This isn’t just an elaborate plug for my eBay auctions, I promise.

§ July 17th, 2007 § Filed under Uncategorized Comments Off on This isn’t just an elaborate plug for my eBay auctions, I promise.

In response to my post from Sunday, where I briefly touch upon a reason or two for the mid-’90s decline of the Punisher’s popularity, Alan David Doane had this to say:

“Those Punisher comics that tanked in the 1990s? That had to be in part at least because they weren’t very good, like most Marvel comics prior to the Heroes Return event that briefly ushered in an era of quality storytelling in some of Marvel’s core titles.”

And he’s right, that was probably part of the reason as well, and one I should have mentioned. While one could argue that for some fans, the consideration of “quality” for a comics purchase may not be as strong as an imperative to “keep the run complete” (insert cheap shot at any given X-book here), there does come a point where there is some crap even the most ardent fanboy won’t eat.

Plus, considering the huge attrition of consumers the market experienced during that point in history, all the investors and casual readers and “just buying out of habit” folks were long gone, finding other investments (Beanie Babies! Action Figures!) and other time-wasters (Video Games! Sidehacking!) with which they could occupy themselves. All that were left were the people who were actually reading the comics (and, admittedly, some of the more diehard “buying out of habit” folks), and the big companies couldn’t so easily get away with filling 23 pages with junk, slapping a die-cut holographic scratch ‘n’ sniff cover around it, and expect it to sell.

I’m not saying this was a 100% turn-around in buyers’ attitudes…but I think enough of the audience rejected what was being offered to them that, along with the other reasons I touched upon (overall declining sales, character burn-out), it was enough to end the Punisher’s reign as a “hot” character.

On a somewhat related note, an odd phenomenon I’ve noticed from selling on the eBay is the still-strong demand for Valiant Comics. Not your standard issue, monthly issues of Valiant Comics, but rather the “gold” editions, or the variant cover editions, or the signed books.

I think most comic fans would agree that Valiant Comics were, on average, pretty good, particularly during its initial years. This was at a time when a number of new “superhero universes” were being started by a variety of publishers, but Valiant, for whatever reason, became the star that shined the brightest. Malibu Comics’ Ultraverse, Dark Horse’s Comics’ Greatest World — they had their fans, but Valiant had the most across-the-board success.

It didn’t start out that way…I can still remember looking at a stack of unsold Harbinger #1s and thinking “Oh boy, we’re stuck with these.” A big part of Valiant’s eventual boost in popularity may be attributable to the then-booming comics fad, the influx of investors from the crashed sports card market, encouraging in investment by Wizard, and so on.

But, eventually, when the comics crash came, Valiant went with it (though the beginning of the end probably started with the departure of Jim Shooter, who oversaw Valiant’s shared universe). It lurched on, in varying incarnations, backed with video game money (and found many of its properties converted into games), and even now a high-end Harbinger hardcover reprint (with a new story) is on its way.

Anyway, back to the variants: one day, a few years back, searching for some goodies to throw on the eBay, I noticed that we had in the backroom a set of the two Unity trade paperbacks produced by Diamond Comics (which you can see here and here). I figured, hey, Valiant’s pretty much dead, I don’t think I can move these books locally, and they’re not doing any good taking up shelf space in the back…I’ll just sell ’em on the internet.

So on the eBay they went, and a week later, I had winning bids on both of them in the hundreds of dollars.

Needless to say, I was a bit flabbergasted.

A little research, starting then and over the years since, has revealed a healthy aftermarket for the rarer Valiant items. Alas, I didn’t have too many left…I had a “platinum” Unity #1 that sold for about $16, a handful of blue-variant Harbinger trades for about $10 to $12, on average. That doesn’t seem like much, but compared to how the non-variant Valiants sell, in the store and online (i.e. hardly at all), it’s certainly something.

I’m seeing a little more action on an auction I’m currently running for a Shadowman #0 Valiant Validated Signature Series, which, as I write this, is up to $46.00. (According to this page, guide value is $45.00, last recorded auction sale, in ’05, was $48.00.)

I suppose it’s possible that it’s a small group of hardcore Valiant collectors all competing for the same items, but it may just be that there’s still a sizable following for these titles, and are simply using the eBay now to fill holes in collections and acquire rare items that were unavailable to them at the time. There have also been a number of in-store requests for last issues of Valiant series (i.e. the ones with lower print runs).

By comparison, when I tried to auction off a semi-rare Diamond-produced Youngblood trade paperback, similar to those Unity trades, I received no bids. (Yeah, I know, what was I expecting?) Some of the Ultraverse variants, with the full-cover holograms…those auctions ended with low bids, if any at all. And I think I’d have better luck selling Comics’ Greatest World stuff if I stapled dollar bills to the covers.

I find it interesting that a recently-defunct comics company like this, especially one from the heyday of comics faddishness, is still attracting collectors. Usually when “hot” popular items are past their sell-by date, that’s it for them. But Valiants — at least the “rare” items — still have their buyers. My confidence for the long-term staying power of the company would be stronger if we saw more general interest in the regular, non-collectible, non-rare issues. But that there’s still any interest at all, and that there’s enough apparent interest to justify a new hardcover collection…well, that’s unusual enough to keep me watching further marketplace developments involving Valiant.

(For lots more info on Valiant Comics, including print runs, average pricing, etc., I highly recommend the Valiant Comics fan site, which I’ve already taken advantage of several times throughout this post.)

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