How I learned to let go of (some of) my comic book collection for the good of mankind
I’ve collected comic books since I learned to read.
The important issues – old, rare, personal – are bagged and boarded. I’ll give them to my kids when they have kids. Hundreds of others are stacked and sorted in the basement. I’ll never read them again. Every week I open a box, grab a dozen issues with no monetary or emotional value, and put them in my backpack. Like the stump in The Giving Tree, they’re modest but still magical.
Most kids don’t read comic books anymore. The glut of superhero movies, TV shows and video games have pushed comics aside. It’s bittersweet progress. I’ve preached the importance of superheroes since high school. Now I watch with glee while my heroes are brought to life in (mostly) quality interpretations. I still buy my comics every Wednesday. You can’t appreciate legends on a screen without a tether to the page.
Which is why I always carry those comic books in my backpack. My backpack is my office. I take it to the coffee shops and restaurants where I write every day. I reach in every time I see a kid with a Superman T-shirt or a Captain America doll. I introduce myself to their accompanying adult and make my pitch.
“I believe kids should read comic books. I have plenty to go around. May I offer this comic book to your kid?”
It is awkward every time, but the quizzical looks quickly change to smiles. The first time is still my favorite. A little boy was drinking juice from a Spider-Man sippy cup with his mother at the local Panera Bread. They graciously accepted my offer. I returned to my seat and watched as they moved to the cozy chairs by the fireplace. The boy sat on Mom’s lap while she read to him about Spidey and The Green Goblin. Perfect.
Only one person has said “no” – a little boy who didn’t give a shit about free comics. His father apologized to me while a woman at the next table said she had a son at home who would love a comic book. I gave it to her.
Kids should discover the magic of words and art. I smile when I imagine them begging Mom or Dad to take them to a comic book store. My guess is most of the kids I meet forget about it once they turn on the TV at home. That’s fine. Acts of charity are as much about the one who gives as the one who receives. Like a eulogy, it is not an entirely selfless act. I feel great every time I give a kid a comic book.
In childhood we accept the world’s gifts before it makes cruel demands on our adulthood. I’ll give out those gifts until I have no more. By the time I age from tree to stump, with nothing left to give, perhaps the seeds I planted will have grown into giving trees of their own.
If you’re not keen on giving your comics away one by one check out Operation Comix Relief, an independent charity that’s been sending comic books to troops overseas for 10 years. http://www.operationcomixrelief.org/