Tuesday, November 20, 2007

George Rears - 1980

sg George Rears The recent discussion of El Dorado by Rob has made me think back to my first ever visit to a comic book store...which if memory serves, is the aforementioned El Dorado comics...

By the age of thirteen, I was a now a seasoned comic book collecting veteran...I had lived through the DC explosion, and then the DC implosion. I was experiencing classic Marvel tales through the Dreaded Deadline Doom that was forcing reprints in every other Marvel book in the late 70's. I was there for the DC rebirth when George Perez and Marv Wolfman brought DC back from the brink of death with The New Teen Titans. One thing this old wizened, yet newly christened teenager comic aficionado, had yet to experience, though, was a comic book store.

I always remember seeing those ads in the comic books for comic books stores. My favorite was for Mile High Comics. They must have been good, because they had two full pages. Unfortunately, I lived nowhere near Denver, so I wouldn't be making any trips to that store. However, I had just recently moved to New Jersey, and figured there must be one nearby. It wasn't long before I found a guy who liked comics as much as me--except he was a Marvel guy. More importantly though--he actually knew where a comic book store was. It wasn't long before we were planning a trip there. I remember washing my sister's car in exchange for a ride; a ritual that would become quite common the next few years.

When I first got to the store, I was impressed--but disappointed. I had seen back issues before in an old books store. Granted, the comic book store had a better selection...yet what really frustrated me were the new comics.

I looked up on the wall...all these comics that were a full month ahead of what was on the newsstand! It should have been paradise. My own personal Shangri-la! But no, this know-it-all's first reaction was "Look at it--they are all Whitman editions--they are all worthless reprints!"

So what is the source of this idiotic conclusion? In the mid 70s, DC and Marvel put UPC codes on their books. Meanwhile, with the growth of comic book stores, an increasing amount of fraud was going on as comic books stores where ripping off the covers of their heavily discounted non-returnable books and sending them in as newsstand versions for a full refund. The publishers soon got wise, and created a different cover for comic books stores. Marvel put a diamond on the price tag, and along with DC, put either a character head shot (Spidey) or a trademark ("DC: Where the Action is") in the UPC box.

These covers ended up looking very similar to reprint editions packaged by the Whitman group--who would reprint books, bag them and sell them at discount stores. Having been "burned" by buying the Whitman books, I was not going to be fooled by this comic book store that was buying nothing but Whitman editions.

Apparently, this genius of a kid never wondered how all the Whitman reprint editions managed to get out prior to the original editions on the newsstand. It took me about 6 months to finally buy one of the books--after a whole bunch of therapy and counseling.


Anonymous said...

Haha...and today, those very same Whitman editions you snubbed are fetching more money than the books they reprinted. Ain't that something?

Anonymous said...

I know what you're talking about with the Whitman "UPC" boxes. Most I owned had a figure of Superman doing what looked like a flying back-flip. I believe it came from one of Whitman's Superman coloring books.


Anonymous said...

Great story, George! I just mentioned the reprint / direct sales "diamond" to Rob in an e-mail.

While some of these stories are wonderful personal remembrances, I'm struck by the universality of many of the tales. Like this one, f'r instance.

The first comic shop in these parts was Heroes World in the Nassau Mall. After one trip to HW, I remember pulling out my latest acquisitions in the car ride home and spying the "reprint" diamond in the upper left hand corner of the Marvel books. Somehow I had not noticed it in the store. When I got home I took out one of my Marvel reprints and set it on the kitchen table next to one of my new Marvel comics. I'm not sure what the new comic was but I still remember the reprint, a Marvel Two-In-One where Alicia Masters gets turned into a giant spider-creature.

I guess I inspected them both to see if there was any difference between reprint and new comic, although I'm not sure what exactly I expected to find.

The next time I got to Heroes World, I looked at the comics I was buying a little closer. But all the Marvels had that diamond.

Oh well, it sure beat the grease pencil that the owner of Clearview Stationary used on all his comics!

Grears said...

To this day I still don't like the diamond on my back issues. For one project I'm doing, I needed some hard to find Gold Key books, but all I could find were Whitman variants... IT took a little soul searching, but I finally bought them!