Long Box of Memories: The Smell of Old Comics in the Morning

I went to an old-fashioned comic swap today. No cosplay. No artists or writers signing books. No celebrities selling autographs.

Just long box upon long box upon long box of old comics, collected editions, and original graphic novels. 

I haven’t been to a swap in probably 20 years. If they were happening, I didn’t hear about them, but from what I heard today, they just sort of faded into history for a while.

The one I went to today, an event known as Swap Thing, was in Essex, VT., at old Memorial Hall, a building used mostly for community events and theater. It was a rainy morning, which didn’t slow me down much, but I did get there three minutes after the doors opened. I was off my game.

If you’ve never surrounded yourself with old comic books, you won’t know the magic that happens when you start rifling through the issues held inside a long box. 

Start at the front of the box and work your way back, an issue at a time. Maybe a few issues at a time, depending on your schedule and how the books are priced. I’ll go through a box of $1 comics way slower than I will a box that’s filled with “guide-priced” books that are $15 or $20 each. There’s only so much time and, crucially, so much money.

As you’re working your way through the issues of Marvel Comics Presents, X-O Manowar, Love & Rockets, and so so many more, the air starts to fill with the scent of old newsprint. It’s musty and aged and strangely comforting. Move on to the next box, take a hit off a batch of old Archie comics. Maybe take a break, check out some table displays. Then it’s time to chase the dragon again. Just reach in and grab a handful of Bronze Age Spider-Man issues, hold ‘em right under your nose, and completely fry your brains out.

And before you know it, it’s over. It’s time to go home. You load your haul for the day into the Subaru. Halfway home, reach back and grab a copy of that Rick Veitch mini-series he did for Epic back in the ‘80s – the one you never knew existed before today – that someone else decided they didn’t need. Take a whiff and whisper to your new purchase, “It’s ok. You have a new home now.”

It’s not even noon and your back seat is covered in reading material that’ll carry you the next six months or so. Your car smells like Comics Outpost, that wonderful shop in Barre that you used to go to but isn’t in business anymore. There’s a full cup of coffee beside you, and the rainy afternoon and your couch await you and your new purchases. 

It’s already been a great day.

2 thoughts on “Long Box of Memories: The Smell of Old Comics in the Morning

  1. J. Constantine

    Comics Outpost. Exactly. It was a magical oasis in an industrial town. And, like so many other things that have gone, we’re poorer for having lost it.

    Liked by 1 person

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