Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Clean House. Please.

You know what my favorite television show is? You might be surprised.

It's Clean House, hands down. No question.

If you've never see the show, it goes like this. People whose homes and lives are overwhelmed with clutter and disarray call for help, and are descended upon by brassy diva Niecy Nash and her trio of expert fixer-uppers. They cajole, wheedle, shame, and bribe the homeowners into unclutching their crap, then (in unparalled hypocrisy so achingly beautiful it brings tears to my eyes) unload it onto other people at a yardsale, whose proceeds contribute to the redecoration of their homes.

On every show, these people -- who, remember, have called Clean House knowing darned well what they do -- stand around shocked and in denial about the very crap that forced them to call, saying things like:

  • "Those dolls are my babies."
  • "But I love that broken sewing machine!"
  • "My grandma gave me that macaroni."
  • "That's a project I'm planning on working on."
  • "I paid good money for that in 1987!"
  • "Do you know how hard that is to find?"
  • "Oh, but I collect bread bags."
  • "That phone book has sentimental value."
  • "I'm saving that for my children."

It. Is. Tragic. One does not "love" things. One loves people. One loves dogs. Not cats, of course; cats are evil. But you get the idea; do not love anything that cannot, at least in theory, love you back.

"That's nice, Scipio; what does any of that have to do with comic books?"

Quite a lot, actually.

First, there's the cluttered home that is the DCU (or, really, any publisher's "universe" over time). Every once in a while, the accumulated baggage has to be evaluated, sorted through, and prioritized. One must retain the essential, jettison the extraneous, and repurpose the salvageable. Closet room is made for new colorful characters, literary rooms are furnished with new plots, and the carcasses of broken-down crossovers are cleared from the yard.

Those housecleanings can be rough. Even a "Clean House" fanatic like me can cling tightly to purposeless continuity tchotchkis, blinded to how refreshing a clean literary house can be. But I try to remember that all the clutterbugs on the show who actually trust the experts to do their stuff are always -- ALWAYS -- delighted with the results (and even if the specifics of the design aren't perfect, the streamlined living space is a refreshing new start). Well, not always; there was the legendary Judge Dragon from the first season, but she was obviously seriously disturbed and clearly not an appropriate model of behavior.

Second, there's the cluttered homes our comic books find themselves in. When I meet new people and they learn of my interests, they usually say, "Oh, so you collect comic books?"

I always say the same thing: "No. I just read them."

If you watch a lot of Clean House (and I do; I TiVo it; I burn it to DVD; I watch it on the laptop while sunning at the beach), you'll notice that the word group "collect / collection / collectible" crops up FREQUENTLY. It's the ultimate red flag and the Clean House crew never fails to swoop down mercilessly on these pointless "collections" of frisbees, shot glasses, soccer balls, and salt-&-pepper shakers.

Starting about 10 years ago, I started purging my accumulated back issues every couple of years. Without looking at anything within the boxes, I mentally pick out some things I want to keep, pull them out, and farm out the rest.

The first time I did, I advertised the bulk of my collection as being for sale. A young couple came to check it out. As the husband (the real buyer, of course) looked through the books, his eyes spun pinwheels as he marveled at a literal myriad of stories he'd never heard of. They were young; they were poor; they couldn't afford more than a third of what I was asking for.

But they got it all anyway. The opportunity to share the joy those old stories had given me with someone who cared about the DCU as much as I do -- I couldn't put a value on that.

Another time, instead of selling them, I donated all but a few choice ones to a local charity, a home for children with AIDS. It's tax deductible, you know.

Last time, I forfeited them to the Big Monkey E-bay store to help jumpstart the business. I'll probably be doing that again soon. I'll pick out a few things to save, like my Detroit League run; I mean, it's not like that's going to be in trade paperback any time soon. But the rest of everything else "pre-Infinite Crisis" will go out to give someone else pleasure.

I've got enough to do reading my new comics without pretending that I'm going to go back and spend time re-reading my "collection".

PLEASE. Consider selling, donating, or giving away your old comics to help perpetuate our hobby. Besides; you deserve a Clean House.


Nick said...

That really does sound like a good idea. I've only got 6 long boxes, but I know there's a ton of stuff I'll probably never read again, and really only a few I'd hold onto for sentimental value. Such as DC comics Presents #42, the very first comic I ever owned! The fact that it's a terribly boring team up between Clark Kent (Seriouslt, he shows up as superman on only a few pages) and The Unknown Soldier. I remember owning the cover for years after my younger self had lost the rest of it. Ah, memories.

Charity may not work in my case, since the bulk of my early collection is reprints from multipacks that were sold in Toys R' Us in the mid 90s. I swear, I have 6 copies of eery 'reign of the supermen' tie in.

Dave said...


I only hope my wife doesn't read this.

Anonymous said...

I'm systematically cleaning out my old comic book collection. A lot of it I'm trying to sell on eBay; but what doesn't sell, or what is too commonplace or in too poor condition to even bother trying to sell, I am donating to a local children's hospital.

Dr Obvious said...

I started unloading all my graphic novels to service men and women over seas. You can do the same at there's a number of people who have specifically request comics, and after hearing how a crappy DVD or Vanity Fair mag gets passed around like a prized possession, I figure even my Uncanny Xmen books my be enjoyed :E

Dr Obvious said...

BTW, :E = smiley cthulhu

Anonymous said...

As someone who has just faced the unpleasentness of a move, compounded with the distress of relocating to a much smaller living space, I see much wisdom in your words. I, however, would suggest that there is another option worth exploring beyond a simple expulsion of the trivial and sentimental from your life.

Knowing as I did how space would be at a premium in my new home and I simply could not take everything I owned with me, I had to make a terrible Sophie's Choice between my collection of DVDs (currently hovering at about 1000+), about 400+ books of the non-comic variety (I can comfortably fit my current non-trade comic collection into a single medium-sized box, so it really wasn't an issue) or my furniture.

In the end, after much soul-searching, I decided to keep my couch, my mattress (note that I did not say bed) and the shelves I use to store the above-mentioned books and dvds, but everything else that could be sat upon or used as a table was gladly given to anyone willing to carry them away from me. And I have to say it feels good to have all of that unnecessary weight lifted off of my shoulders.

It's all about priorities and, as a single 30-something heterosexual, mine are seriously messed up. Still, I don't see anyone complaining when they scan my shelves and see a dvd they want to borrow from me.

Anonymous said...

I thought I was the only one who watched that show.

And I'll have you know that I caught on to the 'collectable' buzzword and took a 'Big Girl Pill' when I recently moved, tossing out a lot of things that I was never going to eBay anyways.

It works. =)

Anonymous said...

Over the years I've given nine boxes to a community centre, made frequent donations to children's hospitals and fed the comic lust of a couple of young relatives on a regular basis. I did sell 26 boxes before Christmas last, but to local comic dealer who over the years has kept his prices low. I didn't get much, but the pleasure I've had over the years looking through his eccentric and affordable boxes more than offsets that. Since then all my comics are out on shelves and I've sworn no more boxes. I haven't been so happy with my collection in years. It sharpens my mind in the comic store-"Hmmm, do I want to read this more than Plastic Man Archives?"- I bring less mediocre comics into the house when I can see all those I like best on a daily basis.

Anonymous said...

Niecy Nash? That's the name of that soulless braying hellbeast on that show? The one that sees family heirloom furniture as just as junky as a bric-a-brac shelf? Yet another 'makeover'/'repair' person whose modus operandi is to force her tastes on the unsuspecting and not care about whose feelings get hurt?

I hate that woman with a passion and would love to see someone just pop her one on that show sometime. Lord knows I would if my mother ever got the bright idea to sign on for it.

You're lucky your love of Vibe negates your allegiance to this monster from the depths of hell with the equally stupid name.

Scipio said...

Yep, that's her; love her.

Perhaps you would enjoy the show where they go to ... her mother's house.

And guess whose crap gets throw out?

Niecy's. TONS of it.

Pope Impious XXIII said...

This has been an ongoing conversation with my lovely and talented wife for a while.. It seems that the 15K+ comics in the basement are beginning to take up too much room.

Time to purge out the old boxes of Valient and Image comics (don't laught.. they were quarter comics) that I have down there. I'm not desperate enough yet to get rid of the DC stuff.

S Bates said...

Not sure whether this counts. I gave my near-mint, hardly read TPB collections of the Knightfall series to my sister's boyfriend for Christmas last year.

...he did specifically ask for them. It was either that or burn 'em.

Scipio said...

You gave him "Knightfall"?

Man, that's just plain mean.

Anonymous said...

But do you then watch "I WANT THAT" after you have been suckered into watching HGTV?

David said...

Maybe I'm a weirdo, but I actually DO go back and re-read my books - but then again, I really only buy trades, so they withstand repeated readings...

Bill D. said...

We've been doing this very thing a lot lately. We have a toddler now, so space and money are both at a premium in our house at the moment. We also hate where we live and want to move soon, and don't want to have to take all this stuff with us. Some stuff we pulled to sell on eBay, but a lot of items got pulled for a yard sale we hope to have in a few weeks, and if they don't sell there, it's off to the Salvation Army with the lot of it.

I've also been eBaying a lot of comics and trade paperbacks lately, too. And some of it has been stuff I enjoyed, but I realize I may never read it again, so out it goes. You'd be surprised at some of the stuff you're willing to part with once you're in an "Everything Must Go" mood.

Anonymous said...

I did this just recently while preparing to move. I sold off nearly 7 longboxes worth of stuff keeping only the stuff I'd bought in the last year and a half and a few choice items from the past.

It was a tough decision since I'd had a lot of the stuff for almost 20 years, but since I knew I was never going to re-read them it only made sense. Plus it gave me money and space to buy more comics.

Anonymous said...

I'm a teacher, and it's given me a great opportunity to get rid of old comics- I give them to the 5th graders upon graduation. Last year, I brought in a box of X-books, Image (not Spawn or anything too bloody/ sexualized), and random super-hero stuff, and the kids tore through them. I got rid of about 300 comics in 30 seconds.

Captain Infinity said...

And if you do like I did and donate something from your collection (say, your run of Detroit League comics) to someone with a blog (oh, let's say, The Absorbascon) you just may get to enjoy them in a whole new light.

Anonymous said...

We have a toddler now, so space and money are both at a premium in our house at the moment.

Man, I feel your pain! My son will be 4 in December and my daughter is just 5 months. It's either sell the old comics or use them for diapers (and with some of the 90s stuff that would seem redundant).

Harvey Jerkwater said...

When I finally organized my comics in The Big Reorg recently, I was surprised how much of the collection was stuff I wouldn't miss in the slightest. Do I really need a complete run of Avengers from the late eighties?

A giant eBay bonanza is a'comin'. After that, probably a big fat donation to a children's home or whoever would want 'em.

Trimming the collection down to a few longboxes would be great. Like Scip, I'm a reader, not a collector. If I don't want to read it, why the hell should I keep it?

I still hate Clean Sweep, though. The house-wardrobe-body makeover shows are popular with the missus, but I can't stand 'em. The hosts make me surly.

If ever assaulted by the What Not To Wear crew, I will be forced to defend myself in as catty a fashion as I can manage: "Yeah, I'll accept fashion advice from a man in those shoes. You know, I thought I kept current, but I guess I've fallen behind the times. I wasn't aware 'Ringling Brothers' had become the big name in couture. By the way, here's the number for my laywer. You should give him a call to sue SuperCuts and get your eight dollars back."

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know what the protocols are for donating to a children's hospital? I donated three boxes of comics to a children's ward once, but was told by a doctor friend later that it might not have made it past the security desk...too much risk for pathogens.

Anonymous said...

Well, she isn't coming to my house to clean! My husband and I own a 16 room, 150 year old brick Victorian. The barn is full of cars and firetrucks (his) and I have a whole room just for my comic books. Bwhahahahahaha! I
actually do go up and reread them however.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know what the protocols are for donating to a children's hospital?

I guess it depends on the hospital. I've never heard anything like that from the one I regularly donate to. I've even gotten thank-you letters.

Tegan O'Neil said...

This is all just sick. You don't throw anything out. You don't give anything away. You don't sell anything. You amass. Because the other option is simply to have a nervous breakdown at the very thought of getting rid of something you might very well need someday.


Why yes, I am divorced, why do you ask?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for writing about this, Scipio, it's the nudge I've needed to go through my books and graphic novels. I'd sooner give away my JSA* or Preacher runs with the knowledge another person is going to enjoy and benefit from them than let them sit on my shelf or in my closet for the next 40 years, unloved.

I'm only on three boxes of books, but it's two and a half too many for my itty-bitty living space.

*I'm keeping my Roulette issues, damn it.

Anonymous said...

You know, as August turns to September, and I see all the Christmas items on display at the local shops, I'm reminded of another good way to clean out old comics and perpetuate our hobby.

Give them out at Halloween as trick-or-treats! An interesting alternative to processed sugar and fat!

Fearless Leader said...

Lord, how I despise Niecy Nash. I don't mind the concept of the show, as it works like a champ as Clean Sweep on that other network, the one where HGTV gets all of its ideas. But damn, Ms Nash is an awful woman. She really isn't there to help anyone at all, to seperate the wheat from the chaff in their lives, but just to vamp around, do nothing and be catty, above all else.

Having said all that, I've reduced my comics inventory down to about three or four longboxes worth. So much of my collection was just not worth keeping -- like all of the overprinted now-worthless foil-hologram-cover trash from the mid-90s.

Anonymous said...

Not to be contrarian, but I'm not giving away my back issues. I've been collecting comic books steadily since I first moved to this country, and those comic books helped ease the transition and gave me a sense of joy and belonging. Every time I pick up an old comic that I read 20+ years ago, it brings me back to my childhood, and I get nostalgic about my life, my family, and my opportunity to leave the despair of a 3rd world country.

Trade paperbacks don't do that, and new comics off the shelf don't either. The only things that bring back that warm sense of being twelve years old again are the goofy issues that I read when I was twelve. And that's invaluable.

Undercover Mother said...

Wow! I loved this post! I am watching the Dragon episode for the second time, and it's even more disturbing the second time around. But it's so important to remember that things are just that--things. How this woman treated her daughter over her crap was sickening.

I am always fighting the good clutter fight around here...even with three kids.

Ben said...

Well, this is highly belated, but do you have any advice for locating somewhere in your own hometown to donate old comics and books?

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