Thursday, January 9, 2014

Goodbye to my comic book collection

I have a total of 45 comic book boxes (excluding the trade paperbacks/graphic novels).

Goodbye to my comic book collection
(and hello to the start of a new one)
by rick olivares

Ever since I was four years old I have read, loved, and collected comic books. I am now in my 40s yet for the second time in my life, I find myself selling almost my entire collection. For a song.

So if I am such a comic book geek why sell?

For the same reason why I sold them the first time around – losing a huge number of them was heartbreaking.

I am getting ahead of myself.

As a kid, I remember visiting a favorite uncle of mine. I knocked on his door and jumped all over him. I nearly crumpled some comic books on his bed. Luckily, he didn’t really care for their condition so he didn’t go all Defcon on me.

I sat down and read every single one of those comic books (Fantastic Four, Avengers, Thor, and Hot Stuff the Little Red Devil). I was transfixed for hours and my parents and relatives were all relieved that the human tornado and pest was quiet for the day.

If they only knew that it would go down as a very expensive hobby years later, they would have confiscated them.

From that moment on, I always asked my grandfather or my uncles for comic books as pasalubong.

Eventually my parents decided that comic books were a poor choice of reading material and thrust Hardy Boys books in front of me. I enjoyed that too but comic books were king.

I saved my allowance and gathered the deposit from soda bottles in Ateneo to be able to buy my comics books.

Back in the pre-specialty shop age, it was difficult to get monthly issues. You got what there was. If you got them in sequential order that was a bonus.

There were several places you could get comic books – at the grocery (before national Bookstore reprinted a number of them), at Mercury Drug Store (only at the Delta, QC branch), and Dau in Pampanga where American servicemen sold the stuff they didn’t want anymore.

Later on, there were comic books available at the Manila Bank Arcade in Greenhills and at Christhareth (second hand comics sold at premium prices – unbelievable!).

One time, I asked my grandfather to buy for me this hardcover collected edition of Spider-Man stories (The Jackal, the Spider-buggy, the Punisher) that I saw at Unimart. It cost something like P20 that was a princely sum back then. My parents were upset that it cost too much but I was insistent. My grandfather bought it much to the chagrin of my parents who stared daggers into me. If they had heat vision they would have bored holes right through me. The ride home was agonizing as I could feel their anger. When I arrived, I ran up the room and began reading. My mom chased me and admonished me.

I let everything out of my ears. And Spider-Man and Peter Parker became my hero.

That is until I visited another uncle of mine who lived in Novaliches. He had the most awesome collection of comics I had seen. I had never seen a X-Men comic book before. And he had a lot of them. These were the Neal Adams issues where the artwork contained a lot of power in them.

They held the same power over me as the first time I entered my uncle’s room all those years ago. I badgered that other uncle of mine if I could have one or two. He said no and quickly hid them away. Every time I visited that uncle of mine, I made it a point to ask about reading his X-Men books. It was something I would understand later on – to tell white lies. Besides, lending is forbidden because you don’t know how others would take care of your books.

When I was in Grade 3, a comic book would change my life forever – X-Men #94. A classmate of mine had that. I must have promised my classmate the moon for that issue. He eventually relented (I did his homework for one week) and I had my first X-Men comic book.

The love affair that began with Neal Adams’ X-Men stories was finally consummated. And I began to collect (I was only able to get the sequel to that issue years later) in earnest – Fantastic Four, Avengers, Captain America, Thor, Daredevil, and Devil Dinosaur. Hahaha. Go figure on the last entry.

By the time I reach college, I had amassed quite a collection – the original Frank Miller Daredevils, Walt Simonson’s run on Thor, the second coming of Jack Kirby on Captain America that coincided with America’s Bicentennial, and Roger Stern’s stirring run on Amazing Spider-Man. Of course, there were X-Men comic books.

I was finally able to get them with regularity because Filbar’s had finally opened shop at the corner of EDSA and Aurora Boulevard.

In my second year in college, I lost all my Miller Daredevils, Claremont Excalibur’s, and a few other titles to a theft. Yes, it was a weird theft. The thief stole comic books, a new pair of top-siders, and my brother’s silver dollars. He didn’t take the P2,000 in cash, the two cameras, and other expensive items in our apartment.

I was devastated. It was very difficult to get back issues during this time. I was despondent. In a moment of sheer lunacy, I sold my entire collection to Fil Barbasa. For a song.

I had switched all my attention to music at that time and didn’t seem overly concerned about what I had lost.

That is until a Philosophy class where a classmate of mine was reading a X-Men Annual that saw the mutants go up against Horde. The villain was a stupid figment of Claremont’s imagination. But this issue featured Havok, the wimpy version of Psylocke, Dazzler, Longshot, Megan, and Captain Britain.

While reading that issue in class, my professor noticed I wasn’t paying attention and asked me a question. Luckily, I had read the assignment and answered the question letting me off the hook. I finished Uncanny X-Men Annual #11 in class after that.

I loved Havok and seeing him reminded me of those Neal Adams issues. I was hooked all over again.

That very weekend, I went to Comic Quest that had taken up residence in Greenhills. I got myself a copy as well as the latest issue of Uncanny X-Men. Before I knew it, I was back collecting.

Years later, I picked up my first Batman comics with A Death in the Family that was making the news because of the death of the Jason Todd ‘Robin’. My collection grew as I now began to get DC titles along with a smattering of indie titles.

Moving to New York was a dream as I was in comic book central. I worked a few blocks from Midtown Comics that I frequented twice a week (aside from Forbidden Planet, Jim Hanley’s Universe, and those small stores in Greenwich Village). I attended comic conventions, stalked Joe Quesada (with a pair of scripts for a proposed X-Men and Quasar story), and lined up for autographs and pictures of everyone from Alex Ross to Jim Lee to Mark Millar to Phil Jimenez to Todd McFarlane.

My comic book collection became a prized and treasured one.

Obviously with a huge number (at that time 45 boxes and counting), I was going to have maintenance problems (read: costly). But no matter, they made me happy.

When I moved back to the Philippines, I shipped over many of my comics from the US. The others I left behind.

Then came Typhoon Ondoy that flooded my home, destroyed my collection of books, CDs and DVDs, and comics. I was devastated in every which way – emotionally, physically, and financially.

I didn’t lose all my comic books as many of them remained in my parents’ home. But I had lost most of my best and favored titles. I stopped collecting for a few months before I began to pick up the odd issue here and there.

Unlike the first time when I sold my collection to Fil Barbasa, this one was more damaging. Literally. I had lost whole boxes. Boxes of great stuff. Many of them autographed.

Although it has been several years since Ondoy, I have lost my taste for the individual issues. To replace much of what I lost, I began to purchase trade paperbacks and collected versions. That made it more palatable to let go of the remainder – of what was left.

So today, January 9, 2014, I finally let go of a lot. About 12 boxes of titles that I had collected during my college and early professional years. I kept very little of them. I know I will probably regret it one day but the inability to maintain them over time really hurt my collection and sapped my will.

I kept the indie titles (that filled up an entire box) and a few of the mainstream ones. Of my treasured X-Men collection, I only have a few left – reprints of Neal Adams’ arc and the Uncanny X-Men post-Schism (I have the others via TPB). I also kept the Daredevils arcs of the creative teams of Denny O’Niel and David Mazzuchelli, Dan Chichester and Lee Weeks, Karl Kesel and Cary Nord, and Mark Waid and Paolo Manuel Rivera. The Alex Ross’ Marvels and Kingdom Come issues.

I hope to get the Roger Stern and John Romita Jr. run on Amazing Spider-Man and a few others.

Do I feel bad about letting go of two prized collections?

Not at all.

I remembered in the character of Andy in Toy Story 3 who reluctantly lets go of his toy collection. But he finds solace in the fact that they will find a new home.

So that is how I feel. My old and treasured comic books will find a new home.

It’s time for me to build a new collection. And this time, truly take care of them.

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