Sunday, 21 August 2011

My Monthly Curse (Late Summer Interlude)

We interrupt your scheduled broadcast...

In the years between originally writing the serialised book you've been reading and now (2011), I have written a fair bit on comics for blogs and websites, etc. I wrote, what I believed to be a very pertinent article when I sold all but a small box of my comics a few years back - to pay for a new boiler, which I am at home at the moment waiting for a man to come and service it as it has been 5 years since we've had it installed; how about that for synchronicity? Anyhow, I had one of those epiphanies you read about and my life was changed forever.

It's now the 6th May 2011. The sun is shining on one of the warmest springs I can remember and my wife is doing DIY stuff in the conservatory and I've been helping her by moving stuff into my office (or dump room as it seems to have become since I stopped smoking and spend less time in here). It was while discussing what we were going to do with my late father's expensive (in 1987) stereo system and its very 1980s glass cabinet that I had a similar epiphany to the one I had when equating boilers to comics. Dez Skinn had a similar one when I worked for him, which was - I have no one to leave this shit to, so I might as well sell it and enjoy the spoils! He sold his comics and embarked on a mid-life crisis travelogue, which I didn't begrudge him then and don't now. My selling of the remains of my collection was done so I'd have heat and hot water, more essential needs than 2 weeks in Malaysia, but each to their own and all that.

Anyhow, I'm wrestling with the dilemma of whether or not I'm going to get rid of dad's stereo and dealing with the existential crisis of owning a record collection - which is almost unreachable by its location in the depths of a cupboard - and having nothing to play it on; which turned into a full scale - what's the point of having my record collection, especially as I can download digital versions of it now and never have to look at the grooves on vinyl ever again? Suddenly, my 500+ selection of everything from Gustav Holst to Frank Zappa with a soup├žon of Frank Sinatra and a collectors mentality section devoted to Talk Talk, was in danger of being as anachronistic as my comic collecting - potentially more, because while I no longer dig out old classic comics and have a nostalgic moment with Jack or Stan; I will, given the chance, spin a disc from the late 60s, the 70s, some of the 80s and 90s that will set me off on a nostalgia trip that my joy of comics could never compete with.

When did I turn into Ephemeral Man?

I have gone full circle in my collector mentality, yet I'm still where I was. I suppose there's also a thin line between love and hate?

'I don't collect anything now', says a man who has over 1000 CDs behind him, filled up with music (some of which I've yet to play) or 2000 photographs stored neatly either in albums or on disc, or books by authors, filed in separate areas of designated bookshelves. But I do collect. The slightly autistic element of collectors is dominant in people like me; so even if I can now see the utter futility of collecting something (more so with me than with people with kids) it won't stop me from having 'moments' between now and my death when I feel the 'need' to want something that is, to intents and purposes, not going to do anything but take up space.

So, I suppose what I have now is the disregard of worth and the selfishness of profit. Because if I have no one I want to leave my shit too, then it all suddenly becomes important in a selfish way - I can do things with the money I make from selling this and get a second rush of happiness. Its money well spent - twice! Win - win. Surely?

I thought hoarding would make me happy, then I realised that not hoarding makes me equally as happy, and I have more room! It is purely a mindset.

You really can't take it with you. It was this one sentence that killed the collector in me. In 2000, I had a collection of 5 DVDs; in 2011 I have a DVD collection of about 35. 25% of these I have yet to watch. 50% of them are films I went to the cinema to see and the last quarter are classics, which might get shown again on TCM or whatever but might not hit terrestrial rotation until we're long dead (when was the last time you saw a Marx Brothers film on terrestrial TV?). The 35 I have act as a sort of lending library as I've not actually watched one of them in over two years.

The point is, unless you intend to leave your things to your kids, what is the point of keeping them?

A pension?

Hardly. If childless comics collectors can't see how fucking crazy collecting is, then they don't deserve to have sex with anything! Okay, I'm not 50 yet and I might have a retirement spent bored shitless with nothing to read or listen to, but that's the chance I'll take. I might get run over by a bus tomorrow, I'm pretty sure the wife would sell the stuff she didn't want. I'd actively encourage her to do it! I've worked in environments where council workers clear out the homes of single, white males after their deaths. Virtually everything gets burned. Picture this: some ignorant council worker incinerates your entire collection of comics after you've died and lights a spliff off the burning embers. Does that make you feel like you've done something worthwhile. If God exists, what makes you think he's going to be handing out gold stars to the people with complete collections of Spider-Man?

The point I'm dancing around is I don't see anything as having collectability any longer - at least nothing outside of things like fine art, antiques and businesses. This is my feeling and I know that many of you will be thinking differently. We've talked about the worth or value of comics incessantly in earlier chapters, but the reality is and always will be that a comic is only worth what someone will pay for it and only for a retailer; the collector walks around with a notion his collection is worth X, when in reality it's only worth that on paper, to the people who could get their worth, they are a fraction of their 'real' value. Comics collecting, more than most things, is a thankless, profitless thing. It reminds me of fruit machine addicts who will pump £50 into a machine, walk away with a £30 jackpot and feel he has made a profit because he's been on the machine all night.

I still have collections - photographs and music - but I could keep all of these on countless CDs or even this machine that I'm writing this on and still have space for thousands more! It takes up no room at all. No dust. No mess. For me the upsides are plenty.

The thing is I'm probably just 'normal' now. I'm so far out of certain loops, this might be the world over - the comics fans I've been talking about and will talk about might have evolved. I remember when I was 18, I moved to the outskirts of London, there is a brief mention of this in the book, but the point was I was there for nearly two years and during that time I became embroiled in a world of sex, drugs and rock and roll that made my stuttering social life in Northampton look colloquial at best. I was geographically in a much busier place and things were happening all the time and I took it all on board, like the information sponge I was at that age. The thing was, when I came back to Northampton, a little older, wiser and far more street smart, I thought all my friends here had just sat around and waited for me. They'd all moved on and my tales of debauchery were not getting the reactions I expected. Their world was not like the one I'd left two years earlier; they'd all had their lives and things happened in them that I couldn't understand. It was a humbling experience and one I learned from. The comics world might have done the same and I've been gone five years not two. My interpretation of the comics nerd is one that is 6 years old and possibly slightly out of touch even when I was producing Borderline.

But I digress; most of the things I might have collected I treat like ephemera should be treated; dispose of it when done. I can't think of many things I can't replace, possibly some music, old un-scanned photos, but generally I'd be more concerned about what I was going to wear and where I was going to live if the house burned down than fishing out the small box of 'sentimental' comics I kept. I'm not suggesting that obsessed collectors wouldn't feel the same way, but sometimes I have had to wonder.

Next time: a return to our scheduled broadcast.

Buy this book in its entirety.
Go to for the UK Kindle edition!
Coming soon in other formats!


  1. Just read through all of the posts so far... wow. It seems like an entire lifetime ago that we first started talking. Never knew how shite things were on your end at the time. Looking back, I almost find it hard to believe that my byline appeared in a handful of BORDERLINE issues-- the DVD/TV stuff was kind of lame, but I impress myself with the Pete Bagge interview I managed to pull off for issue #3.

    Hope late-2011 is finding you well.

  2. Borderline was, in its early days, a suck it and see project; little did we know that 10 years later, because it's now 10 years, film, TV and comics would be so inextricably linked. I've said it before and I'll say it again - we woz innovative!
    Late 2011 is shit mate ;)