Like many adults, I've rediscovered one of my old hobbies: comic book collecting. Fifty percent nostalgia, fifty percent DC Comics The New 52. I'm back in the thick of things. Granted, some things have changed. I can now store my comics on my iPad instead of long boxes. There are fewer holofoil chase covers (man, holofoil was on everything in the 1990s). Most things are the same, though. Spider-Man's still a young adult with real young-person problems. Batman's still Batman. There are still comic book shops to browse, and the guy behind the counter is pretty much the same guy running the shop except now he's wearing a sweet Bazinga! shirt instead of a badass, faded dragon/wizard illustration.
For just a few bucks a month, I can pick up some of the best writing out there today. The comic book writers today grew up sketching their own superheroes in wide-ruled notebooks or tying a towel around their neck and running around the yard with arms stretched out. This wasn't just a job, but a dream come true for them. Plus, Comic books are Americana, our history as well. Comic books aren't just stories being told; they're our stories. Stretched one way or another, comic books are an expression of us, how we see our society, and inevitably who we are—or should be—in the end.
Most of us here at Cryptozoic are either current or lapsed comic book collectors. We even have our own comic book library in the Dragon's Den.
Some are "completists." If I'm going to collect something, I have to have it all. Front to back, beginning to end. In the early 90s, that meant buying every issue of Gen 13. I wanted the entire story. And each time I bought a book, I bought two copies—one to read, one to store. With one pre-teen brother in the house and random Jolt cola cans around my room, my read copies were always at risk. But, I could put aside a long box of immaculate, forever perfect comic books. Now, it's one digital copy on comiXology and if I really love a piece, I head to the local comic shop to buy the physical copy. The convenience of the digital format is great. It's much easier to pack one iPad than it is multiple bound tomes of comic goodness. Yet, I still like the touch, the feeling of ownership when it comes to physical books. And I still get my immaculate, forever perfect comic books. Right now, I'm reading Green Lantern and catching up on the 15 or so years of comic books that I missed out on during my intense gaming stint in life. I've picked up Transmetropolitan, as well as the latest Daniel Clowes stuff.
Others around the office just want the best of the best. It makes sense, right? They'll seek out the best vintage covers and stories for their favorite super heroes (or villains). They want the crème ala crème. The more rare, the better the steak. They're after individual copies, stuff from the Golden Age or Silver Age of comics. You know, the graded stuff. Not necessarily what's hot on the streets at any given time, but the kind of stuff where people use the term "grail". They're chasing the stuff that, when it goes up on eBay or is advertised for an auction, it makes the news. Sometimes referenced as "investment grade", these are worth big bucks. A graded 9.0 Action Comics #1, the first appearance of Superman, sold for $2.16 million last year. Even a Spider-Man #2 is the price of a new economy car if you can find it in pristine condition.
I gawked at a few collections in the office. Cory Jones has bookcases filled with hardcover collected editions. John Nee has tons of original art in his office from his time managing WildStorm. Those were both great, but I must say that Kyle Heuer has the best collection in the office. Valiant Comics recognizes him as one of their biggest fans, as he has one of the most complete collections in the world.
He's also a huge X-Men fan, owning large, complete story arc collections from the 1980s. The crown jewel of his collection is X-Men #4. And what's his new favorite comic? Why, it's The Lookouts! Kyle made sure to work The Lookouts event at Comic Con where he got his Comic Con exclusive variant cover signed and sketched. The graded one just came back. 9.9! Why not a 10? Technically, signed or altered books cannot be perfect. But hey, we all know the signature and sketch take this book to 11.
If you're still gaping in awe at that cover, you'll have to hit up the secondary market since that was a Comic-Con exclusive. But, we do have another great cover that's a convention exclusive, and you can find issue 2 at your local comic shop later this month. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go pick up Transmetropolitian #2 and browse eBay for my own copy of X-Men #4. That cover, man. That cover.