Where Do You Fit In?

Fan Expo happened this weekend and I talked to a few guys that went, they all said it was a good show, not too many people but they were there to buy. I was actually thinking about how the hell I would have even found the time to go, things have been so busy with the stores and online. I’ve actually been falling behind, there are just not enough hours in the day or I’m just not making the right decisions!

The culprit is that there are multiple culprits. Running a comic shop has given me a nice birds-eye view of the hobby and as I’ve mentioned before here on this site there are two easily discernable customer camps. On the one extreme, there are the consumers of comic books as reading entertainment, these people come in often once a week to pick up the latest issues of the titles they follow or some graphic novel they heard good things about and often have very little interest in the values their purchases will have in the back issue market at some time in the future. On the other extreme there are the comic book speculators, those that play the back issue market for fun and profit, these people have no interest in reading what they buy, they just want what they buy today to be worth more tomorrow. Then there are the infinite degrees in between and my job is trying to figure out how to satisfy each and all of them.

I don’t even know where I fit into this spectrum, I don’t read the monthly’s but I used to, I buy to resell for profit but I also buy to collect. My Amazing Spider-Man collection is all graded and coming along nicely, my Charlton Romance collection is pretty extensive and none are graded. I’m trying to put a set together of the Marvels from November 1971, those I want to be graded at 9.2 at least. I like collecting some of my most cherished reads as raw sets and not as graphic novels: I have Daredevil #227 – #233, Loki #1 – #4 (with the Ribic painted art), all issues needed for Kraven’s Last Hunt etc. and they are all raw.

I think it’s important to accept that there can be these two polar opposites in the hobby and that many of us can comfortably operate in both, travel back and forth at will when desired. I know a lot of people that are only at one end of this spectrum but I also know quite a few guys that come into the shop every week to pick up their latest reads, they can have their pile of new books in their hand and catch a moment with me to share stories of their latest CGC 9.8 Bronze Age pickups.

Comic collecting is thus a quite diverse landscape occupied by many overlapping strata of consumer, collector, investor. There is zero wrong with this, it only shows the breadth and scope of the hobby. There are natural currents happening in this large and diverse setting, reading comics for the joy of reading could lead a person to collecting which could then lead to investing, conversely buying graded copies only can lead to the desire to read these issues. One person I know went this route – hmmm? why is everybody so high on this Galactus trilogy? I think I’ll read it for myself.

The more diverse the landscape and vibrant the community the better the long-term prospects are for all the strata of comic collecting. This dynamic landscape is where we operate and we can’t just focus on one end or the other, our business has to be aware of every possible combination of customer and understand their needs. Comic shops are small businesses with limited amounts of resources but thankfully we have unlimited amounts of ideas, we know the game, we just have to keep adjusting and making the right calls.

Speaking of making the right calls, our internationalcollectiblesexchange eBay auctions last night were full of them. I was personally thrilled with the result of this Rawhide Kid lot that had low-grade copies of #19, 21 and 22. The lot earned $178.50 US, such a great result for these old Kirby westerns.

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. Not much controversial here. I am mostly collector with a close eye to value/possible appreciation, and I am a very discriminating reader, but sadly not of monthly books – because they are just too expensive. If they sold out and routinely appreciated I might be a monthly reader, but nearly all new books show up in dollar boxes in a year. With the interweb I can both have others tell me what is best to read, and then obtain (either as sets or as TPBs) for far cheaper than the original cost. Getting to the heart of this post, I see this as a continuing critical problem for the hobby. There would be no hobby if there hadn’t been millions of monthly readers in the old days. I think there are plenty more people like me who would go back to monthly reading if it wasn’t for this price hurdle – not only would this support comics, but it would bring me back into the shops to see everything else. You might see the other side – “how can a dealer make money selling $1 books?” – but the fact can’t be escaped. Sure all sorts can be supported and are welcome, but the backbone of the hobby is the mythos continued through new comics. Disney has helped enormously by elevating the mythos on the big and small screen, but it’s still no substitute for comics – I watch the movies and shows, but the comics are a completely different, and in many ways preferable medium. I don’t have a solution for the economics, but the situation continues to concern me.

  2. Good column. Comic shops need all the tools possible to stay in business through the boom and bust times. So catering to all the different kinds of collectors and speculators serves that purpose. I am in the same boat as you, Walter, and Chris. Now I read no monthly comics, although that is also what got me started in the hobby. But I actively collect and read (well, some) Gold and early Silver Age books. I like the original books rather than the GNs, though often I collect both. Sometimes it’s fun to read those early Superman (in Action) or Starman or Hawkman Golden Age stories all in sequence, and I’ll never have many of those earliest issues anyway. So archives are great for that.

    But I keep up with today’s releases by reading the occasional archive and more often, reading graphic novels or mini-series collections. I enjoy a beginning, middle and end in one or two sittings. I don’t want to read monthly periodicals any more, it’s too hard to keep up (no comic shop nearby) and remember the story…let alone deal with projects that come out late in midstream. Even Hellboy, a favorite of mine, I’ll just wait like Chris, and read it when it’s collected as a trade paperback.

    I’ve tried to expand my own business model, being an online retailer and doing catalogs, to include as many graphic novels as I can. But I pick and choose carefully, because every book I handle I may stock for months or years, so I cannot handle everything. It as to pull its weight to cover costs of scans, descriptions, posting it online, and particularly putting it into a color catalog.

    I handle many of the newly translated French GNs, most of which are original new stories. I find them more mature, more diversified than many U.S. superhero comics which also become GNs or Archives. But I do keep trying new U.S. releases, filtering through to find things interesting to me as well as my customers. Usually that means independent titles, some DC work (Harley, Wonder Woman, Batman, but almost nothing new from Marvel, alas). But mostly I focus on special projects from the small and mid-level publishers like Dark Horse, Boom, Image, Magnetic Press, NBM, Dead Reckoning. I likeiography GNs on famous people, artists or otherwise, like the new one on Janis Joplin, Philip K. Dick, H.P. Lovecraft…or classic subjects like World War II, which is a strong area with my customers (and I like also).

    My customers are hard to predict on these, so I have as many losers as winners. I discovered Ed Brubaker’s work, like Criminal and Reckless and Pulp, and the reception has been okay. But then Hellboy has always been an uphill battle, even though I love the character. Don’d know why. Ditto with Terry Moore’s stories; even though he signs every book I buy from him, his projects after Strangers in Paradise have just been very moderate sellers. The Firefly GNs have been popular, that was a surprise. Neil Gaiman GNs have generally sold well and are good reads, but sometimes they flop too…. I also dabble with YA, young adult GNs, such as things illustrated by Charles Vess, which usually do well, but then other one-off or series books often go nowhere for me, even if I enjoyed reading them myself.

    So my world is a mix of very old stuff, new collections of classics (Sergio Toppi, Hugo Pratt, Druillet) , and even cutting edge, avante garde comics including a fair amount of newly translated foreign material. Some excellent British comics are finally being collected, such as Tex, Slaine, Trigan Empire, and Storm, by Lawrence and Frank Bellamy and others.

    And I have to admit, I can’t keep up with busting my comics out of slabs. I upgrade a lot (no 9.2s, or 8.0s, just converting old Golden Age that I bought years ago in Fair, Good, or maybe worn-looking VGs, into the Fine range, that’s enough for me. The occasional 7.0 or 8.0 Very Fine book is a rarity, reserved for low end (affordable) titles like 1950s Dell Comics or a pre-code romance book. But I keep building up a stash of graded, encapsulated books that I just don’t have the patience to break out, and I often already have read and looked through them, so it’s not a high priority any more. And they do look good safely encased in plastic (don’t shoot me, Jeff), even though I’d like to slip them out of a sleeve and flip through them, like 98% of my other comics. So even a hardcore reader like me has a stash of better encapsulated books. Saving for a rainy day (retirement? Christmas morning? ) to break them open and rediscover them.

  3. I have always been a collector for most! Sure… I was always aware of the value and that the value was increasing… but I really hadn’t contemplated actually selling my comics. Now on the verge of dottering old age… and that impending move abroad… its more on my mind

  4. Good to see those Rawhide Kids found a good home. It seems to me that you guys published a post about a year ago claiming that westerns were dead and not worth collecting. looks that this result proves that the medium still has life, & maybe has a spark of investment potential left . I believe that westerns will never die, that there will always be someone out there who wants ’em, because many of them still provide a ton of entertainment value. They will never achieve the value of a Hulk #181 or ASM #129 but many titles are better drawn & better written than much of the superhero drivel that is being produced today. I think enough collectors have realized this & are bidding aggressively on certain titles when they show up at auction- a recent ebay auction presented by one of my favourite sellers yielded excellent results for many western titles [ including Dell ] with many issues selling at guide or even more. I was shot out of the sky trying to get a nice VF Crack Western & ended up not winning a SINGLE western comic that I bid on ! I had to console myself with a stack of Marvel Korean War comics & some decent Lev Gleason Crime & Daredevil/Boy comics !

    Putting in my two bits- I find today’s comics far too expensive & not at all satisfying. Yes, there are occasional gems to be found, but you have to buy a lot of miserable $6.00 crap to find one or two gems. Why do we need all this expensive paper & colour printing ?? It makes no sense if nobody is actually reading this stuff, but slabbing it & storing it, waiting for it to go up in value. Can we not go back to newsprint & charge $3.00 an issue?? Most of the art & writing in today’s books does not deserve such high quality, expensive production. At $3.00 an issue, I may be tempted to continue buying new books, but at $6.00 it is becoming less and less appealing every month. I would sooner spend $6.00 on a 52 page Dell Western than a mindless, modern ‘floppy’- at least I can be assured a level of quality that today’s books usually fail to reach !

    I am not an investor & never will be ! I am deeply troubled what is happening to our hobby and do not see all these massive price increases in any positive way, in spite of the fact that I could profit handsomely should I attempt to sell part of my collection ! It bothers me that I can buy letters sent home by concentration camp inmates for infinitely less than a slabbed generic 1970’s Spiderman comic ! Something is not right here [ not that I am suggesting that you start investing in holocaust memorabilia ]. When is this bubble going to burst? Will it ever burst ??? Are we going to see a CGC 9.8 Dazzler #1 reach $10,000.00 ??? What is going on here kids???

  5. You guys have turned an observational post into a rich resource through these comments!

    Live Frog, that’s why I posted the result of the Westerns! I’m not afraid to eat crow, Go Westerns!

    Gerald, you fit in just nicely, and if you ever need advice on selling, I know a guy…

    Bud, cripe, I thought I was all over the place! You hit it on the head when you mentioned how tough it is to guess and gauge the publics response, not an easy business.

    Meli, astute and pragmatic as always, the situation concerns me as well.

  6. Good article about the polarities of the hobby. I follow authors and artists so it is vital that I can flip through a reading copy of my slabs when I want. In fact, I include a reading copy of all my slabs for sale in the mylar bag that protects the slabs. Or I direct buyers to Comixology for an electronic copy.
    From 20 to 70 I was a reader first and bought and sold to complete runs or story lines. Now that I am retired, I am transitioning from runs to slabs to leave an inheritance to my family. I recently traded 500 Bats and 500 Caps for 2 high grade SS books. If I didn’t exactly cover my purchase costs, I do have books now that will increase in value. As Walt would say – advantage buyer.

  7. Heh heh Heh…I remember not fitting in, I bet we all do. As a closet comic reader in High school. People read books, Girls read a lot of books. Bookstores and used book stores in every mall. I didn’t know a soul who collected comics, save one student , Stan,who also worked part time in the Library. As a young adult, it didn’t matter to me,who knew that I collected and read comics. But it seemed I was alone. It really wasn’t until the 1990’s that I met other adults who collected comics as madly as I did. Ah, sweet relief. A lot of new found friends, acquaintances and shared comic book experiences.
    Now a days,its hard to find a book lover…..comic stores everywhere..online, marketplace, ebay….Books? Piles by the hundreds to give away, free to good homes, in boxes by the road, at the landfill…..
    Sigh. It seems we need a Jack Kirby, a Neal Adams, Paul Norris,Morris Gollub to fill our imaginative void these days….
    Hmmm, maybe I don’t fit in with this comicbookdaily comment conversation either. But love listening/reading the same … Thank YOU !!

  8. Dave, let’s not be too hard on books…I assume you mean real books, hardcovers and trade paperbacks, mass market paperbacks…the anticipated e-book boom never really materialized. It’s another media with its place, but printed books are still here to stay for the forseeable future. And older books, there will always be sludge, as we call them, like Time-Life Books and Encyclopedia Britannica, and old old fiction from the ealy 20th century that no one reads anymore. But there is also a lot of great older books collected now for dust jacket art, for binding design, for interior art in black and white or color. Used modern fiction, science fiction and mystery mass market paperbacks and more expensive trade paperbacks are always popular in any used book store.

    And you do fit in here, so keep sounding off.

    Since I have a foot in both comic and real book worlds, as a collector and a dealer in both, I can safely say the predictions of our demise haven’t come about in either. Even younger readers like my son (35) want printed copies to read to his kids, or to read in bed. Or the bathtub, Or outside on a deck. I love my ipad and my iphone, but I don’t read ANY books on them and I don’t take either to bed with me. I have a bedside stand stacked high with real books, and the occasional raw comic.

    As a 12 year old in 1964, I was in the same boat as you speak of bing a closet comic reader. I wasn’t ashamed of being into comics, but I had only a couple local friends who shared my interest. In those days before the internet, it was only the letters pages of DCs, Marvels, and a few other companies, and especially Stan’s soapbox, where we had community amongst fans.

    My break through was meeting another serious fan from across town, who introduced me to his buddies, and to fanzines like The Rocket’s Blast and Alter Ego. Up to then, they’d only been mentioned in a letters column or two, and I’d obviously missed those early mentions (Julius Schwartz did that in his DC titles he edited). That was where we found family, with fanzines, writing letters to fellow fans, trading comics through the mail, discovering early comic book mail order dealers (i.e. Buddy Saunders, now MyComicShop), getting together on Friday or Saturday nite with fellow fans.

    The were NO comic book stores to gather at in the early and mid 1960s. Even conventions were just barely beginning, circa 1964-1965 in New York but almost nowhere else, Comic fans were a very small part of the already well-established Science Fiction conventions in those days before San Diego Comic-Con and others around the country. began going, around 1968-70. After that, things started really happening in the convention world as most major cities began having a show or two.

    Comics may not be affordable to many, but graphic novels are. Any good used bookstore has a lot these days, manga and all the rest, at half cover price. So comics are still affordable for readers. I think Marvel is headed for a fall with so many $40 editions of things, in softcover, but new graphic novels and min-series collections can still be had down to $12.99 or so.

    I was a seller in a used book store for 20 years, up until covid hit in 2020, and I sold a LOT of used graphic novels and manga this way. Customers went for them big time, whereas my traditional art books (comics guys or illustrators), they were going begging for the most part. But I was also hampered being in a small town (11,000) with a limited customer base. But those same art books still sell great as new books in my BudsArtBooks business, new releases are met with enthusiasm, far more than the GNs I mentioned in my previous post.

  9. Thanks Bud. Great Stuff. I love both books and comics, rest assured. When Harry Potter came out, I was so happy to see young readers immersed in the same.
    I sold my comics in 1978 or 1979 to a book dealer. I got 15$ for Hulk 181 and 800$ for my collection. He was a great guy,who died young,of kidney failure.(Phoenix Bookstore Owen Sound Ontario) Because of him I bought my first car, a 1977 Gremlin X. (yes $750 bought it)
    You cant question my love and respect for comics and books. My taste in cars certainly is an easy target 🙂
    I think my whimsical comment failed, I guess I couldn’t write for the late Fawcett comic company. But my heart remains true to both mediums. I think I just fear for reading and all readers alike. ( for some reason,I hate reading on ipads and such)
    Actually reading your comments, and everybody else’s comments here, is a great pleasure to me . Hell, I’m even listening to Chris and Walt’s podcast these days. What a revolting development !!!

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