Stolen Youth

Some of My Closest Friends Were Comics

The first comic I purchased was issue #195 of the ‘X-Men’. It was 1984 and it cost me 65 cents.

Think youth makes you invulnerable, bub?

Apparently I can now buy it for $7.00. Why would I need to buy another copy?

Someone stole it.

Someone stole all my comics and, in the process, took from me the collection that defined my youth.

My voracious comic collecting was match only by my brother’s tenacious stockpiling. Together we consumed most of the Marvel superheroes universe in the order of 20-30 comics a month. Pretty much all our combined allowances went to comics.

I drew pictures in my notebooks from my favorite images. I took Russian in high school because my favorite superhero Colossus spoke Russian. Seriously. I talked comics with my friends. I role-played ‘Marvel Super Heroes’ as often as I played ‘Dungeons and Dragons’. The fantasy worlds of super heroes, wizards, warriors, and goblins were more a part of my real world than anything else.

And then someone stole it all.

You've made a colossal mistake

A ‘Friend’ on the Move

I got back from Japan in 2000 and it didn’t take me long to realize my comics were nowhere to be found. When I inquired, my mother emphatically started the tale with, ‘ I had nothing to do with this!’ and then said:

My brother, then in Seattle, knew some ‘friends’ moving from Raleigh to the Pacific Northwest via the southern states. Together with the help of my father, they all hatched a plan:

These ‘friends’ would swing through Jacksonville, Florida, stop by mom and dad’s, grab all the comics, head west, and deliver the comics to my brother. No one shared this plan with me.

The ‘friends’ never showed up.

My brother continues the story from there:

After months of repeated emailing and calling, he finally heard from these ‘friends’: They ‘didn’t make it’ to Seattle and instead stopped in California. In the intervening months, they ‘had to throw away all the comics because they were a fire hazard’.

All this transpired well before I returned to the US. When I got home, I felt like I was hearing about the death, memorial, burial, and one-year observance of a friend. I’d missed it all.

I was livid. I wanted to sue them. I wanted to find these ‘friends’ and kick them hard in very sensitive places.

Furthermore, I knew they were lying. ‘Threw them away’? Really? Any idiot with a few braincells to rub together knows that comics are worth money. Our collections–combined numbering over a thousand comics–would easily fetch several thousand dollars, maybe even five figures. They were lying! Bastards! They either sold them and owe us money or they still have our comics and we need to go rescue them!

But, according to my brother, there was no way to get to them. They’d disappeared.

The Long Road to Recovery (Goes Ever On)

I literally could not let myself think about what happened for several months because, whenever I did, I wanted to punch my father and brother hard in the kidneys. How dare they give my comics to total strangers. How dare they do that without asking me*.

*I often wonder if, had I know what the hell was going on at the time, I would have agreed to this plan. It is hard to be objective but, I feel in my heart, that I truly would have said no. After all, my post-Japan plans were to move back to North Carolina. I would have picked up my stuff from Florida and moved north… with my comics in the passenger seat so we could catch up.

I lived a few blocks from a comic store in southeast Portland and I felt a surge of hate jolt me every time I walked by. I couldn’t think about comics without getting angry. Really, really, really angry.

I watched a documentary on one of the Spiderman DVD extras about the evolution of Spiderman’s costumes. As the covers flashed by, I started by saying, ‘I had that one.’ ‘Oh, that was a great issue.’ ‘I remember that one.’ This quickly became: ‘Fuck! I had that one too!’ ‘Dammit! I loved that one!’

I threw the remote at the TV and went for a long walk.

I was only livid with my brother and father for about five years. Well, my dad died in 2002 and that has a very strong overall forgiving effect. I didn’t mention it to my brother for a very long time.

I know that my brother also lost his collection in the heist and I know that he feels absolutely terrible about what happened. I don’t feel any animosity toward him now and I say that honestly. It took a long while though.

Clearly Still Forgiving

Yesterday, however, I was eating breakfast with a friend and the topic of childhood collections came up. He told me about how his father got rid of his train collection. I told him about the comics.

And I could feel the anger rising again. I am not a vengeful person who wishes ill on anyone but, the truth is, after 11 years, I do wish harm on these absconders of my childhood. I still find solace imaging them in bankruptcy, getting mugged, getting in a car wreck, losing a pet, and/or getting beat up my a band of people dressed like D&D characters.

I want them to hurt and that is so contrary to how I approach the world.

Yet is it what it is.

I want to forgive. I want to not feel this knot of hate every time I think about comics (like now for example). I want to move on. I want to live the idea my friend mentioned after hearing my tale:

One of the many truths of a long, healthy life is the ability to suffer, forgive, and move on. It is in the letting go that we heal and release energy, energy we can use for less cancerous thoughts and actions.

I want to feel that the comics are not really me, that possessing them doesn’t make me any more me than I am without them. In general, I am very ‘anti-stuff’ and I don’t believe that you need physical objects around to remind, validate, or otherwise define you.

But when someone robs you of the one possession that defines your youth, can you ever forgive? I hope so because I still think about these ‘friends’ get hit by a bus and I’m working on not feeling happy about it.


One Reply to “Stolen Youth”

  1. I collected matchbooks when I was a kid. Talk about your fire hazard! Sometime after I graduated from college Dad told me he had thrown them away, and I felt nothing. I didn’t blame him. I didn’t want them anymore.

    Of course, I didn’t identify with any of the matchbooks, unless maybe there was Marlboro Man in there somewhere. And matchbooks aren’t nearly as valuable as old comic books. So we’re comparing apples and PCs here.

    Now, had I left my collection of vinyl albums at home and Dad threw them away, THAT would have pissed me off! Could I have forgiven him? I’m glad I’ll never have to find out.

    Thanks for sharing the story Steven. Hope all is well in P-land!

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