Welcome to the house of sketches.

§ July 23rd, 2021 § Filed under indies, original art § 1 Comment

So Wednesday I mentioned I obtained a Pirate Corp$ sketch by Evan Dorkin about thirty years ago from…still can’t remember the guy’s name! Tad? Scott? Chickie? Chasley? No idea.

But I still have the sketch, and I realized it wasn’t fair to tell you about the sketch without showing it to you. As such, let me rectify the situation by presenting it now:


Nice pic of Blue and Charlie, I think! I adjusted the scan shown above to make the lines more visible. However, if you click on the pic you’ll get a very large image of the original unadjusted scan.

Pirate Corp$ (and later, Hectic Planet) was a fun comedy/adventure comic that well demonstrated Evan Dorkin’s penchant for being able to mix actual emotional drama with wild comedy. It’s another indie of yesteryear that I miss…unlikely to ever return, but at least I still have all the original issues to continue enjoying. And, of course, that wonderful original drawing.

It cost me two dollars in American loot (two-sixty Canadian).

§ July 21st, 2021 § Filed under indies, original art § 4 Comments

At some point in the early 1990s, someone decided to hold a comic convention in our area, specifically in a large building at the Ventura Fairgrounds. It was also the same day as the usual giant swap meet that generally occupied the entire venue, so there were enormous crowds not there for the comic show that we had to navigate in order to set up our shop’s presence there.

Thirty years on I can’t recall much about the event beyond the inconvenience of trying to get in an’ out of there (especially during the middle of the day when one of us had to run back to the shop for something we needed). I do however recall three specific things (and one “maybe” thing):

1. Ol’ Forrest J. Ackerman speaking to a small but rapt group of fans, all of whom (Forry included) sitting on a bunch of folding chairs just kinda in the middle of the floor of the show, no separate room, nothin’ roped off. Just everyone kinda sittin’ there. They seemed to be enjoying themselves, especially Mr. Ackerman, a person I understand totally enjoying talking about stuff.

2. I bought a copy of volume one of the Action Comics Archive Edition for ten bucks in an auction.

3. The “maybe” thing: I believe it was at this show I picked up a group sketch by Evan Dorkin of the Pirate Corp$ cast for another ten bucks, from a fella who’d been active in the local comics retail scene at the time and was just trying to unload a bunch of his stock. Boy, I haven’t seen him in decades…I can’t even remember his name at this point. (Was it “Greg?” I can’t recall.) But I still have the sketch, framed and on display in the house! Anyway, if it wasn’t at this specific show, it was certainly around this time.

Remind me to scan and post that Pirate Corp$ sketch at some point.

And for 4) we’re back to a specific memory of this show, where cartoonist Mike Kazaleh was a guest, signing comics and drawing sketches for the folks who came to his table. Now, Mr. Kazaleh had then just started drawing for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics published by Archie, and that was the big selling point for his appearance at the show. As such, it appeared to be all TMNT all the time for him as he interacted with guests, drawing pics of Michelangelo and the other not-as-good Turtles, signing TMNT comics, and so on.

Now I was (and still am!) a fan of Kazaleh’s work, particularly of his creator-owned sci-fi anthropomorphic comic book series Adventures of Captain Jack. So, between waves of children hitting his table, I made my way over there, told him I was a fan, and asked if I could buy a sketch of Captain Jack.

Well, clearly he was surprised that there was actually someone there asking about something that wasn’t teenage or mutated or reptilian. He drew a quick but nice drawing in his sketchbook, ripped out the page, and handed it to me.

I said “Great! How much do I owe you?”

He replied “oh man, I’m just happy someone asked me about Jack. You can have it for free.”

Me: “Ah geez, I gotta pay you something.”

MK: “…Okay, how ’bout a dollar?”

Me: “Only a dollar? That’s not enough! …Look, I’ve got two dollars.”

MK: “Okay, sure!”

We had a pretty good laugh, and though I don’t remember the details of the other conversation we had, I do recall that I enjoyed talking to him. And yes, I should have at least given him $10, since that seemed to be the amount I was handing out at that show. If Mr. Kazaleh would like the additional eight dollars, I’ll happily send it his way.

Over the years, the sketch got stored away between some move or two over the last decade or so, where it stayed until I recently started digging through some boxes and pulling out some of my own old artwork. Now I have it out, and I need to find a frame for it.

And of course I’ve also finally scanned scanned it so I can show it off to you folks. I had to do a little brightness/contrast adjusting to maximize its visibility, as the art’s lines are pretty light. The actual paper is white, not this dingy color, I promise:


Isn’t that nice? I miss Captain Jack comics. I miss a lot of those ’80s/early ’90s indies.

Variation is the soul of Whit, man.

§ July 19th, 2021 § Filed under variant covers § 8 Comments

So Sunday morning I was checking my email and noticed a message caught in the spam filter from someone asking about selling his stacks of 1960s comics. “NICE TRY, SPAM FILTER” I declare as I rescue the message and quickly respond with a “yes please, I would like to take a look at your ’60s comics.”

Now whenever someone says “I have old comics for sale” or “I have some original 1940s books I’m lookin’ to let go” a good portion of the time they turn up with, I don’t know, Marvel Team-Ups from 1983 or something. In general, I don’t hold my hopes up too high until I can actually see the comics in my hands. And even then I still don’t get my hopes up too high because there’s no telling if the seller “researched” prices online and decided that anything less than the $200 price some lunatic on Amazon put on this actually-valued-at-$4 comic would kill the deal.

As it turned out, the fella did have actually honest-to-Granny-Goodness 1960s comics, which were all actually his and purchased off the stands during his youth. Apparently he was cleaning out his mother’s house and discovered that she’d kept all these boxed away in the garage. So, you know, good on Mom for not throwing these away.

And I was able to make an offer that he was agreeable to, so I wrote him a check, and he walked out happy and I now have a new batch of funnybooks into which to dive. I did a small Twitter thread about it if you’d like to see some photographs, eh, he asked you knowingly.

“What’s all this got to do with variant covers?” I hear you asking, somehow, from all the way over here while you’re standing over there. As it turned out, this gentleman’s collection contained a lot of Dell and Gold Key comics, as a collection from this period is wont to have. He noticed, as he was making a list of his books, that there were several titles that carried over from Dell to Gold Key, and he wondered what exactly the deal was between the two companies, if one bought the other out or something similar.

Now luckily for me I’d read Mark Evanier’s explanation of the relationship between the two companies/imprints. Granted it was a while back, so I double-checked this evening to make sure I was at least partially correct and I was close enough for horseshoes. (Very shortly, a company, Western Printing, generated content that Dell published and distributed, until eventually Dell and Western split and Western started publishing the content themselves under the name “Gold Key” — seriously, read Evanier’s article).

“Still not anything about variants,” you sez. While some Dell and Gold Key had variant covers (differing back covers, price variants, etc.) my focus here is going to be on Whitman.

“Oh, now what’s Whitman?” you ask, and frankly you’re asking too many questions. But here, Whitman was an imprint used by Western for, among other things, comics distributed, usually in three-packs, to toy stores, department stores, that sort of thing…in general, non-newsstand distribution. While the “Gold Key” log would appear on copies distributed as normal periodicals:


…the copies appearing in 3-packs would have the Whitman logo


I presume at least one of the reasons was to prevent unscrupulous retailers attempting to get stripped cover returns using non-newsstand copies, though I’m not sure if the timeliness of the 3-pack releases would have allowed for getting copies back in the alloted return window for each issue anyway.

This dual-distribution resulted in several of Western’s releases having Whitman and Gold Key variants. And not just Western’s books…they also redistributed DC Comics into similar 3-packs, all with Whitman logo rebranding. For example, here’s a comic I remember having in a Whitman edition as a kid, Superman #327. Here’s the regular cover:


…and here’s the one with “Whitman” just slathered all over it:


And of course there were Marvel Whitman variants, such as the Star Wars issues distributed in 3-packs:


…but not with the Whitman logo. This was how I got the first six issues of Star Wars, via the 3-packs in Toys ‘R’ Us. (I think I got at least one pack of three later issues of the series from there as well.) Not sure why there was no Whitman logo on these.

Outside the 3-packs, there were Whitman variants of some of Marvel and DC’s oversized treasury editions, such as Marvel Special Edition #1:


…and of course All-New Collectors’ Edition #C-56:


…presumably produced again for outside-newsstand distribution. (I can tell you my Whitman Superman Vs. Muhammad Ali copy came new distributed through direct-to-schools book sales.)

Now I may be a little fuzzy on the details regarding production and distribution of these books, but ultimately these variant editions do exist. And, for a long time I noticed during my early years in comics retail resistance to purchasing Whitman editions when there were regular editions of the comics to be had. (It should be noted that not every Whitman comic, especially with properties controlled by Western, had a “regular logo” cover, particularly in the late ’70s/early ’80s. And some issues were only distributed in 3-packs with Whitman logos.)

That resistance has gone away, unsurprisingly, but it predates the current panic over “nouveau hot” comics of lat. Granted, the recent speculation market has only aggravated things (a search online for “Whitman variants” sure brings up a lot of people happy to tell you how rare and hot they are). However, I do have to admit they are much harder to find now, and they are alternate editions, so I must reluctantly accept that not everything in the comics market now is not absolutely 100% the same as it was when I started over three decades ago. [Insert clip of Garth from Wayne’s World declaring “we fear change” here.]

I am reminded of a two-or-three pack of Heavy Metal and a Warren mag or two that I bought when I was far too young to be buying it. Was this another Whitman repackaging, or some other company trying to unload excess copies? Perhaps an investigation for another time.

Updated!

§ July 16th, 2021 § Filed under blogging about blogging is a sin § No Comments

Added the completed cover to my post about Wanted: The Rodent!

“WANTED: FONTSMOOTHING.”

§ July 16th, 2021 § Filed under zines § 3 Comments


So a long time ago (early summer 1991, judging by the date on the file) customer Dave asked me if I’d like to contribute a cover to his mini-comic Wanted: The Rodent. I apparently agreed, and began production on it.

Pictured above is the main image for the cover, generated on whatever type of Macintosh I had at the time (may have still be the ol’ SE, but I might have upgraded to the LC II at this point). As you can see, I had a thing for that “brick” paint fill, which you saw on my “Hawk the Sensitive Skinhead” strip I showed you a few days ago. And also like that Hawk strip, I asked my dad to use valuable company time and resources to print out a copy or three on the business laser printer.

Once I got those printouts, I proceeded to cut ‘n’ paste my handdrawn image of the book’s hero, that wanted Rodent his own self (an anthropomorphic rat clad in cape and domino mask) on top of the background, which I thought looked reasonably good. I then handed a copy of the piece in to Dave, keeping the original for myself, natch, and at this late date I can’t remember if he ever got around to printing that mini-comic or not. At least, I don’t have a copy of it in my collection (though I do have another, earlier, Rodent comic he did).

And as you can tell by the lack of an image of the final product in this post, I don’t even seem to have a copy of the assembled piece. Or, at least, it’s not in any of the areas where I’ve kept my scribblings. I have folders of drawings of mine dating back to sometime around 1st or 2nd grade, but somehow this finished piece from a mere (checks watch) 30 years ago seems to have gone AWOL.

I can still remember the drawing as if I’d just done it. The upper chest along the bottom edge of the image, slightly right of center, the Rodent gritting his teeth and with a determined look on his face (it was the time for that sort of hero, after all).

Anyway, I still like this image, and I remember liking the final product, even if those “clouds” in the background make it look like the Rodent was about to defend the Earth from giant space doobies. And yes, the phone number is a Star Trek reference. Look, I was a 22-year-old dork, of course that was going to happen.

Watch This Space…if I find a copy of the completed picture I’ll post it here (and let you know in a future post, of course).

EDIT: no, really, WATCH THIS SPACE as I just now found a copy of the final piece…and did get a few details wrong so I’ll update later today. (No scanner at home so it’ll have to wait ’til I’m at work.)

EDIT 2: as promised, the final assembled image!


A couple of note: my memory that I had my dad print that background for me on a laser printer was incorrect, as I obviously printed the pic on…something a little more primitive. The old dot-matrix-y Imagewriter, maybe? Anyway, it was very light in color, which I contrast adjusted for the scan here.

Also, I could’ve sworn I had the Rodent with a clenched fist raised up in front of him, like he was ready for a fight. I guess the gritted teeth expressed that enough!

Or just dump ’em all in a shoebox.

§ July 14th, 2021 § Filed under collecting, zines § 4 Comments

So my former boss Ralph was at my shop this past weekend, helping me out with some things and stuff. I still had the Gouda Gazettes featuring in a post here last week, and being that it was from Ralph’s store I originally obtained these back in the ancient 1980s, I took the opportunity to ask him if he had any more details on these. I was wondering who these guys were, about how old they were, if they did more issues than this, that sort of thing.

Alas, Ralph didn’t even remember having these in his shop, so no more info was forthcoming. However, I did ask him if he remembered carrying another ‘zine at about the same time, and he did — 60 Miles North from 1983:


Now undoubtedly you see how it’s packaged here, which brings me to Keef’s comment from last week:

“What do you use for Zine storage? Modern boxes are too big. I found some weird boxes at Office Depot that work if you use ‘em sideways, but… I’ve always wanted something proper.”

As you see above, Keef, I just put ’em in a regular ol’ bag and board and then store them in a standard comic storage box. There are probably other storage solutions involving differently sized boxes, but I feel this is the simplest solution, using (usually) readily available supplies. I mean, I could bag ’em all up in paperback sleeves, or digest sleeves, and so on, but this way the storage box is uniform with others, and the comics inside are in mostly uniform protective packaging. Given the wide variety of sizes ‘zines like this can come in, putting them in bags and boards like this keeps the smaller ones from getting lost in the shuffle.

The Gouda Gazettes are a little wider, so I had to put those in Silver Age bags and boards:


…but even still, bagged and boarded, it fits nicely in the box along the much smaller, but still in a standard bag/board, Things Not to Say to a Comic Shop Employee by a young cartoonist of some note:


…which, by the way, you can read right here.

The smallest comics thingie in my collection is this mini, Baby! from my pal Fred, measuring about 2 1/4 by 2 1/4 inches:


…but it folds open into a larger work. And the pic’s a bit blurry…sorry about that, but just as well as that cover’s a little naughty.

So Keef, I hope that helps. Rather than trying to find protective packaging and storage to fit the variously-sized mini-comics and ‘zines, it’s easier to make them fit into the boxes you’ve got. Easier to find the supplies you need, easier to keep them organized…because you never know when you’ll have to pull your copy of this comic out of your collection:

Double your variants, double your fun.

§ July 12th, 2021 § Filed under Uncategorized, variant covers § 11 Comments

So when I was a kid, there were only two comics (that I recall anyway) that I purchased off the stands and were “double-covered” — in other words, an error in the manufacturing process attached a second cover attached over the first. One was this issue of Star Trek:


…and the other, this Batman Special:


And being a Comic Book Collector, I of course removed those second covers and used them as decoration in my bedroom.

Now double-covers are sort of pushing the line a bit in my ongoing variant cover-age, as these aren’t usually created by publishers on purpose as sales incentives (titles like Lobo’s Back and Comic Book Guy: The Comic Book excepted, of course).

However, they are cover-related alterations to your standard comic book that can attract buyer attention. Technically an “error,” but not one that affects the intended usage of a comic (like missing or misordered pages). It’s a value add, in a way, and for collectors of older books it creates the possibility of finding a cover in good shape beneath the extra outer cover that protected it all these years.

I’ve heard tell of comics with three or four covers accidentally affixed to a standard comic book, but I would guess that too many extra covers slipping through to a single book would gum up the printing works. And speaking of which, as time has gone on, this type of error was decreased as technology improved. The modern double-cover is a rarity.

But on older comics…well, they’re still rare, but they’re out there. Amazingly, over the thousands upon thousands upon thousands of older comics I’ve processed for sale at the previous place of employment and at my own store, I can’t honestly remember the last time I found a double-cover. Which may be why it was such a surprise when a couple of days ago I came across an example on this copy of Daisy and Donald #2 from 1973:


Well, that was pretty neat, thought I. Then, on Sunday, my former boss Ralph (who was at the shop helping me get more old comics processed) found this Flash #345 from 1985:


Now hopefully you can see why I had double-covers on the brain of late.

These comics 1) aren’t necessarily valuable or in huge demand in the first place, and 2) aren’t anywhere close to pristine condition and the difference in the shapes of the covers is relatively negligible, so I don’t know if the premium these comics will carry will be of any significance. However, given this crazy comics secondary market we’re existing in right now, I hesitate to say for sure what items such as these will go ultimately go for. Research is necessary, but again, the highly-mercurial nature of demand for collectibles in the presumably-latter-pandemic days may keep me from nailing down any price beyond “somewhat educated guess.”

Also, the double-covered Flash contains a Mark Jewelers ad bound inside:


…which is yet a whole ‘nother thing. As Ralph said about this comic, “you probably have the only double-covered Flash #345 with a Mark Jewelers ad in existence!”

A quick Googling to kick off my research turned up a page on identifying fake double-covered comics, which is not a thing I’d ever considered. But I suppose it’s the sort of thing that probably seems like an easy thing to do (along with reinserting inserts like Mark Jewelers ads or trading cards into comics where they were removed, or never these in the first place). Plus, once again, we’re in a marketplace right now where people are desperate for collectible comics, so this sort of activity has probably only increased.

And yes, I’ve looked at eBay too, and prices for double-covered books don’t seem to be too far out of range with what I’d expect for many of the featured comics. Lots of other variables are involved (whether it’s slabbed and graded, is a “key” issue, is Golden Age or not), so further investigation is needed as to whether or not I’m charging $1,000 for that Daisy and Donald. (That Flash, however, is at least $2,000, easy.)

All the cheese that’s fit to print.

§ July 9th, 2021 § Filed under zines § 5 Comments

Continuing the nostalgia trip from Wednesday’s post are these two free ‘zines which I picked up in the early ’80s at Ralph’s Comic Corner, the Ventura, CA comic shop that would, just a few short years later, eventually become my place of employment.

Here is issue #1 of Gouda Gazette:

…and here is #2:

I don’t know if these were the only two to come out. If there were more, I never saw them. These were 8 pages (two folded pieces of paper, unstapled), mostly handwritten text with illustrations, like this example from the poetry pages the comprised the centerspread of both issues:

…as well as the occasional comic strip:

The last page was given over to a continuing story titled “Beach Pad Blowout ’83” (with part one coming out in 1983, and part two in the second issue from ’84). This tale involved The Rats themselves, the group of folks responsible for the production of this publication (who went by names like “Mojo,” “Doodle,” “Mellow Roast,” and Squeaker,” though their secret identities were given in a credits box).

I can find no information online about them, which, I suppose, shouldn’t be a huge shock. Best I can surmise is that they were a comedy performance group of some sort, as the second issue contains the blurb

“Come see The Rats at Ventura College Theatre perform their political satire ‘Twisted World’ Jan. 29th 9:00 P.M. Yeah!”

Well, darn, 37 years later I’m kind of wishing I’d gone to see that. You know, put some of those names to faces.

Anyway, these two artifacts have been floating around in my possession for decades, in that I knew I never threw them out but I also never had any idea where I had them stored. A rational person would have kept them with my other comics and magazines, but they always seemed to end up in storage boxes with other papers.

Since this week I’d been digging through boxes looking for old computer stuff, I came across them again, and this time I made sure to 1) put them in bags and boards to continue to preserve them (surprisingly they’re still in pretty good shape) and 2) PUT THEM IN THE ‘ZINES BOXES WHERE THEY BELONG. Now, when I’m 70 years old in 2039, I’ll be able to go right to them when I want to look at them again.

In which I talk too much about a comic strip I drew 31 years ago.

§ July 7th, 2021 § Filed under wood eye § 4 Comments

So I’ve been in the process of recovering files from ancient (like, 30+ years old) 3 1/2 inch computer diskettes, such as old college papers, textfile back-ups from BBSes I used to frequent, and, yes, my occasional forays into what passed for digital art back then. I posted one sample here from 1991…a silly picture I even used as a start-up screen on my Mac for a while.

And then there was this, a digital comic strip I drew my own self:


My dad had a laser printer at work (an amazing piece of technology no mere college student such as myself could ever hope to afford), so I threw this made-entirely-in-MacPaint drawing on a disc and asked him to print out some physical copies for me.

Printing seemed to smooth out a few of the rough edges, and all the lines seemed a lot darker and thicker. Frankly, I think the printed product looked pretty good…and eventually,. during my Full-Frontal Harvey mini-comics days, I included said print out in one of our publications.

But here’s the image from the original file, in all its jagginess and “humor.” Mostly this was me seeing if I could do a digital cartoon, experimenting with the form, rather than trying to do a knock-out gag. (Figuratively, I mean…Hawk is pretty knocked about at the end there.) And…it looks okay, I guess. I’m no Mike Saenz but I accomplished what I was trying to do.

Some notes:

1. “Hawk” may or may not be named after an actual person I knew. YOU CAN’T PROVE NUTHIN’

2. All the figures in the crowd are the same, just copied-and-pasted over and over again, which I thought was kind of a neat trick at the time.

3. Some work files I made in prepping this strip included something I’d long forgotten about…I had actually written lyrics for Hawk to be singing. They are as thus:

Don’t know why I discarded these lyrics for the gag I ultimately used. I think they’re pretty funny and fitting for Hawk’s sensitive nature.

4. The band’s name “Choleric Wastrels” comes from a handle I used on a local BBS. I may or may not have used that account for some gentle trolling.

5. Why the “F” on the drum kit? I presume that stands for Hawk’s philosophy of “Fair Play,” just like Mr. Terrific.

6. The background in panel six I believe is the standard “brick” fill pattern that I went over with the eraser tool to rough it up a bit.

7. I *think* Hawk’s head shape in panel four is the same one from panel two, just flopped.

8. Somewhere are my layouts for a full (well, 8-page) Hawk mini-comic, in which he witnesses a hit-and-run car accident but somehow gets blamed for it when he tries to chase down the perpetrator. I seem to recall having a good ending to the strip, but this far out I can’t recall it, nor do I have any idea where those layouts may be. Alas, not digital so I won’t find ’em on the floppies I’m perusing…all handdrawn on actual paper, and there is a lot of paper in the boxes I’m looking through.

9. There was a handrawn Hawk strip also in 1990, which had a good gag, but there’s a line from an off-panel convenience store clerk that, in retrospect, didn’t age well. Fortunately the clerk wasn’t the butt of the joke…rather it’s about Hawk’s dichotomous nature of “Sensitive” vs. “Skinhead,” but still, it’ll require being returned for regrooving before reprinting here. Just didn’t know any better at the time.

10. For some reason I defaulted to “nuclear symbol” on shirts I’d draw for my characters. No meaning beyond “it looks cool.”

11. I was going to say that the guitar players on stage look like they’re playing mandolins, but knowing Hawk, maybe they were mandolins.

12. That’s a pretty good trashcan and bag of trash in that last panel, if I do say so myself.

Can’t think of much else to say about that strip. It was fun to make, and frankly I’m surprised I didn’t make more, though I’m finding other examples of digital drawings I slapped together at the time. That includes illustrations I made for the radio station program magazine at California Lutheran University, a school I wasn’t even attending! But that’s a story for another day.

Something old, something new, something variant, something blue.

§ July 5th, 2021 § Filed under variant covers § 11 Comments

In 1987, Marvel Comics finally married off its most arachnoid of bachelors: Peter Parker, the Amazing Spider-Man, was going to tie the knotted webbing with that jackpot of a redhead, Mary Jane Watson, in a vast multimedia event. The marriage was going to take place more or less concurrently in the shockingly long-running Spider-Man comic strip; in an actual live event, with actors and everything, and Stan Lee himself officiating, at New York’s Shea Stadium in front of a possibly perplexed audience waiting for the baseball game to start; and of course in the actual medium of funnybooks, in Amazing Spider-Man Annual #21.

Given its presence here in our ongoing series on variant covers, you’d be correct in guessing that variants were indeed offered for this momentous event. It may seem underwhelming by today’s standards, where the equivalent event would require a dozen or more different covers of varying availability based on retailer orders (“1 in 10,000 ratio variant, featuring Steve Ditko’s blood in the ink — DON’T ASK HOW WE GOT IT”) but two covers were provided.

Harking back to the then-recent Man of Steel #1’s strategy, the image on the front of the version provided to your regular newsstand outlets, like your Stop ‘n’ Elevens and such, featured Spider-Man in his fightin’ togs, a be-wedding-dressed Mary Jane by his side, while super-powered mayhem was about to ensue in the background:


Meanwhile, direct market copies, sold through comic book stores and other specialized markets, provided a more subdued portrait, with Peter Parker in his tuxedoed civvies as the supporting cast looks on:


The different covers were, of course, aimed at attracting different audiences. The superhero-y newsstand version was more likely to grab the eye of the casual browsers, whereas the dedicated Spider-Man reader patronizing the comic shops would 1) buy their Spidey comics anyway, regardless of cover, and 2) would be more likely to recognize the characters. And naturally, there’s reason 3, discussed before, in which retailers were able to order copies of the newsstand version as well, meaning they had both versions side by side on the rack. And, as we know from, oh, the three and half decades of the comics market, if you offer multiple covers, a non-zero percentage of customers will buy more than one of them.

In researching the matter over at the invaluable Comichron, their year-end review for 1987 singles out the Amazing Spider-Man Annual for special attention, noting that the comic was in fact delayed in release by the decision to go with a variant cover. And that Diamond Comic Distributor orders for the direct sales version were close to double its orders for the newsstand edition. In addition, newsstand orders were actually very high for Amazing at the time, and even throwing in orders from the other comics market distributor Capital…it looks like significantly more copies of the newsstand version with Spidey on the cover were printed than the Peter cover for comic shops.

Now as far as I can tell, after checking eBay listings and various online retailers, the newsstand cover sold through comic shops retained the standard UPC code, and wasn’t replaced with a promo message, or Spider-Man’s head, or something similar. Not even the black crossbar across the UPC’s face. Thus, it looks like the newsstand cover available on actual newsstands and in comic shops were identical? Printing two covers delayed things already, so printing additional variants with different UPC boxes was a problem with which they didn’t bother?

I don’t know…my own entry into working comics retail came a year after this, so I don’t have direct experience with it aside from buying a copy (the Peter Parker cover, natch, from the store I’d eventually work at). Any additional information is welcome and I will update this post accordingly.

About twenty years later, DC followed suit by marrying the most iconic romantic couple in superhero comics history, aside from Popeye and Olive: Superman (or rather, Clark Kent) and Lois Lane were to be wed! Which came as bit of a surprise, as in the comics the characters were on the outs, in a storyline intended to last a while, until the Lois and Clark TV show opted to have the characters wed in their storyline, goosing DC a bit to alter their own plans.

Whatever their motivation, DC ended up publishing Superman: The Wedding Album in 1996, featuring the official union of the two characters. And, you guessed it, with variant covers. There was the deluxe “Collector’s Edition,” a stiff embossed cover available exclusively in comic shops that’s just going to show up as all white here:


And there was the “standard edition,” which was the version available on newsstands:


Unlike Amazing Spider-Man #21 (again, far as I know), the “newsstand” edition available in comic shops did have an altered UPC code, reading “direct sales” in the box:


And there was an edition printed with this “DC Universe” logo:


…which you can read about on this site. In short, a reprinted version of the original that was apparently sold on a cable shopping network…I’m guessing probably for way too much.

Anyway, back to ye old Comichron for the month of November 1996, and it’s probably no surprise that the Wedding Album deluxe edition outsold the direct market version of the standard edition by about 4 to 1. (Not sure what sales were on the actual newsstand version, but I’m guessing comic book sales through non-comic shop venues in the mid-1990s were not great.)

Now for this wedding I was behind the counter, slingin’ those comical books, so I have a little more direct experience with this release. I don’t recall the exact numbers we ordered (though I do have possession of the old store’s mid-1990s invoices that my former boss passed along to me for research purposes…I should actually start researching those someday) but I’m reasonably certain our orders were along the lines of Comichron’s sales charts: a lot more of the deluxe edition, not so much of the standard one.

In general I noticed, that when given the option, most customers would spring for a fancier edition of a comic book. Yes, it cost a little more, but the perceived value sometimes outweighs the price difference. Sure, you can get the regular version for a buck less, but for only a buck more you can get all the bells and whistles. You don’t want to miss out on anything, after all.

But what’s interesting in this specific case, the “Collector’s Edition” and the “Standard” editions of Superman: The Wedding Album both retailed for the same cover price of $4.95. I imagine in some cases that made the decision easier…you gotta drop a fin to read the story anyway, might as well get more for your money: i.e. that fancy cover.

Personally, I went with the standard version. I mean, that white cover was neat an’ all, but I wanted an actual image I could see on the comic I bought. I mean, sure, okay, that John Byrne cover is a tad bland-ish, but it suffices. Plus, I just have an easier time reading a comic when I’m not fighting that thicker, stiffer cardboard cover. Your basic floppier paper cover is fine by me, and certainly easier to handle.

Most of our customers did not agree with me, however, and ’twas the deluxe edition that moved out the door. Though I should note that we did sell out of the standard version…our orders were lower, sure, but still enough demand to wipe us out of them. And we had plenty of the deluxe version left over…we sold a lot of them, absolutely, but the remnants stuck around a bit. I do wonder, if we had more of the standard edition initially, if there would have been more parity between the two? Later acquisitions of the standard edition in collections would sell quickly as a back issue, while the deluxe copy’s sales were moribund. So…who knows?

The dichotomy of newsstand versus direct sales variations is still fairly cut and dried at this point, with the actual cover image (or other specific qualities) being the main driver in demand. It had long been conventional wisdom that all other things being equal, a comic where the only difference whether or not a UPC code was present made no difference in pricing. But now it is no longer necessary to have an entirely different cover; just being a newsstand version of a comic, with a regular ol’ UPC code, is enough to send prices skyrocketing, in this new back issue market desperate for new things to be collectible to replace the scarcer old things that don’t seem to show up quite as often anymore.

But perhaps that’s something we can talk about next time.

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