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.

 

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!

 

 

 

 

 

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!

Giant Sized Anniversary

Here we are folks, the season finale.  

Thanks for hanging with us this season.  It’s been a real pleasure to geek out with you over the stuff that’s come through the doors and give you a more in depth look at the inner workings of Jay & Silent Bob’s Secret Stash.  I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about it as much as I’ve enjoyed writing about it.

 

This year marks Walt’s 15th year as manager of the Secret Stash.  Ming knew he had to pull off something really great because as anyone who knows Walt realizes, he is not a demonstrative man.  Walt’s list of things he loves is short, but what he loves he loves with all his heart.  For this occasion, hockey was the logical choice.

 

But first, the swag.  Our old pal, Anthony, brought in a Warner Brother’s store  Batman cover shadow box.  Limited to 250- pieces, this shadow box was a 3-D representation of a Batman cover and came with a certificate of authenticity.

Also in its favor is the relatively low number, in this case, number 33 out of 250.

Geek Note: In the case of statues and dioramas, lower number are always more desirable to the collector. I personally do not subscribe to this theory, but hey, we nerds have our own peculiarities.

Ming agreed on $350 which is not a bad price seeing as how the WB stores have all closed. Let’s be frank, they ain’t making them no more!

Next up is what feels like an old friend: Giant sized X-Men #1. We won this in an online auction and it came in the same day that the gentleman was actually looking for it. This happens more often than you might think as the more popular books sell off our wall quite frequently. We didn’t even know that this book had been signed by the artist Dave Cockrum and found out along with the gentleman inquiring. There are a few artists who have distinct signatures and are easily recognizable to the true comics fan. We sold this without a COA (Certificate of Authenticity) because Cockrum’s signature is one of these few.

As Walt points out and the next customer proves, if you’re patient, you can usually get your price.

Our third item was a animation cell from the Lord of the Rings animated film directed by Ralph Bakshi in 1978. Bakshi may be best known for his adult animated film, Fritz the Cat, which received an X-Rating and is credited for being the most successful independent animated movie of all time. His geek cred includes: The Mighty Heroes, Mighty Mouse, and the 1967 Spider-Man cartoon. This was a really nice piece for fans of Tolkien.

And now, for some DEVILS WORSHIP!

It was a real pleasure being with Walt at The Rock in Newark, home of the NJ Devils, and to get to watch Walt on the ice with his childhood heroes. Ken Daneyko, Jim Dowd, Grant Marshall and Bruce Driver were four of the nicest guys you could ever meet. Genuinely enjoyed meeting Walt and the rest of us and we sure enjoyed spending the afternoon with them. You can see why they still have a following today.

The best part was watching Bryan get pummeled with hockey pucks and seeing him dragged off the ice. Sometimes it’s the little things in life…

I want to thank you folks for watching Comic Book Men and tweeting, facebooking, and in general loving our show as much as you do. With all honesty, there would be no show without you. Thanks for helping us prove that– beyond any doubt — our geek culture is absolutely awesome. I have seen over the past decade how much influence WE have in bringing OUR heroes into the limelight and letting non-geeks see how cool they truly are.

And there ya go.

Comic Charades

This is a fun one this week boys and girls. Lots of snappy chatter, games and prizes!

Let’s get to the transactions first, and we’ll talk about some of the funny stuff in a minute. Out of the gate, Bryan and Walt were checking out a Transformers Megatron figure. This was banned in America because it was too realistic-looking. It transformed into a real-looking German luger. Unfortunately, the number of super-realistic toy guns back in the day resulted in a number of accidental shootings by law enforcement officials who were unable to tell real guns from fakes. So, toy manufacturers are now required to put a blazing orange “cap” on the barrel of all toy guns.

Next up was a 1975 convention-circuit George Perez sketch of Prince Namor, the Sub Mariner. George Perez is one of my favorite comic book artists. His attention to detail is second to none. Here is a man who is not only unafraid of drawing team books with dozens of characters, he enjoys it. Most artists shy away from drawing large casts of characters because of how difficult it is to make each one stand out, but Perez gives each character a unique look and quality that transcends the four colors. This is an early sketch and I don’t believe he had ever drawn Namor professionally, but we proudly display it at the Stash behind the counter.

George Perez’s artwork is well represented at the Stash. In addition to the Namor sketch, I have a personalized YellowJacket sketch he drew for me in 2001. I waited in line for four hours for that sketch at a con in Chicago and the ten minutes I spent with him was well worth the wait. A nicer guy you’ll never meet in the comics world.

A young lady came in for a copy of Detective Comics number #359, “the million dollar debut of Batgirl.” Technically speaking, Barbara Gordon made her comic book debut nine months before her television premier. It is a comic book myth that she first appeared on the TV show. The myth comes from the fact that television executives wanted to have a character that female fans could identify with and they lobbied DC to have the character debut in the comics first. The seeds for the TV character were planted in the second season of Batman with Commissioner Gordon mentioning his daughter Barbara a time or two.

This issue was written by Gardner Fox, Golden and Silver Age legend who created the concept of the super-team with the Justice Society of America in All Star Comics #3. What started as a cynical marketing gimmick and a derivative female character has turned into a self-sustaining solo-character. After Alan Moore crippled Barbara Gordon in The Killing Joke, John Ostrander and Kim Yale remade Barbara Gordon into the cyber-genius Oracle who would go on to become the information-hub of the DC Universe. Barbara would reach her pinnacle under the talented Gail Simone who currently writes Batgirl.

Monster Bill…We get a lot of characters at the Secret Stash and Monster Bill is one of them. He came in with Aurora monster models that were definitely out of our price range. After going out to the Monster Van, Walt picked up a re-issue of old Universal monster model four-pack for $175 and the promise that Bill would help Walt put them together. Universal monsters are Walt’s weak spot. The Stash usually doesn’t purchase model kits, but his affection for those old timey monsters plus the fact that it was Monster Bill made Walt make an exception this time. I can say with a certainty that the model-making date never happened. And as Kevin pointed out, Walt was just yanking Bryan’s chain.
About Comic Charades. We do play on the very rare occasion when we have down time. Walt, Bryan and I are very good, and Ming is as good as you saw. A surprisingly good player is Rob Bruce…who’s Crisis on Infinite Earths actually brought me to tears…or maybe it didn’t. This week’s episode was another peek behind the curtain at our day-to-day doings. Sometimes nothing huge happens but we still get into nerdy conversations and have a blast doing it.

And there ya go.

Cryptozoic-Men

This week’s episode deals with one of the coolest things I’ve ever been a part of…a comic book pitch to an honest-to-God Comic Book Company. Dynamite Comics is a New Jersey based publisher, and prints some pretty big names in the industry; The Bionic Man, The Shadow, The Green Hornet, The Lone Ranger…true fans know the names. It was pretty cool to take a meeting with the fine folks at Dynamite. But more on that later. On to the swag!

The first item through the door this week was a seven-foot long Millennium Falcon created for Toys ‘R Us to highlight Hasbro’s “Power of the Force” Star Wars 3 & 3/4″ action figures. This thing is huge…and I mean HUGE!  Ming could actually hollow it out and live in there, it’s that big. Walt actually got this for a good price, although I’m at a loss to where, exactly, we’ll be able to display it.

Next up was a copy of Creepy Magazine #1 by Warren Publishing, signed by Jim Warren, Gray Morrow and Frank Frazetta. This may just be a one-of-a-kind item, as these gentlemen are no longer with us (that means dead to you.) Two hundred dollars is not really an outrageous sum for us to pay, as I truly believe this book can fetch upward of $375.

Last up this week is The Godzilla from The Shogun Warriors line produced by Mattel. This was an amazing toy that I had as a child, and foolishly brought to the beach, effectively ruining it. Godzilla had a spring-loaded fist and wheels on its feet, as it wasn’t the most articulated toy. This toy was one of the first to arouse the ire of Parent groups in the 70’s because of that fist. By 1980, the entire Shogun Warriors toy line was off the market. To find a Godzilla in as good a condition as this one was in is rare.

As I said before, it was a real kick to meet with the staff of Dynamite Comics, and helping Walt to craft a couple of villains for his book was a hoot and a half. Truthfully, I can’t wait to see the finished book. I’ve already seen a few early pages and man, are they amazing.

So thanks for reading, and there ya go.

Stash-Teroids

Some of my most treasured childhood memories revolve around the video games, Space Invaders, Asteroids and Q*Bert.  Seeing a machine as pristine as the Asteroids game featured on this week’s episode snapped right back to the late 70’s.  This is a classic.  There is no other game like it.  Hand-eye coordination, getting a case of the “twitchies” from all the button-pushing…

Both the seller and the buyer made out well in this deal.  But the real winner was Walt and the Stash, getting $50 for doing nothing other than standing there talking to a guy about a game.

Next up were the Amazing Spider-Man comic books.  Walt purchased for the store the essential Spider-Man stories:  #101, first Morbius; #122 and #123, the death of Gwen Stacey and the Green Goblin; #129, the first appearance of The Punisher; #300, the introduction of Venom and ASM #36 Volume 2, the 9-11 issue.  These stories are the creme-de-la-creme of the Spider universe and are highly sought after.  

The GI Joe figures — and the Night Raven fighter jet are key pieces for any hardcore GI Joe collector.  While the box for the jet was slightly damaged, the actual toy is pristine and the footlocker containing the original series of Joes is hard to find in any condition, complete.  I think was a big score for the Stash.  This is not my area of expertise.  This is more Ming’s wheelhouse.  I grew up on the 13″ Joes.  I remember them when they were the Adventure Team.  

Finally, the Star Wars battle ships.  Again, this is Ming’s era and he really had a blast when these came in.  While I was a huge fan of the Millennium Falcon, by the time Kenner got around to making it, I had stopped playing with toys and was heavy into collecting books and comics.  These are huge, big-ticket items that are sure to please any Star Wars fanatic.

This week’s stuff was a mixed bag to be sure.  It tickled me that it was so Ming-centric, coming on the heels of our big sandwich win.  Way to go, Ming!  

And there ya go.