A KC Column by KC Carlson
But I am in the water
As far as I can see.
— Pete Townshend, “Drowned” from Quadrophenia
So, here’s what I’ve been doing since last Thursday night … when our area got 5 inches of rain in less than two hours. And the basement (minor-ly) flooded. Just enough water seeped in to soak some boxes of comic books and magazines and other stuff. Johanna and I managed to grab some of the more important items (books we personally worked on — mostly LSH — and my collection of more pricey things, mostly ‘40s-‘60s Archie Comics) and get them out of the wet-bottomed boxes before the comics actually got wet.
But we couldn’t get to all of the wet boxes in time. Because the comics are stacked 4 to 5 boxes high, ONLY the bottom-most box of each stack got wet. But in order to get to those boxes, we would have had to move the other 3-4 boxes somewhere that WASN’T wet — and there weren’t enough dry places close by to do that. (At last count, there were about 480 short boxes of comics in that room. Plus, a big desk.)
Luckily, when I originally set up the comics room, I deliberately put the boxes of more recent, less valuable (and theoretically easiest to replace) comic books on the bottom of each stack — just in case of catastrophe. So, yes we’ve got some damp comics, but hopefully nothing too important or irreplaceable. We won’t know for sure for weeks yet, though, as we clean up and move the boxes around.
Point of fact, after working at DC Comics for most of a decade and being pretty much “comped” EVERY comic published during that time (it was the ’90s — so there were a LOT of comics then), our collection always had A LOT of comics that we really didn’t care about that much, but never bothered to get rid of — until now.
So, now that they’re wet — OUT THEY GO! Hopefully before they begin to stink! (BTW, that was NOT an editorial comment… wet comics actually do smell bad.) (Not that you should ever have to find that out for yourself!)
HOME DEPOT: OUR NEW HOME AWAY FROM HOME COMICS
We now own three large dehumidifiers, one for each of the three main rooms in the basement. The first is a large general storage area with a corner dedicated to the usual basement things (furnace, water softener, sump pump, ubiquitous large drain in floor, etc.). Another corner is devoted to seasonal storage (Christmas decorations) as well as all the various (and growing number of) empty electronic boxes. When I was a bachelor, those were mostly just stereo boxes, but now the majority is huge computer and big screen TV stuff. And my several boxes of any type of audio or electronic patch cords or gadgets ever invented. These days, most of them probably should be in some outmoded tech museum or something.
The vast majority of that room is taken up by music — several thousand CDs, several hundred vinyl albums, most of them from the 60s and 70s, and at least five bookcases filled with books about music history, or band bios, or music reference, as well as hundreds of magazines like Mojo and the late, lamented Trouser Press. If you hadn’t guessed, collecting and reading about music history is what I do when I’m angry about comic books and all the silly and stupid things about them. (Like them getting wet.) Since all my music stuff actually lives on shelves (as opposed to cardboard boxes), none of my music stuff was affected by the flooding. Hmmm…
There are also several boxes of “old media” — VHS and Beta tapes of old TV shows and movies which have never made it to home video or been rebroadcast, like the later seasons of St. Elsewhere. Thankfully I kept a couple of those old machines, and there’s a (long ways away) goal of getting these transferred to DVD (probably just in time for some other new medium to replace all these formats).
YOU CALL THIS LIVING?
Another room affected by the flooding is the TV room. My desk is in the back of that room, so I’m sitting in it right now typing this — with one of the dehumidifiers running about six feet from me. Gosh, it sure smells a lot better in here today than yesterday! (Can’t wait to discover several years from now what exactly I’ve been breathing in while working in here the last couple of days. ; )
The wall-to-wall carpeting in this room, and its underlying padding, will have to be completely replaced. Which is ultimately a good thing, because it’s old, resistant to vacuuming, and kinda filled with dog hair from the previous owners. The biggest problem here is where to put the TV, the sofa, my two desks, and various other chairs and bookshelves while the new carpeting gets installed. Gee, the comics room is kinda occupied right now…
OH YEAH, THE MAIN THING I WAS WRITING ABOUT…
And then there’s the comics room. I’m actively trying to stay out of there while the dehumidifier is doing its job. (Which is why I’m writing this drivel today, instead of some research-heavy piece, which would actually require… uh… some research.)
Every few hours I have to check the dehumidifiers to see if they are full of water and have to be changed. “Just like new babies,” emailed Johanna. As if I needed other weird thoughts today…
CLASSIC COVER INSURANCE?
Roger asked me to cover this topic a bit because it’s probably on a lot of your minds while reading this (“Geez, what about my collection?”). Unfortunately my completely unscientific research into the topic leads me to believe that a lot of insurance companies don’t like to cover water damage/act of God-type scenarios. Water claims, generally speaking, require flood insurance, but you have to get that separately, and only if you live in a pre-designated area. (We might be able to make a homeowners claim for the new carpeting, but it might not be worthwhile, depending on how much it will actually cost to fix ourselves and how insurance companies don’t like customers who actually want to make claims.)
As for the comics, it’s kind of a tough slog for us since we don’t have documentation on everything that’s in that room. It’s at least a 50-year collection, and it’s been moved around the country several times now — and occasionally they’ve had to be moved before I could complete the entire inventory. I do have partial master lists for most of the Marvels, DCs, and Archies, since those are the only things I’ve “actively” been collecting over the last decade or so. Problem is in keeping those master inventory lists up-to-date. Like most comic collectors, I’ve focused mostly on my Want Lists, and the actual inventory lists often get back-burnered. Without this proper and exact documentation, it’s difficult to get specific coverage or prove a claim.
Your comments are welcome, especially if you’ve had first-hand incidents.
RESTORATION COMEDY IS NO LAUGHING MATTER
I did run into some really good advice about comics restoration, however. Since restoration is often a very pricey proposition (I’ve never tried to restore anything – yet -, so I don’t really know how much specifically), it’s recommended that only Golden Age and Silver Age books be considered for the treatment. Which kinda means that most Bronze Age books and comics up to the present aren’t really worth being restored because you can probably readily find the books you want cheaper than having a damaged one fixed. Of course, there are exceptions if you own key books, but if that’s the case, you already know that.
More depressing is the thought that there are SO many of these comics around now (or more properly still), that most of them have little to no actual value in the eyes of most comics dealers. Which is one of the major reasons that I’m not going to be too upset if I have to get rid of a (in context) relative handful of books. Even with water damage, many can be dried out and flattened with bricks! Or other comic book boxes, for that matter! Hey, why not put your collection to work!
And stay out of the rain!!!
Overall, the silver lining (heh) is that we’d been talking for years about trimming back the collection and paring down how much stuff we own. Now that nature has jump-started the process, it may be time to weed out. It’s one thing to say you have, for example, a complete run of Entertainment Weekly (true!), but once a random set of issues in the middle of the run get trashed, it’s no longer as important to have any of it. So I’m thinking about what’s really important to me to keep, quality over quantity.
KC CARLSON: Still wet. Doesn’t smell. What’s up with that? (Still kinda crinkly around the edges, however.)
WESTFIELD COMICS is not responsible for the stupid things that KC says. Especially that thing that really irritated you. Boat rides through the Comics Room! Only a nickel!