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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Golden Path

I remember a few years ago I was having an online conversation with some (modern) comic fans and someone referred to me as the "Golden Age - Silver Age Collector". Well I objected to this "term of endearment" and corrected him. Mainly because I always considered myself to be a "Silver and Bronze Age" fan and secondly because I didn't even own a single GA book and frankly wasn't interested in this segment of the hobby at all.

But how times change...In the past year or so I've come to appreciate certain Golden Age books or titles and even started collecting them. I have a big fondness for EC pre-code horror (which, frankly are among the best comics ever made)and Shomburg-cover Timely's (even thought most of the Timely interior stories are a little "innocent").
And a few months ago I decided to go with DC's best character and try to collect a full run of Batman books with Joker covers. Maybe one day I'll try and complete the full Batman run from 1940 to 1990, but the Joker covers are a neat way to start.

But this is old news as I blogged about this in the past, but today I received this little beauty. Agreed I already bought another GA Batman/Joker cover in 2007, but this is the first that cost me serious coin. As a Xmas present to myself I went out and bought the very first Joker cover in the Batman series, Batman #11 from 1942...now the oldest book in my collection.

This book has one of my favorite covers of all time, I think it's just fantastic. Batman knocking out the joker with a firm right-handed punch, the magnificent deck-of-cards background and Robin almost out-grinning the Joker himself.
Truly an early GA masterpiece with all the credit going to writer/creator Bill Finger and artist/creator Jerry Robinson. The most work that Bob Kane did on this book was probably sign his name on the cover, if he didn't have Robinson do that for him as well

And to think the original cover art to this book actually still survives to this day.
Here's Heritage's Ben Samuels who discovered the art a few years ago, before it was sold for nearly ...$200.000.

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Friday, January 04, 2008

Back in Black

Don't want to start on a somber note, but I actually started collecting because of the fallout of one of the world's greatest tragedies. The book that got me into collecting was a new (for the time) comic...Amazing Spider-man V2 #36, the all-black WTC cover.

I walked in to a comic shop looking to buy some supplies to bag +- 250 issues from my childhood which I had recently re-discovered when I saw this issue.
The shop,typically, had no supplies at all but I walked in when the owner was opening up his weekly Diamond box with the new issues. The most striking of all was the 9/11 Spider-man book.Of course I had seen some news about this comic on TV, Joe Quesada had been invited on several talk shows to discuss Marvel’s “handling” of the World Trade center disaster within the pages of Amazing Spider-Man.

This J. Michael Straczynski written book, shows Marvel Comics heroes reacting to the tragedy and helping with relief efforts, working side by side with New York fire fighters, cops and relief workers. While the issue itself is part of the regular series, it isn't exactly part of continuity but a stand-alone issue which speaks for itself and was released November 14th 2001.

Now I won't go into the rights or wrongs of this book, many people applauded Marvel for this salute to the "real heroes" but a lot of people didn't.
Somebody described it as "By shoehorning the WTC events into a comic book world populated with flying Norse gods and umpteen ubermen, it cheapens the struggles of the police, firemen, and regular joes who were faced with horror two months ago. I’m sure they would have appreciated having The Thing heaving girders out of the way in the search for survivors." echoing the sentiments of a lot of people.

But to me it had a profound impact. When I left comics in 1985 they were 100% fantasy, totally disconnected to the real world. I missed the grim and gritty 90's, I missed the tackling of social issues. When I left comics Spider-man was still fighting the Beyonder in some Secret War, when I returned he was trying to save people from the aftermath of the Twin Towers destruction. Like everyone with half a brain the 911 tragedy changed me and made me realize we now lived in a different world. Maybe starting reading and collecting comic books again was my way to try and relive "better" and more innocent days.

Once I read #36 I started a pull list, granted I stopped buying new books two years later but it DID get me back into comics. I had three ASMs at the time, the #36 issue, issue #211 from my childhood and...another copy of #36. For some reason I went back to the store and saw they had a copy left and I just had to buy it as well. From that moment on I told myself "I'll now go out and try to collect the entire ASM series" .Three years later I had #1 - #500 complete and almost 10.000 other Marvels. I had become an obsessive and unrelentless collector and swept all my other hobbies aside just for the sake of comics...all because of issue #36.

But it didn't stop there. Normally I can't stand having doubles of issues. I also don't like "loose" issues (I like loose women though...badda-bing), I'm a completist and want to have full runs or, even better, complete series. So single issues don't do anything for me, and why would I want multiple copies of anything ? I just need the one issue to complete the series and I'll always sell the double issues, mainly to get them out of my house..well except ASM v2 #36.
For some reason I can't stop buying this book, it's one of the most expensive modern books, but I just have to pick it up when I see it. I don't go out and actively search for the issue, but when someone is trying to sell me some books or is selling a collection, I always check the "modern section" for this issue.
I'm also not a high grade comic nut, conditions is not that important to me as I collect books to read and crack most of the CGC-slabbed books I buy. But yes I would be crazy enough to one day spend a fortune on getting an ASM #36 V2 in CGC 10.0 Gem Mint.

Now a little info about the pic, I photographed my higher grade issues, in all I have 14 of these. The 9.6 and 9.8 issues are both Direct Editions, while the 9.4 is a newsstand copy. The 9.6 issue is still the old CGC label and doesn't call it the "9/11 story", but the "World Trade Center story".
The other 5 raw issues are NM to NM+ ... but as I'm sure none would get a 9.9 or a 10.0 I'm not going to submit them. Strange thing for me to be talking about grade/condition/value for once..but this is a strange part of my collection.

This little comic book symbolizes a lot of things for me, some bad, some good. It touches me on various levels, I don't really like the art that much, some parts of the story make me cringe (when Doc Doom starts crying..P-lease) but it is one of the first books I would try to save in case some disaster happened to my collection.
What can I say...it's my little black book.

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