I have a superstitious streak. Which is weird because, you know, avowed atheist and believer in the absolute cruel randomness of the universe. Yaaay.
Justin came over to play some Magic and just hang out - we hadn't gotten the opportunity to lately [and by the way, if you want to see some amazing comic work, you should head over to his site to check out why - he's doing some amazing and innovative work right now when it comes to developing and coloring comics. If what he's doing works out, and I'm more than sure it will, he'll be making some big waves one day], and I promised him I'd dig out a handful of old Swamp Thing comics from the Moore years that I had doubles of. He's wanted to get a better look at the coloring, which isn't printed in nearly the same way these days, even when the big collections and omnibus editions are put out.
I dug out a few long boxes, but was having trouble finding them. There's this place, like a cubby or a hidey-hole under what would be... the desk, I guess in my room, which I stuck about six long boxes in to maximize space in my... let's go with modest... living quarters. What I pulled out were a bunch of moist, chewed up boxes, falling apart as I tried to pick them up, and dropping out comics pulped in the wrong sense of the word.
A wet wall. Comic books full of silverfish.
As gross goes, it doesn't get much worse. Tiny translucent land shrimp that eat paper and adhesive, and like nothing better than to chow down on one of the things I love the most in this world. Plus, they bring centipedes in, which are... frightening and loud and far bigger than any bug should be [seriously, how are folks afraid of spiders with shit like this in the world?]. They're pretty much one of the biggest bads of the comic collecting world, one I fought, one my mom hated about my particular hobby, one of the reasons part of my collection was bent out of shape when I switched for a while to Rubbermaid tubs instead of long boxes...
Anyway, I freaked a little, repeating myself, edge of a panic attack [been a bit, old friend], etc. - Justin's always pretty well got his head together though, and having him there to help pull things together with me mentally, hold the light, the trash bags [sob]. With his help, I managed to get everything out of there, and sorted enough that I could clean up the mess, hang some cedar, get the comics in a place to be properly gone through, to see what survived.
Look, I have always said my comic collection was a reader's collection. Dad's was too, and when he passed and I got his comics, the bends, the tears, the nicotine stains... they were a pleasant reminder of him. Sure, growing up in the 90s, I have heard every rationalization for shucking materialism, but I don't buy it. I just don't. We put parts of ourselves in things. Some of them we make, some of them we purchase. Some we share, some we don't. That doesn't mean we all have to be hoarders.
Even though now I'm dealing with a hoarder's problem.
Going through the contents of the six boxes, I've by and large lucked out. Everything of mine and dad's was mostly bagged and sealed, keeping the moisture and the bugs out. Most of what was in the boxes that were under there were only technically a part of either of our collections - a friend of my father's sold us a rather large lot of comics on the cheap from the sports store he once ran. We really only planned to pick and choose from these to supplement some of the holes in our collections from a stint of particularly hard financial times, and everything else was boxed again and tucked away. Dad held on to them, and then they passed to me. Most were monuments to the worst of the 90s - softcore porn, Image comic ripoffs, loads of the manga Dark Horse attempted selling on a monthly basis [now, call me softy, but I still mourn for them. The thing about making comics is that there is a small place in your heart that knows the work that goes in to even the worst, and keeps you from *completely* hating anything], and few if any were ever read by either of us - we wanted the Green Lantern and Avengers and Thor we wound up bagging and slipping into our own unfinished collections, which were fine, as were the Swamp Things I was looking for - they weren't under there after all, instead stacked up off the ground.
I'm not saying that nothing important was lost - a few bags were compromised, and one of the boxes had newer stuff in it [for some reason - newer stuff is usually kept off the floor so I can get at it], meaning a handful of copies of "The Boys," "Ex Machina," some Dan Jurgens Captain America, and a few copies of the Cassandra Cain "Batgirl" will need to be repurchased. Which means, fixable, in a way, but still heartbreaking.
And all of this - all of it, is embarrassing too. I always held myself up as better than this, a "good collector." I don't think much about geek cred, and again, reader's collection, I never meant to sell any of this, but in a way, its worse, because that's a lower bar and I still screwed it up. Thanks to some unexpected payments for work I did in the past, though, the new corrugated plastic boxes are on their way, and some resealable bags and cardboard backs too. Time to get the bulk of the collection back in protective shape, which should be easy with the extra time, since with grandma's health [another story for another time], she's been of a keener mind when I'm closer, just in case.
So I'll be taking the time, letting myself poke back around into the stories I love and grew up with, making sure what wasn't stored in that soggy hellhole won't ever be in danger of the same thing happening, and what was and survived the experience will never have to face it again. I think even some of these comics might be unloaded, sold, donated, something, to give myself more room, and make sure my focus is on the memories that are most important, and maybe share some of these them with others.
I don't know. We'll see how it goes. Hoping it won't take over my life.
Happy Friday the 13th. And Happy Father's Day.
I'm sorry, dad.