Yesterday I gave away 400 comic books.
My own comic books.
My driver took me to Children's Hospital, Walter Reed Veteran's Hospital, the Whitman Walker AIDS clinic, and Howard University Hospital, where we donated them for the entertainment of the infirm.
I don't regret giving them away at all, nor do I regret buying them in the first place. I'm not a collector. When people ask, "Oh, so then, you collect comics?", I always give the same answer, "No, I don't collect comics; I read them."
I have every bit of respect for the medium as a literary art form. I believe in their cultural importance as the Greek myths of today. I'm committed to wringing the most entertainment and wisdom out of them as possible. But I still think of the comics themselves as ephemeral pleasures, often to be passed on to others who might enjoy them, not as butterflies to be pinned in boards and bags.
I value them collectively, not as collectibles. I've watched other readers -- collectors, really -- nearly faint when they find out I bend back the covers, throw comics on the floor, or read them in the bathtub. "You! Of ALL people!?" Yes, me, of all people. The comic book, like any book, is just an object. It's the story the object carries that matters, not the object itself. Maybe that attitude shows my focus on the writing of a comic, rather than its art (which is, in fact, the object itself).
It's not that I don't think of comics as valuable; I do. But sitting in box, in a closet, in my study, their value to society, to me even, is pretty low. Their greater value is found on the bedside table of a wounded soldier, a sick child, or a person struggling against life-threatening illness, where they can bring amusement, comfort, and inspiration.
Don't let me fool you; I didn't give everything away. The issues of Uncle Sam and Jonah Hex didn't happen to find their way in the distribution piles (ahem!). But I still feel better for my small effort to help comics bring as much value to others as they have brought to me.
Big Monkey Comics is now serving as a clearinghouse for such efforts. Donate your old comics to us, and we'll distribute them among area hospitals (and perhaps other institutions) where they contribution will be much appreciated.