Classic EBI #109: Going Once… Going Twice…

We comic book fans have a bad habit of creating problems where none exist. What if continuity scares off new readers? What if kids won’t read superheroes? Um… what if we just let them give it a try?

Everything But Imaginary #416: Creating Our Own Problems

Going back to 2005, though, I talk about something that I actually haven’t done in quite some time… using eBay to boost my comic collection. Ah, the good old days…

Everything But Imaginary #109: Going Once… Going Twice…

As a beloved and well-respected member of the comic book press, people are constantly asking me questions. “How do you spell that?” is one. “Hey Blake, you’ve got me blocked in, can you move your car?” is another. But one question I’ve heard with much greater frequency lately is this: “Where can I get comics online?”

Now I don’t mean web comics, I mean purchasing actual comic books printed on paper through that funky little box you’re staring into right now. I think most comic fans would agree that there’s a great feeling to going down to your local comic shop, browsing the racks, arguing with other fans about who’d win in a fight between Wolverine and Batman and being utterly astonished when a female walks into the joint. That’s good times.

But the fact is, friends, sometimes your local shop won’t be enough. You can only look through the same back issue bins so many times before it dawns on you that your local shop is never going to get that copy of Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew #1 that you so desperately crave. If you’ve got other shops in the area, you can check them out, but again, you can only look there so often. Sooner or later, you’re going to have to turn to an alternative supplier. Sooner or later, you’ve got to go to the internet.

Now for recent back-issues, it should be relatively simple to find what you’re looking for with an online retailer like our own X-World Comics. And in fact, anytime somebody is seeking an issue less than a year or so old, that’s the first place I’m going to send them. But what if you’re looking for something older? Something from the 70s or 80s? What if you’re not looking for anything in particular, but just want to browse?

Not to sound like a commercial, but eBay has really been a boon to comic readers.

Note I say comic readers. For comic collectors, it still has its positive points, but not as many. A really collectible comic will show up there and immediately vault in price as the bidding war ensues. If it’s a comic worth having for an investment purpose, you’ve got to be quick and crafty to get your hands on it, and it will still cost you an arm, a leg, and your first born child (which I understand will soon be a “Buy it Now” option).

If you’re a reader, though, than you can really do well at a site like this. Just log in and do a search for “comics.” I just did that very thing and I found 37,920 entries. And no, that’s not a typo, that’s not a misplaced decimal point. Thirty-seven thousand.

With that many, of course, it’s tough to find something specific. And if you’re looking for something specific (say Amazing Spider-Man #400), then be more specific in your search. Type Spider-Man or Amazing Spider-Man. You could even go so far as to type the issue number, but remember that each keystroke will limit the number of potential matches and may cause you to miss exactly what you’re looking for. The majority of comics sold on eBay are sold in lots of two or more: “Lot of 10 Spider-Man Comics” or “Assorted Marvel Comics: 1990-1995” are not uncommon as a listing, and either of those could have what you’re looking for. So if you don’t find what you want in your first search, think of some different terms that might result in a hit and try again.

But again, this is when you’re looking for something specific, which I rarely do these days. Online shopping has become a godsend for me in a very different way. I’ve entered a sort of phase where I’m looking for older comics – stuff I’ve never heard of, stuff I’ve heard of but never read, or stuff I read as a child that somehow I lost along the way. So I’ll browse the stuff that has a lot of different kinds of comics that I can get for a cheap price.

As a result, I’ve picked up on some really great stuff lately: kids comics I’d forgotten about like Richie Rich, Casper the Friendly Ghost and a lot of old Archie comics. Comics based on cartoons like The Flintstones, The Great Grape Ape, New Terrytoons and Popeye the Sailor Man. And out-there, obscure stuff like Charlton’s old Judomaster comic or Ace Comics’ revival of What is… The Face? by Steve Ditko and 70s attempts to resurrect horror comics like Marvel’s Journey Into Mystery revival.

Then there are the comics I’ve never heard of, like Dark Horse’s Atlas, and oddities like a Harlem Globetrotters comic from Gold Key. I’ve even found two issues of Charlton’s Abbott and Costello comic book, which is apparently based on the little-known cartoon series from the 1960s (which featured Bud Abbott doing his own voice, but replaced Lou Costello, who died in 1959).

Now I’ve got to stress here – these are reader’s copies of the comics. Most of them are in decent condition, but none are in mint. Some are pretty bad, with ragged edges, tears, holes… it’s not unusual for a lot of 15 comics to include three with no covers at all. (These don’t go into my collection, but I do read them.) A lot of the time you’re bidding on comics that somebody found in an attic or the bottom of a box of books their kids have outgrown or stuff from their own childhood they found when cleaning out their parent’s house. These are comics with writing on them, coupons clipped, covers dangling by a staple. These are comics that have lived.

But they’re cheap. And they’re readable. And if you’re just looking to find something interesting, then that’s as winning a combination as you can get.

It’s also obvious that sometimes the person doing the listing either doesn’t know much about comics or just isn’t paying attention. For instance, one package I saw when I did that search for this column labeled as a set of 9 Marvel comic books included such notable Marvel titles as Action Comics, Magnus: Robot Fighter and Armorines (that’s a DC and two Valiant titles, if you aren’t familiar). This is the reason I always read a listing carefully before I place a bid. I never bid on any lot that doesn’t at least list some of the titles (stuff that just says “50 assorted comics” isn’t going to get my money) and doesn’t have a photograph. But sometimes just one comic in a lot will be enough to interest me. I was looking at a lot with some seemingly ordinary Sad Sack and Thor comics and may have passed it up, until my eye caught one of the aforementioned Abbott and Costello comics in the photographs. That one comic was enough to get me to place the bid, and as a result I got that lot for less than nine bucks and it turned out to have some cool oddities as well, like several issues of Gold Key’s old The Occult Files of Doctor Spektor series.

And sometimes you’ll luck out and get something that’s worth something – I once dropped a ten-spot on a lot of old Dell Disney comics (mainly because I wanted the copy of Uncle Scrooge #16 that was in there), and wound up getting an issue of The Hardy Boys in very good condition that lists for $150. Not a bad return on my investment, even if I don’t intend to sell it.

Now these rules all apply when you’re buying comics. Selling them on eBay is a different matter entirely. I’ve done that too, and frankly, unless you’ve got something phenomenally in-demand that’ll spark a bidding war, you’re not going to make a lot of money. I’ve often sold lots where I barely recouped the cover price and almost wound up going into the hole once I shipped. (This is because I charge the actual shipping price and not the sky-high fees some sellers do.)

But if you’re looking to expand your collection and you’re not too particular about how you do it, if you’re just looking for something fun, if you’re just looking for something different… this kind of stuff can be a lot of fun. Heck, now that I’ve told you all this, I’ll probably have to fight half of you guys in bidding wars. But hey – where’s the fun with no competition?

FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: March 29, 2005
Let’s get a show of hands here, friends, who thought for sure I was going to go with DC Countdown? Anybody? Yeah, me too.

Until I read Fantastic Four #524. For the final story in their run, Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo tell a tale of an FF without their powers, trying to reclaim them as they bounce around New York City from person to person like cosmic superballs. And along the way, they manage to shed some real light on the members of the team, show what makes them tick, show what makes them heroes. It’s a perfect bookend, in fact, for the nine-cent issue that began their run nearly three years ago. This issue caps it for me, this is the best team ever to handle The Thing, and the best team to touch the Fantastic Four since John Byrne’s run in the 1980s. J. Michael Straczynski takes over in a couple of months (after a fill-in run by Karl Kesel), and I’m a big Straczynski fan… but man… does he have some enormous shoes to fill.

Blake M. Petit is the author of the superhero comedy novel, Other People’s Heroes, the suspense novel The Beginner, and the Christmas-themed eBook A Long November. He’s also the co-host, with whoever the hell is available that week, of the2 in 1 Showcase Podcast. E-mail him at BlakeMPetit@gmail.comand visit him on the web at Evertime Realms.Read past columns at the Everything But Imaginary Archive Page.


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