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The issue was Youngblood #1 by Rob Liefeld. It was Image Comics first released title and the hype surrounding it was unlike anything you’d ever heard before. Casual people could be heard boasting that this would be the book that in years to come, would get them that brand new car or a down payment for a house. Ludicrous, right? Of course. But what was even worse, was the “true” collectors who should have known better yet fell for the hype. And yes, that is egg on my face.
The day that Youngblood was released, the cover price was two dollars and fifty cents. A bit pricey for the times, but understandable. After all, this was Youngblood #1, an instant classic by a rockstar creator and in a few months time, this book would be worth at least twenty five bucks or more. So I was willing.
Now that day, I headed to my LCS and to my disappointment, they had bumped up the price of the book to five bucks a pop. “Supply and demand” is what that biker shorts wearing, jheri curled owner claimed. So as I stood there, debating if I should buy, a pimply faced kid in army shorts and a black MEGADEATH shirt slipped in and grabbed the last copy! Ugh! I thought the world had just ended right there and then.
Luckily, or so I thought, the owner told me to come back tomorrow, cause he might be able to get his hands on one for me. Cool, I thought as I left to go do something else a teenager did in my day, like waste quarters on Street Fighter or pick up on girls.
And then the next day came. I got up early and I headed to see my “Dealer.” I walked in the store, fingers crossed, praying that he found me a copy. And then I saw it. His display case had a dozen or so copies in Mylars and the price tag… “twenty dollars!” That asshole! He must have had more in the back, waiting to bring them out after the first stock he put out had sold out just so he could raise the price! Ugh!!! I cannot put into words how I felt at that moment so maybe, just maybe, this will help you all understand.
That was my first real exposure to the ugly side of comic book collecting. You see, before then, owners did speculate about which comics would go up in value, as did us buyers, but it was on a few books, not the insane amount that collectors do now. After all, speculating and then watching the comic books you bought rise in value was half the fun. Heck, there were Comic Book Price Guides like OverStreet Price Guide and Comics Valued Monthly that were just as cherished as your favorite comic books were.
Never the less, I continued collecting comics, falling for the speculator traps like Superman #75, the Death of Super-man or the numerous and numerous gimmick covers that flooded the market during the 90’s. But if you asked me then if I thought the market would crash, a loud, “Hell No!” would have thundered from my lips. Even “Stone Cold” Steve Austin what have been proud of me.
After all, this was the 90’s and everything was thriving. The internet and all the start up companies were booming… jobs were available for everyone… wrestling shows were breaking rating records on Cable… and the value of contracts for sports figures were soaring. The golden skies were ahead for all.
And then the Comic book bubble burst. Loudly!
I won’t get into the details, cause they’ve been discussed and dissected from here to Asgard and back so much that we all know the story and we’ve all learned a lesson or two.
Or have we?
Today, I watch with trepidation as the comic book industry seems to mirror how the industry was back in the 90’s… and that’s not a good thing.
Look what’s going on at Ebay. A book you could normally have bought for a dollar or two is now are being priced at five bucks and higher with shipping that ranges from the understandable seven dollars to the crazy twelve dollars. You could wind up paying a bit under twenty bucks for a book you should’ve been paying far less for.
But it’s not just EBay sellers as well. Have you been to your LCS or dealers warehouse like FRANK N SONS lately? Try getting a good deal. It’s almost impossible. Comics are so overpriced that it would be so funny if it were so sad. Dealers are in the GREED ZONE at the moment and that’s not a good thing.
But how can you only blame the sellers? After all, a book is only worth what someone is willing to pay and sadly, there’s a lot of new collectors who didn’t live through the first bubble burst and are repeating the same mistakes that a dumb, wet behind the ears teenager like me once made.
And there’s the speculation. Did we not learn from our mistakes? Any book with even the smallest connection to a comic book movie is immediately price hiked and valued like it’s made out of gold. It’s really frustrating to see a book valued at maybe four books then the next day valued at twenty bucks, because the book has some connection to a comic book movie or television show. Sigh. But again, sellers may price them at incredibly ridiculous prices, but collectors are buying them, thinking that the value of the book will only increase.
But is the fault just the Dealers and Buyers? No. Not by a long shot. Remember, the Comic Book companies did contribute to the first bubble burst and they’re contributing now. Yeah, they’ll never learn.
Here’s a few ways that companies like DC, Marvel, and Image are hurting the industry and inching us closer to another bubble burst.
Variant covers. There’s like ten variant covers for every issue released and worse, like twenty for all first issues. Who has the cash to collect all those issues? Plus, some are just horribly drawn that it seems like there was no other reason it needed to be done than to bring in more cash. Ridiculous.
But again, unless we stop buying these, the companies are going to flood the market with books that are eventually going to take up space in the garage of some dealer who went belly up when the market crashes.
Over Saturation. The new books are flooding the market with titles no one wants nor asked for. Marvel especially seems to give a book to every character on their roster and their main characters seem to have at least three titles each. Over kill. Again. Greed.
And who can forget DC and their fifty two titles? Do we really need to keep up with the adventures of Harley Quinn in like ten books?
Issue number one. There’s a new number one issue every year. This reminds me of wrestling. Back in the day, a world champion held the title for years at a time which added prestige to the belt. These days, it changes hands basically weekly and with each title change, it gets less exciting. We’re basically in the John Cena era of comic book collecting and no… that’s far from a good thing.
Before, a new number one meant something. A true collector’s item. Now there’s so many new number ones, the announcement of your favorite title being canceled after five issues just to be released again with a new number one has caused many to just give up completely on their favorite characters and focus only on back issues (Which is a good thing as well.)
Online bullying. While not part of the cause of the original bubble burst, this is going to chase away a lot of collectors. Message boards, Facebook Groups, and any place where a comic book fan can gather to discuss comics or comic related tidbits have attracted the ugly side of the industry. Those who only seem to bring negativity faster in these spots like a disease, waiting to affect fan boys and fan girls with their negativity and trolling. Everyone has an opinion, but there’s a way to express it without the hate or elitism. Unfortunately, this is an internet wide “Black Eye” that isn’t going away any time soon.
What was once a community of geeks and nerds who only cared about complaining about the annoying Spidey Clone Wars or that horrible Jason Todd Robin, has been swallowed by a wave of angry, internet political “activists” who’s lot in life is to dissect everything politically and then “troll” you if you do not agree with their views. This is truly sad. So many great message boards or Facebook Groups are ruined by this.
I truly miss the days where the biggest argument was who would win in a fight between the Hulk and Superman.
Maybe I’m old or out of touch or just crying that the “Sky is falling”, but the comic collecting industry was once both fun and satisfying. The search for your holy grail comic or just a book you had to have was never as difficult as it is now. Now if a Dealer even catches a whiff of a book being wanted, up the prices go. If a buyer falls for the hype, they buy and prices go even higher. And the comic companies are watching all this with dollar signs in their eyes.
The new generation of comic collectors should experience the same joy us veterans had when we first started collecting. What happened to that?
Now before I go, I just want to leave you with one more story about my days as a teenage comic book collector. I grew up in Montebello, California during the 90’s and for awhile, our city had a few comic book shops. And they all made money. Those were the good days, but we just didn’t know it.
Now there was this one shop, owned by a guy named Paul, if I’m remembering correctly. I remember that back then, I didn’t have a lot of money to spend on comics. I had a part time job at a local pizza spot named Rios Pizza, which by the way has the best pizza ever…. and with the little money I had, Paul always made sure I left with some good deals. He’d let me spend hours searching his store then when I was ready, he’d browse through the comics I picked and then pretend that it was going to kill him to do so, but he was going to give me a good deal any way. That was Paul. He was a great guy like that. And some of his regulars, guys that hung around playing Magic Gathering, could not stand that Paul did this for me. And they hated me for it.
But that’s what comic book collecting was and should be. A great experience that leaves you with a memory that has you feeling good even twenty years later. I miss that.