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Your Progressive Ruin 1981-2 Comics Investment Guide.

§ February 1st, 2019 § Filed under collecting § 10 Comments

So I was looking through the “Marvel Comics Guide to Collecting Comics,” a pull-out insert distributed within Amazing Spider-Man #234 (1982):

…and within, I found this little chart of then currently investible comic books:


According to the footnote:


…and unfortunately I don’t have a 1981/1982 price guide in front of me to compare prices, but let’s see what Marvel was pushing as “collectible” and how things compare to the modern marketplace.

While the collector’s guide is at least somewhat evenhanded in its dealing with other comic companies (it at least mentions they exist, even if it sort of downplays their importance in comparison to Marvel’s), it’s probably not surprising that only one DC title makes it to the chart. In fairness, there probably wasn’t a lot to choose from at the time that was still relatively obtainable and at least partially in demand. I mean, Metamorpho #1 was probably not too pricey at the time, but probably wasn’t burning up the back issue bins in the early ’80s. House of Secrets #92, perhaps, as a Swamp Thing movie was on the way and surely the huge success of that film would jumpstart demand for this decade-old book. On the other hand, New Teen Titans #1 was likely only listed because they could hardly ignore it, being one of the real hot books of the period. They probably would have happily used that spot for, I don’t know, Dazzler or something.

Anyway, #1 – Daredevli #158: Frank Miller begins his run on the title, and currently guides at $160 in NM. Still an in-demand item…all the Miller Daredevils still move very well for me. A good investment pick, Marvel Comics Guide to Collecting Comics writer!

#2 – Peter Parker [The Spectacular Spider-Man #27: haven’t had one of these in a while, but I remember it being a good seller at the old shop, though the guide price did seem to outstrip demand. This is another result of the “Frank Miller on Daredevil” mania that was going on at the time, as this issue featured Miller’s first work on ol’ Hornhead. $85 in NM now, though I wonder if it has the same level of demand as Miller’s owrk in DD.

#3 – [Incredible] Hulk #181: nope, can’t say I’ve heard of it.

Okay, fine, the first full-length story (and over appearance) of our favorite Canucklehead, Wolverine, which tends to go for bonkers prices. $4200 in NM, $4199.95 if it’s missing the Marvel Value Stamp. I could be a bit off on that second price. Anyway, that’s just the guide price…it’s all over the map online, and by “all over the map” I mean “still more money than most of us reading this would be willing to spend.” I’ve sold trashed copies of this for hundreds of dollars. Demand is over the top for it still.

#4 – X-Men #129: took me a second to remember what’s special about this specific issue of X-Men, aside from being in the middle of the classic run by Chris Claremont and John Byrne…a run still in heavy demand today. A quick check rmeinds me it’s the first appearance of Kitty Pryde, which is absolutely a significant event in the history of the series, the introduction of one of the now-quintessential members of the team. Hope she survives the experience! $160 in the guides now.

#5 – [New] Teen Titans #1: assuming they mean the comic by Marv ‘n’ George, of course. Still sells great. Guides for $70, which seems lowish…but the Marvel Comics Guide to Collecting Comics should have pushed the second issue, with the first appearance of Deathstroke the Terminator, as that now guides for $175. Hokey smokes.

#6 – Iron Man #115: boy, I had to look this one up. And it’s not even separated out from the issues around it in the current guide…numbers 101 through 117 are all lumped together, priced at $12 in NM each. The issue in question features John Romita Jr.’s first art on the title. Oh, and an Avengers appearance. …The Marvel COmics Guide to Collecting Comics should have plugged Iron Man #55, the first appearance of Thanos, a comic I get asked for nearly every day. For reference, that one guides for a mindboggling $1500.

#7 – Micronauts #1: $18 in NM now, but I don’t know if there’s a lot of demand for this right now. I mean, at this point in the list we’re into the stuff that will of course sell in higher conditions, as certain collectors are now looking for copies of Bronze Age books and will buy stuff like this because it’s it excellent condition, not because of any particular interest in Micronauts or whatever. By the way, I still don’t like the term “Bronze Age” — I mean, yes, “Golden Age” and “Silver Age” were marketing terms, too (“A Golden Age Classic” sounds better than “Here’s a reprint of some old comic we don’t have to pay anybody for”), but “Bronze Age” feels even more blatantly so. But perhaps I digress.

#8 – Rom #1: I was all ready to poke a tiny bit of fun at this, but the current guide has it at $75, amazingly! Guess I haven’t looked it up in a while. But this was a comic that had a fan following at the time, and still has some interest nowadays. Though, as folks found out, that interest of “nostaglia for Rom in the Marvel Universe” doesn’t necessarily translate to “sales on a new Rom comic that is separate from the Marvel Universe,” but What Can You Do?

#9 – Moon Knight #1: two words, please note. Moon Knight was a semi-hot character for a while, especially the issues that featured early work by Bill Sienkiewicz. Not a whole lot of demand now that I’ve noticed, though there’s an occasional blip in character awareness (such as the recent short run by Warren Ellis and Declan Shalvey). And that series that began in ’89 ran 60 issues was in quite a bit of demand both early on and, due to some artist-driven collectibilty, near the end of the run. But this series, from 1980…$40 in NM in the current guide. Like I noted with Rom, primarily in demand by folks looking for “key” Marvels of the period, rather than out of Moon Knight fandom. But I know Moon Knight fans are out there, don’t get me wrong! Don’t write in to complain!

#10 – Ka-Zar #1: hoo boy. So, not, like, Amazing Spider-Man #129, or Marvel Spotlight #5, but Ka-Zar. Look, not casting aspersions on the former pulp magazine character that’s legally nothing like Tarzan, but was Ka-Zar ever a “hot” character? I mean, he must have been at least of some interest, with multiple series over the years, but I don’t recall there being a lot of fan demand. Maybe I’m just not remembering. And I don’t know which series of Ka-Zar they’re even talking about here. I’m assuming it’s the 1981 series that had launched around the time of this Marvel Comics Guide to Collecting Comics (which now guides for $5), but there’s the 1970 series (#1 – $65) and the 1974 run (#1 – $28), both of which would have surely been more than $1.25 at the time.

So there you go…once you get your hands on that time machine that every comic book collector wishes s/he could have, you can go back properly informed as to which funnybooks you need to buy to make your fortune. Because surely that’s the wisest use of a time machine. Sorry JFK, too bad passengers on the Titanic, we need to get multiple copies of Rom #1 to seal in plastic slabs.

Guide prices I list above of course don’t necessarily reflect whatever shenanigans folks get up to on auction sites, or price bumps due to the aforementioned slabs, or whatnot. But that should give you an idea, anyway, of a specific era in time where even the big comic companies couldn’t ignore a burgeoning interest in comics collectibility.

This isn’t just an elaborate pretense to link to one of my eBay listings.

§ January 4th, 2019 § Filed under cerebus, collecting § 8 Comments


So a long time ago, at the previous place of employment, we had two copies of Cerebus #1. One was an authentic copy, personally hauled by Dave Sim from his local printer to his home by the boxload, presumably. The other was one of those rotten, no-good, genuine counterfeit copies that some nefarious nogoodnik produced at the time, to take advantage of whatever secondary market was building up around this weird Canadian parody of Conan the Barbarian.

Frankly, I’m surprised this sort of thing didn’t happen more often, particularly on the, shall we say, not-so-slickly produced small press titles that somehow ended up with a surprising mark-up in value. Granted, it didn’t happen a whole lot, and prices qould have to be awfully high to justify the cost of printing counterfeits…I mean, for the cost of printing “fake” copies of anther person’s comic, why not just put the resources into doing your own? Probably make just about as much money, when all is said and done. Anyway, I believe issue #2 of Cerebus was bootlegged as well, supposedly, and weren’t some of the early Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles copied as well? Wouldn’t surprise me.

But, yes, at one time at the shop, as I was saying, we had both the real and the ersatz earth-pig debut issues. Can’t remember their prices now, but they weren’t very cheap, and we ended up selling them both to the same person (one of our regulars, and a huge Cerebus fan). For a time, though, it was pretty neat to have ’em in the shop, just to be appreciated as the physical objects they were. Yes, there were plenty of reprints of the contents, which I had, but there’s just something about having the actual item in your hand, the crudely-printed (oddly enough, the counterfeit slightly less crudely-printed) amateur publication that represented an individual’s imagination and triumph in getting it all down on paper and out into the world.

I’ve read all of Cerebus. The “High Society” sequence and (to a very slightly lesser extent) “Church & State” remain absolute pinnacles of comic book storytelling. Even as the series wore on and became…well, let’s say “less accessible,” the illustrative standards of Sim and partner Gerhard emained remarkably high (well, aside from those issues near the end that were mostly text). Even the handlettering was nearly unmatched by anyone in the business.

I’ve mentioned this on the site before, but some of you reading this may not have been born yet, so I’ll repeat it here. I was first exposed to Cerebus via an article in the old Starlog Press magazine Comics Scene. I thought it sounded pretty cool, but with newsstands being my source for comic books, I didn’t have access to the beginnings of the indie comics boom. That changed in the early ’80s, when I found out about the shop that would eventually become my job, and suddenly I had more indie comics than I knew what to do with.

I still didn’t get into Cerebus at that point, however, because I figured “well, it’s been going on a while, it’s too hard to catch up,” and that’s how it went until a couple of years later, a friend of mine brought a copy of #74 to school and let me read it. Aaaand that was it, I was pretty much hooked. I bought the latest issue next time I went to the store, and over the next few years (including some of my initial months working at the shop, beginning in ’88) I slowly acquired all the previous issues…

…Except for the first 25. At the time, there were the Swords of Cerebus collections, which reprinted all those issues. That was good enough for me, I thought then…the issues starting at #26 were already pricey enough, the earlier ones even more so, making the Swords books a sufficient alternative. Plus, they had short stories exclusive to them, which was a nice bonus.

The reason I bring all this up is that, after seeing a link or something on the Twitters, I got to thinking about those early issues again. I divested myself of a good portion of my collection when I opened my own store, but I kept my Cerebus…I mean, yes, sure, there’s no real back issue market for them anymore, but that wasn’t the main reason. It was because I liked those comics, I put a lot of effort into starting that collection. And even if the latter part of the series felt like a…I’m not quite sure how to put it. A divergence, maybe, from the promise and the storytelling of the first half of the series, but it still remains an achievement, for all its flaws. It’s Dave’s comic, he could do what he wanted with it, and who am I to judge, but I can’t help but feel what I got in the end was not what I was waiting for. That’s what art does, sometimes.

Okqy, I really wasn’t trying to delve into the criticism of the series…there’s plenty of that out there, and…yeah, they ain’t wrong. What I was thinking about recently, however…the thing that brought us all here today, was that old standby, the collector’s urge. The need to “fill the gaps,” as it were, to scratch those numbers off the ol’ creased and tattered checklist. Not that I’m been actively seeking the first 25 issues of Cerebus this whole time, but I got to thinking about them again, and about how I loved acquiring each new back issue to add to my run, how each individual issue felt like something special, with those great covers. Like, back to that #1 we had, it was a representation of someone’s dream put directly in my hand. Not a corporate character produced out of some huge, professional publishing house. It was like one of series of letters, from my Canadian pal Dave who wanted to tell me a story.

Realistically, I don’t know if I’m actually going to go through with trying to track these down. I don’t think I’ve had one of the early issues show up at my own shop yet in any collections. Well, there were the pro-graded copies of #8, #10 and #12 that a friend…actually, the very same friend who brought that #74 to school so long ago…had me sell on his behalf. I still have the #8, and there is a very small temptation to just keep it and pay my pal for it. I won’t, as Businessman Mike outvotes Fanboy Mike here, but I’m definitely keeping an eye out for reasonably priced copies now.

“Reasonably priced” is the trick, of course. A quick glace at the eBay reveals all kinds of prices on the earliest issues. Even the counterfeit #1, once listed with no value in the price guide, is selling for well over a grand (in one of those plastic slabs, of course). Quite a bit over whatever we sold ’em for at the old shop, I’m sure.

I do have the run of Cerebus Bi-Weekly, which reprinted all those early issues in their entirety, including editorial matter, letters pages, and ads, but it’s not quite the same. I realize it’s a fetishizing of those originals, when technically I already have everything that’s present inside them. I do really enjoy them, though, and while I may not love what Cerebus eventually became, I still have that strong nostalgic love for what it was, and how I felt as I slowly pieced it all together. Wanting my own copies of those initial almost-a-baker’s-two-dozen issues almost certainly stems from a desire to recapture that feeling, an old fan’s desire for when times were simpler, and the fun of collecting was at its peak.

Oh great, I’m going to have to make sure I have both the direct and newsstand editions of all my Swamp Thing comics.

§ November 30th, 2018 § Filed under batman, collecting, retailing § 3 Comments

So I may have been a little quick to dismiss the whole “direct market vs. newsstand editions” thing from the other day. Let’s start with this comment emailed to me by Reader John:

“I wanted to add another distinction in the direct market vs newsstand discussion. It’s my understanding that some collectors (or perhaps they’re speculators) prefer newsstand copies released after 1988 or so because of a belief that the newsstand copies are rarer and thus more valuable (especially in higher grades since those tend to get mangled on the racks as you pointed out on Twitter). You can see this in the asking prices of auctions for Spawn #1 on eBay.

“Personally, I think it’s ridiculous that whether a comic has a UPC or an ad/Spidey head in a white box on the cover can affect the value of that book. For that matter, I also think that the presence of a jewelry ad insert should not add value to a comic either, but apparently some collectors do.

“Interestingly, there is one small subset where a logo instead of an UPC is considered more valuable by certain collectors. In the mid 90’s, after DM copies had UPC’s, DC did some multipacks sold outside of the direct market. The comics included in these had a DC Universe logo in the UPC box. I once had someone offer me $100 for an issue of pre-Zero Hour Legionnaires (I don’t think it was even one of the Adam Hughes covers, but I might be wrong.) just because of that logo!

“Off the record, I took his $100 and used it to purchase several mid-grade silver age Adventure issues.

“Thank you for taking the time to read this!”

Some of these points were also brought up by other commenters on Wednesday’s post, and Thelonious_Nick pointed out this page on the Mile High Comics site which goes into detail regarding their handling of newsstand comic pricing. And the reason I even mentioned it on Twitter in that link I edited into John’s comment above was that, totally coincidentally, one of my regular customers brought up the very topic to me at the shop, mentioning how newsstand editions are often harder to find in higher conditions due to poor customer handling and/or lack of attention from the sellers, as opposed to stores run by annoyances like me who are all “AUGH! Don’t bend the comics!”

As John noted, I just haven’t had that much experience with folks specifically looking for newsstand editions versus the direct market editions (specifically those just differing in their UPC codes or lack thereof). That’s just a clientele I haven’t noticed over the years, and as I’ve repeatedly reminded any of you who happen to glance my way, I’ve been doing this for many, many years. Okay, it could be collectors are seeing those out on the sly, not cluing in your pal Mike that’s what they’re after in the off-chance I’d decide to bump up the price on said books (…who, me?). But after all this time I figure at least someone would put in a request like that, pulling a comic out of the bins and asking “do you have the newsstand version of this?”

Also brought up in the comments by Nicholas is the fact that sometimes the direct market editions of certain comics would have some extra art ‘n’ such in the UPC box, replacing the missing UPC code. Usually it would be filled with company-promoting slogans like “The New DC! Stop Us Before We Kill Again” or “Have You Read This Crossover Yet? C’mon, What, You’re Too Good for It?” But as was mentioned as an example, Todd McFarlane would often fill the UPC box with extra bits of art, which could make the direct editions a little more appealing to the Spidey fan.

This has given me something to think about, or at least pay closer attention to, as you might imagine. I’ve spent a long time with the assumption stuck in my head that there’s no real difference between the two versions if the only difference is the presence of a UPC code. Well, I guess that isn’t necessarily the case. I don’t know that I’ll be going through and raising prices on my newsstand variations, but at least now I’m a little more aware of the phenomenon.

• • •

I saw discussion here and there online that it’s the 30th anniversary of the whole “Death of Robin” call-in-and-vote Batman thing, and I just wanted to point out that this was the first major regular-public-attracting comics event I had to deal with from behind the counter, rather than as a the mere mortal comics fan I was just a few mere weeks prior. I think I’ve spoken before about how I don’t have quite the recall of this hoohar that I do of the not-that-much-later “Death of Superman,” but I certainly remember the phone calls and the concerned walk-ins and so on. Speaking of newsstand versus direct editions, the version of Batman #427 had the phone number to call to vote on Robin’s fate, and the newsstand edition didn’t. Either version still flies out the door, regardless.

If it’s one thing I need, it’s more “to read” piles of comics at home.

§ November 9th, 2018 § Filed under collecting § 3 Comments

So I’ve been going through box after box after box of comics at the store, just piles of ’em from collections acquired over the last few years, and finally making some headway in getting the processed and put out for you, the people, to come and buy.

I’ve been pretty good about not pulling from said boxes to fill my own collection…plenty of stuff I’d love to have, but I’d love to make money on selling it even more. By and large I just keep to filling holes in the ol’ want list on things I’ve been seeking out for years, like some of the Atlas/Seaboard comics from the ’70s, and fanzines of pretty much any period. Oh, and the occasional Charlton Popeye.

Jumping back a bit, to back when I was but a mere non-comics-retail-working mortal, like most of you common folk out there, I was pretty good about picking up comics I was interested in. Particularly throughout the 1980s, when DC and Marvel discovered he idea of “mini-series” and put out a boatload of purposefully short-run titles, many of which caught my eye and were dutifully snatched off the racks by my young allowance-stretching self.

However, there were a couple of series that I wanted to pick up, but, for reasons long forgotten by God and man (but probably related to “that allowance can only stretch so far”) I never did get around to acquiring. One such as Sword of the Atom, basically “The Atom as Tiny Conan the Barbarian,” featuring some of that great 1980s-style Gil Kane art that the Kane purists may have pooh-poohed at the time but that I really enjoyed.

As it turned out, a run of that original Sword of the Atom was present in the stacks upon stacks of comics I was processing, and set it aside for myself. It did inspire me to check the ol’ Diamond Comics database to see if a trade paperback existed, collecting this mini-series and the three subsequent specials (which I did not have in the piles here at the shop, far as I could tell). There was a trade, published in 2007, and apparently long out of print, and going for some not-terribly-high but more-than-Mike-wanted-to-pay prices on your eBays and your Amazons and such.

Mentioning my quest for the remainder of this series did bring pal Nat into the shop with the first special for me, which was very nice of him. However, a Twitter pal picked up a copy of the trade in the clearance bin at his local shop for dirt cheap, and it is now winging its way to me via the tender mercies of the post office. Thus, with its eventual arrival, that will be one less missing comics experience from my youth. And I’ll be able to put those issues of the mini-series back out for sale…though I’m not sure what to do with the special, since Nat gave that to me as a gift. I’ll have to ask if he wants it back!

Now another comic that I inexplicably passed on during its original run was Night Force by Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan. I was reading New Teen Titans at the time, and in issue #21 there was a special 16-page free insert previewing the forthcoming Night Force title.

Now, I liked that preview. I was into Gene Colan’s super-moody art, and I was enjoying Wolfman’s work on Teen Titans, and I was a fan of horror comics…or at least the weird, creepy off-on-the-distant-edges-of-the-main-fictional-universe books like, oh, say, Swamp Thing. But, again, like with Sword of the Atom, and for probably similar reasons, I did not pick up with series.

Not much later, the main character of Night Force, Baron Winters, plays briefly into one of Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing storylines, which just sort of added to the “well darn, should have picked up that series” feeling I had. But I still didn’t. Even working at the other comic shop which had no end of full runs of Night Force (only 14 issues long, mind you) didn’t get me off my duff to pull a set aside for myself.

Many years later, a collected hardcover edition of that series was announced, and I sort hemmed and hawed over getting one for myself at the time. I did wait, however, and not too long ago I did finally get my hands on a new copy of the book for a bargain price. And I’m glad I waited…the printing on the original comics wasn’t awful, but seeing Colan’s art recolored on nice paper is a real treat.

Its title of “The Complete Collection” is bit of a misnomer, in that there were two follow-up series (in 1996 and 2012)…these were also written by Wolfman, but drawn by Brent Anderson (2nd series) and Tom Mandrake (3rd series). Not collected, and probably harder to find in the back issue bins. If only I’d bought that first series at the time, then I would have bought series 2 and 3 as they were coming out, and I wouldn’t be in this mess now.

And there’s your little bit of insight into what your pal Mike still gets for himself. I mean, I even bought the full run of Spanner’s Galaxy at the time, I have idea why I passed up those two series.

“BRIAAAAANNNNN!!!” [shakes fist]

§ August 13th, 2018 § Filed under collecting, Uncategorized § 4 Comments

So this Twitter discussion with Pal Andrew got me nostalgic, in a way, for my days of comic collecting just prior to my frequenting dens of iniquity, er, I mean, comic shops…well, okay, same difference. Anyway, I was thinking back to my comic buying progression, from occasional purchases from grocery stores and newsstands, to buying those three-packs of Star Wars comics at Toys ‘R’ Us, to digging through stacks of old comics at used bookstores, to making the rounds on my bicycle of all the local convenience stores and that one nearby grocery store.

It was one day in 1983, while going to one of those convenience stores that was a little farther afield trying to track down an issue of something or other, that I ran into a friend of mine from school. I told him what I was up to, and he said “oh, you should check out Ralph’s Comic Corner, it’s a comic book store in Ventura, they should have what you’re looking for,” and thus did my long association with that store begin, leading to my evenual employment there, and of course to opening up my own store. So, should anyone ever ask how I ended up in my current situation, you can blame old schoolmate Brian Lindquist, wherever he may be now.

Not to say that Ralph’s was my first-ever comic shop. I visited one in Simi Valley prior to that, after having seen an ad or a coupon or something cluing me into its existence. That was a slightly further trek to make than the relative closeness of Ventura, so we didn’t go to that store very often (I think ultimately only about a half-dozen times, at most, including that one time I met Chris Claremont).

But, as I was saying, before delving deep into the world of THE DIRECT MARKET and all its horrors, I had various places around town that I’d hit up for comics, some relatively close, some requiring a little more of a journey, and you’d have to check them most of them out on a pretty regular basis to make sure you were seeing all the newest releases. The aformentioned grocery store usually had a pretty good selection, and, especially during the summer, more than once I’d show up on New Arrival Day just a little too early only to see the uncut bundles of comics sitting in a cart, waiting for some probably overworked employee to finally find the time to open ’em up and toss them on the rack.

The one place that was more of a “last resort” was a convenience store that was a little farther away than the rest, so I didn’t go there too often, especially since they inexplicably charged tax on comics (something that periodicals weren’t subject to in Califoria at the time), and even worse, sometimes the comics would have a price sticker directly affixed to the front covers! Eep! On the other hand, that particular shop was the one place I ever saw the Superman Spectacular out in the wild, which is still one of my favorite Superman stories, so I can’t think of it with too much disdain.

The best place in town to get comics was a place deep in Oxnard called the Strand Newsstand, which had pretty much everything. Tons of magazines, lots of paperback books, the extensive porn wing, and, of course, multiple spinner racks of comical books. Once I started going there (and we went there weekly, both my dad and I), my need to circulate amongst the other convenience stories pretty much declined (though I’d still pop in once in a while to tide me over between Strand visits). The weird thing about this newsstand, which has me wondering about their distributor situation, is that they’d occasional get stuff that primarily would go through the comic shop direct market. PC Comics, such as Groo and the Berni Wrightson Master of the Macabre, I found there. Fanzines like The Comic Reader. The first issue of Don Rosa’s Comics & Stories. The Comics Journal. And they seemed to get things a little bit earlier than my other funnybook sources, too.

Whatever the reason for their comic stocking advantages, this store became the place for me to get my regular comics fix…even after discovering Ralph’s Comic Corner, this place was still closer to us and I split my purchases between both shops. Eventually, I did more or less fully migrate over to just buying from Ralph’s, especially once I started seeking out back issues.

A lot of those places I used to buy from have since closed up shop, or stopped carrying comics…presumably for reasons unrelated to my no longer visiting them. It’s certainly a lot easier for me now to stay on top of gathering the comics I want to read, since all I have to do is wait for them to show up at my store after I order them. (I mean, theoretically, given the usual vagaries of our supplier.) Definitely more convenient, but somewhat…lacking in the mystery and excitement I used to feel traveling from shop to shop wondering what will be there, what new comic will I discover, what new stories will I hardly be able to wait to get home to read.

“Coverless Plus” isn’t a real grade, but IT SHOULD BE.

§ July 18th, 2018 § Filed under collecting, retailing § 3 Comments

So the other day one of my regulars dropped by with a comic book he’d purchased via mail order, and he wanted my opinion on its grade. It was sold (and indeed, the backing board was marked) as a “9.0,” which works out to be Very Fine to Near Mint in Overstreet Price Guide terms. (It should be noted that this was not a Professionally-Graded-Sealed-in-a-Plastic-Slab comic, but a “raw” (as collectors’ cant would have it) funnybook in a mere bag and board in common use amongst we mere mortals.) Anyway, I gave the book a quick once-over and had to break the news that, given the few spine creases, a couple of which were color-breaking, plus some minor rounding/softness at the corners of the spine, this couldn’t be in VF/NM. At best, maybe a low Fine, or perhaps a VG/F if I hadn’t had my Diet Coke that day. (And since I haven’t had a Diet Coke for a few months, that comic’s darn lucky I didn’t grade it Coverless Plus.)

It sounds like he’ll be able to return it, which is good, but this particular interaction did make me feel a little better about my own grading abilities. It’s…not something that comes terribly easily to me, probably the part of the job that feels most like “work” (aside from the whole “taxes” thing, and having to deal with Ian). Mostly, at the previous place of employment, I didn’t do much with the “grading and pricing back issues” thing. That was left to my old boss Ralph, mostly for the sake of consistency in grading standards and price levels, while I mostly focused on…well, everything else regarding said backstock. I’d check for missing issues, pull stuff out of the back, bag ’em and tag ’em, put ’em in alphabetical order in the To Be Priced boxes, and after Ralph priced them all up, I’d put them all away in their appropriate spots. If someone wanted to know a grade on a certain issue, more often than not all I’d have to do if flip the comic over, look at the sticker on the back where Ralph placed the grade, and then happily reply “Sir, this copy of Saga of Crystar Crystal Warrior #6. guest-starring Nightcrawler of the X-Men, is in VF- condition!” and that would be that. I certainly wasn’t unaware of comic conditions, and could do some general grading, but it just wasn’t my main thing at that shop…someone else did that, while I attended to other duties.

Now that I’m sailing alone on the seas of comics in my own ship…er, store, I can’t depend on Ralph to do that for me anymore. Which isn’t to say I don’t bend his ear once in a while whenever he drops by to ask him some grading questions whenever I find something that stumps me And sometimes he tells me “huh, I’m stumped too,” which makes feel a little better that someone with a lot more direct experience in comic grading can get a bit thrown on occasion. There are so many different things that you weirdos do to your comics that the variety of wear and damage and, um, engine fuel smells, and…er, beginnings of essays that Overstreet’s grading guide never dreamed of, that even old hands need to do a little guesswork and interpretation to put your dime down on a specific condition. It can take a lot of effort, and a not-insignificant amount of concentration, but as time goes by, I think I’m getting better at it. Plus, I find when I do a whole bunch in a row, I get into that “grading groove” and start knocking ’em out at a more reasonable pace.

Don’t get me wrong…grading can be a challenge at times, but it’s still “Mike gets to look at old comics all day and call that his ‘job'” so I guess I shouldn’t be complaining. And as I said, my skills are improving…I’m a long way from calling that comic with the holes punched with a pen through the center and the tape and the missing back cover a Very Fine Plus. I know now that’s clearly no better than a VF.

Please don’t tell me if “poggery” actually means something dirty.

§ April 23rd, 2018 § Filed under collecting, market crash § 9 Comments

So reader John, the fella what related the horrifying yet strangely satisfying tale of the shredding and recycling of 14 long boxes of Turok Dinosaur Hunter #1, emailed recently to inform me of more bulk stashes of the ’90s funnybooks that came into his hands.

Specifically, he had several long boxes of ’90s comics, abandoned at a local storage facility, fall into his possession, multiple copies of each, all in Mylar sleeves, and all of the Usual Suspects when it comes to collections like this. Singled out by John was this photo he took of all his copies of Man of War #6 from Malibu Comics:

…specifically because he felt, as I am a man of poggery, I would appreciate the included pogs in each sealed factory-polybagged issue:

This was during the time of, of course, the Big Pog Invasion, but also during the time of Everyone Gets A Superhero Universe, including Malibu Comics which was doing this universe, with Man of War and the Ferret, while also doing the Ultraverse, with Prime and Firearm and so on. Did those two Malibu Universes ever cross over with each other? I imagine it would have been relative easy, being published by the same company an’ all, unless there’s some behind-the-scenes ownership stuff I don’t know about. Regardless, if they’d made it into the 2000s maybe that would have happened.

Anyway, there’s come collector excess for you, but at least they seem to have been kept in better shape than the comics in this tragedy. John said that the majority of the comics in this accumulation met a fate similar to the aforementioned Turok…well, not shredded in a spectacular fashion, but certainly disposed of, save for some Deadpools and a few other goodies that may actually be sellable. But here’s hoping that Man of War movie never comes to fruition, or I would weep openly on John’s behalf for such a lost lucrative opportunity.

Collectors edition Titans collectors comic for collectors.

§ November 29th, 2017 § Filed under advertising, collecting, dc comics, teen titans § 5 Comments

from DC Coming Attractions #81 (August 1983)

I sort of preferred Marvel using “Distinguished Competition” as a nickname for them.

§ November 27th, 2017 § Filed under collecting, marvel, retailing § 7 Comments

Occasionally the One Remaining Comic Book Distributor in the U.S. will run some deep discount sales on stock for retailers, and recently they unloaded a bunch of Marvel’s Omnibus editions and Marvel Masterworks volumes for prices ranging from “well, that’s a little less than normal wholesale” to “whoa nelly that’s cheaper than a cheap thing that’s cheap.” So natch, I loaded up on a few items for the shop and offered them at discounted prices, and everyone’s happy.

I’m especially happy, because a couple of the items offered were of particular interest to me, and at the ridiculously low sale price I picked them up for myself. One is the Howard the Duck omnibus, including the entire original series (including the couple of later issues released around the time of the movie), his previous appearances in Man-Thing comics, that one treasury edition, and something from Foom magazine that I haven’t looked to see what it is yet. I’d actually been on the lookout for discounting on the HtD book after getting my giant-sized Man-Thing omnibus on the cheap a while back.

Now, I have an ulterior motive for this…primarily, getting these reprints in a nicely-printed permanent edition frees up the actual comics from my collection, allowing me to put these out for sale in my shop. You’ll notice that post about the Man-Thing omnibus went up around the time I was beginning to open my store…well, suddenly, I had full runs of two Man-Thing series, a bunch of issues of Fear, some Giant-Size Man-Thing, and other odds and ends I was able to turn around for the most part. It more than covered the cost of the omnibus, and provided some sorely-needed store-opening cash besides.

Thus, theoretically, I should soon have a full run of Howard the Duck plus Asst. Materials for sale in the shop…though I 1) already have a number of those issues in the store right now, acquired from other collections, and 2) I kinda wish I kept those Man-Things now that they’re gone. Logically, I have all the stories, so I don’t really need them, but there was some small measure of sentimental value to them. Plus, omnibuses are a lot harder on the scanner if I need to grab any images out of those comics.

But hey, that’s life, so I’ll get those Howards into the shop regardless.

The other book I acquired for Low, Low Pricing from that recent sale was the Marvel Masterworks edition of Not Brand Echh. That’s another series I have all the issues for…in fact, this was the first series I completed a run for that had come out (almost) entirely before I was born. (Not sure about the last issue, with the May 1969 cover date…given cover date shenanigans, it may have actually come out just prior to or during my birth month of March ’69.)

Now it’s been a while since I’ve read my run of it, but getting a hardcover volume with the artwork printed on paper that isn’t slowly turning to dust has inspired me to dip into this zaniness again…as, you know, time permits, since I’m constantly behind on reading everything. And what I’ve read so far is very funny…very early Mad Magazine-ish in that every square inch is filled with a joke of some kind, and all the more remarkable that it was the very creators of the comics themselves doing the parodies. Yes, it’s the dreaded “Official Parody” that should be toothless and boring, but Not Brand Echh often reads like Stan and Jack and the rest of the gang blowing off some steam after toiling away at the Marvel Universe for so long.

My favorite panel so far into my rereading is this one…it’s specifically mocking the Fantastic Four storyline where Dr. Doom tricks Silver Surfer and steals his powers, but the way Stan ‘n’ Jack exaggerate Doom’s strategy of “pretending to be nice” is hilarious:


The more I look at this panel, the more I think there’s no way on God’s green Earth that anyone could have come up with a funnier book for Doom to be reading than “Butterflies I Have Loved.” I don’t know why that puts a stupid grin on my face every time I see it, but good gravy that one panel alone is funnier than entire issues of supposed humor books I’ve seen of late. Those Lee and Kirby kids, they’ve got some talent.

The actual title of the comic itself, Not Brand Echh, is charmingly dated as well, reminding us of a simpler time when products would be advertised in comparison to competing items, but the competitors would be described as “Brand X” or something similarly obfuscatory. You know, not like today, where commercials are basically “BURGER KING SUCKS, EAT AT ARBY’S” or something equally straight-forward. “Brand Echh,” of course, was Marvel’s nickname for their crosstown rivals DC Comics (putting a Mad-esque twist on “X” for the grosser-sounding “ECHH”), and when the title of the series was combined with the blurb just above it (“Who says a comic book has to be good??”) the cover of every issue was a slam at their competition. That’s…got my respect. I think the closest DC ever got to lobbing that ball back into Marvel’s court were some Marvel parodies in Inferior Five, though there were other minor gags/references in various DC titles here and there. (Wasn’t there a direct swipe at Spider-Man in Legion of Super-Heroes? Maybe someone can remind me.)

And now that I have this book, a run of Not Brand Echh should be making it into the “New Arrivals” back issue bins at the store as well. If, of course, I can convince myself to bring them in.

In which I buy something I didn’t actually need, but wanted anyway…which probably describes most everything I own, to be frank.

§ March 3rd, 2017 § Filed under collecting, from the vast Mikester comic archives § 12 Comments

So my old boss Ralph has been processing a bunch of comics magazines, including those two Atlas/Seaboard magazines I mentioned a couple of weeks back. Well, I finally got my hands on those two items, which I’ll probably talk about in the near future, but before that, let me discuss something else I acquired from Ralph at the same time…The Captain Kentucky Collection Volume 1 (1981) by Don Rosa:


And here’s the back cover:


…as well as a closer look at those pics ‘n’ captions, since they don’t show up too well in that scan:


I’ve written a few times before about how I first found the work of Don Rosa in the Comic Reader ‘zine, where they were reprinting his Captain Kentucky comic strips. I thought they were pretty great, and I always kept a lookout for any more work by Mr. Rosa, which brought me to his Don Rosa’s Comics & Stories magazines, and, eventually, to his official Disney debut in Uncle Scrooge #219. (And that of course sent me on a journey rediscovering the work of Carl Barks, but that’s a story for another time.)

Anyway, I didn’t really need this, as such. I own this 2001 hardcover which reprints every CK strip:


…but it doesn’t have that great cover from the ’81 magazine, and there’s an introduction in the mag that isn’t in the hardcover. Plus, there’s those two great photos I have scanned above. The magazine also has an index to “People Offended” and “Places Destroyed” which I thought was funny, and unique to this publication…but it turns out the hardcover also that this index, expanded to the strip’s full run and not just the first 50 installments, which I didn’t recall.

For the most part, I try not to repurchase (or “double-dip” on) things I already own, says the guy with about fifteen different versions of House of Secrets #92. But there are always exceptions, and I remember really wanting this CK mag when I first heard about back in the ’80s, but thinking I missed the window of opportunity to get one and that I’d just have to piece together the run in the Comic Reader. Having that hardcover should have been enough, but finally seeing the mag in person while digging through Ralph’s boxes sort of rekindled that collecting desire. Even though at the time when I first saw it, I said “ah, I’ve got all those strips, I don’t need it” — but sure enough, a couple of days later I was on the phone with Ralph, telling him “sigh, okay, hold that Captain Kentucky ‘zine for me, too.”

And now, here it is, in my hands. Another weird old hole in the collection, filled. Like I said, I didn’t need to own this, but I sure am happy to finally have it.

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