Chase Complete

If you’re going to set out on a journey, you need to know where your destination is going to be. Even if you’re not 100 percent sure how you’re going to get there, how long it’s going to take, and how many stops along the way you’re going to make. You need to have a point of terminus; otherwise, you’re just wandering aimlessly – your achievements destined to be unfulfilled.

I’m pretty sure I was 13 or 14 when I first had the inkling of an idea to collect every single issue of Amazing Spider-Man. I had been buying Spider-Man comics off and on for about 7 years at that point, and I had just purchased some of my very first Silver Age back issues. I probably owned somewhere between 50 and 100 Spider-Man comics back then, which meant I still had close to 300 more to pick up – including some of the very most important and expensive Spider-Man comics that were out there. I would think about some of these issues – Amazing Spider-Man #1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 9, 11, 14 … you get the point – and tell myself that I was absolutely mental to even give such an objective a passing thought.

It wasn’t just about the money – though that undoubtedly was a factor, especially as a young teenager. But also a question of drive, desire and perseverance. Not only did I need to have the money to buy all of these comics, but I needed to hunt every one down in the condition I wanted and for a price I was willing (and able) to spend on them. I was going to have to do this more than 300 times over if I wanted to complete my collection (and let’s not forget about buying all the new comics as they came out). And for every comic I purchased – every inch closer I got towards completing my quest – this journey would inevitably become more treacherous since I would have to combat a host of conflicting feelings about the silliness of my Quixotian quest and my passion/stubbornness to keep at it.

But I kept my eye on the destination – every issue of Amazing Spider-Man, from #1 to wherever the series was ending off (for arguments sake, let’s say #700).

Last week, nearly 27 years after I picked up my first ever issue of Amazing Spider-Man, ASM #296, a comic I purchased for 75 cents off the spinner rack at a corner candy store in my small Long Island hometown, I finally reached my destination. My chase – my journey – ended.

Mark with Amazing Spider-Man 3

And now … all I can really do … is muster some reflections on that journey.

Not to suck the drama and exhilaration out of this moment, but there was something almost inevitable about how I got here. Not because I necessarily knew that in late September, 2014, I would stumble upon a copy of Amazing Spider-Man #3, in the condition I like, for a price I was willing to pay for it. But with only one more comic left to purchase to complete my collection, I think even the biggest cynic would understand that it was not a question of IF I ever picked up that last comic, but WHEN.

The completion of my chase became inevitable a little more than a year ago when, while shooting footage for a reality show that sadly will never see the light of day, I finally acquired my copy of Amazing Spider-Man #1. Prior to that moment, I had convinced myself that ASM #1 would be the very last Spider-Man (back issue) comic I ever purchased – just because I could never justify spending that kind of money on myself unless it was the very last piece to the puzzle. Or, the only way to end my journey.

But as I referred to earlier, the journey doesn’t always go as planned. In fact, it usually doesn’t. I was a proud owner of ASM #1 – news I unfortunately had to sit on and be silent about for months rather than shouting it from the digital rooftops as I wanted to do hours after I first made that purchase.

The thing is, while I was biding my time in making that post, I came to the realization that with ASM #1 in my possession, it would be absolutely silly for me to not grab those remaining few issues. That’s like catching the big fish, cleaning and fileting it, firing up the grill, and then leaving it outside in the sun to spoil. You don’t desire a complete collection of a comic book series, buy the most expensive issue in the run, and then decide that you’re going to stop there.

So did my unexpected purchase of ASM #1 last summer cheapen the ultimate completion of my quest last week?

I had this very weird, almost inauthentic moment while I opened up the mailing envelope containing my brand new copy of ASM #3 last week. Demonstrating the absolute inevitability of the moment, I signed up for e-mail updates on the progress of my parcel from the postal service, so I knew when my chase-ender was dropped in the mail, received by the postal service, shipped to a nearby distribution center, went out for mail in my Brooklyn neighborhood, and delivered and signed for last Friday. So, when I got home, I wasn’t remotely surprised to see my package. I carefully opened the envelope and at that moment my wife whipped out her phone and started recording. When I pulled the comic out, I was temporarily frustrated by the fact that the seller had put a protective backing board on both sides of the comic, thereby obscuring the cover from my immediate view.

ASM 3 cover

My wife was still rolling the camera phone through this fit and start routine. After I finally got one of the backing boards out of the comic, I was able to look at this very monumental purchase. I released a slow, steady breath from my nostrils – more of a sigh of a relief than anything else. Then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw my wife’s phone so I turned towards it, displayed the comic like I’m Vanna White turning letters, and smiled like a goofball.

I thought she was taking my picture.

A few minutes later, I ask my wife if she could take another picture of me with the comic – one that’s not capturing the immediate seconds after I first laid eyes on it. She then proceeded to tell me that she didn’t take a picture; that she was rolling video because she wanted to capture this very important moment in our lives for posterity. “It’s not every day you get to see somebody’s dream come true,” she said.

Let me just interrupt my train of thought here to point out, for the umpteenth time, how awesome my wife has been for a very good portion of this journey (we first started dating in college 14 years ago this month. We will be married 7 years in November).

More tangentially – my wife almost gave me a heart attack in the build up to this purchase. Last Monday, I received a Facebook message from none other than my Amazing Spider-Talk co-host Dan Gvozden, who had just made a significant purchase on his own end the weekend before. In this Facebook message, Dan mentioned that in one of the groups he belongs too, someone was selling a copy of ASM #3 in my price range. Dan had tried to include scans and a link to the seller’s profile, but the message wasn’t coming through. So he told me the guy’s name and I found him the good old-fashioned way, e-mailed him and starting the negotiation (if you even call it that – his price was good and fair, and the copy looked great. There was hardly any give or take). When the seller found out I was just another collector, he told me he wanted to make this purchase happen for me, but he also warned me that he was getting a lot of prospective buyers for this comic – if I wanted to complete my collection, I was going to have to give him my final answer quickly. When I asked if I could have 24 hours, he didn’t say “no,” but he definitely gave me the idea that 24 hours might be too much time for me to wait on this comic.

So I shot my wife a text message. And then another. And another. I wanted to do the right thing and let her know that this comic I had long talked about had been made available to me, for a price I don’t think I was ever going to beat considering the condition it was in. But if I lost out on this comic because she wasn’t checking her cell phone, I was going to be unbelievably upset.

I finally called her and was like, “did you check your text messages?” Of course she didn’t – she was busy. Anyway, I barely got the words out about ASM #3 and she told me “do it.” Not in a dismissive, why did I marry this guy way. But in an “oh my god, I can’t believe this thing you’ve been doing for the past 27 years is finally coming to an end,” kind of way.

Back to the original point I was making in regards to my reaction to receiving/opening ASM #3. When I found out that my wife was actually video recording me, I asked her a very bizarre question: “was my reaction good enough?”

What does that even mean?

My wife, more or less, called me out for my insipidness. “Your reaction is your reaction,” she said.

And that’s right. But in this moment of elation, confusion and disbelief, I guess I was a little disappointed in myself for not having a more over the top reaction. I wasn’t that kid from the YouTube video getting an N64. I didn’t have that rapid heartbeat/sea sickness that followed me a good 24 hours after I purchased ASM #1 (with HD cameras in my face to boot). I wish I could tell all of you something fun like that about this experience. But my reaction is my reaction. It was a heavy exhalation of breathe through my nostrils, and then a goofy smile because I thought someone was taking a still photo of me. Awkward to the last drop – I am a comic book fan after all.

In the aftermath/afterglow of this acquisition, another question keeps popping into my head – what’s next. It’s honestly something that’s still quite difficult for me to answer. I guess it’s like reaching your destination and already planning your next trip. You do realize it took me 27 years to get here, right?

Yeah, yeah, ask me about the annual issues or Amazing Fantasy #15. I down’t own all of the annuals and I’ll probably never have the stomach to spend that kind of money on Amazing Fantasy #15 (another funny married life story. This past weekend I was talking to my wife about AF #15 and I joked about how maybe someone will want me to write a book about my chase and how I could use my advance money to buy Amazing Fantasy #15. “Or you could put aside money so our son could go to college,” my wife said. Always the pragmatist). The thing is, the completion of my actual quest – the thing I set out to do so long ago – just ended and it’s too soon for me to think of what my next big purchase is going to be. And honestly, it’s all immaterial anyway. Just like my reaction is my reaction, my collection is my collection. Nobody can ever take that away from me.

But to address another element of the “what’s next” dilemma – the subhead at the top of my blog is, “one person’s quest to collect every issue of Amazing Spider-Man.” As I’ve already said 900 times already, that quest is over. Does that mean that Chasing Amazing is “no more?”

I started this site more than three years ago as a way to get my thoughts on collecting Spider-Man comics down on a virtual page. I thought it would be a fun exercise since it combined two things I loved with all my heart and soul – writing and Spider-Man comic books. The first few posts on Chasing Amazing were very heavily tilted towards my attitudes and philosophies about colleting, whether it was little tidbits about my standards, or just stupid minutia about what happened one time I tried to buy a back issue. My idea to start writing little anecdotal bits about individual issues in my collection was inspired heavily by the memoir, Cardboard Gods by Josh Wilker – a great book about someone who tells their life story through their childhood baseball card collection.

Obviously, my site mission has grown exponentially and tangentially since 2011. I write far more straight-up reviews of comics, both new and old, than I ever imagined I would. And while I love talking about my thoughts and opinions on these comics, there is a part of me that feels a little putoff by the fact that the personal touch on this site has seemingly dissipated as I stopped buying tons of old comics every month and had to focus on different kinds of posts in order to continue building an audience and fill out my site.

The truth is, I think I write best when I keep it personal. I can’t say with any certainty that any of you want to read my personal rants about comics and life (and sometimes both), but it’s what I’m happiest doing. Without any more comics to be hunting for my quest, it’s going to be very difficult to personally connect with my material. However, I also just can’t pull the plug on everything I’ve built up for more than three years either. So that’s why, as of right now, Chasing Amazing will continue. It’s just that the “chasing” element is now a moot point.

There might come a day where I reconsider, and decide that it’s time to retire this blog. Or maybe I find a new way to tell my story which will take my time and energy away from writing about the newest issue of ASM. Either way, let’s just leave my answer in a “for now” state of mind.

Given the nature of this blog post, I want this article to function as a biography of sorts for my collection. So I’m going to include the links to all of my “monthly haul” posts which document when I made new purchases, as well as those little anecdotal “Remembrance of Comics Past” articles. I also plan to eventually post a copy of this article as a new page on this site where “The Remaining Chase” currently is – since, well, there’s no more chase remaining!

I’ve said this more than a few times over the past year – especially as I’ve moved closer and closer to completing this chase – but I really would have never reached the end of my journey without all of you out there who have followed me since day one, month one, year one, or just last week. You have transformed this little writing exercise of mine into something – well, it’s honestly not that big, but it’s certainly bigger than it has any right to be. And it’s allowed me to meet a lot of great people I would have otherwise never come into contact with.

So, here we are. The end of the line. The destination. As the title of the blog indicates, my chase to collect every issue of Amazing Spider-Man has been an amazing experience, that has taught me a ton about myself and the people around me. In many ways, this chase has defined me in a person, much like being a son, a brother, a husband and a father have defined me.

I’m kinda embarassed to say that my “dreams came true” as my wife put it, but I guess when you boil it down, that’s what happened. If I wanted to state what happened with far less bombast, I would say, I achieved a lifetime goal and crossed off a bucket list item more than 27 years in the making.

I’ve had people ask me over the years why do I chase? What compels me to do? Is there a collector’s gene that drives me to do it? I wish I could offer some kind of profound answer, but I do think doing what I do takes a high level of commitment, and more importantly, passion to see something through. As wonderful as this chase has been, I have also had many moments of frustration, heartbreak, defeat and despair. I’ve felt ripped off by a few purchases, and ashamed of myself for how I acted towards some of the people who mean the very most to me in my life, all over my almost-lust for collecting an entire run of ASM comics. I can’t speak about the joy and elation I’m feeling right now without, at least acknowledging that there’s a seedy underbelly to doing what I did. Unless you’re the kind of person who just doesn’t care about anyone around you. If that’s the case, more power to you (and happy chasing).

But that’s all part of my story, a story I’ve conveniently cataloged for all of you to check out on this page, now until the end of time (or when the internet is inevitably replaced with something far more sophisticated and far more concerned about eliminating all nonsensical ramblings like personal blogs). The good news about this story, is it had a happy ending. The good news about this story is it had an ending, period. And it’s an ending I’m going to cherish for a very long time.

 

The Story of My Chase:

February 2011 Haul (ASM #30, 37, 44, 45)
March 2011 Haul (ASM #33, 48, 49)
April 2011 Haul (ASM #9, 29, 38, 47)
May 2011 Haul (ASM #8, 19)
June 2011 Haul (ASM #15, 23)
July 2011 Haul (ASM #22, 27, 35)
Amazing Spider-Man #12
Amazing Spider-Man #10
Amazing Spider-Man #7
Amazing Spider-Man #5
Amazing Spider-Man #2
September 2011 Haul (ASM #19, 26, 36)
Amazing Spider-Man #34
Amazing Spider-Man #24
Amazing Spider-Man #21
Amazing Spider-Man #4
Amazing Spider-Man #16
Amazing Spider-Man #1
Amazing Spider-Man #6

Remembrance of Comics Past:

Amazing Spider-Man #296
Amazing Spider-Man #63
Amazing Spider-Man #252 (and the Big Box of Comics)
Amazing Spider-Man #297
Amazing Spider-Man #102
Amazing Spider-Man #41
Amazing Spider-Man #119
Amazing Spider-Man #300
Amazing Spider-Man #431
Amazing Spider-Man #50
Amazing Spider-Man #400
Amazing Spider-Man #56
Amazing Spider-Man #503
Amazing Spider-Man #313
Amazing Spider-Man #347
Amazing Spider-Man #219
Amazing Spider-Man #40
Amazing Spider-Man #100
Amazing Spider-Man #404
Maximum Carnage
Amazing Spider-Man #59
Amazing Spider-Man #361
Amazing Spider-Man #149
Amazing Spider-Man #532
Amazing Spider-Man #32
Amazing Spider-Man #321
Amazing Spider-Man #25
Amazing Spider-Man #39
Amazing Spider-Man #399
Amazing Spider-Man #129
Amazing Spider-Man Annual #21
Amazing Spider-Man #28
Amazing Spider-Man #97
Amazing Spider-Man #273
Amazing Spider-Man #1 vol. 2
Amazing Spider-Man #123
Amazing Spider-Man #101
Amazing Spider-Man #290
Amazing Spider-Man #20
Amazing Spider-Man #501
Amazing Spider-Man #394
Amazing Spider-Man #197
Amazing Spider-Man #121
Amazing Spider-Man #20 vol. 2
Amazing Spider-Man #298
Amazing Spider-Man #265
Amazing Spider-Man #290
Amazing Spider-Man #90
Amazing Spider-Man #147
Amazing Spider-Man #365
Amazing Spider-Man #14
Amazing Spider-Man #181
Amazing Spider-Man #583
Amazing Spider-Man #95
Amazing Spider-Man Annual #23
Amazing Spider-Man #17
Amazing Spider-Man #323
Amazing Spider-Man #136
Amazing Spider-Man #306
Amazing Spider-Man #36 vol. 2
Amazing Spider-Man #92
Amazing Spider-Man #316
Amazing Spider-Man #282
“War of the Reptiles”
Amazing Spider-Man #375
Amazing Spider-Man #299
Amazing Spider-Man #396
Amazing Spider-Man #500

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