Just over 40 years ago, my world changed in a way that I would not understand until many years later. My grandfather had his first heart attack. Back then, visiting hours were exactly that, the only time you could visit unless an emergency. My mother, worried about her father, but also worrying about keeping me entertained at age 6, decided to buy me my first comic book from the hospital gift shop. This specific act (the book was JLA #158 for those who have a burning desire to know), would put me on the path to where I am now, and would define and direct the course of my career.
During the next 8 years, my mom would periodically buy me random comics. Amazingly, they always seemed to coincide with long car rides and family vacations. Like many a boy, I read and reread my comics religiously, but one thing always bothered me. I always caught the beginning of a story arc, or the end, but I never ever had the full kit and caboodle. As I got older this started annoying me to the point of distraction, but to be honest I had no idea how to fix the problem, until a shiny ray of light showed me the way in the form of an ad on the back page of one of my newer books. I could have them SENT to me every month. Finally, my world was complete. I could read all the books and not miss a beat.
Then it happened. My world came crashing around my ears. My hero of choice, and clearly I was the only one who liked him, was Spider-Man and one of the first books I received in the mail was ASM#258. What the heck man?! How and why is Spider-Man in a black costume? Where did it come from? What is going on? Why does it move? I missed something and had no idea how to find out. The concept of a Comic Book Store was alien to me. I had only ever driven by one a few times with my mom and we never stopped. These questions would go unanswered for three years until I hit high school.
There I met a fellow comic book enthusiast. To my great delight, he lived near that comic store that my mom had previously driven past and one day his dad took us. I remember opening the door to the shop. The clouds parted, the angels were singing and I fell to my knees crying in delight that my questions would FINALLY be answered. Of that, I had no doubt. I did find out that ASM #252 held the answers I needed because that was the first time he had the black costume in that title. I had it. Finally, I was going to be complete. BUT NO! Marvel did it to me again! Because I was smart enough to get ASM #251 and #252, I unknowingly ran into a wall. I still had no answers, but I had a clue! I needed Secret Wars #8 to really know… to know everything the universe could tell me. But where to get it? Because my newly found shop did not have it.
To the Batmobile! Ahem, I mean my first convention!
A little while after my first shop, my friend’s dad took us to a small convention at a hotel. The questions were really answered this time. However, I couldn’t just buy Secret Wars #8. I had to read the whole thing. I am nothing if not a completest. The only trick is that of needing more. Here I discovered the X-Men and where collecting turned into a passion.
We all have a story like the one above. Every single one of us in this hobby can tell you exactly what it was that drove them to get what they get and why. There is always some great trauma, or great happiness, loneliness, sadness, jealousy, love, hate, or any other of a thousand reasons that we are in this hobby and why we genuinely LOVE it.
I won’t get into every year from high school to my start at Heritage, but college is where I met my mentor and when I really started to see my future in this field. He taught me everything I know (and is still doing so today). I became a comic dealer in the 1990s, but unfortunately, circumstances forced me into an unwanted hiatus due to not being compatible with the job I had. Fast forward 15 years to my hiring at Heritage Auctions and I started my dream job in comics. Suffice it to say I got lucky. When people ask, “how did you get that job?” I always tell the truth. “I just got lucky”. I knew the right people at the right time and I knew the right people through the right years. That being said, I do know comics and I surely know the market. I do not, however, know everything about comics and anyone who tells you that they do, is lying. The comic market is very complex and most people know slivers. Personally, I know more about Marvel than I do DC as it is what I read growing up.
Every month, for this blog, I will show you a list. These lists will be HIGHLY opinionated. They will create controversy, but what I would like the most is to create DISCUSSION. I want to know your opinions. I want to know why you think your ideas are better. I invite discussion and the occasional “ooooooo aahhhhh”. If you follow me on Instagram, you already know I will always tell you what I honestly think. That being said, I DO NOT invite trolls or politics (by politics, I mean that because it has always been done that way it shouldn’t change even if wrong. Let’s face it, worldly politics have no place here either).
For my first Top 10 List That Makes Cents, I give you my top ten favorite covers.
I may seem all over the place with my covers and that is intended. Although my focus will be on books prior to 1980, I believe even newer books have the ability to strike a chord. I believe that Amazing Spider-Man 121, 122 is the best story arc ever written. I remember being younger and actively buying those two books and they have forever changed me. This specific cover really brings back that memory. Why? Because you are looking at Spider-Man through the Green Goblin’s eyes and you know you are about to kill Gwen. What a powerful turn, being in the bad guy’s perspective.
It is not always about action with me. Sarcasm sure has its place, as you will see later. The first 20 Mad comics sure had that, but this is one of my favorites. The good girl aspect from Kurtzman sure doesn’t hurt.
I love Green Lantern…. I love Sinestro…. Sinestro’s first cover! In the immortal catchphrase of another company, ‘Nuff Said’.
L.B. Cole is one of my favorite artists. I could easily write a ‘Top 20’ Cole or Schomburg list. Why this specific book? Shouldn’t I pick out a Suspense or something a little more important from him? While I am partial to Suspense 11, this one has special meaning. A friend sent this book to me one time as a gift. When I opened the book to inspect it, Cole had autographed it on the inside page. If I wrote a Top 10 regrets list, this is easily #1.
One of the first pre-code horror covers I ever owned. I think maybe this book is the reason (along with many other EC books), that I like to read Urban Fantasy so much. While I do not like zombies a huge amount, the “in your face” feel to this book is incredible. Moreover, frightening!
This book is a recent addition, but once it was shown to me, it immediately jumped into my top ten. This really may be the only book of its kind. Look closely, what do you see? Hmmm Mickey Mouse outside a Disney title? Pretty neat! But wait…. That’s not all! Look even more closely because Mickey usually gets people to stop looking. That’s right! This is also a Hitler cover! Outside Disney, has there ever been another Mickey/Hitler/Mussolini/Tojo cover? This one easily sneaks under the radar, and if you are reading this, I bet it jumps into an instant “I gotta have it” list!
This is the first horror book I ever stumbled across. This one also makes my Top 10 Regrets list. This is Ditko’s first work and I have never seen one since I sold mine 20 years ago. However, that isn’t why I like the book. Coffins are frightening enough when you start thinking about your own mortality. Skeletons nailing you into a coffin while alive and then talking about it? SHUDDER!
A great war book. This could not get any more patriotic if it tried, having all four ally heroes running with the flags trampling on the Swastika and Rising Sun. In 25 years of looking at books at conventions, I have only ever seen ONE, and it escaped me before I could buy it.
This is my 2nd favorite cover of all time. I believe this mini-series is the best ever written by Marvel. As stated earlier I could not understand how Spider-Man obtained the black costume. I didn’t start collecting until he already had it. So naturally, I had to find out. Secret Wars BLEW MY MIND!! All of a sudden I had the Marvel Universe wide open to me, and I learned about the X-Men, Iron Man and all the rest. As I said, I like sarcasm, and while there are great covers in this series, was there a better line on a cover ever written than “Beneath one hundred fifty billion tons stands the Hulk… and he’s not happy”? It still to this day makes me chuckle every time, and when we get them to be graded I inevitably bog down and have to read it.
My top ten has a wide range but this is easily #1. I consider this one of the hardest Hitler covers to find, (it took me 13 years to get my copy) and its bright colors along with propaganda makes it so very collectible. Ok ok, the artwork by Alex Schomburg doesn’t hurt either. Shown is the picture to the Real Life Picture Magazine. I recently learned that there are two versions of this book. The ‘magazine’ title is harder to find, and the Canadian version. As a side note, why does Hitler look sort of King Kong like? Because that was supposedly his favorite movie. Coincidence? I think not. Oddly enough, at the time of this publication, we will have one for sale.