More Adventures in Comics Shopping
It's moratorium time.
I've been spending way too much via eBay lately, so I need to lay off of the auctions for a while. Unless there's one for the 'Alex Toth By Design' book. Or the Cerebus 'Six Deadly Sins' portfolio. Or the hardcover Captain Marvel 'Monster Society of Evil Collection'. Or the... aw, dammit.
It's all about the hunt, y'know? Digging through boxes at conventions or trolling through auction listings, searching for those rare and hopefully underpriced nuggets of gold. It's about that shining moment when your eyes fall unexpectedly on something you've been wanting to find for a long time, that instant of disbelief while you process the fact that you've found it.
Self-referential case-in-point: Henry Kuttner was a brilliant, highly imaginative science-fiction writer in the 1940s, whose work I first encountered in the pages of various Asimov-edited anthologies. In collaboration with his wife, similarly renowned author C.L. Moore, Kuttner wrote a series of novellas about an inventor whose greatest works came about while he was stinking drunk. (The premise of most of the stories was that, upon sobering up, he would have to unravel exactly what it was the new machines in his living room were intended to do. Hilarity ensued.) Not politically correct, obviously, but great fun to read, and just screaming for an adaptation by Phil Foglio.
All five of the Gallegher stories eventually saw print in a single volume called 'Robots Tell No Tales'. The title of the first -- and best -- story in the series? You're way ahead of me, I know: "The Proud Robot". It took me a couple of years to track down, but I finally found a copy of the collected stories in a now-long-gone used bookstore. Some twenty years later now, I still remember that moment spent just staring at the cover of the book as it sat on the shelf, wondering if I was actually seeing what my eyes were telling me I was.
I'm well on my way now to satisfying my jones for Alex Toth artwork. I've picked up a lot through comics shows and eBay, on top of establishing a small but comprehensive network of Toth collectors. I'm even supposedly getting my name printed in an issue of Comic Book Artist for supplying some updates to the Toth index printed a few months back. Finally got myself a copy of 'Sinister House of Secret Love' #3 too...
My newest collection passion is for the 100-pagers that DC published in the mid-1970s. It's kind of appropriate, since those were the books that got me into comics in the first place. They each had typically 80 to 85 pages of story and art, mostly reprints of much older golden age and silver age stories. Fantastic Superman epics featuring his Kryptonian heritage. Footraces with the Flash. The original Justice Society members in golden-age solo stories. Heady stuff as a kid, definitely, and even better now with the appreciation for those stories and their creators that I've gained over the years.
As a rough estimate, I think I have copies of maybe a third of them, mostly from the super-hero categories; the romance and horror ones being somewhat harder to find. The challenge is to find them in low grades, and hence low prices, since -- after all -- I just want to read 'em. No CGC slabs for me, brother! Seriously, where's the fun in having a comic that you can't read?
On the subject of reprints, I'd like DC to use them to re-establish a foothold in the newsstand magazine racks: reprint collections published as magazines, with typical magazine page counts and cover prices comparable to other magazine offerings. Contents could run the gamut of DC's 60-plus years of inventory, across the complete range of genres, supported by ad revenues (possibly other AOL-Time-Warner ventures, perhaps). I'm not an expert in the economics of comics publishing, but limiting the book to reprints should similarly limit the 'creative' line items in the budget to royalty streams, as opposed to page rates for creating new material. Editorial and production costs would still be there, obviously, and the book would have to be sold on a returnable basis, just like other magazines. This kind of thing could be just the ticket to regaining a long-lost presence in the corner stores and supermarkets, and exposure to the pre-teen audience that's been largely abandoned by the comics industry in recent years. This isn't a panacea to the problems facing the industry, but this would be a worthwhile experiment.
The strip I'm running with this column also touches on the subject of reprints, featuring both The Haunted Tank feature and a Bob Hope pun. Considering that DC used to publish a book called 'The Adventures of Bob Hope', I figure it's a justifiable drive-by punning.
The 'Haunted Tank' was the name given to the tank commanded by Lieutenant Jeb Stuart during World War II, since it was watched over by the ghost of General Jeb Stuart, a military leader during the Civil War and the younger Stuart's namesake. Of course, since no one else could see the ghost, everyone thought that he was pretty much loony. As to why the army bureaucrats didn't drum him out on a Section 8, well, umm... Hey, look at the nice Sam Glanzman artwork!