Monday, December 07, 2009

The Collector

Years of memories, a sea of chiseled faces and gaudy, more fantastic then life, colors and images all carefully preserved, each one individually sealed and stored away in plastic and cardboard.

I've asked him too many times why he continues to collect. I tell him that we're no longer kids, and the market has proven that these comic books hold no re-sale value.I ask him why he continues to collect, why he continues to buy, why he continues to hoard... a litany of redundant questions... and we both know he would never intend to ever part ways with his books, even if he could turn a profit, as they are all, each and every single issue, his babies.

He's amassed a small fortune of "funny" books. Gary and I started this endeavor together, once upon a time, as an innocent hobby when we were children. Reading and absorbing the week to week, month to month struggles of larger then life heroes served as a fleeting, necessary escape for two awkward, angst-ridden kids. But somehow, somewhere along the way, it turned into something bigger… something disturbing.

An appropriate word could be "villainous."

A comic book "long box" houses approximately 350 comic books. It's crafted of sturdy cardboard which is untreated by chemicals as to avoid any fatal "bleeding" into the paper which would thereby prematurely yellow and age the pages. Each individual comic is in turn housed in a mylar bag along with an untreated cardstock "backboard" or "back" which will insure the book remain compact and upright. This will prevent the spine from bending. He insists I wash my hands before reading any of his books. He tells me the oils in our hands in time can become acidic and accelerate the degradation of the glossy covers. He has an entire room devoted to his long boxes. An entire wall of boxes stacked four high and ten long. If one were to do the math this would calculate out to 40 boxes or 14,000 comic books. He has been collecting since we were fourteen, he is now thirty. In sixteen years, at approximately $2.50 per issue give or take, he has spent thirty-five thousand dollars. This doesn't include the price of supplies: bags costing around fifteen cents per and backboards about a dime. And each and every issue is in mint condition.

Each book is as perfect and flawless as the day he bought it.

But each of these books, in Gary's mind, hold a higher value then the original cover price he paid for them... far more value. Each comic is a distinct time capsule which I would surmise reveal more then the story drawn out in-between it's pages. For instance, a certain book may represent a micro-drama which played out during his breakup with the woman he was supposed to "marry" over a decade ago. It could represent the long span back in 2002-2004 when he was broke and he had to limit his buying to a select few books. Certain characters or story-archs could very well remind him of his most recent bout with depression, painkillers, and alcoholism. Sixteen years of storylines, sixteen years of triumph, loss, elation, and depression. Yet the heroes never change, whereas Gary and I have. Superman will always don his red, yellow, and blue and embody justice and selflessness.

Superman will always wear a cape.

And in many ways I am a lot like Gary.

However, I stopped collecting comic books many years ago. My attention turned to other compulsions. While he continued to invest his money and time into abstract dreams and myths I prospected faces. I collected matchbooks and bar-napkins with hastily written names and barely legible phone numbers. I amassed a collection of one night stands, flings, and intoxicated groping sessions in dingy, dimly-lit booths in the back of dive-bars. A sea of faces, scents, tastes carefully wrapped in plastic, alphabetically sorted, and lovingly packed away into the long boxes of my own mind. And sixteen years later, unlike him, I have nothing to show for it. I have nothing to pass on to my offspring should I ever decide to have children. I have nothing material or absolute… nothing concrete, to show for sixteen years of wasted life.

All I really have to cling to is years of memories, a sea of chiseled faces and gaudy, more fantastic then life, colors and images all carefully preserved, each one individually sealed and stored away. Each and every memory, through the tireless embalming process of the mind, stands flawlessly preserved.


Poetry of Flesh said...

Reading this post was a good way to start my morning. Thank you.

maddog said...

Intriguing as always, Hermes - very tight and provocative.