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January 2, 2009

Homeward Bound


I went back to my hometown over the holidays, and it was wonderful seeing my family back there: my parents, my brother and his family, my aunt, my cousins, my comic books…

Every time I go back to visit my parents I get excited about the opportunity to commune with my old friends from childhood. I started collecting comics at the age of 8, moved out to go to college at the age of 18, returned to the nest just briefly, then flew the coop—and all the comics I had collected up till that time were left behind. It was a bittersweet parting. I wanted to take them with me, I really did, but realistically speaking it just wasn’t possible. There are thousands of them, you see, and I was just out of school: I knew I wouldn’t be living anywhere spacious enough for the collection. (I was an English literature major who didn’t want to teach, after all—I knew I wouldn’t be living at the Ritz anytime soon.)

All these years later, I still haven’t been able to get all my comics out of my parents’ house. Tiny New York City apartments don’t exactly lend themselves to comics storage, and it’s been difficult enough just making room for my books.

So those old comics and I see each other on an infrequent but rather special basis. Most all of them hold some kind of resonance for me. I can vividly remember the day I bought many of them, and I associate them with certain childhood memories. (I don’t think this is unique; I imagine most longtime collectors experience the same thing quite often.)

This past trip back I was saddened to find I really couldn’t go home again in one sense: I tried rereading some late-’70s/early-’80s issues of World’s Finest, one of my childhood favorites. The magic was gone. Stories that used to thrill me now seemed silly and blatantly childish. And here I thought my taste had always been so refined in my youth. So I moved on to some others, which did hold up (hello, X-Men; nice to see you again, Thriller).

Someday, when my parents finally tire of running a storage facility, I will have to take these boxes of comics with me and embark on a U-Haul roadtrip. I hope it’ll be fun. Most of all, I hope I will have space to give these old friends a good home.

For now, though, it’s a perk of the trip back home, a reenactment of childhood memories, to take a stack of comics and retire to my bedroom for some good reading.