Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Freed Comic Day

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.


Scriptking said...

This is a great idea. Great work, Scip!

Sea-of-Green said...

Good for you! :-) It's nice to know that other people out there acquire (and share) comics because they want to READ them. That's what comics are supposed to be for, anyway! And I'm sure those kids appreciated them. :-)

Anonymous said...

Indeed, it is an excellent idea. I did much the same thing a few years ago; the comic books were taking up too much room, so I sold the ones that I could and donated the rest (about six or seven Trader Joe's bags full) to the A.I. DuPont Hospital for Children, where I'm sure they're being enjoyed. I applaud your efforts in making Big Monkey a drop-off point for people who might want to do this but are unsure of how. Good show!

Anonymous said...

I am in the process of boxing up my more recent (last two years) comic purchases that I wouldn't wish on my sons when they come of comic book reading age, and donating them to the local library.

It's a distressingly large amount of paper.

Derek said...

I'm with you, Scipio. I read comics, not collect them.

It's funny how that's always what people ask. "Oh, you collect comics?" I don't ask people if they collect Time magazine. Why is it people assume you collect one and not the other?

As to what I do with all my extra comics, I give them out for Halloween. A comic and a piece of candy in a poly bag is a huge hit. Actually, last year I had to put two comics per bag to even make a dent in my accumulated comics.

Also, I like to print out little "business cards" for my LCS and slip one in each bag. Gotta try to get the next generation through the doors, you know?

Anonymous said...

I totally agree. I don't do a good job of taking care of my comics, cos I don't see the point. I want to READ them, not keep them in a plastic cover. Granted, I take care of the ones that are special to me (Nightwing #1, the first Birds of Prey mini, the JLE issue where Power Girl talks about her boobs), but the rest are just there, to read whenever I have the interest.

Never thought of donating them to a kid's hospital... good idea!

Anonymous said...

Good work Scip!

I have been meaning to do something similar for ages, now that I'm moving interstate next month I think it's a good enough time as any....

I fully get what you mean about people being aghast too; I have friends who, every time I bring up the idea of giving my comics to the hospital, will go to great lengths to convince me to hold onto them. It's not that I don't love them, but for cryin' out loud, I've read them all umpteen times, they are committed to memory, and in this day and age if there's something I really want to research/read, I have the internet for it.

Really I could do with the storage space, and like you said, sick kids would probably appreciate them more than someone who only ever pulls the odd one out for re-reading every now and then anyways..

Anonymous said...

My attitude toward my comics has pretty much been that they only accumulate value when read and enjoyed. Sitting wrapped in plastic, untouched, unread, unused, they are useless.

I also donated 95% of my collection when I moved several years back - I only kept the ones I knew I would want to pull out and reread. Entire runs of series were donated, and I'm sure whoever got them enjoyed them.

I donated part of them to the local children's hospital, part of them to my library, but the largest portion went to Heroes 4 Heroes, a charitable organization that sends reading material to soldiers and VA Hospitals.

And no, I didn't bother to do any of the tax write off paperwork.

Also, just to see the glee on my partner face when we reclaimed all the lost floor space was worth it :)

As a children's librarian, I'd like to remind you all to please keep your local library in mind when donating comics, but there are many deserving charities.

Derek said...

See, I didn't think you could give single issues of comics to the library. Mine will only take trades.

And sometimes, not even those... I gave them a stack of trades about a year ago. About a month later, They gave all but three back.

They wouldn't take Action Philosophers for crying out loud!

Anonymous said...

They wouldn't take Action Philosophers for crying out loud!

Julius H. Schwartz, I'll take that one!!

Anonymous said...

I'm glad your old comics are going to a good cause, Scipio. A few years ago, I gave away about 200 comics to the graduating 5th graders at my school. I'll have to remember to do it again this year.

Anonymous said...

That is so awesome, Scipio! And all of you who donate your comics are awesome too! If I were sick, nothing would make me feel better than someone bringing me some comic books to read (and maybe a bottle of something nice).

But what sort of comics do children, veterans, and the ill prefer to read? I don't think I could give away anything I reread regularly, but I don't want to give people stuff they won't even enjoy like Green Lantern: Mosaic.

Word Verification: Write
Can you believe that?

-Citizen Scribbler

Anonymous said...

Glad to hear about this! I guess I am a "collector" (particularly after completing the long-ignored act of organizing and properly storing my comics), but even collectors have excess and space limitations.

As I'm not too far from Big Monkey, I'll no doubt be donating a box or two in the near future.

BTW, for those of you who *aren't* near Big Monkey Comics, I highly recommend Operation Comix Relief:


They do an outstanding job of getting comics to soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines on the front lines.

SallyP said...

Kudoes, Scipio. Yours seems to be a very healthy attitude. Spread the wealth, and bring a smile to somebody's face.

burntselena said...

I would like to commend you for your actions.

While I recently passed a substantial amount of comics to younger generations in my family, I feel you action is very noble.

Sure we all want to have that special issue, and with this day of trades, we can get most of them. Plug holes where needed...but I agree sharing to those who need is a great idea.

I work for the VA Medical Center in Portland, Oregon which neighbors a Children's Hospital and a University Hospital--from personal experience I know that small donations like this mean a remarkable amount to people from kids to vets.

I might talk to the people at my local shop about this...if you don't mind a copycat on the West Coast


Anonymous said...

Good for you! I did something similar a few years back with the Ronald McDonald House. It makes me feel good to think that somewhere kids are enjoying those books as much as I did.

inkdestroyedmybrush said...

great idea. I'm in the business of weeding out a bunch of stuff to give away as well, and I love your idea. Although I don't think that i should be giving away my copies of Ex Machina to the kids at the hospitals...

I agree that they only have value in the reading, and i have pared down my collection and done two big give aways in my life time, both in the last 10 years. This is the attitude that i wish more people had.

man, i'm fired up to do a post on my blog now!

Derek said...

To everyone considering donating, here's what I do for Halloween. I divide my comics into four groups:

1)Children - comics like Tiny Titans and Superfriends

2)All Ages - comics like Batman: The Brave and the Bold and the Marvel Adventures titles

3)Teen - comics like... pretty much all comics, actually

4)Adult - comics like Jonah Hex and Constantine: Hellblazer

I usually end up a little light in the Children and All Ages comics, but it seems to work out okay.

Anonymous said...

Great idea, but...do you get that many adults trick-or-treating?

Anonymous said...

I'd go trick or treating again if I thought it might net me some Jonah Hex!

-Citizen Scribbler

Anonymous said...

Well, I take my kids trick-or-treating, but I seldom wear a costume (except that one year my son went as Spider-Man and I went as J. Jonah Jameson).

Derek said...

"...do you get that many adults trick-or-treating?"

lol Actually, quite often. I like to give a little something to the parents out with their one- and two-year-olds dressed like pumpkins or cats.

It's often cold or raining on Halloween here, so I feel they deserve something for the effort.

(The kids usually just take a candy, but I have had one parent take a Tiny Titans telling me they'd use it as a learning aid when their daughter was old enough to start reading.)

I end up with WAY more Teen comics than anything else, and have a whole bunch left over. I'm thinking of donating them to a nearby Juvenal Hall.

Anonymous said...

Only 400?

I gave away 12-1500 to my wife's students when we got married. I gave away another 500 recently to some of my academic team kids. I gave away 200 to a friend for Christmas. And I have three more longboxes ready to go.

I'd had them long enough. Time to create a whole new generation of fans.

Anonymous said...

@ Derek
"It's funny how that's always what people ask. "Oh, you collect comics?" I don't ask people if they collect Time magazine. Why is it people assume you collect one and not the other?"

I never had anyone ask me if I wanted my copy of Time, bagged and boarded when I purchased it. People do collect comics. They have entire conventions and stores constructed around that very thing. It's kind of playing naive to ask why people might think you 'collect' comics.

Derek said...

I think you might be confusing cause and effect. You get asked if you want your comics bagged and boarded because of the assumption that you collect them.

And yes, "People do collect comics." But people also collect Time magazine. Some people collect McDonald's burger wrappers. But, in those cases, there is no assumption that you do.