Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Comic Book History- The Hypestyle Universe
I have always enjoyed reading comic books, even before I could ‘read’, as per the term. Being the youngest out of five—more specifically, having three older brothers- I got ahold of their cast-offs in various capacities- including whatever comic books they had. Combined with the various animated adventure shows on television, my taste for superhero fiction was stoked like a furnace. My earliest interests in drawing and relateds artwork tended to revolve around super-characters. In terms of collecting comic books on my own, that didn’t happen for several years. You see, for a long time I didn’t have an allowance, per se’. I received spending money on a sporadic basis, and usually outside the context of where comic books were available. Also, my mother (indeed, all the elders in my family) had grown up in poor backgrounds, and when they were kids, comic books were still 10 cents. By the time I was 10 years old, the average price had risen to roughly 60 cents- which to them, was outrageous. Usually, I had to wait until I could find one of those 3-comics-for-a-dollar (well, technically 99 cents) packages that certain stores sold from time to time. Comic book specialty stores were a relatively new phenomenon in the early 80’s, but they just didn’t exist in my town—though I remember there was a store that kept its surplus warehouse in a storefront along Broadway. The public wasn’t allowed to enter. Periodically, they would change the promotional posters in the windows that were sent to them by various comics publishers. But the main store itself was in a neighboring town, so I just didn’t have access.
It wasn’t until I hit middle-school age when my lingering comics desires would finally find fulfillment. I was in the 7th grade, when my family had to move out of the house we were renting. The house we moved to was across town from where we were. Totally different layout, landmarks, etc. One of my older brothers, who had left for college a year or two ago had recently come back to stay. He came across a pharmacy within walking distance (well, a good 25 minutes walking distance). They had a newsstand and sold an assortment of comic books. For me, it was like Mohammed finding Mecca.
By that time, the school I attended had inaugurated a hot-sandwich program, and I got maybe $1.50 a day spending money to buy something. Shortly after I discovered the pharmacy, I started saving money from that to buy comics. The average price had risen to $.75, so saving 3 quarters out of the week wasn’t too hard. I finally started carrying a wallet now—and, coincidentally, was given spending money more often now. My entertainment priorities centered around comics, video (arcade) games, and blank tape cassettes to record songs off the radio. When high school came around, and I got slightly more money to buy hot food every day- hence, more spending money to save.
Due to obvious ‘budget restrictions’, I couldn’t buy every comic that came out every month- or rather, every comic that I wanted. So, from month to month, I would prioritize: Depending on whether or not I liked the art, Spider-Man and X-Men came first. After that came the various other Marvel stalwarts at the time- Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, Fantastic Four, etc. My brother stayed with us for about another year or so. During that time, he bought comics, too. That helped out for the titles that I missed.
I had an unusual prejudice against DC comics at that time. In my elementary-school years, I appreciated any comic book I could get ahold of. But as time went on, in my adolescent mind, the DC standards just seemed to pale in comparison to my Marvel champions, so I virtually ignored everything they were putting out at the time- even though much of the DC product at the time ended up being influential- Frank Miller’s Batman: Dark Knight and Year One mini-series, the death of Robin II, and John Byrne’s Superman relaunch, among other events.
I would pick up titles as I became interested in them, and then abandon them when I lost interest- usually because of the artwork. Mom wasn’t happy with my comics collecting, but she wasn’t strident about it. I would periodically come up to Detroit on assorted school vacations and holidays; while there, I had, for the first time, occasional access to a comics store. It was during one of these vacations when I also had my first access to a comics convention—imagine- seemingly all the comics in the world at your disposal. For me, it was the equivalent to Disneyland- all my favorite characters just waiting for me.
My collection grew and grew and grew—I would occasionally come across people that claimed to have thousands—I had a few hundred by the time I graduated high school. In college, I continued my comics fervor. There was a comics store on campus, and I would visit it every week- sometimes more often. Comics were also sold in a variety of other stores as well, to my delight. By this time, I had mellowed toward buying DC titles- the Batman movie started my re-appreciation for that character, and I would occasionally buy other DC books on a case-by-case basis. During this time was also my first exposure to ‘adult’ (as in, rated R) comics. A lot of the stuff was very edgy with hyper-violent and sexual acts graphically depicted. It wasn’t for me. Besides, if the wrong person found it…
And so, my collection just continued to get larger. In the back of my mind, my fantasy was to pass them along to my children when they came ‘of age’. Imagine, comic books as family heirlooms. Well, I figure someone’s probably done it before. Anyway, as the collection grew, space in the house got less. Meanwhile, prices kept increasing, at a rate that I didn’t like. I also started to feel less satisfied in general with some of the titles I was keeping up with. The stories didn’t have the same meaning for me as they did ‘back in the days’. One evening, I think I got overcharged a few bucks, but I let it slide—it really kicked in that I was spending money on stuff that didn’t really matter any more. It was almost instinctual, going to the comics stores now. And so, I decided, that was it. No more. I stopped. I actually stopped. Since then, I have bought a few reprint magazines, and I still buy Wizard, which is a magazine covering the industry. I have now begun strategically organizing my old comics by their particular title (or main character). I am trying to sell them off as entire collections, as opposed to individual comics or in smaller increments. I really don’t have the ‘time’ to be meticulous with the arrangements, as I’m really trying to get rid of them as fast as possible.
My first collection, consisting of 90% of my Spider-Man and X-Men comics, I took to a comics dealer in an attempt to get some dough. In the end, what I ended up doing was trading them for a used (but still functional) Playstation 1 system and several games. It was my choice to do it, but I learned in the meanwhile that comics collecting for my generation ain’t like it was for the distant past. Most comics from the 80’s and 90’s tend to be in higher proliferation. Hence, the general demand is lower to find those issues, unless they are of extreme rarity. Incidentally, I only got rid of 90% of my Spidey & X-Men books because I didn’t know I had another boxful of comics containing some more issues, that I hadn’t looked at before. Ah well—more to sell later, I guess. I don’t have a car, so I can’t get out to comics stores like I would want to, to get some assessments.
Selling on the internet is a slow go—Even though I start the bidding prices low (idiotically low), the ‘bites’ tend to be few and far between. Right now, I’m just set up at Ebay—there are many more auction sites to choose from- Thus, I’ll have to just explore what’s out there and hope for the best.
The other option is to actually set up a table at a convention. It costs X amount of money to do that, plus of course, you need a car to get out there. I dunno. I might just do it if it’s not too expensive for a table. Then, I need lots of money for change, etc. Not to mention a strategy for prices—should I sell them for cover price? Or for ‘mark-up’ value? I guess maybe a combination of both.

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