They Pulled Me Right Back In!

Fan Expo Toronto 2022 is now in the books: here are my thoughts on the show.

It was so good to see all the familiar faces. My memory of names being what it is made for dozens and dozens of awkward greetings, “Walt, great to see you man!” – “Yes, so nice to see you too guy, it’s been a few years”. Once we got past that part it was just like old times.

I can’t tell you how many times I heard someone on the civvy side of the tables tell Chris Owen – “hey, I recognize that voice”. Thanks to all the Comic Culture fans wishing us a quick return to our weekly hijinx. One night we were all going to go back to the hotel room with the recorder and open up a few beers, order some pizza and just hit ‘record’ just to recap our day; I thought it was a good idea but some very recognizable voice said he forgot the recorder at the show! Chris and I tried to record a show while we were driving back in the van; I’ll check the audio quality tomorrow, hopefully, it could be our first show back.

Higher-end CGC books were very slow this weekend: we had lots to choose from and at GPA prices but people were hesitant to make that purchase. We sold a CGC 9.8 Sub-Mariner #6 and a CGC 9.2 Detective #400. There were several other CGC sales but those were in the $125 to $250 range, a CGC 9.8 Marvel Fanfare #1 was one of these.

The stars of the show were the bins: we sold almost 1,000 comics out of the bins all ranging from $10 to $900, I’d say the average sale price was just under $25. These were good numbers being generated out of a small 8′ x 8′ booth. The Amazing Spider-Man title led the way then I’d say the Copper Age era issues of Moon Knight, Captain America, She-Hulk etc did very well. There was a lot of interest in the early 1970s Marvel Horror titles: we sold a lot of Tomb of Dracula, Where Monsters Dwell, Crypt of Terror, Frankenstein, etc. I had low-grade copies of Amazing Spider-Man #5, 13, Incredible Hulk #4, and Fantastic Four #7, 13 all sell for about the GPA for the graded equivalent. Marvels did better than DCs but DCs were still very active, Batman and Detective leading the way.

We didn’t have a lot of moderns but I do remember seeing some later Spawns selling.

Comic fans really did like our bins: they were making piles as they checked off their lists, some of those lists were so tattered and old, practically falling apart, they were beautiful.

We made a few buys, a nice little Golden Age lot, a bunch of good in-demand moderns, and we made a CGC trade that saw us get some good books including multiple copies of Spidey #129. Check out the Golden Age lot below. My favourite is that great Schomburg cover for Marvel Mystery Comics #10.

I ended up buying another little Golden Age lot that had some nice books including a Rangers #36; Chris Owen used that oh-so-familiar voice to call first dibs so I said yes, I thought I’d look good and build up a little good will so when I told him on the ride home that his pay for the weekend was all the beer and pizza he consumed he might not get as upset. I did a quick page check just to make sure he wasn’t getting defective material and I came across this great Tiger Man splash. I tried to renege on the deal but that familiar voice quickly put me in my place. If this book was CGC’d I would have missed this splash.

We actually had two 8′ x 8′ booths at the show; we had an endcap so three open sides. What we did is divide the large booth into two corner booths leaving enough space for us to walk between when we needed to. The other side is where we set up our ICE Collectibles booth: we had nothing to sell there, we put out some choice comics, cards, toys and coins to show people the collectibles we deal in. We had flyers to hand out and we did a lot of interacting, explaining how our ICE site and our weekly eBay auction could help them when they needed such a service. I have no idea how that side did. Yes, we engaged with many interested people who had very interesting collections but how many of these people will end up using our service remains to be seen. Here’s one teasing showcase just below our sign. A few yummy ones in there.

I did rebook for next year: it was a positive experience both socially and for commerce though, as I said above, the jury is still out on our solicitations.

On Sunday night another of our ICE Collectibles eBay auctions ended with some very strong results. We reviewed the number and the raws did very well; I was particularly interested in the Detective Comics #359 graded CGC 8.0. The last sale in June was $3,120 and I was honestly expecting it not to hit $3,000 considering the recent price trends. Our copy sold for $3,338 which I think is a healthy sign.

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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  1. Thanks for sharing Walt. I almost wish I went. Glad you’re back. I think its important you go, as you were once very much an important and favorite dealer at this and other cons.
    My niece went to the con as Katara. It looked like a wild fun time.

  2. Great show report! I like that group of Golden Age you picked up, Marvel Mystery #10 in any shape is a nice, nice book. Nice Human Torches, Batmans and Supermans also. Those kind of early GA books seem more likely to get consigned to auctions than to you as a dealer, so I’m happy for you guys to get to play with them…and raw yet, very nice. If you auction them off and remember, let me know huh?

    The Better Comics #1 in your picture the #1, is that the one sold in the recent Canadiana auction? For what, $15K? How’s that in your booth?

    And that Detective #18, that’s my very favorite cover out of ALL the pre-Batman era of Detective. That’s Leo O’Mealia doing that Fu Manchu cover. His Fu Manchu inside ran for many issues, and he also had outstanding strips like Barry O’Neill and Bob Merritt and more in the early More Fun issues from the same period. Leo started out doing newspaper illustration decades earlier, and also did Sherlock Holmes and Fu Manchu for the papers circa 1929-31. Here’s part of his bio from the Lambiek website:

    In the second half of the 1930s he hooked up with the Chesler Studios and started contributing to early National/DC comic books. He contributed story art and notable cover illustrations to early issues of Action Comics, Detective Comics, More Fun Comics and Adventure Comics. Among the features he drew were ‘Andy Handy’, ‘Barry O’Neill’, ‘Bob Merritt and his Flying Pals’, ‘Dr. Fu Manchu’ and ‘Inspector Donald and Bobby’. He returned to newspaper cartooning for The Daily News in 1943, drawing sports cartoons up until his death in 1960. He signed his name “By Leo” and put his trademark small lion in every drawing.

    Creig Flessell and Guardineer and Siegel & Shuster did wonderful work in those early DCs, but O’Mealia was THE finest artist of that era. It was a real loss to comics when he returned to doing sports cartoons (which, by the way, is where Jack Burnley got his start also. His sports cartoons turn up in the early reprint books like King Comics, from just before or perhaps even as he became one of DC’s finest artists doing iconic Batman, Superman, World’s Finest covers, and on Starman in Adventure Comics, all circa 1940-43 or so).

    A run of two of Leo’s strips was collected in Nikki Wheeler-Nicholson’s (and Dave Armstrong’s) book from Hermes, Before Superman. They make up a good deal of the book, along with some wild work by Munson Paddock that is weirdest but appealing work from those days. Paddock’s strip “The Blood Pearls” is collected there also.

    However…after Dave Armstrong had sweated blood to pull together high quality scans on all the early books to get the complete sequences (my buddies and I got him scans of one last issue of More Fun he was missing)….Hermes screwed up the reproduction and the sequences came out muddy, losing the fine detail. It was very disappointing, to say the least.

    I actually scored a copy of that Detective #18 in a small batch of early Detectives from a good buddy. Those pre-hero DCs also have Siegel & Shuster doing Federal Men and Doctor Occult and Radio Squad, all worthy strips to be collected in an archive. Any of those early pre-hero DC books have gotten very, very hard to score anymore. I eagerly pick up even coverless copies.

    Here’s more on Jack Burnley from Lambiek:

    Jack Burnley was born in 1911. He began his career providing cartoons for the sports section of newspapers and illustrations for advertisements. He began to write stories for ‘Superman’ in World’s Fair Comics #2 (the picture below shows a Fair Comics #2 cover drawn by Jack Burnley from 1940, on which Batman and Robin and Superman were seen for the first time in public together).

    From September to April 1941 Burnley took over Action Comics [as the cover artist]. After that he started on the daily ‘Superman’ comic strip. Jack was a superior draftsman and was often assigned to do covers. He left the ‘Superman’ strip to work on his own comic book feature, ‘Starman’, which appeared in Adventure Comics beginning in 1941. [Starman was one of the best-drawn superheroes of the period-Bud] Burnley penciled the ‘Batman’ Sunday page, and for a short time in 1944 he was penciling both the ‘Batman’ and the ‘Superman’ Sunday pages. Burnley left DC in 1947 to return to sports cartooning.

    Jack (born 1902) was brother to Ray Burnley and it’s very easy to mix them up, both had very slick, polished styles. But Ray came along into comics a bit later, and his solo work was all after Jack left DC. Here’s his very short bio from Lambiek (his Jimmy Olsen work, on all the early issues, is very, very good and he also did Hopalong Cassidy for DC around 1956 on, after Gene Colan left it, which raises Hoppy above most other western strips, art-wise):

    Ray Burnley was inker on the ‘Jimmy Olsen’ series, pencilled by Curt Swan. They did 33 issues together before Burnley retired in 1959. Burnley also inked some occasional ‘Superman’ and ‘Superboy’ stories. He began his career inking backgrounds for his brother Jack Burnley. After Jack left the comics field in 1947, Ray began began his cooperation with Swan. He also did an occasional ‘Batman’ story with penciller Sheldon Moldoff.

    Oh, man, just a look at Detective #18 and here I am off and running. Thanks for your patience, everyone!

  3. Loved your booth – haven’t been able to sleep soundly since seeing the Matt Baker Phantom Lady #17 in real life for the first time ever – thanks for that! (And that copy of Better Comics #1 was pretty darn cool too…) Fan Expo was great and very healthy – just needed more comics!!

  4. Thanks Ron and Dave. Ron I’m looking forward to the next OTHG lunch, I know the only reason I’m invited is that you guys need someone to get up and get the drinks.

    You continue to amaze me Budd with that deep layered knowledge swimming around in your hear, glad you spilled some out for us. That Detective #18 is such a monster! That copy there is a CGC 6.0 with WHITE Pages, not bad for a 1938, Pre Batman Detective Comics!

    Bud, the Better #1 you see there is a 7.0, tied for highest grade as there are only 4 on the CGC census, two at 7.0, one at 6.0 and one at 5.5 – the 5.5 is the one we sold at our Canadiana auction.

  5. Walter, thanks for the details. I better not ask what you were asking for your Better, not that $15K 5.5 copy might have brought it out of someone’s collection. Wow!

    Hey, if you want to see something interesting, I have Dave Steven’s second-ever oil painting at a Heritage auction this week. It came from a buddy of mine in Portland, where Dave lived as a teen-ager. My buddy passed away in 2020 and I’m handling his collection.

    Richard Dix saw Dave’s first painting recreating a Frazetta ERB cover that Dave did in trade for another friend. Dave was 16 years old, this was in 1971. So Richard traded some comics to Dave for his 2nd-ever painting. The story is in Dave’s book from Underwood, Brush Wth Life. Dave’s dad said he should ask $50 for it. Richard asked for a recreation of John Carter of Mars, Frazetta’s dust jacket painting that had recently appeared as a Doubleday Book Club reprint. The fellow who got the first painting, and also another one, still owns both of them and gave me all the details first-hand. The Heritage listing includes a picture of Dave, Richard and his friend, and both painting in 1971, which I provided.

    It’s not anything like the later Dave work we all love, but it’s pretty good! Artist Dan Brereton, who lives near here, got wind of it and was fascinated to see the original and see how Dave was working with a brush at such a young age. Dan Brereton (The Nocturnals) is one of the few/only comics artist who also paints all his work, covers and interiors, so he can relate to what Dave was doing.

  6. I am with Bud on the Detective #18. Unfortunately I can’t sell my kidneys for that one because one has already been sold and the other is on layaway, but I will see what I can do with my liver. Unlike yours I think it is still viable.

    Your news on back issue sales seems like good news. I don’t see cons as really the place to buy CGC-ed stuff anyway – graded books are internet-friendly and so why would you limit yourself to what you see at a booth, unless the price is extremely good or the book is extremely rare? And most high-end graded books I see at cons are already listed on the dealer’s site for the same price or possibly lower. The traffic in the lower-end raw stuff is what is encouraging – this is the bedrock of the hobby, and if people are still interested in collecting runs of affordable old books the hobby is very much alive. There is something visceral about digging in boxes that you can’t experience from buying a slab.

  7. Glad to hear you had a great time! Yes… that Detective 18 is something else! Love that splash page as well… keep ‘em coming and maybe the trend to see interiors will out shine the plastic cases that have become synonymous with making a Buck off our hobby! Speaking of which… also nice to hear about interest in the horror comics as I have not yet listed my Dracula issues. Highlights from my sales are ok… ASM 101 brought in $338 in vg, 121 and 122 were bought by one person for $538 in vg-fn, and FF 48 sold for $1259… which from my perspective ain’t too shabby for less then a bucks investment!

  8. Looks like you are rolling Gerald, and you should to fine with those Draculas, especially the early ones.

    I hit the link to the Stevens piece Bud, very nice, I hope you do well with it.

    Chris, thanks for dropping by the booth, hope you’re sleeping better.

    Meli, you are right about the digging through the bins part, there were at least a dozen guys that probably spent three plus hours going though our bins and it looked like they enjoyed every minute of it. I always wonders what Yosemite Sam meant by “lilly livered”, obviously a slight but I’m not sure how, oh that US slang.

  9. For all those folks who want to know what “lily-livered” means:

    “The first known use of lily-livered was 1605. From the medieval belief that the liver was the seat of courage, and the pale color [sic] of the lily flower. A person who had no blood in their liver would have no courage and thus would be a coward.”

    I figured it sounded like something Shakespeare would have come up with, and it just so happens that 1605 was the year Macbeth was first performed! Although Shakespeare did use the expression in Macbeth, it is still unclear whether or not he came up with it in the first place. But, I mean, come on! It’s Shakespeare! If he didn’t have an appropriate existing word or phrase for something, he would make it up! That’s why he is still the greatest writer in the English language!

    cheers, etymological mel

  10. Best site ever, you come here for insight into comic culture and leave with Shakespeare!!!

    (thanks Mel, you increase the collective intelligence of any room you enter)

  11. Thanks Spider. You are too kind. Interestingly enough too for comic culture buffs, Shakespeare was a huge influence on Stan Lee, who has often said that he was trying to emulate Shakespearean style dialogue when he wrote Thor. And, think of all those titles like “Lo, there shall be an ending!” and many more of the same ilk. Stan always wanted to be a legitimate writer, so, of course, he would turn to the greatest of them all for inspiration. I always wondered what Stan would have written had he realized his dream and become the next Thomas Wolfe, because, let’s face it, Stan would have been a very wordy novelist, I’m sure! Never ’nuff said for our Stan!

  12. Yes Mel, that was enlightening.

    I try to evoke Shakespeare when I write my Valentine’s poems, always to disasterous effect! I think Longfellow would be better suited for those types of poems anyway.

  13. Longfellow, Walt? Better Basho when it comes to your Valentine’s poems, seriously, short and sweet, no slight intended my friend, but you’re really not Hallmark material. And, unlike some of you other married guys, I was lucky enough to have a partner who thought of Valentine’s Day as just another “Frickin’ Hallmark Holiday”, only she didn’t use “frickin’!”

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