ILLUSTRATION BY SANDI FALCONER • PHOTOS COURTESY OF COREY MINTZ
Corey Mintz is the author of How to Host a Dinner Party and host of the Taste Buds podcast.
Every superhero has an origin story, and so does every comic-book collection. Mine grew out of a conversation at recess one May afternoon in 1984, when my friend Anooj asked what I was getting for my ninth birthday, which I would celebrate later that week
. Every Saturday, I watched the cartoon Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends, waiting for a repeat of my favourite episode, featuring a team of heroes called the X-Men. Anooj informed me that there was a comic that was just about the X-Men and that they also starred in another comic called Secret Wars, which featured the most brilliant idea a nine-year-old could imagine: A magical being makes every superhero fight every villain for no particular reason.
I was hooked.
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From that point on, I went to the comic-book store every week, my collection growing inside a drawer in the bedroom I shared with my brother, later migrating to a closet shelf, then a box designed for comics, which multiplied over the years into 17 boxes holding about 2,500 comics.
Three decades later, I got married.
Whether you divide our opposing tribes along lines of aesthetics (tidy versus sloppy), values (spartan versus packrat) or class (snobs versus slobs), there is no denying the world is divided into neat people and messy people. We don’t change teams. But we do intermarry. And we have to learn to live in peace.
And whether you are Napoleon and Louis XVIII signing the Treaty of Paris (1814), Lucy and Ricky drawing a line down the centre of the apartment (I Love Lucy, Season 1, Episode 8, 1951) or Darkseid and Highfather placing their children in each other’s care to prevent war (New Gods #7, 1972), all of history’s greatest armistices are about division of territory.
So it was with my comic books.
Victoria and I live in a loft apartment, with one large open space for our kitchen, living room, dining area and gym.
Our bookcase is nothing special. It’s the same collection of IKEA Kallax interlocking units that everyone has – except that thanks to our high ceilings, we’ve got 72 of the cubby-hole cubes. Until recently, my comic books took up 17 of them.
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In addition to comics, there are spaces for cookbooks, wine, my rubber-band ball, her ballet slippers, spare light bulbs, a canister of compressed air, board games, photos of our grandparents, a box of candy bars my wife doesn’t know about and camera gear, among other things. While she has shelves for purses and gym equipment, my possessions clearly dominate. She’s never minded, since about the same amount of wall space is taken up by her open walk-in closet, three clothing racks all in a row.
Over time, though, I started to notice strange activity on the shelves. When Victoria finished a book, she would bring up another half-dozen from a bookcase in the lobby of our building, where people dump their old novels. She’d choose one to read, then wedge the rest into open spaces on our shelves. Gradually, each square became double-parked, with random unread books – other people’s junk – filling up our space.
Meanwhile, the drawer under the bathroom sink filled with bottles of creams and lotions – some highly valued and used every day, others almost empty and abandoned. The shelf underneath the coffee table, meant for remote controls, swarmed with nail polish bottles.
Every time Victoria proposed a new item for our home – a second-hand treadmill and steamer I would come to use regularly – I opposed. I knew I would eventually give in, but I needed to stem the tide of detritus flooding our home. She countered by proposing we put our dining room chairs in storage, or perhaps get rid of them altogether, along with the dining table.
One day she came home with a fourth clothing rack in a box – a “day rack” to be used exclusively for assembling the week’s outfits. I suggested that if she wanted to highlight clothing, subtraction might work better than addition; that getting rid of overstock would have a more positive effect than enlarging the showroom.
She did not want to hear that. But at the time we were fostering three kittens, so it wasn’t a good moment for her to argue in favour of bringing more things into the home. And I didn’t argue with her because my mission is always to stay married, which means not fighting every conflict as it arises, trusting that some things aren’t worth it, that sometimes they take care of themselves.