Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Buffy - Season Nine!

Whenever I get the opportunity to write about Buffy The Vampire Slayer I know I’m having a good day. As is no secret around these parts I am a huge fan of all things “BTVS” . If they could just integrate her into DC Universe Online I might never be heard from again! Well I have to admit that things have been quiet on the Buffy front for some time. The “Season 8” run of comics was entertaining but, with it’s emphasis on space ships, super powers and time travel, it just wasn’t …Buffy.

What sets BTVS apart from the likes of twilight, Vampire Diaries, True Blood is that it is NOT Gossip Girls with monsters. Buffy has always been about the arc of a young woman’s life. We started out meeting Buffy as a 16 year old high school student just coming to terms with her mission as THE Slayer while trying desperately to have a normal life with friends and relationships. During the course of the TV series we watcher grow into her early 20’s and become a powerful leader. Along the way she gained and lost things that had a lasting impact on her life.

The most wrenching loss was her mother’s death. On a show, in a genre, where death is hardly a permanent state of affairs we were slapped in the face with just how final death really is. Joyce Summers did not die from a Vampire attack or being eaten by a demon. She died from a brain aneurism. Here one moment, gone the next. She left Buffy, barely out of childhood herself, to raise her sister while still having to live up to her everyday responsibilities for saving the world. Except for the saving the world part, this is an all too common state of affairs in the real world.
This is Buffy at it’s best. An allegory for real life.

I am happy to report that Buffy has returned to her roots in “Season 9”, issue #6

Buffy is pregnant.

Buffy has decided to have an abortion.

These are serious issues in the real world and, Vampires notwithstanding, this conflict drives the narrative and will throughout “Season 9”. In issue #6 Buffy faces the fact of her pregnancy and seeks out the advice of her friends on what to do. A part of her very much wants to have this child. But how will being the child of The Slayer even work? Of course she asks the son of an actual Slayer, Robin (Principal) Woods, whose mom was Nikki Woods, a Slayer killed by Spike in New York in the late 70’s. He believes that Buffy would make a great parent despite the fact of her calling. He believes that, while HIS mother ultimately failed as a parent, Buffy will succeed. So we hear that side of the argument.

However, like many young women in the same situation, Buffy just is not ready to be a parent. So she decides to have an abortion and goes to Spike for support. Being her friend and sometimes paramour, Spike agrees to be there for her. Complicated? Yup. Not very vampire oriented.

THAT is what makes this a relevant character and universe. Like Star Trek, Buffy is less about the villain of the week than it is about ideas and people. It’s about making choices when there are NO right answers. I the original Star trek episode “A Private Little War” Kirk makes the morally ambiguous decision to arm a peaceful group of “hill people” because the Klingons have armed the “towns people” who are threatening to wipe out the entire civilization. Kirk plays a balance of power game that preserves both sides. It is the same moral dilemma that the United States was facing at the time in Viet Nam.

There was no right answer for Kirk.

There is no right answer for Buffy.

That makes great drama and compelling storytelling.

Welcome back Buffy. I missed you.

That’s 30!


Thursday, February 9, 2012

Coldfire's Laws

Some Random Comic Book Observations

My last few columns have been of the more hard core collecting nature. So this week I thought I’d just jot down some observations I have as a comic book reader. Or as I like to refer to them, Coldfire’s Laws:
Coldfire’s Law #1:

Superheroes never need to use the toilet during a fight. (or any other time now that I think of it) This may be their greatest superpower as the rest of us almost always have to pull over during long drives.

Coldfire’s Law #2

If you live in close proximity (or even on the same planet) to a Superhero, you really need to take out insurance against property damage. Don’t these guys ever take it “outside”?

Coldfire’s Law #3

Spandex looks a WHOLE lot better on Superheroes than fans. Just go to any ComicCon if you don’t believe me.

Coldfire’s Law #4

In any fight between ANY two characters, Batman wins because well… he’s the G*D D***ED Batman! Sorry Wolverine fans, live with it.

Coldfire’s Law #5

Women in comics defy gravity in more ways than one.

Coldfire’s Law #6

Aquaman gets no respect. He is the Rodney Dangerfield of superheroes.

Coldfire’s Law #7

If you collect comics long enough you WILL run out of living space. Be prepared to displace your family at a moment’s notice in order to keep your collection intact. Kicking your loved ones to the street IS cruel but would you REALLY rather get rid of your entire run of Walking Dead? Nuff said.

Coldfire’s Law #8

The citizens of Metropolis are stupid on a GALACTIC scale. How else can you explain the fact that no one has ever noticed that Clark Kent and Superman are the only men in the city with blue hair? (There are a few 70+ little old ladies and high school COS players sporting blue hair but they don’t count)

Coldfire’s Law #9

Spiderman, Batman, Daredevil and any other hero or villain who SWINGS at the end of any sort of line MUST be using a helicopter service. What else could they POSSIBLY be swinging from??

Coldfire’s Law #10

The Green Lantern Corps is the coolest Superhero Group because they have an actual BAR on OA. You never see the JLA or Avengers tossing a few back at the Galactus Bar And Grill.

Coldfire’s Law #11

“It’s Clobberin Time!” and “SNIKT!”… Timeless

“Avengers Assemble” and “Imperious Rex”…MEH… I mean seriously “Imperious Rex?” what does that even mean!?!? And how intimidating is “Assemble”? Might as well be “Avengers Mill About” or “Avengers Mingle”…sigh


That’s 30!


Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Prices HAVE gone up you know!

This past weekend I decided to archive some of my 20,000 comic books so that my wife would continue to allow me to live in the house…or actually live PERIOD! This process involved identifying books that I could pack away because they are a) from discontinued series or b) crap. I segregated the books from the active population of books, put them in new comic boxes which I then shrink wrapped and stacked neatly on a pallet in the corner of my basement. Said stack reaching nearly to the ceiling. This left me with six boxes of ‘active” comics that I would need for filing purposes as new issues were released. Nice and organized.

However, as any hard core collector will tell you, when you undertake this sort of activity you also spend a lot of time “rummaging” . So I spent as much time flipping through my collection as I did actually ding any work. During my rummaging rampage I came across a copy of the Official Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide from 1990-1991 (#20) . I began to flip through the book and here are some of the prices of key books as they were some 20 years ago:

Superman 1 $ 26,000.00
Batman 1 $ 14,500.00
Detective 27 $ 32,500.00
Amazing Spiderman 1 $ 2,750.00
Fantastic Four 1 $ 2,650.00
Archie 1 $ 2,000.00
Action 1 $ 32,500.00
Action 252 $ 360.00
X-Men 1 $ 990.00
TOS (1st Iron Man) 39 $ 875.00

Then just for kicks I reached across and grabbed a copy of the 39th edition from roughly 20 years later (We are now on Edition #41 but #39 was closer to a flat 20 years, though not exact). Here is what I found.

Superman 1 $ 440,000.00
Batman 1 $ 215,000.00
Detective 27 $ 1,500,000.00
Amazing Spiderman 1 $ 44,000.00
Fantastic Four 1 $ 52,000.00
Archie 1 $ 38,000.00
Action 1 $ 2,160,000.00
Action 252 $ 4,500.00
X-Men 1 $ 22,000.00
TOS (1st Iron Man) 39 $ 15,000.00

Bear in mind that the more current prices on Action #1 and Detective #27 reflect recent auctions. Again not EXACT numbers but pretty close.
Now check out the percentage jumps over 20 years:

Superman 1 $ 26,000.00 $ 440,000.00 1692%
Batman 1 $ 14,500.00 $ 215,000.00 1483%
Detective 27 $ 32,500.00 $ 1,500,000.00 4615%
Amazing Spiderman 1 $ 2,750.00 $ 44,000.00 1600%
Fantastic Four 1 $ 2,650.00 $ 52,000.00 1962%
Archie 1 $ 2,000.00 $ 38,000.00 1900%
Action 1 $ 32,500.00 $ 2,160,000.00 6646%
Action 252 $ 360.00 $ 4,500.00 1250%
X-Men 1 $ 990.00 $ 22,000.00 2222%
TOS (1st Iron Man) 39 $ 875.00 $ 15,000.00 1714%

Every one of these books jumped over ONE THOUSAND PERCENT in two decades. HUGE!

Does this mean that your beloved books will jump in value a thousand fold over the next 20 years? A thousand times NOT LIKELY! These were KEY books in iconic titles. In many cases these books were UNDER priced in 1990.
So what happened?

In short, the internet happened. With the proliferation of online auction sites (not just Ebay) dedicated to our hobby, these books became more available to a wider audience of prospective buyers. These auctions naturally created competition for key books and hence the price jumps. In fact the more recent prices in the tables above have actually gone UP over the past couple of years. In the case of books like Action #1 and Detective #27, every time they come to auction the values spike up even higher. And they are not the only books to see this trend. Recent auctions of Tales Of Suspense #39, Archie Comics #1 and the rest of the list have ALL seen multiples of guide value at auction.

So what else happened?

CGC happened. With the advent of professional grading services that have created an “impartial” grading system, high grade examples of these books IN CGC SLABS have resulted in huge price increases over similar grade “raw” unslabbed books.

What does this mean to the collector who wants to engage in long term investment?

You need money to MAKE money. You have a very good shot at making money over time provided you have the large amount of cash needed to actually BUY a copy of Amazing Spiderman in decent grade. Unfortunately not many of us has 40K to pony up for an old Spidey comic.

You COULD speculate on a book or books that you believe will increase over time. This has the advantage of being cheaper. But speculation is highly…speculative and you are more likely to see your comics DROP in value over time. In fact MOST comics either stay “flat” or decrease in value.

Still want to invest. Well I warned you! BUT if you must your best chance to make money is by watching and recognizing trends. Knowledge is very definitely power. Scour the auction sites and watch which books are gaining in value but still in your range. (Bronze Age books are currently enjoying a nice bump along with continued growth in Silver Age. Golden Age is SO expensive that a lot of those books are flattening out). Keep track of your own investment in terms of dollars and the SECOND you see a flattening or downward trend it is time to sell. You probably won’t realize PEAK profits but you should at least get out breaking even or even making a little.
REMEMBER you do NOT have the inside information that hard core dealers do so you are going to be a lot more reactive than they are.

Do SELL books you want to dump when that character is being featured in an upcoming or hit motion picture. The prices peak nicely as the film gets closer to release.

Do not BUY that character currently being featured in a hit movie. The price WILL drop again. (See WATCHMAN.)

Also stay away from any long term investment in MODERN AGE books. If you must speculate in them, SELL FAST. The values WILL drop quickly after a spike. Don’t believe me/ try selling that New 52 Sketch variant of Justice League #1 that was going for $250 a few months ago and see what your return is.

Speculating CAN be fun and even a little profitable. I do it myself! But I treat it kind of like a trip to Atlantic City or buying a scratch off. I never gamble with money I can’t afford to lose. So if I DO lose on a comic investment I still had fun playing the game.

Of course I have more fun…rummaging through my comics.

That’s 30!