Sentimentality can be hard work sometimes. Especially when you’re inordinately attached to thousands of books and comics that take three full days to haul from one end of the country to the other.
They’d been sitting on a palette in the side room of a pet food factory for two years and were starting to smell a bit funny. A couple of dozen boxes, overflowing with Fantastic Four comics and Fighting Fantasy books. The bulk of a geek collection built up over several decades – most of the 2000ads I own, almost all of the Empire magazines I have, and hundreds of other individual titles and tiny collections of enjoyable runs. All the Flash comics Mark Waid wrote and all of the Justice League International books. All of my Lobo comics.
Despite the painful banality of most of this stuff, I do love it all, but was content to let it sit in that factory for years. I still had all the really good stuff, - I had all my Ennis and Moore and Morrison - I didn’t need the bulk.
But you leave something like that sitting for long enough and it just gets annoying, so over the past weekend I flew back to my home town and then drove back - more than 1500 kays with a car stuffed with all sorts of crap.
And at the end of all that, all that crap had to be unloaded, and now it’s all sitting in a messy pile in the corner of the spare room and most of them are rubbish and I will probably end up selling a fair chunk of it for fuck all and I really have to wonder why I bother.
I shouldn’t have to wonder about that. I know why I bother – I love these comics because I’m a sentimental old fool and they remind of the best of times.
There’s that issue of Byrne’s Superman where the big guy goes up against Mr Mxyzptlk for the very first time – I bought that on the same day I ever kissed a girl. I can’t remember her name but I remember her freckles and can recall finding that Superman comic with absolute clarity that wonderful summer day. I can’t get rid of that comic. I can’t get rid of that feeling.
And then there are the Peter David/Gary Frank Hulk comics that I bought the week I moved out of home. Living in a shitty flat in a new city far from home and I had to make a tent out of my blanket and put the heater under it to get warm. And I went without food during that weird and scary time to get those Hulk comics. How can I flick them off for $1 after that?
And there is the American Splendour comic with David Letterman in it, that a complete stranger gave to me on the same day a completely different stranger gave me a free ticket to the American Splendour movie. And the Batman comics with Gene Colan’s none-more-sexy Poison Ivy that I got given to me by my Aunty Val one Christmas – only the second time I ever got comics for presents. And the X-Men issue I got that one Friday night when I lost one the friendship of one of my closest mates forever while meeting a whole bunch of new people who are now amongst my oldest and dearest friends.
I can’t just throw these memories out. I just can’t.
But I have to do something. There are now four piles of comics in the corner that are taller than I am, and I’m well over six foot. There is that sentimental attachment to almost every single one of them, but it can’t go on like this, I can’t keep hauling this shit around, just because I like reading the old advertisements in these comics. Something has to give.
Nostalgia can be an insidious and cosy trap, and we can all end up circling its drain, wanting everything to be like we were when we were 12 years old. We have to move on, especially when social stagnation is the only alternative.
So it’s good and proper to ditch all these worthless pieces of paper – to just chuck them into a bin and move on with life without boxing it all up for the next move. It can just be so hard sometimes.
Last night I had to convince myself that I didn’t need a ratty old detached cover to a sci-fi and fantasy magazine published in 1992. It was a nothing piece of ragged paper, but it was also one of the very first genre magazines I ever really bought with my own money and the only reason that piece of paper is in such a bad condition is because I read that sucker until it started to fall apart in my hands.
And looking at that cover – with Gary Oldman’s Dracula on it – I could remember exactly how exciting it was to get that magazine, and read of all the new and wonderful things that were coming up. The fact that most of them turned out to be rubbish doesn’t even dent that nostalgia. I really was excited and it’s still nice to get a little taste of that every time I saw it.
But, in the end, I crushed that sucker up and tossed it into the rubbish pile, because it wasn’t worth holding on to any more.
And I know that I will eventually dump so much more, bits and pieces that I really cared about once, but now only exist in my possession for their memories. All that stuff can go and the memories will still be there. I don’t need this stuff and I’m increasingly convincing myself I don’t want it either.
Sooner or later, I might actually believe myself.