Smokin’

It’s early days in 2023 and I’m already trying to get a sense if there are any patterns developing. The harder I look the less I see, in other words, the more data I get the more it becomes obvious that there is no one pattern but rather lots and lots of conflicting patterns. It’s easy to manipulate data to show certain trends, say, within certain eras and genres, even within a single comic one can search out data down to a single grade which would back his or her argument. There are all kinds of signs that values are strengthening and there are all kinds of signs that they are weakening.

I had a thought that the problem with comics is that there are so many platforms from which to buy and sell books and each performs differently for different books and different times, even for the same books at the same times. I hope this is not taken the wrong way but we’d have way fewer discrepancies in prices realized if all the books were available through only one platform, like a NASDAQ or an NYSE. Let’s say for this argument eBay is the place, meaning all the other auction sites and buy-it-now sites disappear. there are so many buyers that stick to just one platform and I know this adversely affects realized comic prices. My one buddy only buys off of Comiclink, I have another buddy that only bids on our eBay auction while I know a few guys in Toronto that do all their serious buying only through Heritage. It’s impossible for the seller to know which platform will get the best results but I’d bet a coffee that the result would not be as good as if all the interested buyers were on one platform. Again, just a thought.

The eBay auction boxes offered up plenty of surprises this week. I missed the irony (I’m not sure if that’s the right word here) of the cover of Where There’s Smoke… The Canadian Cancer Society put this out in 1965 and I’m sure at that time the youth of the nation just rolled their eyes at just how lame and square their folks were and the Cancer Society was, fast forward 58 years and the youth of today would be shocked at just the imagery on the cover never might the thought of smoking. I think it shows how good a job the Cancer Society has done and I think it also teaches us that these societal changes don’t happen overnight and sometimes they don’t even happen within the same generation. Smoking, littering, and seat belts are all major success stories within our society and all took a couple of generations to get there. Once all of the above hit me this was a shoe-in for cover of the week.

Why not check in one generation prior to our 1965 comic above? From 1947’s Airboy v4 #1, we get the ad of the week. Hey kids, these lighters work even in the wind! You don’t just get a lighter, you get a cigarette case and you can mail away for a smoking kit. Maybe these ads worked? Maybe these ads worked so well that the book above had to come out 18 years later.

I actually tried to look for a splash page that had some sort of smoking-related theme, I even looked for smoking hot blondes in a splash page but my sample size was too small and I did have other things to do. From Marvels Book 3, we get Alex Ross’ interpretation of the confrontation between Silver Surfer and Galactus. I remember reading this mini-series when it came out and I remember this splash as one of my favourites. It is interesting to see other great artists get a crack at iconic moments from the past, Alex Ross did not disappoint.

From this week’s icecollectibles eBay auction, I’d like to highlight the random lot of King, Tower and Skywald comics. There were eight comics altogether and they sold for $180. There were no books of note in there and I thought they did well considering they were mid-grade copies. I think books like this are very fun to collect, very hard to track down and relative to the rest of the market, very cheap to pick up. I think books like these will continue to see increases in value.

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

Walt you are exactly right about the platform. Both buyers and sellers lose when people can’t see what is in the market. I think eBay is especially bad these days, so this ends up making it a buyer’s market if you show up and work. A three-day auction where the seller is lazy and screws up the title and the listing data – no wonder the final price is bad. Also some crazy bad “buy it now” prices on MyComicShop (like that Detective Comics #18 sale). Sticking to one platform is lazy and crazy. I try to keep on top of all the significant auctions, but I gave up on monitoring the buy-it-now listings due to low hit rate. Every now and then I see a GPA data point and say “What??!!” only to find it was some stupid buy-it-now listing that got scooped up in an hour or less. I think this plethora of sources plays to the old long box-picking excitement, which is based on mispricing. There might be some consumption value in this digging, but there is also a lot of lost value for buyers and sellers.

The reason for this is the high transaction costs in the market, allowing for all of these platforms to exist. If the market continues to grow, I would look for a smart group like Heritage to try to consolidate some of this and price the smaller platforms out of the market. eBay could do it but it is a) failing already (in my opinion), and b) can’t make enough money out of it to make it a worthwhile endeavor. ComicLink and ComicConnect aren’t sophisticated enough or professional enough. My money is on Heritage and/or its connection with CGC/CCG. BlackRock will put some junior analyst on this.

“Smoking, littering, and seat belts are all major success stories within our society and all took a couple of generations to get there.” Yes – my children can’t wrap their head around the idea that we had a smoking court outside at our high school. It was “for your smoking pleasure” I tell them.

Agreed, Marvels was a real event when it came out, and it still is probably a great introduction for the unwashed to the Marvel Universe.

I agree that those oddball books have some potential, but only as curiosities. I remember avoiding anything like this like the plague when I was a kid – to me they were the worst kind of knock-off.

Gerald Eddy
Gerald Eddy
1 year ago

Does that include The Mighty Crusaders as well??

Bud Plant
Bud Plant
1 year ago

Gerald, I really disliked the Mighty Crusaders as a teenaged collector when they were on the stands. Bad art, stupid stories…or at least my perception was there was a lot more on the stands that was far better from Marvel, DC and Charlton. However, in the intervening 45 or 50 years, I became a fan of the Golden Age MLJs. Sort of the poor-man’s Timely, but that was back when I started picking them up, Not anymore.

I had a buddy who was my age, now passed away, who was a big Crusaders fan even though I repected his taste in other areas. So I’ve slowly edged into picking them up, supplemented by picking up his. Even as a Shadow fan, the art is so bad on those comics. But I haven’t read one in ages. I mostly enjoy the non-Crusaders Archie superheroes, who were mostly a bit earlier: The Fly and Flyman, The Jaguar, they had more serious stories and decent artwork for most of their runs, and as the back-up stories in Pep comics for a while there. When comics writers were tryiing to be camp, it never worked with me. Even Jerry Siegel’s attempts a humor with Superman in the 1940s mostly falls flat. A joking superhero is one thing, but when a writer is trying to hard.

That said, Simon and Kirby’s Fighting American was perfect and I love it. They got it right. ACG when they went into superheroes, I’ve mixed reactions.

I’m pretty certain that Jungle Adventures Walter pictured above is by Jack Katz, The First Kingdom artist/writer. Its not a cover to be proud of. Yup, looked it up, Jack and Frank Giacoia. Oh my, terrible work.

Gerald Eddy
Gerald Eddy
1 year ago

I agree Bud! I got a few copies of the Crusaders in the 60’s but am pretty sure someone gave them to me as I even at that innocent age would have discerned the difference between them and the ‘Big’ two! I had a friend who was into those First Kingdom comics but I was not a fan.

Spider
Spider
1 year ago

I re-read the Marvels series last year, it’s still fantastic…I love how when you’re new to the Marvel universe it’s a fantastic starting spot but when you have decades under your belt and have read some of the original stories in their format you appreciate the books on another level.