Great Moments in Comic Book Collecting
What the hell. Here are a few personal
comic-related collecting highlights of the last 25 years.
Ottawa, 1977 - circa age 9. Emerged from swimming lessons at local YMCA to find a big rummage sale, complete with a banquet table loaded down with comics. Dad agreed to buy one for me, so I chose carefully (shades of Indy and the Last Crusade!): one of the 100-page chock full o' reprints issues of Superman Family. Didn't have a front cover, but you know something? I didn't give a damn. Those were the days...
Ottawa, 1980 - circa age 12. Bought a near mint copy of X-Men #95 off a kid at school for a quarter. I had no idea of its value at the time (about $30), and, obviously, neither did he. Almost didn't buy it from him, because I'd never heard of the X-Men. I think it was on a second pass through the stack that I pulled it out, based on the 'This issue, somebody dies!' paste-up on the cover. I still have the book, and, surprisingly enough given the mortality rates of super-heroes, Thunderbird's still dead.
Ottawa, 1983 - circa age 15. Went to Maplecon, a now-defunct annual SF/comics convention held at alma mater Carleton University. Met Dave Sim and Gerhard for the first time, this being shortly after Dave had hired Spunky to work on backgrounds for that aardvark comic we all love so much. Watched as Gerhard, somewhat, um, bemused by the whole convention experience, start painting backgrounds into the older original art pages that Dave had brought with him to sell. Oh, yeah, got a nice 'Cerebus The Pope' sketch, along with an Elrod bunny scribble.
Baltimore, 1985 - circa age 16. While sightseeing with Dad on one of those family-function trips, we found a mall kiosk selling copies of the newly-released Adolescent Radioactive Blackbelt Hamsters. Yeah, I bought it. Seemed like a good idea at the time, okay? Like you didn't buy one, too...
Ottawa, 1985 - circa age 16. (Part 1 of a matched pair of highlights.) Got a job in a local comic store, in the underground portion of a local mall.
Ottawa, 1987 - circa age 18. (Part 2 of a matched pair of highlights.) Quit said job in a local comic store. Still can't go into that mall without feeling a vague sense of uneasiness.
Waltham, 1991 - circa age 23. Walked into 'The Outer Limits' store in Waltham, Mass., for the first time, a few days after moving to the area for graduate school. Not only did they have quarter bins, but Steve kept 'em well stocked. It was a darn effective cash flow strategy; he'd buy collections of books regularly, cherry-pick the really valuable pieces, and then slough the rest into the quarter bins. He moved some nice runs of super-hero stuff pretty quickly that way, giving him a pretty decent turnover.
Boston, 1993 - circa age 25. Due to a long-term, massive over-ordering binge, a local comic store found itself choking under the weight of too much overstock and too little cash flow, resulting in a five-and-dime sale like nothing you've ever seen before. They priced all the stuff that had been bought new (up to two years worth of recent overstock) to move at a nickel apiece, and back issues were a whopping dime each. Picked up comprehensive runs of Adventure (Supergirl, Black Orchid, Spectre), Phantom Stranger, Jimmy Olsen (the Kirby issues! Yay!), Plop!, and a whole lot more. Special bonus - the mysterious 'rare' issue of Cerebus The Aardvark. ("Beat the Hsiffies! Buy war bonds!").
Ottawa, 1994 - circa age 26. Posted an ad to rec.arts.comics.marketplace looking for the single Legion digest (from the Blue Ribbon line) that I was missing. None only does some kind soul - whose name I have unfortunately misplaced since - answer me, but he offered to send it to me for only the cost of postage!
Toronto, 1997 - circa age 29. Finally found that one missing issue of the Bierbaum/Giffen run on Legion of Super-Heroes, after a couple of years of keeping my eyes open for it. Side note: also found the Mayfair Games Legion Sourcebook written by Tom & Mary, and the Doctor Strange Marvel Masterworks volume in different stores in Toronto, on different trips around the same time; I'm still kicking myself in retrospect for not grabbing them while I had the chance. Oh, well.
Ottawa, 2000 - circa age 31. Watched with concern as a friend opened a new comics store downtown. Concern turned to relief, as the store has thrived over the months since it opened. Let's see - friendly staff who aren't obsessed with the store's content (i.e., they have outside lives) and an open invitation to customers to browse freely, both new and backstock, without fear of harassment. In other words, they're actually trying to make customers feel welcome. Now, there's innovation for you. Way to go, Rob!