Shortly after I’d moved into my current condo I went through a desperate purge process to create more space. I had no choice, I no longer had a garage and there were some things I need to store and could no longer afford storage.
So I culled so very many things to make space. One of the hardest, and yet surprisingly easier than I expected, was my comic book collection. I’d held onto them for years, decades really, and suddenly had to make stern choices on what to keep and what to chuck.
I went through ten boxes of comics and found it was incredibly easy to distill my favorites down to two boxes.
Then… I put them back into storage.
During Dianne’s last visit we got to reading Steal Like an Artist and at the back of the book he had a list of suggested books for further reading. I was pleased to see Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud on his suggestion list and immediately began gushing about it to Dianne. I bought it when it first came out (hipster moment: yes, I read it before it was “cool”) and have loved it ever since.
I knew I still had my copy and insisted Dianne take it back with her to read. I’d hoped she would “get it” at least half as much as I did and we could geek about it together.
It’s kind of the comic book equivalent of my favorite film, “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead”: The people who love it as much as I do aren’t in my circles. I can get quite over enthusiastic about it and, at most, I get patronizing smiles and nods.
(I think the one exception to that might be Tracy, who I recall saying she loved the book nearly as much as I did. It was a while ago, though, and I may be embellishing memories…)
I went hunting my book shelves immediately for my copy but couldn’t find it anywhere. That’s when it hit me: I’d put it in storage with the rest of my comics. And my storage closet is quite precariously full. There’s no room to maneuver things around in it and there are things… heavy things… somewhat perilously balanced to bean the first innocent person who doesn’t take it’s dangers seriously.
I could get it, of course, but… the two comic boxes I kept are, naturally, at the very bottom of the tensely balanced pile. I would have had to have emptied the entire closet to get to it. At that moment we were on our way somewhere else and there simply wasn’t any time. Later on I forgot, or there still wasn’t enough time, or there were just more important things to do.
After Dianne left I found myself looking at my shelves again. I think I was pulling out my kit of arduino experiments to play with when it suddenly occurred to me that I had a lot of shelf space taken up by some less important things… gaming binders that I don’t know if I’ll ever use again, family books that quite honestly are meant for storage, and … stuff. Old notebooks that either need to be burned or buried lest they be discovered… that kind of thing.
In other words, I had a tightly distilled collection of excellent reading material being pressed into fire starter bricks at the bottom of my storage closet and a whole bunch of boring rule books taking up shelf space where they would never, ever be taken down.
This definitely had to change.
So today I half emptied my storage closet and managed to wrestle out one box without starting an avalanche. I also managed to re-seat some of the stored contents into more reliable pilings that I hope will be less likely to jump me the next time I go in for my vacuum cleaner. (Which I also made use of today, since I had it out anyway.)
Now I will remove that which I will never read and replace it all with that which I will likely press everyone else I know into reading.
Honestly, people, you’ve got to read some of this stuff. It’s fucking awesome.
Primary among my collection are:
The Desert Peach (link goes to the comic now available online) by Donna Barr. Erwin Rommel’s prettier, younger brother who is not only flamingly brilliant but also commander of the Afrika Corps’ gravedigger battalion… essentially all the troublemakers and misfits of Germany’s second world war army in one place under the command of a very genteel gentleman. It provides a sympathetic look at both accepting gays as just people at the same time it reveals that (as I was so eloquently reminded in the movie Captain America, of all things) the first country invaded by the Nazis was Germany itself. The Germans weren’t all Nazis any more than all Americans are members of the Klu Klux Klan, and Donna’s comics do a beautiful job of highlighting this. Her comic Stinz, about centaurs around the turn of the 19th century, is also very well written and drawn.
Various titles by Canadian writer/artist Matt Howarth, most significantly Savage Henry, Those Annoying Post Brothers, and Particle Dreams. I love Matt’s clean, pure black and white style, and his aliens are always truly alien. Very few of them are bipedal cousins of humanity with a different noses or teeth, his aliens quite literally come in all shapes and sizes I have to say I’m a huge fan of his fantasy idea of Bugtown, an infinite city living at the intersection of all possibly realities. Makes for some fantastic story opportunities.
Concrete by Paul Chadwick. A speech writer for an American senator gets abducted by aliens (or captured as he stumbles onto their secret base, whatever) and has his brain transferred into a massive body seemingly made of stone. Rather than the usual fodder for the origin story of yet another super strong superhero this winds up being the story of a very intelligent and sensitive man struggling with the burden of suddenly becoming an alien to his own planet. Not being the vigilante sort he sets out, instead, to become an explorer, trying to find unique and creative ways to exploit the body he’s stuck in. With eyes able to see microbes on your skin and details of new craters on the moon unaided by any microscope or telescope he has lost an equal amount of sensitivity to touch, taste, and smell. Are super strength and the daunting possibility of an extremely extended lifespan adequate compensation for never being able to feel fabric, taste fine food, smell rare blooms, or be intimate in any real way, ever again?
Love and Rockets by the Hernandez brothers. Both brothers are incredibly talented writers and artists yet are as different in content and style as two people could possibly be. It… the comic… there’s just too much to describe. There’s a vague, blurry line of continuity withing each of their stories, and they cross over frequently, but you can ready any issue you want, entirely out of sequence, and it doesn’t matter. It’s that random, and yet each so complete you’d never notice the random-ness until you actually sit down to read their issues in order of publication.
Hmmm… five writer/artists who do the vast majority of their work in black and white. I’m starting to see a trend. Despite the traditional three color brightness of your usual comic book titles, all of these comics are beautifully drawn and magnificently written. The addition of color doesn’t hurt, but it’s far from essential. In fact, it’s rarity just makes it that much more impressive.
Most importantly, though, is my collection of the original Sandman series written by Neil Gaiman. Those will actually stay in storage and will, hopefully, stay in relatively good shape. And if you haven’t read them before now… too bad. Go find some re-prints in trade paperback form. You’re not getting your hands on my copies.
And now I set to swapping things out on my shelves.