There comes a time in every geek's life when he must leave the nest and venture yonder…or about three and a half minutes away from the house he grew up in. Whichever.
Either way, moving out is a big pain for everyone involved – for the folks who are sad to see their baby all grown up, for the backs of those doing all the heavy lifting, and especially for the geek with one too many collectibles. I never thought I'd ever put “too many” and “collectibles” in the same sentence, but when you're moving, your perspective has to change.
You have to start thinking about bills much larger than a car payment. You have to have insurance on practically everything – even your couch. You have to start calculating taxes and mortgages and solving math problems in your checkbook that you hoped to leave behind in high school algebra. And you really, to paraphrase the late, great George Carlin, need to find a bigger place for all your stuff.
I rented a few years ago with mixed results, so now it was house-hunting time. A decent-sized bedroom, a kitchen worth cooking in, and a living room with ample living (and loafing) space were all on the list, but really, deep down, I knew it had to have a mancave, a special place for all those comic books, action figures, statues, posters, and other junk that makes so many spousal eyes roll that they may just be what causes the world to go 'round.
The term “mancave” implies that I need to get away from some corrupting feminine influence, but that's not really the case at all. It's actually just to ensure that whenever I'm feeling low, want to reminisce, or need inspiration, I can just step inside and think about heroes and villains in colorful tights beating each other up instead of deadlines and overdue payments and neighborhood children who never shut up despite the lateness of the hour. OK, so maybe that's an oversimplification of things.
Stuff cannot buy you happiness, but it's not all evil either. For a geek, collectibles represent the characters and stories behind them, the fun times following their adventures through childhood, the philosophical implications of these tales debated by teenagers in diners in the early morning hours, and the lasting impression they've left on us as adults. At least that's how it is for me.
There's a compulsive, capitalistic side to it that is hard to ignore, of course, but as long as food is on the table, bills are paid, and life goes on, what's the harm in a few pieces of molded plastic? Sports fans are just as fanatical, sometimes even more so, so let the boys (or the girls) have their toys as long as it doesn't turn into reality show hell.
The moving process, though, is where the test of true fandom comes in. Those comic longboxes can get pretty heavy when they're lugged up and down stairs. And how many Rubbermaid containers do you think I'll need? What do you mean 20 cases isn't enough? Did I really need to buy every obscure “Star Wars” character with two seconds of screen time in the “Power of the Force” line? What do you mean my Wolverine cardboard standup won't fit in the back seat?
You really start to question yourself – why do I need all this? Are there pieces here I could part with for the sake of my aching feet? Do I actually have room for all these? But then thoughts turn to how cool this is all going to look when the shelves go up and the comics are all organized alphabetically. It's even better when you have a partner who won't judge you for such things, at least out loud.
It all sits in boxes and bags around me now as I type this, and yes, in the end, it was worth it. Little touches around the house are already finding their place, but the cave will not be ready for some time, as other priorities come to the forefront as my life gets signed away, but all the odd little pieces of my childhood are there, pieces that will now shape my adulthood.
Or at least one big room of it, anyway.
-Rich Howells is a lifelong Marvel Comics collector, wannabe Jedi master, and cult film fan. E-mail him at [email protected]