While the literary world is mourning the passing of one superhero right now (rest in peace,Gabriel Garcia Marquez!) and Christians everywhere are celebrating another this weekend, I’ve been thinking about comic book heroes after taking my boys to Wondercon in Anaheim, Calif.

It was the perfect opportunity to make some acquisitions like these


and also to conduct a little research on what’s-selling-for-what in the superhero market these days. I still have a bunch of old comics from my younger days, and they should be worth something, right? I just didn’t realize how much.

x-men 30Among the new acquisitions, I absolutely had to have a copy of “The Wedding of Scott Summers and Jean Grey” from X-Men, even though it’s disappointing. Chris Claremont, Dave Cockrum, and John Byrne ripped little kids’ hearts apart with “The Dark Phoenix Saga” back in the 1980s, and this issue is an attempt to heal up what’s unhealable. I’m glad to have it, but the entire thing is far too sentimental to measure up to what Claremont & Company created. They chose the best, and only way to conclude that story. Nuff said.


kirby-the-demonOn the other hand, nothing that the immortal Jack Kirby ever created can disappoint. While the price tag on his “New Gods” series scared me off (for the time being, at least), I picked up this nifty issue of “The Demon” instead. Switching companies, from Marvel to DC, did nothing to dilute or change his signature style and voice.  Open these pages and you instantly know where you are and whose world you’ve entered. Kirby was a true comics mythologist, and in this issue he gives us another terrific origins story for the aptly-named demonologist Jason Blood. Beware, faint-hearted readers!

Finally, I spotted the name of “Claremont” on the cover of a series about the heroes known as “The Sovereign Seven”:


and when I realized that the name belonged to the same fellow who created the Dark Phoenix tales, and that he wrote this series for DC, not Marvel, I had just one reaction: I’m in!!!

As far as my 401(k) is concerned, my friends, Yours Truly owns several special old editions of certain comics, but I never knew their value. I never bothered to hunt in any comics price guides or surf e-Bay to see what they were worth.

One of these is an early issue of Daredevil, his battle against the Purple Man in #4, before the blind crusader switched to his devil-red costume:


… as well as this early appearance of storyteller Frank Miller (“300,” “Sin City,” “The Dark Knight Returns”) in Daredevil:


Even then, early in his career, Miller had a fully mature, sophisticated touch. This issue is creepy! There’s also a later issue of DD’s that features Miller’s introduction of the assassin Elektra:


In my mind, I can still see that comic book rack in the drugstore — I can still hear it squeaking as my mother yelled at me and I frantically searched for something to buy. Elektra’s silhouette and the look on Daredevil’s face closed the deal for me.

And then there’s the Dark Phoenix climactic issue (mentioned above) which is nothing short of Greek Tragedy, Marvel-style:


Well, my good friends, I found that these single issues range from $100 to several hundred dollars. I certainly can’t quit my job anytime soon, but it was a nice discovery — sort of like finding some old savings bonds in the attic that once belonged to Granny.

It’s also a nice vindication of a childhood obsession, too. See? All that lawn-mowing money didn’t go to waste afterall! What kind of stock portfolio gets this kind of return on investment?!

Not to mention that my boys and I have several more boxes of old comics to examine. Who knows what else we’ll find?!!


  1. I definitely can’t show my son this post, or he’ll start telling me that every comic book he wants to buy is an investment. I’ve never been interested in comic books. Sad, isn’t it?

  2. Ha, yeah, Jil, don’t let him know. On the other hand, he might be pleasantly surprised one day if he keeps those comic books boxed in his closet!

    I used to assume that comics were just a male thing, but after seeing so many female fans in costumes at Wondercon, I doubt that my assumption holds water anymore.

  3. Yes, I think comics are an equal opportunity “draw.” Maybe I should say, I only love the comics my son creates. 😀

    If he does decide to collect them, he’ll have to get rid of one of his other collections to make room. Or we’ll have to move to a larger house.

  4. You might risk taking him to the next Bay Area Wondercon just so he can see what professional artists do, especially if he’s interested in an artistic career. It’s very inspiring. My older boy was really impressed by it.

  5. I’ve never seen any of these comics. I’m from the era of Betty and Veronica, Archie and Jughead, and so on. The superhero comics surely were there, but I guess I just wasn’t interested. Later, I remember reading some of the Donald Duck and so on, but by the end of grade school, I mostly read the comics in the newspaper. After all, we had Pogo! Who needed anything else?

  6. What’s interesting about superhero comics is their evolution. There was a time period stretching roughly between the 1960s and 1980s when these comics really embraced and embodied mythology. I think that’s what attracted me so much. The people who created them probably knew something about the Golden Bough and Robert Graves, Hercules and Pegasus. What you see today is really inferior — in art and story. Anybody who says the opposite is completely wrong.

    As far as what you said about Garcia Marquez in your comment on the AL Kennedy, shoreacres, you know I’ve really been thinking a lot about what writing means to me lately.

    Of course I’ve always thought about it a lot, but attending Wondercon gave me something else. I enjoyed price-hunting at the used comics stands, but my boys and I stayed away from most of the new stuff. So much of what was on display there was so mediocre and derivative, and so many of the attendees greedily lapped it all up. I’m not talking about kids, they’re allowed to react and absorb — I’m talking about adults in their 20s and 30s.

    I thought, ‘how can these people give so much of your imaginative lives to someone else’s weak ideas?’ It made me feel even more assured in my own conviction to make the most of my own writing, to live it fully — which I’m sure Gabo would appreciate.

    Sorry for such a long-winded reply. Couldn’t help myself.

  7. A lovely exchange, in all ways. As a kid I piggybacked off my bro’s Superman and Spidey comics, but lost interest as the superheroes proliferated. Confusion? Value dilution? My own three boys were for some feverish and sometimes furtive years DEEPLY into the game ‘Magic: The Gathering.’ A similarly addictive, transgressive, supernatural world? Anyway, they’ve kept the giant box of cards, still know the arcane rules by heart.

  8. I think I know exactly what you mean by “value dilution,” Kai. I left that comics convention with mixed feelings — happy for the nostalgia I felt and time spent with my boys, and a little sickened by what the masses are willing to swallow (just about anything).

    On the bright side, it also reinforced my convictions in my own fictional world — the one that Nick D has vitally helped me with — and I hope to have my final revisions done in a few months. I’ll keep you posted. I’m very excited.

    I was so thrilled to see “a comment by maristed” in my inbox this morning. Thank you, dear friend!

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