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
It’s been months since my previous Man Cave Monday entry, but I thought I’d wrap things up, for now, with one more post — about the windows in my Secret Headquarters!
The windows in my garage Sanctum Sanctorum look out on … trash cans. Yuck. Not much of a view!
Since my den of inequity requires little sunlight, I thought it might be nifty to transform those windows into display space for art.
I hunted around on the intertubes, and dug up some removable, self-sticking wall decals that were perfectly-sized for my windows.
The decals are shipped in rolls …
… which are unrolled, and applied with surprisingly little effort to flat surfaces — like walls, or windows!
With a decal applied to each window, it can look like a Silver Age church when the light shines through …
I’ve actually had these decals up for several months, but I was holding off on posting until the whole thing was “finished” — I wanted to put a simple valance across the top of the window, to finish and frame the whole presentation (this is why we didn’t center the decals, leaving more space at the top).
However … we never did get that valance built, so I am going to declare this one “done” — and not least of which because it seems certain that I will be moving my secret headquarters in the next month or two.
That’s right, sports fans, no sooner do we get my man cave all tricked out and perfect that we are going to sell our house!
But that is a story for another time!
For now, enjoy the windows!
The most rewarding aspect, by far, of the three year journey into mystery that has been the Longbox Graveyard has been the tremendous community of friends and fellow travelers that has grown up around the blog … and of the many online friends I have been blessed to make, none have proven so kind and dedicated a correspondent as the enigmatic Mars Will Send No More!
I’ve enthused about Mars’ blog in the past, and you should visit there early and often (and not just for the dinosaur beat-down and guest blogging gigs Mars has afforded me at his site), but something I haven’t noted here is that Mars sends me gifts. I’ve received all sorts of strange little favors from Mars over the months — paperback books, vintage dinosauria, and collections of Mars’ own original music — but Monday’s entirely unexpected present may have topped them all.
The best gifts arrive when you need them … and Monday, I needed one! It was the last day of a summer vacation that wasn’t all I might have hoped, and I was feeling a little sorry for myself. There I was, driving home from Wal-Mart in the middle of a heat wave and thinking about aiming for a tree for the simple satisfaction of feeling my airbag deploy, when I decided to check the mailbox, and among the usual bills and hate mail I received a box wrapped in a comic page with a card from Mars:
Equal parts mysterious and ominous!
My son fairly leapt from foot to foot as he cried, “What’s in the box?” but I kept my cool, and read the card.
Hmm. A housewarming present for my nearly-complete comic book Man Cave? How nice!
OK, time to unwrap the box!
But first, there’s a warning label …
Harsh, but true. Mars knows me too well. Spidey infamously failed to make my Marvel Top Ten List, and I have a tin ear (eye?) for Gil Kane, and so could tear this original comics page without regret.
But what is this?
The stakes are raised!
I tore open that wrapper to find … a pretty Marvel box!
And within that pretty box …
Egads! Lots of little body parts!
What in the name of Arnim Zola is going on here?
Sorting the bits, a method is revealed to the madness …
Ah ha, they’re little model pieces. Even I can figure this one out.
And so …
… here are the heroes, fully assembled, on my Man Cave trophy shelf and standing guard before the selfsame copy of Hulk #181 that inspired my Marvel Value Stamp story, which Mars was doubtless referencing with that Watchman Value Stamp message on the cover of his card.
And let us not forget that my excoriating Value Stamp self-examination was originally inspired by Mars’ suggestion that I rip the scab off my Value Stamp wound, leading to both a podcast that the aforementioned guest blog!
Mars, you are my muse! Thanks so much for the kind and thoughtful gift. If I wasn’t a cad, I would reciprocate, but rather than wait for Hell to freeze over, I hope this blog appreciation will suffice!
Thanks, Mars! You’re out of this world!
- Mars Meteorites Responsible for Life on Earth? (guardianlv.com)
- New evidence supports theory that life may have started on Mars (gizmag.com)
- 165,000 people apply for Mars Reality Show (nonsoosaji.wordpress.com)
- Unlikely: New Evidence Suggests Life on Earth Seeded by Mars (darkgovernment.com)