No More Comics: How I lost My Comic Book Collection In the 2013 Calgary Flood
By Hervé St-Louis
June 30, 2013 - 09:28
I received a hurried phone call on June 29 at around 17:00 hours. It confirmed my worst fears, which throughout the week I thought had been averted. My friend Stéphane Guevremont, one of my oldest friend (we were in college together 20 years ago), had been through the stuff in my storage area in the basement of the building where I have a condo in Calgary, Alberta. He told me most of it was lost. Most of my comic books, my animation drawings created from years of projects and all of my books were soaked beyond the redeemable. He and another friend who went through my stuff to salvage most of it said it was all destroyed.
On June 20, 2013, Calgary and much of Southern Alberta were hit by the worst flood in recorded times. In 2005, there was one such flood called the flood of the century. The 2013 flood was more devastating on every level. At the peak of the crisis, 75,000 Calgarians had been forcibly evacuated. The city of High River, South of Calgary has been terminally destroyed. Downtown Calgary, which lies in the low plains near the two rivers that flow through Calgary and give it its big park allure were overflowed with water coming from the Rockies’s mountain range and high levels of rain, in an area that’s supposed to be semi-arid. Calgary was built in a very precarious place, because of access to water. Originally a plain with high grass, the city is mini oasis full of trees and wild life like rabbits, coyotes, deer, and of course squirrels.
I live in one of the worst hit area of the city. My building was one block from one of the rivers. It was the best place to live in when I bought the place in 2007. It was near a beautiful river, with bicycle paths, tons of parks, and a gentrifying neighbourhood. I left Calgary, exactly a year ago, to pursue my doctoral studies in Toronto, Ontario. For years, my impressive collection of books and most of my comics were in my unit and not in storage in basement. I was excited to leave for Toronto. I rented my condo but not the storage area in the basement. It was a convenient place to store all my belongings and move to Toronto with the strict minimum I would need as a student. As I wasn’t studying comics, I didn’t need hoard a 30 year collection with me.
To quote one of ComicBookBin’s writer who’s familiar with my collection, I had impressive shit worth stealing! ComicBookBin is nearly 11 years-old. I founded the site, as stated many places, initially, to get rid of my substantial comic book collection. I don’t have to worry about that now! Since founding ComicBookBin, I’ve received and bought more comics than when I started collecting them as a kid. Publishers have given me so many comics over the years, many I haven’t had a chance to read. From Top Shelf, I go the whole From Hell hardcover two volume edition. I’ve received Prince Valiant archives and hundreds more over the years.
As a French Canadian, I also had unique collection that included comics in French, English, Malay, Dutch, German, and Thai, coming from Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Belgium, France, Argentina, Japan and more. My European comics’ collection, with only a fraction reviewed on this site’s European Comics section, was impressive. I practically owned anything by Hugo Pratt from Sergeant Kirk to Corto Maltese. I had all of Ferrandez’ five volume Algerian epic, tons of books by Enki Bilal, Tardi, Lewis Trondheim and Mœbius. In 2012, I traveled to Asia, and stock up on Malaysian and Thai comics, like The Kampung Boy.
In terms of North American comics, for years I had collected all kinds of comics. I had almost every Valiant Comics published between 1993 and 1996. That would include Ray, Archer and Armstrong, Eternal Warrior. Of course, I was one of those readers who collected Harbinger and had the elusive and rare mail-in Harbinger #0 sent to their home by Valiant Comics. I had a lot of comics from 1989 to 1996, when the latter years of the Bronze Age. I had all of Dark Horse super hero extravaganza, practically every Nexus comics and reprint collected. Anything from the crazy boom years of Marvel and DC Comics. You name it, I had it. I had many collected editions of Daredevil, Sandman, Hellblazer, Watchmen. I collected comics series that have never been collected, such as The Atlantis Chronicles and Green Lantern Mosaic.
Of course, I had back issues, like many copies of early Aquaman adventures drawn by Jim Aparo, Justice League of America comics from the 1970s and 1980s. Too many Avengers, and X-Men series to remember. I continued collecting from 1999 to 2012. That would include practically almost every comics of significance published while I was at the Bin, like Identity Crisis, Civil War. This huge collection gave me so much perspective on comics when writing at ComicBookBin. For example, I could trace the exact influences Mark Waid had on Geoff Johns in the Flash. I could tell how much Brian Micheal Bendis had borrowed from Roy Thomas, Mark Gruenwald and Steve Englehart. I could see patterns in John Byrne’s taking over a series and leaving it suddenly when he changed his mind and wanted to move on.
I also had comic strips collections. Many of these books just cannot be replaced as they are no longer in print. I had all of Little Nemo in Slumberland, Polly and her Pals, multiple volumes of L’il Abner, Popeye, Krazy Kat, Terry and the Pirates, Pogo, Tarzan, The Phantom and more, of course. I also had many books about comics, many found in second hand book shops for years and practically impossible to replace. Some of those books were bout animation, such as Disney’s Illusion of Life. The most tragic loss would be my own drawings, many comics I did as a kid, and animated projects I worked on, that I ever got around to digitize.
None of the stuff could be insured because Canadian insurers don’t offer insurance for floods to individuals. Other Calgarians lost more than books and drawings. I can’t regret my decision to store my stuff in the basement storage. I took a risk and lost. It was the most economical, accessible and practical way for me to store all of my personal belonging before one day returning to it.
Life moves on. Besides my stuff, I have been unharmed by the flood. At the Faculty of Information, where I study, we study documents. Documents are a form of information that keeps a recorded trace of information. But information also lives in people’s mind. Most of what I lost was analogue documents. I lost older digital files too stored in backups drives and computers I also left in Calgary. But somewhere on this planet, copies of all the comics I’ve lost exist! I only lost a reproduction of the original document. What Foucault would call similarity. What I really lost were my original drawings and animation projects. These could not be replaced. I can create more stories, but I don’t have the same amount of free time I had in a past life. I can choose to hold on to the memory or forget about, move on, and then try to create new memories. Parts of that memory live on in ComicBookBin and my personal site, ToonDoctor.com.
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