Tuesday, August 7, 2018


The photo is of my friend Leslie Feagan at my August 3 garage sale. Leslie is a fine actor who has appeared on fine Broadway stages and in many other fine productions, including a cable company advertisement in which he played a silent Benjamin Franklin with such aplomb that I immediately wrote to President Obama and recommended him for the position of Ambassador to France.

Leslie makes and sends me videos of him singing birthday greetings to me. I assume he does this for all his friends because it would be kind of scary if he just did it for me. He should have his own line of musical cards. Hallmark, have your people call his people. In short, everyone loves Leslie. Any day that starts with him standing in your garage is likely going to be a good one.

Friday, August 3, was a good day. The temperature was well within my comfort range. Not too hot. Not too cool. My Vast Accumulation of Stuff garage sale looked good. Within moments of my opening the garage door, several customers started shopping and buying comics, books, posters, collector boxes, mystery boxes and more. I made 68% of my two-day goal and would reach 100% of that goal by the end of the sale on Saturday.

Friends are all the time asking me about my goals for these garage sales. Money-wise, since the sales run four hours each day, I like to make the equivalent of what I would earn from a good eight hours’  work writing comic-book script pages. But the money is only part of why I hold these garage sales.

With Saintly Wife Barb planning to mostly retire in three years, I would like to get my VAOS under control in three years. I’d like to empty the two remaining storage units I’m renting at the Fortress of Storage in the Arctic - look for the giant yellow key - and get all that stuff back in our Tardis of a house.

I’d like to reduce my VAOS to the point where it’s organized and can again be called a collection. I don’t collect a lot of stuff, but I’d like to know what I have before I buy more old issues of comics like The Barker, Candy, Kathy, Gorgo, Konga, Reptilicus and Lassie (but only Lassie issues with my friend Jon Provost on their covers). I want to organize my comics history books and magazines, my Harlan Ellison and Max Allen Collins books, my hardcover/trade collections of great and not-so-great comics of the past and so on.

This will tie in with Barb’s and my plans to renovate our bedroom, our son Ed’s former room, my office, my planned reading room and the rest of our Tardis. My only fear is I’ll be crushed by comics boxes and regenerate into a new incarnation not half as brilliant as Jodie Whittaker.

I owned and managed a comic-book shop in downtown Cleveland for 11 years. Beyond the satisfaction of running a really great comic-book shop, it was a miserable existence. I had a partner who stole from the store and, though he had never put a dime into the place, I had to spend a couple thousand dollars to be rid of him. The majority of my employees stole from me and it was only because the store was so successful that I could keep it going. I made some really dumb mistakes along the way: helping a former employee open a store and learning he had made duplicates of his store keys and would stock his store from my inventory; hiring a scumbag of an attorney who cheated me and failed to do anything he’d been hired to do until I hired a new attorney and sued the first attorney; “loaning” a non-profit organization goods and money totaling over $70,000; and not closing the store about three years before I did. Those unpleasant tales will be written about in the future.

One of the good things about owning that store was talking to fans on a regular basis. It’s the only thing I really miss. The garage sales give me the opportunity to experience that again.

On this pleasant, excellent, cool, not remotely bad Friday, I got to talk with the usual nice folks who come to most of my sales. I got to talk with the map librarian of the Cleveland Public Library, who is providing me with conduits for information I will need for one of my planned comics series. I got to talk with a schoolteacher from Columbus; I gave her a Black Lightning poster for her to hang in her classroom. She loves the show and so do her students. That’s how it went from the start of Friday’s sale to its end.

As I was pulling up the signs and preparing to close, a couple came up to me. I had errands to run, but I offered to stay open a bit. They said they weren’t there to buy anything.

The man was the son of the man who built our house. He had grown up there with his parents, his six siblings and his grandfather. He and his wife just wanted to walk around the place. The happy looks on their faces when I offered to walk them through the house were heartwarming and priceless.

The man told me things about my house that I had suspected, but was never able to confirm. Parts of it were, indeed, salvaged from the other jobs of his builder-father. I’d been wondering about that for three decades.

My future reading room had been his bedroom, shared with one of his brothers. They had bunk beds.

The “girls room” where my wife and daughter keep various wrapping stuff used to be his grandfather’s bedroom.

In the basement, the small pantry that quickly became the storage for our Christmas decorations had been his father’s darkroom.

And, because this is my wild and wonderful world, their daughters are fans of the Black Lightning TV series and have done cosplay at conventions. I gave them some comics and posters to give to their daughters.

Letting strangers into my house might not have been the smartest thing I could have done, but I don’t believe in letting fear rule my actions. It was twenty minutes out of my life. It made their day and it added to mine. Well worth the risk.

After they left, I went to the Giant Eagle to cash a Marvel Comics check. My bank has a kiosk there. I like going to the kiosk because it’s almost always devoid of other banking customers. I think it’s mostly meant to be a relatively quiet place for the bank employees to do paperwork remotely.

When I presented the check to the teller, she asked me how I liked retirement. I don’t know why this would be the case, but the bank has me listed as retired. I told her, no, I was a freelance writer and would be working until they pried my keyboard from my cold dead hands. She asked what kind of writing I did. I pointed to the check and said it was a royalty payment for a character I had created and who had appeared on The Defenders. She asked which character. She had watched the show.

I was wearing a Black Lightning t-shirt. I told her I had created that character as well. She loves the TV series.

We got to talking and, before long, all three of the kiosk workers and I were talking about comic books, about the prominence of the comics characters in movies and TV, about the great diversity that is making comics better than ever. We talked for twenty minutes or so. See what I meant about not too many banking customers at that location?

I love spreading the gospel of comic books wherever I go. It will always baffle me that even some fans can look at today’s comics and only see threats to the absurd sense of privilege.

When I got back home, I checked my e-mail. My editor on a story I’d written for a very low page rate because I liked the franchise it was for asked me to call him. He didn’t want to tell me in e-mail that the owners of the franchise wanted changes he knew would be a deal-breaker for me.
Wait a minute! This is part of my good day? Yes, it was. Because I enjoyed working with the editor. Because I know I'll work on some other project with him sometime in the future. Because not getting the small check I would have gotten doesn’t impact me financially. Because, most importantly, I now have a completed eight-page script  I can, with a little rewriting, re-purpose for another project that I want to do. I feel bad the editor had a eight-page hole to fill, but we’re good and that also was important to me.

Another e-mail waiting for me was a notice I was receiving a large electronic payment from one of my clients. It’s not “you can buy a beach house for Barb” money, but it is “now I can make donations to worthy organizations that I wasn’t able to make earlier this year” money. That's a real good way to end a day.

This is why I never sweat the online jerks who come after me from time to time. They don’t have my life. They will likely never have a life like mine. I feel bad for them. I feel great for me.

That was my pleasant, excellent, cool, not remotely bad day. I’m so glad I could share it with you.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2018 Tony Isabella


  1. Good on you, but I would be afraid to have a garage sale and then have people wonder what else I had in the house and then come by when I am not home and relieve me of my average amount of stuff. I do wish there was a place around here to socialize about comics but there are so few readers.

  2. I would love to make the roadtrip to Medina for the VOS Garage sales, especially now that I have a great car to make such trips with, it sounds like it would be worth the long drive. Unfortunately, we still have a few minor repairs to make on it to get it completely ready for such a long haul, and that may not occur till close to the end of this month.

  3. It sounds like a great day. You met nice people, found out some history on your house, and got a check. You have a good over your head, food in your belly, and a career you love. Sounds like a GREAT DAY. May you have many more. Deb Casey