Superman’s 75th Birthday Bash!

 

Comic Book Men returns with a WHOLE lot of geeky goodness, fresh off of our mid-winter hiatus!  And we kick it off with The Secret Stash’s own 75th Birthday Party in honor of Superman.  

In our first transaction, Walt is reminded by a customer trying to buy a 75th birthday present for his father, that Superman, too, turned 75 this year.  The Superman item that this gentleman picks up is a Chemtoys Superman figure.  It has exactly ZERO points of articulation and actually didn’t even really look like Clark Kent.  Chemtoys, based out of Cicero, Illinois, was originally a cleaning supply company who revolutionized the toy industry back in the 1940’s by mass producing bubble solution for solution.  Remember that little dip and blow from your childhood?  That was them!

They also produced poorly made novelty toys back in the day when licensing was cheap (and fairly unregulated).  The gentleman paid $125 for it and he got a great deal.  These are NOT easy to come by and go for almost twice as much on online auction sites.  

I don’t think I’ve ever seen Walt this excited about cosplay, especially cosplay when HE is participating.  His idea for us to dress up as Superman’s supporting cast was an inspired one, and we came up with some really obscure characters that no one would have recognized, like Mon-El, Superboy’s “brother” from the planet Daxam, or the Phantom Zone villains such as Jax-Ur, Faora, Kru-El, and so on….but no one wanted to paint themselves all white.  

Our second transaction, Lois Lane #106.  In the 1970’s, spurred on by the success of their socially relevant Green Lantern/Green Arrow run by Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams where they tackle such topics as racism, religion and social consciousness, DC Comics decided to branch out and have Superman’s girlfriend, Lois Lane, take on racism.  Using Superman’s “Plastimold” machine, Lois turns black for a day.     

I think it’s really cool that a young comic geek would come in looking for this issue.  It’s always fun to geek out with a fellow Superman fan and talk about the impact of comics in the lives of readers — especially those issues that seek to open up conversations and take a stab at starting a little ‘trouble’. 

Now for the Superman party.  Eagle-eyed fans of Comic Book Men will notice some familiar faces in the background of the Superman Bash.  I will point some out that you do not know — my beautiful wife was on hand in her red dress, and you can hear her laughs peppered throughout the scene.  Fans of Tell’em Steve Dave will recognize Git’em Steve Dave in his trademark hat.  I had other family there, three of my brothers and their wives, and my niece Erin and nephew Ian.  

But my favorite question of the night was Sunday Jeff’s about Teri Hatcher(“Are they real, and are they spectacular?!?”).  That boy’s a riot.  

And as far as Superman, himself, Dean Cain is one of the nicest, most genuine people I have ever met.  In between filming, I got to speak with him and found out that he’s passionate about supporting our troops and visits Afghanistan on a regular basis.  He’s also a devoted father and we can’t thank him enough for taking time out and hanging with us. 

One last thing.  Ming and I really don’t have a hot tub in the basement.  If you want to know where we REALLY keep the hot tub, stop by the Stash, 35 Broad Street, Red Bank, NJ….

And there ya go.

 

Cryptozoic Man!!!

Happy (belated) Thanksgiving, folks!

Walt Flanagan has a soft spot in his heart for monsters. Werewolves, and non-sparkly vampires, and misshapen hulks of dubious humanity. These are Walt’s childhood pals, they’re the ones he had sleepovers with. That being said, it should come as no surprise that his latest venture (alongside OTHER childhood pal and misshapen human Bryan Johnson) is a hybrid hero/monster, the Cryptozoic Man. For Walt and Bryan, his comic is nothing short of a labor of love. But I’ll tell you about the Baltimore Con a little later.

The Tomb of Dracula transaction sets up perfectly how Walt feels about certain monsters… if they act in the service of humanity, sweeping the dregs off of the street, then great. They are benefitting society, allowing us to grow as a whole, while ridding us of elements we think of as distasteful. Win/win, right? To Walt, life should be so cut and dried.

ToD writer Marv Wolfman and artist Gene Colan took a character who, up until that time, was the epitome of literary evil and managed to make him somewhat sympathetic. You understood that Dracula needed to feed, much the same way that humans have to eat. It was less about morality than it was about survival. And let’s not forget the importance of ToD as a Marvel Comic book. Not only did Dracula have the opportunity to interact with characters in the Marvel Universe, he also spawned a character who is still popular to this day: Blade the Vampire Hunter. Blade proved that a comic character could actually be a profitable movie franchise. Without him, Spider-Man, Iron Man and the X-Men might not have been made.

I would be remiss if I didn’t give a little background on Sunday Jeff. Here is a guy who jumped into toy collecting with both feet in the mid-‘90s. He’s got a great eye for detail when it comes to finding flaws in merchandise, and has amazing luck when looking for hard-to-find action figures. And he happens to be a genuinely nice guy.

So it came as no shock that Sunday Jeff low-balled the guy with the Jawa Sandcrawler. AND HE WAS RIGHT TO DO SO! It’s a toy that rarely pops up, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s all that rare. I have seen some come in, and granted they may not have been in as nice shape as this one, but they were whole, in played-with condition, but had both box AND instructions. Collectors are, by definition, completists and willing to pay for those peculiar bragging rights.

Take the Mego Buck Rogers action figures as another example. Sunday Jeff, as is his style, gave an accurate (if a little TOO realistic) assessment of Buck’s current status in the pop culture landscape. True, Buck Rogers of the 25th Century was a pioneer in the pulp hero pantheon, but what he is today is all but forgotten. I, too, would have passed on those figures.

Now, about Baltimore… Walt and Bryan had a serious case of nerves. This was, after all, their baby, and it’s never easy putting your art right out on Main Street for anyone to take a swing at. Ming and I had less at stake, and were able to enjoy ourselves a little more. Of course, when you put cameras in front of him, Ming could have a good time at an execution. Walt and Bryan had nothing to worry about, and the Con crowd was friendly and welcoming. Being on the opposite side of the table was certainly a new experience, but not uncomfortable in the end.

And there ya go!

Dukes of Jersey

For those of us who grew up in the ’70s and ’80s, The Dukes of Hazard was a staple of Friday Night television, even if you weren’t a fanatic(and I wasn’t), but there was a certain charm to the Duke clan, who consisted of Uncle Jesse, cousins Bo, Luke and Daisy (and Coy and Vance, who were the “scab” cousins introduced after Tom Wopat and John Schneider left due to financial disagreements.) Even in their theme song, the family is referred to as “modern-day Robin Hoods. What comic fan of the time didn’t have a soft spot in their hearts for these lovable rogues?

The gentleman who came in to sell his Dukes of Hazard wares was affable enough.  And he gave us a great deal on some rare Dukes items.  The cherry on top, however, was a ride in his General Lee.  He put almost a decade’s worth of effort into this car and it showed, in every perfect detail down to the jugs and TNT (really road flares) in his trunk.  Getting to ride in this car fulfilled a dream I didn’t even know I had:  I got to be a Duke for an afternoon.  

The dude who brought in the Amazing Spider-Man comics came in with some champagne dreams.  His asking price of $3,000 was completely unrealistic given the condition of the books…while they were not as bad as some comics I’ve seen, they were a far cry from the condition they needed to be in to get the money he wanted.  I stand behind my assessment of their value and think that we came to a reasonable compromise.  

The Green Goblin IS Spider-Man’s arch nemesis, even though Norman Osbourn was “dead” in the comics for twenty-five years.  And while others tried to take his place, most notably, his son, Harry, who was Peter Parker’s best friend, no one could match the evil and madness Norman exuded.  When I commented that these two particular books were ‘book-ends’ what I was meant was that issue #14 was the Green Goblin’s first appearance and issue #122 was his final appearance (until they brought him back in the 1990’s during the whole clone saga–and the less said about that, the better).  These are two pretty kick-ass books and are must-haves for any Spider-Man fan.  

Our Canadian Brony.  Well, he certainly was intense and had a true passion for My Little Pony.  I’ve never understood the allure of this phenomenon of My Little Pony, especially among young to middle-aged men.  It’s been speculated that former president Bill Clinton is a Brony, which would explain a lot.  Thank God this was not the only thing he brought with him or it would have been a long trip for nothing.  The Chris Hemsworth THOR statue WAS something we were very interested in, but it being an artists proof and not coming with a box or a certificate of authenticity almost squashed the deal.  But, since this was a prototype of a very popular character made, it was worth a leap of faith on Walt’s part.  And as a personal aside…I’m glad I got the tattoo I got rather than the tattoo he has.

And lastly, while not well received in The Stash, Star Trek has been near and dear to my heart since I was in high school.  The philosophy of Gene Roddenberry struck a chord with me in my adolescence.  I found this fella’s story to be pretty cool; basically, he wanted to replace for his cousin a Mego Starship Enterprise bridge playlet he had broken when he was sick as a child.  Walt let him slide A LOT regarding price.  I guess he felt a kinship…it seems to be happening more and more the older Walt gets.  

Bryan had some great one-liners in this episode and even Ming got off a zinger or two.  By the way, don’t bother trolling the internet looking for Bryan and my sex tape.  It’s locked away in an unmarked wooden box in a storage unit located somewhere in Area 51….

And there ya go!

 

 

 

 

Walt’s Big Gamble

Let’s all put our hands together and celebrate my triumphant return to Comic Book Men!

In this week’s episode, Walt meets a fellow ElfQuest fan.  For the uninitiated, ElfQuest was one of the very first independent comics ever published.  Produced by Richard and Wendy Pini, it was actually the very first closed-ended comic series ever.  Interesting geeky backstory here:  Richard Pini wrote a letter (back when comics had ‘Letters’ pages) in an issue of Silver Surfer which was ready by Wendy Fletcher a fellow comics, fantasy and scifi fan.  The two corresponded for years, met, fell in love and were married.  Fast-forward to 1977, when the couple brought forth their dream project, ElfQuest, full of dark magic and elven folk and adventure galore.  ElfQuest was the first fantasy-adventure comic series written and illustrated by a woman, Wendy Pini.  Richard serves as her editor.

This woman reminded us all that there are times when we’ve all felt like outsiders.  

 

The next items were the Aliens M41 Pulse Rifle (nicknamed Brown Bess) and the Motion Tracker by Master Replica.  Two cool props from a very cool movie, James Cameron’s, Aliens.  The guy selling the items was not out of bounds with his asking prices, but unfortunately, as I’ve said before, most people come in with a number fixed in their head and retail doesn’t work that way.  We gave him a very fair price for the motion tracker.  It could be argued that this was the first time that a major motion picture portrayed a woman taking center stage as an action hero…Sigourney Weaver kicks major ass as Ripley, a character who signed on to the mission originally as simply an advisor.  Her transformation into badass mode is prompted by a young female survivor of the colony they are investigating.  She needs to protect the girl from the Alien Bitch-Queen, and having her maternal instinct re-awakened gives her all the motivation she needs to do what needs to be done.  

 

The last of our transactions was the Ben Cooper Batman Playsuit.  The Ben Cooper company was THE premier Halloween costumer for children during the 50’s through the 90’s.  There are few things more Americana, in my opinion, than the Ben Cooper costume.  The company held licenses for hundreds of different characters. I myself can remember being:  Spiderman, Dracula, and Bozo the Clown.  The playsuit differed from Cooper’s regular halloween costumes in that it was made out of fabric with hand-stiching, and ACTUALLY looking and feeling like the character’s costume rather than having a pictorial representation on the plastic bib.  This was a really cool item and I’m really glad Walt got it for the store. 

 

Now, on to Walt’s Big Gamble.  We all pitched in $250 to get a storage locker, hoping to find some holy comic and/or collectible relics in other people’s discard.  The day was brutally hot and we’d been out there looking at storage locker after storage locker and were sweating like madmen. Finally, at one of the last lockers of the day, we saw some things that piqued our interest.  I should have known that things were going awry when Rob Bruce showed up.  (He ran us up in the bidding $500 over what we wanted to pay, but that’s ok. We’ll get our revenge eventually.)  Anticipation was high that we’d stumbled on to some fairly good comics, but it was nothing but crap.   It WAS a shock that there were no comics in the long boxes, because long, white boxes are specific to comic books and why someone would buy ‘long boxes’ -the industry term- to store magazines and encyclopedias is beyond me.  We were stunned and disappointed.  And broke.

 

One question, did ya like my gloves?  

And there ya go!

 

 

 

 

 

Pity The Fools

I really don’t know how I let myself be talked into some things, and this episode is one of ‘em. The boys purchased a Mr. T’s Water War backyard water-frolic toy. The gent who came in to sell was himself a character. Sporting a mohawk, he was (and probably remains) Mr. T’s #1 fan.

Seeing as how these products littered shelves back in the 1980s, $40 was MORE than a fair price. I remember being 15 years old and buying a Mr. T action figure, realizing I was WAY too old to be buying something as schlocky as that, and having it dawn on me that action figures should have MORE than five points of articulation. But more on T in a moment…

Non-sports trading cards… these are EITHER the bane of a comic shop’s existence, or the backbone of its sales. For Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash, it is an albatross that has hung around our neck since even before Kevin purchased an existing comic book store (then called Comicology) and renamed it. Part of the inventory that came along was a huge cache of Super Hero cards. Now, for anyone who doesn’t follow the trends of comics (and unless you are a die-hard fan, why would you?), trading cards of the non-sport variety had their heyday in the ’60s and ’70s with “Mars Attacks” and the 1966 Batman TV series card set, and we can certainly count “Wacky Packages” and “Garbage Pail Kids” in there for good measure, and yes, I know that “Garbage Pail Kids” came out in the 80’s, but bear with me for a second. In this time period, sales were as good as they could get… but like all fads or trends, there was a resurgence, a period of time when the kids who grew up with something reach an age where A) they want to recapture a part of their youth, and B) they have disposable income to do so. And so cards came back in the mid-to-late ’90s. They still are around today, but they don’t have the sway they used to.

Aquawoman was a lot of fun. Cosplay gets a bad rap at the Stash, probably because none of us would be able to pull off wearing anything super-heroic. I also won’t even get into the whole licensed/unlicensed costume kerfluffle… that’s best left to greater legal minds than mine. The cold-cast Lady Death wall hanging was a pretty cool piece from a character that had some serious interest in the ’90s. Created by Brian Pulido over at CHAOS! Comics, she’s still around to this day.

As far as Teddy Ruxpin and Grubby go, I will admit that these toys freak me out. It’s one thing to go to Disney World and visit the Country Bear Jamboree or hit up the Hall of Presidents, but it is just TOO CREEPY to have these… things on a shelf, ready to turn themselves on and kill you in your sleep. And I am convinced that this was either the abandoned plot to Halloween 4, or what was supposed to happen if enough people purchased Teddy and Grubby. The gentleman selling them seemed harmless enough, but you never know.

As to Mr. T’s Water War, I believe that the actual workings did not come close to the design concept. Hitting T with a sponge didn’t give the cathartic release that hitting Bryan with a sponge did. And I have to wonder… what was up with Ming’s orange speedo?

I’ll leave you to ponder THAT burning question…

And there ya go!

USS Ming!!!

U.S.S. Ming
>
> Hope you got your fill of me last week cause I’m not around much this week, BUT this week centers on my buddy, Ming. The first transaction was actually two things — one, Ming “owned” as a child (albeit briefly) and the other was something he desperately wanted. Both are from the G.I. Joe 3 31/4″ figure lines which were a little after my time, but right up Ming’s alley. First up: the Terrordrome, headquarters to the evil Cobra. This was a high ticket item back in the 80’s and it was damned big. It looks like it should have been in the middle of a dormant volcano. This was a pretty impressive piece, even to someone like me, who’s not a huge fan of the series. But the truly impressive piece, the one that Ming yearned for as a child, was the U.S.S. Flagg. THIS was a truly monstrous piece, over seven feet long, three feet wide and two feet high. I can only imagine the size of the playroom that could accommodate this behemoth. The gentleman who brought it in was a pretty cool guy whose dream of teaching toxicology through comics-themed flashcards was inspired. I don’t know what Ming plans on doing with this piece he bought, but right now it’s set up in the Stash’s basement in all its oversized glory.
>
> I was really touched by the next transaction. A gentleman came in with a signed “Heroes” magazine put out by Marvel Comics after the events of September 11th. Marvel produced this as a tribute to the real-life heroes in our world, the first-responders: firemen, police, EMT’s who risk everything day in and day out. This book had a huge print run and even so, it went into second printings because of demand. Originally, some of the proceeds went to various charities to help first-responders and victims of 9/11. Even so, the value of this book has not gone up significantly, except as a sentimental piece of memorabilia. The seller was going to take the proceeds of the sale and donate it to a firefigher’s charity. Walt not only gave the gentleman his asking price with no negotiation, he chucked in an extra $50 bucks. Just goes to show how much heart Walt actually has. Don’t worry, Walt doesn’t read my blog so this isn’t apple-polishing on my part.
>
> And lastly, Ming brokered a deal to help a stay-at-home dad treat his wife to a night on the town. Gentleman came in with a Warner Brother’s store print of Howard Porter’s Justice League. This was an impressive piece because it showcased Grant Morrison’s use of “The Big Seven” (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Green Lantern, The Flash and Martian Manhunter) back on the team together for the first time in a decade. The Warner Brother’s store became famous for their high quality prints and while this one by Porter IS desirable, it never fetched the price tags of Bruce Timm’s or Alex Ross’s pieces. Still and all, I think Ming gave him a fair price. Hopefully enough for the guy to get he and his wife backstage with Donny and Marie.
>
> So that’s it for this week. Hope you enjoyed watching Ming as much as Ming enjoys being watched.
>
> And there ya go.
>
>

Super Friends

Super Friends

This is a very personal episode for me…I hate, and I mean literally HATE when my personal problems become public, but when our show runners threw this idea out there, I realized that this could make people in other parts of the country who weren’t aware of the damage we incurred due to Superstorm Sandy get a little insight. My family and I were extremely lucky…no one was hurt, and all we lost were THINGS. Sure, losing possessions that you’ve worked at accumulating over a lifetime sucks, but at the very least you can acquire them again.
More on that in a little while…Now on to our transactions!
Up first was the guy who wanted “Howard the Duck” #1. His contention was that Howard was the CENTER of the Marvel Universe, as Howard was involved in every important storyline that Marvel Comics published. My counter-argument is that Marvel has to publish characters a certain amount of times every few years to retain the rights to those characters. Either way, Howard pops up every now and again in Marvel books.
Writer Steve Gerber created Howard with the intention of it to be a joke-character in that, the fact that Howard’s stories made NO sense…it was an absurdists dream-book, but he became SO popular that the joke turned on Gerber. He fought with Marvel editorial so much he was removed from the character he’d created!
Next up was Rad-Repeatin’ Tarzan. This toy was recalled  due to the fact that if you pressed a button on Tarzan’s back repeatedly, it appeared as if Tarzan was “swinging on his own vine” if you get what I’m saying.
Sadly, this gent wouldn’t take $10 for Tarzan, but he did learn that even if a toy has been recalled, it doesn’t necessarily translate into money.
Lastly, we had a guy bring in something that Walt and I recall very fondly from our own childhoods…The Power Records Read Along Comics.
Put out by Peter Pan Records in the 70s, these books brought comics to life for young readers, with a full cast, sound effects and background music.
This was THE coolest way for a kid in the 1970’s to follow comics, and my only regret is that DC and Marvel didn’t go bigger and broader with these books. They could have opened up comics to a larger audience, much in the way Manga has 100% saturation in Japan.
Getting back to my story, It was amazing that Walt, Ming, Bry and Rob Bruce were able to get ahold of George Perez and have him do a FULL PAGE drawing of Wonder Man for me. I would never be so Pollyanna-ish as to say that Sandy afforded me the opportunity to meet one of my comics heroes, but thanks to my friends and co-workers I was able to. And may I just say what so many people have discovered at the many comic conventions that he attends: George Perez is a warm and amazing person… and so are Walt, Bryan, Ming and EVEN Rob Bruce (but don’t tell them I said that…they’d NEVER let me live it down!)
And there ya go!