May 22nd, 2012

Gil Marsh cover

Old friends

Love & Rockets coverLast year I had to throw out boxes of old comics. They had been stored in our basement, and after a series of storms that brought more water on our property than ever recorded in living memory, they were ruined—mold had set into the pages.

Animal Man coverI had to get rid of all of the original 80s Animal Man series, volumes of Love & Rockets from the same period, X-men, and so many more. I saved a few, despite their distinctively musty smell, but most went into contractor-strength garbage bags.

I choked back tears. It felt as though I was burying friends.

I am a lifelong collector of comic books. I began as a kid, reading my brother’s 12¢ issue of Hot Stuff. My siblings, my cousins, and our friends joined in the habit. As an adult, I introduced my spouse-to-be and then my children to comic books—we have all read Sandman from the original prints, and still vie to be first when the latest Fables makes it home from the comics shop.
Fables cover
Fortunately, most of our family stash is not kept in a dank basement, but under beds and on shelves in a dry cabin in the woods up in Quebec. On rainy days, and on a fair number of sunny ones, too, generations of children will spend hours reading well-worn issues, sorting series, laughing at Betty and Jughead, debating Batman versus Superman, and generally living in a happy world of imagination.

Hot Stuff coverYesterday, beloved was helping the advisor for her school’s comics club sort through a box of donated comics.

“Phew,” he said with mild disgust. “Nothing like the smell of old comics.”

She objected. “I like the scent of old comics.” She paused. “Trees and comics. That’s what I’ve smelled each summer of my childhood.”

She made me proud. In her honor, I plan on digging up that dog-eared, somewhat torn, and much beloved 12¢ issue of Hot Stuff. It’ll be visiting an old friend. An old, old friend. They’re good to have around.