A few years back, I began the slow and steady process of selling my
comic book collection. Calling it a 'collection' seems a cold and unequal
means of labeling something so important to me--shades of being offended
at one's best friend being referred to as merely a 'pet.'
Nonetheless, my lifetime collection of tens of thousands of comics, graphic
novels (yes, they are two separate things, posers!), paraphernalia (accurately
enough, a drug reference,) posters, fanzines, and so forth was departing.
The reason for the sale was not that I was tired of my books or any less
emphatic about my love for the medium, despite having inconveniently
become an adult and being jaded with many parts of the industry's direction.
No, it was pure financial need that drove the 'decision' to part with my
paper-babies. That pesky 'sacrifice' part of growing up.
Despite my monetary desperation, I chose to piece-meal sell my books over
the period of a few years, rather than all at once. Those who know the
market might assume that's because I would likely get a better deal through
this method over selling bulk. That's not wrong, but it wasn't the true rationale
behind my inability to depart with my possessions. No, I was having trouble
For a non-fan/non-collector, that's likely an absurd statement. To put
it in perspective, I don't understand getting up at 2 a.m. and standing
in freezing weather to get a deal on retail, nor do I comprehend the
indulgence in putting war paint on and sitting on lousy stadium seats
surrounded by screaming drunks to attend a ball game. We all have our
Comics always have been and always will be far more than fictional
characters and colorful paper. Growing up, I knew early on that I was
unlike other kids/people. I gravitated to comics--I'm not ashamed to
admit--because it was an outlet and a support for loneliness and not
fitting in anywhere. It was a welcoming landscape of unusual, wild,
creative, fun, and familiar, and they were a lifeline for me.
I became deeply interested in the recurring characters and their complex
histories, their exploits, their personalities. I was intrigued by the creators
who provided the tales. I took interest in other fans' opinions regarding
our shared interest, whether similar or not. This was an entire universe
unto itself, a community made up of the real and the unreal, and it was
a 'something' I was part of automatically.
I relished the connection the heroes had with one another. The beauty
of Curt Swan art made me tingly. The intensity of Dick Dillin's work
took my breath away. Reading Steve Englehart scripts enlivened me.
I woke up when I saw Ernie Chau's or Rich Buckler's covers. My blood
raced as I saw new covers with familiar logos on the spinner rack. My
comics were excitement and catharsis for a thirty-five cent investment
each. They were far more than mere 'entertainment' or outlet; they were
an integral part of my childhood and young adulthood.
I could not merely load up these boxes and depart with them in one fell swoop.
Time was needed to pour over each cover, taking in the flood of memory
and feeling that was attached to each one, almost as if a diary entry. I could
recall the enjoyment of first reading the issue, my favorite moments on the
page, who my friends were at the time, and later on whom I was dating, what
job I was at, and more.
Memories of the landscape of the comics universe and the industry at those
times were revived. All those years of being attached to something regular,
something real... it creates a bond. And yes, comics had been my medication
for my depressive moods, my buoy during frightening times. They were my
go-to assistance, substituting for friends.
One of the reasons I don't understand the appeal of digital comics or reading
novels on a tablet is the loss of tactile and other sensory stimulation. Comic
books were the whole experience! The lively art and colors for your eyes, that
feel of the paper under your finger as you followed along--or the book held
firmly in hand as you gripped the entirety of it tight! That tell-tale, almost
addictive scent of newsprint. It all helped to serve up a unique experience,
an experience that could be relived by placing that same comic in your hands
and having scent and sight trigger the imprinted memory.
By shipping off my paper-babies a little at a time, ceremonially departing
with them on a smaller scale, it was more manageable for me to let go.
It wasn't the idea of them, the money invested, the market value, or the
heroes I had trouble letting go of in the venture. My difficulty was saying
goodbye to friends, therapists, memories, a support system, a journal of
all my years--and connections to characters, fans, and creators.
As is all the rage now in cleansing one's surroundings, I had to pick up
my beloveds, remember and honor the service provided, thank them for
their contribution, and then--now unburdened--let them go.