Spring

When the missus and I were dating way back when she mentioned she liked Vivaldi so I went out and bought her a Vivaldi Four Seasons CD. She thanked me and then mentioned she didn’t have a CD player… Anyway, Spring was my favourite part of the CD. Happy Equinox everyone.

I had a pile of comics turned over so the back covers were facing up and I was flipping them over before putting them into a bag and board. I caught myself looking at the backs trying to figure out the era they came from based on the back cover ads. As I was cracking open a new pack of boards I had this thought: backing boards, what impact have they had on comic book collecting? I’ve bought many collections that were just raw comics, no bags, no boards, just raw loose comics filling up some old tomato box. I’ve also had old collections, mostly from the 1970s where everything was just in bags, the bags that make that beautiful sound as you peel the issues apart from each other, but by the 1980s most collections came bagged and boarded.

Ahhh, those old boards from the 1980s with the book oils staining them and with the store stamps religiously put onto each and every one. I’ve always wanted to look up those old obscure shops from those towns I never heard of but I never did. I did reminisce though when I came across boards with a Now and Then Comics, Kitchener Ontario stamp and I always love seeing the old Big B Comics stamped boards from the 1990s. I think the store stamps were the only thing that worked on backing boards though I know many a collector that has to toss them and put new, blank boards instead. I’ve seen ideas that didn’t work, there were full board ads for shops and even for comic publishers but their rarity tells us they were a dead end.

Back to my thought, what if boards never took hold? What if collectors held to the notion that the back of the comic needed to be seen on quick inspection? Who has time to open up every single comic and pull it out of the bag and board when buying comics at cons or at comic shops? After all, we have many comics with photo back covers, especially the Dells and Gold Keys. We’ve had many comics that were wraparound covers by greats like Neal Adams and many others. We’ve had very sought-after pin-ups on the back cover. We’ve had blank white back covers quickly identifying the book as a Canadian Edition. The big question that came to mind: is our current fixation with covers even partially due to the backing boards negating the back cover to almost meaninglessness? How many decades have all of us collectors sifted through bins at cons and taken our time to judge the covers and not even give a second thought to what was on the back?

In a way CGC has given us back the back cover: now we grab the slab and have a look at both the front and back cover. Sometimes, I might even say many times, a purchase will hinge on the reaction to the back cover. It could be that the back cover looks better than the front bringing up the overall grade in your mind. It could be that the superhero pin-up tipped you over the top. I for one am glad the back cover is back in the game; perhaps we start a whole new thing, a new revolution in collecting – the greatest back covers of all time!

This week’s “going to eBay auctions” pile was fun to go through; I’m picking the great Walt Kelly’s cover to Animal Comics #12 as my cover of the week. That blue sky background oozes summer and I’ve had enough of the cold. Besides how can you resist a cover with a beaver on it?

Our splash page of the week comes from the mighty pencil of Jack Kirby, from 1945’s Terry and the Pirates #3 we get “The Isle Where Women Rule!” Jack was always ahead of his time.

All the guys and gals my age and older will relate to this. Remember walking the streets in the 1970s heading to where ever you were heading and walking past the hair salons and seeing those big sun-faded posters in the windows of all the hairdos you can get inside? There were some really really funky hairdos being advertised in those sun-soaked shop windows. Those memories came flooding back as I happened on this ad from the back of Young Romance #170 from March 1971.

Our latest weekly icecollectibles eBay auction just finished and I liked seeing the run of Fear #11 to 18 go for what I thought was a strong $204.50 USD. This is a great Man-Thing run. Most collectors will have a #10 which started the Man-Thing series and most will have a #19 with its first appearance of Howard the Duck, thus this run was a great opportunity to bridge that gap in one fell swoop. Nice pickup!

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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LIVE FROG
LIVE FROG
1 year ago

Nice post, Walt! It is good to get BACK to basics & COVER such a neglected area of the common comic book ! Would you pay big money for a book or magazine without a back cover?? I think not! We have all seen slabbed back covers being made available for bid or sale as a single page and some of them get serious cash!! The back cover is second place only to the front cover & should not be left behind….ummm… anyway, I have a weird tendency to flip through a book starting with the back cover, I don’t know why…maybe I am a frustrated manga reader ???

I have quite a few pulps in my collection that are missing the back covers. This is a bugaboo, but some are very rare & since I have not seen complete copies for sale of some of these issues, have occasionally bought them for my collection but not at an absurd price [ after all, they are incomplete]. Strange how I will not buy an incomplete comic book, yet am lenient towards a very rare pulp- yep, it could be that many pulps are far rarer than most comics & a different set of criteria applies towards their purchase. I can accept a missing back cover on some pulps, but if they are missing something else…then it is curtains !!! I also have several pulps in my collection where the original owners replaced missing back covers with back covers from other pulps, not necessarily from copies of the same pulp! I also have pulps missing back covers which have been replaced with FRONT COVERS of other pulps in the same series. What a hoot ! A few ADVENTURE pulps in my collection have had back covers reinforced along the spine with postage stamps or labels! This is quite uncommon & there must be a story attached !

I miss going to comic book conventions [ & stamp & militaria shows ] & need to get out of the house and back into the thick of it. For all of you who have not been to a comic book show- please remember the golden rule: ALWAYS look at the book you are going to buy BEFORE you actually buy it. Those backing boards hide a lot of evil things & can not be trusted! If a dealer will not allow you to examine a book that you wish to buy, then walk away- it is not worth the forthcoming struggle. So, you buy his book & find out that the book has no back cover, no centre-fold or no Marvel value stamp- just try to get a refund from him – ” Sorry man!- Final Sale- NO REFUNDS !!” What do you do??? Punch him in the face ?? I got burned a couple times early on & learned my lesson- ALWAYS examine the book you wish to buy. If the guy won’t let you- tell him to get stuffed & walk away.

I recall buying many books back in the day sealed with those heavy plastic comic bags from ROBERT BELL. These things were hardly archival & many of the ones that I still have have gone YELLOW from age. The damage they wreaked on any comic book sealed within their confines for long periods of time was irreversible, as oil would leach into the paper from the decaying plastic and turn paper gold or even translucent! Yep, it’s true- I can easily find books in my collection that have been thus damaged. This is called ‘plastic-poisoning’ & also affected the coin market, as early protective coin cases were also made with non-archival crap which tinged the coin surface yellow with oil which can not be removed! I have re-bagged all of my books a long time ago, but save some of these old Robert Bell bags for nostalgia’s sake [ apparently, I am not the only one to do this, according to what I have read on the CGC forums !] Collectors will save EVERYTHING- even if it is a worthless piece of crap!! Ahhh- nostalgia !!! I believe that it was these cruddy, worthless comic book bags that caused the books to age prematurely and also stain the backing boards with a slick, oily palour!

I will state, once again, for the benefit of all the slabbers out there in the collecting world- the naked truth: ALL of the major comic book pedigree collections that we fawn over to this day- from MILE HIGH to PROMISE COLLECTION, survived for DECADES without any bags or boards. These books survived in NEWSSTAND FRESH condition in normal, room temperature environments. There is no need for you to waste your time bagging & boarding, pressing or slabbing- just use common sense & store your books safely stacked up in a closet in neat piles!! ‘Nuff said !!

Gerald Eddy
Gerald Eddy
1 year ago

I used to … and may still have a couple bags marked with Robert Bell ( no longer on comics), but no stamped boards. Just sold my Fear 10 and 19 a few months back… did ok. As far as your inquiry about attending shows from last week, I was always shy and only went to get books I couldn’t get locally. At the time of the Albany show… I was probably looking for Ironman, Daredevil, and Doctor Strange from the late Silver Age. If there were any Golden books they weren’t at that moment on my radar. L F, I have a lot if pulps myself and did buy one without a back cover. It was a Brundage “Black God’s Kiss”cover with a Howard Conan story and couldn’t pass it up for the price.

ActiveJim
ActiveJim
1 year ago

I scan most of my books including the Canadians I just got at Fan Expo and I used to keep them in the old bags and boards they were bought in if they looked good.
All dealers will bag and board them in order to sell them even if they got them from a stack of raws they found them in.
I’m on the fence as to what do with my books now, but stacking them raw in this day in age?
You’re going to have to sell that to me LV by showing me some of your eternally youthful raw books.

LIVE FROG
LIVE FROG
1 year ago

Yep ActiveJim- that is the eternal question- how do we keep our raw NM books eternally NM without bagging or boarding ?? I know I can’t do it in my environment, with a very active family AND pet cat ! Yet Edgar Church managed to keep anywhere from 15,000 to 22,000 books [ sources vary as to how many books he actually had ] stacked up in his basement and seeping into his living space for decades, in spite of two wives [ not at once!] & two kids wandering around! Lamont Larsen kept his books [ 1,000 copies ] stacked up in a closet & Davis Crippen [ ‘D’ copy ] kept his collection of 13,000 issues in a garage!!! The Promise collection had a much easier life, as their original owner was killed in the Korean War & his 5,000 books stayed locked up in his room, preserved, by his loving family.

I heartily recommend that you sit down and read the history of the discovery and purchase of the MILE HIGH collection by Chuck Rozanski, written by the man himself & posted on his web page/blog [ I include a link]. Give yourself plenty of time as the story unfolds like WAR & PEACE and will take you some time to finish. The collection was sold as Edgar Church lay dying in hospital, by his family who desperately wanted to clear his house of all his ‘junk’ & sell that house, before his area ‘declined in value’ due to the influx of Mexican immigrants settling in the area!!! Sorry to spoil this much for you, but I know that most of you will not sit through this amazing narrative & will end up being the poorer for it! Read the damn thing willya and be educated !!! This massive collection almost ended up in landfill !!!

https://www.milehighcomics.com/tales/cbg12.html

When I was a kid I bought & read comics and thought I looked after them quite well. I bought most books newsstand fresh & after I had read them, they were probably reduced to about FVF or even VF. I did not bang my books around, except for a UK edition of Savage Sword of Conan #1 that completely blew my 12 year old brains away- brilliant Buscema & Alcala art [ reprinted from the US edition of SS #1] with a stunning Vallejo cover, which I carried with me everywhere until it looked like a rag [ I still have it] !! I innocently enjoyed my hobby, read every book that I bought & enjoyed my life. Then I discovered a copy of the 1979 Overstreet Price Guide [EC special with a Wally Wood sci-fi cover] in my local library and that blasted thing destroyed my serenity !! All of a sudden, I discovered that books had value, they were worth more if they were in nice shape and that I should be taking better care of them! I went from innocent reader to rabid collector in about four days! I was never able to look casually at a book, any book, ever again !!! From this point on, I was looking for flaws. I looked at my books, stacked up neatly in a box [without bags or boards] in my closet – noticed that the edges of the covers were beginning to ripple from the effects of my fingers running over the top of the books trying to find a specific issue to read & I realized that they were no longer MINT! I wanted to throw them all away & start my collection again, this time keeping everything mint- but cooler heads prevailed & I managed to hang onto my books . I vowed to take care of my books from now on & I did, but I was no longer ‘innocent’ & began to live the life of a collector, more so than a reader, for many, many years. I began as a kid reading books, became a rabid collector throughout my teens and well into senility & am now trying to return to my roots and become a reader again. It is hard to read when you have spent the last decade of your life with your face pressed up against your monitor, fingers clutching your mouse or hovering over your keyboard, following auction after auction after auction and trying to win yet another book that you may never actually read!!! At least when I was going to conventions back in the 1980’s I was actually leaving the house, making the trip and socializing with other like-minded zealots for an entire day [ or four days, at the incredible pulpcons that I went to in Ohio! ], but sitting at home bidding all by yourself day after day after day just bidding, bidding, bidding seems so……lonely…and so pointless.

I have now begun to read & let me tell ya, it is hard, but I have successfully ignored [ under great duress!] ebay & even many weekly Heritage auctions !! Tis not easy, folks- but it can be done. I am reading my way through a run of Iron Man #76 to #150- why? -because I won it at a Heritage auction many years ago and completely forgot that I had it until I came across it in a box in the basement during a routine clean up ! I totally forgot that I had this run and was actually bidding on ebay [ comics4less] for other copies in this run completely needlessly! What is the point of having this stuff if it is simply going to sit in a box in the basement unread ??? So here I am folks- trying to read it & take my mind away from thoughts of bidding. It is not great stuff- I don’t care for the Black Lama story [ ‘The War of the Super-Villians’] but the stories that follow this nonsense are getting a bit better. Wish me luck, kids!

LIVE FROG
LIVE FROG
1 year ago

Gah!- the UK edition of Savage Sword of Conan#1 reprints the US edition of SSoC #4 and includes a poster of Vallejo’s cover to the US edition of #9. This was the first time I had seen Buscema & Alcala art and it blew me away. These early SSoC are simply excellent with so much brilliant art and story. I think it may be the first Vallejo cover that I had ever seen too & it had quite an effect on me. I carried that book to school with me every day [ to art class ] until it looked like a rag! My first Conan book was a UK edition ‘Conan of Aquilonia’ with a cover by Frazetta that I have not seen on any issue of any US edition of REH’s work. It shows a mature Conan, with flowing white hair & whiskers swinging his axe among a sea of bodies! Awesome !!

http://capnscomics.blogspot.com/2020/02/conan-of-aquilonia-by-frank-frazetta.html

Spider
Spider
1 year ago

Love your memories of youth LF, great reading.

Very much agree on reading Chuck’s stories of the MH collection (I think it goes for 7 chapters), very entertaining.

I feel that every step I take to keep the books in condition makes me a better guardian of them (we all are temporary owners at best). Every Gerber MyLite, every bit of 3m blue painters tape, every time I clean a book or press out a bend I feel like I’m being a decent owner…but I also balance this with actually read the bloody things! I don’t want to get to the point where the ownership is clouding the enjoyment (you’re a lesson to us all).

In fact, I’ll go get a screwdriver right now…there’s an ASM 72 & 76 sitting behind my reading box that need to be freed, read then cleaned , aired out and put into mylar with a nice interleaving board.

LIVE FROG
LIVE FROG
1 year ago

Thanks Spider- I appreciate the kind words. It’s nice to hear that someone actually enjoyed something I wrote- I generally think that most CBD readers simply roll up their eyes when they see another post by LIVE FROG & groan-“Oh Lord!, here comes another rant against investing in comics from that senile old twit! Why doesn’t he just blow away!!??” and I completely understand their point of view. Many people are heavily indoctrinated into the science of investing in comics, not to mention heavily financially invested in it & it is not in their interest to read comments decrying this activity as a giant scam [ which at times it appears to be!]. I like to reminisce about my early days of collecting, as it appeared to be a simpler world back then & most everything I wanted was within reach and affordable. There seemed to be less emphasis on the financial value of an object & more about the pure enjoyment of the hobby. There were hordes of kids in the convention halls back then, actively buying [& getting in the way] because even they could afford to buy older books with their pocket change! It was simply more fun to be a collector back then than it is now!

I do not focus on the financial end of the hobby & the reports of various price corrections do not mean too much to me. Prices are still too high and I am not compelled to take part in any bidding in such an environment. They will need to come way down for me to become active again. True to my word, I have only bought three comic books this year- that issue of Hollywood Secrets #1 that I mentioned earlier, plus a copy of a generic 1950’s Dick Tracy & Felix the Cat to fill out that shipment. However, I have manged to score a couple of boxes of science-fiction & fantasy digests from the 1950’s, about two dozen pulps and a smattering of original art ! I have also been successful with golden age Hollywood memorabilia & am now preparing for action at another cracking Central European philatelic auction that has just launched. There are lots of ways for you to get your fix ‘out there’ without breaking the bank & I am living my collecting life to the fullest within my limited budget.

David Mackay
David Mackay
1 year ago

Thanks for the memories of Edgar Church Live Frog. A seemingly sad ending, but the fact he amassed the collection and enjoyed it as long as he did brings me some satisfaction. That he had wives, children and a normal family life, is nice to know too.
I think I enjoyed collecting more when most people thought it was junk, and it was of interest to only those , who truly read and loved it. As speculators, CGc and the Marvel/DC she universes grew, I’ve been more repelled from the hobby. As we’ve shared our secret treasures, the abuse of characters, the lack of continuation and storylines, we’ve been betrayed. Its hard for me to look at today’s comics with their 20,000 # print runs and constant rebooting .

LIVE FROG
LIVE FROG
1 year ago

Very well said David ! Thank you !