I have worked on improving health care in unstable countries, drafted bills for Congress and advised multiple Cabinet officials….surely it can’t be beyond me to make a clear, simple, permanent decision about what to do with my childhood comic collection. Surely I can overpower Richie Rich, outsmart the Rawhide Kid, and have the wherewithal to slay Superman with green kryptonite. And yet….
It’s January 2 and I have already failed to complete this year’s (and last year’s and and and..) resolution, which was to “definitely do something” about the thousands of comics I have been carrying with me from house to house for decades. I opened one of the boxes earlier today, thumbed through a number of issues and realized that I am again paralyzed with indecision.
Why don’t I just throw them away? Part of it has to do with economics. I pulled this one out of a box I grabbed at random just now. It concerns a strange fellow named Plastic Man (un-ironically named then, but this was before AIDS). PM #1 cost 12 cents back in the day but based on a quick Internet search it sells for almost a thousand times that today. Avengers #57 I remember is valuable too, so is Daredevil #158. I know there are many others of this sort and I can’t countenance throwing such a high-return investment into the garbage (even though I realize that a thousand times 12 cents is not exactly a retirement nest egg). But neither do I seem to make the decision to hire an expert who could separate the wheat from the chaff.
Why don’t I keep them and become a serious collector? As part of failing in my resolution each year, I go on eBay and look at all the comics. I think “I could buy the comics I am missing — Marvel Team Up #4 and #51 to complete my set — and be a real awesome, serious collector”. But then I think that having so many more comics in my home would take up more space than having them on eBay, and I wouldn’t read them, so it’s simpler to leave them on the Internet knowing I can always go get them if I want them. Also, having tens of thousands of comics in the house doesn’t fit my self-image or lifestyle (i.e., I am married and we have sex).
So I am paralyzed between two worlds. As per prior years, I fall back on the well-known psychologist Daryl Bem’s theory of self-attribution. To multilate it for my purposes here, it says that rather than decide who we really are and then subsequently decide to act accordingly, we often find out who we are by watching what we do. If I keep keeping the comics each year, neither growing nor reducing the collection, I must therefore want things as they are. Something about the connection to my childhood heroes, to Batman and Green Lantern and the Flash still has a hold on me and wants to keep things as they are. So I put the comics back in their boxes again this year, content that things are as they must be and should be. But I did pause long enough to read a few to my puzzled but amused four-year olds, in the hopes that in the distant future they will be as happily paralyzed as I am.