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!

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Super Hoagie

I can’t believe I forgot the UnderRoos. 

Last week’s episode included a bit where Walt buys Superman and Wonder Woman UnderRoos.  He talks Ming into wearing the Wonder Woman halter and panties. Please understand, these were, as the tag line goes, underwear that’s fun to wear, but Ming is a grown man and these were made to fit an 8-year-old girl.  No matter how you do the math, something’s gotta give. Ming had one hell of a time getting into the underwear and an even worse time getting out.

If you’ve never had the pleasure of actually seeing an UnderRoos commercial, I beg of you, track one down online and watch it.  As Bryan says in the episode…it is hypnotic, and I defy you to get that music out of your head after viewing.

Now, on to this week’s show.

First up, Wolverine claw.  This was hand-tooled.  I doubt it was mass-produced.  It had no manufacturer’s markings, so this looked like a labor of love.  I actually tried them on and someone could do SERIOUS damage to another person.

These actually sold fairly quickly after we bought them.  They were too cool looking to stay in the Stash for too long.

Next up, the Flash of Two Worlds statue by DC Direct.  While this was a well-sculpted statue, it was not truly sought after due to the crudity of the diaorama set-up. It was simply a flimsy piece of cardboard that attached to the back of the statue.  It retailed for $195 when it was first released in 2005.  We didn’t purchase this statue but Walt and Bryan did have a lot of fun with the guy who was trying to sell it. 

Geek Note:  This statue represents the story, Flash of Two Worlds, from Flash #123 which introduced the concept of a multiverse.  This concept, while not unique to DC Comics, was used by DC very effectively to marry old and new storylines and heroes/heroines.  For example, you could have Superman, active during WWII and also a younger Superman, active in our time, team up to fight two different versions of Lex Luthor. 

All of this was wiped away with the Maxi-Series, Crisis on Infinite Earths, published in 1987.  Written by Marv Wolfman and drawn by George Perez, this book streamlined the DC Universe into one, cohesive timeline.  This would stand until Geoff Johns’ excellent Infinite Crisis which reintroduced the multiverse, now known as The New52.

I never thought that I would see an Amazing Fantasy 15 walk through our doors. The father and son selling it had inflated dreams of its value.  I agree with Rob Bruce in that it was worth about $2,500-to us, given its condition.  What viewers are truly unable to see is the amount of tape on the front cover which, in my opinion, drops a comic book down to an automatic 2.0, or Good condition.

The fact that this was such a significant issue — it introduced Spider-Man to the world for goodness sakes! — allows us to be a little lenient when it comes to grading.  Even a poor copy is one hell of a find for an issue as scarce as this one.  If we had purchased it, we could have possibly sold it for $4,500 – $5,000.

Unfortunately, we could not come to an agreement — they simply wanted too much money and wouldn’t budge from their $8,500 asking price.  It’s too bad because even though it would have sat on a shelf for a long time, it would have added a little prestige to our book wall.

Finally, we have the Star Wars, Chewbacca model.  The gentleman who brought this in was so likable that Walt even went UP on the asking price — something I’ve rarely ever seen him do.  The gentleman in question dresses up as Captain America for various charitable functions and for Comic-Cons.  He never charges a fee and does it for the pure joy it brings to the children.  How can you NOT respect a guy like that?

The model itself was not especially interesting or collectible, but it does show that Walt has a bigger heart than he lets on.  I wish I could tell you how many times we’ve had to turn people away with comics and toys that they think are valuable, but unfortunately aren’t.  We usually send those folks over to Rob Bruce! 

As for my sandwich, it is indeed on Readie’s lunch board.  Next time you’re in town to visit the Stash and load up on comics and toys, stop in and have one.  Ask for the Secret Stash Super Hero.  Tell’em Mike sent ya. 

And there ya go. 

The Clash at the Stash

Hey, we’re back, and just in time to help you celebrate your love….for comics!  Happy Valentine’s Day.

You missed us, right? 

We are jazzed to be headlining AMC’s awesome unscripted TV lineup on Thursday nights, though I gotta be honest–I miss our pals The Walking Dead and The Talking Dead.  

First off, let me state for the record that Nate “Rock” Quarry is one of the most interesting and genuine people you’ll ever meet.  His back story is amazing. His strict religious upbringing kept him from enjoying practically anything in life.  The amount of courage it took for him to break away from such ingrained beliefs is astounding.  

At the age of 24, with no sports or fighting background, he decided that he wanted to be a mixed martial arts fighter.  From what he told me, the training was brutal and painful and the first two years the only thing he really learned was how to get his ass kicked.

With perseverance and extreme dedication he went on to become one of the UFC’s top fighters.  And, he carved out a life for himself and his daughter.  It was truly an honor to meet and get to know Nate.

Now on to the swag!

Ming certainly took a shine to our third grade teacher but what Walt truly liked was the Juggernaut statue.  Sculpted by Randy Bowen and the Shiflett Brothers, this enormous piece originally retailed for $200 and was limited to 2,500 pieces.  

A little bit of backstory about the Juggernaut. He was indeed the stepbrother of Professor Charles Xavier and bullied Charles relentlessly during their childhood. 

Cain Marco (Juggernaut’s real name) would go on to fight in the Korean war alongside his stepbrother.  It was there that he and Charles found a cave that housed the ruby of Cyttorak–a mystical gemstone which granted immense physical power to whomever touched it.  Cain overpowered Charles in his lust for the gem’s power, and Juggernaut was born.  

Unfortunately for him, he was trapped in that mountain thanks to a good bit of North Korean shelling and was stranded there for a decade.  Eventually, he dug his way out.  

Embittered against Xavier for what he took for abandonment, he sought out Professor X and his X-Men, hell-bent on revenge.  It was a nice piece and Walt got it for a good price.

Second up is the Green Lantern/Green Arrow #76.  This book was groundbreaking for more than one reason.  First, it teamed Denny O’Neill with rising superstar artist Neal Adams.  O’Neill would go on to not only write but edit the entire Batman family of books.  He was also responsible for orchestrating the fan-based decision of whether or not DC Comics would kill off Jason Todd (Robin #2).

Neal Adams’ legendary career continues to this day, with noteworthy accomplishments such as: Batman Odyssey; a run on X-Men that introduced Cyclops’ brother, Havok (Alex Summers); and Batman Brave and the Bold.  

Secondly, it gave DC a moral conscience as far as their characters go.  Before this, Marvel Comics was the go-to company for social relevance in their stories.  In this issue specifically, O’Neill and Adams ratcheted up the drama, bringing together the cosmic crusader Green Lantern (Hal Jordan) and the street-level hero, Green Arrow (Oliver Queen).  

Oliver opens Hal’s eyes to the consequences of political corruption in our governing system.  Especially its effects on the ‘common’ man.  No conclusions are reached in the book but the reader is forced to confront some pretty uncomfortable issues.

Finally, Nate’s book, Zombie Cage Fighter.  As a comic book fan, I have a certain amount of reservation when it comes to indy comics.  There are a lot of people out there with really compelling stories to tell, but lack the resources to produce truly professional work.  

I am happy to say that Nate’s book is the exception to the rule.  Co-written by Blair Butler, it’s a very good book.  Nate’s story is one that I believe should be told and the fact that it has zombies in it….BONUS!  It’s clever.  It’s touching.  It’s action-packed.  In other words, it has heart. The art also stands out–Starwalt does good work.

And now, about the fight…..I think Kevin got a raw deal.  Maybe Nate can set up a rematch?

That’s it for this week, folks.  Don’t forget to follow Comic Book Men on Twitter @ComicBookMenAMC and on Facebook for the latest news about Comic Book Men and other cool AMCTV news.

And there you go.

Stan The Man

WOW. We got Stan Lee for an entire day. Let me tell you kids, that’s a pretty awesome thing, especially for a comic geek like me. I’ve always been afraid to meet my heroes, because I’ve always heard horror stories about others who did and were disappointed.

Not so with Stan. This man, this, how did Kevin put it? “Modern day Samuel Clemens”, truly lived up to his hype. Affable, courteous, and just a genuine pleasure to be around. Stan Lee was everything a six-year-old Michael Zapcic could have hoped he would be.

I’ll wax poetic about Stan a little more in a second, but now let’s get to some transactions. First up, The Walking Dead #1, written by Robert Kirkman with art by Tony Moore and produced by Image Comics. This is truly one of the most collectible comics of the past two decades. Mainly due to a small initial print run of less than 8,000, the Walking Dead #1 will remain highly collectible for many years. The story captured the imagination of thousands, if not millions of zombie fans. In my opinion, one of the main reasons for its popularity is because it’s like reading a zombie “movie” that has no ending. That, and the fact that Robert Kirkman has shown that NO cast member is safe.

Walt made the right decision in not purchasing this particular issue, as it had an unknown substance on the front cover.

Transaction #2: Incredible Hulk #6. Written by Stan Lee with art by Steve Ditko, this comic book features Metal Master as the main antagonist. So different from Jack Kirby’s thick, commanding lines — Ditko’s pencils were leaner, more sinewy. The difference was jarring, especially in a character like The Hulk. Another important thing, is that, technically, this is the last issue of the Incredible Hulk as its own series. He appears in solo stories, eventually, in Tales to Astonish. He also appears as a charter member of The Avengers but only in the first three issues. His founding member status is eventually revoked and conveyed to Captain America.

Final transaction: Planet Comics #1, Canadian Edition. This is a Golden Age title. For those folks who are newer to collecting, The Golden Age typically spans from 1938 (the introduction of Superman in Action Comics #1) until 1954. The Silver Age typically spans from 1954 (the introduction of Barry Allen Flash in Showcase #4) until 1969. The Bronze Age typcially spans from 1969 until 1986, which had Crisis on Infinite Earths as one of its demarcation lines, along with Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, and Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ The Watchmen.

One of the coolest things about Planet Comics was that it springboarded from a pulp magazine, Planet Stories, which spun yarns about muscular heroes with ray guns and strong female characters which was an oddity for the time. We all know, NOW, how compelling strong female characters can be, but back in the 40′s, most female characters were cast as hostages or villain bait.

This was a good catch by Rob Bruce. I had only heard urban legends about Planet Comics #1 being reprinted in Canada with a different interior. Nicely done, Rob.

Stan. I wish we could have kept Stan there longer. But he’s a busy guy. He had places to be and characters to create. It still boggles my mind the universes that this man has helped to bring to life.

And as much as I admire the hell out of Stan, I would be negligent if I didn’t mention some of the other artists who helped him create worlds that I have, and still enjoy: Jack Kirby, co-creator of The Fantastic Four, Captain America, The Avengers, The Incredible Hulk and many more; Steve Ditko, co-creator of The Amazing Spider-Man, and more alien monsters than I can shake a stick at. Marie Severin and Dick Ayers, who drew some of the coolest western characters ever. Wally Wood and Bill Everett who helped to bring about Daredevil and the revamping of the Sub Mariner.

There are other artists that I’m forgetting, I have no doubt, but to Stan and to them I owe a debt of gratitude that I can never repay. Some are living, most are not, but I think we’re all beholden to them, at least if you’ve ever been able to call yourself a true geek.

So thank all you guys and gals…and there you go.

Tough Sh*t!

Heya folks. Hope you had a great Thanksgiving.

This week’s CBM focuses on a Kevin Smith signing at the Secret Stash. Let me tell you that these events are both nerve-wracking and exciting. Kevin always brings a special kind of energy into the store and even the usually taciturn Walt Flanagan is not immune.

Now on to the good stuff.

The Mecha-Kong suit. This thing was bad-ass. This gentleman, a huge Godzilla/Japanese monsters fan, had worn this two years previously to a G-Fan convention in Chicago. He really was as sweaty as he looked. I think he was losing about five pounds an hour in water weight just by wearing the costume. We got to put the costume through its paces as he slow-mo destroyed a tiny city we built in the store for him. Walt didn’t want to purchase the suit outright — it was a little too rarified for his taste…we aren’t a costume shop. Many man hours were put into the construction of the suit, and I just hope he finds the right buyer for it.

Geek Note #1: It’s still a bone of contention–about who truly won in Godzilla VS King Kong, as Kong is obviously not the same creature featured in the 1933 film bearing his name. It certainly fueled my imagination, however, back when I saw the epic battle on the 4:30 movie during Godzilla Week.

Next up, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, original artwork: This was a very cool piece of art, however, since it was signed by Kevin Eastman in 1986, a full two years AFTER TMNT #1 came out, there’s no way that this could have been a concept piece as the seller claimed. Walt made a more than reasonable offer, which was declined. There’s no way this guy is going to see the number he has in his mind for this piece.

Geek Note #2: TMNT was so big back in the 80′s that it spawned such blatant rip-off/parody titles as Adolescent Radioactive Blackbelt Hamsters and Pre-Teen Dirty Gene Kung Fu Kangaroos.

Kiss Comics was the next lot–sold by Walt. Kiss actually first appeared in comic books in Howard the Duck #12 and #13. Later that year, they were featured in their own magazine format, full color comic book. Marvel Comic Super Special!: Kiss. Blood was drawn from each member of the band and poured into vats of red ink at Marvel’s Borden ink plant. The blood, yes fans, was used to print the comics. There was a second Super Special, issue #5 in 1978 which came out with less fanfare. These are a must-have for any true Kiss fan, and due to their size, are much harder to find in good condition than normal-sized books and so scarcity plays a factor in pricing.

Last but certainly not least, the Marvel World playset that Kevin buys for Walt. If there’s one comic-related “Holy Grail” item that Walt has, it was this one. Many’s the time I’ve heard Walt wax poetic about the Marvel World playset. The verbal picture he paints of his childhood with this toy is an idyllic one, reminiscent of life in Mayberry (For all you young-uns, that was a show featuring a sleepy little town where nothin’ bad ever, ever happened and the worst you had to worry about were invasions of insane mountain folk. The late Andy Griffith was the star of that show…).

I think it was very cool of Kevin to pay that high a price ($600) for a chunk of Walter’s childhood. This set is next to impossible to find in good condition as the simple act of playing with it insures its destruction. It is, after all, only cardboard.

It was great to see Jason and Kevin again at the Stash. It’s always a good time when they drop by.

As always, thanks for reading. I welcome your comments and questions.

And there you go.