I keep this blog pretty laser-focused on comics, but something very cool turned up in my mailbox on Monday, so please indulge me in this little diversion.
What is this?
This is a stack of autograph pages for the anniversary edition of Grimtooth’s Traps, awaiting my signature!
Why my signature?
Well … because the mysterious master of the Longbox Graveyard is also (kinda, sorta) Grimtooth the Troll! Back when I was eighteen years old or so, I edited and (largely) wrote Grimtooth’s Traps, a universal role playing game supplement, for Flying Buffalo Inc.
The book was an instant hit, spawning several sequels. It has remained in print more-or-less continuously since 1981, published around the world in six languages, with something over a quarter-million copies in print.
cartoon of teenage me, circa 1981, by Grimtooth’s Traps illustrator Steve Crompton
It was one of the delights of my early career to be a part of this project, and I was very pleased to make a small contribution to the spiffy new anniversary edition of Grimtooth’s Traps recently kickstarted by Goodman Games.
I’m out of practice with my autograph, but I think they came out OK.
Grimtooth’s Traps opened a lot of doors for me. It provided a substantial professional credit at a very young age, and was instrumental in getting me my first video game design job. It’s a real kick that something I did so long ago is still embraced by fans. I’ve been dining out on the old troll for three decades, and I am so very pleased and proud that the Grimtooth series is getting a deluxe treatment from Goodman Games!
(We now return to your regularly-scheduled comic book content).
Just a friendly reminder that I post a couple times a day to Instagram.
My posts routinely draw a couple hundred likes, and usually spark some conversation. It’s a way to have daily comic book chat on small subjects that don’t always merit a full blog treatment here at Longbox Graveyard.
In a very real sense, this new year marks the end of the Longbox Graveyard.
Longtime readers will know this blog was founded to keep me on track while I turned my sprawling comics Accumulation into a Collection.
(The difference between the two? Unless you know exactly what you have, and exactly where to find it … you have an Accumulation, not a Collection).
It took a move to drive my comics project across the finish line.
My old Secret Headquarters was great — it even featured a comic book Man Cave — but it was too far out in the boonies for my family and I. We were spending hours and hours on the road each day, driving between home and school and work and appointments, and even when we were home we were too wrung out to enjoy the comforts of my Fortress of Solitude. So we moved closer to the actual center of our lives, in the funky beach town of Encinitas, California.
Here’s a spiffy Mainstreet Association video of our new neighborhood:
But access to all that surf, sun, sand, and flakey hipster living didn’t come cheap. We had to downsize. Man, did we ever have to downsize — from 2300 sq. ft. to 1200. Oh, and we had to give up our three-car garage. That meant that all the impedimenta of a family of four had to be crunched down into 98” x 86” x 46” storage cage in our parking garage. I needed a Tardis!
dimensions of the new garage, taped out on the floor of the old garage
This wasn’t just my comics that need to fit into this space. We’re also talking our camping equipment, holiday decorations, paperwork, family photos, everything. Everything! Our condo is slick and cool and very modern but has little room for anything but our seven bodies (counting three cats) and basic furniture, clothes, and etc. — everything else needed to go into our cage.
I’d been working for years to reduce my Accumulation, but this move kicked my efforts into overdrive. I shipped literally hundreds of packages via eBay over the last two months of 2014, while loads of possessions went to charity (and loads of crap went to the dump!). An additional degree of difficulty resulted from doing all of this over the holidays, and shooting through the eye of the hurricane by moving between Christmas and New Years. Our Christmas celebration lasted about a day, with the tree going up and down like a beach umbrella.
I don’t recommend this.
But this is what we wanted. This isn’t some tale of woe about a family displaced by war or disaster or bankruptcy. My family and I voluntarily entered into this crazy scheme because we really, truly wanted to change our lifestyle … and because we felt increasingly encumbered by all this stuff we were hauling around. And it is that “stuff” that makes our move relevant to this blog.
I’ve written a lot here about owning things, and what it means to own things, the good and the bad of it, and that collector’s impulse to own far more things than a person might ever reasonably use. I’ve talked the talk about shedding possessions — this move made us walk the walk. We gave away three rooms worth of furniture. I sold my obscenely-large television. Over half of my game collection bit the dust, hundreds of comics sold for cover price or less, and multiple long boxes were gifted to friends. We reduced and we reduced and we reduced, and in the end it all fit (sort of):
it fit between the lines …
… and so it fit inside the cage!
What does this mean for the Longbox Graveyard Accumulation? It is now a Collection! From twenty-seven battered and disorganized longboxes when I started this project …
… I am down to seven …
… and two of those are full of books I wrote. The rest contain alphabetized, bagged, boarded, indexed, and curated comics, about a thousand of them, in crisp new longboxes, and all (mostly) stuff I want to keep. Near-complete runs of Captain Marvel, Tomb of Dracula, and Master of Kung Fu; my Steve Gerber Defenders (and the DAK books too); Judge Dredd & Thor. And some unlikely books, too, like Godzilla, and runs of Daredevil, Batman, Swamp Thing, and X-Men that I never reviewed here at Longbox Graveyard (and about which more in a moment).
In making the hard cuts to get down to this core of a comics collection, I kept circling around the aspects of replaceability and intentionality. Was a particular comic easily replaceable, in digital or collected form? If so — and if a particular comic didn’t hold some great emotional appeal, like being a book I bought off the rack for a quarter when I was twelve years old — then that comic was a candidate for reduction. And was I keeping something because I really wanted it, and intended to use it, or was I just keeping something because I didn’t know what else to do with it? If a possession lacked intentionality, I got rid of it.
And there is the most important word of all — possession.
I’ve already written about being possessed by your possessions, but this move cast that abstract notion into stark and three-dimensional relief. You can’t really know how weighed down you are by things until you try to get rid of them. I sold some stuff, sure, but it was a pain in the neck, and not remotely a profit center for me. As much or more of my time was spent arranging for the free disposition of my things — sorting goods into donation and recycling piles, helping friends load bookcases and tables and lamps and desks into rented trucks, hoisting flat screens off walls and awkwardly wrestling them across the floor in makeshift boxes wrapped in blankets. Hauling dozens (dozens!) of boxes of books to the curb. Realizing that I can’t shed art made by my father and my grandfather but understanding I’ll probably have nowhere to display it, either. Selling off lawn furniture, refrigerators, garden tools, and garage shelves for less than twenty cents on the dollar. Heck, I even had too many trash cans!
Possessions. And they mostly come to ruin. Waiting in line at the recycling center to dispose of a van-full of paint, batteries, poisons, and cleaning supplies, I watched a couple workers stacking televisions on a pallet. There must have been twenty sets, in a pile, bound up in a tower by yards of shrink-wrap. One of the guys had one more TV for the stack. He dragged it by the cord, like he was walking a reluctant dog. The screen was face down on the pavement, scraping. As he heaved it atop the pile, I thought that every one of those TV sets was someone’s precious possession, maybe bought on credit and paid for several times over, carefully chosen in a store, delicately maneuvered from the car to a place of prominence in a home, reverently unpacked, and then used to watch Love Boat or Golden Girls or whatever the hell for years and years, before migrating to the kids room for Nintendo games, or getting stuck on a garage shelf for a decade against some half-formed plan to use it again some day, but really in mute acknowledgement that the damn thing was a Possession with a capital “P,” something you no longer needed but couldn’t be rid of, until that inevitable day when a guy in a hazmat suit at a poisonous collection site struck sparks from it by dragging it across an asphalt parking lot to the corpse pile.
imagine TV sets instead of outer space goons and you get the idea
I don’t want Possessions any more. Belongings are fine. But no more Possessions!
I am in a new place, reduced to pretty much only the things I really want to keep (though a few are still available here — help a brother out, and buy them!). I have so little room here that I can’t really get new things, and most of my discretionary funds will be going to restaurants and yogis and levitation lessons or whatever other crazy notions prove part-and-parcel of this off-center California beach town. I’m down on space and pinched for money … but I should have more of that most precious commodity of all — time!
I’m closer to work, now, and the all-consuming labor of this move is largely behind me. I should have more time to read, and think, and discover new things about myself, and also to write and create, and that is where Longbox Graveyard will continue to play a role in my life. This blog has long since transformed from a personal account of me and my collection to a celebration of comics in general. One of the unexpected benefits of starting this blog — second only to meeting new friends and building a community around Longbox Graveyard — has been a reawakened love of comics for their own sake, which has led me to discover new work, and even to start creating new work of my own. Longbox Graveyard has a readership, both here and on Twitter and Instagram, and I think it would be missed if it went away. Certainly I would miss it, and that’s all the reason I really need to keep it going.
To paraphrase Churchill, this isn’t the beginning of the end, but it is the end of the beginning. I probably won’t vapor on and on about collecting any more, but I will still write about my favorite comics, and host guest blogs from outside writers who share my enthusiasms. As the year wears on, I hope to share more about my own creative projects here, most notably 4 Seconds, coming from Thrillbent. I will continue to publish a “numbered” post near the beginning of each month, and pop in here on the remaining Wednesdays with Pinterest Galleries and pin-ups and plugs and other silliness. In the fullness of time, Longbox Graveyard will wind down, and become a graveyard in earnest, like those stacks of televisions that knocked me for a loop … but not yet.
Happy New Year, everyone! Thank you so much for your readership and support. Hug your friends and love your stuff! It’s great to be alive.
IN THREE WEEKS: #142 Days of Future Past