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Saturday, May 26, 2007

Send me a dream

Well it's been a while, but I decided to put some distance between me and my collection for a while, not that I'm not interested anymore, but as I'm still in a no-spend-zone, there's no need to make it harder on myself by looking a books I'm not allowed to buy anyway. The good part about shelving the collector part of me is that the reader in me has more time now.
Oh and I've passed the 35-day mark and am now halfway my self-imposed ban.Theoretically I've 25 days left to go, but I think I'll try and hold out a little longer till July 4th which is my birthday.Would be nice to celebrate my birthday with the purchase of some books again :)

Anyway, the white whale of my collection, the book which took me longest to find was not an expensive book at all..it wasn't even an old book.It was released during that age of overprinting we remember as "the nineties" and it was put out by one of the big two. It's not a key book, nothing specials happens, it isn't a variant or a recalled issue. It's a bog-standard comic book and it still took me 4 years to find it.

I'm taking about Sandman Mystery Theater #29. The final issue I needed to complete the, in my view second best DC/Vertigo, series.
As most of you know I've been busy completing most Marvel series for the past 5 years and I waited over 9 months to buy an FF#1 and over six months for an ASM #1.
Were these books eluding me ? Certainly not, you can buy one every day if you want, but I was looking for a low to mid-grade book that presented better than the grade on both occasions...so I needed to be patient.
Same for my AF #15...

But the only book I have never seen on eBay, never in any dealer store and never offered on this board was Sandman Mystery Theater #29...
Most other books in the series are on perpetual discount on Mile High for about $1.00 - $2.00...but this book has been on my want-list from day 1 and stayed there for ever
I ordered it twice from Mile High and both times they didn't have it in stock...but it was on the website
I saw it on eBay a few times but lumped together with at least 20 other books from the series and I really didn't want to spend $50.00 just to get a single book that had zero demand and was worth $2.00 at most.
Finally 3 months ago I got a tip from a friendly collector that it was on the Newkadia website. Much to my surprise he was right, they had a NM copy for $3.00 which I bought right away, they also offered a discount . Only catch (there's always a catch) was that they had a minimum order of $25.00. So I was forced to buy some other books from my want list which were overpriced.

So why was this book so important to me ? Well mainly because the series is just so damn good. It has nothing at all to do with the more famous Gaiman Sandman universe, which also released by Vertigo put the other Sandman title (Mystery Theater) completely in its shadow and did more harm than good sales-wise because of the name-association.
It's not the kind of book you'd pick up on a whim in a comic shop and there was only one TPB (with just 4 issues) available for over 10 years. A book that truly slipped under the radar.

Before I start hyping it, it must warn you that it isn't for everyone, the art isn't pretty...it fits perfectly with the "pulp noir" theme of the book but it's understated, a rather dull color pallet, lots of line-work and small panels. Plus the book has some VERY adult content. Explicit language, very graphic and shocking scenes with lots of misery and poverty.
But it does make me want to jump in a timemachine and head for New York in the 30's. Rarely has a city been so celebrated and so authentically replicated as in this series. If you like New York as a city, as a cultural icon you'll get a lot of enjoyment from the series as well.

The Sandman (the original one, not Gaiman's Morpheus) is one of the original heroes of the Golden Age. This series retells the adventures of Wesley Dodds a millionaire-vigilante whose main weapons are a gun that fires sleeping gas and his brain..Unlike most other superheroes, the Sandman possesses no superhuman powers and relies on his detective skills and gas gun. He does have strange prophesying dreams (the only link with the 'other' Sandman) which torment him and make him go out at night and fight for justice.

But Dodds isn't your typical superhero, he's rather small and somewhat overweight, plus he's pushing 40. His sidekick/love interest is Dian Belmont, a New York socialite who's also pushing middle age, doesn't have a double D-cup or can kick bad-guy ass but is a smart and charming "real world" woman who actually helps the hero solve the case. There are no supervillains, just really evil crooks, deranged rapists, serial killers and corrupt businessmen.

You don't really need to collect the entire series (but you know how it is with me) to enjoy the stories. Each arc consists of 4 issues, with a typical slow start ending in a blistering climax. It's more fun to read all 70 issues in order , but it's not really necessary which is a rarity for a Vertigo series.

So give it a try, visit 1930's New York from the newly erected skyscrapers to the seedy underbelly where the Sandman prowls, I'm sure you'll enjoy the ride in the wonderfully mature and intelligent comic book.
Oh and yes I'm aware that Vertigo put out a revamped SMT mini during the first months of 2007...I did read it, but didn't like it at all. In the mini Wesley and Dian are in their late 70's and the Sandman mantle is passed on to a 20-something war-photographer, action man. They took the Sandman out of the Golden Age, out of NYC...and it doesn't feel right.

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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Slated for cancellation


When I finished collecting the Amazing Spider-man series a few months ago, the most asked question I got (apart from "how much did it cost") was "Will you be getting Amazing Fantasy #15". At that time I couldn't really answer it because well, in my mind I had completed the task and more importantly AF15 was and is the most expensive Marvel book.

But after a few months I decided to see if I could swing it, I knew it was going to be expensive, but I planned on not buying too many books this year and maybe, just maybe I would then be able to get an AF15 at Christmas, just like the Christmases before when I got Avengers #1, FF#1 and finally ASM #1 respectively.

Next to the price, availability was a problem too, not too many of these books around, Spider-man #1 isn't that common, but there are at least 3x the amount of that book floating around compared to Amazing Fantasy #15.

A third problem was the condition of the book. I've always tried to buy expensive books that look better than the given grade. Maybe hard to understand, but let me give you an example. A book can look like a VG (4.0) but has a water stain on the back cover that takes the book down to a GOOD (2.0). The water stain is there, it lowers the grade, but it's a defect that isn't too bad aesthetically and it's on the back cover. Trouble is that a lot of low and mid-grade copies of AF#15 have Marvel chipping ("
A bindery (trimming/cutting) defect that causes a series of chips and tears at the top, bottom, and right edge of the cover. This is caused where the cutting blade of an industrial paper trimmer becomes dull. Dubbed "Marvel chipping" because it can occur quite often with that company's comics from the late 50s and early 60s")
And as Marvel chipping is considered a factory defect it doesn't factor in to the grade of mid-grade books. Thus you can buy a 4.0 book that looks like a 2.0...quite the opposite of what I want.

Take a look at this AF with the very common Marvel chipping...


So things didn't look to good, but
I had originally planned to start looking for a nice one around Winter 2007 with the intent of getting one as a Xmas present to myself...but an opportunity arose and I couldn't turn it down.



I got this copy from a fellow collector by accident really (no seriously, read on). He never put the AF15 on sale, but I was close to buying his Hulk #1...we went back and forth for a while and I told him I didn't really want to buy it as it would mean taking money out of my AF15 kitty...2 minutes later he told me he had an AF15 as well and if I was interested he would sell it to me.
Ten minutes later I had bought it...It was exactly the book I wanted, a 3.0 that looked better than the grade, almost no Marvel chipping and a fair price. Granted it was more money than I had ever spent on a comic book,and it was half a year too early but this is THE Marvel key after all. For me it's still FF#1...but for most comic collectors the first appearance of Spider-man is the holy grail


And to think the Amazing Fantasy series was slated for cancellation and issue #15 was the final one. Because it was the final issue, nobody really cared what was going to be in it. With nothing to lose, publisher Martin Goodman allowed Stan Lee to experiment with a new kind of superhero — one who would be a teenager, but not a sidekick, and who would have everyman doubts, neuroses and money problems...
This "far-out" idea proved to be golden and gave birth to Marvel's flagship title...Amazing Spider-man...which only started a long (especially for the fans who had a taste of Spidey in AF15 and wanted to read more) 6 months after Amazing Fantasy #15 was issued, sold a boatload of copies and got the most letters from readers in years.
Now let's just hope the success of the the third Spider-man movie that came out this week will make my copy of AF#15 even more valuable

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