Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Investing in Comics Part 2

When it comes to finding comics to invest in, the current atmosphere couldn’t be better … and worse.
In the past if you wanted comics, the first place they were available was through various stores on spinner racks and newsstands.  Subscriptions soon followed.  Then came mailorder, which was a huge boost to the hobby and eventually led to flea market booths and comic shows.  From there, specialty comic book shops opened, followed by the behemoth of eBay … and the world of comic investing has never been the same.

To downplay the importance of eBay in the field of comic collecting is to not understand the market one wishes to invest in.  eBay opened up the world for everyone with a computer and Internet availability.  Issues that were impossible to find suddenly became readily available … in multiple copies.  Books you thought were rare were as common as romance novels.  And it wreaked havoc with prices … or so it seemed.  The reality was that it leveled the playing field in all ways … something not exactly conducive to investing.

When flea markets and mailorder were the only way to buy, consumers (and that includes investors) were at the mercy of the seller.  If you were an investor selling this way, you were in luck as long as you could find someone to take your comics off your hands.  That usually wasn’t a problem, though you sometimes had to wait to find the person.  When stores entered the picture, they stuck to competitive pricing based on the comic values given in the Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide and what the local market would bear.  eBay started a race to the bottom … for serious collectors.  Sellers who dealt in comics underpriced to drive bids.  Sometimes this backfired and worked wonders for the collector.  Sometimes it went the opposite way and sellers made out like bandits.  All markets have their pros and cons, however.  I’ll focus on the three main markets here and let investors decide which is best for them.  I’m doing this under the assumption that the investor is simply looking to buy comics in which to invest. 

Flea markets are the bane of comic book collecting at this point in time.  All one has to do is take a walk through any market and see that if there is one certainty when it comes to sellers at flea markets it is that most don’t know what the hell they are doing.  There you will find one of two types of dealers: the one who has knowledge of comic books, or the one who doesn’t.  The two are easy to differentiate.

The dealer who doesn’t know what he (and it is usually a he) is doing will usually have one small box worth of comics.  The comics may or may not be sleeved.  They most likely won’t be boarded.  The prices will have nothing to do with condition or anything even remotely resembling reality.  The stuff you can find in a .25 cent box at your local comic book store will sell for $5.00 or more here.  The price, as odd as it is, is usually set by the comic’s age and who is on the cover.  The good thing about this is that you can sometimes find a gem that is vastly underpriced, but that is rare.  Also, once you check out this guy’s stock, there is usually no reason to return to him on future visits, as his lack of sales will keep him from purchasing more books to sell.

The dealer who does know what he is doing will have the comics sleeved and boarded, and the prices will be around Overstreet levels.  Your chances of finding a gem with him are very slim, but negotiating prices works out better.  After all, it is far easier to get a deal on a book you want to pay $8 for that is priced at $11, but really worth $10.  With this type of dealer you are starting closer to what the book is worth, while at the former dealer that $10 book may be priced at $20, so your odds of getting it for $8 are virtually nil.  This dealer’s stock will also change, so checking back with him is a good idea.

The comic book store is a great place to get new and back issues, though fewer and fewer shops are carrying the latter due to space constraints and competition from eBay.  Like with the knowledgeable dealer at the flea market, the comic book store owner will have his books priced competitively.  You can negotiate, but it is rare that you will find a deal, unless you go to the one place a lot of people avoid: the discount boxes.

Discount boxes usually have comics anywhere from .25 cents to a dollar.  The conditions aren’t always great, but there are some treasures to be found.  You can also cheaply fill gaps in your collection so that you can sell off the entire run of a title at a good price.  I have found quarter books worth over $11 in the condition they were in, so treasures are not unheard of by any means.
It's "Action," not "Acton." Also, that lion is screwed.
eBay and other auction sites have changed the game.  They have let everyone with a comic book to sell and everyone who wants to buy a comic book connect like never before.  That rare issue you’ve wanted for years?  It’s there.  The problem with these sites is that there is so much “inventory” that the shrewd investor won’t be able to sell here with any reasonable certainty of return, but will be able to buy as long as they do so from a trusted source who knows comic conditions. 

The amount of traffic on this site sometimes drives down prices, as you will have 800 copies of the same book selling, but can also inflate prices on books that shouldn’t be valued as high.  If you are investor looking to buy, one of my tricks is to purposely misspell the book’s title while searching for it.  You’d be shocked by how many people list things like Acton Comics.  Sometimes they don’t even put them in the comic category.

As I noted before, this is not the way to fund your retirement unless you own a store, but it is a fun hobby that can bring you some money if you work hard at it, study the markets, and invest in what you love.  Otherwise, it’s blindly throwing money away, and that’s not investing.  That’s gambling, and nobody wants to gamble with their financial future.


Monday, October 19, 2015

Investing in Comics Part 1

A topic which often comes up in the world of comic collecting is that comics are a good monetary investment.  This is often followed by the advice to collect what you love.  Fair enough.  I’ve made some decent money selling comics throughout the years.  Would I look at them as a retirement plan, however (this coming from the prospective of not owning a store)? 


I do believe comics are a good investment.  I don’t believe, like I’ve read time and time again, that they are recession proof.  The value of comics, like any other collectible, can take value hits based on supply and demand, the state of the economy and so on.  Currently, most of the short-term collector market is being driven by the comic-based movies.  As soon as word gets out that some character is going to be featured on the big screen, investors start seeking out its first appearance.  If I’m a collector or investor looking to sell previously purchased issues, that’s good news.  If I’m an investor who doesn’t own any of those issues, but is looking to find them and make a quick buck … well, I’m not a very savvy investor.

Buying comics while they’re hot is usually not a good idea, and this holds especially true for comics that are hot simply because of films.  The comic book film genre will cool, and these comics will come back down in price.  As an investment, these comics would have been good to grab back when they first came out or well before a film was announced.  Hence, collect what you love.  (If you are investing for a short term turnaround, you may see some profit, but you have to remember that there are a lot of other people doing the exact same thing, and that will actually drive your profits downward as it causes the price you pay to obtain an issue to be inflated too dramatically.)

If you are an investor just buying whatever you think will rise in price over time, and you want to avoid the advice of buying what you love to read, you’ll want to look at books with a crossover appeal.  Crossover appeal assures you that your investment will have some kind of value no matter what happens in one market.  A good example of this is Disney’s Pocahontas comic.

If you bought this comic when it came out in 1995 it would’ve cost you $4.50.  One would think if you were buying it simply as an investment you would have been eyeing the comic market, the Disney market (which is huge), the film tie-in market, and possibly the market for female-centric collectibles.  The good news is that each of these markets, while they do have some crossover appeal, is separate from one another.  The comic has its worth to comic collectors, but a Disney collector may be inclined to pay more than the comic collector (either through ignorance or perceived worth) for the issue.  From an investment standpoint, this particular issue has more potential long-term value than, say, a random issue of Action Comics from the same year if only due to the size of the audience that will want to buy it.

The 2014 value placed on that Disney comic in Near Mint ungraded condition by the Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide was $7.50.  Selling it at that price would not seem to give you a huge return, but you actually came close to doubling your money (over nearly twenty years, which is not unheard of in the comic field) but that is just to the comic collector market.  The price willing to be paid by other collectors could’ve been higher depending on what they were buying it for.  The fact remains, though, that if comics are to be a long-term investment, you have to treat them like a long-term investment (and twenty years isn’t that long).  Yes, you can make fast money by buying and selling what is hot in the moment, but you will usually burn out financially in the long run as the market fluctuates as badly or worse than the stock market.  Higher risk leads to potentially higher rewards, but also bigger losses.  The short-term comic investor market rarely gets to buy low and sell high.  Keep that in mind.

The bottom line is: you can make money investing in comics.  People do it every day.  To do it, however, means you really have to know what you are doing.  You have to educate yourself on the product even moreso than when you invest in stocks.  The easiest advice to give a newcomer is the age old invest-in-what-you- love-to-read line, but there is one other thing that should be said, too: Expect nothing to come of your investment.  If you are expecting that issue featuring the death of Superman to worth hundreds of dollars, you are going to be disappointed.  If, however, you bought it for a few bucks, enjoyed reading it (if you took it out of the special sealed bag it was sold in), and then you get a few dollars more than you paid for it – great.  You just came out ahead, and that is the absolute best scenario one can expect from investing in this hobby.  Yes, there are the rare moments where an investor makes over a million dollars, but that is not the norm, and nor will it ever be.

Next time: the best places to buy comics for investment purposes.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015


I’ve read Uncanny X-Men since the ‘80s.  That means I’ve experienced some high points and some (very) low points.  It also means I’ve gotten to know the characters.

My favorite X-Man has always been Nightcrawler.  He was, in better times, the heart and soul of the team.  I’ve also enjoyed, depending on who is writing the title and its storyline, Wolverine, Storm, Kitty Pryde, Colossus, and Sunfire.  I have not ever really gotten into Cyclops, however, despite his status as the team’s spine.e his status as the team'

Cyclops has always been a one-note general to me.  I was even cold to him when he first got romantically involved with Emma Frost, no pun intended, despite the potential for character development.  He’s never been all that interesting, and there were always better players in the ensemble. 

That has changed.

Brian Michael Bendis, a writer with whom I have had problems with in the past, is the reason for this turnabout.  While I loved Bendis’ work on Daredevil, I do think he tends to get a little wordy and stuck on himself at times (and this has nothing to do with him turning down my interview request for Film Threat over a decade ago).  That said, Bendis’ work on Uncanny has taken the generic character of Scott Summers and has filled him with more issues than Matt Murdock had back in the day.  Not only has Bendis made Cyclops relatable, he’s made him interesting to a degree writers tend to fantasize about.  He’s become the standout Marvel always wanted him to be.  The comic is now the Cyclops show, and it is worth reading again.

I’m sure that someday, when Bendis has moved on to some other title, Cyclops will slowly fade into the background and become just another body.  Until then, however, Bendis is doing for him what he did for Daredevil, and future writers of the character should take note:  this is how you write him.  Mark Waid was able to keep Daredevil’s momentum going.  Will Bendis’ successor be able to do the same with Summers?  Only time will tell, but if they don’t, the title will, as it has in the past, suffer … and so will the readers.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

iZombie on the Small Screen: When There's No Room Left in Comics ...

I’ve written about iZombie before, and did so prior to the CW show.  Basically, I am a fan of the comic’s story and Mike Allred’s fantastic art.  I was saddened when it ended, but was not all that surprised when I heard it had been picked up for television.

I’ve watched the show.

I like it.

It’s not the comic.
What strikes me as odd is the direction in which the show went.  At first I thought the show was going to slowly introduce the comic’s aspects in order to ease the audience into this weird world that had been created.  As each episode passed, however, it was clear that the show was going in its own almost cookie-cutter direction.  It is, for all intents and purposes, a mystery show with a psychic.  Something, I might add, that has been done before, though not with a zombie.  I imagine the show’s creators didn’t want to mess with the formula that has been tried and true.

A fan of the show who picks the back issues or trade paperbacks is going to be very surprised, especially if he or she really loves the show.  The comic is nothing like it.  My guess is that if they are driven to pick up the source material it is because that fan loves the show’s premise that much and if that is the case I can’t help but think that fan is going to be disappointed by what he or she reads. 

There are moments in the show that lead me to believe it could be really slowly delving into the comic’s storyline (and I’ve yet to see the last two episodes as of this writing), but at this rate it will be about ten seasons before it even gets close to the insanity of the source series.  Perhaps that is the plan, but I doubt it.  The show, as good as it is, has played it far too safe so far to make me think it has the rotting guts to do anything else.  That’s a shame, too, as iZombie was at its best when it took readers out of the norm.  The show seems content to be by-the-numbers, and that is fairly disrespectful to the comic’s creators … and the audience.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Cover Review: Micronauts #32

The cover to issue 32 of Marvel’s original Micronauts series had just about all the right elements in it to snag my attention.  First, I loved the Micronauts toys as a kid, and the comic was pretty darn good science fiction, too.  Then there is that white “snowbear.”  (I imagine in some cultures it would be a polar bear, but here the weird eyes, aura and rune-like chest symbol denote that it is something far stranger.)  And finally there is the snow against a black sky.  I am a sucker for black and white cover schemes.  They catch my eye every time.
The more observant among you may have noticed a woman’s ass jutting out at an odd angle.  Go ahead and try that pose.  It’s lovely to look at, but not so hot to hold.  That woman is known as Marionette, and she always looked damn cool in the comics.  Here the pose is strictly for eye candy, and does not speak well of her character.  Those who read the comic know what I mean.

There are certain comic book covers that I’d love to own the original artwork to so that I could hang it on my wall.  This is one of those covers.  Later in life I would swear this influenced the cover of issue 19 of the New Mutants, which was part of the demon bear saga.  Look at the covers and compare.  While not exactly the same, you can’t help but think its artist, Bill Sienkiewicz, had this Micronauts issue in mind when he painted it.  I’m not saying he ripped it off, but I believe a strong case can be made for inspiration.

Marvel put out some great covers in the early-to-mid 1980s (the Micronauts cover is from 1981) that were often the perfect marriage of art and storytelling.  You could look at the issue and know what was going on between the covers.  This issue’s cover artist, Pat Broderick, knew how to capture a potential reader’s attention and hold it, as he proves here.  I actually don’t think anyone can look at this cover and say it looks boring.  It is pure action with a good sense of style and color.  Granted, not every issue’s cover was up to this one’s high standards, but most of them in both of Marvels’ Micronauts series were appealing in one way or another.  Of course, there is the exception of that Beyonder one … but then again all of those covers associated with that crossover sucked, as did most of the issues, too.

Mandatory FTC Disclaimer: Clicking on a link may earn me some dough!

Thursday, May 29, 2014


Sparks is one of those works that if I had just read the description for it in Previews without knowing the talent behind it, I probably would not have ordered it.  Writer Christopher Folino (one of the directors of the excellent movieadaptation of this) and artists JM Ringuet and Tyler Endicott created a superhero story that looks at the genre realistically and weaves a tale of intrigue, violence, backstabbing, lust and love against a 1940s noir backdrop.  How many times have you read of something similar?  How many times has it worked?  Exactly.  People do this sort of thing a lot.  It usually fails.  Not this time. 

The start of this tale, which was put out by Catastrophic Comics, opens with a serial killer operating in 1920.  As he makes a kill, a meteor hits the town he is in, and a lot of people die.  13 survivors, however, are irradiated and start to mutate to the point where they gain powers.  Later their children inherit those powers.  Enter Sparks, a young man who believes he has powers.  Things go horribly wrong when he tangles with a new serial killer 28 years after the meteor strike, and so begins his downward spiral in the public’s eye and in his mind.

This is an interesting and unusual take on the hero genre, and it works incredibly well.  The characters are handled so deftly and are so against the usual stereotypes that exist in the world of comics, that you can’t help but wonder just how Folino managed to pull this off the way he did.  If you read comics a lot, you know this type of story rarely works.  (Incidentally, the movie adaptation is something that must be seen, too.   See it after reading this, though.)  Why is that?  Because superhero fans and creators talk a big talk, but they don’t walk the walk.  They say they want something different and unusual, but when they get it, they shun it … if it’s any good in the first place, which it usually isn’t.  The work usually starts out flawed because the creators are steeped in the history of the genre and are not only far too familiar with its conventions and archetypes, but they are also too familiar with those tweaks other creators do in order to set their stories apart from the rest.  That causes the superhero genre to become an incestuous cesspool of stale ideas masked as groundbreaking entertainment and art.  It’s the equivalent of saying Terminator 2 was original where all it really did was tread the same ground as the first film with just a few eye candy differences.

When fans get something truly new and original, they stay away from it like the plague.  They can’t pin it down to something they recognize, so therefore it is wrong.  If that sort of “logic” is keeping you away from this project, shame on you, Jack.  You are missing out on something truly unique.  No, it’s not Wolverine in his 4,332 story, and nor should it be.  You’ve read all of those.  Try something different.

Admittedly, the art is sometimes a little hard to follow in places and there are few scenes that feel like they could have been strengthened by a bit more fleshing out, but overall it works with the story’s noir aspects.  This is just wonderful storytelling, and should be read by anyone who thinks he or she has seen it all when it comes to superheroes … but only if you really want something different and not just the same old tale dressed in some new tights.

Mandatory FTC Disclaimer: I received this copy to review.  Clicking on a link may earn me some dough.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

They Shoot First Ladies, Don't They?

1988.  Action Comics #610.  The series was experimenting with a weekly format.  48 pages for just a buck fifty.  A bargain by today’s standards.  When the series was weekly it was a testing ground (or dumping ground, if you prefer) for second-string characters while the man who made the series famous (Superman) took a back seat.  In this issue he was relegated to a two page spread that did little more than tease the average fan.  Also filling its strange pages was a Black Canary story that made no sense unless you read the issues prior, a Secret Six story that ended with a man falling to his presumed doom while clinging to a butchered pig (I am not kidding), a Phantom Stranger piece with artist Kyle Baker that was just short of being utterly boring, a Green Lantern story that had its moments … and a chapter in an ongoing Deadman story written by none other than Mike Baron (Badger, ThePunisher).

Nancy Reagan's about to get blasted!
The Deadman chapter was called “Catfight,” and it featured the title hero possessing the body of Mikhail Gorbachev’s wife, Raisa.  It opened at a black tie political function, and in attendance was Raisa’s husband, as well as Ronald and Nancy Reagan, who was possessed by a devil claiming to be Satan.  Deadman, inhabiting the body of Raisa, wielded an alien gun that he was going to use against Nancy to kill the devil inside her, all while Ronnie was busy being his typical clueless self.  In addition to that insanity, there was also an appearance by someone who was mistaken for D.B. Cooper and a man who was turned into a Ken doll. 

I don’t think this was based on a true story.

I can’t say this chapter of Baron’s story was good storytelling.  It was, however, weird.  It was the high-end kind of weird that indie comics were known for, but this wasn’t an indie comic.  This was DC, the home of Batman.  This was Action Comics, the book that gave the world Superman and changed the comic book game completely.  The title was Americana at its finest, and here was First Lady Nancy Reagan possessed and being shot at with a gun obtained from an alien astronaut … a gun being used by the story’s hero.  The ‘80s were cynical, but they weren’t that cynical.

Baron has always been a solid writer.  I don’t enjoy all his work, but it contains a certain chaotic glee that I find missing from a lot of comic stories.  On the flip side of that, his work can sometimes feel a bit forced.  This chapter of the Deadman arc was neither of those things.  It was, if anything, probably influenced by some Hunter S. Thompson-like dream and liberal paranoia (often one in the same).  D.B. Cooper’s appearance felt right at home in it, and Nancy Reagan’s possession seemed proper.  It all made sense in its own strange way, and readers were better off for it.

The weekly experiment for the title didn’t last too long, which I found to be a relief.  It really wasn’t a good idea to begin with, as it gave readers an excuse to avoid buying the title.  If they hated the characters, there was no need to get it, and if they liked the characters, the stories weren’t long enough to satisfy.  It did, however, give artists and writers a chance to go a little nuts, and while that didn’t always work, they sometimes created something so bizarre that you can’t help but remember it decades later.  

Mandatory FTC Disclaimer:  I bought this comic.  Clicking on a link may earn me some dough.