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.

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.

Stash Bashes

Stash Bashes

Let me get this out in front, I’m writing this because I want to give you a little more background and a little more insight about what goes on when comics and pop-culture ephemera pass through our doors.

Part of what makes my job so cool is the art of the deal and sometimes, we have to let great stuff walk away.  Another great part of my job is…well…the stuff—seeing it, holding it.  The comics that come in I never thought I’d see.  The surprise of holding a signed book that you know is one-of-a-kind.  Seeing a toy that I had in my childhood can evoke a visceral reaction.  The greatest thing about my job is that people can still surprise me.

Anyone who comes in with the same sense of awe and wonder, the same collector’s enthusiasm that I have, well, we share a kinship.

So, let’s get on to it.  Comic Book Men Season 2.  Episode 1.

There were no comics.

That was the first thing that struck me after the credits rolled.  But there were Megos, and there was a big-assed Darth Vader helmet and there were the Legion of Super Heroes toys.  Comic books are our life’s blood, and all the toys, movies, cartoons and pop culture baubles that matter to me flow from them.

Megos.  I love Megos.  Walt loves Megos. Kevin loves Megos.  These were our first action figures.  These were dolls that boys played with, and what made them even cooler was that you had Spiderman who was in scale with Superman who was in scale with Star Trek characters that were in scale with Dr. Zaius and Cornelius and all those other damn dirty apes from the Planet of the Apes line. They could all play together.  Scale was a big thing for me.  My GI Joes could not play with my Megos because GI Joes were 13 inch action figures and Megos were 8 inches.

In this episode, we got to see The Electric Company boxed Spiderman – a very rare, cool item.  The customer also had Mr. Mxyzptlk, one of the dumber Megos, and also quite rare.  Just looking at the doll makes you realize how undesirable it was to a six-year old kid, so I’m sure a lot of them ended up in landfills.  The last boxed Mego was the Human Torch, a member of the Fantastic Four (Marvel).  And musing aside, there’s a rumor that when the Fantastic Four cartoon was developed by NBC for Saturday morning cartoons, they eschewed this character because they were afraid kids would try to emulate him and try to set themselves on fire.  The truth is, that the Human Torch was actually licensed to do a separate cartoon which never got made.

Geek Notes #1:  Many people hold the idea that a MIB (Mint In Box) figure fetches a much higher price than a loose figure in any condition—this is not necessarily true.  The rarity of the figure plays a role in determining value, the overall condition – these count.

Geek Notes #2:  George Lucas approached Mego for the licensing of Star Wars figures.  Mego turned him down and focused instead on a sci-fi movie called, The Black Hole. Lucas went on to Kenner who revolutionized the action figure business with 3 ¾ inch figures, launched with their Star Wars line.  Mego folded while Star Wars figures are still being produced.

The $350 we paid was more than fair, given the condition of the boxes and the figures themselves.  Very cool pieces of toy and comic book history.  I myself still own Kirk and Spock Star Trek Megos.  Oh, and Aquaman.

Next up, Darth freaking Vader.  Who didn’t love the first glimpse you get of Darth – that black boot stepping over a Rebel corpse?  Star Wars, maybe more than any other movie of my generation, is common ground for everyone—especially geeks and geek culture.  This was a cool piece that we got for a great price, and I hope it stays at the Stash for a long time.  Not much more to add on this piece other than what you saw on the show.  It just looks frigging cool.

Finally, The Legion of Super Heroes.  I personally picked up this piece for the store.  It was only available online through the MattyCollector store (think Mattel).  This piece came from a second-time offer, as I missed it the first time around.  The only difference between the two editions is, “Long Live the Legion” is printed on the box for the second edition.

LOSH is an under appreciated comic, in my opinion.  Many great artists got their starts on this book:  Jim Shooter was only 13 years old when he penned his first Legion story.  The great artist Mike Grell cut his teeth on the Legion and he succeeded Dave Cockrum of X-Men fame.  Keith Giffen had several memorable runs with the Legion, sometimes writing sometimes drawing and sometimes both. The Imperial Guard from X-Men are direct homages to The Legion of Super Heroes – Gladiator = Superboy, Mentorr = Braniac 5 and Pulsar = Wildfire and you get the drift.

The customer got a great deal and impressed the crap out of Walt.  This is my favorite kind of customer, knowledgeable, opinionated and geeky.  In her case, she traveled all the way from Kansas just to visit the store.

Check back next week when I deconstruct Episode 2.

And there you go.

Mike & Ming at KAPOW!

I’m looking forward to appearing with the inimitable Ming Chen at the Manalapan branch of the Monmouth County, NJ Library tomorrow.  We’ll be there, podcasting and answering questions about comics from 1 PM until 4 PM.

One of the best perks that’s come from being part of the AMC unscripted show Comic Book Men, is the opportunity to talk to even more people about comics, graphic novels and pop culture.  It’s a blast, sharing the enthusiasm that comes with having an interest in a particular subculture and using that lens to enjoy and savor your life.

Today I got to look through some long boxes at the Monmouth Mall — thanks to the St. Barnabas fundraiser-awareness raiser for their hospice care program:  Superheroes for Hospice.  Met a couple of cool artists, bought some books, prints and generally enjoyed being with others on the hunt.  Found some good stuff, too.  Want to see?  Come visit me at Jay & Silent Bob’s Secret Stash, 35 Broad Street in Red Bank, NJ.  I’ll show you!