When I was around twelve years old, my friends and I would hop on our bikes (a remarkably heavy yellowÂ Schwinn hand-me-down in my case) and ride down to the grungy old used book/comic book store that was a tiny gas station in a previous life. Thanks to a massive loss of brain cells in the past 20+ years, I cannot, for the life of me, remember the name of the place, but I do remember some rather unsavory goings on there after I found a “more proper” shop while in high school.
Back in those days, I read two, maybe three, titles a month. This was the mid-to-late 80’s and the big companies (pretty much just Marvel and DC in those days) had yet to figure out the monstrosity that is the multi-issue/multi-title crossover, so I wasn’t forced to buy twenty-five books a week just to follow a single storyline. At that point in my life, Marvel was king and DC was pretty much the devil to me. How the hell was DC supposed to survive without mutants?!?!?!
As I grew a little older, and got exposed to the broader range of what is out there, I got really turned on to the plethora of indie companies and titles there are out there.Â Mind you, I grew up in Las Cruces, New Mexico:Â there wasn’t a whole lot of anything streaming into town during that period, so finding indie books was an effort. Sure, I was snatching up a whole mess of stuff that, on retrospect, wasn’t all that great, but there was honest-to-god curse words and straight-up nudity in these books.Â They just weren’t going to do that in an X-book!
Going into my college years, I really had to consider how comics were going to affect my life.Â To say thatÂ I’m anal about my comics is really an understatement. Don’t screw with my comics: don’t touch them when they aren’t bagged, and freakin’ ask before you go pawing through a box. That’s the opposite of college: especially in a tiny three-person dorm room like the one I had my Freshman year.
I honestly thought about getting out of the comic racket entirely. I had no car, so getting out to where the shops were in Waco, Texas wasn’t reliable, I had no space (as mentioned before), and, most importantly, I didn’t have any money. Contrary to logic, I stuck with it.Â Even during the period of the horribly disgusting hologram card cover and polybagged foil exclusives, I stuck with it. By the time I finished undergrad, it was beginning to show that I had a developing problem.
Owning one or two long boxes of comics isn’t such a big deal.Â They honestly don’t take up that much space and can, generally, be ignored in most rooms. Three is the lynch-point. When you have three long boxes, you have a substantial number of comics. When I moved to Dallas after graduate school, I had four long boxes. I was still a poor student, so I really couldn’t splurge on all the stories I was dying to follow. Public access to the internet was just taking off like crazy, but there still wasn’t an accessible way to find digitized comics.
I settled into Dallas, found an excellent shop, and visited it around once a month or whenever the owner called me to say I had a stack of books that I needed to come buy. I was only buyingÂ nine orÂ ten titles a month at that point, so waiting a month wasn’t terribly hard. Additionally, a lot of those were indieÂ books that were basically self-published and horribly calendar agnostic.Â Boy oh boy did I not see what was coming.
My descent intoÂ my current “condition” can almost be diagrammed. At the end of 1998 I got a jobÂ in DowntownÂ Dallas withÂ no Â Downtown parking but a free train pass. My drive to the train station took me past Keith’s ComicsÂ old cramped location on Mockingbird. The little gnome that lives in my skull woke up one day and said, “Hey, dummy! It’s a helluva lot easier to go here every week than to wait a month and go to that far place.”
As is often the case, that damn obnoxious gnome was right. I started going to Keith’s, had a nice paycheck that allowed me some discretionary spending on books I wasn’t reading previously, and I was reading my books more often.
The spiral started from there. Just about every week I’d be adding titles left and right. Here an indie, there a Dark Horse or Vertigo title. What? Is that another vampire-related book coming out?Â Oooh, I’ll definitely take that one.Â Five long boxes (sloth-like reading right after my move to Dallas necessitated only one extra cardboard coffin) quickly turned into six and then seven.
Here we are eleven years later and I’m out of control.Â I swear it is much easier for Keith and Co. to just give me the tiny list of books I’m not buying in a given week rather than list out what I am slated to purchase. It has gotten so bad recently that I leave the shop each week with a cardboard box rather than a nice little plastic grocery bag. My long boxes number well into the double digits these days, and there really is no slowdown in sight.
One of my very few saving graces is that I actually do read everything I buy. I don’t really see the point of buying comics if you aren’t going to read them. Hell, that’s the type of crap that almost tanked the entire industry back in the mid-90’s. The bad side of that is that if I don’t stay immaculately vigilant in my readings, things get out of control very quickly.Â As of this writing, I have a stack of unread books that is, no hyperbole, two and a half feet tall. A stack like that is daunting, but it’s my Sisyphean task. If I don’t keep reading, that stack will quickly reach three and four feet tall. That would just make me even more neurotic than I already am. It’s not like I can stop buying the things.
Did I mention I have a problem?