Knights of the Stash

Wow, this season has just FLOWN by!  Here we are at the end of Season Three, and it is definitely one of my favorite episodes yet!  

The first transaction was truly unique: a Stretch Hulk figure. Back in the late 70’s, Kenner had released a line of “stretch” toys headlined by Stretch Armstrong. The novelty was that the figure (decked out like a pro wrestler) could be stretched out to four or five feet, thanks to it’s body being made out of latex and its insides filled with gelled corn-syrup. Then came Stretch Hulk, along with Stretch Plastic Man, produced by Mego. And then came the lawsuits.  It’s pretty obvious that Mego was trying to cash in on Kenner’s success, right down to the packaging, but lets face it, by 1980, the action figure market was DOMINATED by Star Wars, and no one really cared about the Stretch toys until YEARS later. I think Walt made a really fair offer, but the guy obviously couldn’t be ( I can’t help myself!) FLEXIBLE!

So, free tickets to a Renaissance Fair…who wouldn’t be stoked? Walt Flanagan, that’s who. Oh, and of course Bryan just has to pile on the misery, but we talked them both into going. Whenever Jay Mewes comes to town, we are all in for some laughs.

The John Romita Jr. Splash page…it truly is a thing of beauty.  If you have never been able to see a comic book artist’s original pencils up close and in person, you’re missing out. While the finished product captures the essence of what the writer is trying to convey on the page, the rawness of an unfinished piece is amazing. JRjr is one of our generations finest illustrators, especially on Spider-Man. His work takes on an added luster when you put it side-by-side with his father’s (also a legendary Spidey artist) and see how similar, yet unique each gentleman’s perspective is. I am a huge fan of his and Walt made a great deal for this piece.

I was NOT a fan of the original Battlestar Galactica…it felt entirely to derivative of the Star Wars franchise, which it most certainly was. So when the rebooted Sci-Fi Channel Battlestar Galactica started, I had little-to-no interest in watching it. That is, until someone whose opinion I trusted loaned me his DVD copy of the miniseries. It didn’t take long to hook me. One of my favorite throw-aways was the Pyramid games, and just seeing the equipment, ratty before, just get more and more worn and used up.  These were some cool props, but unfortunately Sports memorabilia, especially for a sport that never REALLY existed, has a limited shelf-life, and I think these went over that time.

About the Ren Fair: it was actually cool to go through the tests of Knighthood. Each of us excelled at one thing or another, but I’ll have you note that I was the only one of our group to best a Vixen! I know Walt and Bryan thought it was corny, Ming took it WAY too seriously, but Jay and I had a good time throughout. I’m amazed he volunteered to take tomatoes in the mush, though.

To paraphrase Kevin at the end of each episode, That’s gonna wrap it up for this Season of Comic Book Men…I want to thank you all for watching and reading along with my blog. As you may have heard, We will be back with a Season Four, and on behalf of Kev, Ming, Walt, Bryan and myself, I thank you kindly.

And there ya go!



As a comic book retailer, the opportunity to exploit a prospective customer’s ignorance can be enormous.  Parents come in after their child goes off to college of on their own, loaded down with books that child left behind, looking to just dump them. Most times, these books aren’t worth the paper they are printed on, but sometimes you’ll get a New Mutants #98 (first appearance of Deadpool for the uninitiated) or an older, even rarer book that the kid had saved for or even TRADED-UP for.  These are the times where character is tested. I wish I could say I was never tempted to take advantage, that I was above that thrill of giving someone a dollar for a Five HUNDRED dollar book. Those thoughts have danced through my mind at various times, but thankfully, my better self wins out. One of the things that Walt and I pride ourselves on is honesty…come in looking for a fair deal, we will invariably give you one. The young gentleman looking to finance his college education with his father’s books really was that naive “deer-in-the-headlights” guy who had NO idea of what he had. His father basically told him, here are comics, they are worth money, good luck!  We took pity on him, and hope fully gave him a REAL education. More on him in a minute.

Anyone who remembers the movie, “Jingle All The Way”, raise your hand…Now, put it down, you liar. It starred Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sinbad and also Rita Wilson and the late Phil Hartman. It had so many dangling plot lines and was so corny and horrible, nobody cared. Which brings us to the reason this travesty was even released: Toy tie-ins. The TurboMan action figure was a thirteen inch monstrosity, put out at a time when 3 & 3/4 inch figures were the norm. This clunky, bulky, in no-way representative of Arnold action figure was also made of slick plastic, making it a challenge for children to even hold onto. The majority of these figures ended up in discount bins in toy stores all over America, and ultimately into landfills, which makes this a fairly rare figure. I guess.

The next transaction is one of the most amazing I have ever witnessed, and not because what the gentleman brought in was so great, but because of what the gentleman did…he wore down Walt Flanagan!  Anyone who is even remotely aware of Kevin Smith knows he idolizes Wayne Gretzky, and for good reason. Gretzky is to Hockey what Michael Jordan is to basketball. He so revolutionized the game, that everyone looked at hockey in a whole new context.  That being said, this gent brought in a whole mess of Gretzky memorabilia…and Walt wanted to get it for Kevin. What he didn’t want to do is overpay…and I think he did. If you watch this scene a few times, you can actually SEE Walt getting more and more frustrated and basically giving this guy what he wanted, price-wise, just to leave the store! 

Which brings us to the educational part of the show…Walt reached out to a contact he had at CGC (that’s Certified Guaranty Company LLC, to those not in the know) to come down and explain the benefits of CGC-ing a book. A thumbnail of the process is this: You send a comic to them; THREE separate experts go over your book with a fine-tooth comb, looking for defects that come with age and handling; each comes up with a grade for their part of the inspection; it is then sealed in a lucite package, preserving the grade given, providing THEIR seal is never broken. 

This guy’s father knew what he was doing when searching out and saving books. Fantastic Four #s 4 (first Silver Age Sub-Mariner), Fantastic Four #5 (first Doctor Doom), Fantastic Four #48 (first Silver Surfer and Galactus), Hulk #102 (Hulk gets his own book again, after sharing Tales to Astonish with Sub Mariner), Captain America #100 (first Silver Age Cap book, despite it being #100), and Amazing Spider-Man #129 (first Punisher). Hopefully, this will get him started on his path of academia, and maybe give him a greater appreciation of comics as well.

And there ya go!

Batcycle On Broad…

I’ll be the first to admit that we get a LOT of cool items that come to the Stash, but that could be said of many comic stores.  But we get really funky stuff that heads our way. Case in point: the brothers who brought us The Batcycle. There was a whole lot of love that went into customizing that cycle, and a TON of sweat that went into fixing up that sidecar/Robin-gocart. When you consider, seven thousand dollars really isn’t too much as an asking price (to anyone OTHER than Walt.) It was pretty cool to play Robin to Bryan’s Batman, and we did cut pretty dashing figures cruising the mean-streets of Red Bank.

Up next was the Spider-Man and Fantastic Four board game from 1977. I remember seeing the box art by John Romita Sr. as a kid and falling in love with it. The only problem was that it was NEVER sold at any of the toy places my parents took me to, so finding it was next to impossible.  Turns out I really didn’t miss anything. It never fails to make me laugh at how to the bone Bryan can cut sometimes, with his “it’s so ghetto” comment. Milton-Bradley spared MUCH expense making this game as boring and un-interesting as possible, not shelling out one dime more than they already had licensing Spidey and the F.F., with crappy(made-up) villain names like LionFace. Personally, I think Walt paid $20 more than he should have for this game.

Then came the F.O.O.M. guy…now this was interesting. Back in the early-to-late ’70s, the only way for a comics fan to get a peek forward at what was coming out was through fanzines dedicated to a favorite comics. One of the most famous back then was “The Legion Outpost” a fan magazine for fans, published BY fans.  But then, editors at both Marvel and DC got the bright idea to publish their own magazines to cater to the fans, and thus Friends Of Ol’ Marvel was born, along with Amazing World of DC Comics.

With F.O.O.M. however, you got ALL of the goodies: a membership card, a certificate, an exclusive poster, plus you got to see what was coming out in print six months down the line! You felt like the ultimate insider, with the entire Marvel Bullpen at your fingertips. Walt got a great deal on these magazines.

Ming is a HUGE “Back To The Future” fan, and I knew he was thrilled that the Christopher Lloyd-signed OUTTATIME plate came in. This was a pretty cool piece, in that this iteration was ONLY sold at Universal Studios in California, and that the elusive Doc Brown doesn’t traditionally hit the Convention circuit all that often. Five Hundred Bucks is a little steep of an asking price, especially since the guy who signed it is still alive and kicking.

Some cool swag passed through the doors this week, and some couldn’t even fit! But we usually pick up some stuff that makes us, and our customers happy. 

And there ya go!



The Esposito Collection

And then, there are some weeks when a TON of stuff happens!

There is not a day that goes by that we don’t get AT LEAST one person in to sell comics or collectibles, which is still incredible to me because, with the advent of the internet and various online auction sites, the world is literally at people’s fingertips. Don’t get me wrong, one of my favorite activities is going through other peoples stuff, seeing what they thought would be worth money down the line…it’s almost like opening up a time capsule, albeit one from only a few years ago. Most times I find trash, and I try to let people down as easily as I can without hurting too many feelings. But there are a few times when we get TREASURE!!!

I have known Walt Flanagan for going on seventeen years, and he is one of the most unflappable people I have ever met, but when Inker Mike Esposito’s nephew brought in some of his uncle’s artwork, Walt nearly had a coronary.
Not only did Tim (Esposito’s nephew) bring in the art, but some VERY cool highball glasses given out to DC artists in the late ’60s/ early ’70s. Those were actually purchased by Walt himself, to display at The Stash.

A bit about Mike Esposito and why Walt and I are such huge fans of his work: Mike was from New York City, and was making his bones in the comics world during the last days of the Golden Age. He was a frequent collaborator of penciller Ross Andru, whom Esposito had gone to high school with. He was also credited as the first inker on The Amazing Spider-Man after Steve Ditko had left the title and John Romita Sr. took over the art chores. He had a hand in creating some cool DC characters in the Silver Age, concepts still used to this day, such as The Metal Men, Suicide Squad and Rose and Thorn. He and Andru have also achieved a kind of immortality, as their image of Wonder Woman is on a United States postage stamp!
The Loki Hot Toys 1/6th scale figure, released by Sideshow Collectibles is a truly amazing action figure. When placed side-by-side with a thirteen inch G.I. Joe from the ’60s or ’70s, you can get a clear view of just how far toy companies have come in terms of the quality of their product and their ability to sculpt in exacting detail.
But more importantly, the young lady purchasing Loki brings up a valid argument…DO NICE GUYS ACTUALLY FINISH LAST? I believe it is possible to be a good guy and not be on the receiving end of life’s poking stick. I love Kevin’s line about life NOT being a Damon Runyon story.
Now let’s talk Happy Days paper dolls. I seriously doubt that you could market paper dolls with anything other than the kitsch factor in mind to todays marketplace, but these were a big thing back at the height of Happy Days’ popularity. Walt’s love of Happy Days is well known to his friends and to fans of his and Bryan’s podcast “Tell ‘Em Steve-Dave”, insomuch as his trivia quizzes around The Secret Stash have become legendary. It’s been pointed out more than once that Walt yearns for a more idyllic, carefree society of Arnold’s Drive-In, Mayberry and Riverdale. We may have been one of the ONLY places where the seller could get $55 for his item.
I have to say that it ALWAYS feels great when we at The Stash get to do something helpful to someone in need. Mrs. Esposito was actually going to get rid of the artwork her husband had been working on before his death, and that would have robbed a lot of his fans the opportunity to buy a piece of history, their history that they shared with the artist. It’s always a good thing to give back, especially to someone who unknowingly helped a little boy discover a passion he’d take with him for his entire life. So thank you, Mike Esposito. For myself and your innumerable fans.
And there ya go…

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.