Let's Talk Comics

Let's Talk Comics
With Rob Lamberti
Mike Kowalchuk quickly flipped the pages of the colour pamphlet for the Cadillac XLR convertible.
The Woodstock man with a penchant for collector autos is dreaming to add the two-seater built only between 2004 and 2009 in Kentucky to his collection.
It was when he read a column in the Wayback Times about comics that the 79-year-old started thinking that a small batch of Golden Age comics that he collected when he was a boy in the 1940s and kept stored in a box will fund the auto deal.
And there's a good chance it will.
Two books in particular that have been stored away for about 70 years could hold the keys to his XLR.
One book is the Canadian edition of Captain America, a 128-page black and white comic, and the other is the 128-page Canadian edition of Marvel Mystery Comics. Both were printed in 1942. They have colour front covers, but the backs are white and the comics are black-and-white.
There were restrictions as to what can be spared from the war effort during the 1940s, and comic books weren't on the list of priorities.
Kowalchuk says he was about 10 when he was given the books from a tenant's son who lived in the upper floor of his parents' home. The gift was part of a penance from the older lad who often bullied him.
The two books are part of Kowalchuk's collection that may not be large, about 100 books, but it's going to be historically significant because of the Marvel Mystery and Captain America books.
And if handled properly, their sale could buy him that vintage convertible Cadillac he's been eying for his auto collection.
According to the Overstreet Price Guide, the Captain America comic is considered very rare, meaning only between one to 10 copies are known to exist.
Well, Mr. Robert Overstreet, we've got one more.
While a third-party grader will review the book prior to the online auction later this year, it appears to be a Good Minus overall.
"If there are only 10 of them, it's rare," Kowalchuk says. "This one is in really good shape. There's not a page missing, the stories are really crisp."
And the Marvel Mystery Comics is thought to be even more rare than the Captain America, of which Overstreet has recorded only two sales. Well read, well loved, stained here and there, with tears and tape and other faults, including no back cover, putting it at about fair, it would nevertheless be an extraordinary addition in any serious collection.
"I'm just loving it," Kowalchuk says of the process of preparing the books for auction.
One Manhattan auction house he is negotiating with estimates the Captain America could fetch about $10,000 on the block, while the Marvel Mystery will bring a fraction of that.
Among his other comics, Kowalchuk has a short run of Golden Age Bat Man between numbers 34 to 43 and a number 13 with a loose cover, a batch of Crime and Punishment, some Planet Comics - all titles that would make any serious collector salivate uncontrollably.
Many are Canadian editions, but he also has a significant number of American versions that were brought up by family during the war era.
Another odd ball is an American-printed, but Canadian oriented version of Is This Tomorrow?, an anti-communist propaganda comic about a Red coup in Canada. The Overstreet guide only mentions versions of a story line about a communist take-over in the U.S.
He also has a comic book-page sized poster of Canadian Golden Age hero Free Lance, a character developed by Anglo-American Comics of Toronto, which printed Fawcett books, such as Captain Marvel, for the Canadian market during the Second World War.
Kowalchuk says he remembers when he was kid going to the Magazine Exchange on Dundas St. in Woodstock in the early 1940s, trading two to four "used" comics for a new book.
"I was only eight years old," he says. "I used to go in and trade books. I used to be a frequent visitor during the war.
"I probably got rid of a lot of books way back. I went through my collection when I was young and I didn't like the pictures on some of them, and I would unload them, I'd trade them.
"I liked the ones with the Joker on the cover, or the Penguin," he says. "I would keep the ones that appealed to me."
Kowalchuk describes himself as an eclectic collector, with interests in many fields, but cars are his favourite and has his heart on the Caddy.
Auto collector Mike Kowalchuk holds the key to purchasing a rare Cadillac convertible. These two comics, Marvel Mystery Comics and Captain America, are rare comic books that he's been storing since he was a kid in the 1940s. The avid car enthusiast plans to auction the comics through an American seller in the near future. In December, he contacted Wayback Times columnist Rob Lamberti, who helped Kowalchuk get on the path of selling the books. (Rob Lamberti photo)
Next column: Deaths of comic heroes.
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
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