents me from getting overrun with comics.  Regular culling is good for any collection. 

  8. Oh, and one of the problems I have with long/short boxes is that you kind of have to keep them in a closet, which is very limiting.  I mean, it’s just kind of tacky to have wall of cardboard boxes in your family room/office/wherever.  That’s why, for the monthly issues I do have, I like file cabinets.  I’ve got a nice credenza-style file cabinet.  Nothing too fancy – I’m pretty sure it’s just particle board with a decent veneer.  But it doesn’t look out of place or make my office look sloppy the way a stack of cardboard boxes would.  Obviously, this is just my personal preference. 

  9. I have stopped buying issues years ago, around 1993.

    I got back into comics when I discovered iFanboy a couple of years ago, and when Infinite Crisis was in the headlines. So I’m still catching up with the 15 years of continuity that I missed. I’m up to Infinite Crisis now for DC.
      For that effort, instead of buying issues I buy trades, which fit better in my bookshelf, and I have a subscription to Marvel Digital Comics.

    I have also bought the DVD’s from Amazon of those 40 year collections of Spider-Man, Avengers, Hulk, Iron Man, Captain America, Fantastic Four, and X-Men. Too bad they aren’t making any more of these.

    Also a good source of trades is the public library. The one here in Toronto has a lot of good trades. I’m currently working my way through Y: The Last Man and Fables through trades ordered from the library.

  10. god comments, guys-I really like the idea of a file cabinet! That would make me look very professional, as if I were keeping "records" of my "life". 


    Funnily enough, I looked at the page and the banner ad to the right was for closet organization systems.


    Thanks for the Heroes4heroes idea! that sounds perfect!



  11. I’m more like Jimski in that I have a periodical culling time. However, recently It’s been harder and harder for me to get rid of stuff because as I pull the old books out I end up thinking "Oh, cool, I forgot about Waid and Kubert’s Ka-Zar! This is sweet!" Then I take those out and read them.

    I reread old issues all the time, so it’s hard for me to just say, "Aw I’ll never read that." But have to guide myself by saying, "That sucked when I was in high school and it hasn’t gotten better in the last ten years…in fact, now I read much better stuff all around and that crummy stuff REALLY looks crummy…time to get rid of it!"  Every few months I go through a random old series to read through at random times. After 2+ months I finished going through Daredevil Volume 2 and have now moved on to the Peter David and Gary Frank Hulk days. Good stuff.  Maybe one solution is to go back and read the comics you keep, even if you don’t ahve much time, and in that way you can at least (partly) justify keeping them. If you truly won’t read them again, get rid of them. Be careful though, a few years ago I go rid of the horrendous Larry Hama penned Batman comics, but I accidently got rid of a bunch of Rucka and Brubaker Batman issues to and when I went back to find them recently, realized my mistake. No big deal, but it validated that terrible fear that one day I will want to read a comic I think I have, but its gone. The horror, the horror.

    I am lucky in that my wife and I still live in the same city as my parents, and they let me keep the comic boxes in my old room. When/if we move away from Austin, I will be completely at a loss of what I should do…I should book mark this column so I can refer back to it.

  12. You know guys, there’s this guy…his name is Neb…and he takes comics you want to throw away!!  And don’t forget, it’s for the kids!! 🙂

     …I feel a little dirty after that joke…

    I have a similar problem.  I am restricted to two, yes TWO, long boxes.  So I eBay a lot of stuff.  I only hang onto the comics that have changed my life or that I can’t live with out (mostly amazing one shot issues that would be ridiculous to eBay).  Most arcs/events I eBay, and yeah, I don’t make much money off of them, but any money is better than nothing.  My system for eBay is very much like MisterSizzle’s:  one goes in, one comes out.

    Nice reflections Mike!

  13. @Neb: Yeah let’s not make that your slogan for kids…especially at the school….

    Is it terrible to say that I just throw my comics on the ground and never order them. Guess I just dont have OCD like some people who wanted to build seperate sheds just to store their comics…I’m not really hoping to look back in ten years and read an old copy of Detective Comics.

  14. I thought I had everything managed okay. I have no problem dumping issues at my shop for pennies. I convert most runs to tpbs,hcs, etc.. . It is never about the money. Its all about the presentation. I’ll file any series or run of issues that I can’t get collected (or collected COMPLETELY! – Ahhhhh! that drives me nuts when tpbs skip an issue or two between volumes). This means that I have 3 long boxes full of my must haves that can’t (yet) get collected in a manner I like. I have 10 boxes total. I thought everything was going well with my fairly new collecting/processing habit. I have run into a snag now. It seems my two 7 foot tall IKEA Billies (7 by 3 feet each I think) are full and a crisis is setting in. Do I invade the next Billy over (my wife’s/ one of her 4/ it is also full)? Do I buy a new Billy and start on a new stretch of wall (surely, taking out picture space)? Or do I now re-evaluate what tpbs/hcs/etc… I just don’t re-read enough and start removing those for the new collections? It is a had life being a comics fan.

    By the way, I just can’t go digital. Maybe I’m an old fart in my thinking. For me, the point of reading books is to step away from the computer and the tv.

  15. Great article Mike. I feel like I’m at an AA meeting of sorts here.

  16. @ Bibliomike – thanks for sharing the Heroes4Heroes donation idea … sounds like a worthy cause and I will check it out … some others have mentioned school donations in the past … I like the idea of encouraging kids to read but I’m not comfortable with that given the oft-mature themes (and violence) of many modern day books

  17. @Roland – If money isn’t an issue and you don’t care about keeping the issues, why not just have them custom bound?  See or . 

  18. @PudgyNinja – I have seen librarybinding. That is sharp! At Emerald Con this year, some in front of me in line had done this to Bru’s Sleeper. He was very kind to let me hold and examine his custom hc. The construction was very well done. Just 2 things put me off from going this route. First, it is about the presentation for me. Part of this means that I don’t want the ads at all. Something I love enough to go double dipping into a form of a collection has to be rid of all ads. I gladly pay the price for the re-readability factor when the ads are out. Second, I made a list a while ago of books I would do librarybinding to. Gotham Central was on that list. Now its off. I’ll get 4 HC volumes without the ads, a cool cover, and an introduction. Patience is a killer sometimes, but does it pay off to wait to see a dream like this come true. Gotham Central HC’d! Never in a million years I would of thought. Such a small following on the monthies really and it gets the sweet treatment. I’m happy about this. This is why I can wait and avoid the shock of feeling ripped when Sleeper gets a treatment. I’ll hold on till the movie (apparently Sleeper has some movement now?) gets rolling and DC decides to address that Sleeper should be 2 HCs for the bookshelf.

    When I said "AA meeting," I mean that as a compliment.

  19. I’ve been reading comics since the mid 70s and I am both proud and ashamed to say I still have every comic book I’ve ever owned.  Most of them are in storage, and will probably never see the light of day again, but they are a huge connection to my childhood and as I get older I find that I’m clinging harder to anything from my youth.  Perhaps I can figure out a way to be bagged and boarded at my death and put in a longbox for eternity.

  20. does no-one in America own a garage? stick the fuckers in there

  21. @ NJBaritone, I can really relate.  I still have all my comics from the 1970s, as well as the ones since I started collecting/reading again in 2004.  I even specialize in collecting more Bronze age comics that I didn’t read the first time round.  All are bagged and boarded.  I have five kids, but none read comics.  I keep telling myself that I’m saving my comics for them – or for their children.  Obviously, I am hopefully deluded – or just nostalgic.  Either way, I can’t imagine letting them go.

  22. I want to buy these comics off you. I on the other hand am usually close to broke and have a lot of series on my to read list. LET ME BUY THEM!

  23. You are brilliant! That’s what I am going to do when I am old, read all my comics! Think about. All of the memories attached to each months worth of books, for decades and decades(God willing of course). Now I have something to look forward to.

  24. Wow, you’re right comics are such a personal experience. Maybe that is why fanboys try to create a community, because there’s no other way to share them.

    I’m more of a trade kind of guy myself, just prefer the packaging. I would love to have some Frank Miller Daredevil issues though.

  25. Solution:

    iFanboy only buys 1, yes 1, copy of any issue and creates a library. Issues get passed around the club. Saves money, saves space. Can’t do it? Ron would never have it. 

  26. We also live spread out all over the country…

  27. @edward – Sticking a box of comic books in a South Florida garage is akin to putting them inside of a steamroom.  Only a good idea if you like your comics damp, green and fuzzy.

  28. A well timed article, as I am currently emptying my bookshelf in my office to the longboxes in the basement.  Luckily I have plenty of room there, so I haven’t had to ‘cull’ my collection.  Unfortunately, it ‘s a painful chore when sorted alphabetically, and all the books shift from box to box.  Now, it looks like I’ve got to buy another 2 longboxes, bringing my total to 21.

    21?  Shit.  Maybe it IS time to start letting go. Think I’ve left my ‘go-to-have-entire-run-bagged-and-boarded’ OCD days behind me, but just keep socking them away out of habit.  Eventually will move someday, and like Romo, don’t want to drag all those boxes with me without good reason.

    Maybe will start having nephews come over and pick out a longbox for their Christmas present.  Get the addiction passed on to the next generation. 

    Or just keep buying longboxes, as long as space permits….

  29. Sell the crappy ones? that’s what I do.

    And I just get trades – it’s a nice thing to see comic books in a bag and boarded with a nice Sellotape in the back looking sharp but why keep those? get the trade and sell those.

    Also you talked about letterers in the past and inkers – appreciate your comic book guy or girl – I have the cheap generic Sellotape which is made to stick once and when I bag and board them they don’t look so nice – the Sellotape is put horizintally or vertical depending on my mood and the pieces are different in length since I don’t have the device that has the jagged knife at the end.

    Sell those! the only mediocre comics I keep are hebrew comics which will be hard to find in the future and has some sentimental value or the creator made and published ones (no Top Shelf – they go to small printing places and print 600 which they put in their car and in their home and try to sell to a few shops)

    The Marvel and DC ones will get rebooted and retcond so why bother? they will have digital versions, cartoons, fan made youtube clips, movies, action figures, get a TP, get some better form like the prestige or absolute or omnibus, get retold in countless other event books, mentioned in the future, and have tv serise made about them.

    They will be everywhere – sell the mediocre, get a TP if you want to read the story again or scan the covers so when you look at them you will remember right away what happened in them. 

  30. If you’ve got the patience, you can torrent a *lot* of old Marvel and DC comics. That’s probably the main reason I don’t buy back issues anymore, even though I prefer physical copies of books in general.

    But yeah, the issues are starting to pile up. I’d replace my entire collection with trades if I could, but I can’t justify the expense of buying something twice. (Somehow, I can justify the thought of buying drawer boxes instead…)

    Honestly, the real solution for me would be to (illegally) download comics as soon as possible after they’re released and then buy the trade when it comes out. Unfortunately, that’s a pain in the ass, which is why we need an iTunes for comics… 


  31. I keep them all, fuck it.  One day I’ll have like complete 500 issue full sets of all my favorite series and then BANG!!! sell them on Ebay for mega loot!!  Shit 500 months is like 41 years so it’s gonna take awhile.  Unless something gets canceled.  Then I just sell it them…