Sunday, July 1, 2007

Comic Cents

By Chris Buchner

If you’re new to collecting, there’s a great and inexpensive way to get a sampling of some classic comics or to build your collection really fast. I'm talking about the bargain bin. Yes, a true friend to any collector, the bargain bin can be found in many comic shops and at any comic convention in the country. You can find books anywhere from a dollar to ten cents! Now, I should warn you; if you’re a “serious” collector who only wants mint books, this isn’t the place for you. Granted, the books aren’t always in the greatest of conditions, but for the price you’re paying for them they’re more than worth it for the reading you’ll get to enjoy. And if you’re interested in comics purely as an investment, check out Comic Books: The Four Colored History over in the March issue of Estella's Revenge to find out why that’s not such a good idea.

I went to the Big Apple Comicon in New York City’s Penn Plaza Pavilion on the weekend of June 23rd and 24th and spent a few hours digging through the various bargain bins there. I wanted to see what little treasures I could find not only to eliminate the money burning a hole in my pocket and build up my collection some, but to highlight just what could possibly be there waiting for you.


The summer’s biggest star (no, not Johnny Depp!) spins his way out of the 50 cent bin in the classic Amazing Spider-Man vol. 1 #169, in which J. Jonah Jameson almost discovers Peter Parker’s secret identity! If only he knew he’d only have to wait another 2 decades to have that information handed to him… Anyway, I stumbled across several copies of this book in the bins, each one with varying degrees of probably water damage that made them all wrinkled. However, that was their only flaw and they were still great reading copies. Considering the current popularity of Spidey from the movies, as well as his general popularity, a retailer could have carte blanche to ask you any price for this book in any condition. Of course, there was plenty of other Spidey goodness to go around with various issues of Spectacular Spider-Man.

After the death of Superman, four other Supermen stepped in to fill his shoes until his inevitable return. They were the cloned Superboy, a half-robot fraud known as the Cyborg, an alien machine known as The Eradicator, and a man inspired by Superman, John Henry Irons, in his custom made suit of armor as Steel. Each one briefly took over the various Superman books, and their first issues featured a regular cover and a die-cut cover (meaning made of a firmer material with a portion cut out to show part of a picture on the first page). Although not incredibly valuable or expensive in online stores, if you were ever curious enough to want to see what the deal was, you could’ve easily picked up all four of the die-cut editions in near-perfect condition for $2. As an added bonus, there were even several parts to the “Reign of the Supermen!” story in the bins as well.

There was even a nice smattering of first issues to choose from. Ghost Rider fan? Then check out Spirits of Vengeance #1, still sealed in it’s poly bag with free poster (okay, I lied…there WERE things for the “serious” collectors). There were even two issues of X-Factor and X-Force respectively that were part of the much heralded “X-Cutioner’s Song” storyline, still in their original bags with their bonus trading cards. Clive Barker fan? Did you know at one point he had a series of comics put out through Marvel? Well, you could easily snatch up the first issue to many of his series, including the foil-stamped embossed first issue of Hokum & Hex. Or maybe you fancy a spot of tea with some of the British imports that used to come out. You know, books like Death’s Head II, Gene Dogs, Cyberspace 3000 and more.

Now, single issues are all well and good, but the real thrill of the bins is when you find complete runs of a book. Maybe not every issue in a given series, but a good, continuous run of issues within it. Take for example Batman’s young ward, Robin, who has had his own series for the last 14 years. You could find numbers 80 through 110 easily in the bargain bin. Before Dan Slott tried his hand at it in 2005, the Thing had his own series that spun off from both the Fantastic Four and Secret War for 36 issues in the 1980s. If you want numbers 4 to 27, they’re yours. Howabout Gen 13? Gail Simone is writing the latest incarnation of that franchise, but if anyone interested in reading some of the older versions could easily pick themselves up most of the 60s, 70s and 80s numbered issues. Plus, with Indiana Jones 4 going into production, it’s nice to nab up the entire adaptation to Raiders of the Lost Arc.

I had a personal victory emerge from my foray into the bins. Some years ago, I spied a comic on a rack in the time before I had the money to dedicate to the hobby on a regular basis. So, it had come and gone but the image on the cover had always stayed with me as some others have over the years. So, of course, you can imagine my excitement when I pulled it right out of the bin! That’s right, Guardians of the Galaxy #39 with the foil-stamped embossed cover of Dr. Doom in Wolverine’s mechanized skeleton attacking his ancestor in the 31st Century setting is now mine! Is it a crucial issue? Nope. Is it the greatest issue ever written? Nope. Is it a comic that’s been on my mind for years? Yep.

New comics, old comics. Popular characters, unpopular ones. Characters that never quite made it but still have a strong fan base. Key issues. Pointless issues. Issues so nonsensical you wonder why they were even created. Marvel, DC, Image, etc. Whatever it is you’re looking for, chances are the bargain bins will have some semblance of it. It’s a great place to find and try books you may have been considering for less than you would pay otherwise. It’s also a great place to plug up any of the holes in your collection. Head on down to your local comic shop and see if they have any bargain bins and see what kind of treasures you can find. If you’re lucky, you may run across some merchants who will give you an ADDITIONAL discount on top of the savings you’re already amassing. But, be warned! Once you get started finding books you want or need, it’s very hard to stop. Getting books for practically nothing can be addicting and you can end up walking away with over 500 comics at one time.

Yes, I speak from experience. Happy hunting!

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