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Comic Con: Spelunking Cons for Comic Gold
Cons are cornucopias of dealers
By Joel Rickenbach
July 13, 2012
This weekend is the mighty Comic Con in San Diego de Alcalá, and it got me thinking about the hunt for good comics at fire sale prices that is one of the joys of attending such shindigs. I’m not going to Comic Con this year, but that’s ok, there are hundreds of smaller and more local cons for all of us to attend throughout the summer, and the hunt for quality funny books is on no matter where you go. Con logic usually goes something like this- Dealers could care less about single issues these days, so they have long boxes full of new and back issues for incredibly low prices- 25 cents each/4 for $1, or new issues for well below the average $3.99 cover price. Dealers also go crazy liquidating their back stock of trades, so you can often find deals that will score you some hefty tomes for 50% off or more, and some of the older stuff can be had for a song.
Cons are cornucopias of dealers offering everything under the sun like a Persian bazaar, so I can by no means cover, or even speculate, on the treasures you may find or be looking for, but I can throw out some ideas that will hopefully make your eyes and mind happy campers as you sit down to take stock of your Con war chest. I’d love to hear suggestions from fellow Maniacs, and hear what all of you end up picking up during your adventures this summer. Have at it!
A Vs X: (Avengers Vs X-men, AvX Vs, Avengers, Secret Avengers, New Avengers, Uncanny X-Men, X-men Legacy etc.)- Sure, there’s a ton of tertiary books, and most people want to “Wait for the trades”, but that’s like saying you’ll wait to see Avengers on DVD. Get in the “Now” and do it on the cheap!
Court of Owls: (Batman, Nightwing, Detective Comics etc.) The Dark Knight Rises is right around the corner, and I know you are jonesing for some Batman. The current “Court of Owls” story arc wraps up with this week’s Batman #11 and it’s a doozy! Just like A Vs X- Hop on the train, and do it for less!
House of M: (Marvel Comics, 2005)If the last few issues of A Vs X are any indication, House of M may become even more important to the fabric of the Marvel universe. This was a fun, alternate reality summer crossover with some cool character re-imaginings. You can get the trades, or the single issues for pennies I imagine.
One of the cool thing about collecting comics is you don’t just have to collect books or characters, you can collect a creator’s work as well. I picked two favorites whose work you might enjoy digging up.
Darwyn Cooke- The top of the heap in my opinion, everything he does is gold. If you like his current run on Before Watchmen: Minutemen, then you would do well to check out some of this great stuff:
Batman: Ego (DC Comics, 2000) A very cool elseworlds tale, and one of Cooke’s first major works
Catwoman #1-4 (DC Comics, 2001) The start of the modern, goggle-wearing Catwoman, and it’s written by my other creator pick- Ed Brubaker!
Spider-Man’s Tangled Web #11, #21 (Marvel, 2002, 2003) Two wonderful stand alone Spidey tales that flew under most people’s radar. Do yourself a favor, find these, they’ll probably cost you 50 cents.
DC: The New Frontier (DC Comics, 2004) Cooke’s masterpiece. Whether in trade, in Absolute hardcover, or in single issue format, this is a “must” of the highest order.
The Spirit #1-6, #8-12 (DC Comics, 2006) Cooke takes on Will Eisner’s legendary creation and makes it look easy.
Richard Stark’s Parker: The Hunter, The Outfit, The Score (IDW Comics, 2009-Present) Cooke adapts the hard-boiled/noir tales of Richard Stark, and the results are nothing short of stunning. All are smaller hardcovers, and will be the bright spot of anyone’s collection. Retail price is $24.99 for each, but I bet you can do better!
Ed Brubaker- Pound for pound the best writer in comics? Quite possibly. I’m thinking some of his early and creator-owned stuff may have passed people by, now is the time to fix that oversight:
The Fall: (Drawn and Quarterly, 2001) A fascinating tale of a man who gets entangled in a 10 year old unsolved murder after he uses a stolen credit card.
Batman #582-586, #591-607: (DC Comics, 2000-2002) Back in the early 2000’s, Ed Brubaker and Greg Ruka were on fire telling tales in Gotham city, and some of Brubaker’s work definitely inspired Scott Snyder’s current New 52 Batman. Issues #601-602 are particularly great.
Catwoman #1-10, 12-37: (DC Comics, 2002-2005) Brubes (as we call him) redefines Catwoman for the modern era. Fantastic stuff.
Gotham Central #1-5, 11-16, 19-22, 26-27, 33-36: (DC Comics, 2003) Maybe the best book DC has published in the last 20 years. Every issue, even the non-Brubaker stuff, is as good as it gets.
Scene of the Crime: (Vertigo, 1999) A cool tale of a missing girl, an art gallery and a new wave cult.
Captain America (vol. 5) #1-50, (vol. 1) #600-619, (vol. 6) #1-current: (Marvel, 2005-Present) As I mentioned in my 4th of July column- Brubaker’s run on Captain America is the best in the character’s entire history. Whether by hook or by crook, get yourself some Brubaker Cap!
Incognito #1-6, Bad Influences #1-5: (Marvel Icon, 2008-2011) A pulp inspired tale of a former villain in the witness protection program, who is required to take power-blocking drugs. It becomes an era-spanning tale that has a fresh take on a super hero universe.
Criminal (vol. 1) #1-10, (vol. 2) #1-7, The Sinners #1-5: (Marvel Icon, 2006-2010) Can you tell Brubaker likes crime? His takes on the genre are worth every second you spend trying to seek them out.
The Strange Talent of Luther Strode: (Image Comics 2011-2012) A nerd sends away for a Charles Atlas style bodybuilding kit from an old comic. It works well, too well, and the violent craziness only starts there.
Fear Agent: Re-Ignition, My War, Along Came a Spider, Last Goodbye, Hatchet Job, I Against I: (Dark Horse Comics, 2005-Present) Rick Remender thinks Sci-Fi has “lost it’s stones”, so he gifted us with Heath Huston, an alcoholic “Fear Agent” who has Balls to the wall Sci-Fi/Horror adventures.
Hellboy/BPRD: (Dark Horse Comics, 1993-Present) There are so many Hellboy and BPRD trades for you to discover it’s almost daunting, but any of them will be worth your time and money. Once you dip your toes into the Hellboy universe there’s no going back. Recent favorites of mine are BPRD: 1946 and BPRD: 1947. Also, don’t forget the Sir Edward Grey, Lobster Johnson and Baltimore books!
Casanova: Luxuria, Gula and Avarita: (no trade yet, but find those issues!) (Image and Marvel Icon 2006-Present) Matt Fraction’s mind-bending tale of world-class thief Casanova Quinn, who gets "blackmailed into being a pawn and double agent in a global game of super-espionage”. Casanova also features gorgeous art by the brothers Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon.
Northlanders: (Vertigo, 2007-2012) Recently cancelled by Vertigo, and it’s a shame, because Northlanders is one of the most interesting and original comics in recent memory. A wonderful Viking-age anthology tale by Brian Wood. Any of the collected trades will serve you well.
Green Wake: Vol.1 and Vol. 2 Lost Children: (Image Comics 2011-Present) Great horror tale by writer Kurtis J. Wiebe and artist Riley Rossmo. The small forgotten town of Green Wake has secrets worth uncovering.
Blue Estate: Vol.1 and Vol.2: (Image comics 2001-Present) Viktor Kalvachev’s crazy, cool world of Hollywood crime, sleaze, sex and seduction. Each issue features a jam session of artists that keep the visuals on their toes to match the pace of the story. Fun and dark times ahead.
I’ve covered these in my weekly Comicscape column, but I figured it would be a good idea to give the Maniacs a refresher. None of these have trades yet, so get off your arse and stop waiting.
Saga #1-4 (Early contender for Comic of the year)
Peter Panzerfaust #1-5 (A cool, original tale that’s like “Red Dawn meets Peter Pan”) America’s got Powers #1-2
The Secret History of D.B. Cooper #1-4
The Massive #1-2
Action Comics #775 (Perhaps the single best issue of the modern era…)
Mania’s Comic Scavenger Hunt:
Some people just need a mission. The thrill of the hunt is enough for them, regardless of their prey. I’ve got two “hunts” for you Con-goers if you love stalking the dealer’s long boxes. They’re even a two-fer since both books are fantastic, and worth your effort.
Mike Mignola’s Dracula #1-4: (Topps Comics, 1992) When Francis Ford Coppola unleashed his adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula in 1992, Topps Comics put out a four-issue companion comic by Writer Roy Thomas and soon to be legend Mike Mignola. Believe it or not- this tie-in book remains some of Mike Mignola’s best work, period. I personally love Coppola’s Dracula, but even if you don’t it’s worth it just for the art. If I remember correctly they came polybagged with collectable cards (It was Topps, after all), so if you can find them still bagged you get some serious bonus points.
Spider-Man’s Tangled Web #4 “Severance Package”: (Marvel Comics, 2001) You’ve heard me say Action Comics #775 is the best issue of the modern era, but if there were a contender to the throne, this issue would be it. Writer Greg Ruka and artist Eduardo Risso spin a tale about what it’s like to be in the employ of the Kingpin. Spidey is barely in it, but is directly responsible for the events of the story. An absolute must read.
BONUS! The Frankenstein Dracula War #1-3: (Topps Comics, 1995) A continuation of the Mignola Dracula recommendation, Topps produced this “VS” series with writer Roy Thomas, but Mike Mignola only did the covers. However, the covers are freaking gorgeous, and feature Mignola tackling Dracula and Frankenstein. You can get them for nothing, and they’re suitable for framing!
Good luck, Con attendees, we salute you, and expect a full report of your findings!