It’s What’s Inside That Counts

As I was gathering thoughts for this week’s post I realized the post was going to be, as all the past posts were, a celebration of what’s inside the comic. So these posts are kind of anti-grading posts. Come to think of it the Making a Splash project from a couple of years ago was an anti-slabbing project as well. The paradox is that I’m a big supporter of CGC, I’m a big supporter of comics being a collectible commodity that holds real albeit fluctuating market values. As a grading company, CGC has done a good enough job over these past two decades that two parties are willing to make large financial transactions based on a third-party grade arbitrator (CGC). Voila, a billion-dollar market.

Walt! You Can’t be both! I can be both, I think most of us are both. I celebrate the contents of the comic by featuring great splash pages, and by highlighting old ads that make us laugh or feed our nostalgia. if I had more time I’d also focus on the stories. We are losing a lot by grading books while at the same time, we’re gaining a lot by grading books.

I’ve been trying to pay attention these past few years: here are some observations. We grade too quickly and often unnecessarily. Good examples of this can be seen in some of those great Golden Age comics that have come through our eBay auctions. Our raw, ungraded prices match the prices realized by the graded copies. Those old books are treasures to leaf through providing great splash page after great splash page, neat ad after neat ad, and great stories mixed in with some lame ones. I get grading a 3.0 copy of Detective Comics #27, the market value makes it next to impossible not to, but why grade an America’s Greatest Comics #8 at a 3.0?

Anyway, the struggle continues, and for my part, I’ll continue to champion both.

This week’s dive into the ‘destined for eBay auction’ pile produced some real gems. My cover of the week has to go to the Great John Romita’s rendering for Heart Throbs #79 from September 1962. Over the years I’ve heard guys, mostly Ditko fans, dis Romita’s run on Amazing Spider-Man, almost as a slight they say “he should have stuck to the Romance genre”. I think the Romance genre would have been all the richer had he stayed.

The Splash page of the week has to go to Maurice Whitman’s Kaanga splash in Fiction House’s Jungle Comics #152, from 1952. Whitman drew ladies very well: I like his style and the composition of this splash.

I have to stay with Jungle Comics #152 for my ad of the week in light of the UFX and WWE just joining forces in a merger. When I was a kid back in the 70s, wrestling used to be a big thing in Hamilton Ontario. Can any of you locals remember Haystack Calhoun? The old Hamilton Forum used to host Wrestling which was filmed for TV by CHCH Hamilton; CHCH is the same station that gave us Hilarious House of Frightenstein with the great Billy Van. It’s amazing how grassroots wrestling was with every large city having a vibrant wrestling scene. It wasn’t until the 1980s that the WWF was able to make this great form of local entertainment a national and then an international phenomenon.

I had a bit of an Albert Einstein moment during the latest weekly icecollectibles eBay auction. I’d put forward a theory about how great the November 1971 Marvel 25-cent transition issues were as a collecting strain. Well the solar eclipse for me was the listing of a CGC 8.0 Where Monsters Dwell #12 on the auction; if my theory is correct then we would see big bucks. The book sold for $19.50! Gah! I’ve obviously got to get back to the drawing board and revise, rephrase and redouble my efforts on the merits of my theory.

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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Chris Meli
1 year ago

This complaining about slabbing is a canard. The real issue is quality reprints. Yes it is nostalgic to leaf through the actual issue, but otherwise I think unreasonable to argue that you _need_ the original issue. I would _prefer_ an oversized reprint on quality paper to the original. Obviously a reprint with inaccurate colors is no good, and I think even a reprint on truly white paper is not where it’s at, but there are very accurate reprints out there. If I own a Shakespeare first folio and a thousand dollar perfect modern multivolume set of Shakespeare’s works, one is getting read and the other is getting cared for. Comics are no different.

So in my opinion we should be talking about how we get the contents of these comics to readers. The electronic format has done a lot for this, but still is a long way from the actual printed experience. I would think a combination of electronic and on-demand quality reprints (in concept available today) for the issues that you just have to peruse in printed form is the way to go. 99.9% of the time all books are closed, so I think having electronic copies to “open” without having to dig out a printed book is first approach to enjoying the interior.

The money is a different issue – of course it is foolish to grade something that will sell for the same amount ungraded. However – if you buy one of these, the issue appreciates like crazy, and then you find out the raw one you bought was restored – how much is that going to cost you? If it’s a reader then it’s a reader, if it’s an investment it’s an investment – don’t get confused.

That Heart Throbs is fantastic, and I already said Romita’s work always made me think of Mary Worth. It would have been great if he had kept with romance, but he probably would have starved to death.

I love Whitman as well. I _don’t_ get tired of his Jungle covers. I will take Moreira or Zolnerowich any day, but that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate Whitman.

HaystackS Calhoun was no local. I watched him in the Philadelphia rassles every Saturday.

I feel your pain on that particular Where Monsters Dwell. But this is a very weak title that is very common. The covers were cool so people have been holding onto these since the seventies, there are scads of 8.0s out there. #6, the Groot reprint, and #21, the Fin Fang Foom reprint, are big books, but otherwise crickets. I have a high grade copy of this one (because you pounded “25 cents” into my head), and one other – #10. I vividly recall my mother not wanting to buy this for me because it was “too scary”, but she gave in. (I also think the reprint cover colors improve on the original.) So pure nostalgia for that one. We already discussed #14, and I think some of the issues after the one you are showing have really nice original covers that are worth collecting – but only in very high grade.

Spider
Spider
1 year ago

Walt, may I suggest that if you wish to move on from your 25c theory – I think the ‘1st meeting’ strain seems to be coming up the past couple of years – Marvel team-Up #15 is crazy money because Spidey meets Ghost Rider….and now Punisher War Journal #6 is booming as people realise that Wolvy meets Punisher there. Interesting!

Spider
Spider
1 year ago

Perhaps I need to do a chart with heroes labeled: x and y axis identically labelled. I will then go through and determine with X met with Y.

Wolverine and Spider: MTU Annual #1
Wolverine and Punisher: War Journal #6
Punisher and Ghost Rider: ??? (wonder if it’s that weird FF run by Walt Simonson?)

I remember someone telling me that Marvel Team-Up #9 is actually the first time Spider-man and Iron Man ever speak…that’s some serious researching skills on display!

David Mackay
David Mackay
1 year ago

Good call Spider. Marvel team up #9 was a gorgeous book, and I bought it off the stand for that very reason….old shell head and Spidey. . Iron man wasn’t too popular at the time, and even went bi monthly for a short time. George Tuska was an ok, but not great artist. A far cry from Gene Colon earlier or Bob Layton later.Today, they’ve tried to morph the two characters in cinema. Methinks the Marvel Universe desperately needs Robert Down Jr back. Film the most popular properties and quit trying to prop up the sub par creations.

Ivan Kocmarek
1 year ago

Walt, I remember my dad watching those CHCH broadcasts from the Barton Street Forum every Saturday. I don’t understand why local wrestlers like Whipper Billy Watson, Billy Red Lyons, The Sheik, The Beast, and Sweet Daddy Siki never got their own comic books or trading card sets.

mel taylor
mel taylor
1 year ago

Hey Ivan
Let’s not forget Bobo Brazil and his famous “cocoa bump!’ I used to love watching that stuff for some reason, even though I generally hated sports. Then, one day, my old man walked into the room, watched for a second, and then said, “Of course you know it’s all fake. Everything is choreogrpahed.” Crikey! I never spoiled his frickin’ hockey games by interjecting, even though I never got to see a single “Saturday Night at the Movies” when I was a kid because my father and brother monopolized the TV… just to sit there screaming at it for some reason. You want to play a sport with me? It’ll be either Chess or Go. Of course, my jock friends always tell me that Chess is not a sport…it’s a game. Yeah right. Like a “game” of hockey or a “game” of baseball!!! But, somehow wrestling got through to me, even after I found out it was all just a big show. Those guys really should have had their own comic book. They were, after all, just like comic book heroes, to me anyway.

activejim
1 year ago

I remember watching those Wrestling matches on channel 11 on weekends after my paper routes were done.
My favourite shows were Magic Shadows and Saturday Night at the Movies.
Sorry to hear you missed them Mel. You should have gotten a paper route too because I had my own B&W 12 inch TV.
The perks of making money when you were a kid. I got no handouts even for doing chores around the house because my dad loved to gamble it away.

Spider
Spider
1 year ago

David, I was just writing the same thing about the MCU: Guardians of the Galaxy was a great movie/franchise – but it lead to an error in thinking; that D grade characters have value, honestly, they don’t – good scripting, production values and soundtracks have value. this led to MCU thinking Wanda/Winter Soldier/Hawkeye/Agatha Harkness/She-Hulk can work, they can, but they need proper development, the character can’t carry them. The only things I’ve enjoyed are the Spider-verse movie (it is simply amazing, Kirby crackle and hip-hop synchronized in harmony!) and Man-Thing on Disney, once again they use brilliant production values, distinctive visual styles and clever plotting to entertain.

Watch the new Spider-Verse 2 trailer released yesterday – pause on any scene – brilliant! and if anyone thinks Miles is a flash in the pan, you’ll quickly understand that he’s a better Spider-man than Parker in the movies: ‘are you a cow or a dalmatian’ is closer to the Spider-man humour than Ive seen captured on the big screen yet!

Spider
Spider
1 year ago

The endless entertainment of Jim’s Route, should be published as a memoir!

mel taylor
mel taylor
1 year ago

Spider
You’re so right about the MCU! Guardians was great, but that doesn’t mean C listers like Eternals (I turned it off after half an hour) and Shang Chi (I suffered through the whole thing on the off chance there might be something good to say about it. There isn’t!) are going to be any good. I don’t intend to spoil my appreciation of the first phase by watching this caca! I’ll hold off until the FF movie comes out, and keep my fingers crossed that they don’t bugger that up too! The initial glow of the MCU is fading fast in my opinion. Doctor Strange: Multiverse of Madness couldn’t decide whether it was about sorcery, or witchcraft, or monsters, or zombies or Gord knows what all! Thor: Love and Thunder was embarassing on so many levels! I’m not sure who is dropping the ball here, but it has well and truly dropped!

Spider
Spider
1 year ago

Hey Walt, since there seems to be a gap in recording sessions with Chris; could you guys play an interview from the past (call it: From the vault: Comic culture from the past) – the Vince Marchesano interview! because when I try to loud it the file stops very early in and he’s a great interview!

LIVE FROG
LIVE FROG
1 year ago

To slab or not to slab? That is the eternal question ! I think most of us are in agreement that vintage, valuable high-grade material should be protected in some way & the rest should be left alone. Yet there is still a fair bit of stuff appearing on the marketplace that is needlessly slabbed and the resulting sale prices underline this. I own about two dozen slabbed books & all of them were purchased at Overstreet or less, some of my winning bids hardly covering the entire cost of shipping, grading & slabbing- thus a pointless exercise for the previous owner! I am thinking that many gullible people are conned into slabbing their books by the big auction houses, lured by the promise of big money. Some of these people may not be collectors, but families selling estates after a collector has passed away & have no clue what is going on. I wonder how many of these people look at their auction results later & scratch their heads, wondering where the ‘big money’ is, especially after they have paid all the grading & auction fees?
I am also wondering just how archival a slab is ? Isn’t there some kind of gas present with the book ? Is this actually proven to be safe ??? Most of my really good books are stored in mylar or mylite & have been thus secured for up to four decades. All of my books look as good as when I sealed them. Why should I slab my books ?? The guy who owns the Mile High Action #1 refuses to grade or slab any of his books. What else does he own ??? Why is he not in line to get his books slabbed ?? How many books have actually been damaged by the slabbing process? What is this stuff I hear about ‘shaken comic syndrome’??? If comics are being shaken, what will happen to pulps??? I have not yet seen a slabbed pulp- am hoping I never see a slabbed pulp !!!

I will stand in line to get a quality reprint of a classic comic book or series any day of the week. I am a big fan of PS Artbooks & love the way they present the source material. If only they had some historical background in each volume, they would be even better! There are lots of good quality reprints out there of comic book or newspaper material, some of it world class. I have some GIGANTIC volumes of classic newspaper comics like Little Nemo or Krazy Kat and they are breathtaking! Reprints of classic newspaper comics make sense as the original source material is very difficult to collect & can be very fragile. A nice collection puts entire sequences between two covers & is the best way to read this material. Guys, don’t just sit there reading Wolverine & Spider-Man comics- your brains will die! Imbibe some classic newspaper comics and SAVE YOUR SOULS !!! It will do you a world of good! Trust me!
I began to pick up the Marvel masterworks volumes when they began to appear back in the eighties but was never happy with their presentation. The colours were garish & the line art looked ‘messed with’. When you compared those reprints of FF or Spidey to the reprints that were done back in the early Marvel Tales or Marvel Collectors Item Classics in the 1960’s, there was no comparison- the reprints from the 1960’s looked authentic, the Marvel Masterworks volumes did not. I heard that Marvel lost the production materials that they used back in the 1960’s & had to start from scratch. They cleaned up & restored line art and added lurid, garish colours and made the reprints look ghastly! What a horror show! I have rarely been happy with any of the classic reprints issued by Marvel over the years & wonder how they lost the plot. I have picked up many of the Golden Age omnibuses that they have done & am equally unsatisfied. Why is it that other publishers can produce a nice, quality reprint but Marvel can not ??? Why ??? If you are a purist, you will have to shell out the cash & buy the original comics ;cause Marvel can not produce an authentic looking reprint to save their lives!

Romita is a solid artist. Unfortunately, he is not Steve Ditko. Steve Ditko is Frank Zappa/Captain Beefheart .John Romita is Perry Como [easy listening, not very challenging]. Nuff said.

Maurice Whitman is brilliant and it is great that he is finally getting some respect. On a good day, I think his work is better than Matt Baker’s. Just take a look at the cover of Ghost Comics #2 ! What a thing of beauty! Take a look at his covers for the last few issues of Planet Comics ! These things are superb !!

https://www.comics.org/issue/220263/

https://www.comics.org/issue/10189/

I was born in England thus never warmed up to wrestling. Yep, it was there, but Football [ what you North Americans call ‘soccer’] took precedent! All we talked about was Leeds United & Billy Bremner. The ‘Red Devils’ were Nottingham Forest, not Manchester United & George Best made the news for all the wrong reasons! When it was too hot to play football, we played cricket- when it was too wet to play football, we played rugby & when it was too gloomy to play football we went cross country running. I recall fox hunting was televised in England back in the early 1970’s- It was as dull as toast, kinda like watching formula 1 racing on TV, but a hundred times slower! Picture a bunch of fat, upper class twits, dressed in their red jackets, perched on their horses & galloping across the fields & meadows of England behind a pack of baying hounds, chasing after a small frightened dog the size of a squirrel! Engrossing stuff ! I would actually like to watch some of this again now as it seems so surreal! We have foxes living in our area & they are absolutely beautiful ! I can’t imagine why anybody would want to chase them down on horseback ! Memories from another world….

Spider
Spider
1 year ago

Regarding the long term storage with encasement – my personal opinion is ‘hell no!’ .

Whilst I see value in the idea of an independent 3rd party giving an opinion on the condition of a book so that seller and buyer may then discuss price..but the idea of laminating a book longterm isn’t wise for the health of the material.

CGC try to buffer against the offgases by using microchamber paper however whilst that’s the correct idea, it’s flawed in practice as the paper only has a limited capacity to absorb gases, it would need to be changed out regularly in order to continue to be effective. I personally use Interleaving boards, which are much thicker (they sit in the middle of the book and also add real structure when sliding the book in and out of the mylar sleeve) these boards contain zeolites which trap the gases. I also ensure any purchased book is cleaned, then aired out before being read, then it is put into storage – the irony that the more often a book is sold and gently read the pages have a chance to release their decomposition offgases.

A great article on interleaving boards:

https://cool.culturalheritage.org/waac/wn/wn18/wn18-1/wn18-106.html

Spider
Spider
1 year ago

Walt, I have two more books that need to be considered in our new ‘first meetings’ collecting strain:

ASM #123 Cage

and… (hot tip kids)

Daredevil #196 – Wolverine (I’m hoping that’s right) great cover too…and it’s in that unloved deadzone between the Miller runs that Mel and I just keep yammering about…and it’s the origin and of Wolverine’s adamantanium (aka Lord Darkwind). Write it up as Undervalued Spotlight Walt!!! Stat!!!

mel taylor
mel taylor
1 year ago

LF
You are so right about those Marvel Masterworks. The colours where wrong. The paper was wrong. I remember excitedly buying the first Fantastic Four Masterworks edition and just about gagging when I took it out of the shrinkwrap and opened it! I never bought another one, and sold the one I had been foolish enough to buy! I just pulled out my beaters of FF 1-10 and enjoyed those instead.Tthey are actually some of my favourite comics to handle and smell. Mmmmm! Lignin! Smells divine because it is so closely related to vanillanin. That’s why used bookstores always have that sort of lingering vanilla odour that I just love to inhale!

“Steve Ditko is Frank Zappa. Romita is Perry Como.” Absolutely spot on! I couldn’t have said it better myself!

And, Spider, I just got two more books from Daredevil Volume Two, leaving me only one book shy of a run from #1-119 & 500 (not a huge fan of the Shadowland story in the last 12 issues of the whole run). I have been happily cracking slabs and reading my treasures. Look for all of those Echo issues going through the roof. They are already selling for far more than Overstreet lists them at, and rightly so. Overstreet has been lagging on some of these price adjustments and becoming even less relevant in today’s market! It may have finally competely outlived its usefulness. If nobody is adhering to their pricing structure, what good is such a price guide?!

Spider
Spider
1 year ago

Regarding the long term storage with encasement – my personal opinion is ‘hell no!’ .

Whilst I see value in the idea of an independent 3rd party giving an opinion on the condition of a book so that seller and buyer may then discuss price..but the idea of laminating a book longterm isn’t wise for the health of the material.

CGC try to buffer against the offgases by using microchamber paper however whilst that’s the correct idea, it’s flawed in practice as the paper only has a limited capacity to absorb gases, it would need to be changed out regularly in order to continue to be effective. I personally use Interleaving boards, which are much thicker (they sit in the middle of the book and also add real structure when sliding the book in and out of the mylar sleeve) these boards contain zeolites which trap the gases. I also ensure any purchased book is cleaned, then aired out before being read, then it is put into storage – the irony that the more often a book is sold and gently read the pages have a chance to release their decomposition offgases.

A great article on interleaving boards:

https://cool.culturalheritage.org/waac/wn/wn18/wn18-1/wn18-106.html

mel taylor
mel taylor
1 year ago

Spider
You’re so right about the MCU! Guardians was great, but that doesn’t mean C listers like Eternals (I turned it off after half an hour) and Shang Chi (I suffered through the whole thing on the off chance there might be something good to say about it. There isn’t!) are going to be any good. I don’t intend to spoil my appreciation of the first phase by watching this caca! I’ll hold off until the FF movie comes out, and keep my fingers crossed that they don’t bugger that up too! The initial glow of the MCU is fading fast in my opinion. Doctor Strange: Multiverse of Madness couldn’t decide whether it was about sorcery, or witchcraft, or monsters, or zombies or Gord knows what all! Thor: Love and Thunder was embarassing on so many levels! I’m not sure who is dropping the ball here, but it has well and truly dropped!

Spider
Spider
1 year ago

Walt, I have two more books that need to be considered in our new ‘first meetings’ collecting strain:

ASM #123 Cage

and… (hot tip kids)

Daredevil #196 – Wolverine (I’m hoping that’s right) great cover too…and it’s in that unloved deadzone between the Miller runs that Mel and I just keep yammering about…and it’s the origin and of Wolverine’s adamantanium (aka Lord Darkwind). Write it up as Undervalued Spotlight Walt!!! Stat!!!

mel taylor
mel taylor
1 year ago

LF
You are so right about those Marvel Masterworks. The colours where wrong. The paper was wrong. I remember excitedly buying the first Fantastic Four Masterworks edition and just about gagging when I took it out of the shrinkwrap and opened it! I never bought another one, and sold the one I had been foolish enough to buy! I just pulled out my beaters of FF 1-10 and enjoyed those instead.Tthey are actually some of my favourite comics to handle and smell. Mmmmm! Lignin! Smells divine because it is so closely related to vanillanin. That’s why used bookstores always have that sort of lingering vanilla odour that I just love to inhale!

“Steve Ditko is Frank Zappa. Romita is Perry Como.” Absolutely spot on! I couldn’t have said it better myself!

And, Spider, I just got two more books from Daredevil Volume Two, leaving me only one book shy of a run from #1-119 & 500 (not a huge fan of the Shadowland story in the last 12 issues of the whole run). I have been happily cracking slabs and reading my treasures. Look for all of those Echo issues going through the roof. They are already selling for far more than Overstreet lists them at, and rightly so. Overstreet has been lagging on some of these price adjustments and becoming even less relevant in today’s market! It may have finally competely outlived its usefulness. If nobody is adhering to their pricing structure, what good is such a price guide?!