One Fan’s Trials: No more Batman, Spider-man & Green Lantern comics to hunt down? No Problem!
Following Mathan Erhardt’s Collector’s Lament, I thought I’d share my thoughts on the subject of what’s next after you’ve found everything on your back issue “hunt” list. Mathan and I have talked about this from time to time on our comics forums, but he’s now finally joined me at the pinnacle of comic collecting where you have everything you, um, “need”. 😉
However, here is the secret: there’s no such thing! It doesn’t have to end! When you think you’ve found all the back issues you had on your want or hunt list, miraculously other books find there way onto the list. 😉 I reached by comic collecting crossroads several years ago, the point my friend Mathan is at now. But that was only the beginning of a new journey for me.
So, let me tell you about what strategies I had (and still employ) to extend the life of my want list without breaking the bank. This extended my list and gave me something to do at comic book conventions and comic book stores for several years after my initial want list was retired.
(1) Review your collection to see what series you have more books from than you thought you did.
Throughout my years of collecting, in addition to reading books like Suicide Squad, Manhunter, Hawk & Dove, Deathstroke: The Terminator, the Power of Shazam, Chain Gang War, Chase, and so many more that I had complete runs on because these were my “regular” reads, there were other ongoing books that I happened to pick up a few issues here and there on, but didn’t have a complete series.
In reviewing my collection I realized I had over half of DC’s 1980s Secret Origins series. As such, I decided to complete that series since I already had all the various 1980s Who’s Who books and, even this late in my comic collecting, there may just have been a few corners of the DC Universe I just hadn’t ever visited. 🙂
(2) Recall those old House Ads that intrigued you, but you never picked the series up.
The 1980s and my DC reading was a full of house ads promoting new books or mini-series. As I hadn’t fully immersed myself at comic book shoppes yet, that really started to take off in the mid-1980s, there were books that intrigued me through house ads, but I didn’t know where I could get the books or, likely, I didn’t have enough chore money to read them. Also, I may not have been old enough to read some, e.g. Green Arrow: Long-Bow Hunter. There a lot of books I picked up after the fact like this, that aforementioned Long-Bow Hunter, Skreemer, Lords of the Ultra-Realm among others.
(3) Pick up the first year’s worth of comics from “iconic” characters.
This is one I have done a lot of. In the mid-1980s, DC relaunched several books as well as tried out new ones starring iconic DC characters or teams. Although I picked up the new John Byrne Superman from the stands, there were others that I didn’t pick up any books from or only had an issue or two, e.g. the (then) new Flash, Wonder Woman, Captain Atom, Power of the Atom, Booster Gold, Blue Beetle, Starman (Will Payton), etc.
This allowed me to better understand who these characters were and how they fit into the tapestry of the DC Universe. It also helped me to better appreciate all the actual stories I read with them back “in the day”.
(4) Complete cross-over issues for “events” you liked from your youth.
There were several “events” annually for DC Comics after the Crisis of Infinite Earths that I enjoyed. The first three were intriguing and after that things went downhill. As such, I ended up getting all the cross-over issues in DC titles for Legends, Millennium, and Invasion! I also ended up getting all the annual titles tied to DC’s Armageddon 2001 event. These are typically in the cheapie bins (and likely never to be collected; the tie-in issues anyway).
(5) Pick up some of the more obscure stuff comic books that were tied to your TV or movie heroes.
Luckily the series were quite short, about a year or less each, but I had fun grabbing Charlton Comics’ old Six Million Dollar Man and Bionic Woman comic series. The SMDM was actually pencilled pretty much by one of my fave artists in Joe Staton (who did a lot of Green Lantern later in the 1980s).
There are others too that I didn’t touch, but I’m sure there are A-team TV (and comic) fans out there somewhere. 🙂
(6) First Appearance Finds
Reading a book like DC’s Suicide Squad led to the introduction of so many characters that I was experiencing for the first time, but many had first appeared earlier. Writer John Ostrander really liked grabbing some z-list characters and making them interesting like Bronze Tiger, Deadshot, Richard (Rick) Flag, Shade: The Changing Man, Black Orchid, Peacemaker and so many others. I ended up picking up all of their first appearances (yes, even a Golden Age Deadshot’s first appearance in 1950’s Batman #59) as well as the first appearance of the Suicide Squad in 1959’s Brave and the Bold #25.
Over the years, I have also picked up interesting characters from Marvel who had first appearances in the Silver Age. That includes Hawkeye, the Swordsman, the Red Guardian, and others.
I don’t get mint versions of the books, but readable versions with no chunks missing and spine / staples in tact, paper not too yellow, etc. For me it is not about re-sale potential.
(7) First Appearance Finds – Part II
There are some first appearances that are just cost prohibitive, so that’s where DC Archives, Marvel Masterworks, Black & White DC Showcase editions, Black & White Marvel Essentials editions, and trade paperbacks come in. That would include, for me, the first of the Justice Society of America in All Star Comics, the first appearance of Captain Boomerang in Flash, the first appearance of Spider-man, and so many others.
(8) Get affordable “runs” in trade paperback format or hard cover.
DC has done a great job here. My faves include the Sandman Mystery Theatre trade paperbacks, the Starman Omnibus editions, the Jack Kirby omnibus books (all of them from Fourth World, to Sandman, etc.), and others.
Also, due to the proliferation of collected editions we’re now seeing trade paperback and hardcover bargain bins in comic stores and at comic conventions. Wow!
(9) Get affordable runs in the back issue bins.
There are some gems out there that I was able to get like John Byrne’s Next Men, DC’s Checkmate, the 1980s New Guardians, etc. and others. Many are in the 25 cent or dollar bins. Some don’t stand the test of time while others do. In the end, it’s not a big investment to be amused (by a great story, e.g. Next Men, or watching the death of a book, e.g. New Guardians).
(10) When back bin diving, or convention visiting, grab comics whose covers grab you.
This is probably the least pre-meditated of the strategies, but this is probably the most fun particularly if the book is good. This is why I picked up Batman Special #1 and was blown away by the Wrath. Based on the Vigilante Annual #2 cover, and reading and enjoying that book, I went on to get the rest of the series.
I’ve had more positive experiences on these “blind buys” than most other of my planned buys.
BONUS! (11) Pick up obscure books that your fave creators worked on.
John Byrne worked on New Teen Titans Annual #2 (volume 2). Some other books could be initial works like Barry Kitson in L.E.G.I.O.N. (and his art style looked TOTALLY different), etc. There are others that you can find of your own fave creators just by happenstance when bargain bin diving. For example, Erik Larsen on DC’s 1980s Doom Patrol, Todd McFarlane on DC’s 1980’s Invasion!, etc. Some gems to be found for sure.
Your Want List only Ends if YOU Want it To
While it is a tremendous milestone in collecting, retiring your first proper want list is only the beginning of your comics journey. You are now free to explore new worlds, take advice from friends on good oldies, and fill in the corners of your collection that you didn’t know could be filled. My collection and tastes have become more well-rounded AFTER the burden (and excitement) of my first want list was lifted. The completion of your first want list is a great milestone in every collector’s comics journey, but it is also the beginning of a new journey.
Nothing can replace the joy of going through back issue bins, whether the bargain bins or the high grade bins, and cracking that issue open and smelling the history of the comic medium, reading the letter columns, seeing the house ads and other inserts…. oh yeah, and reading the main comic book story. 🙂 However, with more and more books being collected, readers now have a choice of what books to get in actual comic book form versus collected editions (although there are likely some comics that will NEVER be collected). In fact, due to this, I have been able to expand my continually evolving want list to include BOTH comic books and collected books (whether earlier collected works in the 1980s or more modern editions).
If you have a love for this medium, your journey doesn’t end when you retire your first want list. It only gets more interesting when you create your new list(s). 😉
Cheers and thanks for reading.
Tags: Amazing Spider-Man, Atom, Avengers, Batman, Bionic Woman, Booster Gold, Deadshot, Flash (Barry Allen), JSA, Justice Society of America, L.E.G.I.O.N., New Teen Titans, Next Men (John Byrne's), One Fan's Trials, Sandman Mystery Theatre, Six Million Dollar Man, Starman, Vigilante