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The Purge!

Longbox Graveyard #115

With all the reviews and other goofball features I run here at Longbox Graveyard, it’s easy to lose track of this blog’s original purpose — to keep me on track in reducing and organizing my comic book Accumulation. Early entries in this blog concerned themselves with sorting my books and trying to appraise their condition, but aside from incidental mention in my Man Cave Monday series, I haven’t blogged a lot about the state of my collection recently.

But I have been busy.

Happy Mole Man

why is Mole Man smiling?

From the two-dozen longboxes that made up my Accumulation when I started this project, I have settled on the dozen longboxes that I will keep, most of which are Bronze and Silver Age Marvel and DC books.

the final books

organizing the last of the Accumulation — guess where I was sitting?

I’ve sold off a couple longboxes worth of comics, both individually, and in lots (and plenty more are still available for sale — click HERE for individual books, and HERE for bulk deals). I’ve even separated out two full longboxes containing only (multiple) copies of comics I wrote, back in the day.

O'Connor Books

organizing books I wrote

But for all this diligent organizing, selling, and shipping, I still had four or five longboxes worth of books that I just couldn’t move.

So I did the unthinkable.

I threw them out.

recycled!

dumped!

Hey, at least I recycled them!

The longer I shuffled around the rump end of my Accumulation, the more it became obvious that no one was going to take these books off my hands. I tried every channel — selling here on Longbox Graveyard and on eBay … sometimes at a loss, and infrequently at anything approaching a profit. After factoring in the time it took to pack and post the orders, speaking strictly from a profit perspective, I would have been better off throwing many of my books in the street.

I resisted this last measure for a long time … partially out of respect for the comics themselves, but mostly because I just wasn’t ready to do it. For one thing, I wasn’t certain how much of everything I had, and it would have been reckless to start tossing things before I knew the full extent of what I was doing. But mostly it was a process of settling in with the stuff I had elected to keep, and deciding I was comfortable just tossing the stuff that was taking up space.

Interestingly enough, most of the books I threw away were books I wrote.

more O'Connor books!

they evaded the bin (barely!)

A full five longboxes of the old Accumulation were comp copies of my own books from decades ago. By cutting myself down to five or ten copies of each book, I was able to reduce everything down to two longboxes. That meant throwing away hundreds of my own books, but I found it an easy process. They were my own books, to keep or to toss — I found it easier than tossing books that I didn’t write (and there were a few of those that went to the curb, too). There was no urge to self-annihilation here! I was just ready to let them go.

I think I found it easy to purge my own stuff because I’ve come to be more at peace with my past as a comic book writer. This blog project has helped me place that part of my life in perspective — increasingly, I have come to view that era with nostalgia, rather than regret over a career that never quite took off. I’ve come to accept that my work had merit, and that the reasons I never went further in the field had more to do with my poor networking skills and freelancer naiveté then they did with my ability as a writer. I’ve come to recognize my comics failure was a business issue, rather than a creative one — and I can live with that.

Happily so.

Paranoia #1

letting go has been a relief!

I can also live with considerably fewer copies of my work! Five longboxes of those old books was an anchor. Two longboxes are a treasure.

There remains a bit to do. I still need to sell off about three longboxes worth of books (though the clock is ticking on whether they will follow their fellows into that blue recycling bin). I want to buy clean, new longboxes, and get everything filed and catalogued, once-and-for-all. There may be one more small round of purging.

But the end is in sight!

And what will become of Longbox Graveyard, when my comics project is at last complete? I’ll tell you next month, in my winter Longbox Soapbox editorial column!

In the meantime, thanks for reading this blog, and acting as my virtual support group while I’ve transformed my comics Accumulation into a beloved Collection. It has been every inch worth the long, long journey.

UPDATE: In the social media conversation about this article I’ve been asked why I didn’t donate my comics instead of throwing them away, with the idea being that libraries, hospitals, or some other charity might benefit from my books.

In this specific case, I chose not to donate my books largely because I did not think them appropriate for kids or even your random “Hey Kids Comics” thrift store audience. Almost everything I threw out was a book that I wrote, and nearly every book I wrote was an obscure black & white comics of little interest to anyone (even if free) and/or laden with inappropriate violence, sex, language, or other content that would cause the Library Lady to dial 9-1-1.

However, if you are contemplating a similar terminal step with your collection, please consider donation if appropriate. Here is one source I may use in the future, offered without endorsement or special insight as I haven’t yet used them myself: Comics For Heroes.

NEXT WEEK: #116 The Day They Walked Away: Captain America!

Glorious Bastards

Longbox Graveyard #22

Five whole boxes in the Longbox Graveyard contain cherished books that have been separated, indexed, bagged, and boarded.

Another two or three boxes contain books waiting in line at Ellis Island.

Ten boxes are full of dross.

And then there are the five boxes full of my own stuff. “My own” meaning books that I wrote.

These boxes are freighted with old memories, but I’ve done little besides take quick little Pandora peaks at them these past twenty years.

nice ink job on this cover by future Marvel Comics bigwig Jimmy Palmiotti

I worked for about four years to break into the mainstream comics business by writing black & white comic books for Malibu Comics and it’s various imprints. At first I did series of my own creation, then later wrote scripts for properties Malibu owned. I learned a lot about myself as a writer, but like a lot of comics from this era, few of my books got much traction. For the most part, I’ve locked the books away as a means of keeping those ghosts buried. Most of the reasons why I got out of comics entirely, both as a pro and a fan, stem from those hard days working flinty soil as a comics writer in the early 1990s.

But something about working through other parts of the Accumulation gave me the courage to tackle my own books. It wasn’t even a gradual coming to terms — it just sprung on me in the middle of the night, a sudden and nearly irresistible urge to organize and catalog just the books that I had personally written during my brief career as a comic book writer. It was like bagging and boarding five hundred books from other creators made me want to see my own work afforded similar ceremonial respect.

I restricted myself to organizing and indexing books in this pass — I’m not ready to read them just yet. But this is a huge step for me. It’s like acknowledging a pack of bastard children, and if it is too late to actually tend to their rearing, at least I can start to form relationships with them now that they’re grown.

Here’s an alphabetical and incomplete list of what I wrote, based on what I’ve been able to find and enter into my database.

BadAxe #1-3: My original sword and sorcery epic, and a love-note to Joseph Campbell. I have fond memories of this but I haven’t tested them by reading the books.

Bones #1-4: First comics I ever wrote. Light, goofball fantasy. I remember it as uneven, but heartfelt.

Empire #1-3: An original space opera that I deeply loved, but poor inks trumped good pencils in the first issue, and the book met with untimely cancellation.

Ex-Mutants Winter Special #1: I turned in my scripts every thirty days, and sometimes we’d get way ahead of schedule and end up printing a book or two as a special edition, or an annual, or a double issue. I think that’s what happened here.

Ex-Mutants: The Shattered Earth Chronicles #1-15: Grind-it-out work-for-hire. The check I got for issue #1 was the most I was ever paid to write a comic. For most books I never got paid beyond my advance-against-royalties (because most Malibu/Eternity books never generated royalties!). For that first Ex-Mutants I probably made six or seven hundred dollars, which was two or three times what I made on any other book.


Heavy Metal #645: An outlier from 2005 — everything else here is from the early 1990s. A promotional story I helped create to launch Darkwatch, a video game I co-created for High Moon Studios.

Interactive Comics: Dudley Serious & The Dungeon of Doom #1: Our splicing of comic books and “pick a path” adventure books. We also did Dudley Serious & The Space Patrol and Dudley Serious Saves The World (a superhero spoof that you can read online HERE).

Lensman #1-6: I thought some Lensman would be better than no Lensmen at all, but I ended up underserving a great genre tradition. I loved space opera and leaped at the chance to do this series, but it had to be based on a pretty crappy Japanese animation series (rather than the original books). Not great.

Lensman War of the Galaxies #1-2: Really just a continuation of Lensman, but we started a new series to juice sales numbers owing to a new #1.

The Liberator #1-6: Along with Bones, the first series I ever wrote. My homage to Captain America, by way of Alan Moore. I’m afraid to read it! Pencils by my old pal Jim Chadwick, who is an editorial wheel over at DC Comics now.

Monster Frat House #1: I remember writing a dynamite series bible for this, and then just having nothing left when it came time to write the issue itself. This was a naked IP pitch for animation, or something. Fizzled.

New Humans Annual #1: See comments above for that Ex-Mutants special.

New Humans, Volume 2 #4-15: Another long run that I can scarcely remember. This was more work-for-hire in the Ex-Mutants universe.

Paranoia #1-6: Certainly the best art I ever had on a book, and a rare color book for me (pretty much everything else here is black & white). This was based on the role playing game license, and I initially wrote it as a “straight” Paranoia story, but then we scared up a wild-ass South American artist who went completely off the rails with his own look and feel, and I gleefully followed him. We might have done a disservice to the license and its fans but I liked what we did. There are scans of a couple issues over at Mars Will Send No More. I recently re-read the series and quite enjoyed it. My last copies of this series are being offered in lots over at eBay — order one and I’ll sign it for you!

Roger Wilco #3: Comic book version of the old Space Quest computer game. Pretty sure I wrote #2 as well, but I can’t find it.

The Three Musketeers #1-3: I loved Dumas. I probably loved Dumas too much, because I tried to put too much of him into the three issues of this book. I nearly killed my poor letterer (the good-natured and very professional Clem Robins) — these books were a wall of words! I failed to understand the difference between adaptation and transcription. But I loved Dumas so much that I couldn’t cut a word …

Tiger-X Book II #1-4: I got to play with Ben Dunn’s giant robot property for a couple issues.

Ultra Monthly #1-6: A promotional rag I wrote to support the Ultraverse line. It was a clever idea — a newspaper from inside the Ultraverse — and an idea that might still work for marketing superhero comics.

And I know I’m missing some of the kids, too, probably all lurking in the same box someplace. There was a “Shattered Earth” anthology series I remember, another Roger Wilco book, and a couple fill-in issues of Rune that I wrote during the last gasp of the Ultraverse (which I already covered in detail).

I’ve always had this vague idea that I’d written around a hundred books for Malibu, but there are only sixty-odd here, so either my memory is faulty or I’m missing a box, or both. There were also several unpublished books (some of which I was paid for), including a multi-part history of baseball; an undead pirate epic called The Black Joke; a fill-in issue of Sludge where the deeply-missed Steve Gerber put me through the wringer (and did me a great service); an extensive pitch for Ultraforce that didn’t get picked up; two or three long-gestating original superhero stories that I still remember fondly; even a translation of a French pornographic comic that I wrote under the name of “Armand Jean du Plessis” (all the more amusing because I don’t speak French). I’ve found a few of these lost scripts and put them up for your examination on my Comics Scripts page.

Sorry this is only a survey, but just writing fifteen hundred words about my comics oeuvre is a big, big step for me. It’s the most I’ve thought about my comics in twenty years. I’ll dig deeper in a future post. For now I’m going to do some deep breathing and maybe read BadAxe.

Maybe.

NEXT WEDNESDAY: #23 Queen of the Black Coast

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