Comic Book Trivia, or Ya Lose Ya Chews

Even in a world-famous comic book store, there are weeks where we get some down time and not everything is an adventure.  Sometimes we get to just sit around and enjoy each other’s company and getting on each other’s nerves–including finding new ways to torture Ming. (He loves it.) 

This was one of those weeks.

During our first transaction, a couple came in looking for an Amazing Spiderman #238.  This comic has the distinction of being the first appearance of The Hobgoblin.  This issue was written by Roger Stern with art by John Romita, Jr.  This book was written during a very cool period in Marvel history.  The Marvel universe was only twenty years old, and writers were not slaves to past continuity.  Stern, being one of Marvel’s best writers at the time, chose to create a new character rather than resurrect one (remember, Norman Osborn “died” in issue #122).  This was a VF/NM copy which also included the TATOOZ (yes, cutesy word for tattoos) intact — which was a giveaway.  Most kids ripped these out; either put them on or chucked them away.  

I was amazed that Walt actually went for the surprise boxes.  I remember going to Wizard Comicons and seeing people line up at the Wizard booth to spin the wheel and try their luck at winning desirable figures.  Mostly they got the cast-offs.  Action figures that would feel quite at home on the Island of Misfit Toys.  The folks that wanted the ASM #238 conned Walt down to $60 AND their two crappy Batman figures.  I know how much we paid for that comic, and while we didn’t lose money we certainly didn’t make much.

What came in next made Ming geek out, however it left Walt non-plussed.  It was the Nintendo Game & Watch — actually, three of them.  This was the first hand-held gaming system.  It had limited graphics and could not store more than one game in its memory.  The reason why it was called Game & Watch is because it was also a timekeeper/alarm clock.  This actually put Nintendo on the map as a major gaming concern.  While I’m well aware of how much these systems go for on the back-market, this really wasn’t Walt’s cup of tea, and doesn’t really fit into the scheme of the store. Ming, however was very disappointed, but as it’s not his store, he’s SOL.

The last transaction this episode — Hellboy’s gun, the Good Samaritan.  This sideshow prop is FREAKING HUGE.  In the comic books, as in the movie, the Good Samaritan is an oversized gun which was given to Hellboy by the Torch of Liberty when Hellboy was 12 years old.   The handle is purported to be made of wood harvested from the one, true cross.  The metal is forged from various church bells, crucifixes, church silver and other mystic metals.  While I doubt Sideshow went to such lengths for this replica, it is still a beautiful piece.  Walt negotiated a really good deal and I’m happy to say it’s still at the Stash for me to look at.

Now, on to our trivia contest.  Please note that Walt tailored every one of the questions to the knowledge base possessed by the individual being questioned:  hence my questions were much more difficult than Ming’s or Bryan’s.  Personally speaking, I really think that Ming just wanted to have his mouth filled with gum because Walt was right…if you work in a comic book store, you should know that Billy Batson IS Captain Marvel!  My eight-year old son knows that.  I wonder if Walt would give him Ming’s job…..

And there ya go.  

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

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.