Bye Bye Bye


Yesterday was the final moving day at the old Publishers Weekly office. One last day to shovel everything into a box. Every move comes with a purge purge purge mandate, and since we’re moving to a smaller office, the need to travel light was particularly urgent.

(Some background: as part of Reed Elsevier’s dismantling of their RBI trade magazine division, PW was purchased by former publisher George Slowik, and PW is now part of a brand new company, PWxyz. Although The Beat blog has moved to it’s own website, I’ve worked there on and off as a part time freelance editor for six years, and I’m continuing in that position. Since I coordinate the comics reviews, I get…a LOT of comics and graphic novels.)

After I’d packed up boxes and boxes of reference books and current review copies and books I’d been meaning to get to and so on, I was left with a few short boxes of, well, let’s call them “comic books”. YOu may call them by a different name, but that’s what they are. Lovingly curated boxes which I’d been sorting through and winnowing out through my previous two moves. It was late, I was running out of labels for boxes, and since I’m moving to a shared work space, it just wasn’t fair to drag all that stuff along with me. Stately Beat Manor is full up. My storage space is full up. My parent’s attic is full up. It was time to make a decision. What the hell to do with all those comic books.

And so, I just dumped them out.

Over the years, we’ve (myself, PW’s Calvin Reid and a succession of brave interns including Cheryl Lynn, Ada Price, Laura Hudson and Kate Fitzsimons) tried to dispose of our comic books in a responsible and pay it forward way. We’ve sent them to the troops. We’ve sent them to the children. We’ve given loads of boxes to dealers. We’ve given them to friends. But in the end, it was too overwhelming.

At first I was upset. All those great covers. All that history. But then I remembered all the collections in my storage unit and on my shelves and I thought to myself, “Are you ever REALLY going to look at those comic books again?” You didn’t need to call in CSI to figure out the answer to that question.

As collectors and hoarders alike know, it isn’t necessarily the act of diving into our collection like a dolphin, burrowing through it like a gopher and throwing comic books into the air and letting them hit us on the head that is satisfying. It’s knowing they’re there, feeling secure in the complete run and the alphabetical order. But going through life you acquire so much baggage…so many comic books.

In time, a line is drawn.

After a little while, I began to feel liberated. Then empowered. Then, I wished I had time to go through ALL my comic boxes and chuck the whole damn lot. (Well, except for the Miraclemans and the Flex Mentallos.) Because it just isn’t necessary to have boxes and boxes of comic books AND shelves and shelves of trade paperbacks collecting those comic books, let alone the Deluxe, Omnibus and Absolute editions of those comic books.

And besides, if I really, REALLY need to read some particular comic book… there’s going to be a digital edition, right?

As if by design, I note that Comixology has launched the beta version of the online comics reader.

The Web reader lets you zoom into each panel and click arrow buttons to go to the next one. Or you can look at the whole page. It is not as satisfying as swiping with your fingers on an iPad, but it does the job if you are on your computer. If you’ve purchased comics in the iPhone or iPad apps, they are available in your library in the Web reader. There are also some freebie comics you can check out.

Very very few of the comics I had to leave behind are available in a legitimate digital format. VIrtually all of them are available illegally. But I think that is going to change. And we’re all going to change with it.

To be continued.

  1. Your “chunking” experience reminds me about all the shedding of comics I’ve done in cross-country and cross-city moves over the past 23 years. Like you, I’ve given away comics to friends, donated many to libraries… And I still have 10-12 long boxes of pamphlet-sized comics. A growing lack of storage + a $3.99 price point prevents me from purchasing a lot of pamphlets.

    I love paper, as you do, but I’m ready for a digital revolution, at least of old comics. Bring it on!

  2. This is how those stories of “G’AH! My mom threw out my Amazing Spider-man #1!!!” begin…

    And flipping through a digital file will never compare to flipping through a paper artifact.

    ‘Nuff said.

  3. I suggest a “viking funeral”. Build a bonfire, remark on each issue before you toss it on the growing ash heap. Drink some mead and eat some barbecue as you watch the embered dreams float into the night sky.

    Myself, it’s all becoming a special collection at some library.

  4. Getting rid of your books and comics is weird and difficult but it’s something that every reader of a certain age is going to have to contend with soon if they haven’t already.

    The books you have read are like old friends but it’s sad to see them yellow and fade or to stuff them away in a box. The books you haven’t read let you and anyone who looks at your shelf know what kind of person you want to be.

    There is an amorality in paying the maintenance costs of big white boxes filled with old paper that will most likely be recycled or tossed out when you are no longer around to protect it.

    You hit the nail on the head when you say it’s the presence of the books that is a comfort. All the other reasons/excuses for keeping the things around have pretty much dried up.

  5. Congrats!!! No organization exercise feels better than tossing out comics! (Well, provided you had dozens of boxes to start with and can therefore notice the difference when they’re gone.)

    The only horror I find in this tale is that the comics are now in a landfill. Heidi! You know full well that a quick trip to the Strand or Housing Works or heck, even MoCCA would have done the trick! Say you at least left them out on the curb for a lucky kid to stumble across on her way home from school?

  6. Jesse, a quick trip you say? Moving boxes in NYC is never a quick trip! I was asking for help on Twitter and FB and one person answered thew call, but without a car, so we just made the storage run.

  7. I’ve been debating what to do with the comics I don’t read anymore. We’re low enough on space as it is, and going to need more soon. I’m not sure I’m quite at the point where I can just toss them, but I’ve certainly considered it.

  8. Our twenty year backlog of comp copies is slowly slowly dwindling thanks to a combo of a little selling, several donations and many outright giveaways, and G stopped buying current pamphlets a couple of years ago–now it’s just the occasional shelf-worthy collection.

    But a bonfire is starting to sound really good for the rest. It’s worth trying to sell the few that are desirable/rare, but most of this stuff isn’t worth the time and cost of packing and shipping.

  9. Gah, you’re right — no car trip is easy in this burg. Though one time I did throw a few long boxes into a cab to MoCCA from Brooklyn — $20 and a couple hours later I had a tax-deductible donation and half my closet back. However it happens, the important part is getting the closet space back.

    Back on-subject, I forgot to mention that some floppies have found a use in our very reading-focused home (we have books and mags strategically placed everywhere someone might sit, including kitchen table and bar). Old beat-up ’60s Marvels, DC Treasury Editions, and other “unique” comic books are a big hit with house guests and great conversation pieces.

    Admittedly, it’s hard to find such objets d’art in the floppy world nowadays, outside of the great and thriving mini-comics scene.

  10. A Housingworks at the end of my block has helped me purge tons of books and comics throughout the years, but if I had to lug them across Manhattan – I think much of it would have hit the landfill.

  11. Getting rid of my 80’s and 90’s Marvel comics didn’t hurt at all. I thought about donating them to the library, but why? Those folks never did anything to me.

  12. Or you could do what President Clinton did:
    ” When I was 13, I made a very foolish short-term business investment: I set up a comic book stand and sold two trunks full of comic books. Made more money than I had ever had in my life. But if I had saved those trunks, they’d be worth $100,000 today.”
    (source: Public Papers of the President, 1993, “Remarks at the Summer Jobs Conference in Arlington, Virginia, April 14, 1993”)

  13. Hey… I promise I won’t speak a word, Elayne. You can either box them up or just toss them in a bag, and I’ll give them a good home. I’ll even supply transportation. Just leave them outside, like a donation to Goodwill.

    Hmm… I wonder where I can get an old Good Humor ice cream truck?

  14. I, too, am undergoing this process, and it is liberating and somewhat exhilirating. I’ve sold off any comics that had value on a piecemeal basis.

    As for the rest, I can’t get comic shops to take them. Most want to cherry-pick what they want from a list (which I must provide), whereas I want to unload them in large quantities. Libraries aren’t set up to handle thousands of comics, though I am letting one local library sell off newer issues (last five years or so). No patrons will buy older stuff.

    I’m going to make one more stab at giving them to comic shops to assuage my conscience. One local shop will bring a truck and take what they want. After that, I start throwing them out.

    I’m simply no longer able to store and move hundreds of pounds of paper. I can’t even really open and re-read them, because the musty paper sets off my allergies.

    The digital revolution can’t come fast enough for me. In fact, it’s a good five years overdue.

  15. Sold first of many many many longboxes today including a lot of chaff and some DC 100 pagers.

    Won’t miss them in the least. The hunt was usually more fun than the books themselves.

  16. To everyone thinking about ridding themselves of their comics: They’re yours. I don’t really care what you do with them, but there are lots of options if you look into it. There are many websites where people trade comics every day. Not everyone likes or even uses twitter, but it doesn’t hurt to tell people what you have and you might find someone willing to pay shipping costs to get the books you’re otherwise going to throw out. There’s always craigslist…I’m sure a topic of “Free Comics” would get some interest.

    Throw them away if you want, but you never know what someone is looking for. I pretty much just want TPBs and HCs now, but there are still many comics diehards out there.

    Good Luck with your various purgings.

  17. I can see discarding your comics collection tying in to Free Comic Book Day. We could all use an annual day of purging and people would expect to receive free ocmics that day anyway.

  18. Years ago I left several brown paper bags full of comp comics at a local boys and girls club.

    Several months later checking out a small flea market I came upon someone selling those very same comics. Not only did they look and seem familar but there were a few one of a kind make-readys so I knew they were the same comics I’d dropped off.

    Burning comics can be cathartic but I’ve only ever done that with comp copies, stuff I shelled out money for I try to give away.

    I used to think ideally I would just keep one thousand of my favorites/the best but that plan has never actually been realized.

    I read plenty of stuff digitally but I still favor the printed versions and my spot on the sofa.

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