by Christopher Lumzer
For me to honestly to talk about the aspects of being a comic geek I feel like I must tell all of you of how I became one. I must also say that we now live in an age saying that one is either a comic geek or a horror geek is still far more acceptable than being gay yet being such is gotten to almost to the point of attractiveness. Still comparing being gay to being a geek is not the topic I wish to talk about, probably not now not ever.
Back to the topic at hand.
Like most comic geeks I started as a kid, left as a teen/ early adult and came back later as an adult. For a while I did proclaim myself as a sports card hobbyist. I managed to get great deals for the old wax pack at big lots or odd lots. I spent every dime I had on those 32 pack boxes for $12 or $15. You can’t find them now because every tom dick and Mary store like wal-mart is selling the 7 card/ 9 packs per box for $30. so after seeing the start of this trend and not only seeing the bottom drop out (I e cards selling for $20 one week then the same cards go for $1 the next), being treated like nothing at the card shows I went to and seeing no thrill in the hunt and limited expansion into the hobby.
I “found” comics again roughly when the movie “unbreakable” came out. Fine you caught me it’s a lie, but “unbreakable” _was_ part of it. One part of it was back in the late 1990’s early 2000’s my favorite anime was “battle angel gunn”. Basically “battle angel gunn” was based on the Japanese manga (manga is the Japanese word for comic) that I always wished to read called “battle angel alita”. When I got the urge to look for and or read these comics “unbreakable” came out. Now in the version of “unbreakable” I seen at the start of the film a statement came up stating something along the lines of “the average comic collector has 3385 comics in their collections”. At this I sensed a challenge and an insult to my miniscule collection of, at the time, about 150 comics or so. Unknowingly the fire of being a comic geek was just light. My problem like new geeks I was just not really sure where to begin. When I declared my new found hobby to a buddy at work he happily lent me copies of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, Preacher, and Transmetropolitan. With those titles fresh in my craw and my yearning to read “battle angel” I utilized something thousands if not millions of collectors now still use: ebay. between ebay, one of the local shops in the area, and great deals gotten at yard sales and flea markets my collection now stands at a happy 3078 give or take a few.
As per where to begin for you new collector/ hobbyist/ reader/ geek, I can’t tell you. The best thing I can tell you is at least visit your local bookstore or comic shop, if you have one close by, or even your local library and look at the graphic novels. Once you find a character or title you enjoy or interests you start there. As to store your new found items for your hobby there are many ways to keep them nice and neat. There are the simplistic and cheap like bags and boards to the mildly expensive c.d. style holders which can run you bout $5 a case. There are also various types of boxes to keep the comics in: long boxes (27 inches long) and short boxes (14 inches long) and some boxes that resemble file cabinet type comic boxes, but be forewarned all these boxes are made of cardboard.
As an old hand in collecting comics I just want to let you know something. Out of all the comics printed between roughly 1980 to present day a small percentage are valued over $15 even fewer are over $100. So odds are the comic you found in the attic that is sparking your new found interest in comics probably isn’t worth that much. To know the price of the comics you either have, gotten for what you think is cheap at a yard sale or what ever is simple. just point your web browser of choice to either http://comicpriceguide.com or http://comicgradingcompany.com both offer free pricing online and for a small fee offer software that not only will help you manage your new collection but update the prices for them for fee. if you do get that one comic that is worth a couple of dollars or a comic that you wish to be kept in its current condition consider comic grading company (c.g.c. site: http://comicgradingcompany.com ) for a moderate fee of $30 they will not only grade your comic but put it in a sealed protective case complete with barcode which can be used on their online site. The c.g.c.’s rating system is between 1 to 10. 1 is the lowest possible condition (their way of saying you really paid $30 to tell you this comic is worthless) to 10 (which means the comic you graded is more than mint). To get a graded comic of 10 is utterly rare. Most comics gotten off the shelf today and sent right out might come back at around 9.7.
The main reason most comics are now valued very little. Well depending on who you talk to you might one of several responses. One tale is that the major comic companies over estimated the market and printed way too many comics for buyers to buy. Another tells is mismanagement and bad writing turned off readers. Yet another is to many companies flooded the market. Or just no one wished to read comics back then. Either way some combination of the stories is the truth.
I can hear some of you that might have not been listening, err reading, asking “where do I find/ get new or current comics?” well beyond the obvious of comic shops or the major books stores like books a million there are several. The major comic companies like marvel, dc, and Darkhorse have websites to subscribe to issues. Also please note companies like Marvel and DC have comics geared to both adults and to teens/ kids. What I mean adult I don’t mean porn I mean the adult versions might have cursing, more violence and a rare occasion a panel or 2 of nudity (mostly female). As far as used, back issues can be found at a wide variety of places like the comic shops in the area to ebay. But if you need a reliable place online I recommend mile high comics (http://www.milehighcomics.com/) or Brett’s comic pile (http://www.brettscomicpile.com/ ). I trust both sites and both are very reliable and can fill holes in your collection. Other places to find old issues are flea markets and yard sales.
A brief note on signed comics: having your comics signed by the writer, artist or both is a great way to show you met either your favorite writer or artist. Other than getting the signature from the person themselves or from any of the links here (all links here are tested, and are trustworthy). If you are unsure of a signature that someone at a vender at a flea market or yard sale is selling then don’t get it. Though a good percentage of people say that signed comics bring down the value of a comic, the comic grading company (links below) kind of agrees with this. and what I mean is the comic grading company will tell you the following party line “if one of our representatives is not there to witness the signature before the book gets sent off to get graded then we will think the signature is invalid and consider the signature as a defect. Now if one of our representatives is there, we will ignore the signature while grading and the signed book will become part of our signature series and be considered a premium graded book.”
Now that you basically know where to begin and how to start, but where can one go when you hit that wall or what might be beyond just collecting comics? Well there are loads more to get in to other than “just comics” or as some might say “comic collecting is just that comic collecting. Nothing more.” well those who say differently are wrong, very wrong.
Other than very limited edition cover runs of current comics, and common posters containing your favorite super powered heroes or villains there are items called lithographs. Litho as they are sometimes called come in varied sizes and can be and should be framed. Some differences between litho and plain old posters are as follows: litho tend to be printed on more of a thicker stock of paper or even plastic for one. Another difference is that a good percentage of lithos are limited runs in some way. Finally another difference is that sometimes lithos are sometimes sold signed by the artist. I can almost see your eyes go wide as well almost hear the questions be asked, so please let me continue to explain. There are some arguments that parallel those with the signed comic argument. Meaning there are some who in both arguments that say that the signature adds to the value and there are those who say the reverse. Personally I will tell you this one way to guarantee the signature you can either get it from the artist him or herself. the other way to guarantee that the signature is real is getting it from a very trust worthy vendors some of these vendors are dynamic forces (http://www.dynamicforces.com/htmlfiles/), the comic book legal defense fund (http://cbldf.myshopify.com/), and the hero initiative ( http://www.heroinitiative.org/) the first vendor is an highly trustworthy dealer and the other 2 are charity organization with connections all over the industry and both are highly regarded as well.
The next level to take your collections is either commissioned sketches and or page art. Now things are/ might get very expensive very fast. Let’s start with page art first before we go into sketches, for ending with sketches will make an easier lead in to the next topic. What can one really say about page art? Loads this is one part of the whole comic hobby that can make your collection truly unique. Why unique? Well what you get is truly one of a kind. Instead of having an issue that is part of a printing of several hundred thousand or million. Or a litho that might be part of a printing of several hundred or several thousand what you buy is quite literally one of its kind. Up to the mid to late 1990’s page art was very hard to come by, even at conventions (will get to conventions in a few). Now with the internet dealers like Albert Moy (http://www.albertmoy.com/) and the artist’s choice (http://theartistschoice.com/) or artists having more access to their art to sell page art is at least easier to find. Just doing a Google search for “original comic art” brings up a total 10 million plus hits. To figure out if the page you wish to buy on either ebay or through a dealer is real, stolen or counterfeit, trustworthy or other just ask the artist. Most artists now have a facebook page or an official website so asking is a hop, click and a send away. As per what to buy and how much it may cost will very. The simple “math” is location, location, location. The complex “math” is thus: what character(s) are on the page? Is the page a cover? Who drew the page? Who you’re buying the page from? How long has it been for sale? Where are you buying the page? And in some cases when are you buying the page? All factors into the page’s price. Meaning a cover or page with batman and the joker or Spider-Man will fetch more than one with just Bruce Wayne or peter parker. As per the rest it depends of the factors like if you get the art at a convention or through a dealer. If you’re getting page art though an artist sometimes if you ask ‘how much?’ on the last day of a show or he or she has been trying to sell that page for a while you might get a great deal on the page, and you can get the page signed. I must tell you that page art can go for as little as $20 and as high as $50,000 or more. Also add to the fact that those of us geeks that picked up few years ago for cheap have seen the values go up. Over all the basic advice for those of you that wish to buy page art I say this: if you can get the page you want for a price you can afford. Then do so and frame it. also to those up and coming artists who wish to start to sell their page art I say this: if your still selling an issue for $5 each and your printing runs are less than 1000 don’t price your page art at $300 or more. If the art is not scanned in than at least politely say that you’re holding off selling so you have a portfolio to show and thank the person for showing interest in your art. Also if you indie artists do this to give potential buyers the feeling your somebody. Stop it because there are most of us who know your trying to pull a scam and we will talk other and tell who is naughty and nice.
Now we come to sketches. Sketched is also another fun way to add to your collection. Most of the time finding your favorite artist on the web or on facebook and asking for a sketch is a start. Just beware of 2 things: 1) there are some scammers and artists that are fraudulent to get an idea of those who are con artists in the comic art community look up comic art fraud database on facebook (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Comic-Art-Fraud-Database/101971976553897) 2) depending on the size of the sketch. How detailed you wish the sketch to be. How busy said artist is. How often the artist does sketches. And how popular the artist is. You sketch could cost you as little as $10 to $200 if not more. The upside is your sketch will be one of a kind.
Now all this leads up to the following and last topic. Conventions! Yay conventions! As a geek I say every fan should go to at least one. Not sure of one near you just wonder over to convention scene’s website (http://www.conventionscene.com/) to see if there is a convention or show near you. Put a comic geek, fan, collector or hobbyist in a decent comic convention with at least a few dollars is basically like putting a kid with a sweet tooth in a candy shop with a few dollars and telling them both to go hog wild. For those of you going to a convention for the first time I will say this: going to a convention for the first time ever is like having sex for the first time ever. what I mean is that you can look at the photos, read articles bout what to do, watch the videos, and listen to people tell you bout it. But nothing really prepares you for walking through the doors or your first sexual encounter. Hey there might even be a mess the first time, and some crying. now at comic conventions you can meet both writers and artists of not only your favorite mainstream books but discover loads of indie books out there that just as good as the mainstream comics on the market. Some comic conventions have media guests from movies to television shows and more. Some of the best things about conventions are not only can you go practically broke and get a bunch of stuff, but find all the stuff I mentioned above and more at these conventions. though you can find some and do find great deals there are also some companies even give you free stuff (called swag) from books based on games to free issues to buttons, to even key chains and t-shirts and video games and movies. If you are a first time convention goer there are several things you must know.
First thing is bring enough cash to get there, admission, parking and home. Keep this money not only separate but hidden, if need be. The last thing you need to happen is to spend everything you have once you’re there and have not only no money for gas to get home but no cash to get your car out of the parking garage.
Since for the most of the day you’re going to be on your feet make sure you are wearing comfy shoes, sneakers are the best.
A decent backpack or satchel for the stuff you either get, bring or both. For most people a backpack will do. A simple cheap one will do. Trust me when I say if you have enough cash you can quite literally leave with a trunk full of stuff.
If you’re going to be there for a few days don’t forget to bathe. The last thing anyone wants is to smell either your or someone else’s stink while in line.
Though getting food or drink at a convention can be fairly pricey, and most if not all convention centers either frown or disallow outside food or drink. There are always a way round that. Though like I said most convention centers disallow outside food or drink, they might not mind too much if you have a bottle of water with you. Food on the other hand is different. Though food that can be easily hidden like crackers, beef jerky, pop tarts, or basically food that can fend off hunger until you can get out of line and to a restaurant or fast food joint can be different. Sharing with others in line is optional but can be beneficial for later or to make quick conversation for the slow lines
Mind your “p”s and “t”s is next. What I mean is your please and thank yours. Trust me basic courtesy and politeness can and does go a very long way a at conventions.
Create a checklist of what you wish to get, to see, or do at the convention. You don’t have to get everything on the list but it’s always nice to have something handy to remind you what to keep an eye out for.
As far as planning and funds are concerned. Plan for everything up to the moment the convention starts and after the convention ends, because once the convention starts odds are you plan is going to take a dive quickly. Meaning you have plans stretching for each day of the convention sometimes you can complete everything you wished to do in a day. And sometimes depending on either who’s running the convention, the celebrity’s handler or other can toss your plan to the dogs faster than you can say “salt shaker”. As per funds you can go into a convention with as little as nothing and have as much fun as if you went in with $1000. Just take head of what I said earlier bout saving funds bout getting home or heck spending your food money on that one item you always wanted then having to go hungry for 3 days cause of it. If anything leave your atm card or charge card at home if possible. That way you don’t have to run the risk of using rent, bill or food money at the convention. A great idea is to set up a travel/ convention account and another bank and toss extra funds or travel money into it that way you can always bring that atm card with you and that money is separate.
Don’t forget the panels. Panels are usually question and answer sessions put on by the convention, and they could be about anything and everything. Panels are more than just can be useful information sessions. They can be a great way to get off your feet for bout an hour or 2 and get organized. If you do this just sit in the back and keep the noise down low so others can pay attention. Now depending on how slow the convention might be sometimes you can have a great question and answer or discussion session with an artist or writer on the show floor. There have been times when I’ve been getting sketches or signatures on something and general chat leads into a drawing lesson or a talk about said person’s new project and more.
While you’re at the convention don’t forget to visit, say “hi” to the artists and writers there and get your comics and other stuff signed. Though there are some that would tell you that artists won’t or rarely do a quick sketch, yet I am here to tell you a good percentage will. The percentage is roughly bout 65% though but it doesn’t seem high but it’s way better than the 5% that those neigh savers will tell you. It just depends on the artist, the time of day you show up and how many people are behind you.
If and when you go for signatures, there are several options open for you. The standard for just plain old autographs is comics. But what if you don’t have the comic or the funds to get the comic and still wish to get something signed? Well just think outside the box. The following items can be used for signatures but for a few sketches as well. First item is the matt side of the boards used in the bag and board pair to protect comics. Just remember to let the signature(s) and or sketches dry first before putting the board back in the bag. Also the boards can be easily framed. The next item is the convention program. About 95% of all conventions give out a program of some sort, and there are tons of them. So snagging a few extra to get signed and still use one for convention planning. Lastly sketch books are also great for both sketches and signatures. The downsides to sketch books are: 1) if you getting sketches then you have to give up that book until it is done. 2) Next is sketch signature bleed. Because both the artists and writers use sharpies (a type of marker) and drawing pens sometimes the ink from them bleeds through. To prevent this keep a simple piece of scrap of paper in the book, and just remember to put the paper right behind the last page to help stop bleed. 3) sketch books can run from $10 on up, and can be found at any craft store and Wal – Mart.