For that matter, no one’s asked me if Thor or the Hulk was stronger for a while, either.

§ August 21st, 2020 § Filed under collecting, retailing § 8 Comments

I want to thank you folks for replying to my queries regarding Comics in the Time of COVID. Again, I’m not sure what I’m going to do with this information, if anything, beyond having an archive of what’s happening right now in our hobby/industry that I can hopefully look back upon once we are theoretically past all of this.

I will say that it’s somewhat bemusing to me that I have readers of this site who don’t actively read comics. I mean, I knew this already, but this reminded me again. Hey, I welcome all readers, except jerks. The guy writing this blog is a jerk, and one’s plenty ’round these parts.

Anyway, if you have any more notes about COVID-related comics stuff, please feel free to drop them into the comments for Wednesday’s post. I promise if I publish a book with these, I’ll sell you copies for a most generous 5% discount.

Meanwhile, at the shop…I had a customer make a passing comment whilst perusing the stacks that made me realize something. And of course, no thought goes untweeted, so what I posted on the Twitterers was

the realization that I’ve been in this business long enough to go from hearing “my mom threw all mine out!” to “will you please take this case of TEAM YOUNGBLOOD #1”

I used to hear from people walking into the shop…well, into the previous place of employment, the repeated stories of “I had lots of comics but my [mother/father/guardian/cult leader] threw them out” and variations thereof. It’s an even that usually happened after the individual in question had moved out of the house, gone to college, entered the military, what have you. Or, of course, it occasionally happened when they were children, with parents tiring of the clutter and clearing out the strata of junk out of their kids’s rooms.

But I haven’t heard anyone tell me that in a while. Quite a while. Like I sorta refer to, it’s more likely I’ll be approached by someone trying to unload an accumulation of comics from their childhood or teen years that were never thrown away, but rather stored in a closet or garage for years on end. Time comes around to clean house for whatever reason, and suddenly they have these boxes of comics they have to do something with.

Keeping in mind that I’ve been in comics retail…well, as of September, 32 years, I’ve obviously seen a generational shift in how different groups of folks dealt with comics from their respective youths. A random, let’s say, 40 year old walking into my (well, Ralph’s) store back in 1988 and telling me about his mom throwing out his comics…assuming he was buying comics at around 10 years old, just to keep it simple, that would be around 1958. That wasn’t exactly a peak time for society thinking comics were worth saving, so chances would be pretty good they’d be discarded once said child no longer showed interest in maintaining his collection.

Now, jumping to the far-flung future of 2020, with our flying cars and absolutely no virulent disease spreading unchecked through our populace, a 40 year old who bought comics as a 10 year old would have been picking them up around 1990. 1990 was a boom time for comics and awareness of the industry, and especially awareness of the collectibility of comics. This made parents a little less likely, I think, to dump Junior’s collection once he went off to his cooking academy. And as a result the comics saved during this time ended up either 1) being common as dirt, or 2) generally not kept in very good condition, despite being bagged and boarded, sometimes in those “high end” sleeves marketed at the time.

Now this isn’t a binary thing…people in the ’50s and ’60s saved comics (otherwise we wouldn’t still have copies around now!) and people in the ’90s tossed comics out. But I think the point I’m trying to get across, and as seems supported by anecdotal evidence, is that the likelihood of someone’s childhood comic collection having been thrown out has decreased over time. I mean, no duh, why’d I bother typing 600+ words about it, but it was, as I said in the tweet, a realization that literally just occurred to me. A thing I used to hear all the time, that I took as a cliché of comics retail, had just dropped out of my awareness so completely. Or I’m just old and forget things more easily, there’s that explanation too.

There’s an additional phenomenon of seeing more defunct comic store stock being schlepped around now than I used to see back in the late ’80s/early ’90s (case in point). Plenty of folks jumped on the comics bandwagon post-Batman ’89, and jumped right off again (or were pushed) when the market collapsed, leaving boxes upon boxes of inventory in garages or storage units that only within the last decade or so seem to be making the rounds. That stuff I talked about on Monday from a recent shutdown was an outlier. More likely I’d have someone come in who buys abandoned storage units trying to unload the pallets of former back issue bins for some shuttered shop he’s found himself possessing, and it’s clear from a quick peek that said store dated from the 1990s.

Now look, I just need one of these guys to find a storage unit that used to belong to someone who owned a newsstand in 1944. I know they’re out there, dang it.

8 Responses to “For that matter, no one’s asked me if Thor or the Hulk was stronger for a while, either.”

  • will richards says:

    Perhaps eBay has put paid to the ‘chucking out’ ritual?

  • John Lancaster says:

    Back in my olde shop days, the one I tired of was the older gentleman wandering in and then declaring “I remember when these where all a nickel!” and “I had the very first Superman but my mom made me give it to the paper drive for the War”. Generally I got this at least once or twice a year. The person was always a little two young for what they claim (unless there was some Cocoon thing going on), and always insisting the comics were a nickel.

  • Squints says:

    My comic buying prime was 1968-1973 (late Silver/early Bronze). Didn’t really grow out of ’em so much as move on to rock and roll given comics weren’t a pull for chicks. I’ve always retained the interest and so like the blog.

  • Sir A1! says:

    When it comes to dumping comic book stock, it looks like the local Friends of the Library used book place has been on the receiving end of that for quite some time (at least in those pre-pandemic days). The funny thing is that although a chunk of the stock is 80/90s, there’s been an uptick in material from the recent past of five to ten years which always struck me as odd. Don’t know if they were from shuttered stores or just stores that just flat out dumped their overstock of “March On Ultimatum.”

  • Thom H. says:

    My uncle tells the story of having his full run of Superman dumped by his mother after he was drafted for Vietnam. I’ll never know if it was really a full run or not — he’s probably too young to have a Superman #1 — but dang. That’s cold blooded.

    My father tells the story of buying a comic book every week with his dime allowance. When comics jumped in price to $.12, he could only buy one every other week. I’m sure this was part of some “appreciate what you’ve got because we used to have it so much harder” lecture.

    Finally, when I worked in a comic shop, there was a guy who came in occasionally to try to get employees involved in a “who would win in a fight: Superman or the Hulk?” conversation. I was told to be nice to him but not let him get in the way of my work. He would talk to you all day if you let him — sweet guy.

    Anyway, I didn’t even realize that stories like these were falling by the wayside until it was pointed out here. Comics culture really has changed in the past few decades.

  • John Lancaster says:

    The “Superman or the Hulk” and related questions always bored me. I would always counter with “Forbush Man or Ma Hunkel”? How about “Dr. Manhattan or Molecule Man”? “Spider-Ham or Yankee Poodle”? Those are way more fun to argue about in the shop. My favorite stumper would be to throw out “Grips vs. Badger” and then spending an hour explaining to the young’uns who each of them were.

  • Jon H says:

    Other factors: bigger houses and the growth of the storage unit industry might have reduced pressure to purge such things from the home.

  • Snark Shark says:

    ” Again, I’m not sure what I’m going to do with this information”

    Sell it to the RUSSIANS!

    “I’ll sell you copies for a most generous 5% discount.”

    10% or no deal!

    ““will you please take this case of TEAM YOUNGBLOOD #1””

    HA! I actually DID end up with a LONGBOX FULL of a ramdom issue of one of the Youngblood spin-offs. (Someone left those and a half-dozen longboxes at my LCS, so they gave them to me for free to get them OUT of there!)

    “I just need one of these guys to find a storage unit that used to belong to someone who owned a newsstand in 1944”

    IF ONLY!!

    Squints: “Didn’t really grow out of ’em so much as move on to rock and roll”

    me too! Though it look me longer, and it was the 80’s/90’s!

    Jon H: “bigger houses and the growth of the storage unit industry”

    oh, good point! There’s SO MANY of those storage places now.