COLLECTING COLLECTION STORIES AND ADVICE

KC Carlson & friend

KC Carlson & friend


a KC Column by KC Carlson

Last time I was telling you that I had decided to stop buying “floppy” comics and switch to TPBs and other collections. Now I’m wondering what to do with all the issues I’ve accumulated over 50-some years…

AND THEN WHAT…

So what happens to all these old comic books? Well, despite other people reportedly attempting it, you can’t take it with you when you have your meeting with the “big man upstairs”. (Yes, Wayne… I AM talking about Galactus.) As I see it, there’s a limited number of options, including…

TRY TO SELL THEM ALL BEFORE I GO. That seems unlikely, and we don’t really need the money (or the hassle, for that matter).

TRY TO GIVE THEM TO SOMEBODY. We are childfree, so that’s not an option, although we do have an inordinate number of friends who remain “childish”, so I guess maybe they’re an option. I don’t have much family — just some scattered cousins, most from my mother’s side of the family, whom I haven’t seen in decades and have no way of tracking down, as I believe most of the parents (like mine) have passed. Johanna has a brother with young kids (one of whom is Disney-crazed), but the problem there is the amount of physical space my comics take up is most likely larger than their current house.

I suspect that a number of people reading this column might offer to take them off my hands. (Well, that’s one way to get comments!) I think the “bring your own semi-truck” requirement will deter most of them…

INTERLUDE: COLLECTION STORIES

Beau Smith. "Carlson, get off my lawn!"

Beau Smith. “Carlson, get off my lawn!”


I have had dreams about driving all my comics down to Ceredo, WV, to the Beau Smith household (aka the Flying Fist Ranch) and sneaking them into his house in the dead of night. These dreams always end with me dying — crushed to death by HIS collection of comics (and autographed starlet photos) falling on me when I trigger the door to his “secret” hidey-closet. That I have not successfully done this yet is due to not just “fear of death” but also “Fear of Beth”, as I don’t think that Beau’s long-suffering wife would put up with more comic books in their very nice house!

There are a (surprisingly huge) number of other mega-collectors within five hours of here, many of whom are friends, which I probably wouldn’t be any longer if I showed up on their doorstep with 80,000 MORE comic books.

Maggie Thompson

Maggie Thompson


First of all, I don’t know the combination to Maggie Thompson’s hermetically-sealed climate-controlled comics vault (where she loves to dive around in them like a porpoise, and burrow through them like a gopher, and toss them up and let them hit her on the head!). And I’m sworn to secrecy about where exactly it is anyway — “Iola” being a massive government cover-up after vintage automobiles apparently possessed by supernatural forces began to congregate there annually. Also, did you ever notice how close “Iola” is to “Lola”, Agent Coulson conspiracy fans…

Wayne Markley

Wayne Markley


I DO know where Wayne Markley lives (I think..), although his collection is no longer what it used to be, because he was smart and got rid of a lot of the stuff that didn’t matter to him anymore, and kept the good stuff — like Sugar & Spike, lotsa old Dell comics, Little Archie, and a near-complete Archie Digest collection. In actual fact, Wayne has so many digests, that if he taped them all together, he’d have a second house made out of digests! Hey! It’s another weird Wisconsin house!!! (Foreshadowing alert! Always remember, foreshadowing: your key to quality literature.)

I don’t know where ace comics researcher and historian John Wells lives, other that it’s somewhere called “Iowa”, and it’s about five hours from here, if you drive. Which John doesn’t, so it would be probably longer for him. About twenty-five-something years ago, my first DC Comics boss, Richard Bruning, handed me a box that supposedly had old ‘60s and ’70s comics fanzines in it that he no longer wanted. Since I used to have “packrat” tattooed on my forehead, he gave it to me knowing I’d take care of it. I still have it, and I said “supposedly” back there because I HAVE NEVER OPENED THE BOX. It recently resurfaced (surprisingly, after at least four moves), and assuming that the box actually HAS vintage fanzines in it (instead of, say, skeletons of Denebian slime devils), I figure that the best place for it is to live is with one of comics’ leading researchers. So I continue to harbor this strange idea that one day I should actually figure out exactly where John lives, drive over to “Iowa” in the middle of the night, leave the box on his front porch, and then run away really fast. (NOTE: long time readers of my columns should feel rewarded by yet another story about me driving somewhere in the middle of the night. At least in this one, I am not accosted by a herd of deer.) Do I ever sleep? Do I Dream of Electric Sheep?

Also about five hours away (in a different direction) in the mystical land of “Indiana” is Mark Waid, who needs no introduction, but here’s one anyway. When I first met him, we were both applying for the same editorial job at DC Comics. He had edited Amazing Heroes and was writing dissertations on Crisis on Infinite Earths. I was editing The Westfield Newsletter and meeting a lot of DC’s Marketing folks at cons and trade shows. Neither of us got that particular job (for what became Piranha Press), but both Mark and I (and everybody else who was interviewing for that job) ultimately got hired to work at DC.

Anyway, Mark also had a huge collection of comic books (primarily DCs at that point), which I got to visit on occasion. For a time, he also kept tabs on my collection, which I “parked” at a storage unit in the same town where Mark lived (and trusted him with a key that I assume he never used), while I was just starting work at DC Comics and was living in a tiny apartment in Brooklyn. (Near Mike Carlin, who also had an impressive collection of comics in his smallish home. Mostly Superman, of course…)

Westfield's Roger Ash with Mark Waid & Christina Blanch

Westfield’s Roger Ash with Mark Waid & Christina Blanch


Years later, after being unceremoniously bounced around the industry by some incredibly bone-headed editors and publishers (one of whom was undoubtedly me), Mark reportedly sold off his comic collection. Now, Mark and I weren’t in contact much at that time, so I don’t know that he actually got rid of ALL of them, but I was greatly amused at what eventually happened. He bought a comic book store instead (co-owns, actually, with comic book writer and scholar Christina Blanch) called Aw Yeah Comics in Muncie, Indiana. Even I never thought of replacing my collection with a retail establishment! (I really need to get down there and see the place — and soon!)

There are lots of other huge collections in the area, some that I know about and others that may just be myths. (I hear stories about entire floors of warehouses in Janesville, Wisconsin, filled with comics that haven’t seen the light of day in decades.) I suspect that you could probably hear similar stories of hidden hordes in any fair sized-city in a five hour radius from Madison (which would include Chicago, Milwaukee, Rockford, the Green Bay/Appleton area, and countless others). Makes you wonder, don’t it?

WE NOW RETURN YOU TO “COLLECTING FOR FUN” OR “THEY’RE ONLY WORTH HOW MUCH?”

DO SOMETHING CRAZY LIKE GLUE THEM TO MY HOUSE AND JUST INVITE PEOPLE OVER TO “READ MY HOUSE”. Yeah… I gotta stop trying to write past 1 AM after eating a bag of pepperoni Kit Kat bars… Perhaps I should take a break here and go drive somewhere…

DONATE TO THEM TO CHARITY. This, unfortunately, is not really much of an option, because most charities expect/want comics to be family-friendly, and I’m not sure they recognize how many comics have mature themes or images these days. Frankly, I’m not willing to spend a lot of time navigating that huge grey area between kid humor comics and adults-only material. And telling people that Batman comics are no longer suitable for kids is kind of depressing…

DONATE THEM TO A WORTHY ORGANIZATION OR INSTITUTION WHO WILL SHARE THEM WITH OTHERS AS RESEARCH. Hmmm… I was just on a college campus recently that was busy developing a very cool comic book curriculum. They already have an excellent start on a “library” of great comic book reference books and graphic novels. Yeah. Maybe that choice…

Anyway, there’s still thinking to do, and before the comics go anywhere, they all need to be properly organized and documented, because I’m sure that the government will step in at some point on whatever transaction ultimately happens. The vast majority of the comics still haven’t been 100% “unpacked” and organized much in the 3 1/2 years since arriving in Madison, and I cringe at the thought of so many comics being jammed into unmarked (or worse, wrongly marked) boxes that need to be accounted for before anything can happen.

But, as I’ve told myself numerous times over the years (usually while driving somewhere overnight), who needs sleep anyway!

_______________________________

KC CARLSON SAYS: But you know, Wisconsin is also known for its famous House on the Rock. So… “weird houses” is a Wisconsin “thing”! Just ask Frank Lloyd Wright… (“All of the nights we’d harmonize till dawn…”) If you don’t know about the House on the Rock, well, the internets and Wikipedia are your friend. Or read the novel American Gods by Neil Gaiman, where the House is a portal into the mind of the Gods. Oh, that Neil…

WESTFIELD COMICS is not responsible for the stupid things that KC says. Especially that thing that really irritated you. Man, I can’t even get foreshadowing right today…

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