Let's Talk Comics

 
 
Let's Talk Comics
With Rob Lamberti
I spent a joyous day at a Southern Ontario antiques market in early July, finding a bit of this and a lot of that. I also found some dealers offering comic books. I'm always curious for the oddball book and I found a few romance comics in lower grade and priced right.
 
Most dealers that offered comics were fair and most were priced to sell. I think it was tacitly understood that their forte was not comics but pottery, china, signs and furniture.
 
But there's always a few dealers reaching for the moon, overpricing the books they are offering, which I think is unfair to shoppers. Often, they stick a Near Mint or a Very Fine price on books they know are in demand by collectors or by shoppers overwhelmed by nostalgia, onto a Good or Fine grade book (see Talking Comics Column 102 about grading).
 
Dealers beware: those books could remain unsold for a very long time. Collectors are wise and well educated about the biz.
 
The price difference between grades isn't something in the 10 per cent to 30 per cent range, often the haggling range between buyer and vendor for furniture or pottery at markets, but more like 40 per cent and more. The gap between a Near Mint price and Good price is around 80 per cent or more.
 
Here's an example: Amazing Spider-Man 100 from 1971 guides at Near Mint at around $310 US, Fine at $39 and at Good for $13. That’s why comic collectors are so picky about grades.
 
I recall when I was hosting a table at a Toronto nostalgia show many years ago now, a dealer had a mid-grade Golden Age book I wanted. Desperately wanted. But the price he was asking for was the Near Mint tag. I showed him the guide for what I thought the right grade was for the book and the dealer said nothing, obviously hoping I would leave. I did.
 
What’s interesting is that dealer later showed up at my table buying my books priced at grade. All I could think of was, “Who’s buying the books at his prices?” I wanted to meet them, because they weren't hanging around my circles.
 
When collectors see a high-grade price on a sticker attached to a low- or mid-range grade book, they know it's not worth the hassle to negotiate. The gap is too wide; these boots were made for walking.
 
One thing comic collectors are is smart and they are pretty well armed with the information they need to make the right deal.
 
They have at their disposal the Overstreet Guide, the comicpriceguide.com, and, in this age of instantaneous information via smartphone, comic book dealer websites to help them make decisions. They understand grading and what the price should be for a book’s particular grade.
 
What they are not is frivolous. They can be tough negotiators and know that their best alternative to no agreement in price is to simply walk away. Comic collectors are willing to spend the money, but for the right grade, and eventually, they will find it from a dealer whom they know is knowledgeable about the business.
 
 
A new Flash television show is set to debut on The CW Television Network. Based on the DC Comics character, the show is a spin-off of the successful Arrow TV show. But the Flash is also the key character in the launch of comicdom’s Silver Age.
 
The character was created Gardner Fox and Harry Lampert in 1940 during the Golden Age, appearing in Flash Comics 1 and was put on hiatus when superheroes floundered after the Second World War.
 
But in March 1956, DC wanted to test the market and appetite for super-heroes again. DC had only a few super-heroes in its stable, including Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman. Marvel had none. The test was to put the Flash in Showcase 4, an anthology comic book that allowed the company to measure reader interest in a character or story line without risking the financial commitment of a series.
 
Drawn by Joe Kubert (inker) and Carmine Infantino (penciller), Showcase 4 was a tremendous hit and is pegged as the issue that launched the Silver Age. If you come across this book, even without a cover, get it. It is that significant.
 
In Near Mint, it guides for more than $57,000 US, and in Poor, about $260. A Near Mint-Plus book that was graded by a third-party and was sealed in plastic realized $179,250 at auction in 2012. A coverless, incomplete copy was sold at auction for $221 last year.
 
The rest of the Showcase series is also very collectible. It introduced other characters that were key to the revival of the comic book art form in the Silver Age, such as the Atom, Challengers of the Unknown, the Silver Age Green Lantern, the Hawk and Dove, Sea Devils and many others. It also showcased (pun intended) great artists like Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Gil Kane, Joe Orlando, Kubert, Ross Andru and Russ Heath.
 
Illustrations
1 - Showcase 73 is the first appearance of The Creeper.
 
2 - Showcase 61 has got to be one of the silliest ever: The Spectre getting his head bashed with the Earth. It's the second appearance of The Spectre.
 
3 - Showcase 22 depicts the first appearance of the Green Lantern in the Silver Age.
 
And one last thing.
 
I covered the murder of Jeffrey Baldwin as a crime reporter for the Toronto Sun. I saw the coroner’s photos of the boy’s body. It was heart wrenching. It was horrible. It was evil. I never looked into the abyss until then.
 
When DC Comics initially didn't want the Superman S on a bronze statue honouring Jeffery, apparently because it didn't want its trademark or brand associated with child abuse, I, among many, was outraged.
 
With a groundswell of Twitter protests, news coverage and threats of boycott, DC reviewed its decision and within two days, July 9, decided to allow the statute to don the S.
 
“After verifying the support of appropriate family members, DC Entertainment will be allowing the Jeffrey Baldwin Memorial Statue to feature the Superman S shield,” Courtney Simmons, senior vice-president of DC Comics publicity stated in a press release.
 
I'm sure, Courtney, it is what Superman would have wanted.
 
Next column: Marvel Comics at the movies

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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