The iFanboy Letter Column – 09.16.2011

Friday means many things to many people. For some, Friday is all about slow roasting something. For others, it’s about going to that first guys house, and eating that slow roasted thing. For others still, those bastards don’t even help with the dishes.

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 – contact@ifanboy.com


 I just have a quick question about why comics mostly have no value anymore. I hear you guys mention fairly often how the comics we’re reading today will never really be worth anything. That’s fine, I read comics for the enjoyment of it, not as a way to fund my retirement. However, I’m curious as to why they won’t be worth anything. Is it just supply and demand or something specific as to how they’re produced today? I also hear things, and I can’t remember specifically where, regarding how the ’90s somehow contributed to this. Any kind of information you could provide would be appreciated.

Chris from Chicago, Illinois

Now this is all just speculation, because I actually know very little about the secondary market for comics, and it does still exist, but it feels miniscule. It used to be, even a decade ago, that when an issue came out, that was it. There might be a reprint, and in very special circumstances it might be put into a real book collection, but mostly if you wanted to read something, you had to have that issue. The more in demand they were, the more rare they were, and the more significant the contents of that story, the more it was worth. In the early ’90s, there was a fever for collecting, and publishers were manufacturing that collectability, in every issue they could. That’s where the polybags, and the foil covers, and the gatefolds came from. The problem was that for everyone who wanted one, they got one, or five. There was no rarity to it. Publish 3 million copies of something for a million fans, and they might have sold, but there was a glut. Plus everyone was treating those issues like museum pieces, with the mylar bagging and climate controlled storage. News stories about gold in them thar comic book hills fueled this and comic shops were flush, right up until they got over it, and then there weren’t even actual readers left. This is referred to as the “Crash”.

In the ’30s, ’40s, ’50s, and ’60s, people didn’t save the comics. They were throwaway items. Only some survived. They were actually rare, and new things that live on today originated in them. If you wanted to read it, you had to get in line, and compete with people with very deep pockets.

These days? There’s no rarity. The comics market is tiny. It’s almost print to order, and the only people who care about what’s happening in those comics are buying them. The first print of The Walking Dead is a rare exception, possibly because it has some mainstream traction, and possibly for the fondness of those days before the speculation boom crashed everything. Now collectors have become sort of insular, and slab their books in lucite or mithrandir or something to trade them with the 8 other people like them who care about creases and cover gloss, but never what’s inside. The good news is, what’s inside those comics, what is really valuable to someone like me, is readily available in book form and digital. The stories are free! The back issue market, on the other hand is dead. If you’re ever trying to buy recent back issues, and they’re charging you more than cover price, you’re wasting your money.

So, it’s possible that some comic book you have among the thousands of others, is worth $10 to someone, and you only paid $3, but the journey to claim that profit utterly negates it. So we focus on the stories instead, because they are the real reason I love comics.

Josh Flanagan

 


I was wondering how you guys read your comics when you first get them? Do you rush through just to get the plot? Or do you read more slowly, taking in every panel, savoring the art and every word and detail.

Stan

Oh, the eternal question: how do you read your comics? Don’t kid yourself, everyone’s got a system. Everyone. it might not be complex but they’ve got one.

(Not having a system is also having a system.)

That having been said, I don’t know that I’ve ever met anyone who rushes through a comic book just to get to the plot. Sure, I’ve heard of it, people mention speeding through their comics all the time, I’ve just never met them face-to-face.  Or at least they’ve never admitted to it.

If you’re rushing through the comic book just to find out what happens then why buy it in the first place? Just have someone recap it for you. Comic books are the unique marriage of specifically crafted words and art and you need to be taking everything in a you read or you’re really missing out on what makes comics great.

That having been said, the only system that I have for reading comics is how I approach my stack. How do I read my comics? I organize my stack by shared universes. I read all of the indies and non-shared universe books first. This includes Vertigo and Icon books. Then I read Marvel books in order from the books I’m the least excited for to the most excited. Then I read DC books in order from least to most excited, with the Batman books always last. That’s how I read my books, nine times out of ten. That tenth time? I’ll just read them in a random order. I like to keep myself on my toes.

Conor Kilpatrick

 


 This occurred to me the other day while reading Wolverine #15 when he’s in the cemetery after dragging a coffin into the town. The woman asks what happened to the man, and Wolverine says “I killed him” and the woman walks away scared. It dawned on me, how has Wolverine evading being arrested for these sort of killings? I mean I realize when he’s in big giant battles defending the earth, it’s kind of like killing in war or self defense. However, with killings like that, which are in private with no witnesses, how does he get away with it? Maybe this has been addressed somewhere, but I’ve never seen it. 

 John from Severn, Maryland (Proud iFanboy member johnthrax)

I have to admit John, that is a VERY good question. Now of course the easy answer is, “It’s comics, don’t worry about it.” Chalking it up to another one of those suspension of disbelief moments, where if we worried about how the world REALLY worked then the whole magic of the comics falls apart and you run the risk of your head exploding, and we wouldn’t want that. But if you’re like me, and I think you are, you can’t help but to wonder… how DOES he get away with all that?

Wolverine Avengers CardSo, if we’re going to push suspension of disbelief aside and try to come up with some answers, we do have a convenient out these days. Now that Wolverine is a card carrying member of The Avengers, I’d have to imagine that his Avengers ID card has become the ultimate “Get out of jail free” card that he can use to justify throwing men through windows, and dragging coffins through towns. He just flashes that card and the local police just step out of his way. But before he was an Avenger, I would have to imagine that there was some sort of file or red flag that came up anytime local police tried to look him up in their computers. Like S.H.I.E.L.D. must have inserted some sort of dossier or something on Logan that told the local police to let him be, especially given his history with Nick Fury and his various jobs for governments, Canadian and American alike.

In terms of the specific example from Wolverine #15, I don’t have the issue handy so excuse me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think Jason Aaron identified where he was when he was dragging the coffin back. It could have been in Canada, where you know, anything goes.

And finally there’s the fear element. I know policemen and other military types are some of the bravest around, but if you were in their shoes and you go to the local bar to break up a fight and you see a hairy, snarling, short Canadian in a flannel shirt with what looks like knives coming out his hands, are you going to try and cuff him? Call me a coward, but I’m backing away slowly and pretending I didn’t get there in time. But that’s just me.

Ron Richards

 

Comments

  1. I’d like to add with the advent of digital comics and there being an unlimted supply of DC #1’s out there right now, i’m sure that will have a big effect on value. Though i still hear about some number ones on ebay going for some coin.

    I have read some comics real quick just to get through them, but when that usually happens it means the book is no longer for me because i don’t care to take my time to read. And no real ordering of my books, it all depends what’s out. If i am really excited about it, but i have a few books i am less excited about, i’ll read the less exciting ones first to make my excititment for the other one, well more exciting.

    And if Wolverine’s Avenger ID is signed by the director of National Defense, does that mean they are subject to government authority?

  2. @stan – that is a great question! I actually learned my system from the iFanboy guys, since I only started reading in 2009. At first I tried reading like Connor, least excited to most excited. But what happened was that by the time I got to most excited, I was too tired (since I buy 20 issues a week). Then I tried Ron’s way, and it’s perfect for me. I just read what I am most excited for first. This has worked out great since I am riding the high from the exciting books and still have energy for the stuff I care about less.

  3. I think Ron should have a weekly column where he worries about the stuff we shouldn’t worry about.

  4. “Now collectors have become sort of insular, and slab their books in lucite or mithrandir or something to trade them with the 8 other people like them who care about creases and cover gloss, but never what’s inside.”

    Hey Mr. Josh, I too think that what’s inside of a comic is what matters most, that being said I can’t shake the feeling that your response to Chris was kinda biased .
    There’s nothing wrong in owning a rare book locked inside a CGC case, it’s like owning some other piece of art, you don’t really expect me to own a piece of history like Action 1 or Tec 27, Showcase 22 or Amazing Fantasy 15 and not protect it.

    The back issue market is very much alive and there are several sites dedicated to it.
    If Chris or anyone else wants to know a little bit more about comic history, the crash or back issues you can contact me.

    Davidr.bastos [at] gmail.com

    Thanks for your hard work ;)!

    PS: Back issues are also the only way to read stories that otherwise aren’t collected in TPB format or HC.

    • I think Josh is talking about more recent issues, not classics that actually are rare.

    • You are exactly right.

    • the thing about slabbing…..there is a theory out there among archivists that slabbing comics actually turns them to dust faster..paper needs air to breathe and keep the natural acids at bay. When you suffocate them in mylar (not archival in any way), it speeds the process up…

      i’ve held and turned pages of climate controlled comic books from the 1930s. The newsprint does surprisingly well if you take care of it.

  5. There is still some demand for certain variant covers on the secondary market from time to time. Other than that, I completely agree with Josh. I sell recent back issues for a $1.00 or less at local cons. In many cases it’s books people are trying to sell for $5 or $10, and while there are still people paying that, there are much fewer every time.

    • I think paying extra for variant covers is ridiculous. You’ll never recoup the money you paid, ever. And that leaves the question of whether it’s worth it or not, and if I can get an issue for $3 or $15 with the only difference being a cover, it’s not worth it.

      So, yes, it’s a little biased, because I don’t agree with it, but if it keeps shops in business fine. It’s weird though.

      Also, I poke fun. It’s what I do.

    • I don’t know anyone – including me – who, at the time of variant psychosis in the 90s, didn’t fall for “buy all our variants” for at least one book. We bought ’em, we bagged ’em and we quickly saw the error of our ways. Needless to say, I’ll never do that again. And I just feel pity for the people who do today. I suppose history will always repeat itself for the next generation.

      As for book values, as Josh said, things are sooo different now than 30 years ago when trades and the Internet didn’t exist. You either got your books or you missed them. Although if you were able to go to your store’s spindle rack on a regular basis, that wasn’t a problem. Every now and then these days, I get the urge to unload some old stuff I’ve decided I’ll never read again (that’s a whole other essay sized column). Forget Ebay. I go to my shop and see how much they’re charging for my books. Sad, sorry state. Pre-80s books: their rarity makes them valuable, but after 1980, you can forget it. Thanks to trades and the Internet, we’ll never ever see the days of comics having value again (aside from occasional first-issue sleepers that come out of nowhere, like Walking Dead and Chew. One mainstream exception: I stopped collecting Detective Comics for a while – I know, stupid me – and now I can’t find ‘Tec #871 to save my life- er, my collection). But again, like Josh said and I totally agree, I will buy them because I enjoy them for what they are.

    • As a fellow fun-poker, I feel your pain at being misunderstood from time to time.

  6. Speaking about speeding through comics, I watched the Totally Rad Show review of Action #1 and Detective #1 and they talked a little about the digital thing. They talked about buying a comic for 4 dollars and getting 10 minutes worth of story out of it. All I could think is, “You’re not doing it right.”. Even if I only ever read a comic once (which admittedly is true of most of my weekly stack) that comic takes me a good half hour to digest.

    I don’t even see how you can get more than the basic story beats reading a whole book in 10 minutes. It’s like watching a movie at 2x speed. Sure, you’ll know what happens in the story but you’re going to miss a lot of it.

    • I think 10 minutes is more than reasonable for a 22 page comic book.

    • 30 min? Wow, I think thats just too much time. Lately, I have been rereading the last issue when I pick up the latest and that gives me a refresher in case I missed anything after that first “quick” read

    • It depends on how much therecis to read. There have been Hulk issues that were nothing but fight scenes and took about 5 minutes to read and on the flip side some wordy issues of Amazing Spider-Man or Walking Dead that take at least 20 to 30 minutes to read.

    • I don’t think it’s fair to say you are spending $4 for 10 minutes of enjoyment. That is assuming you only read the comic once. I have already read Justice League #1 three times. I plan on reading Action comics an detective comics #1 several times. I’m sure years down the road, i will read them again. I’m not spending $4 for 10 minutes of entertainment. I am spending $4 to have life time access to that comic, to enjoy it whenever I want until I die.

    • Takes me between 10-15 minutes on average, depending on the issue’s density and so on. from time to time, i think of the whole price vs. time ratio before pushing it aside. if i enjoy the comic, it’s worth the price.

    • Bendis books always breeze by for me. Less than 10 minutes. 5 even.

  7. These days a lot of hardcovers increase in value more than single issues. Look up some out of print Omnibus, Absolute Edition, etc on eBay and you’ll find them selling for twice as much, sometimes even more.

    • Totally, try finding a copy of JLA Deluxe number 2…or Godland Celestial Edition Book One…unless you’re willing to pay stupid money it’s not possible. Believe me, I’ve tried. Although if anyone wants to prove me wrong and knows of one going for cover price I’d be very interested!

    • Even that fluctuates. Jack Kirby’s Fourth World Omnibus Vol.2 HC cost me over $100 last year…now it’s going for $35 on Ebay. (But $300 from Amazon Marketplace?)

      But the other that I’m always looking for is Avengers Assemble Vol. 2 HC… its always $200+

    • Somehow, Hickman’s FF Vol. 3 (HC) is already out-of-print and I can’t find it with spending $40+.

  8. I consider that I am laying in my retirement by buying comics (and books & DVDs), not because they’ll ever be worth anything, but because I may well reach a point where I can’t afford to buy new comics or pay for cable, but I will already have a wealth of entertainment to reread and rewatch.

  9. I wouldn’t call the back issue business “dead”. It may be to someone who has absolutely no interest in collecting, but in reality it’s not dead. But that doesn’t mean it’s flourishing, not by a long shot. The publishers destroyed the “value” of books around the same time they began to destroy the industry. I mean let’s face it, Marvel and DC weren’t very smart and they couldn’t keep their hands out of reader’s pockets when things were going well. So value crashed with the flooding of the market and the eventual crash of the comics business.

    But a brief scan of ebay will show you that some back issues still hold a lot of value. First prints, first appearances, classic runs, these all can be more valuable than your common issues.

    BUT, don’t collect for money. Don’t collect for your kid’s college or a comfortable retirement. That ain’t happenin’. I collect for pure fun and I’m even a collector who does care about the story inside the book. Shocker, huh?

    • If it ain’t dead, it’s on life support, and way smaller than it used to be. Try selling any issues you’ve bought over the last decade and seeing what you get for them. Pennies on the dollar, if that.

    • There’s no arguing that it’s smaller than it used to be. That’s 100% correct. But mail order places like Lone Star and Mile High still do a pretty good back issue business. I know a couple of local shops here still do a decent back issue business mainly due to some creative promotions, etc.

      But the time frame you mention is important…”the last decade”. You’re right, there will only be a few of these books that gain value but it will take several years for that to happen (assuming there is still a comics industry then). And I bet Mile High and Lone Star probably won’t find any of their best selling back issues being from the last decade.

  10. wow, those first two questions,
    I feel compelled to ad my views to the mix.
    Collecting comics, determining the value of individual issues.
    If supply outweighs demand the thing has little to no value. -In the market place.
    Radjack made a good point about good individual issues that never get collected.
    The first nine issues of Static come to mind. That stuff is amazing! -never got collected.
    They are now rebooting the book. And looks terrible compared to the original creation.
    Other include the first run of Archer and Armstrong, House of Secrets, Rubber Blanket.
    Batman Year One had really beautiful cover in the collection they kind of messed those up.
    So those books are precious to me.

    My system of reading comics is as follows
    When I first get a book I’m all exited and I read through it for the experience of the story.
    If I really like the book I’ll read it again more slowly pausing in all the great places.
    This often involves picking it up repeatedly.
    My favourite book I read again and again with some month in between.
    Some books really speak to what I’m churning through in my mind and so I’ll have another look.

  11. My best friend reads through them as quickly as possible, just glancing at the artwork enough to know what’s going on, but not to actually appreciate it. There have been times when we’ve been simultaneously reading separate copies of the same issue and he puts his down and says “What, you aren’t done yet?”

    My best friend’s an asshole by the way.

    • I read every comic twice. One quick read through of all the words, like a fast paced TV show. Then a second read through where I look at the nitty-gritty details.

  12. Not to mention, thanks to the Reboot all of those old DC comics are meaningless and worthless!

    • People will stil buy those, maybe not as much in the future then they do now, but they’ll pick them up if they want a good story, so not really meaningless. You watch someone will want to get on the end of Morrison’s Batman as it wraps up and will go out and buy as much of batman and batman and robin and batman inc as they can.

    • To clarify, I was being sarcastic and poking fun at the point of view that older stories are now meaningless because of the new 52, which I think is hogwash and a silly position to take. Those stories exist and have as much meaning as the reader wants to put upon them. Sarcasm fail on my part.

    • Internet sarcasm is a wily coot.

    • Sorry about that MaxPower, that’s been a common statement from a lot of people, missed the sarcasm. Apologies again.

  13. **COMMENT HAS BEEN REMOVED BY ADMIN**

    Note: Thank you, but this is off-topic.

  14. When I was young I used to look through all the pictures first then go back and read the book. Just the fact that the characters and fun art was on the page in front of me was fulfilling. I didn’t need words or a story. I also feel the same way about adult magazines.

  15. I really feel that Wolverine should be a villain.

    Yes he’s saved people in major battles or random moments in life. But when you get right down to it: He’s a horrible person. He’s killed a ton of innocent people, criminals (which might be good or bad on your perspective but if Punisher can’t get away with it…), and anything else just to get what he wants.

    Turning him into a villain might make him even MORE popular and get even MORE titles to work with….Okay on that front maybe it isn’t a good idea.

    • You’re way out of line, bub.

      If you really think Logan is a horrible person, you’re seriously missing the point.

      He’s possibly the most flawed character in comics history. The good he’s done is constantly fighting to outweigh the bad. It’s what makes him so wonderfully unique. He was bred to be a killing machine. And he’s the best there is at it. But he’s also saved the fuckin’ world a hundred times over. And he’ll never stop. Underneath all that adamantium beats the heart of a hero.

      Wolverine as a villain. Jesus Christ. Where do you come up with this crap?

    • When Wolverine comes across as a villain it’s bad writers going too far with him. He’s essentially the hooker with a heart of gold. Well, an Adamantium hooker anyway.

    • @WheelHands Not sure why you had to say the lord’s name in vein like that, but if it’s THAT terrible of an idea then I guess it’s okay then.

      Why would it be such a bad idea? It would be a great twist in my mind and considering how Marvel can just flip/flop on a dime it wouldn’t be that big of a leap.

    • He played the role of villain in Enemy of the State. That worked out pretty well.

    • It’s a leap because he’s one of the all-time greatest heroes in comic books. Not to mention one of Marvel’s signature characters. When’s the last time you saw Logan willingly and wittingly murder an innocent? He’s a 200 year old man who spent about half that time doing terrible things to a whole lot of people. But since we’ve “known” him, he’s been on one long path of redemption. It’s kinda his whole deal. If you take that away and suddenly have Logan gunning for heroes and slaughtering women and children, you’ve sullied forty years of storytelling, not too mentioned pissed off most of your readers. And for what? A clever twist? Not worth it. Other than another mind-control/possession story, I don’t see it working.

      Sorry if I offended you with my atheistic language. It’s just another cuss to me. It’s ironic because my first reaction to your post was, “Blasphemy!”. You wouldn’t write The Bible #2 with Jesus and Satan switching roles, would ya?

      That’s right. Wolverine is my Jesus.

    • I’d like to see wolverine as a villain. Or maybe anti-villain.

    • He’s already anti-villain. He’s a superhero.

    • I mean anti-villain as in the opposite of what an anti-hero represents. Urban dictionary and tvtropes have some good articles that can explain it better than I could. I like wolverine, especially the original animated version of him, but just like I liked scarlet witch or captain atom or hawk or superboy-prime or hal jordan I could see him being cast as a villain of a piece.

  16. I found that reading from most to least exciting inevitably leaves me with a monstrous “to read” pile, given enuff time. I just lose my stamina and leave at least a couple of the “less” books for later. And then it’s Weds again!

    I gotta get one of those Avengers cards. Imagine the crazy driving you can get away with! “Yeah. I was doing 85 in a 35. Galactus”

  17. I used to buy maybe ten comics about once a month, then read maybe one or two a day. Then I dropped everything except USM, but then even then I think I waited a year and got #151 – 160 and read them over a week, and yeah 160 took about ten minutes to read because I used rosetta stoned as my soundtrack! Twenty books in one night? Every week?! To quote one of the greatest actors of our time: “Whoa!”

    Also my brother is one of those speed reading comic guys. It’s funny because he thinks I’m doing it wrong.

  18. A few years ago, I returned to monthly comic buying after a long absence, and I was surprised at how the value of back issues had pretty much collapsed. While I do think that the crash of the 90s was a factor (yes, I own all 5 copies of X-Men #1 filed away somewhere . . .), the biggest factor is probably so much more gets collected these days. I would bet that even a sleeper like Walking Dead #1 would be worth even more today, if readers did not have the trades being kept in ready print. Not sure how much a factor the internet is? If an issue is rare, it’s rare, and I don’t think that hunting it down on-line instead of at an annual convention would change that much . . . Meanwhile, my local comics store seems to have 40% off back issue sales on a regular basis, if that says anything . . .

    I read weekly according to what I’m most excited about, but once I start I tend to stick with related titles. Thus, this week, i begun with Demon Knights and then moved through the other DC #1s i bought from there. On the other hand, one of my favorites series being published is Unwritten and I haven’t found a good moment yet to sit down and simply soak up this week’s issue . . . So, I guess, it simply varies . . .

    • “While I do think that the crash of the 90s was a factor (yes, I own all 5 copies of X-Men #1 filed away somewhere . . .), the biggest factor is probably so much more gets collected these days. I would bet that even a sleeper like Walking Dead #1 would be worth even more today, if readers did not have the trades being kept in ready print. Not sure how much a factor the internet is?”

      Too true. I used to be a perfectionist and HAD TO HAVE EVERY SERIES in single form. That ended with Walking Dead. By issue #50, I got interested in reading it because of all the hype, but I didn’t/couldn’t go back and collect the singles because the early issues were too expensive or couldn’t be found. Then my awesome comic shop, Coliseum of Comics, had an October special: buy Walking Dead trade #1 and get #2 free. After I psuedo-cursed the manager for hooking me on one of the best series out there (and adding another $3 onto my subscription list), I proceeded to buy all the trades to catch up.

      As for the Midtown Comics trick of charging $10 a week after Animal Man #1 came out – discussed right below – that just shows you how much they appreciate their customers, or whoever made that decision.

  19. Here is a funny story…I didn’t pick up Animal Man last week when it came out. Didn’t like the look of Foreman’s art. But then EVERYONE started gushing how good it was. So i said to myself, ” Ok, self, I’m going to go to MIDTOWN comics and pick it up. ” I did. They had about thirty or so copies sitting on the shelf, bagged and boarded and selling for $10. I asked a gentleman who works there, ” This just came out, why is it $10?! ” To which he replied, ” There is high demand for it, so we had to do what we had to do. ” REALLY? Now someone like me, WON’T read it, because you want to milk me for my money. They had the copies, but to ME, i can’t read it. I think it’s outrageous. I just wanted to read it. Now pad my retirement fund. Not cool.

    • *Not

    • My experience with Midtown has been pretty good, but I will say that thing with Animal Man is pretty sleezy . . .

    • Oh i love Midtown. I’ve been going there easily over ten years. People are friendly & helpful. That was the first time they have done something i find unsavory.

    • they could have sold every copy at cover price and hooked at least half those readers onto the series. Instead they keep the books out of potential readers hands by going for a short term mark up. A local LCS lost me forever as a customer for doing that with FF death of Johnny a while back.

      Everyone involved gets hurt. I don’t see why shops are going for these short sighted markups.

  20. And Josh, great reply to the first question.

  21. I think that the back issue business is back on the upswing to be honest. With smaller print runs making a comeback books become harder and harder to come by, For instance, most (if not all?) of the New 52 that haven’t been released yet cannot be ordered from diamond anymore, which means we’re stuck waiting for 2nd and possible 3rd printings, which if you don’t know are being allocated by DC depending on how many of the first printings your shop odered. Not only that, but if your shop does not order them as soon as they become available, they may be SOL, no matter how many of the first print run they ordered. You also just need to find the back issue market. At the shop I work at (Iguana Comics, Grants Pass/Medford Oregon, Come Visit us!) we have quite a few customers who are willing to pay for harder to find back issues if it means completing a specific run on a specific book. Also, if you have a trustworthy shop who can track down titles like that for you, you don’t need to worry about ordering online and your books coming totally thrashed from some dude’s basement (You still have to worry about it from Diamond though.)

  22. In my stack I always read Fables first and Scalped last (since I get my books on a monthly basis). They are my two favorite books. Everything else is based on mood.