Featured LCS: Scarlet Spider Comics

I recently sat down with Taylor from Scarlet Spider Comics to talk about his journey from drug addiction to Comic Book store owner and everything in-between.

Taylor, you have a fascinating life story that I’ve received little sprinklings of little breadcrumbs through the years and I wanted to know more about your path to being an independent comic seller on whatnot.

It’s very punk rock yeah and that’s a huge part of my story. Punk has always been a big part of my life so that kind of helped with the Indie part of this, it’s very DIY.

I guess an important part of what the story hinges on is that Dana [Co-founder of Scarlet Spider Comics] and I are also drug addict alcoholics and that kind of coming through that and finding Comics. 

How does the one thing lead to the other thing?

Dana’s got their own story. Our stories are obviously interconnected at some point. But I guess the last four years are the most important. But before that, all my 20s basically and before that was me being completely addicted to alcohol crystal meth cocaine um few other things tried it all done it all whatever. So most of my story is me surviving as a drug addict whether that be homeless, in jail, destroying my family, bouncing around States in various treatment centers and  sober houses.

It’s a struggle which can’t really be described quickly by any means and it eventually led me multiple times to the Twin Cities in Minneapolis because it is by far the only state I would say even with a treatment programs for people who are homeless or who need to get put into one by force or need sober living right afterwards. So that’s how my life took me out of Omaha Nebraska where I grew up to staying now in Minnesota. So I spent most of my 20s in Minnesota just living this kind of life but also also trying to get sober but also being forced up here many times trying to make that happen so I wasn’t originally here by choice but I stuck around because the lifestyle at least if it fell through would always lead to a sober home or a treatment center so you kind of had that safety net going for you. I wouldn’t say my family got to the point where they would never have me home but I definitely wasn’t expecting to have a place to go back to near the end of that timeframe.

So at a certain point you knew that the system was gonna fail the the cycle that you were running through, addiction and drugs and alcohol into treatment and then back out and back in. You were going to wear out your welcome eventually and you had to do something about that. What made it stick how how are we able to finally break that cycle?

I guess probably about four and a half years ago I was in a relationship that I’m not in anymore. I was in a bad place and I stumbled upon a page of Amazing Spider-Man #33. The one that has Spider-Man under the wreckage on the cover. They were selling just one page out of the book. I remembered reading it as a kid. Now, like nowhere during my time injecting drugs or drinking am I reading comics I just always liked them. But seeing that there I bought it because I was like the nostalgia high of it was I’m going to take this home and I started buying comics after that just randomly.

So would you say that you traded one addiction for another? 

That was the goal I think deep down. I didn’t know that this was going to be an eventual gift in that way. I’m was just trying to get more Spiderman comics and then you then you realize you know that you’re pretty poor because you’re a drug addict and you’re living in a sober home and you want more comics at that point and you’re pretty good at chasing down drugs so you’re going to figure out how to make comics happen. Shout out to Comic Tom 101 on YouTube, probably one of the biggest comic streamers, a good friend. I started watching a bunch of his videos and I think it was in one of those videos that he mentions the best way to get more comics is to sell comics and I’m like, this sounds familiar to the drug game, but okay. So I decided to start an eBay store to fund my Spider-Man habit out of a sober home and it’s not a business by any means at this point, but it’s working. At least I figured out how to put comics between cardboard pieces and send them in envelopes.

Wow that is an amazing story. I’m blown away, I’ve heard a lot of addiction recovery stories and I don’t think I’ve ever heard one quite like that.

I mean I wish that was the happy ending, it does save me later on. But I still fell apart multiple times for years in between that. I was starting to put together large periods of sobriety but I was still falling harder from it but I kept having this thing I could come back to. I was like, this is not generating any money but it’s filling my time and it’s interesting to me. But eventually I think there’s probably like a six month or so period where I was just bouncing around hotels and being in an abusive relationship I can’t get out of. Taking crowbars to the face and glass in the morning. So The comic business took a back seat and the punk idea kind of saved me because like when you’re in these moments um you always end up with like a moment of clarity or something no matter how messed up you are.

Yeah, hitting bottom can be rather sobering 

Right, yeah, so I’m just sitting in bed with this, um, trying not to badmouth the ex here. This person, and I remembered years ago like you’d go to AA meetings around the city if you’re in a sober home and I had ended up at like Pride Institute once for a meeting. It’s basically and lgbtq treatment center. Me and all my punkiness or whatever it resonated as an idea for me.

Labels don’t matter so much to me on the whole, sexual identity thing, but like this seemed like you know these people, when I visited them at this treatment center/ They seemed happy. They got colored hair and they’re trying to discover their identity. I think that was missing in me at that point and it resonated. So I called the Pride Institute and got in and that’s where I met my current fiancé Dana.

Dana and I did like three months of treatment together and got very close. I couldn’t keep my sub [sobriety] in the sober house and I was back in the only place I could be, which is with the ex who has way too many crowbars.

Long story short though, it was Dana and a friend of ours that we met at treatment that eventually, like, I’m a bloody mess in a bed. I’ve just been trapped there for like weeks on end and I got arrested somehow in there too. I don’t know how you get arrested staying at home. But Dana and the friend showed up and Dana got me back into Pride immediately just so we could get that sorted and then come up with the plan afterwards. I was only there a month the second time but we had decided, you get so used to doing these treatment centers and going right to a sober home then failing then repeating and I wanted so badly to try something else. So that involved Dana and I living together. So we got an apartment right after my second time at Pride. Moved in and it went all right for a bit. Two addicts living together, if things aren’t sorted, is extremely volatile. 

I understand what you’re saying, like this has a lot of potential for failure. This is not what they would recommend you do.

No, no, I don’t recommend it either. 

It’s remarkable that things have worked out as well as they have 

I’ll say, kind of a lot of this journey whether it be the comics or what I’m about to say is key aspects I guess of who we are as people and what we want to be. But they’re not working very well with the drugs and the alcohol and so immediately upon moving in our friend that helped save me, he started relapsing and we were struggling ourselves at that point. So we’re like “you know what’s a good idea?” Let’s help out this meth addict and move him in with us our first two months. More needles, what could go wrong! Everything, and eventually he got into treatment. But that wasn’t even enough. We wanted to help more people while we were sick. This Ukrainian woman and her white husband from I can’t remember the country in Africa but they had a daughter. They got kicked out of the apartment and they had nowhere to go because they had to be in London. So we’re like, we’ve got rid of the meth addict that was living with us, but now we’re going to adopt an international family and move them into this two one bedroom apartment! We kept them for a month, so many stories from that. But we eventually got them to London and we were just so exhausted after all this, like too tired to care about drugs I believe. 

There was a mutual I understanding between Dana and I that like we have wasted so much of our time here not only on the drugs but in not being together like we are spending our time trying to help people when we can’t help ourselves and so we both just kind of ended up I think tiptoeing into sobriety with no real plan and it just kind of started sticking. I got more time to work on my eBay stuff which eventually led to our shop on whatnot. Comic Tom who I mentioned earlier, I saw him doing a whatnot show and we’re like we’re gonna try this!

So you have this new activity now with Whatnot, where it is this social thing

Yeah, it’s done everything they would recommend in treatment without it being like treatment ordered. We are being social, we get to be creative, we have structured accountability. 

There’s a story about an experiment called Rat Park. It’s these rats in a maze and they get I think it’s cocaine water or regular water okay and it’s the isolated rats every single time, ones with no hope and they’re lonely are drinking the cocaine water. They basically die and the ones that get to be together with other rats kick the water almost every single time. It’s the connection and purpose that maybe addicts need to find sobriety.

It’s amazing that doing the Whatnot auctions gave you that system where it might have been very difficult to find otherwise.

So many things had to go right. I think the stimulation of this job helped too. The learning and figuring out what’s important in the history of comics.

You know some weird stuff about comic books. You know things about comic books that regular people don’t know. You posted the other day on Instagram that you guys got an order of comic books and they were damaged but inside there was an ad for a jewelry store and this made the comic books valuable in some way shape or form. 

It saved that whole order! Mark Jewelers used to put these inserts in 10% of their comics and they never survived. The thing is they only put them in 10% of comics 10% of like a 10% because they’re like new. It’s stupid but it’s rare and if it’s rare there’s a market. It’s not my thing but I’m glad I can do something with it. 

That is hilarious. It’s not like they’re not like the old Hostess ads. I get the hostess thing because those are actual Comics. I used to read the old Comics those are great! This is just an insert, like junk mail.

Yeah I mean in your like 60 Cent comic book if you want some $2,000 gold?

I like going to your auctions because you throw out these bits of information that’ll educate. I love learning weird stuff. Like the difference between a market stand and a Direct Edition. They way you explained it was some comic books are sent to newsstands and sold and they have like a barcode on them and then the other ones are sent directly to shops and they do not have a barcode. 

Yeah it’s it like I have a new respect for anybody who tries to sell like the grandparents’ attic. When they find them there’s a lot to know. It’s hard to know what is garbage and what is valuable. Like you would just think this comic’s garbage but oh no it has this rare insert of jewelry. I mean I’m playing catch up. But the community for Comics is generally great and there’s a lot to learn from the people you deal with so that’s been helpful. 

You have a truly amazing story of recovery. Iis there anything else you want to tell people out there?

I’d recommend just not giving up, obviously. But purpose, just find something and hold on to it. If you have something in your life that is important to you that is not your addiction. Then it is something that you can hold on to and get yourself out of it.

Visit Scarlet Spider Comics on Whatnot and claim a FREE no strings attached $15 credit if you are a first time user https://www.whatnot.com/invite/scarletspidercomics

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Frank Hartgrave

ByFrank Hartgrave

Mr. Hartgrave produces daily content for YouTube and Instagram and does a weekly AEW Wrestling Live Stream every Wed. at 6PM that is broadcast on all platforms.

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