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Confession Of A Near Hoarder

How Big Is Yours?

Your comic book collection, that is, not something else. A rough number is good since the only quantity I can really give for my own is the number of short boxes that stack 5 high and 12 or 14 across one closet, another closet dominated by boxes, plus another 16 sitting on the shelves of a sturdy metal shelving unit. Plus a number of trades and graphic novels sit next to art books, novels, books about either gay or feudal Japanese cultures. metaphysics, religion, and, yes, even a Sanskrit dictionary. Not that I can read it, but the writing is beautiful and proved essential when I wanted to incorporate some words in a couple art pieces.

So an exact count of my collection is out of the question . How many fit in 96 short boxes? And they’re not all completely full either. Just most of them. See, my first comic was Adventure #356 from 1967. Yes, I’m that old and I’m okay with it! Don’t remember the plot in that one? It’s fairly simplistic. several Legionnaires are turned into toddlers for the sake of the adults who’ve become barren, and of course they have to be returned to the normal bodies in the space of like 12 or so pages because there’s a reprint Superboy story with Starboy and Lana Lang in the second slot. I’d have more comics if not for having sold some here and there, given many away, especially to my youngest brother, and unfortunately lost a couple boxes filled with Silver Age Marvel that I blame(d) my former brother in law for leaving behind somehow. Most recently my brother mentioned wanting to read Countdown and I was so happy to give the whole set to him! Even my graphic novel buying is on restriction because my library keeps adding to its already good collection.

As you can tell, I’ve lots of comics and books. Too many because there isn’t a lot of space left to put more of either. Despite initiating the “no new book unless one is let go of” rule several months ago, I still bring a book in occasionally. How could I pass up last week a used book costing 50 cents about the Beat poets (both male and female) when my Netflix rental of Howl arrived in the mail the same day? It was synchronicity!

So what’s the problem for me? Why not just move into a larger apartment or rent a storage space? Problem solved. Not really. Paying more rent for a bigger apartment isn’t possible and comics need climate control storage and that isn’t cheap either. Plus, my other brother has jokingly threatened never to help me move again. Besides, I’ve a feeling  that either of those options would be delaying the inevitable. See, over the past year I’ve been watching both of the series focusing on people who horde. Every hoarder featured has scared me, not just because the conditions existing around and threatening to engulf people fully are horrific, but also because the hoarders have emotional issues and are in denial of the situation.

My apartment does not resemble what you’ve seen of hoarders’ homes. Then again, many — all? — hoarders deny the gravity of the matter. Really though, my place looks like a Merry Maid went on a speed induced cleaning jag in comparison. Garbage is in trash cans where garbage should be, dishes are clean, but papers, pencils, brushes, and paints are scattered on my dining table waiting for me to work on a painting. Closets and kitchen cabinets are full. Things are contained but there’s a sense of them bursting out and  there’re reasons for concern. First, my maternal grandpa was a hoarder. My dear grandma was a neat freak though and grandpa was confined to storing his numerous purchases of furniture, tools, and any thing that caught his eye in several buildings that he owned. If he were still alive I imagine Voyd (yes, that is his name) would give American Pickers Mike and Frank a run for their money! So if hoarding has a genetic component at all I figure it’s like having a family history with cancer or alcoholism and the genes may be stacked against you. Looks like 3 out of 3 for me!

The other factor with hoarders is the emotional component. Aside from being stoic, short, a hell behind the wheel limestone hauler, and Mason in good standing, he and my grandma raised four kids during the Great Depression. He seemed distant when I was a kid though my mom says she had a good relationship with him. Maybe he felt compelled to blow money on stuff for all the years of scrimping? But here’s where he and I coincided. The only place that felt really safe to me as a kid was my grandparents’ house. The house sat on the main road of the tiny town of Liberty. The two story affair plus attic was covered in pink shingles and therefore was impossible to miss despite the giant persimmon tree out front. The house felt safe because it was the one constant place during my family’s dysfunctional nomadic phase which was the result of my father’s “drink his paycheck and stay one step ahead of being evicted” lifestyle. That pink house was my refuge.Perched on the bottom of the attic stairs were a few stacks of old books. Old as in late 1800s/ early 1900s old with leather covers, marbled endpapers and fore-edges, color illustrations. They were beautiful objects and looking through them made me feel even safer. And then there was the day I persuaded my mom to let me have that Adventure comic, and the void in me made from always having trouble making friends (who makes friends when you’re constantly moving and then being teased for your name?) was on its way to being filled. Add the soon to be discovered ability to draw to draw my newly found four color friends to the mix and here I sit two score and four years later trying to convince myself boxes and boxes need to go somehow.

Reading was a source of comfort and a path to knowledge (giving me a sense of security and hope over ignorant adults like my father) and imagination, but the volume of its physical presence in my life is having effects. And that is where trouble rears up. I know that my comics (and other books) aren’t me, but there are some that I strongly identify with and don’t think I can let go. Others aren’t as big a problem, but I tell myself a lot of the older ones I have may not ever be reprinted. Do I really need every issue of the first Green Arrow series or the whole Nightwing run? Is it a futile idea to consider scanning comics before trying to dispatch them in some purging method? My brother will run out of space for comics soon enough, too. Ebay is obviously an option, but what’s left to do with those comics when no one else wants that Longshot mini series? And do I really think I’ll re-read it for clues for whatever reltionship twist Peter David may be working on between Longshot and Rictor? Or would it be more realistic to read Whitman’s Leaves of Grass or Rumi’s poems instead? Where’s a Thanagarian Absorbascon when you want one? Or a tesseract for storage?

I’d like to know how youve decided what comics to keep and ways you’ve thinned your collection and also how doing so changed you.

March 28, 2011
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