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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.