by Derek Smith, Janitor at Nerdz Garage
So, having over the past few years renewed my love affair with Comics I began the task of cataloging the comics leftover from my youth. Some of these I had lovingly bagged and boarded as a teenager and are in fine shape, ready for display or reading today. Others are wrinkled and mangled showing the signs of the “love” I, and my brother and sister had for these books. Traded back and forth amongst ourselves, some are taped and wrinkled beyond recognition to any but ourselves.
I had a stack of five plastic moving boxes that had not seen the light of day (except for the occasional peek to be sure they were still there and not reduced to dust) since the late 90’s. As I sat and opened each box of treasure, each was a memory trip as I would see a cover from the past and remember moments with my Brother as we read them together in our room at the old farmhouse. Like turning a key, I Remembered the trips to our local store in Moretown, Vermont, a Petco Gas station that had a small section of comics next to the candy that my sister and I knew would have the most recent Richie Rich or Archie comic. 25 or 30 cents would get us hours of imagination and teleport us to their worlds. I love this about old comics, something as simple as the glimpse at a page, the smell of old comics or a torn cover and the memory of,” how that happened” will send me back every time.
Sitting and opening the five crates that have made every move with me (although mostly ignored over time) since the 1980’s, I started remembering comics that were not there.
Should there be another crate?
As I catalogued and searched I would be longing to see certain comics appear in the pile. Most of the Richie Rich were gone, missing. Where were all the Sgt.Fury’s, a favorite of mine and my brothers. I once bought an early edition of this and sent it to my brother in college. It cost me $20.00 back in the day, a small fortune. The Fighting Army comics? My 1980’s avengers? The large format super-sized Star Wars #1 or the venerated Superman compendium of six memorized stories? The Marvel Star Wars with the green rabbit on the cover (what # was that)? All missing.
I catalogued the lot, checked the empty boxes and then repacked the books for the next move. At some point, out of curiosity, I checked and neither my brother or sister had any of them. I always was the one who held on to things the longest.
Going to conventions and comic stores, I have always been on the look out to replace some of the more specific nostalgic treasures. Usually I am stymied not by price, but for the mere lack of not finding them. I once found a Sgt Fury #12 for $300 in VG (very Good) condition, I could not justify the cost for that memory it was fun to see, also knowing the one I used to have would not have been any better than Fair on its best day. I decided that most of those books would just remain happy memories of times gone past and good days of imagination.
This spring we moved, once again, to a new house. A drawn-out process preceded by many months of pre-packing and culling the flotsam and jetsam of five years in a house. Over time and many moves with a family you become very familiar with boxes, what each contains and to whom they are important etc.; We all knew fairly well the locations and contents of the household goods moving on to the new place. Everything was labeled and ready.
On the last move day, hot tired hungry and exhausted, filling the last load into the truck I headed to empty the last room in the house, my clothes closet. A catch all for everyone’s stuff on the floor and my 2 long racks for clothes and hats. I began pulling out boxes and handing to my wife. Suddenly I spied a box that could not be. It just couldn’t.
There, underneath an old suitcase was a box clearly labeled, “COMICS”. It should not exist in this house, this reality. I recognized it and knew its contents without opening. I turned to Suzanne and said slowly and carefully, “what’s this?”.
“A box of your comics, I must have put it there when we moved in. Totally forgot it was there”.
With this, you NOW know two things:
I was not a lover of that closet, for five years, too full of stuff to use as an actual closet.
I was so excited and happy at that moment I could have flown like superman or been as clever as Tony Stark.
However, I was so exhausted I smiled and mumbled something like, “wow that’s so cool I’ll have to open this 1st thing when we get to the new place”.
That, did not happen.
Life being the busy carousel that it is, I did place it with care under the shelves containing my growing collection of new editions and past classics. I did not dare open it for doing so would let the memories out and there is a huge time commitment involved with that. So, it sat for a month and a half 4 feet from my desk in plain sight, glowing red and burning holes in me every time I sat at the desk. Weeks went by, working on other projects for Nerdz Garage.
“Are they really in there?’, “Are they as wrinkled as I remember”, “are they readable”, “damaged”?
The Box stared back at me, burning. Until last night. I couldn’t take it anymore.
So, at 8 o’clock at night I dragged the box to the middle of the room, sat on the carpet like a kid at Christmas, not wanting my hopes to be dashed.
I opened the box.
First was the old book, old comic, smell that I associate with a farmhouse in Vermont and childhood. And then, the cover removed from the box, I peeked and right on top, right where I had left them the last time (8 or 9 years ago?) I had closed it – was not only the 1977 large format Star Wars #1 that my Brother, Sister and I had spent untold hours reading and pouring our minds and imaginations into – but there with it was The Giant Superman book (of unknown origin from 1974! My relief was such that I yelped with joy. Yes, Yelped.
Underneath were two tidy stacks of many books the back of my mind has been missing. The Star Wars #9 with the green rabbit and Han Solo on the cover, Countless Richie Rich and YES the missing 20 editions of GI Joe from the eighties including the Snake Eyes stories 26-31 that I treasured, the Sgt Fury’s and many more. Pure Joy in a box. I had written these off to time and now here they were.
These are important to me for the memories, most are so worn there is not a collector $ value to put on them, but that is not why I collect comics. I collect for the art, the stories and the memories. There are of course, some still missing. Archie, Betty and Veronica and what I remember as quite a few Star Wars editions are still out there, somewhere. For now, they and their associated memories are still in the back of my mind.