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March 1981 was apparently a good month for comics I didn’t buy.

§ October 7th, 2019 § Filed under collecting § 12 Comments

I’m sure those of us who collect comic books have specific memories tied to particular issues in their collections. Like Uncle Scrooge and every piece of currency in his money bin, where each item interred there is not kept (mostly) out of sheer avarice, but because of the events or emotions that they can evoke.

I’m probably overselling the premise of the post a bit here, as mostly I’m just talking about recalling the exact circumstances surrounding the acquisition of, or encounters with, certain comics. I don’t mean, like, the Big Ones…I’m sure you’re gonna remember doling out the kid’s college fund to snag that copy of Amazing Fantasy #15 or whatever. Rather, I’m talking about memories tied to, you know, just random issues…nothing remarkable or hugely sought after, but just your typical comic purchase made as part of your day-to-day or week-to-week regular comic purchases.

For example, I remember riding my bike over to the Circle K near the Seebee base in Port Hueneme and buying my copy of Saga of the Swamp Thing #4. Or driving up to the comic shop, picking up the newest issue of Watchmen (#11), reading it, then driving back to Oxnard for my high school graduation. That’s the sort of thing I mean.

I was reminding of this particuilar phenomenon when the following two comics popped up in collections I was processing at the store (which is, of course, Sterling Silver Comics, located in beautiful Camarillo, CA, where I also provide mail order service to locales near and far). Now, in these cases, these weren’t comics I’d purchased at the time (coincidentally, both cover dated March 1981, so likely were released close to the new year), but instead other people’s comics that I’d read. That makes it even slightly more unusual that I’d remember the circumstances of my encounters with these books without having them in my possession as constant reminders.

First was Flash #295:

I don’t remember whose comic this was, but I do remember where I first saw it…in my 6th grade class. Don’t worry, I wasn’t, like, sneaking it in my textbook when I was supposed to be studying, like I’ve seen in that old Daisy BB gun ad or in movies/TV shows but never in real life. It was during some free time, perhaps during an indoors recess period during inclement weather outside, but it was handed to me, and by gosh that’s how I read about Gorilla Grodd fighting the Scarlet Speedster, a story best absorbed in an educational setting.

I’ve never owned the comic, never felt the urge to go back and fill in my collection with a back issue purchase of it. But every time I saw it after that, I would think back to my 6th grade classroom (even down to where I was sitting in that room at the time) and how I first saw that comic there. Eventually, I would start buying The Flash on ‘n’ off with issue #300, which would be a good one to start with. And I’d keep reading, all the way through the whole “Trial of the Flash” storyline which 0killed wrapped up the series. …Hey, I liked it.

The other comic was Action Comics #517:

…which was an issue of the series I had missed, somehow, despite buying the Superman books fairly regularly around this time. Hey, when you’re in sixth grade, even doing the rounds of all the local convenience stores and supermarkets and even making regular trips to the well-stocked newsstand we had in town, stuff sometimes slipped past you.

But this issue didn’t slip past my friend David, and I still remember sitting in a room in his house and reading this issue cover to cover. And again, like that Flash above, every time I saw this a copy of this comic after that, I’d think of David and that day I was at his house, reading his comic book instead of, like, being sociable.

Now the thing about this comic…years later, when I was still working at my previous place of employment, David actually stopped by with a stack of comics to sell. And yes, one of the comics he was selling was that very copy of Action Comics #517 I’d read so many years ago. As it turned out, the boss didn’t buy much (if any) of his stuff, since it wasn’t really in resellable condition (probably not my fault, I’m sure even as a child I handled his comics with the gentle touch of the comics retail professional I would someday become), and I wish the story ended with “so I asked David if I could keep that copy of Action so that someday I could blog about having it in my possession, once blogs are invented” but alas, he took them away to some unknown fate. Probably living happy and free on a farm upstate, and not thrown away or burned in a fireplace.

I suppose technically I own copies of these two comic books now, since they’re in my store with my price tags on them. But it’s weird how two comics I otherwise have never owned have loomed so large in my comic book memories after all this time.

Yes, I know Shatterstar was in the movie too.

§ September 30th, 2019 § Filed under collecting, retailing § 4 Comments

So I got a set of these in a collection the other day:

…and by “set,” for those of you who weren’t around in the early 1990s to experience this particuliar phenomenon, I mean “all five initially released versions of X-Force #1, each prepacked with one of five different trading cards sealed within the polybag.”

Now your pal Old Man Mike was there manning the comic shop front lines when this comic was unleashed. We had tons of them, and as I recall we set up a table near the front of the store to put them all out for easy access, divided up by inserted card. Which means, yes, we had to go through the cases and divvy ’em up.

The point is, we ordered a lot, and we sold a lot. And yes, I know you bought them. Yes, you, right there, reading this blog post right now. I saw you do it. We caught it on camera. WE HAVE EVIDENCE. Anyway, plenty of copies got circulated out there, and we had a reasonable, and surprisingly not overwhelming, stock of copies of that first issue stashed away for future back issue sales.

Well, things go as they go, and what was eventually became not, and X-Force and its ilk fell out of favor…as, well, did most comics as the ’90s wore on, in favor of pogs and Magic: The Gathering. And back issue demand for that particuliar first issue of X-Force did trail off, even as the series kept on keeping on.

It never fell entirely out of awareness, of course…X-Force #1 remained a notable artifact of the excesses of comic collecting in the 1990s, a cautionary tale along with the 5 covers for X-Men #1 and the “bagged” editions of Spider-Man #1 and thankfully the industry has learned its lesson and no longer depends on multiple variant editions of its publications to shore up sales.

The end result was that, for many years, X-Force #1 was not generally traded in the aftermarket for premium prices. If anything, it was slash-priced, marked down to move, for the love of God please take these off our hands…dollar boxes aplenty were fed by copies of this book across this great nation of ours, and that’s just how things were. Not to say that some venues didn’t keep copies in the bins marked at ye olde Overstreet prices, and they did sell occasionally, but its star had long since faded.

CUT TO: your pal Mike, getting a collection of comics over the weekend…some good stuff, some stuff basically dumped on me, but most of it still usable. Within was that set of X-Force #1s that I mentioned about 4 or 5 thousand words ago. I’d been literally turning these down as they showed up in the hands of hopeful sellers coming through my door, but, eh, here they in this box of stuff I got, might as well price ’em up and put them out.

And evidently it’s been a while since I’ve had the opportunity of price this issue, because imagine my surprise to find out the guide has the version with the Deadpool card priced at $18. The one with the Cable card is priced the same. The other three card variations are a somewhat more reasonable, but still seemingly optimistic $6.

I feel like, at some point during one of the three or four previous times that Deadpool’s popularity peaked, that I did check our price guide and/or online sales to see if there was any increased demand for the Deadpool-card version of X-Force #1, and at that point it was big ol’ “nobody cares.”

But, obviously, things have changed. My initial thought was my pet theory about things that used to be common and in deep stock at stores through the ’90s boom period have suddenly become harder to come by, as shops from that era die out and, sometimes, take their stock with them. Or that copies that did make it into the hands of collectors were either damaged due to poor storage (a not-infrequent problem, even with the hardcore collectors at the time) or just discarded outright (after losing interest and/or failed attempts at recouping their money via resale back to shops that either didn’t want them, or offered only a pittance).

Mentioning this on Twitter, I received this response from Tony:

“They are everywhere and people will drop $5-10 easy on them. Its shocking. It’s a mix of the age of the book, new fandom from the popularization of Marvel movies, and those early 90s fans that are now wanting to rebuild their collection.”

And yes, those are factors as well. I know “age” doesn’t always equate with “price,” but I’ve seen demand for the novelty publications (bagged, like this X-Force, or foil/chrome/die-cut covers) from customers who hadn’t even been born yet when these items were in their heyday. And, like Tony mentioned, I’ve had customers who did collect these as they were new, who had since lost or discarded their collections and now want to reconstruct them. Never underestimate the power of nostalgia, friends.

The actual pricing seems pretty…extreme, and my response to Tony that it might be a case of “hot because it’s hot.” Not priced according to any supply/demand thing, but because “Deadpool is in a movie and these should be hot now.” The X-Force #1 with the Deadpool card is priced a little higher than normal, people notice, start picking them up, which encourages more up-pricing, a self-fulfilling prophecy that cycles on and on.

This is not to ignore that variation with the Cable card, also priced at $18 in the guide, which surely must solely be the fault of the character’s appearance in the Deadpool movie. That they’re both $18 makes me think it was specifically the movie causing the price bump, since in comics alone Cable isn’t nearly as popular as Deadpool, unless I’m about to hear from the International Cable Fan Club in my comments here.

So anyway, that was quite the shock, mostly because I’d expected this to happen a while back, it didn’t, I figured that was that, then suddenly IT HAPPENED. Don’t know how many people are actually successfully selling these for nearly $20 a pop. A quick look at the eBay shows it trading for far less than that…there seems to be more interest in issue #11 of the series (the “first appearance” of the real Domino, as it had been an imposter Domino in the comics prior to that…um, SPOILER, I guess).

Still not sure what I’m going to price my copy at. Maybe $100, really screw the curve there. But while I think about that, here’s a picture of me holding that bountiful treasure of X-Force #1s, as taken by the Mighty Matt Digges:

Hey, if you buy all these from me, maybe I can afford a razor to shave my face!

(PREVIOUSLY ON PROGRESSIVE RUIN: would you believe I’ve written about X-Force and the Deadpool card before? Here and here? I can’t believe it either. Look for my next post about this in 2022!)

Well, this went off on a tangent.

§ September 27th, 2019 § Filed under collecting § 9 Comments

Robcat17 says

“And as much as I may question your Swamp Thing collection, I will buy Legion of Superhero books… every reboot, every time Giffen kills Karate Kid, I’m there. Which makes me ask other collectors ‘What’s your “sucker” book?’ You know the one. It may be bad, but you buy it anyway because you’re hopeful, or loyal, or whatever… but you really just love the character…”

You are indeed wise to question my Swamp Thing collection. No reasonable human should own a pair of these.

But yeah, “sucker books,” I get that. I’ve followed many a character through, shall we say, rough times, simply because that character was a particular favorite of mine. It goes without saying that Swamp Thing is one of those characters for me, though fortunately there have been very few Swamp Thing comics over the years from which I haven’t derived any entertainment value. Yes, there have been some stinkers here and there that I feel no need to revisit, but, eh, no biggie.

An example of a book that I kinda stuck through for the entire run despite things going, well, I won’t say “bad” but “not entirely to my liking” is the second Firestorm series, the one that run 100 issues. I used to say “the first 20 were good, the last 20 were good, the middle 60…um, maybe not so much.” But did I continue buying through that 60-issue slump? Oh yes I did, because I sure liked Firestorm, and though I didn’t much care for the stories they were in, I was still interested in what was going on with Ronnie and Martin (and Cliff).

To be fair, I’ve softened a bit on my opinion on those middle issues. I still bought them, I still enjoyed them, even if I thought they weren’t quite up to the standards of the entries at either end of the series. And I still have them…when the time came to populate the back issue bins in my store with material from my own collection, the Firestorms I kept. Maybe a big chunk of them were dopey comics, but they were my dopey comics and part of my life, a monthly ritual I followed from that first issue in my grade school days until that final issue came out when I was in college.

And I’ll still buy Firestorm whenever he (or they?) turns (or turn) up. But the main impulse, to follow a character, is somewhat undermined by the various reboots/relaunches that have happened. I followed the ongoing subplots and development of Ronnie and Martin in Firestorm, even through the lean years, because I liked those characters and wanted to know what happened to them, how each incident in their lives built on each other and moved forward. The reboots etc. break that chain…suddenly a character can be back at square one, all previous development removed from the story, and my need to see where things go is lost.

Now, it can be done and still maintain reader involvement. The mid-80s reboot of Superman kept my interest, and even as creative teams changed and fictional universes got fiddled with, it still felt like I was following the same character that got re-introduced in Man of Steel #1. The New 52 initiative kinda broke that line for a while, but it’s kinda come around again with, well, more universal retooling shenanigans, and while not quite back to where we were with Supes, it at least is within spitting distance.

One place where it didn’t work with me was the Legion of Super-Heroes, which I read for years and years and years and through a couple of reboots (both soft: the Five Years Later thing – and hard: Zero Hour)…and then finally the New 52 relaunch was just one new beginning too many. I’m willing to give the new Legion of Super-Heroes title a try, but….

…Well, sometimes I’m at war with my own nostalgia and that can get in the way of reading a new take on a character (or team of characters) that I like. Yes, I would like some consistency to the characters that I follow. But no, I can’t honestly expect everything to be of a piece with a comic I read 20, 30, 40 years ago. Things change with the times, and concepts have to be retooled to be appeal to current audiences, even if that retooling means casting away the old to make way for the new.

The way the Superman comics were done, I still feel like I’m reading the same guy (with a couple of exceptions) that’s been around since the 1980s. Legion of Super-Heroes, I feel like maybe they bent it ’til they broke it, and they lost me. Maybe they’ll grab me again with this new run, I don’t know.

Anyway, that got a bit away from Robcat17’s question, maybe. I think what I was trying to say is that a seeming consistency (if not necessarily explicit continuity) of the characters can be enough to carry you through any quote-unquote “bad” comics they may appear in. When that consistency is disrupted, suddenly it’s harder to tolerate even what was once a favorite character in a comic you don’t care for.

I’m probably way overthinking this. And I’m aware of the irony of ballyhooing the seeming consistency of the Superman character starting in ’86, given that one of thee main complaints about the Superman relaunch then was that this new iteration didn’t feel like Superman. For some people, that Byrne reboot was the disruption in the line…”this isn’t the same character I irst started reading in 1938!” …Hey, you don’t know, it could have happened.

Thanks for reading…whatever that was. I’ll get back to more of your comments and questions soon.

Maybe I’d collect every copy of All-Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder. You know which one.

§ September 23rd, 2019 § Filed under collecting § 15 Comments

So y’all left a lot of good comments on last week’s post about being a comic book completist (and I continued on a bit in a second post). Thank you for participating…sometimes I feel like we’re kind of past the heyday of people wanting to leave comments on small hobby blogs like this one, but every once in a while you folks come through and remind me “hey, sometimes people actually read my site!” So, thanks pals.

Anyway, let’s dig into some of those comments from that initial post and see how much typing I can do around them:

Thom, the fella what started all this in the first place, had this to say:

“For the record, I knew that completism was a thing, but I had no idea Swamp-Thing completism was being practiced by more than one person.”

Oh, sure, sorry about implying otherwise. But yeah, I’m not the only Swamp Thing completist out there. I’ve encounted a few through the years, online and in the respective shops I’ve worked at. Granted, not many completists have gone so far as to get Swamp Thing Chalk, but more have than you might think! But I gotta be one of the very few to have this.

• • •

Brad Walker strolls in with

“So have you ever talked about Richie Rich and Casper #1?”

Ah, you mean how Casper is clearly the departed spirit of Richie Rich, condemned to roam the mortal world until he has sufficiently counterbalanced his excessive avarice in life, therefor the two of them appearing together in one adventure is a blunt expression of Harvey Comics’ belief in the dualism of mind and body?

Or is it the “swamp creatures” thing in that first issue you linked? Yeah, on second thought, it’s probably that. Well, to be honest, while those monsters are clearly planning to eat Richie Rich and thus certainly have my sympathies, but that doesn’t really trigger the “swamp monster collector” instinct in me. I suppose I want something a little more…Swamp Thing-ish, I suppose, more green and humanoid and/or transoformed by science goine awry, as opposed to a couple of critters that just happen to live in a swamp. A fine line to draw, I understand, and probably exposes something disturbing about me psychologically,, but this issue just doesn’t float my airboat.

• • •

The infamous John Lancaster had more to say, but I wanted to focus on this bit:

“One that I may have mentioned here before; collecting every #1 issue of Spitfire and the Troubleshooters. As of my last count and based on publishing records, I own approximately 4% of the print run on this one. It’s not because I love that character or anything, I just want to wipe their existence off the earth. It’s basically a Scrooge McDuck gambit.”

Whoa nelly. Imagine finally getting all extant issues of this in one place. Just mountains of Spitfire, taking up every room in the house, filling the bathtub, falling out of the attic, stacked around the Ford Festiva in the garage, etc.

But even that’s an aspect of collecting I’ve come across once or thrice over the years, with folks trying to buy multiple copies of the same issue. I mean, aside from the investment side of things, I saw that a lot during the ’90s boom. Or, you know, whatever the hell was going on here. I mean, just got a wild hair to get, say, every copy of the “Spore” issue of Iron Man, as Mag ‘n’ H were trying to do at one point over at the Comic Treadmill. Or the customer I have now who’s way into Green Lantern, and wants as many copies as he can get of the 3-issue “Emerald Twilight” series.

I can’t say I’ve ever wanted to do that, myself. I mean, sure, I guess it would be a little funny if I bought every copy of Swamp Thing #24 I could find…just, like, corner the market on them, be the world’s ultimate collector of Thrudvang, but…yeah, nothing’s ever tickled my fancy that way. …I seem to remember former employee and old pal Rob decided he was going to get every copy of the Art Adams “Fin Fang Foom” trading card from the ’91 Marvel set. I helped him with that a bit, that’s probably as close as I’ve come.

• • •

Andrew Davison schools us on

“In the past I’ve used GCD to search for a character’s appearances.

“Any top tips for finding comics on a theme?”

That is admittedly a bit harder. Other than looking at hundreds of comic book covers nearly every day, like I do, perhaps you can plug in various keywords into the Grand Comics Database’s story title search function. Or if you’ve got time to kill (and who doesn’t, we’re all swimming in free time) you can just poke through the various cover galleries of likely titles there. Yeah, that’s kind of a crapshoot, but you never know.

Also, there are plenty of blogs and Tumblrs and, um, Myspaces, I guess, out there where folks have already done the work and pieced together their own lists of comics that cover their specific interests. That’s my guess, anyway…I don’t really know, I don’t go on the internet.

• • •

Paul Di Filippo (a fella who himself isn’t unfamiliar with swamp critters) wades in with

“What?!? No love for swamp monster Solomon Grundy?!?”

I ain’t got no beef with Mr. Grundy, no sir. It’s easy to forget that he fits right into the genre of “man transformed by science and/or magic into swamp beast” since he isn’t, y’know, green. OKay, he was getting a bit green in that one Swamp Thing story, but that was pretty much it. I talked about his first meeting with Swamp Thing not too long ago, and I’ve mentioned a couple of times how DC wanted Grundy to fill Swamp Thing’s niche in the DC Universe (as Swampy was tied up over at Vertigo) and put out a series to do just that.

But despite the connection to Swamp Thing, I never felt obligated to add “all appearances of Solomon Grundy” to the collection. That would being getting some pretty pricey early comics there. And I think I’ve bought ‘n’ read a sufficient numbers of more recent appearances so…I’m probably good on the guy for now. I won’t say no to future comics, but I’m probably not going to be dipping into back issues to fill holes in that particualar accumulation. Sorry Paul!

• • •

Eep, that’s a lot of typing. Okay, back soon with more. Leave more comments on that first post if you’d like, and of course read everything everyone has to say there. Lots of good comments…remember when comments were good? Now you can relive those halcyon days right here on Progressive Ruin Dot Com.

Actually now I kind of regret not getting that Swamp Thang comic.

§ September 18th, 2019 § Filed under collecting, swamp thing § 1 Comment

So to continue from my last post, there are other aspects to my Swamp Thing collecting that I neglected to mention.

1. FOREIGN EDITIONS: I mean, sure, when I can find them. I have Swampy in handful of different languages, some I can kinda sorta read, and others I can’t comprehend at all. I still regret missing out a bunch of first series Swamp Things on eBay that were published in Mexico during the ’70s. Ah well. But I’m generally open to buying any of these that I can find.

2. REPRINTS: Nowadays “reprints” generally means “trade paperback collections” or “hardcovers,” and I usually don’t buy them if they’re just duplicating content I already own. I’ve made exceptions, like the recent Roots of Terror hardcover collecting together a bunch of one-shot stories in one place. But generally, if it’s just, say, a straight reprinting of issues, unless there’s some kind of new content, I’ll probably pass.

Now I did get that Bronze Age omnibus because it was the first time a lot of that material had been reprinted, and on nice paper to boot, like the Pasko/Yeates run, the latter portion of the original series, etc.

Iin the early days of my Swamp Thing collecting, like I mentioned last time, I did buy the comic book reprints DC had published of the original 10 issue run by Wein and Wrightson, partially because of new covers on the first two collections, and partially just out of the need for gettin’ ’em all. And, of course, I will keep buying reprints of House of Secrets #92 just because it amuses me to do so, and nobody’s been able to stop me.

3. PARODIES: Not that there’s been too many, but Swamp Thing parodies do pop up now and again. I generally buy these as I see ’em, though I admit to passing on the Spoof Comics Swamp Thang one-shot [COVER MARGINALLY NOT-SAFE-FOR-WORK] which was perhaps a little too far off from the character it was parodying. I did, however, totally get this Mighty Mites issue.

There haven’t been a whole lot of parodies of Swamp Thing over the years…or maybe there have been, and you’re all just hiding them from me to spare my feelings. In general, I’ve been pretty lucky as they’ve just turned up in things I was already reading, like Cerebus or Boris the Bear and so on. But I keep my mostly-working eye open, in case any others turn up.

So anyway, that’s that. Folks have been popping up in my comments section for that last post talking about what and how they collect, which has made for some good reading, and I encourage you to join in. I’ll probably go back and respond to some of those comments in a future post.

My apoologies to regular commenter Turan, who had one of his comments grabbed by whatever algorithm decides to hold entries for moderation…it’s approved now, Turan! He also mentions the Heap stories from the black and white mags of the ’70s have shown up in a print-on-demand collection, which may be of interest to some of you folks, as well as to me. The color comic isn’t included, but that’s okay, I already have it!

Okay, enough SWAMP TALK for today…will return to this topic next week, as I have something else planned for Friday. Thanks for reading and commenting, pals.

I’m also a Fatman the Human Flying Saucer completist.

§ September 16th, 2019 § Filed under collecting, swamp thing § 28 Comments

Thom H. asks, in response to my recent post regarding House of Secrets #92 tribute covers:

“How many Swamp Thing completists are there or do you know of? I had never heard of that type of fandom until I started reading this blog. And I didn’t think to ask about it until I realized there were multiple people into collecting every appearance of ‘ol Swampy.

“I’m sincerely interested in knowing about the different degrees of completism and extensions of that completism to characters like Man-Thing and The Plot (I assume he’s swamp-based, as well?). Does it extend to other characters?

“And it sounds like it includes things like cameo appearances and mentions by other characters. I guess I’m wondering: what are the rules completists use to define the boundaries of their collections?

“No disrespect intended. I’m not a completist of any character, but I do buy multiples of comics I like so I can keep one ‘nice.’ I think all comic collectors have their own ways of collecting, and I’d like to know more about yours.”

Now, longtime ProgRuin reader John Lancaster had his own lengthy response, which I suggest you all read (since I’ve plugged enough quoted material from the comments into this post). I’ll try to answer Thom’s queries best I can, though I doubt my own notorious predilection for excessive typing can match Mr. Lancaster’s prodigious efforts.

First off, completism is a common trait among comic book collectors, even above and beyond the the standard “get every issue of the series” that’s pretty much built into the DNA of the hobby, what with things having issue numbers an’ all. (OF course, in recent years, with many long-running titles having their chains broken by reboots and relaunches, that sort of collection has become less prominent, or at least concerned with gathering every issue of a specific series while eschewing other iterations of the same title.

The “theme” collectors, the ones who want every appearance of a character, or every comic by a certain artist or writer…I’ve encountered many of those over the years, too. The fella who wanted every appearance of Taskmaster. That one guy who wanted to own every comic drawn by John Byrne. There can even be folks looking for things like “every comic where a superhero fights one of the traditional movie monsters, like Dracula or the Wolfman.” Former coworker Rob used to collect Archie comics that featured bowling on the cover. Pal Cully used to get every appearance of the Hulk. Right now I have a customer who wants every appearnce of Iron Fist and that ol’ master of kung-fu Shang-Chi.

So no, it’s not really uncommon. People collect lots of different things for different reasons, and, you know, whatever floats their respective boats. If it makes you happy, what the hell…go for it.

Now for me personally…after coming across Swamp Thing for the first time in the early ’80s, via found copies in a second-hand book shop as well as that proto-Nickelodeon TV show Video Comics. For whatever reason, the character appealed, and I spent a lot of time gathering Swampy appearances, both in his own title and otherwise. Plus, a brand new series, Saga of the Swamp Thing, started around the same time to tie in to what could only be the blockbluster success of that first film, so I had new stories to collect, too!

One of the things that helped was that there were a limited number of Swamp Thing appearancs in comics. Outside of his own initial series, which only ran 24 issues (despite Overstreet mistakenly listing a 25th issue for a few years, which was a little annoying), a couple team-ups with Batman in Brave and the Bold, one in DC Comics Presents, that weird run in Challengers of the Unknown, a cameo in Super Friends, and probably a couple others I’m missing.

One of the first signs this wasn’t just going to be an ordinary collection for me was that I sought out the reprints, too. I mean, sure, a couple of them had brand new covers by Berni(e) Wrightson, but the others didn’t, and besides, they were reprinting stories I already had (or was about to have, once I found those original issues for my collection). So, already, I was on my “every iteration of Swamp Thing” kick.

Eventually I got my copy of House of Secrets #92…I had it in reprint form, of course, but didn’t have my own original one ’til I actually started working at the comic shop in the late ’80s. It was…the worst copy, apparently used as a coaster for a can of shellac, but I had one! Some years later, I managed to trade up for another copy of #92, a much nicer one, sold to us by Jan, a longtime friend of the shop. …As far as I can recall, those were the only two copies that the shop ever saw during my tenure there.

(QUICK ASIDE: Former boss Ralph used to tell the story of going through some dealer’s quarter boxes at a convention he was working at sometime in the late ’70s. He went through most of the boxes, not finding much, stopping before he finished going through them. A day or two later, when the con was about to wrap up, Ralph gave those same boxes one last shot…and in the back part of the last box, there was a copy of House of Secrets #92, which had apparently eluded congoers the rest of the weekend.)

As to the topic of being a completist to the point of cameo appearances and such…well, yeah, sure, I do my best. I noted on this site years ago that I was picking up variants on Brightest Day because both covers featured Swamp Thing…even getting a variant Justice League comic because of a cover word balloon mentioning Swampy. So, yes, I was buying comics for even the barest Swamp Thing connections.

However, I made an exception not too long ago. I even made a big ol’ post about it, where I decided I wasn’t going to buy every single Convergence tie-in comic with that one tiny image of Swamp Thing with a woman who was sometimes Abby Arcane, sometimes not. Ever since then…well, I’ve still been picking up Swamp appearances in comics when they occur, as generally they tend to be a bit more substatial than those Convergence ones. Also, due to DC’s multi-cover publishing scheme, I’ve been known to pick up two copies of Justice League Dark because each cover had Swamp Thing on it.

Oh, wait, I thought of another exception…there was an issue of Wonder Woman some time ago which had a 1/100 ratio variant that I didn’t get. One, I wasn’t ordering a hundred copies of Wonder Woman, and wasn’t about to bump my orders just to get my mitts on it. Two, it was crazy expensive on eBay at the time, though to be fair I haven’t checked lately, and 3) as I recall the picture of Swamp Thing was pretty off-model anyway, so I felt no particular rush to acquire it.

So, as of right now, I will still get all comics featuring Swamp Thing as I notice them, though some of the more obscure ones (like dialogue mentions or tiny one-panel cameos or whatever) may slip past me. However, I’m pretty good about picking up everything that has Swamp Thing in an active role or even just decor, I guess (like that one Guy Gardner comic by Howard Chaykin). My limit is probably too much duplicated content all at once, like that Convergence thing I mentioned.

How I eventually ended up getting in Marvel’s own muck-monster, Man-Thing…well, I don’t really recall. I probably just thought “huh, another swamp monster, I’ll check it out” and that was that. I was something of a completist on Man-Thing as well, picking up all his early appearances, though I didn’t try to maintain a collection of all newer appearances. I picked some up here and there, as they caught my eye, but I wasn’t grabbing everything like I was with Swamp Thing.

This weird swamp monster thing does get me to pick up other related titles…I have all those nice hardcovers reprinting The Heap, the original muck-encrusted comic character. And there have been other instances, too, like maybe if a swamp monster popped up in House of Mystery or some other horror anthology title. Man, I don’t get it either. I don’t think I’ve ever even been to a swamp.

Like I said above, there weren’t a lot of Swamp Thing appearances to start with. It was like that for a while, especially during that time when Swamp Thing was under DC’s Vertigo imprint, which restricted the character from appearing in the regular line (though he occasionally would sneak by, like his hand in that one issue of Infnite Crisis). Once Brightest Day brought him back to the regular DCU, the floodgates opened and…well, I don’t have it as bad as the poor bastard who’s trying to collect every Batman appearance, but still, it keeps me on my toes.

There’s probably more detail I could go into, but that’s enough for now. I’ll try to touch on this topic again if any more thoughts come to mind…like parodies and homages, which just occurred to me. Oh, and foreign editions. SIGH…look, I gotta get to sleep sometime, so I’ll talk about those soon enough. Thanks for reading, pals, and we’ll be back at it on Wednesday.

Nobody spoil the end of Atlantis Attacks for me.

§ July 12th, 2019 § Filed under collecting, hulk § 2 Comments

Have been kinda short on blogging time this week, so sorry for the impromptu low content mode. I’m here, I’m still alive, and I can see, mostly, at least for now. Hopefully I can get back into the swing of things next week.

I am slowly starting to catch up on comics, after, what, two and a half months of mostly not reading anything (aside from Doomsday Clock, natch). Mostly caught up on Immortal Hulk, though I started reading those after reading the recent Peter David/Dale Keown one-shot Last Call. It’s nice getting the David/Keown team on the Hulk again, but the premise of the story (Bruce Banner has hired an assassin to kill him, since he can’t commit suicide without the Hulk preventing it) seems somewhat undermined by the premise of Immortal Hulk (that Banner/Hulk can’t die, period). I mean, the story’s fine, and features the return of a minor character from David’s original Hulk run…I just found the conflicting premises amusing.

Anyway, I’m trying to catch up…I was falling behind before, since with my eye issues I was reading more slowly. But not reading at all has really put me at the bottom of a growing mountain of comics. Even winnowing my pulls down a bit hasn’t helped, but, well, as problems go this is pretty minor, I realize. It just gets a little frustrating, especially since, you know, it’s my job an’ all. Used to be each New Comics Day evening, I’d plow through the new comics I picked up, and then I could reread some old stuff, or maybe some new back issue acquisitions, or something. It’s not because I own a shop, I think, but more just Mike’s old eyes.

I’ll catch up, eventually, I suppose. I may need to take a vacation from selling comics to spend time reading comics, which…balances out some universal equation of some sort, I think. Despite popular belief, I don’t get to “stand around and read comics all day” at the shop. I mean, if only.

Gonna party like it’s 1989.

§ May 22nd, 2019 § Filed under batman, collecting, retailing, this week's comics § 2 Comments

So I haven’t said a whole lot about new comics and mags lately, mostly because, due to current eyeball issues, I can’t really read comics and mags at the moment. As such, I’m building up bit of a backlog of recent goodies at home, on top of the backlog I already had, for me to attempt to plow though once my peepers are in order. Therefore I’ve been trying to be a little pickier about what I set aside for myself, though sometimes I can’t resist a certain special something.

What I definitely don’t need to be taking home for eventual reading are those magazines with articles and interviews about comics past, like Back Issue…a fine publication, but it just takes me forever to get 1) to them, and 2) through them, so I try to make sure it’s got something I really want to read about…especially right now, as who knows when I’ll finally have good enough vision to properly absorb them.

That said, they just got me for two issues in a row. The previous issue, #112, had a special focus on “nuclear heroes,” with a cover and feature on DC’s Firestorm, a character whose comics I very much enjoyed throughout the 1980s. I always like learning more about the comics I read as a somewhat-younger Mikester, so that’s how they got me there.

Issue #113, the one pictured above, came out this week, with its focus on the 30th anniversary release of the first Tim Burton Batman film, and all the Bat-hoohah and goings-on in the comics industry at the time. As some of you may recall, because I keep bringing it up, there were two major events I had to deal with shortly after I first entered the world of comics retail way back in September of 1988. One was “The Death of Robin,” and the phone calls and large number of walk-ins we had involving that. The other was, of course, that very Bat-film, and the huge explosion of interest in comics that ensued.

I talked a lot — and I mean a lot — about this film and its impact on the business about a year and a half back (here are links to that particular series of posts: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 — and that is a whole lot to take in, but at least check out Wayne’s anecdote at the end of post #9. Trust me on this). But anyway, this issue of Back Issue is hitting the double-nostalgia chord with me…not just learning more about the Bat-comics I read at that time, of which, like most comic fans around then, I read a bunch. It’s also reminding me of a simpler time of comics retail, when I was just a teen, or barely out of my teens, manning a register and shuffling around comics and, okay, it’s not that different from what I do now, but I’m also paying the bills and placing the orders and just plain keeping the doors open. Not like back then, when I just had to focus on ringing up custmers and talking about comics and reading comics without also worrying about owning an actual business. I miss those days sometimes…but overall, I prefer what I’m doing now.

No idea why there wasn’t a #20, the last issue, in the collection.

§ May 20th, 2019 § Filed under collecting, market crash § 2 Comments

So I picked up a pretty sizeable collection of Clive Barker comics on Sunday…issues #1 through #19 of Hellraiser, with multiples of that #1, the assocated Books of the Damned series, some of the one-shot specials (like the Christmas special…yes, there was a Hellraiser Christmas special) and the Hellraiser III adaptation, some of the other Barker short story adaptations (like Dread and Son of Celluoid), a Night Breed #1, a Pinhead #1, one of those Barkerverse #1s (Harrowers, I think) and some others. Whoever collected these really like Hellraiser is what I’m trying to say.

But I’m not here to sing to you of the pleasures of Cenobites and such, but rather to talk to you about how the collection was stored. I won’t single out the company specifically…anyway, I’m pretty sure there was more than one company that made these, but the comics were stored in those stiff clear plastic envelopes, provided as a higher-end protective sleeve for your comics than your standard polypropylene or polyethylene bags, but not quite as high-end as your pricier Mylar bags. All the comics were kept in multiple binders.

Now…okay, don’t keep your comics in three-ring binders, that’s terrible. Luckily, these sleeves were specifically made for comics to be kept in such binders, so there was usually enough space there along the edge of the sleeve to prevent the comic within from getting bumped/creased by the rings of the binder themselves. I’ve seen lots of times over the years where they just used whatever plastic pouches they could find in office supply stores to hold the comics, which would slide about and bunch up whenever the binder was opened and closed, causing spine damage. Also, that seems like it would just take up too much space, frankly. But hey, to each his or her own.

Back to those fancy sleeves these Hellraiser comics were in. I remember selling lots of these back in the industry’s boom times of the early ’90s. Just boxes and boxes of them, of the 3-ring and non 3-ring variety. At the time they looked shiny and nice and felt smooth to the touch and the flaps were supple and hopefully I’m not turning any of you on, but hey, these seemed like reasonably nice sleeves. Even after the market crashed, we still have a number of boxes of these sleeves hanging around, and we could still move ’em out on occasion.

CUT TO: 25 years later, and your pal Mike is trying to go through these comics and get a good look at them before loosening his pursestrings to pay for these items. And the sleeves, once shiny and smooth and easy to open, are now, nearly every single one, cracked and split along the edges. When I open the flap to extract the comic, more often than not it cracks apart on me, usually coming right off. To the credit of these sleeves, the comics inside were well protected, which is the primary goal of putting them in sleeves in the first place. But in some cases, the bottom and/or top of the sleeves had come apart entirely, exposing the edges of the comic within to whatever elements they could have come across. It didn’t look like they had, so at least there’s that, but had they been exposed to any moisture at all, the bags would have done nothing.

My initial thought was that maybe these were just stored poorly. Maybe not somewhere wet, thankfully, but possibly somehwere with extreme temperature changes, that might have damaged these sleeves. There were a lot of people new to the hobby who entered the comics market during that period of time, who didn’t really know much about the care and feeding of comic books, and many of them didn’t stay for long. That means a whole bunch of comics bought in the late ’80s/early ’90s that eventually got discarded or neglected, shoved into some closet or out into the garage, if not just thrown out entirely, once the faddishness and interest faded.

I’m sure many of these comics were kept in fancy sleeves like the ones I’ve been talking about. The collection, ignored and shoved away, allowed to deteriorate until happened upon during housecleaning or an emptying of a storage unit, carted over to the local comics emporium for someone like me to go through them. ,,,My assumption was that poor storage brought about the demise of these sleeves, but I had at least one person tell me that, in his case, even in optimal conditions, they didn’t age well. I don’t know if that’s always the case…I have come across some of those somewhat softer but similar sleeves from the same time period, like some of those on the Wizard 1/2 mail-away offers, and they seem to be okay. But these cripser sleeves…I’ve come across them previously in recent years, and, yeah, I always end up rescuing the comics from them and throwing those sleeves away.

In conclusion…who wants to buy a bunch of Hellraiser and other Clive Barker comics? I sure do seem to have a bunch of them.

• • •

I have more Swamp Thing talk in me…surprise, surprise….including some response to your recent comments, but that’ll come later in the week. Thanks for reading, pals.

By the way, if you’re wondering if younger me would have lost his mind knowing he’d someday interact with one of his favorite cartoonists on a regular basis, the answer is “yes, yes he would have.”

§ March 25th, 2019 § Filed under collecting, mad magazine § 3 Comments

So in response to my post about the comic strip reprint books from last Monday, some of you mentioned the many Mad paperbacks that were part of our childhoods, too. Are any of those classic paperbacks still in print in that original format, or have they all been supplanted by larger trade editions and new repackagings and such? Been years since I’ve seen any on a shelf that were new…the last 30 years of dealing with them in comics retail has affixed them firmly in my head as “vintage items,” always used, always a thing firmly of the past.

But that wasn’t always the case with me. As a young Mikester, I had an uncle give me a paper sack full of his old Mad magazines that he had bought in previous years, which coincided with my own then-burgeoning love of the newest issues. I was buying (or cajoling my parents into buying) the new issues starting around 1976 or 1977, and the Mads I got from my uncle were from around the late 1960s through the early-to-mid 1970s, though there were a few stragglers that were earlier still. A small handful of the paperback reprints were also passed along to me, also from my uncle but from a couple of other relatives as well.

Okay, that doesn’t quite explain how I didn’t always see the paperbacks as being “old” things, since, you know, even as a kid I was getting those books second-hand. I found those old, beat-up books and magazines fascinating. I seem to remember mentioning, either here or on the Twitters (it all blurs together sometimes) that the “new” Mads I was getting off the shelves at the supermarket or newsstand were “my” Mads, fresh and current. The slightly older Mads, like the stack of mags I got from my uncle, were just similar enough to what I was getting new to be recognizable, but there was just a very slight “off-ness” to them, that there was just enough different in these previous editions to create some kind of reaction in me. Might have been the subject matter (“What’s this ‘Vietnam’ they keep talking about?” “Boy, there sure is a lot of this Nixon guy in these issues”) or the presentation (seem to remember photos being incorporated into more of the articles), and the other occasional oddity (“Whoa, there was a grey Spy?”).

But the paperbacks dug back even farther into the Mad archives, heavy on the early 1960s stuff, which looked and felt quite a bit different from the then-modern Mad I was reading. Sure, many of the creators were the same, doing work that was still somewhat famliar, but earlier Dave Berg and Don Martin cartooning in particular felt drastically different from what I was used to as a late-1970s Mad adopter. …Not to say I didn’t like it, of course. I was fascinated by the evolution of this magazine.

Anyway, the paperbacks. I started looking for new copies of the paperbacks in bookstores, buying (or, again, cajoling my parents into buying) copies when we could find them. This filled in more gaps in my…well, “understanding” isn’t really the right word, since the reprints tended to be context-free, though I would check the copyright page to get an idea of the approximate years they were reprinting from. Perhaps filling in gaps in my appreciation for the many forms Mad has taken over the years.

I also realized that there was new material being offered by Mad in their paperbacks as well. Just books filled with new cartoons I never saw in the pages of the mag, by creators I loved from there. My specific favorites were ntonio Prohías, who did Spy Vs. Spy, and Sergio Aragones, who did purt’near everything. Finding out there were whole new paperbacks featuring the Spies and Sergio’s cartooning was astounding to me, and became the focus of my Mad paperback collecting.

I did eventually track down most of them at the many bookstores that used to be in our area, but a couple still eluded me. Thas, circa 1980, I made my first sojourn into the world of mail order. I mean, I’d had subscriptins to magazines at around that time (like Pizazz, or Ranger Rick) but I had never written in to specifically oreer certain individual items before. But Mad made it easy…there was an order form for the paperbacks in one of the mags, where I could check off the ones I needed (one Spy Vs. Spy book, don’t remember which one, the Sergio book Viva MAD!, and a third book I do not recall, but I think it was an Al Jaffee one). Totalled up the price with postage, my dad took me to the local convenience store to get a money order, we dropped it in the mail, and thus began the kid-equivalent of an eternity waiting for the package to arrive.

And arrive it did, and lo and behold was my collection of Spy Vs. Spy and Sergio paperbacks complete…until the next book, and the next book, and so on.

I kept getting Sergio books for a while after I stopped following the new issues of the magazine itself, which I’d mostly stopped getting around 1982. I certainly had stopped getting the Super Specials, because by that point it was feeling like I’d already seen most of the material they were reprinting.

That wasn’t it for my Mad reading, however. I did get the occasional issue here and there, and was way into it again at some point in the mid-2000s. I bought those specials that reprinted, in full and in chronological order, all the original Mad color comics from the 1950s. I have a copy of the infamous middle finger cover. And I have this issue, which Sergio was nice enough to scribble on for me during one of his many visits to my former place of employment:

Here’s a better look:

So anyway, I still have all my Mad books…some of my magazines have gone to the wayside, but I still have quite a few of those, too, I’ve even added a few more of the old paperbacks to the collection as I’ve come across ones I’ve not yet read. However, I haven’t been reading the new Mad, though I’m certainly carrying it at the shop (where it sells nicely, thank you). I may not be a regular Mad reader anymore, but I’m still a Mad fan, and I’m glad it’s still around.

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