Friday, August 04, 2006

Baggage Check: Web of Spider-Man #8

Does anybody else have this problem?

I am a total comics consumer addict. The realization is really hitting me and it’s sort of frightening and liberating at the same time.

I’m shocked at how many comics I own that I haven’t read. I went through several boxes today just trying to be conscious about whether I read each comic or not, and if I had to guess, I would say 50% or more I never read. Some I don’t even remember getting.

I can’t remember at what point it became about consuming rather than the comics themselves. I think it must have been high school. When I had a car and a part time income, I was suddenly no longer at my parents mercy to get to the comic shops in Kirkwood (anybody Cardinals fans out there remember Bob’s Comics?). Not only did I go and spend all my money, but I remember sifting through the entire warehouse of long boxes at the Fantasy Shop in St. Charles, and coming home with an entire box full of quarter comics. Talk about a binge! That’s where all these random and incomplete runs came from. Part of the fun was trying to find the various issues to complete a series. Plus, it was a good excuse to be out of the house.

So still the question is what do I do with all this stuff? Right now I’ve been going through it and sorting out stuff I want to keep, stuff I think I can sell on EBay, and stuff I have no idea what to do with. The amount of stuff to EBay is overwhelming, and I don’t even know if all that hard work will pay off.

And the letting go is surprisingly difficult. Why I care about a random assortment of mid-80s Web of Spider-Mans is hard to explain. It’s not like they were very good, or that I ever plan to read them again, but when I came across my wrinkled copy of #8, I suddenly remembered that shampoo spilled all over it when I went to summer camp in the Ozarks. I was 12 years old, and I was so upset, I remember sitting on the lower bunk in my cabin carefully wiping each page flat with a sock, and then placing it underneath the mattress to flatten it out. It's strange seeing it 20 years later. The pages are warped and brittle and there's this pink residue along the top edge of each page and, believe it or not, it still has that clean smell.

Of course, the vast majority of this stuff doesn’t have that kind of emotional connection, it’s just crap, but is that memory trigger enough to justify keeping it? I don’t know. Obviously I still need to figure out what criteria to use when deciding whether or not to keep this stuff.

Any suggestions?


DerikB said...

I got rid of a lot of comics awhile back and my main criterion was "will I ever reread this." I was fairly successful in not regretting my choices (except in a few small cases where my changing tastes or historical readings bring me back around to something I used to own) and none of the ones I regretted were old superhero books.

Marc said...

Yeah, I'm trying to be realistic about this. There are a lot of things I'll come across and think, this looks interesting, maybe I'll track down the other three issues and read it. But then I tell myself if I haven't done it in twenty years, it's probably time to get rid of it.

BTW, I couldn't resist going back and reading Web of Spider-Man #8 last night, and you know, it was actually a decent story. Peter goes to a small town in PA to investigate a local super-hero and of course gets caught up in the events. It made me smile reading those soiled pages again.

philip said...

I've been collecting pretty steadily for about 20 years. Periodically I rifle through my many boxes in attempt to "thin the herd." Some books I keep because I love the character(s) (nearly anything Justice League) or because I have a strong reaction to -- and still remember -- what happened in the book/arc/series (Frank Miller's run on Daredevil).

Everything else gets the 10-second test. If I can't sum up what happened in the book in 10 seconds, I get rid of it. Some I recycle, some I donate. It was pretty rough going the first couple of times (didn't think I could adjust to the notion of throwing out a comic), but it has worked out in the long run.

Marc said...

I like the 10 second test. I'll have to try that. My big problem is what to do with all the stuff I haven't read. There's a lot of stuff I still think I want to read. For example, last night I read Ellen Fourney's I Was Seven in Seventy Five (which is very good btw) I don't know why I didn't read it way back when I got it in '97 but I have tons of stuff like that. I can't keep it all, and there's no way I'll read more than a couple boxes worth at most, so it's just a matter of being very honest with myself.

I'm curious about where you donated your comics. I always assumed libraries wouldn't take them because of their flimsy condition.

philip said...

I must admit that the 10-second test sometimes fails because the book has a cover I really like. So, it's not perfect but it has helped.

I donated two long boxes worth to an after-school reading program for at-risk youth. I had to pick and choose so "inappropriate" stuff didn't get donated, but the woman who ran the program was excited because to her anything that would get her kids reading was worthwhile. Plus, I was able to take a huge tax write-off (I calculated the value of the books based on cover price, so I got more as a write-off than I ever would have if I sold them).

I was also able to give a couple of smaller stacks to Children's Hospital and I had a friend who worked for Make A Wish and I gave some to her for activity-bundles they put together for siblings of sick kids. And sometimes I just give them to friends who might like them, or to friends who have kids. I've never tried giving them to the library, so I don't know what the deal is there. I imagine they would take trade-paperbacks, but that doesn't sound like the issue here.

Marc said...

Thanks, Philip! That's a great suggestion. I'll definitely look into it once I finish going through everything.