Under what circumstances is it okay to throw away comic books?

The reason I ask is because recently, I’ve found myself with access to the entirety of my collection, and after shaking off the initial shock of the thousands of comics ceremoniously dumped into polyurethane bags and cardboard long boxes, I’m struck by the fact that I’m not interested in more than half this stuff anymore. A product of the early nineties, entering the game alongside Spawn #1 and the beginnings of Image Comics, it’d come as little surprise that there are a number of die-cut, hologram, chromo-foil, or whatever the hell style covers were popular those days, included in the stash. Which isn’t that terrible by itself, but coupled with an astounding lack of quality that marked some of these books, you’ve got the makings of the perfect killer.

And I’m of the mind that I need to get them, before they get me.

So over the last several weeks, I’ve been trudging through every book I own, creating two groups. Group A is for the things I will NEVER lay eyes on again, and Group B are considered bonafide classics, books that I’ll hold onto until their plastic coverings start dissolving them. Getting into Group B is actually pretty simple, either sport a character or a creator I’ve always dug. Most of the Spider-Man and Batman comics are safe, as these two archetypes were those I immediately gravitated toward in the early days, but everything else needs a decent creator to save them. I suppose that explains why I’m insisting on keeping those Ka-Zar comics by Mark Waid. 😉

The problem becomes that with a fetish for trade paperbacks and graphic novels that grows every year, and a general distaste for the “long box”, what is a reader to do with hundreds of comics that served whatever brief purpose and are now just taking up space? Seriously, I’m not going to read those old issues of Mr. T and the T-Force, but it feels slightly strange to leave them on my curb, or start fires with them. Perhaps it’s the former speculator in me, but you don’t just throw books away do you? Even bad comics deserve some modicum of respect, because when you think about it, everything comes down to context.

For a period of time, it was perfectly acceptable and even expected to hit us with some manner of holographic extravagance on a regular basis, and for comic empires to pile spin-off on top of spin-off, until the whole thing collapsed under its own weight. The funny thing is that a great majority of us were willing participants in the trends that took hold of the industry, and can only gaze back startled and confused, believing we should have known better. Oh sure, we can chalk things up to an increased level of maturity and understanding of what better represents our industry, but is the natural justification that comes from dismissing the past in favor of the present, going to create an environment when we’re one day trying to wipe Bendis and Millar comics from our memories?

From our current vantage point, we’ll cry, “Hell no”, and insist that a number of works on our shelves are essentially timeless and indispensable to the medium, but we thought that before didn’t we? No one sets up to create something that will later be held aloft as conclusive evidence of what was wrong, but is now all better. Trapped in the throes of the speculator boom, a lot of us fed into the hype and the antics, and the foil, and the grimacing characters, so is it a waste of time feeling dirty about it all now? It’s not that the companies were intentionally playing with our emotions and our wallets, they were just giving us what we wanted. Yes, what YOU wanted too.

While gathering kindling for my barbecue, I looked at some of the comics I’ve purchased over the last couple weeks. Crew #3, will I read you in ten years, or toss you into a darkened corner and pretend you were never here? By that time, the monthly may be all but extinguished, youngsters looking at these things of ads and staples in the similar way I frowned at my parents’ old eight track players. We’ll all be old news some day, and what then?

Are you prepared for your Ultimate comics to be looked upon like Vanilla Ice records?

It’s a definite possibility down the road, and of course, that’s no disrespect to the creators that are making them now, but I’ve got hundreds of comics sitting by the door, and am curious how many more I’ll stack next to some door ten years from now. A period of growing up involves rebelling and swearing off everything that once made you, which subsequently forms your interests, and perhaps this thought has grown out of control, but what does a willingness to throw away a comic say about you? Is it a space constraint or a mental constraint that believes that my collection of long boxes will benefit from several hundred things going missing?

I suppose the question really isn’t, “Is it okay to throw away bad comics,” but “Am I throwing away bad comics for the right reasons?”

Where have all your horrible things gone, and is it inevitable that I’ll be cleaning out my closet again in just a few years time?

Peace,

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