The iFanboy Letter Column – 05/15/2009

Friday means many things to many people. For some, Friday means it’s time to really give some thought to how much food you can eat in one 48 hour period without moving.  For others, Friday means it’s finding out who’s holdin’.

At iFanboy, Friday means it’s letter column time.

You write. We answer. Very simple.

As always, if you want to have your e-mail read on the any of our shows or answered here, keep them coming –

I was wondering if you had any tips on the process of finding and collecting old (mid ’90s and earlier) runs of comic books. I’m mainly looking for interesting old stories that I can collect. Their potential worth is not really a factor. For example, my first project is collecting Walt Simonson’s run on Thor. What methods do you use for finding old books for cheap? What are some classic runs that wouldn’t be too hard to find? Any help would be excellent.

Russ O. from Joliet, IL

The art of back issue diving is becoming fading fast, and becoming a memory of how things were, so it’s good to see someone is still interested in participating in the classic game of tracking down those old back issues. With the emergence of trade paperbacks and collections etc., the concept of going and finding the original issues seems to be becoming extinct. While I do like a nice book on my shelf collecting issues, there really is nothing better than having a stack of original issues waiting to be read in their original format, for me at least.

The good news is that you’re in luck, if there were any comics that were available as back issues, it’s ones from the Mid-90’s! (ha) Of course the older the comic, the harder it may be to find and/or the more expensive it will be, but it’s not impossible. You basically have a few options:

1) eBay
As eBay was introduced and grew in prominence in the late ’90s/early 2000s, a large portion of the back issue market for comics moved from comic shops to the internet as auctions. It’s a great place to find collections, runs or groups of back issues, even single issues. Unfortunately the nature of an auction may cause the price to go up, and there are a lot of those pesky CGC graded books (which I assume you don’t want), but a quick search for “Walt Simons Thor” yielded a bunch of results including an entire run and single issues. You might want to check out the Amazon Marketplace as well, which is like eBay but on Amazon. Just search Amazon for the issue you’re looking for.

2) Comic Cons – If you ask me, the best way to find back issues these days is simply by attending a comic convention and diving into the long boxes. If you’re in Joliet, IL, go to Wizard World Chicago and walk through the dealer section. There will be tons of boxes of comics, you can find what you’re looking for and there’s an actual person to interact with and maybe you could even haggle the price down a bit.

3) Comic Stores – Back in the day, the comic book store was filled with long boxes of back issues, but the trend appears to be moving away from that and it’s harder to find a store with a good back issue department, but some still exist. Try visiting all your local comic shops and expand your radius (if you have the means and the time to drive a bit). If the stores around you don’t have good back issue selections, try some of the bigger stores that are online like Mile High Comics, or or Westfield Comics. Stores that sell back issues are still out there, you just have to work to find them.

As far as classic runs that wouldn’t be hard to find, your best bet is Marvel and DC as they will most likely have the largest selection out there. Basically look for characters or books that you’re interested. Like for example, my ongoing back issue project is to get a full run of Uncanny X-Men and New Mutants, but I also expanded it out to include The Defenders and may even branch over to DC for a run of The Flash comics.

Good luck in your back issue diving, I hope you’re able to find all the comics your looking for!

Ron Richards


I listen to your show each week, and get sold on these titles you love. I went to check out Gotham Central and Y: The Last Man on Amazon, and the are taking forever publishing the hard covers. It seems to me that the publishers would receive just as many sales if they released the entire Deluxe Hardcover set of Y than to stagger out the volumes over years and years. Gotham Central was complete and done in April of 2006, and the second hardcover won’t be out until this September. Tell me, if you were in control would you abolish single issues, release an entire collection upon its completion, or keep the in place system?


We hear complaints about these kinds of things a lot, especially in regards to DC — they’re certainly not very quick in getting trades and collections out. But one has to assume there are reasons behind it, other than complete incompetence, which is what most readers seem to assume. For one thing, it’s a mistake to assume that just because a comic series has completed, putting a collection together is a snap. It’s still a whole new project for someone to spend a lot of time and energy on. It’s not a matter of just slapping things together. There are production schedules, deadlines, budgets, cost projects, and a whole lot more that go into putting any book together. I can’t presume to know how the DC collections department is staffed, but have you ever worked at a job where too few people are asked to do too much? Maybe that’s the case. I can’t know.

Further the idea of just putting all the books out there at once is an unrealistic economic decision. Doing that all at once would demand a very large upfront fee to the people publishing the book, and also represent a large one time investment from retailers. Businesses parse out the release of product because if you flood the market, no one wins. A retailer can’t buy 10 complete sets of Y: The Last Man at one time, and hope for the best, that 10 people come in and buy the whole thing at once. Most people don’t work that way. A company like DC isn’t necessarily flush with giant cash reserves, and even if they were, it might not be the wisest investment for them to do what you’re suggesting. The first volume funds the next volume, and so on. In fact, don’t forget that the reason Gotham Central finished printing back in 2006 is because the sales weren’t justifying the series any longer, so assuming that the collections are a sure thing is a mistake. Less people will buy the second than bought the first of anything.

So sure, I wish they’d get things out faster, but I understand why things take time, even if it’s sometimes too much. Also, if you really want to read Y: The Last Man, all the trade paperbacks are available. It reads the same way either way if you want it now. Also, I’m not in favor of abolishing single issues, because, again, they’re funding the production of the stories that get put into books, and those sales are determining what gets collected later, as well as what doesn’t get to finish. Now when it comes to why they don’t have numbers on the spines of the Hellblazer trades, well that’s a paddlin’.

Josh Flanagan


I’ve heard you discuss on the show prose novels that deal with super heroes. I remember specifically Conor mentioning the prose versions of Infinite Crisis and Batman: No Man’s Land. Have any of you happened to have read any non-comics related novels written by comic book authors? I’m thinking specifically of Brad Meltzer or Greg Rucka, who have both published a number of prose novels. I haven’t actually read anything by Rucka outside of comics, but I have listened to Meltzer’s Book of Fate and I’m currently listening to Book of Lies. I’ve enjoyed both of them, but I enjoy his comic book work more. Meltzer isn’t exactly a tight plotter and it shows even more in his novels. Still, his work does rest strongly on character and that strength comes through in all of his work.

Just curious if you’ve followed anyone away from the comics page.


Let’s get the easy one out of the way first. I’ve never read any of Greg Rucka’s non-comics related novels (although I have read both of his Queen & Country novels), and I really want that to change soon. I keep meaning to order his Atticus Kodiak series, but for some reason I constantly forget. Maybe I can make that a project for 2009.

The next two guys who come to mind when I think about non-comics related novels by people well known in the comic book industry are Brad Meltzer and Mike Carey. And interestingly enough, I think that I like their prose work, on the whole, much more than their comic book work.

Brad Meltzer writes breezy legal thrillers from the John Grisham School of Writers Who Sell So Many Legal Thrillers That They Buy Gigantic Houses That Have Their Own Baseball Fields. I enjoy Grisham’s thrillers and I enjoy Meltzer’s too. Sometimes you just want a page-turner with a mystery and a plucky hero battling the system to figure it all out. Meltzer writes the kind of book that used to be referred to as a “summertime beach read”. Hmmm… perhaps they are still referred to that way, but I haven’t spent the summer at the beach in forever. Regardless, I enjoy his pose work, often blowing through an entire book in a day or two. Identity Crisis aside, I don’t think that I’ve enjoyed any of Meltzer’s comic book work as much as I have his prose work. I’ve read all of his novels, and as the cliche goes — his early work is his best.

While it’s probably unfair to make the following assertion, I’ll do it anyway — I have enjoyed Mike Carey’s prose work much more than I’ve enjoyed his comic books. Now, I’ve only read one novel by Mike Carey — The Devil You Know — but I really, really enjoyed it, and I haven’t been able to say that about any of his comics that I have read. I have his follow-up novel, and the sequel to The Devil You Know, Vicious Circle, on my prose stack and I’m really looking forward to getting back into the world of a down and out exorcist working in a modern day London where demons and spirits are an everyday part of life. (Yes, it’s basically Hellblazer.)

Your e-mail made me realize that I’ve read more non-comics related prose novels by people who write comics than I had realized. Granted, that’s mostly because of Brad Meltzer, but still.

Conor Kilpatrick


  1. I’m still waiting on Ex Machina Deluxe Edition Vol. 2. I get there there are reasons for waiting between volumes, but this has been over a year. I’ve pretty much figured that Vol.2 is never going to come out and I just need to suck it up and get the rest in trades, but it’s still disapointing not to have a complete set in one nice format. At least they Y’s are coming semi-regularly. 

  2. In terms of prose work (by comic creators) all I’ve ever read is Alan Moore’s Voice of the Fire. Boy the first chapter of that was hard work, the narrator is a caveman with a vocabulary of about 120 words, that makes for really tough reading but the rest of it flew along.

    On the release schedule do Marvel announce long term plans? I;d really love to know if they are going to do a second Cap America Burbaker omnibus. I suppose they don’t want to tell me so I’ll buy it in trade and then upgrade later. Sigh

  3. Jeff Reid (@JeffRReid) says:

    Here I am trying to get through my big stack of comics I want to read, and now I find out that Mike Carey has written some novels.  So many good ways to spend my time, so little of it.

  4. I’m just happy that the Starman Omnibus seem to be on a decent schedule.

     It’s been a killer waiting for the next Gotham Central HC.

  5. Wildstorm has said that they’re putting out a second ‘Ex Machina’ hardcover, but I can understand the frustration of knowing the story is out there and wanting to read it. 

  6. Warren Ellis’ Crooked Little Vein was an amazing novel if you like completely off the wall fun.  He writes in the same vein as Chuck Palahniuk.  So if that is your cup of tea pick it up.  Not for the squemish either. 

  7. I love searching for back issues. On the one hand, yeah, its harder to find places that stock back issues (but vs. 15 years ago it’s harder to find comic shops, period), but on the other hand…in general the prices are cheaper. I remember when every ’80s X-Men back issue was like at least $5 each, some much higher. Now you can basically get pretty much any ’80s or ’90s back issue for a few bucks, tops. A few months ago I bought a ton of ’80s X-Men issues that included many Jim Lee issues (including his first issue!) for an average of like $1.25 each. Some of the first Psylocke-as-Asian issues were in there: I remember being like 13-years-old in 1994 and paying like $15 for Uncanny X-Men #256, reprinted nowhere at the time, but here I was getting an extra copy of that issue almost as a throwaway for like $1.50.

    "it’s a mistake to assume that just because a comic series has completed, putting a collection together is a snap.  It’s still a whole new project for someone to spend a lot of time and energy on.  It’s not a matter of just slapping things together."

    ^I would tend to agree, but then on the other hand you have Marvel, who basically DOES just slap six-issues together two months after the sixth issue’s been published. Maybe you could say that DC uses the extra time to make sure to include bonuses or introductions in their collections, whereas Marvel’s more content to get the initial trade out asap and worry about designing a deluxe edition later. Or maybe it has something to do with the tpb printing companies/facilities that DC uses vs. the ones Marvel uses. Whatever the reason, it can’t be a good thing that DC takes so long to put out trades. You know how often we always hear these days about how people are deciding to "wait for the trade" or they’re "switching to trades" for titles–well, guess what, if you’re doing that for regular DC titles, good luck. DC’s trade program is really, really hurting the marketplace visibility of the contemporary DCU. It’s almost like what would happen if, in 1990 or so, Warner Bros. Records decided to only put out CD versions of their artists’ albums ten months after the cassette versions.

  8. Some comic stores have a website and some also have a forum where people sell stuff, and there are second hand websites. People sell hundreds and thousands of older issues including very obscure ones.

    No numbers because they’re all jumping on points and are all entire stories you don’t have to read something previous to understand. That’s why all the DC TPs aren’t numbered.

    I don’t know if it’s worth buying the Gotham Central TP right now because the formatting sucks. The artist starts with small panels and a normal investigation with two cops talking, and there’s a surprise that gets ruined because it’s placed right next to it instead of shifting it a page so you’ll have to flip the page to see it. I guess if you have to read it, read it – also because the HC will probably never get produced or won’t be published for eternity, but you always have the library, friends and used copies.


  9. If there’s a Half Price Books near you, they often have a great selection of comics.  Last time I went I saw that they had even started gathering large runs together and selling them as plastic-wrapped bricks labelled "Fantastic Four 482-563" or what-have-you.

  10. @ Russ O.> MArvel puts out an excellent VISIONAIRES line which collects a popular artist(or writer) in one large volume printed on good stock with better coloring than a faded back issue. I have Frank Miller’s Daredevil volume 2 which contains issues#168-182 for about $25 ( I got mine for $15) and yes they have Volumes of Walt Simonson’s Thor!!!( A fav of mine also!!)

    @bansidhewail… "plastic-wrapped bricks…" o’ comics ? YES gotta have ONE!!! how much? where? Can you get a police dog to sniff them to see if they’re legit?

  11. @Conor

    The Atticus Kodiak novels are great fun! I have read the first 3 and will be reading the 4th soon. Each one is also better than the one before it, as Rucka gets more and more comfortable with the characters and their profession. They are kind of like the novel version of an expertly well done summer action movie: not exactly literary fare, but damn are they a great time.  

  12. I just read the first Atticus Kodiak book, Keeper, and I could not put it down. Rucka is a professional storyteller, period. And because I saw it in the bargain rack at the Chain Bookstore, I bought Warren Ellis’ Crooked Little Vein, kind of against my instincts, as I remember reading the first chapter online and not liking it. Well I was wrong – I’m about halfway through it now, and it’s a total blast.

  13. Thanks for answering my question, Ron! I wasn’t sure if I would attend Wizard World Chicago, but I think I will now. I really should be more careful with my money, but whatev.

    @Jesse1125: Yeah, I know most of the more important stuff is collected in trade, but one of the things that attracted me to comics in the first place is the collection/hobby aspect of it. I mean, I buy trades for most of the stories that have come out before my recent plunge into single issues (like the amazing Fables). I still just think it’s cool to collect those old, faded copies in all of their musty glory. I have a thing for old stuff. Thrift shops are my friend.

    As I said, right now I’m collecting Simonson’s Thor. They have a lot of that run at my LCS, but they don’t have the ever elusive #337. I’d love to have one of those ‘impossible’ projects like Ron’s Uncanny X-men. However, I’m not really sure what series I’m that obsessed with yet.

  14. the atticus kodiak books are fucking awesome. to this day, some of the best novels ive ever read.  they read like smart action movies, and each one gets better and better