Mainstream News Site Encourages Comic Speculators Rather than Readers


 

Marketwatch is writing on the subject of the speculator market, and all those valuable first issues of the times gone by:

 

When Mark Michaelson purchased what he considered the holy grail of comic books — Superman No. 1, dating from 1939 — he wasn’t thinking about it as an investment. Instead, the comics fan says he bought it from a private collector in 1979 for somewhere between $1,000 and $2,000 simply because he wanted it.

“Everyone sets a little goal for themselves,” said Michaelson, a Houston resident who has worked as a health-care executive.

Michaelson’s goal is now likely to result in a huge payoff. The comic is currently up for auction and is already receiving bids above $2 million. The online event, which is being run by auction house ComicConnect, ends Thursday.

Such eye-popping figures are becoming the norm in the comic-book world. This year has already seen sales of $3-million plus for two comics — an Amazing Fantasy No. 15, from 1962, which features the first appearance of Spider-Man, went for $3.6 million and an Action Comics No. 1, from 1938, which features the first appearance of Superman (before the character had his own book), went for $3.25 million.

 

But we’ve heard all this before, and it’s a poor substitute for the importance of reading and judging a comic by its own merits story-wise. That this is a financial site is no excuse. Why must these collectors go out of their way to buy a ton of expensive back issues they won’t even read so much as “slab” in plastic casings, but not buy a lot of the paperback/hardcover archives reprinting the same, and take the time to read through them?

 

Various factors are playing into the comic-book boom, industry experts say. Some note that even as the stock market surges, investors are looking for tangible assets, especially given all the financial uncertainty caused by the pandemic. Stephen Fishler, chief executive of ComicConnect and its affiliated Metropolis Collectibles, an online shop, said the U.S. may be printing more money to reduce the blow of the health crisis, but “they’re not creating more Superman No. 1s.”

Another critical element is the growing popularity of comic-book characters in the broader entertainment world. Hardly a month goes by that doesn’t see the release of a major superhero flick with a prominent cast. Coming up this Friday from Columbia Pictures and Marvel Studios: Spider-Man: No Way Home, starring Tom Holland, Zendaya, Marisa Tomei and Benedict Cumberbatch, among others.

 

And this is such a cliche as well. Mainly because the popularity already did grow in the past 2 decades, but the reporter apparently goes by Orwellian memory loss tactics, something a lot of PC advocates also do when it comes to representation by women and racial backgrounds in the medium these days. And again, if the Eternals movie’s poor showing is any suggestion, it could be on its way down again.

 

With Hollywood so invested in the success of these pictures, it only stands to reason the characters will remain as relevant as ever, says Fishler. “Superman is not going to disappear,” he said.

 

This obscures recent misfortunes with political correctness that may tarnish the Man of Steel’s image in more ways than one, like the Tom Taylor-penned Son of Kal-El spinoff, with its focus on homosexuality, another PC cliche nobody in the wider press wants to question. Has it occurred to anybody this could put a whole cloud over the brand, discouraging a lot of more sensible people from celebrating a once cherished sci-fi icon? Not the MSM, that’s for sure.

 

 

In a similar news item, I also found this report on the LA Times site about a specialty store in Orange County called Comics, Toons & Toys, that’s been around for over 3 decades, and they told the following:

 

Comic books have long been associated with nerdom as a hobby that was decidedly uncool. But in more recent years the Orange County comic-book-collecting community has seen an increase in interest.

“There is a huge community here in Orange County who collect comic books,” said James Gurrola, store manager at Torpedo Comics in Irvine. “And it just keeps growing every year too.”

 

I should note that even today, as a writer for the Miami Herald once made clear, it’s still considered uncool. After all, why would somebody make statements intended to make it sound as though not just an entire fanbase and many famous veterans is comprised of racists and sexists, but also the stories and content en masse were too? Such an approach is also hurtful to moviegoers, as it can make them out to sound the same. Do most specialty businesses and movie theater managements approve of propaganda that’s hurtful to them along with their clientele? They may want to consider. Especially if PC advocates aren’t as interested in protesting modern contributors with questionable conduct as they are past ones.

 

 

And does the sum of collectors really keep building up every year? To be sure, it’d depend mostly on how good the finished product in question is, or should. Yet the answers remain unclear. Now, here’s something telling about how the store takes its approach to business:

 

“We are more of a collectibles store,” said Gurrola. “We are not a traditional comic book store with new books and back issues. We mostly sell graded books, so more of a curated selection.”

Books are graded on a scale of 1 to 10, by a reputable company that appraises the comic book to make sure it’s legitimate, gives an evaluation of the condition of it, and then encapsulates it to keep it preserved.

“It is kind of like you have a piece of history right there,” Gurrola said.

Comic book collecting hasn’t always been regarded with such reverence, however.

“When I was a kid, if you were into comic books you were a dork,” said Felipe Zelay, a comic book collector who buys and sells comic book collections on Instagram under the handle, @flipmode_comics. “But now it’s like everybody is into these characters.”

 

If they believe collectibles is far better than reading itself, it’s dismaying. That’s not what a business built around reading material should be all about. Ludicrous. Besides, most Hollywood studios aren’t into the characters out of true love, but rather, money. And there’s still a lot of moviegoers who’ll see every live action film (but no animation, if at all), but won’t read any comics the films are based on. Oh, and look who used to work at the store at one point in its past history of business:

 

And like any iconic establishment, it’s not without it’s lore.

“The guy who created Deadpool originally worked here, Rob Liefeld,” said collector Peter Swanson, while picking up his pull at TNT on Wednesday.

 

And that’s a great thing? Considering what an embarrassment his early artwork was, and there’s hardly ever been much improvement, I don’t see what’s so great about this. Just because such characters were later adapted into movies too? Sorry, it’s just not changing anything. But most filmmakers are probably confident nobody will care about the comics Liefeld illustrated and discover how depressingly bad his style was, right down to the very derivative approach to character design, and that must be their reasoning for associating with his stuff at all.

 

The increase in comic books’ popularity can partly be attributed to movies and television shows helping to bring the culture to mainstream audiences.

“The Marvel movies and TV shows and streaming services are an immense part of the industry now,” said Kadin.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe, which is owned by Disney, released its 26th film, “Eternals,” this year and it’s fifth television series, “Hawkeye,” in November. There are more than 20 projects planned over the next two years, including “Thor: Love and Thunder” and “Black Panther 2.”

“Literally, almost weekly or monthly there is a new commercial airing for this industry,” said Kadin. “I don’t necessarily feel it is bringing in a new audience but it is keeping the audiences that are involved with it, invested.”

Although Kadin admits when “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” came out and “Wonder Woman” hit, new fans came into TNT looking for books.

Zelay said sometimes the movies can drive up prices.

“A lot of people who have never been into comic books before are coming in, because these movies have mainstreamed these comic books and now everyone wants to get a piece of the first appearance of Iron Man, or the first apprentice of Thor,” said Zelay. “It drives the value of the comic book much higher, so it makes it much more expensive to buy.”

 

This is a groaner, based on the store’s conduct of collectibles for sale. So they’re not interested in reading the classic material, just buying ancient back issues for the monetary value to be treasured. Based on the decidedly ambiguous part about not necessarily drawing in new audience, how do we know they’re doing as well in business as claimed? If anything, it’s just plain confusing. No mention of how the Eternals film fared poorly either.

 

Some collectors, like Jimmy Farias, a comic book collector since 1979, don’t mind the shift to the big screen.

“It is great that they have advanced to the cinema, because nowadays with the special effects and everything, they can actually represent the characters the way the books do,” Farias said. “You are not seeing this herky-jerky flying and what not. The cinema brings them to life, and then it brings readers in to find out how good the books really are.”

 

Even if modern special effects are a vast improvement over the old, it makes little difference, because today, the huge problem is how the FX have taken precedence over talented acting. Why, it’s practically gotten to the point where studios don’t even bank on recognizable talent and stars anymore. Ironically, that’s what the comic publishers do when hiring people like J. Michael Straczynski to write their products, but it’s based more on built-in fanbases for the writers following them to whatever they work on, not the characters/series, and not on the merit the hired writers bring to the table (or lack thereof). And is the above interviewee talking about readings attending the film theaters, or moviegoers going the opposite? Or, do these people realize most mainstream books today simply aren’t good, no matter what most apologists for Marvel/DC will tell when they gush over a PC-laden book in review?

 

Gurrola said the movies have inspired a younger generation of comic book fans and creators.

“It has brought a lot of younger people back into it,” Gurrola said, “and there are a lot of new books that are coming out that are written by younger people too.”

“Something is Killing Children,” written by James Tynion is being developed into an original series for Netflix, for example, Gurrola said.

 

Gee, thanks for telling us what’s up with a comic written by a disgraceful ideologue who desecrated Martin Nodell and Bill Finger’s famous Golden Age creation, Green Lantern Alan Scott. If the planned TV show’s written for Netflix, it’s better to avoid it. And have the movies really inspired a whole new generation? Here’s the problem: whoever’s being hired by mainstream today often turns out to be an ideologue, and some recent indie stories by establishment-leaning types are so laced with darkness and grisly elements, it’s clear something’s wrong.

 

People certainly have different reasons for collecting.

“There are people who love and enjoy it and do it simply out of that,” said Kadin, “and then there are people who also want to monetize off it.”

“For me it’s both the art and stories,” said Farias. “Sometimes the art doesn’t match the stories, sometimes the story is better and sometimes it’s the other way around. But they are fun to read.”

 

Well at least now, we’re getting to a better part in this piece, if somebody says the art and story merit matters. But it doesn’t change the fact that the store in focus seems to be more about collectibles proper than about convincing people why the medium is worth reading, and come to think of it, why animation for adults with more sophisticated storytelling is worth watching.

 

Swanson said he enjoys the stories but also the thrill of maybe finding a treasure.

“There is a speculation factor that books may increase in value as soon as a day after buying them. It is not super common but it kind of gives it a little bit of excitement, kind of like buying stocks,” said Swanson.

 

What a joke. There’s only so many, from even just a few decades ago, that were never offered a high price in selling on the speculator market, which caused the collapse of the industry in the mid-90s. If the books can be worth something, it’d only be several decades after they were bought, to be sure, at a time when most collectors are surely well into an octogenarian age, and what good would it do then, other than help pay for elderly aid? This is another example demonstrating why I firmly believe the pamphlet format has to be abandoned, because it’s only leading to potentially corrupting situations, or driving everybody out of their minds with delusions of becoming wealthy overnight. Alas, it’s not going to happen, and the pamphlet issues in question would be better served being put on display in museums where everybody can see them. The same goes for a lot of artwork proper. Yet we see only so many continuing down the path of obsession with collection for profit, not reading value, and it hurts the medium badly.

 

 

Originally published here.


Avi Green

Avi Green was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. He enjoyed reading comics when he was young, the first being Fantastic Four. He maintains a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy of facts. He considers himself a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. Follow him on his blog at Four Color Media Monitor or on Twitter at @avigreen1

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