"Well, it's big and terrible! More frightening than I ever thought possible!"
I have been reading comic books since I was four years old. I learned to read from the IW reprints my mother bought in three-for-a-quarter packs. Westerns like Red Mask and funny animals like Cosmo Cat. The first comic books I bought for myself were probably Superman and Casper the Friendly Ghost because I had seen them on television. Aside from my reading at such an early age, this was not unusual for the later 1950s. Despite attacks on comic books in the media and in the churches, it was a time when virtually every kid in America read comic books.
I have no clear memory of when I began keeping the comic books I bought. What I do recall is that, sometime after we moved from Cleveland's Detroit-West 65th neighborhood to the newly-built house on Peony Avenue, my collection was growing. At some point, a metal shelving unit appeared in the large upstairs bedroom I shared with my younger brothers Ernie and Ray. That's where I kept my comics, in relatively neat piles, sorted by title. We're probably talking no later than 1964 here.
After I graduated from high school, my dad divided half of the largest room in our basement into a combination office and library for me. This took the now several shelving units of comic books and paperbacks out of my bedroom while giving me a relatively private place to write letters to comics, fanzine articles and amateur scripts. This quiet support of my ambition to become a writer was typical of my parents. That basement room might have been the most organized office I've ever had.
My collection followed me to my first apartment in Cleveland, then to New York, then back to a total of three different places in Cleveland. It was when I was living in the last two of these that I bought Cosmic Comics in downtown Cleveland and, over the years, sold chunks of my collection in the store. After my supernaturally patient Barb and I wed, what was left of my still-formidable comics collection was moved to our first apartment in Akron and then our home in Medina. It was in Medina that my once-prized collection turned into a VAST ACCUMULATION OF STUFF that challenges and vexes me to this day.
I closed Cosmic Comics in the summer of 1989 with my inventory ending up in the hands of my then-attorney, the second worst human being I have ever known. It pleases me no end to report that, not too long afterwards, he lost his license to practice law and spent some time in prison.
I still had my personal "collection" of comics and stuff. For a while, it remained relatively organized and was setting up as a dealer at one or two comics shows a month. I did well during the speculator boom, not so well when it went bust. I called it quits on doing anything other than my friend Roger Price's shows when I started losing money on all of them except my friend Roger Price's shows. That's when the VAOS began to spread to far too many rooms in my house.
About the same time that I stopped setting up at comics shows and, as a result, stopped thinning my vast accumulation of stuff, I began writing "Tony's Tips" for the then-weekly Comics Buyer's Guide, followed a few years later by the launch of this online column. Creators and publishers were sending me review copies of their comics and other items. Lots of review copies. Somewhere in the vicinity of 300 items each month. That's when the VAOS started taking over Casa Isabella.
I tried to keep it confined to my office, a spare bedroom, and our large basement. I tried to sort the items every month. But, as parenthood and my writing clashed with my sense of order, it was order that got its butt kicked. Even a flood in my basement which destroyed dozens of boxes of material didn't stem the other flood, the seemingly unstoppable tide of far more comic books coming into our house than were going out of it.
While repairs were made to the basement, hundreds of undamaged boxes were moved to our garage and a newly-rented storage unit just a few miles from our house. That slowed but did not stop the VAOS from overtaking Casa Isabella like paper kudzu.
In recent years, the VAOS has occupied entire rooms as well as portions of other rooms. From the top to bottom of Casa Isabella, there have been boxes in my office, my son Eddie's room, the master bedroom, the unused bathroom attached to the master bedroom, the upstairs hallway, the garage, the main floor living room, the two spare bedrooms on the floor below the main floor, the family room on that level, the hallway on that level, and in both of the large rooms in the basement. In addition, fully half of our storage unit was filled with boxes of books and comic books.
I was losing my war with the VAOS.
Something had to be done.
to be continued
In case you were wondering...
The above is a rough draft of a portion of the book I want to write detailing my decades-long battle with the VAOS and my two-year-plan to wrest victory from the hundreds of boxes opposing me. I'm being aided in this great endeavor by my neighbor Greg Luppino and also by Rich Vincent and the DrawerBox™ Storage System.
Rich's company is supplying boxes for this project to prove just how easy and efficient their product is to use. Based on just the sample boxes I've received from them, I have no doubts of their worthiness. My concerns are strictly with whether I can overcome decades of VAOS submission, organize all my books and comic books, maintain that order, create a more efficient workplace for myself, and start selling about 80% of the VAOS. The better to be able to put my kids through college and maybe buy the pricier comic books and books I desire.
And help achieve world peace.
The finished version of this book will have more details and more jokes. It'll also have more embarrassing photos and even more embarrassing cartoons. Interested artists should start practicing drawing me now.
ZERO: Burn your money before buying any comic receiving this rating. It doesn't *necessarily* mean there's absolutely nothing of value here - though it *could* - but whatever value it might possess shrinks into insignificance before its overall awfulness.
ONE: Buy something else. Maybe I found something which wasn't completely dreadful in the item, but not enough for me to recommend it when there are better comics available. I only want what's best for you, my children.
TWO: Basic judgment call. I found some value, but not enough to recommend it. My review should give you enough info to decide if you want to take a chance on it. Are you feeling lucky today, punk? Well, are you?
THREE: This denotes something I find perfectly respectable. There are better books out there, but I wouldn't regret buying this item. Based on my review, you should be able to determine if it's of interest to you. Let the Force guide you.
FOUR: I recommend anything earning this rating. Unless you don't like the genre, subject matter, or past work of the creators, I believe you'll enjoy this item. Isn't it uncanny how I can look right into your soul that way?
FIVE: Anything getting this rating is among the best comicdom has to offer. You should buy/read this, even if the genre/subject matter doesn't appeal to you. It's for your own good. Me, I live for comics and books this good...but not in a pathetic "Comic-Book Guy" sort of way.
Please send material you would like me to review to: