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Two stories about people and their things

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Last week, a sad story made the rounds about cartoonist Jim Wheelock having all of his comics stolen out of a storage unit in Vermont. It was quite a large and potentially valuable collection that went back to the 60s and in an interview at Seven Days he mourns its loss:

“I remember where I was and what I was doing when I bought or read many of [the comic books]. Later, when I worked in the financially rickety world of a freelance artist, knowing the books were in Vermont gave me a sense of security, a retirement nest egg. This is what the culprit robbed me of….I’m deeply angry that a man I never met has done so much damage to my life. But mostly, I want my comic books back. I believe he will attempt to sell them. I hope people will keep an eye out at stores, flea markets and online for a large collection of comics from the ’60s through the ’90s.”


Although a suspect has been found, he hasn’t been definitively tied to the theft and the comics—including runs of Spider-Man, The Fantastic Four and The Hulk from their original single digit runs—have not been found.

Wheelock lives in Los Angeles, far from the storage unit, but it’s hard not to sympathize with the idea of having your old comics somewhere safe, though far away. Suddenly finding out they are gone, even if you had no physical contact with them, is a psychological shock. I still have my old comics in my parent’s garage…I think. I’m not sure where they are exactly, but I have the idea that they are somewhere safe…even though I haven’t seen them or touched them in 30 years. Other stuff I had stored was lost in a fire—they didn’t burn up but there was smoke damage—and I still think about things that I had in those long gone boxes…a Spirit printing plate given to me by Denis Kitchen, a page of art from Amethyst, a gift from Ernie Colon, my original Howard the Duck Treasury…how can I still remember these things so clearly and miss them?

Which brings me to my next link, writer Rachel Kramer Bussel’s frank and honest discussion of her hoarding and how it affects her current relationship. We’ve all seen Hoarders, but this is no dead-eyed retiree living in a crumbling brown ranch. Bussel is a vibrant, busy lady (I know her from around town and she’s appeared in some of Seth Kushner’s fumettis) and reading the thoughts of someone this intelligent and present in the world as Bussel is both stunning…and recognizable:

Just to be clear — I didn’t go out of my way to accumulate items. I didn’t have to; they found me. I kept everything — theater playbills, cards from my grandmother, old bras and makeup, lone shoes, a giant martini glass I won playing bingo. I even had a fax machine, though I don’t have a land line. I didn’t mind having to wade through mini mountains to get to the bathroom, because who was I hurting? Even when a momentary desire to “get organized” would strike, I couldn’t fathom where to start, so I just made do. As long as I had my glasses, keys and laptop, I was fine.


As I’ve alluded to here many times, I’m not a hoarder, but I am a packrat. I throw out old underwear…when I get around to it, and everything else seems more important to me. I don’t see clutter, I see cool things. I love my stuff, and I do have anxiety about losing my stuff. (Digital hoarding is now a problem—HOW do you make sure all those digital photos are safe?) Every few years I write about my organization efforts here , but my storage unit is just about full up and now what?

People hold on to things because they have sentimental value—the object is a trigger for pleasant memories of the past—or because they are thought to have some future value. “I’m going to ebay that.” How many times have we said that!

Hoarding is one of the most difficult mental conditions to cure—in fact it can usually only be controlled. The main problem is that it’s simply how you see the world, not a separate condition. I literally don’t understand how people can live in an environment without books or things. But too many things is not a healthy place either. It’s something I struggle with literally every day. But at least I have a degree of mindfulness so far.

5 COMMENTS

  1. He should have purchased insurance on those valuable old books. Insurance company investigators would find the culprit and the goods well before apathetic local cops.

  2. I don’t understand why people keep comics they haven’t read in 30 years (or longer). For me, the whole point of comics is to READ them. If you haven’t reread an old comic in decades, you probably aren’t ever going to reread it. Pass it along to someone who actually wants to read it.

    The boom in reprints (Marvel Essentials, DC Showcases, etc) has helped me winnow my collection. I’d much rather have books on a shelf than pamphlets in longboxes. I’ve gradually gotten rid of the pamphlets in favor of reprint volumes that are easier to store. Let’s face it: unless you have a big stash of Golden and Silver Age comics, your collection is pretty much worthless — in terms of monetary value. In terms of sentimental value and reading pleasure, it can be quite valuable (to you).

    Now, if I could just do something about those 2,000 DVDs cluttering up my apartment ….

  3. About the only pamphlets I won’t get rid of are Not Brand Ecch, which has never been reprinted in its entirety (although Marvel has announced an Archive edition for this summer), and Frank Miller’s run on Daredevil.

    I have reprint volumes of those DDs, but the series had such impact on me when I was in my early 20s, I can’t let go of the pamphlets. And there are those cool letters by Diana Schutz, Elizabeth Holden and others in the back pages. Those will probably never be reprinted, so I have to keep the pamphlets.

  4. I think we can all feel for someone who’s had their entire collection stolen. It would be heartbreaking.

    Another painful thing I can imagine happening is for a collector to pass away with no succession plan in place for who will inherit their collection. The executor of the estate may have absolutely no idea about what to do with a storage shed full of old comics… (Salvation Army? The local library? Larry the Salvage Man? Something to think about while we still have our books…

  5. Regarding Rachel Kramer Bussel’s article: Having an apartment cluttered with sex toys might be even more embarassing than having it cluttered with comic books.

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