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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Golden Years

About three weeks ago, I went into unchartered territory, I boldly went where I had never gone before..I crossed a bridge I never thought I would cross...I went to the Golden Age of comic books.

Wikipedia describes the Golden Age of comic books as " a period in the history of American comic books, generally thought as lasting from the 1930s until the mid-1950s during which comic books enjoyed a surge of popularity, the archetype of the superhero was created and defined, and many of the most famous superheroes debuted."
It was also the period where a number of books sold over a million copies per issue, a feet never repeated during the last 50 years.Every kid was reading comic books, which is alas also the weak point of Golden Age comics.
You see, they really were a kid's medium...Most stories are very childish and simple, art is weak and static most of the time and they were simply regarded as throwaway literature to keep kids busy for a while.
As I'm nearing the completion of my Silver Age collection, I have often thought about going back even further in time and start collecting Golden Age books...despite of what I just wrote.
You see the covers of Golden Age books are generally the best of all ages. Most of them are wonderful, dynamic, colourful and show a real artistry. Then even more than now, the cover was everything as it was a means to get the punter to buy the book.
A lot of collectors I know agree with me about the quality of the stories and (interior) art of most GA books, but they persist in collecting GA because of those magnificent covers and hardly take any notice of the contents of the book. But I just couldn't do it, I've always been more partial to story than to art, so I needed something extra.

Of all the GA books I've read over the years (as reprints) two series stood out, Pre-Code EC (Horror) Comics and Batman comics. Both were just written a little better than their contemporaries, art was a little more dynamic and characterization was well thought out. So if I went Golden Age, it would have to be through one of these books.
As I've nearly completed Batman #200 - #400 it seems the more logical approach to go with that title. Trouble is that as a completionist I HAVE to get all the issues and most Silver Age Batman books (from #100 to around #200) just suck, which is the reason I decided to start my Batman run with #200, the tail-end of the Silver Age and continue into those wonderful Bronze Age Bat books.
The other drawback was money-wise. Even if I did bite the bullet and collect #100 - #200, I would also have to dig down and get Batman #1 - #99...
Granted most of those issues are better than the Silver Age run, but Batman #1 in VG is at least $10.000...which I don't see me handing over just yet.

So what to do, what to do ? In the end I came to a decision, I'm going to start collecting Golden Age books as well, Golden Age Batman books, but only the ones that have a Joker cover appearance. I feel it would make for a nice collection as well to have Batman #200 - #400 complete + all the preceding books that have Joker covers. The first Batman issue with a Joker cover is Batman #11 from 1942.
Still a lot of expensive books in that bunch, but feasible over time.
Concluding,here's a scan of the first Golden Age book I have ever bought, it's Batman #37 from 1945, the oldest book in my collection, a very cool Joker cover and hopefully the start of whole new adventure in comic collecting.

Oh and I haven't gone back on my word about not buying books for a while, this book and the ones in the upcoming blog entries were all bought during that week of madness I had a while ago.
I'm at day #10 of not-buying-comics-for-60-days and it hasn't been that hard to be honest. Let's see if I last the whole two months

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Out of Control

This is the kind of Blog entry I don't really like to make, but right now it's pretty necessary.
Lately I've been feeling like a comet rocketing out of control, having fun along the way but knowing, deep down, that the trip has to end. What the hell am I talking about ? Well let's just say that I've spent nearly $3000 the last two weeks on comic books

I haven't made any "stupid" buys, most books have been from my want-list, it's just that there has been so much I wanted that came up for sale and I just couldn't say no and bought most, if not all, of it. I've been trying to work with a rather comfortable monthly budget,I go over each month, but never by this much. It was just one of those weeks, I was home from work, cruising the comic-forums and eBay like an addict and before you knew it I was whipping out my credit card again, and again...and again.

I haven't gotten myself in debt, and I haven't spent money that wasn't mine to spend o r was meant for something else, I've just spent way too much in a short time on something, important as it may be to me, is still just a hobby.
So enough is enough..I decided a few days ago that I'm going cold turkey and will try not to buy anything until at least June 15th. That gives me two months of solitude, two months of getting this monkey off my back and two months to get my budget back on track.
Now I won't make any promises I can't make, if I happen to run into an Action #1 for $1000, I'll buy it, no doubt about it, but let's just say that bar any "incredible-once-in-a-lifetime-deals" I'm not currently buying...well not anything over $50.00.
Today was day #3 of the self-imposed ban and I haven't gone to eBay or other dens of sin in the entire time. Here's to the next 60 days

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Saturday, April 07, 2007

Cracking a CGC case ...on video

Ok, I'm going all multimedia on y'all this time...I'vv been asked a lot how come I like CGC comics so much (comics encased in a slab) when I profess to being an collector AND a reader...well the truth is that I liberate most of the comics I buy "slabbed". And trust me it's the best feeling in the world.

Anyway the question that inevitably follows is how I do it. People seem to think it's dangerous or something. Well it isn't, if you're careful and sober you can do it in under two minutes. And just to put my money where my mouth is... here is one I did earlier :

And for the killjoys that don't want to watch the video...here's a starter guide

1) insert a medium sized screwdriver between the slab halves in the middle of the right long edge (only about 1/4 to 1/2 inch in...no where near the level of the comic itself) and push it upward as close to the corner as possible.

2) Turn the screwdriver counter-clockwise until the corner pops/cracks (this will leave VISIBLE evidence of tampering).

3) Once the corner is open, the long edge and the top edge will be open as well.
repeat the procedure for the top left corner.

4) Both corners will now be visibly cracked open. Remove the inner housing. If you want to play it really safe, crack open three corners

5) With a sharp knife or scissor, very carefully cut across the shield approx. 1/4 inch above the comic, being extra careful NOT to exert pressure on the surface of the comic's top edge by pressing on the holder over that point.

7) Smell, read and enjoy the comic

8) Put it into Mylar + a fullback for safekeeping

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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Oh my God, they killed Kenny's books

Collecting Silver and Bronze age books in a tiny, remote country isn't always that easy..in fact it's pretty hard. There are no dealers with any stock, no comic shops that sell back issues older than the 90's, no cons...and most important, almost no other collectors. Now I don't want go off on a tangent and lament about my poor poor situation, but I thought it important to state it up front.

So my only option is to buy overseas..America that is, the US of A, the home of the superhero comic book. After half a decade on various comic boards I've build up a large network of friends and contacts and I've imported over 8000 comic books this way. Thanks to these people my collection is ever growing and I don't feel all isolated on my island of Franco-Belgian style.
Comics collectors like to build their collection, that's a give,but what I have noticed is that also like to help others build their collection as well, sometimes being geographically challenged has helped rather than hindered me, lots of people have given me sweet sweet deals, partly because they know they are helping and partly because they know there's only a small chance I'll immoderately (flip) sell the book they gave me a huge discount on.Nothing is more frustrating than selling a book to somebody and giving them a break and then watching them sell the same book for a lot more only a short time later. I'm not saying that I'm Saint Chromium or anything, but there's just nobody for me to sell to. Nobody here wants the stuff, most US collectors won't buy from some collector in some miniature country (and why would they when they have all the books they'll ever need close by) and shipping to the US is so expensive that nobody would even bother.

And so the "s"-word has fallen...shipping, the great barrier, the black hole that just keeps sucking money. The good news is that US shipping prices are among the cheapest in the world. The bad news is that it's still a lot of money. I used to keep data on shipping costs...just for fun, calculating how much I was spending on shipping alone. I stopped doing this in 2005....when I reached $5000...I couldn't believe I had spend the same amount a nice VG/FINE copy of Amazing Fantasy #15 would set me back on stamps...stamps, brown paper and boxes. I just don't want to know anymore how much I've spend on top of that 5K the last two years. If you're looking for me, I'll be next to the ostrich, burying my head in sand.

And next to the cost, there's also the stress, will the books arrive ? And if they arrive, will they arrive in good shape ? Will my $500 NM book be turned into a $120 FINE book because some bored postal employees decided to play "package-frisbee" during their lunch our ? Yes I can insure the books, but that's another lose-lose situation. As long as I import my used comics (back issues are second-hand) as literature, customs leave me alone. If I declare that I'm not a business and these books are for me and me alone...it's all golden and they float through, but once I insure them they have to take another avenue and tax, tax and tax me until I bleed out of all orifices. If I have a $600 book delivered to my house insured, I pay roughly $200 in tax (33%) each and every time. Meaning that even if I lose one book in three it would still be cheaper than to have them sent insured.Lucky for me 99% of all packages have arrived, big package, small ones, cheap books, high dollar books, all have arrived almost always in perfect shape.

Three months ago I would have proudly put 100%, yes even 5 years of importing box after box of comics from overseas, each and every package had arrived..but somehow I knew this kind of luck couldn't not last forever...you can't beat the odds.
So my first "loss" happened a few months ago and it was a very strange one. And this is how we get to Kenny from this topic's title (not that Kenny is strange hehe).
Kenny is one of the good guys, an eternal optimist, proud father and family man and a really BIG comic book fan, interested in all ages, all publishers, all types of books and even in the fringe side like restoration detection..in short the perfect comic-buddy and a very reliable source to deal with. Kenny had some books for sale that I wanted and we quickly made a deal, a deal being the optimum word as he gave me a very healthy discount. We traded some info and he sent me the package. It never arrived. Kenny was very sorry and offered to refund me the money, which he was under no obligation to do, but he did it anyway, coz that's the kind of person Kenny is. Now I didn't want Kenny to suffer any monetary loss because the post office dropped the ball this time,so we agreed that he would send m some replacement books for roughly the same amount. We both were happy and package #2 was sent....it never arrived.

At this point we both agreed that something fishy was going on, the first package not arriving could have been karma finally kicking me in the nuts for always having gotten my packages, too bad it happened on Kenny's deal...but that's Karma for you. But the only two packages out of 100's in 5 years that went missing, coming from the same town ? And sent close to each other ? Coincidence ?? We didn't think so.
We started looking at what could have happened and decided that somewhere en route from me to him somebody was swiping international packages... We wrapped our brain around all of this and then suddenly one of the packages turned up....the second one....and it was returned to Kenny and it looked like this :

The postal label read that it was never picked up (by me) and was then returned to sender...which is impossible. I assure you that I claim my packages each and every time, I get the xmas feeling every time I see a you-were-not-at-home-so-please-pick-the-package-up-at-the-PO slip in my mailbox.
No way any note was left, my mailbox is large and built-in into my house, so the elements can't touch anything and I'm the only one that gets the mail (my wife knows I love mail, so she leaves it to me )

Dunno what happened, maybe it was delivered to the wrong house (and a slip left) and that person saw it was not for them and never bothered to pick it up
Pretty sure it wasn't delivered in my neighborhood, as I'm the only one to receive (large volumes of US packages) and both my neighbors have at times accepted packages for me and then brought them round when I got home from work.

This is what the books looked like :

Box #1 is still somewhere in limbo...address on the label was correct (mine) but I think that the first box was delivered to the wrong address and the people just kept it. Second box was again delivered to the wrong address, but nobody was home and the postman left a slip to come pick it up at the post office. The people at that address probably knew that wouldn't get it at the PO, so never bothered to pick it up and it was returned to Kenny (after somebody used it as a chair for a few weeks) Just for the record, I'm not angry at Kenny at all.... this was in fact the make-good box he sent me...he still is a friend and we can laugh (a little) at this misadventure...oh remember how I said that Kenny was also interested in restoring books ? Well today he told me he sent me another package with the books that were returned and this is what he did to them :

Never change Kenny, you are one hell of a guy...now let's hope box #3 arrives

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