Some people liken certain Independent Comic titles to Rap music--vibrationally low.  But most Independent comics are not of a low vibe whereas some rap music is.

There are comic books as high in vibrational quality as classical music.  E.C. comics Weird Fantasy, Incredible Science Fiction, Weird Science  & Weird Science Fantasy & others from the 1950's (regarding art and story) & certain comics from Marvel & D.C. and other companies may sometimes be likened unto the much higher  vibration of John Lennon or Vivaldi (quality wise).  (See Dreyfus in Mr. Holland's Opus to understand what I am saying or even Finding Forester with Sean Connery).  Because of the level of story and rendering of art back in the 1950's when issued.  These were projects of love and survival.

(photo was here)

Stan Lee  Author

Young upstart rebels dared to shatter the crystallization which occurs occasionally in any industry. A few of them became, allegedly, millionaires. They got their start at Marvel. 

Image co-founder Todd McFarlane is the most successful of the Image lot so far it seems with (Darkmanesque) Spawn. Younger audiences love Image.  I've seen 100's of kids with art portfolios as good as what's printed in most comics these days. And some Image titles are up to par. But countless #1 's going nowhere (ending after 1 or two issues) turned many long time readers off. Seems fans like series that last about 25--100 issues. 

Malibu helped Image--I purchased and sold about 1000 copies of Youngblood #1.  The TV show Nightman came from Malibu.  I enjoyed Rune most of all though.

The new way to sell comics is Ebay, Amazon.Com and Yahoo auctions.  Among others.  Ebay is the most successful so far.

Keeping track of your collection is a full time job. There is now inventory software for organizing Comic Collections. 

I've enjoyed watching a few good "Electronic" or internet Comics at DC, and elsewhere.   But animation is still better (as far as I am concerned). Beast Wars is a really well done 3-D  cartoon originating from talents in Canada.  Beast Wars is probably the best animation being produced these days.

 Store owners didn't mind the plethora of first issues until around 1996 when new people took over at Marvel and elsewhere. Comics are a viable art form no one should take advantage of.  But retailers and fans feel they have been used.  And we resent it.

One funny footnote, Frederick Wertham, the much hated  Psychiatrist blamed for the demise of E.C. Comics and other companies during the 1950's paranoid Senate subcommittee hearings where he testified against the "violence in Horror & Crime" Comics actually found something in Comics of value a little later in his life and began publishing  Comic Book Fanzines. Yes Wertham got into Comics Fanzines and self publishing!: Wertham complemented Fanzines as a good that came out of Comics. 

Fanzines are of many types from Science Fiction to Comic Book from art-zines to zines that specialize exclusively in one genre:  Dr. Who, Star Trek, mainstream Science Fiction books etc.  There are pro-zines (published by professionals in the comic industry) and zines that are "self published" by fans.

Censorship is wrong unless it is self imposed.

D.C.'s Elseworld's stories are extremely creative and good and take comics to the next level.  Putting Superman or Batman in a unique setting in time and space isn't a new idea but the way DC executes these tales with details is usually innovative and exciting.

Where does one classify the classic Cerebus the Aardvark by Dave Sim, Reed Fleming Milkman, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or Hate Comics?

Classics Illustrated (classic literature illustrated) helped many people with time constraints pass a book report. 

Black & white Warren Magazines (Vampirella, Creepy, Eerie) from the 1960's often contained some of the best art & story for any time. Some fans are reeling still from the talent of Richard Corben (Den, Nevermore), Mike Ploog (Frankenstein), Jim Starlin (Warlock, Dreadstar), P. Craig Russell (Night Music, Elric.)  Great work hidden in Tower Comics (Wally Wood) and Charleton Comics (Ditko) too.

The unacknowledged older audience pray that Marvel and D.C. maintain as high a standard of quality as possible.  

New talent should not copy from other people's work. Draw from life and photos.  Regardless of what misinformation you may get.

      Stan and Marvel literally saved the Comic Industry from extinction during the last 35 years I feel.

Eventually fans may focus on Silver Age and Golden Age comics from the 1940's--1960's.  Or the E.C.'s from the 1950's as I did at age 15 after acquiring every Marvel and D.C. issued during the 1960's.  But one really can't outgrow comics.  Once it is in your blood it will always be in your blood.  New or now-agers would say I'm "too attached" to my possessions (comics).  Possibly so.  But a really well written nicely illustrated comic is better than watching Disney's Fantasia/Fantasia 2000 in an Isolation float tank isn't it.  

Where comics have lost it is in not keeping it a hobby.  It is such a blatant business now the fun is lost due to fear and greed.  Remember when I said one felt part of something with Marvel in the early days--"The Merry Marvel marching Society" etc.  This is very true.  People want to participate in an active way in their lives.  This is one reason costuming is so successful at Comic and Science Fiction conventions.  And one reason why Toys and Magic the Gathering and the internet comics, where you get to direct the outcome of the adventure, are so viable as hobbies.  Because instead of watching TV one gets to enter in and play to be active and to participate.

I don't mind special effects, on occasion, but they are usually not the long term answer for keeping fans satisfied. Good art and stories are essential. A Publisher can do whatever it wants. So can the "fans." Perhaps we can all agree we want comics to stick around, forever.  But we have seen the consequences of greed. Or is it maliciousness? Some people want it all. Stan use to say "put it out there and see if someone salutes." 

There are dozens of comic covers with the same face colored differently. At $2.50 a pop for redundant dreck (come on colorforms for the cover, or 13 variants of a cover--can you say greed & rip off) people are becoming either turned off to hack or much more selective. Comics cost an average of $1.95--$2.50 each. Some are issued at $3.50--$4.95 or more now. When we were kids, of course, comics cost just .10 cents to .12 cents each. The first .02 cent raise meant we had to cut back a certain number of comics. Today Action Comics #1 (where Superman first appeared in 1938) goes for $175,000.00 in -- near mint in auctions -- but was onJy $400.00 when I was 15 years old. 

I was selling Joe Kubert original Hawkman art to people on Military bases back then and then buying more comics with the profits. (See how Comics taught business, indirectly).

When comics were released I was the kid waiting to cut the plastic strip off the piles of new D.C. and Marvel comics before the manager got around to it back in 1961 at Thrifties so I could get the newest releases before anyone & pull out the most pristine "mint" issue each and every Tues. and Thurs. year after year.  Actually I was just trying to get the next issue to read and collect as soon as it was issued.  Then in 1986 when I started Ninth Nebula I started air freighting the new comics to my shop and had 500 regular weekly customers.  I also gave generous discounts.  

We grew up, married, had kids, started our own stores--we, the comic collectors of America. Whom the industry has entirely dismissed.

More & more "readers and collectors" abhor this wanton greed and unfairness in the comic book marketplace (to their pocketbooks and sense of right). They want quality not just quantity.

In a way this is where OLD Marvel really succeeded.  Marvel taught its readers to think for themselves.

Most real long term retailers find nothing wrong with investors investing in Comics or Marvel Stock, and everyone made short term money with D.C.'s two first editions of the Death of Superman.  Retailers made out quite well on Superman's Death--especially the Black Bagged version. As did Newsstands who bought them from retailers and resold them at higher amounts. Copies sell at around $25.00 now for the "black bagged edition." The day this issue was released copies sold from $5.00-- $50.00 each. Reports went as high as $250.00 for a single issue.  But there are so many titles produced that since comics are not returnable to the distributor the amount of left over inventory with any "real store" will be immense and costly.   Profits for shops are not as high as you may think.

Another super successful comic, Astro City by the author of Death of Superman and the Painted Marvel's, Kurt Busiek, was published by Image Comics. Demand rivals that of the D.C.'s acclaimed winner The Watchmen (a story of some out of shape Super Heroes who try to prevent New York and the world from getting blown up, written by English Author Alan Moore).  My favorite comic lately is the Spectre which began in the 1940's. I also love various issues of Hellblazer and Swamp Thing. Tastes vary and so do types of comics.  When one says Archie or Casper or Disney or Richie Rich that might be the only frame of reference a novice has about what is available.  Great or unique art draws me into reading the comic.  Quality matters.

At Ninth Nebula our customers were 30-50 years old and spent $3000. or more each week all year long. They'd get 30 comics all totally different from all publishers. Most customers still focus on Marvel and D.C. but Independent publishers are here to stay. Even if the name of the publisher changes as often as you change your clothes.

Mad Magazine was originally a smaller size E.C. Comic. At issue #24 Mad became an entirely black and white magazine in a larger format.  The ever popular talented humorous generous Sergio Aragones has been on TV's Bloopers and Practical Jokes and other shows and is co-creator of Groo the Wanderer (with writer Mark Evanier) started with Mad many years ago. Their Groo the Wanderer at Marvel literally had me laughing hysterically on the floor after I fell off my chair.

If you are just exploring comics for the first time be sure to check out stores that carry old and new issues.

Direct Market is strange now because there is only one real main stream distributor of comics today.  Diamond.  If you want to start a shop don't order randomly--find out what your customers will buy.  Use their order form.  There are small publishers too from whom you might be able to order directly and internet subscription services.

Other material to check out when you get into Comics reading and collecting: Comics Values Monthly (think it still exists in some form), Wizard, The Comics Buyer's Guide and The Comics Journal (Published by Fantagraphics.  Opinionated Gary Groth is the editor).  And of course the price guide Overstreet.  Which should be used as a guide but not as the bible.  Many of its advisors do not own shops or sell new comics and are not really in touch with current trends.  Beware the "newbies" (in SF circles they'd be called neo's) with their grading schemes paying $55. for a recent $3.95 X-men #1 just because it has one of their tags on it--means absolutely nothing--it's still worth a buck or two at most.  My famous saying remains:  "Buy what you enjoy--if it goes up that is an added bonus."

This "industry" will endure for all those with faith who work hard and make wise choices in ordering: Marvels, D.C.'s and Independents.

New is no longer so sacred a word. But together we can make it  so when it again deserves it. We are moving in the correct direction. Thanks Stan, you helped give the "Comic Book Generation" the ability to think, better than schools ever could. And the desire to keep on learning.

Remember we've moved from a you or me world to a you and me world.  These aren't just words but lifestyles millions of people adhere to now.  And we are not the "fringe."

I share this Truth as a service to the Comics Industry: "Wider is not better."  (Except for the car & luxury industry).  Give us quality and we will give you our money, time and attention.

As King Arthur and Stan Lee might say: "Excelsior! " Or as I might say: "Where's my Digel."

(photo was here)

One of the greatest Comics creator's--

Jack Kirby. 

"The King" At his peak he could

illustrate 500 pages a month. Most

of "us" can draw a few pages a week.




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This article is Copyright 1996, 2001, 2008 Robert Gustaveson. 

All rights reserved.

Print no part of this article without written permission from Rob Gustaveson.

Full color photos are available of Stan Lee, 

Jack Kirby, 

Steve Gerber and others.

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updated Dec. 2008