Let's Talk Comics

Let's Talk Comics
With Rob Lamberti
What to do with a comic that has been snipped? Or ripped? Or has missing pages.
No dealer wants run-of-the-mill books that had an ad clipped out or a page missing. They are next to worthless. Dealers will risk the investment of a reading copy of a key book, such as an Action 1, the first Superman, or Amazing Fantasy 15, the first Spider-Man.
One option I had with a number of historically insignificant but artistically cool books I bought in collections that have been “mutilated”, by my standards anyway, has been to frame it.
After all, it is art.
Imagine how I slobbered when I thought I was bringing home as part of a collection a mid-grade Dell Four Color #371, also known as Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse in the Inca Idol Case, a 1951 book that carries a bit of value. The cover was penciled and inked by artist Dan Gormley. I opened it up at the centerfold when I got home; the usual first move to ensure the book is all there. Alas, it was not. Argh.
It was also true for a Red Ryder 72a, a Canadian edition of the American comic from August 1949. All that remained were a few pages. The best of what survived was the back cover with pin-up art of a cowboy riding a bucking horse by American comic artist and Western painter Fred Harman. It isn't four-colour, but the inks are crisp, sharp and full of action.
Nevertheless, although they were incomplete comics, I didn't want to toss them. I shake and sweat at the thought of trashing a comic book, even if it was incomplete. The same is true with books and even most news and arts magazines. Faced with the dilemma of whether to have a pile of damaged comics with little or no value shoved in a box hidden somewhere in the basement, or throwing them out, that little internal light bulb suddenly went on: “Why not use art as art?”
Frames don't have to be expensive. I purchased what I needed at discount dollar stores.
I put what was left of the Dell Mickey comic into a frame and the single Fred Harman pin-up page in another.
I've now got Mickey and Cowboys hanging up in the powder room. Cool, if I say so myself and it beats the mass-produced artwork of a barely-in-focus drop of water on a blade of grass usually found in powder rooms or sports art that pepper man caves.
Next for framing for another wall is a true key Silver Age book that is missing too many pages to be sold: Batman 181, the first appearance of Poison Ivy. I bought it for $3; I thought it was a steal. In the end, it was me who was conned. Pages were missing, affecting the continuity of the story. Of course, that’s why it was only $3.
Which brings us to an important warning for buyers of Marvel comics published between 1974 and 1976: Beware the missing Marvel Value Stamps. These stamps, which were vignettes of various characters, were and continue to be the blight of many collectors of Bronze Age books.
There were two series, A and B, and they were usually placed in the letters pages. Many comic readers clipped the value stamps out and taped or glued them into a booklet sold by Marvel. Sometimes, the clipped stamp backed onto an advertising page, but they also backed onto a story page. Oh, so many damaged comic books from that era.
The lesson here is to check the books from that era for any clipped stamps. According to mvstamps.com, more than 850 Marvel issues had just Series A stamps in them. A sample of the list of major Marvel books which would be affected include Amazing Spider-Man between 130 and 157, Avengers between 121 and 147, Captain America between 171 and 198, Captain Marvel (not the Golden Age Captain Marvel known for yelling Shazam!) between 32 and 43, Conan the Barbarian between 36 and 62, Fantastic Four between 144 and 170, Hulk between 174 and 200, Man-Thing between 3 to 14, Thor between 221 and 249, and Tomb of Dracula between 18 and 45.
Most of these books would make additions to your collection if they are not clipped, but great wall art if were clipped.
Not to be outdone, DC Comics did something similar, but the stamps were all on a single page.
The lesson here is that each page should be checked before buying a comic. But not all is lost if a collector comes across a damaged issue, as it still has artistic value that can be framed and hung, right next to the Roy Lichtenstein.
Next column: Record auction prices for comics
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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