I’m not sure who said it first (maybe it was James Caan in Honeymoon in Vegas) but they say that everyone has their price. With that truism in mind, I’m reluctant to admit that I too am susceptible to the powerful pull of the almighty dollar. So it’s with more than a modicum of shame that I admit to the world and my comic collecting brethren that I nearly parted with something undeniably dear to me in exchange for nothing more than good old American cash. Yes, this comic book purist and consummate nostalgist, who prides himself on the sanctity of the collection and the memories it contains within, nearly whored a cherished part of his comic collection for money.
It all started some months back when I was in what some might call a bit of “financial distress.” I needed cold hard moolah and I needed it pronto. Okay, it wasn’t exactly “distress” per se. Truth is, I needed a little bit of extra pocket dough for what was admittedly an unnecessary trip to Las Vegas with a few hard-drinking, hard-gambling chums. And with my wife keeping track of my spending habits, I was desperate to find a way to get some fun money that wouldn’t appear on her radar. You see, I have no problem dropping a few hundred bucks on craps or dropping a c-note at places with names like Cheetah’s or The Peppermint Hippo. Unfortunately, the sort of entertainment that involves losing large sums of money and an exotic dancer named Angel is often frowned upon by spouses who would much rather see said cash used to put food in the mouths of the children. Go figure.
Now I’ve spent a lot of money on comics, graphic novels and collected editions over the years; tens of thousands of dollars in all likelihood. And I’m a “keeper,” which means I don’t like to part with anything in my collection for fear that I may someday need to refer to that random issue from that random series from that random year. Nevertheless, with this Vegas cash quest first and foremost in my mind, I started surveying my well-populated shelves in the hopes that I might find something suitable for a quick conversion to greenbacks with minimal effort, something lacking in sentimental value but something with monetary value in spades.
Finally, my eyes landed on my copy of Marvel’s Howard the Duck Omnibus with the Frank Brunner variant cover. I bought it when it first came out and the beast of a book has sat on my shelf unexplored until now. I think to myself that it has to be worth a least what I paid for it. Maybe it’s time to cash in. I promptly head to Amazon do a quick price-check and soon discover that the omnibus is “out of print” and thus sellers on Amazon are asking big money for this particular volume, some over five hundred dollars. That’s like four times what I paid for the thing, so I my wheels start turning. I start to rationalize selling it. You see I’ve been a Howard the Duck fan for as long as I’ve been collecting comics; I have every issue from the original run, as well as a lot of supplemental HTD stuff. But because I have the original run in issues, I tell myself that I don’t need the redundancy of the omnibus (even though the omnibus’ are much easier to read and are much more of a collector’s keepsake). There’s part of me that hesitates because I really do like having the damn thing. But eventually I convince myself that selling it is no big deal. It’s just “a thing” and I shouldn’t give it so much power. Be more Zen about belongings, I tell myself. Vegas is calling and I’m heeding that call. Finally, I pull the trigger. I put the omnibus up for sale and offer what I feel is a price somewhere between fair and ludicrous. And then I wait. Nothing happens. I start wondering why no one is buying it. Maybe it’s priced to high. Do I go in and lower it? Be patient, I tell myself.
I wake up the following morning. Check my e-mail. No buyers. And while the house is quiet, I start thumbing through the omnibus. It’s not long before I actually start reading. I prop the book up on a pillow and immerse myself. I read one issue. Then another. Soon I’m fully ensconced in Howard’s world. Dang it, I’d forgotten all about Howard and his adventures with Beverly. I’d forgotten about the Marvel Treasury Edition #12 in which Howard teams up with the Defenders and takes on the powers of Doctor Strange in order to save the day. I’d forgotten about his ill-fated run for President. About Doctor Bong. And issue #19 where Howard is turned into a human and the amazing cover inspired by Amazing Spider-Man #50. I’d forgotten about Steve Gerber’s sense of humor and Gene Colan’s amazing artwork. Simply put, I’d forgotten how much I liked Howard the Duck comics and the thought of parting with this book suddenly becomes something I don’t want to think about. I’m having seller’s remorse. I work my way through the omnibus that night and dream of Howard’s first appearance in Man-Thing #19. It’s a sign.
I wake up to find that the omnibus starting at me from the nightstand. I realize that there’s no way I can sell this book. I can’t do it. No trip to Vegas is worth this. The Peppermint Hippo will have to wait. I head to Amazon and remove the listing. It feels right. Is there a lesson in all this? Maybe. Books are just stuff when all is said and done, right? But I have a feeling that if I did sell the HTD omnibus, I’d eventually be kicking myself for doing so. Life has a lot of those moments where you look back on something you did and wonder to yourself “What the hell was I thinking?” I guess I didn’t want this to end up being one of those moments.
Gabe Roth lives in L.A. and watches too much TV. He’s @gaberoth on Twitter.