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Should you ever start to feel down about loving decaying newsprint so much…

January 15, 2011

This isn’t so much a post about comics, but about the accompanying mania that so many suffer under. Well, “suffer” might not be the best word. It’s a good sort of suffer. It’s enjoyable. It can be relaxing. But a lot of you probably catch my drift.

Sometimes I think of a line from The Simpsons, where Comic Book Guy, in a moment of clarity, declares sadly: “I’ve wasted my life.” I don’t think I’ve wasted too much of my allotment of days on my comic books, but sometimes I look around the Blog into Mystery World Headquarters, at the boxes filled with bagged and boarded comics with the brief notes I’ve scribbled on the backs of the boards (when and where I bought the book, and for how much) and I wonder “What the hell’s the point of all this?”

But I take comfort in one man — Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

While F.D.R. wasn’t a comics afficianado — born too early — he was a reknowned, and I mean reknowned, stamp collector. I pulled the photo above from the National Postal Museum website — here’s another one:


The only thing missing that would make the pictures complete is if that trademark cigarette holder was jutting proudly out of his mouth. And I have to say, if someone took a picture of me when I’m working with my comics, it wouldn’t look a lot different than those shots.

What I always loved about F.D.R. and his stamps was that it wasn’t a fair-weather hobby, one he fell back on when he had some free time. No, he made time for his stamps. At the height of the biggest war this world has ever known and hopefully will ever know, he’d steal away for a few hours to his stamps. Or a mistress. But mostly his stamps. It helped his Zen, even if he had no clue what Zen was.

For a firsthand account from a very reliable source, here’s a quote from the fourth volume, entitled The Hinge of Fate, of Winston Churchill’s massive World War II memoir. The setting is Churchill’s third wartime visit to the Unites States, in May of 1943, as he and Roosevelt and their respective staffs retired to Shangri-La, which we all know these days as Camp David. Here’s Churchill’s account of what happened just after their arrival (and, for added kicks, be sure to read it with his unique “We shall fight them in the fields” diction in mind):

The President had been looking forward to a few hours with his stamp collection. General “Pa” Watson, his personal aide, brought him several large albums and a number of envelopes full of specimens he had long desired. I watched him with much interest and in silence for perhaps a half an hour as he stuck them in, each in its proper place, and so forgot the cares of state. But soon another car drove up to the door, and out stepped General Bedell Smith, quick-winged from Eisenhower’s headquarters, with a budget of serious questions on which decisions were urgently required. Sadly F.D.R. left his stamp collection and addressed himself to his task.

I love how he “sadly” pushed himself away from his stamps.

Here’s the point… If the Leader of the Free World can take time out for his stamps, then, by God, I can relax with my comics, especially when the biggest concern I have in a day is often whether or not I can make it to the cleaners to pick up my shirts before the place closes. It’s someting i kep in the back of my mind.

And one final note — when he became President, the philatelist-in-chief started getting stamps from people all over the world. Now that’s a scam I have to get going for myself — to somehow get the people who read this dopey little blog to mail me comics.

One Comment leave one →
  1. neill permalink
    January 16, 2011 12:27 pm

    Stamps can be a wonderful reflection of time and place and aesthetics, the same as comics. Plus, who knows, you might be making a huge investment with your collection. I still get a lot of pleasure of thinking how a Steranko or Colan or Kirby informed my worldview as a child.

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