Let's Talk Comics

 
 
Let's Talk Comics
With Rob Lamberti
Supersize that comic!
 
During the 1970s and '80s, both Marvel and DC published oversized comics - a tabloid 10 inches by about 14 inches - that sold for what was then a huge newsstand price tag of at least $1.
 
They were bold, colourful and most often filled with reprints, a potential super moneymaker for the publishing houses by using material they already owned.
 
But the format broke boundaries, such as the first "crossover" involving DC and Marvel, a joint publishing production of MGM's Marvelous Wizard of Oz in 1975. It led to their second crossover in 1976 involving the two publishers' marquee characters, Superman vs. the Amazing Spider-Man: The Battle of the Century for a whopping $2.
 
The cover was a sight to behold: Spider-Man on top of a skyscraper ready to attack… Wait a minute… that's Superman. What can some college kid with radioactive spider blood to the Man of Steel?
 
There were two printings of that edition, the newsstand version which sells for up to $90 near mint; and the mail order version signed by Marvel's Stan Lee and DC's Carmine Infantino, and had a limited print run of 5,000. It could sell for about $170 near mint.
 
Boxing legend Muhammad Ali sided with Superman in a 72-page opus to stop an alien invasion in 1978. Drawn by artists Neal Adams, Dick Giordano and Terry Austin, the book was re-issued as a hardcover in 2010. If you squint really hard, you might find a slew of celebrities in the crowd on the front and back cover artwork, including Jerry Garcia, the Jackson 5 and Alfred E. Neuman of Mad Magazine.
 
DC introduced the first Treasury book in October 1972 as the Limited Collectors' Edition with the story of Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
 
The first official Treasury-sized book, however, was DC's Shazam! It was number C-21. DC appeared to have inexplicable numbering systems, as there is no C-1 to C-20 editions. DC had acquired the rights to Captain Marvel and reprinted some of his exploits in the over-sized book. It contains some fabulous art by Mac Raboy, C.C. Beck and Kurt Schaffenberger.
 
Marvel's first Treasury-sized book was a 100-page tome of stories and pinups of Spider-Man in 1974.
 
The values of the books vary greatly, depending on artists, whether there's new material or not and the title.
 
Among the Marvel titles, the first was a Spider-Man title, Spectacular Spider-Man from 1974, which in near mint hovers around the $80 to $90 range, while most of the other titles, like Holiday Grab Bags, other Spider-Man titles, are in the $15 to $35 range in comic shops. The 1981 edition of the second crossover involving Superman and Spider-Man peaks around $50 in near mint on the retail collectable market.
 
There are great collections of comic work in the Treasuries, including Jack Kirby's 2001: A Space Odyssey, Steve Gerber's Howard the Duck, Joe Kubert's work on Tarzan and there's fabulous art by Bernie Wrightson in House of Mystery.
 
Marvel didn't focus on its Golden Age, but it did issue the Wizard of Oz, the Land of Oz, Battlestar Galactica, the television version of Buck Rogers, Star Wars and a few odd ball books like the Smurfs and Yogi Bear.
 
DC also issued nine 1st Editions, reprints of classic Golden Age books like Action Comics 1, Detective Comics 27, Bat Man 1, Whiz Comics 1, Wonder Woman 1 and Flash Comics 1.
 
In terms of investment, these books aren't barnburners. They are not going to make any a millionaire anytime soon. But they are fairly popular and if found in a sale, pick them up, especially if in higher grades.
 
The problem with these over-sized books is protecting and storing them. Treasury-sized storage materials are available but not many comic shops stock them. Mail order may be the best way to get storage bags, boards and boxes.
 

Farewell Spock
There have been a lot of Live Long and Prosper comments in the last little while after the death of Leonard Nimoy on Feb. 27. Nimoy's features as Star Trek's Spock has graced the comics, in the coveted Gold Key editions and in the later runs by both Marvel and DC.
 
The impact the character, indeed all of the characters of The Original Series, has had on our society has been profound, both as a science fiction tale, but also a story to light a fire inside each and every one of us, to inspire us so that we can reach out and touch the sky.
 
Farewell Spock as you travel to the second star on the right and straight on 'til morning.
 
Next column: Comic art legends
 
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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