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So being in the comics retail industry in a location close to where Malibu Comics’s home base was located when it was active, we’ve seen a lot of the material produced by that company. And I don’t mean just the regular stuff, but promotional material, rare items, and just lots ‘n’ bundles of multiple copies of various products. I remember at one point obtaining what must have been a case of The Trouble with Girls graphic novels.
I’ve seen a pretty large number of the variant covers over the years, such as the full-cover hologram variants for Mortal Kombat and Star Trek Deep Space Nine and the like, not to mention plenty of those foil-variant Ultraverse covers. In fact, the other day I had a fellow who identified himself as a former employee of Malibu (and Marvel, after that company bought out the former) come by the shop, hand me a small pile of comics, and tell me “here, I’ve been sitting on these a while and you can have ‘em if you can use ‘em.” And yes, there were a few of the usual items in there, like those hologram covers I mentioned, and what I thought was just another foil Ultraverse variant:
…until I noticed this embossed stamp on the front cover:
…and this certificate explaining just what it was:
…and I was all set to write up a whole post about this, but just like two weeks ago this Ultraverse blog already put together a far better and more informative post
about this very thing than I would have. The thing I learned from that post I found most interesting was that, despite the certificate stating “limited to 500 copies,” far fewer than that were actually created and distributed. The number given is about 30, though the picture in that blog post shows a certificate numbered 134, but who knows what kind of numbering shenanigans were going on. Perhaps earlier numbers were being reserved for employees and other special persons, since the copy in my hands is #7.
Anyway, I put it on the eBays to see who’d salute, so we’ll see how it goes.
Also recently acquired was the Platinum Edition of Adventures of Superman #500, which you can tell is totally the platinum edition of the comic because the bag surrounding it is clearly printed with the words “PLATINUM EDITION” along the bottom:
It’s kind of a drag that someone had this pinned up on a wall, apparently, as there are a couple of pinholes in the top center of the polybag…who’d buy a “hot, rare collectible” in a time where “hot, rare collectibles” were the be-all, end-all of the comics retail industry and then pin the sucker on a wall? That seems almost counter-intuitive to the investment mentality running rampant in the business then. It even had the $125(!) price tag still affixed to the comic bag it was being stored in.
I’ve come across these bagged platinum editions before, and always wondered if just the polybag itself was supposed to be the “platinum” bit (as this bag was black and silver, versus the red and white of the regular version) or if the comic inside was platinum-ized. I suppose if I really wondered that much, I could have Googled or eBay-searched it for myself before now, but I finally looked and found a few of these for sale:
This is one of those “pro-graded” slabbed copies, where they apparently removed the polybag before sealing the funnybook into its little plastic coffin. The color of this cover may be dimmed a bit, as you’re seeing it through about 1/16 inch or so of plastic, but that is definitely a “platinum” (well, silvery-whitish) version of a cover that is normally black. Plus it says “platinum” in the corner and they wouldn’t print it if it weren’t true. Another difference is that the logo on the platinum version features raised lettering while the regular version does not, a fact I just now went to check with my copy of the non-platinum version down in the No-Longer-Quite-As-Vast Mikester Comic Archives.
Speaking of polybags, I also picked up one of these:
…which is the regular cover edition Superman
#82, which also had a chromium cover
. However, this version of #82 polybagged with a poster was, according to my two seconds of Google research, a Walmart variant
which I don’t believe I’d seen before. No UPC code on the comic cover, but said code was provided on the back of the bag itself. I don’t know what the poster itself looks like…my guess is that it’s that cover, but maybe someone can let me know.
Twenty-plus years on, I’m still talking about the Death of Superman. Let us look forward to a happy 2015 and, with any luck, even more posts about the Death of Superman. See you then, friends.
So a fella dropped by the store the other day with an armload of comics that he wasn’t interested in selling…he just wanted to give them to us, so that they’d be our problem instead of just another pile of stuff he’d have to deal with. I was kind of busy when he came in and just told him “sure” without getting a good look at what he had, ’til about a half hour later when I finally had a chance to glance through the stack and see an awful lot of “Death of/Funeral for/Return of” Superman books. Most of them are destined for the bargain box, some of the lesser-conditioned copies will probably end up in, ahem, “the gentlemen’s library and washroom,” and then there’s this:
The World Without A Superman Special Collector’s Set
, still sealed in its original shrinkwrap. This is kind of an interesting artifact for the time, particularly when you consider the details:
It’s only $5.33 for a $7.50 trade paperback, a $1.25 comic book, a “reprint” of Action Comics
#1 (presumably just a reprint of the Superman content of that issue, judging by the apparent thickness) that – let’s say – is worth about a buck, and a poster that’s worth maybe another buck. So that’s about ten bucks worth of stuff for $5.33, which ain’t a bad deal, if a peculiar price point.
I don’t remember if it was on this site, or on the Twitter, or maybe just in an email to a friend (which you better not have read!) where I noted that while the cheapie Death of Superman trade DC rushed out right after the event had gone through some incredible number of printings, like twelve or fifteen or something like that, you could (at the time I was making this observation, a few years ago) still reorder the World Without a Superman book from Diamond Comics and receive a first printing. (It’s since been replaced by an edition with a $19.99 cover price.) So they printed a lot of these books, and I wonder if this cut-price package was, while also being good marketing to take advantage of heightened interest in the Superman franchise, a desperate attempt to clear out some warehouse space.
One thing that amused me…the need to indicate that Action Comics #1 was a “(REPRINT).” Probably because you just know if that “(REPRINT)” wasn’t there, someone was going to complain that they didn’t get an original Action #1, and then there’d be lawsuits and all sorts of unpleasantness and who’d want that. Although I notice that no such consideration was taken to indicate the “SUPERMAN #75 THE HISTORIC ISSUE OF SUPERMAN’S DEATH” included in this package was a fourth printing:
Remember when DC used to indicate printings with Roman numbers in the corner box? I wish they’d still do that, instead of what they do now with coloring the whole cover red, or printing “sketch” covers or whatever.
Also, when you get right down to it:
…this would be a weird damn poster to have hanging on your wall. “Hey, remember that time Pa Kent collapsed in the field after a heart attack? …If only there were a constant reminder of that incident hanging up in my house somewhere.” Probably not as weird as this
, but pretty darned close.
Peeking at some of the faces visible on the cover of the trade:
I’m pretty sure most of Luthor’s history
has been dumped post-Flashpoint
, but man, even the whole “red-haired clone of Luthor” story that was going on at this point was basically unworkable prior to that due to other continuity-adjustments, if you really stopped to think about it. And I have. A lot. Maybe too
I don’t know why Sad Guy Gardner is striking me as funny. Maybe because he’s like super-angry and sad at the same time, which is totally in character and kind of awesome.
I’m not sure I even get what Bloodwynd’s whole deal was, even though I’m fairly certain I read the comics explaining the backstory at the time, and just now I looked at the Wikipedia entry
and got that whole “reading other people’s mail” vibe I usually get when, for example, I read an X-Men comic or actually read other people’s mail. Also, his name sounds like a band that should be on a bill with Shadowfax
, so long as we’re picking on a character that hasn’t been seen for about a decade.
So, anyway, the Death of Superman…nearly twenty years on, and there’s still no escaping from it. I expect that after I die, my condemned spirit will wander the world like Jacob Marley’s, weighed down by chains attached to long comic boxes filled with Adventures of Superman #500.
So the amount of time that had passed between the release of this comic:
…and this comic:
…is kinda/sorta about the same, give or take a handful of months, as will have passed between the release of this comic:
…and the new Action Comics
#1 coming this September:
First, to save me some “um, actually”-ing in the comments, please note I said “about,” not “exactly.” It’s close enough for my point, or what passes as my point.
Second, it’s a bit “one of these things is not like the other,” I realize, since one is a debut issue and the other two are reboots of one kind or another, though you could read the “Death of Superman” event as an equally-influential revitalization of the franchise.
But when looking at the spans of time involved here…the debut of Superman (and, if not the launch of the Golden Age of Comics, at least its most significant event) in 1938, followed eighteen years later by the launching of the Silver Age* with the debut of the new Flash (itself only seven years after the cancellation of the Golden Age Flash series, and five years after the G.A. Flash’s last appearance in All-Star Comics).
My only point to this really is that, when I was younger, and was first learning about all these events in comics history, it certainly felt like we were talking about longer periods of time. Given all the talk and bandying about of the terms “Golden Age” and “Silver Age,” it came as bit of a shock to realize that only about half a decade separated the two eras. I mean, that’s barely longer than it took Ultimate Wolverine Vs. Hulk to finish.
Conventional wisdom is that the customer base for comics turned over fairly quickly in those days. The kid who bought the last issue of the Golden Age Flash Comics, #104, had probably outgrown comics before Showcase #4 rolled along, and the kids who bought Showcase #4 probably had never seen the previous Flash. I mean, I wasn’t there, and I’m making some assumptions, and I know some people probably carried over from one “Age” to the next. But that was the general belief.
Compare to today, when most people who buy comics have been buying for years at a time. In my case, using the Superman example…I was buying the comic in the early 1980s, I bought the Man of Steel mini in 1986 which restarted Superman’s history from scratch, I bought (and am still buying) all the main Superman series from then ’til now, and I plan on picking up the new relaunched Superman titles in a couple of months. That’s bit of an extreme case, but comic fans following characters or series for years at a time is more the rule than the exception, nowadays. At least, those folks are the primary target of the superhero publishers. The “crossover event leading into the next crossover event” publishing strategy is obviously not one they could have pulled off in, say, 1948, when the audience turnover would have meant people reading the end result of this strategy without having been there at the beginning.
I picked the Death of Superman issue as an example because that’s a relatively recent event that a number of us recall happening during our comics-reading (and for some of us, our comics-retailing) history. It’s a pretty solid timestamp in our memories, a “where were you when…?” kind of thing. (Where was I? Explaining to an enormous and increasingly-irritable crowd of people “uh, only one customer, please.”) It doesn’t seem like that long ago to me, and yet the time that has passed is longer that the original run of The Spirit and the original run of Fawcett’s Captain Marvel.
Boy, this kind of got away from me. Another point I was intended to make was “it was a lot easier to get away with reboots back in the day” because, well, anyone complaining was probably going to stop reading comics soon anyway, and there were always more readers coming to replace them. Yet another point was simply realizing that less tempus had fugited than I thought when it came to certain historical events in the comics industry. That last point is simply the result of age, I’m sure…when I was 15, a five year span sure seemed like an eternity. Today: well, I’m pretty sure I’ve got socks that are older than five years. (Shut up…they’re in good shape!)
But if there were a primary point to all this babbling, it is simply that I was somewhat amused by comparing the two timespans above. And yes, I know not everyone who’s reading this has been reading comics for decades. Let me wallow in my dotage in peace.
* Some people mark the beginning of the Silver Age with the first appearance of the Martian Manhunter. And, y’know, that’s cool with me.
Oh, by the way, all images are from the Grand Comics Database. I was too lazy to dig out my copy of the original Action #1 to scan.
So the new Fantastic Four is the way-overhyped “death” issue, in which it looks bad for the character in question, sure, but not necessarily a cut ‘n’ dried demise by any means. I’m not going to get into spoilers, for those of you who’ve managed to miss the media blitz about the event which happily revealed the comic’s alleged starring corpse, but anyone reading the story can see it for the “all the other characters think this character is dead, but we’ll eventually catch up to that character and see what he/she’s been up to in the months during the apparent deceased-ness” situation that it is.
Not blaming the creative team of the book, I should note, which has been turning out a solid adventure serial. Jonathan Hickman and Steve Epting are presenting complex, interesting, intelligent and still fun superhero stories. This “death” was clearly just a plot twist in an ongoing saga that got blown out of proportion to a general audience of non-comic-readers who are becoming increasingly wary of these stunts. (Let me link again to this post of mine about this sort of promotion.) Unfortunately, I can’t really blame Marvel for this promotional stunt, as it’s hard to get widespread mainstream attention on comics that isn’t “somebody dies, no really!” or “soon to be a movie!” or “this comic has a swear in it, WON’T SOMEBODY THINK OF THE CHILDREN” or, as pal Dorian noted to me, “found strewn about the killer’s apartment….” It’s a shame you usually can’t get this amount of attention simply by saying “this is a good comic people might enjoy,” but the saying isn’t “if it reads, it leads,” after all. You need a gimmick, and “SOMEBODY DIES!” is the one that gets the real world attention. Conversely, “SOMEBODY COMES BACK!” never works as well in grabbing the public, as every return of a dead character since that white-bagged Adventures of Superman #500 has shown.
It’s interesting to see that even the mainstream news media stories are now including the implied “what, again?” eyeroll regarding this kind of marketing stunt (such as in this spoiler-filled article), which may further undermine the influx of magpies clutching at the shiny investment potential of yet another temporary death. Especially since the last few have been reversed relatively quickly, turning hypothetical fortunes into just so much polybagged paper.
Ultimately, I expect we’ll sell out of this new FF…we didn’t go overboard on ordering it, and it comes sealed in a familiar-looking if fairly pixelated black bag which will certainly grab attention. But if we do get some new folks in looking for the comic, it’ll once again be a one-shot media-fueled bump, bringing a few bucks into the comics marketplace, but won’t be built upon, won’t be sustained, and will only return when the next “death” comes along, assuming there are still some people left who’ll continue to buy into the hype. The returns diminish each and every time.
Well, I’m certainly Mr. Downer-Pants. Here, let a little stuffed bull treat the topic at hand in the best way anyone can…with big laffs!
This is a 1993 promotional card sent out to retailers plugging Wizard‘s tie-in to the whole “Death of Superman” brouhaha. The front is a shiny silver with embossed lettering, which is the sort of thing that never really comes through that well when I scan it, but you get the idea:
The back has all the important details you need to know
In fairness, 1) it did
have huge sales, but I’m not sure it was entirely due to whatever they were calling “foil covers” that week…frankly, it could have been a plain brown wrapper with stick figures drawn by the publisher’s 3-year-old nephew and it would have sold like gangbusters during the “Death of Superman” feeding frenzy; and 2) we did indeed sell every issue we ordered. Actually, as I recall this particular special was pretty good…lots of interviews and interesting features and, I have to admit, the cover was
Not sure what the whole “order proud!” thing was about, unless I’m not recalling our chests swelling with pride as we jotted down our numbers in the Previews order form. Ah, well.
Also, they used “its” when they meant “it’s.” C’MON, PEOPLE.
• • •
In totally unrelated news, I’d better note this article before my email box is filled with messages telling me about it:
“Justin Bieber to Star in Remake of Swamp Thing”
“‘We feel we had a lot to develop from Wes Craven’s original Swamp Thing,” said director Kenny Ortega, ‘Like more back-story on Dr. Alec Holland, or a more sinister Dr. Arcane, and, of course, more of Swamp Thing singing.'”
…but I don’t know about that one in the bottom right-hand corner. That would have been a bit odd to have slapped on your school binder or whatever.
Finally got around to seeing Superman/Doomsday
, DC’s inaugural effort in their new line of direct-to-DVD animated movies. So, now I can go back and read all the reviews and such that I sorta glossed over for the last month while avoiding “spoilers.” (Wait…Superman died, and came back
? Get outta here!)
The film itself is fine, if a very stripped down, simplistic version of the near-epic “Death/Return of Superman” storyline from the early ’90s. While one could fill, oh, say, an entire blog post of the differences between the original comic book version of the story and the animated version, there is one primary difference I wanted to note. And this difference is intrinsic to the formats these two interpretations of the story have taken.
The actual impact of Superman’s death in the course of this story (um…SPOILER, I guess?) is much, much less in the cartoon, if only because Superman’s removal from the narrative is all of about fifteen minutes or so. It’s just a very brief plot twist, there to give Luthor the opportunity to replace him with with a clone Superman under his command. The real Supes eventually wakes up, recovers in his Fortress, and comes back for the big fight scene. The end. The viewer never really feels that Superman is gone, because, well, “how can I miss you when you won’t go away?”
On the other hand…after Superman’s death in the funnybooks, he was gone. For the couple months that followed, we had Superman books with no Superman…pages filled with funerals and tributes and mourners and no real clue given as to how Superman would eventually return. The Superman books even went on a brief hiatus…they stopped publishing for a month or so, which I was going to say would be unheard of today, delaying publication of a top selling comic book. But then I remembered DC’s botched relaunch of Wonder Woman, and Marvel’s year and a half (and growing) gap between issues of Ultimate Hulk/Wolverine, et al, so it’s not so uncommon nowadays, really.
But it really did make an impact when the Superman books stopped publishing, even for as briefly as they did, as the four Super-books had functioned essentially as one weekly title, a new issue of each Superman series every week. To have that schedule interrupted underscored the alleged death of the character. Okay, we had specials and whatnot in the interim, and when the titles relaunched a few weeks later, we still had no Superman. We had folks who took the Superman name, and maybe one or two who could have been a drastically changed Big Blue, but things weren’t quite back to normal yet…and it would still be a couple months before the situation was resolved.
In short, the comics gave us time to get used to the idea, to really feel the impact, of Superman being gone. The movie doesn’t. And, like I said, it’s intrinsic to the format…it can’t really be considered a criticism, because it’s not like the film could end with Superman’s death, with a note to “come back in Summer ’08 for the shocking conclusion.” Of course, no one familiar with comics really thought Superman was gone for good, but that extra gap the comics provided helped enhance the illusion.
The primary special feature on the disc is a longish documentary of the original “Death/Return” comics, with plenty of interviews with the folks responsible and lots of memories of the madness that followed. Period footage (I’m using “period” to refer to events from fifteen years ago…is that overstating it?) shows what the actual “Super-retreat” editorial meetings looked like, where the creative teams got together and hammered out the Superman plots for the following year. I’d always pictured editor Mike Carlin sitting in a throne like this one, making decrees with a wave of his scepter (tipped with the “S” logo), but seeing the actual meeting room in the documentary has spoiled that vision a bit.
There are some close-ups of the the white boards being used for plot notes in the meeting room, which allows for some DVD-pausin’ fun:
For some reason, the big “FIGHT!!!” notes make me laugh:
Interestingly, when discussing the four replacement Supermen that turned up in the “Return of Superman” storyline, Superboy is (aside from a brief shot of his legs) never shown onscreen. When discussing Steel, or the Cyborg Superman, and so on, lots and lots and lots of images from the comics featuring those characters are presented. Superboy? Nada. (Presumably because of this
, I’m guessing.)
Something else I’ve learned from this documentary: creator Dan Jurgens does not age. The man still looks like he’s in high school. Clearly he’s found the Fountain of Youth, and must be forced to divulge its location.
There’s also a brief documentary focusing on the vocal talents behind the cartoon (Ray Wise as Perry White? No way!), which suffers from an extreme lack of any screentime for John DiMaggio, the voice of Futurama‘s Bender and the voice of the Toyman from this Superman cartoon. We also get a commentary track (which I haven’t listened to yet), a preview of the next animated film (The New Frontier, which doesn’t look half-bad), and one of those DVD games which I didn’t have the patience to try. Sorry.
Overall…slight but watchable, with good vocal performances, some satisfyingly destructive action scenes, and backed up with a solid documentary about the comics themselves. If you’re expecting anything close to the story that the original comics provided, forget about it. Taken on its own, however, it’s not a bad way to spend an hour or two.
In other news:
- Apparently Green Lantern is on track to being a film, again, with more directors and writers and such tied to the project. Well, I’ll believe it when I see it. I’m still disappointed we’re not getting the Jack Black version, which would have kicked ass and you know it.
From another article on the subject:
“Michael Green, who also has prior experience with Berlanti on Everwood and Jack & Bobby, wrote Superman/Batman for Marvel Comics.”
- An article from my alma mater’s campus newspaper talks about Halloween costumes, and includes this passage of absolute truth:
“One idea you may consider is being Wonder Woman or Swamp Thing, especially since Swamp Thing is probably the biggest badass ever.”
You’re damn right. Though having Swamp Thing and Wonder Woman in the same sentence there briefly put the image of Swampy in WW’s bathing suit costume and tiara, and I don’t think I need that idea in my head. Get out, get out!
So here’s another buried treasure from the depths of our backroom:
Straight from 1993 and right into all of our hearts is this commemorative poster by Dan Jurgen and Brett Breeding for that one time Superman died for a couple of months.
For you folks who only know the Vertigo Comics Swampy, proof that he used to hang with the DC Universe at large:
Deathstroke the Terminator puts in an appearance, one of the few villains to do so in this image:
This was about the time DC was pushing Deathstroke as a Punisher-esque “anti-hero” rather than the out-and-out villain he is now. I have a hard time imagining the current, post-Identity Crisis
Deathstroke having his presence tolerated by the other heroes.
I’ll take “more-or-less forgotten DC characters” for $100, Alex:
Yeah, I know you all recognize Agent Liberty, but really, that character didn’t stick around too long, did he? (Has
he put in an appearance anywhere, lately? Seems like he’d pop up in Checkmate
Here’s the second villain appearance in this poster:
Okay, I can see Darkseid acknowledging the death of a respected foe, raising his chalice of sparkling cider in tribute, but at Casa de Darkseid back on Apokalips. I just can’t see him marching along with everyone else in a funeral procession, particularly with a Dead Superman armband. I mean, c’mon, it’s Darkseid
. Just seems slightly out of character.
Here’s another Vertigo headliner, Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, staring at the back of the Ray’s shiny, shiny helmet:
And, hey, it’s Booster Gold, heading up the funeral procession, and one of the major focuses of the entire image:
Huh, wonder why Booster got such preferential treatme…
Here are Elongated Man and Power Girl, in mourning not just for Superman, but for their costuming choices:
I actually kinda like these briefly-used costumes for the Hawk-folks:
Alas, they’re from the period of the Hawkman reboot, so they also remind me of how the characters were nearly broken what with all of DC’s continuity shenanigans.
While I liked Kelley Jones’ redesign of Deadman, it’s one of those designs that only works if Jones does it:
And I had a sneaking suspicion about this, and the Wikipedia article
also notes it, so I guess I’m not imagining things…but I believe the Bloodwynd identity (at the lower left) was being assumed by the also-pictured Martian Manhunter at the time of “The Death of Superman.”
Not pictured (mostly): an uncomfortable number of Team Titans and Darkstars. I always love how pieces of merchandise like this are such snapshots of comic book continuity of the time. In fact, I saw a fella at the store on Sunday wearing a Mullet Superman
t-shirt. The storylines may be dead, but the merchandise lives on.
That image to the right is taken from this auction…apparently an actual granite tombstone, used as a promotional item for the “Death of Superman” storyline. I honestly have never heard of such a thing. Please note this bit from the auction’s description: “BOTTOM 4 INCHES OF THE TOMBSTONE IN [sic] STAINED FROM BEING LEFT ON THE GROUND(OUTDOORS).” Goodness.
While trying to Google up more information about this item, I found someone who produced his own out of styrofoam (along with a reproduction of the “tattered cape” image).
I think I’ve noted before on this site that, shortly after the original black-bagged “Death of Superman” issue (Superman #75) was released, there was a lot of panic buying and hugely inflated prices taking advantage of said panic buying. $200 was the craziest price I heard, and this was less than a week after the comic had sold out. Nowadays we regularly sell sealed copies for $18 a pop (which is the highest we’ve ever priced this particular book, which surprises some people when I tell them this). Looking at auctions on the eBay, copies tend to sell between $5 and $20, though there is the occasional person with high hopes.
This item isn’t specifically a “Death of Superman” tie-in, but any auction with the title “SUPERMAN BLOODY DEATH BLOOD DRIPPING DC SHIRT” deserves special attention. However, there was an official “Death of Superman” t-shirt, as I’m sure most of you recall, featuring that tasteful red bloody “S” from the bag covering Superman #75, printed against a black background. I still see people wearing them around town on occasion…whether they’re original owners or just picked them up in one of our many fine local thrift stores, I’m not sure.
There was another t-shirt design, one showing superheroes carrying Supes’ coffin. You know, the more I think about that superhero pallbearers shirt, the tackier it seems. Good Lord, people wore this. The other thing I remember about that shirt is that the image was taken from the poster that came with Superman #75, and Batman was one of the pallbearers*. Due to licensing issues, Batman was replaced by Captain Marvel for the t-shirt design (and, I believe, when that image was used in the tie-in trading card set).
And dig that belt buckle.
* Wouldn’t having Batman as one of the pallbearers at a very public funeral service put lie to to the “Batman is an urban legend/public doesn’t know if he’s real” editorial direction the character had been under for a while? Of course, the scene on the poster doesn’t occur in the comics themselves, so I guess that was their “out.”
So we purchased yet another comic collection the other day, and in this one was a copy of Adventures of Superman #500. “Oh, big deal,” you’re surely saying, “every comic book store has about a bazillion of those damn things.” And, ordinarily, you’d be correct, but this is the platinum edition, friends. It’s packaged in a black bag with a silver super-“S” on the front, and with the phrase “limited platinum edition” (or something like that) printed along the bottom.
Okay, now you can say “oh, big deal.”
What amused me about this comic is that, like its non-platinum counterpart, it is sealed in the bag so that you can’t see the comic inside without opening up the bag. And the comic inside is also some kind of variant as, unlike the regular edition, the letters of the Adventures of Superman logo are embossed and raised up from the cover.
Now, the sort of person who is interested in buying the limited “collector’s” edition of the pre-bagged Adventures of Superman #500 wouldn’t be terribly likely to open up the bag and, um, appreciate the variance of the cover inside, I’d imagine.
Maybe I’m wrong…perhaps whoever buys this will not care about maintaining full resale value, and oh so carefully trim open the top of the plastic bag in order to slip the book out. (And yeah, I believe that Overstreet Price Guide‘s official policy is that carefully opening a prepackaged-in-a-polybag comic doesn’t affect the value, but as someone who sells these things for a living, it doesn’t work like that in the wild.)
Anyway, the point of all this was that, of late, I’d been reflecting back on the big comics market crash of the early ’90s. Specifically, which comic you could point at and say, “the market crash began with this very issue.”
For several years, the comic I pointed at as being the turning point for the comics industry decline was Turok #1 from Valiant Comics. When Valiant first started their superhero line, their books were warming shelves coast-to-coast initially, but all of a sudden, a collector’s frenzy (spurred on by the new price guide magazine Wizard, and an influx of collectors/investors from the then recently-collapsed sports card market*) sprung up around these books. Prices began to skyrocket on early Valiant issues, which were being ballyhooed as hot, rare, investable items. New #1s flew off the shelves, and sometimes we even had to tag the new books with “1 per customer” signs — and, as I noted before, that tended to encourage further sales.
And then Turok #1 was announced for release in 1993. Comic fans (including me) had fond memories of the original Dell/Gold Key Turok Son of Stone series, and the investors who couldn’t care less about comics industry were still excited about yet another Valiant Comics #1. Plus, it was going to have a shiny “chromium” cover, and people liked the chromium back in the day. Plus, Turok was introduced to the Valiant Universe in 1992’s Magnus Robot Fighter #12, which was commanding some significant coin of the realm in the secondary market.
So, basically, perceived demand was high.
Retailers, who were getting the “high demand” vibes for the book, ordered massive numbers. Turok #1 was going to be like printing money, for certain!
Well, even if you weren’t there for it at the time, I’m sure you see where this is going.
Since everyone ordered large numbers on Turok #1, there was plenty to be had. Racks were overflowing with Turok #1. Part of the collecting appeal of Valiant Comics was the apparent scarcity…Turok #1 was the exact opposite of “scarce.” The investors who preordered dozens (or hundreds) of copies quickly realized that there was no way they were going to be able to turn them around into quick cash. And retailers realized that there was far more Turok out there than there was demand. Some people began blowing out copies of Turok for below cover, further damaging the perceived collectible value of Valiant Comics, and comics in general.
Plus, the chromium cover ended up being an embossed cover with a oversized chromium card glued to the front. It’s not bad looking by any means, but people were expecting an actual full-chromium cover and not a glued-on card. It may be that’s what was originally solicited, but it wasn’t what people were expecting.
It’s not as if the market immediately collapsed into nothingness following the release of Turok #1, but I think we all really began to realize that the glory days were over, and more and more collectors began trying to divest themselves of their investments over the following months…and years.
Another possible “death-knell” for the ’90s comics boom was the aforementioned Adventures of Superman #500. If you remember the day Superman #75, the “Death of Superman” comic, came out, most comic shops were madhouses. Apparently a slow news week combined with increased media interest in comics resulted in a lot of news coverage of this particular storyline, and it seemed like everybody wanted to be in on it. On the day it came out, we had a line of people outside our store, stretched down the block waiting for us to open.
Now, keep in mind that we ordered Superman #75 a few months in advance, with absolutely no knowledge of what was to come. We did bump orders up to about four times what we normally received on our Superman books, which were okay sellers at the time, but nothing outstanding. So, seeing that line outside the store, we were forced to do the “1 per customer” thing, even posting signs in the window stating as such. Well, let me tell you, that pissed off some people something fierce, but if I had to choose between having someone mad at me because they one got one copy of Superman #75 and having everyone mad at me because they couldn’t get any copies due to the first person in the door buying everything we had, well, it’s not really much of a choice, is it?
And it was crazy even past that first day. I had huge waiting lists for fourth printings of Superman #75. That may seem like crazy talk, but I swear it’s true.
So the “Death of Superman” story wraps up, the “Funeral for a Friend” storyline that follows wraps up, and the Superman books go on a very brief publishing hiatus.
And now, we have to order Adventures of Superman #500.
This isn’t the issue where Superman comes back to life, but it is the kick-off for the long storyline that eventually would lead into the return of Big Blue. Demand is still huge for the Superman comics. People come by or call every day asking about what’s up with Superman. “Is he back yet? Is he back yet?“
So, thinking about what we could have sold on the original, black-bagged, “collectors” edition of Superman #75 had we only known of the buying frenzy to follow, and considering the interest we were still getting in Superman, we place our orders for the white-bagged Adventures of Superman #500.
And so does most every other retailer.
You see where I’m going with this?
When Adventures of Superman #500 comes out, while it does sell relatively well, there’s no attendant media push. The “Death of Superman” thing is old news, why should the media cover it again? Thus, there’s no huge audience of “civilians” who otherwise couldn’t care less about comic books lining up outside comic shops waiting to get their hands on the next new collectible. It’s not a dog like Turok #1 was, but there’s still plenty to be had, and for the investors that can drive collecting frenzies like the one for Superman #75, a lack of scarcity can only mean the bloom is off the investing rose (or, um, something like that). Coupled with the sudden realization that perhaps the black-bagged Superman #75 isn’t worth the premium prices paid on the secondary market (at the time, I heard about someone selling them for $100!), this too surely was a contributor to the comics market crash.
Now this was just local market conditions…for all I know, someone in Wisconsin was selling Turok #1s and Adventures of Superman #500s like they had twenty-dollar bills stapled to the cover**, but it seemed to me that these two books did indeed mark the point where the comics market began its decline, as readers became disenchanted with event books and variant covers, as investors bailed out and starting buying toys and Beanie Babies instead, as comic stores started to shut down across the nation (we lost about seven or so in our tri-county area during that period)…wow, I’m bumming myself out, here. We were able to ride out that rough spot, but in some ways our store (and others, I’m sure) are still recovering from that huge crash.
It was a hard time, with some hard lessons learned regarding our own ordering habits…no one forced us to order that many Turoks, for example, but it sure seemed at the time like we wouldn’t have any problem moving them! Of course, I’m moving them now…I’m blowing them out in our bargain boxes. I don’t think I’ve had anyone pay cover price for a Turok #1 in years. Adventures of Superman #500 does still sell on occasion, but we have a pretty good clientele for Superman books, so that’s not too surprising. We’ve still got plenty of ‘em, though.
So, does anyone else have any likely culprits which, like Turok #1 or Adventures of Superman #500, seemed to trigger the ’90s comic market crash?
* I could tell the new comic collectors fresh from the sports card market by the way they asked for “comic book Becketts.”
** If they did have twenties stapled to the covers, you could be sure someone would complain “but, but…it’s not mint!”