Wednesday, March 05, 2008

What to do with 10,000 comics

All right, fine. I'm a sap. But honest to God, I read this story about the University of Minnesota receiving a major donation of comic books for its library and got a bit misty. First of all, it's a lovely piece of personal writing. In hack hands, this is a couple of quirky paragraphs about some guy donating thousands and thousands of, you know, comic books, to a university library. Who cares, right?

But this writer puts the collection and what it's meant in perspective. Comic books have shaped their family for decades. She doesn't understand the appeal, and that's fine. She still recognizes their importance and what it's meant for her husband and children. And it's some lovely writing she uses to get that point across.

Simple, emotional and poignant. It works.

I think it also stuck a chord with me because Mr. Borger has people who appreciate what his collection means and recognizes the role they've played in all their lives. I like that because I'm not sure I've ever had it. This isn't a shot at my parents and Cathy. I love my parents. I love Cathy. But they've never understood why I love comics so much. My parents barely tolerated my collection, especially when I entered my teens. The only way the whole thing didn't mysteriously "disappear" one day when I was at school was my assurance that the comics would be worth something one day.

As for Cathy, well, she was introduced to them when I wasn't doing as good a job of keeping them organized as I should have. They were piled all over my work room. I'm not sure if she ever would have grown to have liked them, but she certainly didn't get off on the right foot with them. Also, and we just had this discussion...she reads trashy romance and vampire novels by Laurell K. Hamilton. She doesn't expect me to understand why or try to convert me to them. It's just what she reads. She doesn't see anything grand or romantic about it. Nor does she understand why I seem to have the view about comics.

She has a point, I guess. But I do considering something special about growing up and reading comic books. They were a comfort to me during a lot of crappy, lonely and depressing times.

At some point I'm going to have to make some decisions about my comic books. We've been up north for more than two years and I haven't bought any single issues during that period. It's all been collections (graphic novels). I'm pretty happy with the way that's going right now and it will continue when/if we move back south.

However, right now I probably have in excess of 10,000 individual issues sitting in storage at my father's house. The last time I was there, dad was storing his wine in the same space as them, which caused me to freak out at him a bit. Then again, I haven't treated the collection well in recent years. I wasn't bagging and boarding them all like a good collector is supposed to, simply because the budget wasn't there. Really. Bags and boards add up in a hurry when you have to buy as many I would have needed.

Anyway, what to do with them? The thought of donating them to MUN, similar to what this guy did, has its appeal. My collection isn't as historic as I suspect Mr. Borger's is. I know I bought a lot of crap in my day. But I do like the idea of them being read on a regular basis. I started collecting when I was seven years old. I still have comics from that period of time, although they're obviously beaten up pretty badly. Those comics have brought me a lot of joy and contentment over the years. The idea they might do the same for lots of other people is quite enticing.

Having seen what I can do with eBay and at bit of effort (I've probably said it before, but Cathy's engagement ring, and my first digital camera, were bought by selling about 300 comic books over the space of a couple of months), I'm sure Cathy and my parents would be happy to see me sell them all.

But I'll have to figure out something to do with them as keeping them all is probably not viable in the long run. Suggestions?

Last Five
1. Sweetness - The Trews
2. All you need is love - The Beatles
3. 11 O'clock, tick tock - U2
4. Lonely song - Ron Hynes*
5. Ladies and gentlemen - Hot Hot Heat


Stephanie said...

I teared up at the end of the story, too.

Why not sell your comics on eBay and use the money to travel?

colette said...

If you do figure out what to do with them, let me know. I've got about five hundred late 70's, early 80's vintage, properly stored comics that I need to do something about.

I wonder what ever happened to the fellow out Clarenville way who had thousands, all bagged and boarded and stored in filing cabinets? He was running a nice little eBay business but the bulk of the collection was for personal use. Given the excellent reputation of MUN's folklore department, a collection like that would be a very valuable addition to the QEII library and the department.

Judy Borger said...

Hi, townie bastard--

I have no idea who or where you are, but I want to thank you for your kind words about my piece about my husband's comic book donation.

Originally I had planned to write a short piece, but Roger Buoen, my wise editor at, pushed me to write more. Then he added video, a slide show and a interviews on public and commercial TV.

This story seems to have legs, which amazes me and John. We're really surprised to see about 20 -- so far -- websites and other media pick it up. National Public Radio even called for an interview.

I think one reason this piece is striking a chord is because it's a happy story for a country that is gripped by a war that will not end, a recession that eats away at us and a presidental election that causes heads to spin. And it comes at the end of a tough winter.

But I could be wrong. Maybe more people like comic books than I had ever imagined.

Anyway, thanks.

Judy Borger

towniebastard said...

Well, welcome to the Canadian Arctic, Judy. It's colder up here than Minnesota. Well, most of the time.

As for why your story (which I found on the Publisher's Weekly site) is striking a chord, I think you might be selling the quality of your writing a bit short, for starters. And I'm sure there is truth to all the points you make. However, I think for most comic book fans, it's rare to find someone who obviously isn't that much into the genre, and yet still has respect and affection for them. Not so much for what they've meant to her, but what they've meant for her family. And that you view that influence as been a positive one.

That's a rarity, I think, for many comic book fans. I touched on it ineloquently on my blog (that post frustrated me to no end. But writing about comics has always been a frustrating experience for me for some reason), but it's such a rarity to find someone who understands and cares about the importance comics tend to have on our lives. I don't really have it. Neither my wife nor my parents get it. A few of my friends do, but they're collectors themselves.

To have someone say, "these comics have been a good thing in our lives" and to donate them to a university library on top of that....well, I don't know too many comic book fans whose hearts are that hardened by years of prolonged scorn and geekdom that wouldn't be touched by that.

And on a lighter note, I'm just happy your husband is still alive. Because when I was first starting to read your story, I thought for sure it was going to end with him dead and the collection donated to the library in his memory....;)

Thanks for swinging by the blog and leaving a comment, I appreciate it.