Let's Talk Comics

 
 
Let's Talk Comics
With Rob Lamberti
Okay, things are getting a little crazy.
 
A high-grade copy of Action Comics 1, the first Superman, has sold for - gulp - $2.16 million.
 
The multi-million dollar comic once belonged to actor Nicolas Cage, whose L.A. home was broken into in 2000.
 
The stolen comic, considered one of the two best of about 100 that still exist, was found April 2011 in an abandoned storage locker, which had its contents purchased in an auction in San Fernando Valley. Shades of a Storage Wars episode.
 
Last November, the comic sold at the record nosebleed price, just in time to help the comics-crazy actor who was facing bankruptcy for failing to pay back taxes.
 
Now, there are plans to make a movie about the break-in.
 
(An aside here, to emphasis just how comics crazy Cage is, he named his son Kal-El, which is Superman's real name.)
 
This amazing $2.16 million price is for a book that was the result of the melding of the creative juices of Canadian kid Joe Shuster and his pal Jerry Siegel. It was an idea that was repeatedly rejected by publishers before a nervous DC printed it in April of 1938.
 
Other comics that have sold for $1 million-plus at auctions in the past couple of years include two other copies of Action 1, a Detective 27 (the first Bat-Man) and an Amazing Fantasy 15 (the first Spider-Man) issue.
 
But, whoa pardner, that kind of money puts a crimp in the wallets of most collectors.
 
There's an axiom in collecting that everyone needs to be reminded of: Collect what you like, what you can afford and what make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
 
Collecting what you like and what makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside are obviously related. It's based on childhood memories of reading comics.
 
Maybe it was the artist that gets the super power mojo juices flowing, such as Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Mac Raboy, or Wally Wood. Maybe it was the character, maybe the story line.
 
What you can afford trumps everything, however. There is no point in mortgaging the house and selling the first-born just to get a decent copy of Action 1.
 
A reprint worth $5 would do just as well. For most of us it's the story, a time travel bounce back to 1938, or taking an affordable look at history.
 
The fun of collecting a run of comics of, oh, let's make up a powerful dude, Captain Chicken Liver, is to rekindle memories, and rightfully restore what was yours in the first place before parental units ordered their destruction via a garbage truck many years ago.
 
The challenge is to find the best copy at the best price and a price that is affordable.
Focus those fuzzy memories and from that will come new passions and new directions.
 
Which brings me to my newest path.
 
Ever since I was a child, I wanted a Lassie. The television show that appeared after school, and I'm basing this on lousy recall, on WKBW Channel 7 Buffalo, in particular the shows that cast June Lockhart as the mom, and Jon Provost as little Timmy.
 
Many years pass and one day I see a black, white and tan rough collie walking down our street with its owner. That's it, I exclaimed. Indeed, in the book Lassie Come Home, I would discover that she is really a tri-colour, not a sable.
 
I've always wanted a rough collie, but when I saw the tri-colour, it sealed the deal. And unlike the television Lassie, the book Lassie is really a girl.
 
Oh, the discoveries.
 
I got my beloved tri-colour four years ago, only to lose Tess to a traffic accident in March. Her memory has given me a renewed interest in the 70-issue Lassie series, published by Dell and Gold Key between 1950 and 1969.
 
Three are especially collectable because they were drawn by master artist Matt Baker. There are another 17 Lassie books published under the March of Comics title. They are reasonably priced and the challenge will be to find a higher-grade copy.
 
The few I own are, shall we say, well read.
 
But, in this case, that is irrelevant. It's not always about the investment - it's about the memories.
 
Next column: The Green Goblin.
 
Let's Talk Comics with Rob Lamberti, who started collecting comics when the going price was 12 cents an issue and Peter Parker really was a teenager. He dabbled in the comic convention circuit in the Toronto area for a while, but stopped to concentrate on his career as a not-so-mild-mannered crime reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper, where he hoped he managed to record a little bit of history the past three decades. You can reach Rob at lamberti@cogeco.ca
 
Comic illustrations: Marvel Comics and MGM Comics
 
 
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