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.  

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Con Men

SOLD!

Let me tell you, cataloguing a 27,000 piece comic book collection is some Tough Sh*t.  This episode showcases Gary Conover’s collection — one of the most impressive I have ever seen, and I’ve seen many.  Gary was a reservist at the Secret Stash from day one.

Unfortunately, it was time for him to sell his collection, and he turned to us to help him.  We could have bought it for the store, but circumstances of running a business would require us to buy it at wholesale prices, meaning Gary would not get the most money for his books.   Luckily, he is one of our favorites, and so we were all happy to volunteer to put on an auction for free and run a mini-con to help him make the most money he could to help defray medical expenses.

More on the Con in a second.  Let’s get to some of our transactions.

The He-Man cel — for those not familiar with this 1980’s cartoon, He-Man was a toy line produced by Mattel.  Filmation, in conjunction with Mattel, produced He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, a cartoon that was essentially a 22 minute commercial for the toys.  The cels that this gentleman brought in are fairly common, although the color schematic was pretty cool.  Even without the overlay, it’s a fairly valuable piece.  

Geek Note:  DC Comics produced an insert in which Superman met with He-Man in the early 1980’s.  In their encounter, because He-Man’s power is magical in nature, he held a slight advantage over the Man of Steel.  

Next up, Amazing Spider-Man #300.  This book is significant because it introduces the villain known as Venom.  Comic fans will no doubt realize that the symbiote that makes up one half of Venom was originally the alien costume that Spider-Man got during Marvel’s Secret Wars “Issue #8″ which had its first appearance in Marvel Team Up #141 and Amazing Spider-Man #252.  Because Spider-Man was repulsed by the idea of an alien sharing his body, he went to the Fantastic Four, specifically their leader, Mr. Fantastic, in an effort to rid himself of the parasite. Using sonic energy, Mr. Fantastic was able to accomplish the split. 

Feeling betrayed, the symbiote bonded with Eddie Brock who harbored animosity toward both Peter Parker AND Spider-Man.  A photo-journalist rival of Parker’s, Brock was discredited and publicly humiliated by Spider-Man.  

Walt is right.  Fans LOVE Venom.  My seven-year old son loves Venom.  

Ah, Kiiiirrrrrk!  The Admiral Kirk doll, signed by William Shatner, from the movie, The Wrath of Khan.  Please realize, Star Trek is not terribly popular in the Stash and, my geek reputation takes a pounding whenever Trek is brought up.  But I love Star Trek.  Sure, they talk a lot, but in the 1960’s they really didn’t have many cool special effects.  And Gene Roddenberry’s vision for the future was one of galactic harmony.  Sure, he threw in a Klingon here and a Romulan there, but he really did want everyone to get along.

Thank God for William Shatner and his kick-ass ways.

James Tiberius Kirk was a role model for me.  The kind of person who would use diplomacy until it was time to bruise your knuckles.  A kind of Teddy Roosevelt of the space ways.  

 

I am surprised Walt bought it, even with the signature.  I like to think he did it as a silent acknowledgement of me and my love of Trek.  Yeah, right.

By the way, Walt, don’t podcasters do a lot of sitting around, just talking, too? Just sayin.    

The Superman Advertising poster —  How cool is it that Rob Bruce was able to pinpoint within a few years the date of that piece by using zip code trivia?  I knew it wasn’t from the 1940’s because of the way the cardboard backing was manufactured.  In the 40’s, the cardboard would have been a lot rougher in texture and cut.  The manufacturing process was a lot less sophisticated pre-WW II.  

For all that, it was still a pretty cool piece that would have looked great in the Stash.  It’s always a bummer when we’re unable to come to an accord with a seller — especially for something we want.  

Back to the Khaaaaaaannnnn!  Um, I mean Con.  

It really was a pleasure to help Gary out.  He was there for the store when it first opened, and I’m glad we were able to be there for him when he needed us.  It was exciting to see those great books sell and go to real fans.  

A very special thanks to Stan THE MAN Lee for putting a little something extra into our auction.  Just goes to prove what a prince he really is. 

I wish Gary well.  It was a pleasure and a privilege to be part of his collecting.  

That’s all for this week.  Thanks for reading folks.

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.

My Big Fat Geek Wedding

First off let’s get the obvious out of the way:  Yes, Ming and I lost the bet.  Our punishment, re-enacting Fantastic Four Annual #3, the wedding of Reed Richards (Mr. Fantastic) and Susan Storm (the Invisible Girl), was not one of Ming or my more glorious moments.  Despite my aggravation and obvious frustration at losing the bet, it actually ended up being a lot of fun.  Ming is one hell of a sport – at least I got to wear pants…

Now, on to the Comics!

In the first transaction, Anthony the cigar store owner brought in five long boxes.  With dreams of fortune and glory in his head he asked for $5,000 for his “treasures”. Unfortunately for Anthony, his comics were bagged, but not boarded or sealed and they REEKED of tobacco from years of storage in the basement of his store.  Let this be a lesson to the new or newly restored collector:  board and bag your comics.  Store them away from direct light, excessive heat or cold, and VERY IMPORTANT, away from tobacco.  Tar and nicotine residue will ruin your comics.

Even though his collection had been rendered mostly worthless due to poor storage conditions, there were a few bright spots:

Invincible Ironman #55.  This book introduced a villain named Thanos, who most recently shot into the spotlight due to the Avengers movie franchise. In fact, Thanos was most often an antagonist of Captain Mar-Vell and Adam Warlock, Thanos only fought the Avengers once or twice in his thirty-odd year history.  When he found himself at odds with the Avengers, it was directly due to one of the aforementioned heroes.

Geek Note #1:  Thanos so respected his worthy opponent, Mar-Vell, that he helped guide Mar-Vell’s spirit into the afterlife after the hero succumbed to cancer.  This may be my favorite scene ever written by Jim Starlin.  You can read it in the graphic novel, The Death of Captain Marvel.

My other favorite keeper in Anthony’s collection was a stack of Frank Miller’s Daredevil.  Miller started drawing Daredevil with issue #158 and brought what was a second-rate character to prominence as a top-tier Marvel hero.  He re-established him as a guardian of the people, a street-level hero much in the vein of Batman and Green Arrow over at DC comics.  Roger MacKenzie teamed with Miller as the writer.

Geek Note #2:  Kevin Smith wrote best-selling stories starring all three of these characters — heroic in the most classic sense of the term and certainly in spite of their very real, all-too-human baggage.

Next up, Amazing Spider-Man #129.  This is the first appearance of The Punisher.  If you watched last season of Comic Book Men, you will remember that I hate The Punisher as a character.  He crosses the line and stops being a hero the minute he pulls the trigger and kills the bad guy.  It’s not that I don’t sympathize…the mafia rubs out my family, I might have some serious issues with anger management and revenge, too. But you can’t call him a hero, and to call him an anti-hero is also giving him too much credit in my opinion.

However, Punisher is a very popular character, so much so, that at one time he had four, monthly comic titles.  And Walt’s got something when he points out that any guy who can strike terror while wearing white go-go boots has got some serious balls.

The gentleman who bought it was not only a nice guy, but a stereo-type-breaking dude– an art therapist.  Just goes to prove that the medium of comic books has a wider reach than simply guys who frequent The Android’s Dungeon.

Our trip to Bodnar’s Auction saw us bringing back the last of our cool items this epsiode:  X-Men #94, Giant Size X-Men #1, an incomplete Flea Circus game, and a piece of original art from the comic strip, Abbie and Slats, by Raeburn Van Buren.  Too bad the Flea Circus was missing some parts or we would have won the wager and we could all have been treated to Bryan Johnson wearing the virginal white gown.

Even novice collectors understand the importance of Giant Size X-Men #1 — the first international team of mutants under the X-Men aegis.  However, they may not realize that X-Men #94 was the first NON-reprint book in close to three years and that the X-title was on the precipice of being cancelled.

Geek Note #3:  Marvel stopped producing new stories for the X-Men with issue #66 and reprinted older comics as issues #67 – #93.

Finally, a couple of special things that made me smile through my anger when filming the wedding scene.  One, did you notice the ring I slipped on my blushing bride’s finger?  Yes, indeed, that is a Legion flight ring — MY Legion flight ring, in fact.

That bouquet of flowers that Ming tossed out to the cheering crowd as we rode off into the sunset?  That was a copy of X-Men #1 by Jim Lee.  And the guy who caught it?  None other than Jeff Silverman, our own Sunday Jeff.

That wraps it up for now.  I’ll be back with more next week, folks.

And there you go.