The Stuff Conundrum

August 10, 2014

Recently I’ve been giving some consideration to selling my comic collection. I have probably something like 2,500 comic books, and they fill about ten long boxes in the closet in the living room. I’ve been collecting them for most of the past thirty years. Many of them I can look at, and think about when I bought them, and what I was doing that year, and what was happening in my life. In a sense, they’re a physical history of me…true, they have nothing to do with me personally, and it’s not like I had any part in writing or illustrating them, I only read them, and reread them on many occasions, some of them. The reasons I think I want to sell them are twofold…it would be nice to have the money that would come about from the sale, and nice to have that room freed up in the closet, but also I just don’t really seem to get the same joy in collecting that I once did. I can still go in a comic book store, look around, find things interesting, possibly see something I might want to buy. I can go to a convention, like the huge one they have here in New York every year, and fight through the press of nerds in costume to find stuff that I want, haggle with the dealers, get caught up in all the noise and confusion. But I just don’t like it as much I used to. I don’t really have the passion for collecting that I once did.

Collecting anything: comic books, stamps, toenail clippings, whatever…is kind of a strange thing to want to do, if you think about it. You get these items, and then they don’t really actually do anything. They just sit in your closet, or on your mantle, and you come down into your den, or closet, or whatever, and you look at them. Maybe you take them out of their display case and fondle them. You invite friends who share your interests, or bored dinner guests who couldn’t care less, to look at your treasures, and you’re prideful of them. Why? Unless you have some direct connection to this thing, like you wrote the comic book or illustrated it, then who cares that you own it? All you did is buy it. Anyone could have done that. We’re supposed to think you’re a more interesting person because you own a rare Honus Wagner baseball card, or a Stradivarius violin? Besides, eventually you die, and then you’re gone from the Earth. You can’t take it with you, as they say, all those things, those inanimate objects that you so loved and cherished. Everything that’s really important, friends, family, love, acceptance, spiritual gratification, you can’t hold in your hand, or feature in a display case. I understand that people need hobbies. They need distractions from their own mortality; I’ve spoken about it here on the site before. There’s nothing inherently wrong with collecting things, stockpiling¬†stuff that really has no practical purpose. For me though, it seems to have lost some of its appeal. These rarer comics that I own don’t have the same luster that they used to. I buy them, and then maybe I read them once or twice, and then what? They sit there collecting dust, taking up space. I don’t know what it says about me as a person that I’ve started to feel this way about things, objects. I used to love to hoard things; what changed? I can’t claim to have gone through some fundamental alteration in the way I think, some radical experience that has led to these thoughts. Could it be that I’ve just “grown up,” to use that horrible expression, to the point that more and more of the things that used to give me joy simply don’t anymore? I’d like to think that’s not the case, but the evidence seems to be mounting up. After all, what would I like to use the space for, once the comics are gone and the closet is clear? Honestly? I’ve been considering how useful it is to buy things in bulk- paper towels, toilet paper, food stuffs. If that’s the way I end up going, then how drastic of a turnaround that would be, wouldn’t it? Going from comic books…the stuff of childhood, the epitome of a flight of fancy, stories of guys in capes, with superpowers, to bulk bran flakes. Can you imagine? What kind of a person am I turning into? I always felt like, when I was younger, that I was older in my mind than in my body. Not that I was more mature than my peers, more like I could already see ahead to what I’d be like when I was an older man, becoming more and more practical, and more of a curmudgeon. That’s what seems to be happening now. I’m catching up to what I knew I was going to be. Oh well. What can I say? Bran flakes are good for you. Full of fiber, that’s what they are.

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