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.  

 

 

 

 

 

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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!

 

 

 

 

 

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.