Somebody stop me

I’ve been buying too many comic books. Without good reason or justification. Just because they’re there, and they’re cheap — or free — and I can’t say “no.” But I need to, right now, before I can no longer walk into my closet (I can’t) or my girlfriend kicks out me and my comics.

See, here’s the thing: I collected comics regularly when I was a kid, like most of us did. And when I hit my teenage years, I stopped. That was the early ’90s. Sure, I read and/or picked up an issue here or there, but I didn’t see the inside of a comic book store for about 15 years.

Then, as the story goes, I got bit by the comic bug again at San Diego Comic-Con about three years ago, and I started actually buying new issues again regularly, but that wasn’t the problem. That’s only about seven to 10 issues a month, if that. No, the problem started when I discovered Dreamwell Comics’ seasonal sidewalk sales, where the store (now called Wishing Well) would unload its back stock for pennies per copy. So I’d walk away with a stack of comics for the same price as a Capriotti’s sub (mmm Capriotti’s). At first, it was neat: Filling in holes in my back issue collection for a dime or a quarter a piece? Sweet! But then came eBay.

Not that eBay was new or I was new to it, but I discovered — don’t ask me how — a certain seller on there who auctions off Roger Stern’s “research copies” of comics. Stern is a comic book writer mostly known for his Marvel comics work in the 1970s and ’80s, hence, when he’d take on a new assignment, he’d have to bulk up his knowledge of that story or character set by consuming reference material, i.e., lots of comics. Well, these certified reference copies go for sale on eBay, the bidding is relatively low, and next thing you know, Pj is receiving boxes of dozens of comics on his doorstep. Again, at first this was really cool: “Ooh, Roger Stern’s reference copies! Certificates of authenticity! More comics to read!” But this week, the most recent batch came after a confluence of circumstances that have stuffed the closet in my second bedroom/band practice space nearly full.

Torpedo Comics, a giant online retailer launched by System of a Down drummer and certified comic geek John Dolmayan back in 2007, recently went out of business, and all of its assets were being liquidated. So yes, that means millions of comics, art, toys, games and other geek ephemera were being auctioned off for pennies on the dollar.  We’re talking lots of 5,000 comics for less than $20. And, wouldn’t you know, Torpedo was based here in the Vegas Valley, and of course, who gets the auction announcement directly sent to his e-mail? Yep. THIS GUY. Oh, what’s that? You have online bidding? IT’S LIKE EBAY FOR COMIC NERDS.

Iron Man 204 original artThankfully, I set a spending limit for myself and got outbid of a few lots at the last second, but still, on Friday morning, I sauntered up to a warehouse in North Las Vegas to pick up another 350 or so comics I didn’t need — or as I found out later, already had — as well as some original art from a mid-1980s run of Iron Man by Mark Bright, Ian Akin and Brian Garvey. Money-wise, only the original art really set me back, which is OK, because that was still a deal. But the comics — oh, the comics — were subsequently dumped in my closet with two or three other boxes my guitar player, Peter, had generously donated to my collection over the last month or so.

To be fair, I don’t have THAT many comics. I have what amounts to maybe (now) seven or eight “long boxes,” which each hold about 250 comics. That’s barely 2,000 comics. I have friends who have entire rooms and houses full of these things, along with statues, figures and art (I’m looking at you, Harry Fagel). Me, I’ve never been into the collect-and-display aspect, at least not since I was still rocking a sweet mullet. But it does seem like I’ve gotten to the point where I’m just buying them because I can, not because I need or even really want to.

So … the buck stops here. That buck being the credit card in my wallet, of course. Don’t worry, Ralph, I’ll still be stopping by Alternate Reality every few weeks to pick up my (ever-dwindling) pull list. But as soon as I can find the time (hah!), I’m going to have to actually tackle this four-color monster growing in my closet, thin out the herd, and get my own eBay auctions up and running again. Before you see me on the side of the road, sitting atop a throne of long boxes, holding a sign reading “will work for comics.”

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