It was a horrible, sickening phone call. Within a few seconds, my hopes and dreams were crushed like someone stepping on a Coke can. And to think my mom did it!
Let me elaborate. Growing up, I was a comic book kid. Beginning about the age of 8, I began to make pilgrimages to a couple of nearby drug stores. There I would spend my allowance in 12 cent increments to follow the escapades of Superman, Batman, The Flash and Aquaman.
I especially loved Batman because of his gadgets, his Bat-cave and his sidekick, Robin. A teenaged superhero was something I could relate to. So I got my crayons and began coloring an old T-shirt until I had a poor facsimile of Robin’s uniform. An old piece of cloth became a mask, and an unfinished bathroom in our basement became my Bat-cave. I became a pre-puberty superhero whose job was to patrol our neighborhood and stop any crime I saw – of which there were none. And it’s a good thing, because with a utility belt full of homemade weaponry, I would’ve been a formidable opponent for any bad guy (or another 8 year old).
I especially liked one device I created – a long piece of string with large wooden spools tied to each end. Properly thrown, the twine would wrap around a supervillain’s (aka my little sister’s) legs, causing them to trip and fall. Then while they tried to untangle themselves, I would douse them with a packet of itching powder I bought at a magic store. Take that, law breaker.
One day, I spotted a new comic on the drug store rack – The Amazing Spiderman. Spidey was a wisecracking, smart-aleck whose alter ego was an insecure high school kid. I could relate the issues he faced: bullied by classmates, couldn’t get the girl. I was hooked from the first page. Soon, I began buying other Marvel comics, like The Fantastic Four, The X-Men and The Avengers – where I discovered Captain America. It was goodbye Robin. In no time I was using my red, white and blue Crayolas on an old metal garbage can lid to make a poor replica of Cap’s famous shield.
My comic collection continued to grow. The old DC comics and the newer Marvel ones began to fill up several cardboard boxes in our basement. From about 1961 to 1967 I bought them, read them and saved them. Nowadays, comic book collectors call those years the Silver Age. And some Silver Age comics are worth a lot of gold. What did I know? Back then, I just bought them to enjoy. Over and over again I read these comic books.
As I got older, my interest in sports grew. Eventually, mom bought me a subscription to Sports Illustrated, which was the beginning of the end of my comic purchases. However, I kept a soft spot in my heart for superheroes. When the first Superman movie with Christopher Reeve was released, I was near the front of the line. I loved that superheroes were finally getting the treatment they deserved.
Fast forward to the 90s. I was in a store getting a watch battery replaced. Neatly lining the walls were quite a few Silver Age Marvel comics that I immediately recognized.
“I remember those,” I said, pointing at the wall. I even began quoting storylines of several of the old comics until the store owner stopped me.
“Do you still have any of these?”
“All of them,” I replied innocently. “They’re in cardboard boxes in my Mom’s basement.”
The man’s eye’s widened and he said, “Let me show you something,” then sweeping and gesturing his hand across the wall he said, “200, 300, 700, 900, 1,100.”
Now I spoke, asking, “That’s what those comic books are worth?”
I dropped my Seiko. Those boxes full of comics could be worth thousands. Properly invested, the money from my collection could pay for my kid’s college!
I left the watch on the counter, picked up the phone and called my mother.
When she answered, I cut short the pleasantries and yelled, “Mom, I’m coming over to get my boxes of comics today!” I was already counting the money.
There was a pause that I immediately picked up on. A pause is never good in a situation like this.
She finally responded. “Those? Oh, I threw them away about six months ago.”
My heart fell through the floor. The last time I felt this way was when my wife told me Elvis died.
“Why did you do that?” It was more a plea than a question.
She said, “Well, I decided to clean out the basement, so I got rid of all those old comics. I did save the Sports Illustrateds because I thought you might want them. Wait! Why are you crying?”
You’ve heard of money down the drain? Well, this was money in the landfill.
I finally got over it, but not before I computed my losses to be well into five figures. A few years later, I went into a collectibles store that had a big sign on the cash register that said:
$100 fine every time we hear how your mom threw away your comics
I kept my mouth shut. I figured it was better to suffer in silence.
Joe Hobby is a barbecue-loving comedian from Alabama who wrote for Jay Leno for many years. Find more of Joe’s stories on his blog: https://mylifeasahobby.blogspot.com. Follow him on Facebook at Joe Hobby Comedian-Writer.