Sunday, November 11, 2007

A Life in Four Colors (Part Nine)

It's inevitable that every comic book reader, sooner or later, becomes a comic book collector. The books accumulate quickly; before one realizes it, the stack is tall enough that it demands its own special storage place.

By 1962, I had enough comics that I needed a place to keep them. My first abortive storage system involved a shoe box given to me by Mom, who understood that this was perhaps the only thing I owned that I seemed intent on keeping semi-organized. Unfortunately, none of the shoe boxes that we had were sufficiently wide to store comic books--a 7 1/4" wide comic doesn't fit well in a 6" wide shoebox, it seems. Oh, it would work for a few books, but I had far more than that... and I didn't want them bent! While my comics were far from mint condition, I had already decided that I didn't want them to deteriorate any further.

So, at the age of eight and a half, I got my first comics box. It was actually a fruit box from the grocery store, and it had die-cut handles on either side and a heavyweight lid that fit over the top of the box, and it was large enough that it would hold two stacks of comics and deep enough that I was sure I'd never fill it up.

Today, collectors have a phenomenal selection of storage options--short comics boxes, long comics boxes, drawer boxes, single wall boxes, double wall boxes, acid-free boxes, along with a variety of plastic bags, backing boards, etc. Back then, we had none of those things; a fruit box held two stacks of comics placed flat into the box, which inevitably contributed to some spine roll at the bottom of the stack... but I was eight and had no idea what spine roll was. (Besides, many of my books had more than enough spine roll already, thank you; while I didn't fold my comics backward around themselves as I read them, many of the people with whom I traded did just that, so I had a lot of books that had developed a healthy contour of the spine. I figured they'd do best at the bottom of the stack, where I hoped they'd flatten out.

To make room for the comic book box in my closet, I had to get rid of something... and the something I got rid of was my baseball glove, ball, and bat. I had no idea how symbolic this would be; I had abandoned a path of athletics in favor of a path of four-color comics. For me, the choice was easy; I was bad at baseball, thanks in large part to the bad vision that I mentioned in a previous chapter. I still didn't know that I had poor vision--that's something I wouldn't discover for another year--but I knew that, for some reason, I didn't catch or hit the ball as well as other kids did. I did, however, read very quickly... and I was getting faster all the time. The quicker I read, the more I could read--and there was so much that I wanted to read, that I needed to get as fast as possible!

That's where SRA came in...

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