Week 1: Trees

Grading comics allowed for the large and vibrant vintage comic market to expand exponentially. Gone was the worry of missing pages, of undetected restoration, of missed cropping and of buying over graded books. All this had come at a cost though because another thing gone was the interior art.

This column will celebrate the Splash page, you know that page you will never get to see again because your comic is locked and sealed in a hard plastic case.

I think your jaw will drop with some of this art and I think you may even be tempted to crack that case open to see these gems first hand.

This Splash post will be weekly and I’ll try to get a minimum of 2 splash pages up, with each from a different era.

Neal Adams’ splash page to Batman #237 is absolutely stunning and may even surpass his amazing cover to the same issue.

Who isn’t a fan of Bob Fujitani, his cover to Pep Comics #34 is one of the best of the whole Golden Age, have a look at his splash page to Hangman story in Pep Comics #43, great stuff.

Walter Durajlija
Walter Durajlija

Walter Durajlija is an Overstreet Advisor and Shuster Award winner. He owns Big B Comics in Hamilton Ontario.

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Dave Mackay
Dave Mackay
4 years ago

Some People say Jack Kirby Created the double splash page. See early Capt America issues. I`m sure Stan would have something to say about that. He most likely suggested it as he was filling Jack and Joe`s ink wells.
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Gerald Eddy
Gerald Eddy
4 years ago

While I have yet to own any encapsulated books I can see the merits! While in the ‘old’ days books could be over graded ,my feeling is slabbed books can also be over priced as well. As far as the interior art goes, owner’s of slabbed books can go to the Grand Comicbook Database to view interiors online. Some characters lose entirely if you don’t see the interiors, for example golden age Starnan had really great art that is only hinted at from his few covers . You convinced me that Romance comics were great, and I am almost ready to take the leap and buy a slabbed book someday!

Chris Meli
Chris Meli
4 years ago

This is a fantastic concept and very timely (as well as Timely). As the slabbed market expands, what people are missing inside those slabs needs more press. Unlike Gerald I own slabs, and from an investment perspective I am quite supportive. Regardless of whether the slabbed books are overpriced, you are still going to have to spend thousands if you want books like, say, the first Detectives, so whether they are slabbed or not, you are going to avoid touching them, let alone reading them. So practically we are going to need another way to see the interior art. The reprint market seems very healthy but still spotty and (understandably) heavily weighted towards recent comics. Highlighting what we are missing in these older books will support the expansion of the alternate means of access to this art.

I picked volume 3 of _Batman Illustrated by Neal Adams_ off my shelf to confirm that it contained that Adams splash. The darker recoloring of the reprint detracts in my opinion, but at least we have the original b/w. This exercise could add some ammunition for the argument to leave the original alone as a finished product.

The Fujitani is over the top. If all goes well, in my golden years I think I will go crazy and buy a ton of reprints of these old books so I can revel in these kinds of images constantly.

Bud Plant
Bud Plant
4 years ago

Good move, Walter. I recall this idea came up somewhere in your column last year. I love it. I”ll send along some of my favorites as time allows.

Both picks this time are good ones, specially the Hangman…more on that below.

I am not part of any internet discussion sites, but I imagine the slabbed v. raw issues have been discussed to death. For my part, I have no problem buying either raw or slabbed books…much more so, raw. i place no premium on slabbed books, except, yes, I feel in some cases I can better trust the grade assigned.

But not always. Some graders, Jim Payette, Dick Swan/Big Guy’s Comics, and MyComicShop, usually grader HARDER than CGC or CBCS. Yes, that’s my ringing endorsement of these folks. They deserve it.

And I have no problem, except the time and care it takes, to crack open slabbed books. I keep the grading slips, add cost and date-acquired to the tag, in pencil, and then enjoy reading or just looking through the book. It then goes into a mylite with a board, I often makes notes about the interior stories and /or art on the back of the board. Before its filed away, the best books (Golden Age, pretty much) might be shared with a comic buddy or two, and its okay for them to flip through it.

This whole 9.2 v 9.4 stuff, there’s obviously a place for it, but not in my world, not yet anyway. If its pre-1965 and its nearly fine or better, or even solid VG, I’m perfectly happy to own it. I might try to upgrade it if’s it’s a worn VG or lesser grade, depending on how annoying the condition issues are.

The difference in value, in some distant day when I might sell it, between keeping it encapsulated and opening it, is unknown and unpredictable. I take care of the book, say it gets regraded when sold but its the same grade, it cost me only the grading fee to enjoy looking through it. if the value went up anyway, I lost the slab fee but I’m probably still ahead.

Well worth it. And if I”m dead then, really, I don’t care. My heirs can live with it. Its chump change then if it warrants new encapsulation.

I don’t collect much past 1965 or ‘70, and in such a rare case, I would just find a nice raw copy in FN or VFN, tops.

Meanwhile, I (still) have decades to enjoy looking through the book, enjoying all of it, not just the covers. I often have discovered new artists or new features to collect, this way. On rare occasions, a story might get scanned for Craig Yoe or Greg Sadowski or Dave Armstrong for an archive collection. Since I don’t collect high grade anyway, except by default on cheaper more recent books, the handling is not an issue.

Ok, said my piece. Thanks for bearing with me.

And the MLJ Hangman issues hold same GREAT splash pages!!

Walter, if you want actual scans along with suggestions, you should let us know at the outset here, exactly want your requirements are. Or maybe just start with a iphone shot, and if you love it and can’t find it online, then you can ask for a hi rez scan…

Then you can save all those lovely splash pages for that book you, or someone else, should compile. You have not only source material but commentary, too. Instant archive!

tim hammell
tim hammell
4 years ago

Hey, Walter, thought you might take a holiday but here you are with a new column. This could be very enjoyable and informative too, looking forward to following you here. Would you be able to put a date with these? See, I always thought Pep Comics were just humour stories, something new to learn about.

Slabs are sad. Plastic is unstable, “blue” tinges the cover art and you can’t read it, so I guess a second reader copy would be the way to go. If any of my collection was ever worth triple or quadruple zeroes, I’d be looking at museum quality environment controlled display cases. But I don’t expect to reach that level so it’s a moot point for me.

John Jamilkowski
John Jamilkowski
4 years ago

Terrific idea for the new year! Will you want to stick to splash pages or would this include one or two page spreads further in the story? I’ll be sending some of my personal greats as well. Fun!

tim hammell
tim hammell
4 years ago

Or not, Walt. Sometimes I thought some of the covers presented were more modern age than they actually are, and vice versa. Just gives me a bit of timeline to tie into. And I forgot to say “please”, sorry.

Gerald Eddy
Gerald Eddy
4 years ago

I, as a reader have always loved splash pages that were good ( a few times I felt it didn’t warrant a splash but those are few). I had thought I read somewhere that some artists had their own perspective on splashes as to the price they were paid on the page count. Does anyone have any back story on that?