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March Madness Super-Animal Showdown — Final Four!

The NCAA Basketball Tournaments may be calling it quits, but the March Madness Super-Animal Showdown is just getting to the good stuff!

Our Final Four is set after a quarterfinals round that saw favorites Krypto and Howard the Duck cruise into their semi-final matchup, while underdogs Devil Dinosaur and Lockjaw both scored upsets to set the stage for an all-Kirby semi on the other side of the bracket!

Let’s meet our Final Four!

Krypto

#1 overall seed. Defeated Max, G’nort, and Comet to reach the Final Four.

Adventure Comics #210

First appearance: Adventure Comics #210 (March 1955). Created by Otto Binder and Curt Swan.

Howard the Duck

#4 seed. Defeated Hoppy the Wonder Bunny, Throg, and Gorilla Grodd to reach the Final Four.

Howard the Duck #1

First appearance: Adventure Into Fear #19 (December 1973). Created by Steve Gerber and Val Mayerik.

Devil Dinosaur & Moon Boy

#7 seed, and entered the tournament as a “play-in” candidate, having been passed over in the committee’s initial seeding. Defeated Titano, Mr. Mind, and Rocket Raccoon to reach the Final Four.

Devil Dinosaur #1

First appearance: Devil Dinosaur #1 (April 1978). Created by Jack Kirby.

Lockjaw

#11 seed, and the lowest seed still standing, wearing Cinderella’s glass slippers on all four of his floppy feet. Defeated Lockheed, Ace the Bat-Hound, and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to round out the Final Four!

Lockjaw & The Pet Avengers

First appearance: Fantastic Four #45 (December 1965). Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.

All right … you know the drill … it’s time to vote for your favorite Super-Animals! Here are the semi-final matches!

Krypto (d. Comet, 79-21), vs. Howard the Duck (d. Gorilla Grodd, 56-44)

Krypto vs. Howard the Duck

Devil Dinosaur & Moon Boy (d. Rocket Raccoon, 60-40) vs. Lockjaw (d Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, 67-33)

Devil Dinosaur vs. Lockjaw

Here’s your up-to-the-second tournament breakdown!

Final Four

Some tasty match-ups here … and the Final is going to be amazing! Meet me back here next week for the championship match, and be sure to cheer on your favorite in the comments section, below!

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Happy Thanksgiving From Longbox Graveyard

It’s the Thanksgiving holiday here in the United States … but wherever you may be, please accept my bountiful best wishes!

avengers-thanksgiving

(Who is the character in the Dracula cape to Namor’s left?)

Best Frenemies Forever

Longbox Graveyard #105

By now, you all should be familiar with the musings of Mark Ginocchio, the creator of the Spider-Man focused Chasing Amazing blog and the author of past posts on Longbox Graevyard such as his retrospective on Marvel’s Secret Wars mini-series and his two-part post on Spider-Man’s greatest battles. This week, Mark is writing about his two favorite Silver Age teenage superheroes – one of which is of course, the Amazing Spider-Man, but the other is the Fantastic Four’s Johnny Storm/Human Torch. Take it away Mark:

please visit guest blogger Mark Ginocchio at his home blog -- www.chasingamazingblog.com

please visit guest blogger Mark Ginocchio at his home blog — http://www.chasingamazingblog.com

During the Silver Age of Marvel comics, one of the more fascinating relationships featured two characters from different titles. Spider-Man and Human Torch, Peter Parker and Johnny Storm respectively, were Marvel’s flagship teenage superheroes. But rather than team together to create crazy pubescent hijinks a la Archie and Jughead, Spidey and Torch started out as bitter, heated rivals before finally evolving into (a more fan-friendly) sibling rivals.

The dynamic between the two characters is a phenomenal example of what made Marvel’s cast of characters so unique and different from the Distinguished Competition during this era. Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko had an inherent understanding that teenagers were unpredictable raging vessels of hormones and thus couldn’t always be counted on for behavior that was conventional for “traditional” superheroes. Parker and Storm had different social and economic backgrounds and went about their superhero business in starkly different ways (Johnny could be out in the open about his Human Torch identity, while Peter had to live in secret). Marvel couldn’t just plop the two of them on the page and expect reasonable synchronicity. And while I’ve always been a Spidey superfan, I also have a huge soft spot in my heart for Johnny Storm precisely because of this wonderfully comedic and occasionally heart-warming dynamic.

Spider-Man/Human Torch #5/Dan Slott, Ty Templeton, Drew Geraci & Greg Adams

Image from Spider-Man/Human Torch #5: Dan Slott, Ty Templeton, Drew Geraci, Greg Adams

The two characters interacted early and often. The entire Fantastic Four team guest stars (and is featured on the cover) of the inaugural issue of Amazing Spider-Man, and in ASM #3, a despondent Peter Parker, having been recently defeated by future greatest nemesis Doctor Octopus finds inspiration to fight on in a speech Storm gives at his school. While Torch doesn’t realize it, by saying “don’t be discouraged if it sometimes seems tough,” he essentially gives birth to one of Spider-Man’s most popular personality traits – his never say die, regardless of the odds, spirit.

Spidey Torch 05

Image from Amazing Spider-Man (vol. 1) #3: Stan Lee & Steve Ditko

The first comic to actually focus exclusively on the Spidey/Torch dynamic was one of Marvel’s old monster magazines, Strange Tales. In the ST Annual #2, which, depending on your source, chronologically took place between ASM issues #3 and #4. In this comic, Spider-Man travels out to the suburbs of Long Island to solicit help from Torch, “a teenager like me,” after being framed for a robbery. But again, rather than going the obvious route and make a Bosom Buddies style comedic romp to clear Spidey’s name, Lee/Ditko/Kirby created a more hostile relationship.

Spidey Torch 12

Image from Strange Tales Annual #2: Stan Lee, Jack Kirby & Steve Ditko

Johnny is ticked off that Spider-Man is featured on the cover of “Live” magazine –  a curious editorial choice considering what a bad rap Spidey always got from the media – and whines to his sister how whenever he does any good, the credit goes to the entire Fantastic Four team.  When Spider-Man arrives at his doorstep, Johnny “flames on” first and asks questions later, putting the Web Slinger back on his heels, calling his teenage colleague “some kind of nut.” The barbs continue after Spidey outsmarts Torch and traps him in cement, swinging off and calling Johnny “stupid.”

Spidey Torch 06

Image from Strange Tales Annual #2: Stan Lee, Jack Kirby & Steve Ditko

This certainly wasn’t how two superheroes ever talked to each other before. I don’t even think that’s how heroes and villains talked each other, despite the copious amounts of hokum that filled Stan Lee’s comic book bubbles during the Silver Age. And yet that’s the early Spider-Man/Human Torch dynamic in a nutshell: some “poopy-head” level insults before they inevitably and reluctantly helped each other out of a jam.

By the time Torch catches up with his new adversary in ST Annual #2, Johnny is stewing over Spider-Man’s “showing off” (similar words would eventually be used to describe Spider-Man’s opinions of Storm). Spider-Man meanwhile accuses Torch of only caring about “headlines” (we just saw the inverse of that earlier in this comic) and not wanting to share the attention. When the two finally put aside their differences, they meet up for the first time at what would later become their trademark rendezvous spot, the top of the Statue of Liberty.

Spidey Torch 11

Image from Strange Tales Annual #2: Stan Lee, Jack Kirby & Steve Ditko

Chronologically, the next big Spider-Man/Torch story came in ASM #8. Interestingly enough, Lee/Ditko made the decision to portray Spider-Man as a petty creep in his very own comic book series. He crashes a party at Johnny’s girlfriends house and tries to win over the Torch’s entourage. In a “Pete Best forever, Ringo never” moment that would then be flipped on its ear during the inaugural meet-up of the Spidey fan club in ASM #17 (a gathering that Torch crashed), Johnny’s buddies want nothing to do with the Amazing Spider-Man.  It’s worth noting that in a pretty “groovy” Ditko splash page that looks like something out of a 60’s teen flick, Spidey watches Torch from outside his home and stews about him “showing off” for his friends (I told you we’d revisit that insult from the other hero’s perspective).

Spidey Torch 10

Image from Amazing Spider-Man (vol. 1) #8: Stan Lee & Steve Ditko

As these meet-ups happened with more frequency (and in the pages of ASM, they happened nearly every other issue) what starts to become clear is that Spidey thinks of Johnny Storm as the super-powered version of Flash Thompson, Peter Parker’s high school bully and nemesis. Torch has it all – a pick of teenaged women to date (though sadly, none were drawn by John Romita Sr. and thus didn’t have those comic book pin-up qualities that defined Gwen Stacy and Mary Jane Watson in the mid-to-late 60s) and an adoring public that doesn’t think of him as a criminal. Meanwhile, despite having so much good in his life, Peter resents how Storm still acts like a goofy egotistical teenager and doesn’t adopt  something similar to Spidey’s “with great power comes great responsibility” mantra. Given that Ditko, who plotted the bulk of these issues, was a renowned follower of Ayn Rand and her objectivism philosophy, it’s no shock that Spider-Man would deride the less “serious” superhero.

But it’s not like Spider-Man is an innocent bystander in all this. Torch often calls him out for being a “creep” and justifiably so. As Spidey’s biggest fan, I can’t find any kind of defense for a “hero” crashing a party thrown by another hero’s girlfriend. I love ya Spider-Man, but if you’re going to pass yourself off as so self-assured, why are you  constantly stroking your own ego and asserting your dominance over Human Torch?

Spidey Torch 09

Image from Amazing Spider-Man (vol. 1) #8: Stan Lee & Steve Ditko

Considering how Peter always had to pull his punches with Flash because if he really ever socked it to him with all his Spider-strength, he’d probably kill him, it’s interesting to see this nastier side to Parker when he’s wearing a costume and attempting to stick it to another super-powered teenager who can probably hold his own in a fight.

As the stories transitioned from the Silver Age to the Bronze Age, the Cold War between Spider-Man and Torch would thaw, and the barbs would evolve from petty sniping and insults, to a more big brother/little brother rapport. In what may go down as one of the funniest panels in Spider-Man comic book history, Torch digs up an old Fantastic Four costume and a brown paper bag for Spidey when the Web Slinger learns his newly found black suit from Battleworld is actually a living being hosting on him, and thus needs to be destroyed. Spidey is non-too-happy, but telling “flamebrain” that he’s going to “get you for this,” feels a lot less tense than crashing his house party and trying to make him look like an idiot in front of all of his civilian friends.

Spidey Torch 04

Image from Amazing Spider-Man (vol. 1) #258: Tom DeFalco, Ron Frenz & Josef Rubinstein

In modern comics, the Spider-Man/Human Torch dynamic has been explored by writers with mixed results. In 2005’s Spider-Man/Human Torch five-issue mini-series, penned by current Spidey scribe Dan Slott, new information and adventures featuring the duo was retconned to provide more depth about the relationship. The series, which takes place in the past but features previously unpublished adventures, displays when and how the rivalry evolves into a friendship. In ASM continuity, in the wake of Gwen Stacy’s death, Spider-Man is asked to build a “Spider Mobile” (this is a topic for another post) and he gets Torch to help him out with some of the mechanical engineering elements. In Slott’s mini-series retcon, Spidey and Torch have a somewhat touching moment when the Web Sligner admits that the only person he can talk to about his “loss” is Johnny Storm since he can remain completely anonymous about his guilt (something that Peter couldn’t just talk to Flash Thompson or Mary Jane about without admitting the reason he felt guilty about Gwen’s death is because he’s Spider-Man and he couldn’t save her).

Spidey Torch 13

Image from Spider-Man/Human Torch #3: Dan Slott, Ty Templeton, Nelson Palmer & Tom Palmer

Then, in one of the series most memorable moments, Peter reveals his secret identity to Johnny in an effort to save an auditorium full of kids from some New York gangsters. After the two heroes save the day, Peter and Johnny have a heart-to-heart where all of their grievances are aired. Johnny believes Peter “has it all,” superpowers, a model wife and brains, while Peter scoffs at the idea and talks about how he has always envied Johnny for having superpowers but no responsibilities. Yes, Slott is basically hammering the reader over the head with 40+ years worth of subtext from the likes of Lee, Ditko and Kirby, but it’s a refreshing moment all the same to have these ideas out in the open.

Spidey Torch 01

Image from Spider-Man/Human Torch #5: Dan Slott, Ty Templeton, Drew Geraci & Greg Adams

Spidey Torch 02

Image from Spider-Man/Human Torch #5: Dan Slott, Ty Templeton, Drew Geraci & Greg Adams

Another one of my favorite modern-era Peter/Johnny that I believe really defines their odd couple pairing, interestingly enough was born out of one of my least favorite Marvel editorial decisions of the past few years. When Johnny is presumed dead during Jonathan Hickman’s run on Fantastic Four, Spider-Man  becomes the fourth core member of the newly-named Future Foundation, leading to a 12-issue run of comics where Spider-Man was horribly misused and miscast by Hickman as a one-note jokester with no tangible heroic qualities that would help the FF. Fortunately, Hickman redeemed himself in the pages of Fantastic Four #600, when Johnny returns from the Negative Zone and the first person to find him is none other than Spider-Man. Rather than run up to Spidey and give him a big hug to celebrate his resurrection, Johnny’s first words were, “Pete? What the heck are you wearing?”

Spidey Torch 14

Image from Fantastic Four #600: Jonathan Hickman, Steve Epting & Rick Magyar

It’s the most fitting way to craft that reunion. Even in his return from what was believed to be his death, Johnny couldn’t resist ribbing Peter, while simultaneously saying what everyone following the FF/Fantastic Four series was thinking: “seriously, what was Marvel thinking trying to replace Human Torch with Spider-Man of all people?” If the Silver Age taught us anything it’s that just because two characters are the same age, doesn’t mean they should automatically be interchangeable parts. Superheroes, like people are all different. Some have power, and others have power AND responsibility. Some have secrets to hide, and some can be public celebrities. And there’s only one Spider-Man and one Human Torch.

Thanks again to Mark for another terrific Longbox Graveyard column! Mark will be back in a couple weeks with an article about Bronze Age Spider-Man (or is that the “Dark Age?”). In the meantime, be sure to catch Mark over at his home blog — Chasing Amazing!

MORE Spider-Man On Longbox Graveyard

IN TWO WEEKS: #106 Panel Gallery: Captain America Speeches

 

Longbox Soapbox (Summer 2013)

Longbox Graveyard #104

And just like that six months have got behind me and it’s time for another Longbox Soapbox!

Twice a year I take stock of where I am with Longbox Graveyard, solicit feedback in the form of a poll, reveal some numbers behind the blog, and take a formal vow to continue Longbox Graveyard for another six months (or not).

the infinitely-renewing contract

Those interested in blogging minutia can review my past Longbox Soapbox columns:

This 104th “issue” of Longbox Graveyard is a big one for me, as it marks two years of continuous Wednesday publication for the blog. Starting as a means of keeping myself on-track in reducing and organizing my comics Accumulation (a job I have yet to complete), Longbox Graveyard has taken on a life of its own as a Bronze Age comic book nostalgia blog. A few recent guest blogs notwithstanding, Longbox Graveyard remains a one-man effort done out of love of comics, as well as a desire to communicate with my fellow hobbyists. Every half-hearted attempt I’ve made to monetize the blog has been met with indifference or disaster. Like Reed Richards, I’m a lunkhead when it comes to making money!

lunkhead!

let’s not talk about money

From the start I’ve kept this blog going by signing six-month contracts with myself. Once I’ve commenced on a six-month hitch of Longbox Graveyard I make myself see it through. When those six months are up, I either sign up for another six months, or put the blog to bed.

the Devil is in the details

do you recognize this devilish contract from the 1970s?

Will Longbox Graveyard continue, or will I shut it down? The answer is … both! (Sort of). More details in a moment, but before looking at where I am going, a brief survey of where I have been.

Statistics & Hits

Hits of course are the lifeblood of any blog. Traffic drives dollars if you are doing this for a living — which I am not — but even with a free blog, hits are your scoreboard, and it is hard to ignore them. I check my traffic several times each day, and if I am not so obsessed with these numbers as in months past, I would be lying if I said my traffic numbers were unimportant to me.

What is not a lie is to say my numbers are less important to me than the last time I did a Longbox Soapbox. After the crazy growth in the second six months of Longbox Graveyard’s life, my readership has plateaued a little, but I am still seeing decent growth. My monthly average readership in December 2012-May 2013 was up about 13% from the preceding six months. January 2013 saw the blog go above 10K views in a month for the first time, but the average for this period has been a more modest 8321 views/month.

LBG Tale of the Tape!

That will seem like a lot to a few of you, and nothing at all to more of you. For me, the numbers are what they are. I really have nothing to compare against. How many hits should I draw for a once-weekly, wordy, idiosyncratic blog about comics that are decades old?

I don’t know. I don’t think anyone can know. I can think of only a few comparable blogs (The Peerless Power of Comics seems closest, it is also a very good blog), but absent a dozen or so similar blogs, comparisons aren’t going to count for much. I have resolved that my numbers will be what they will be. I will continue to track them, but I won’t obsess over them, and I will put my effort into content rather than search engine optimization.

LBG traffic sources

Comparing these referrals to the last time I checked, we see that Twitter and (to a lesser extent) Facebook have been stepping up as traffic sources. Most traffic continues to come from search (of course), and I would expect this to grow as more and more content and images are added to the blog. Pinterest appears to have leveled off. Reddit’s comic books subdomain remains useful for driving spikes (giving my Darkseid poll a record-breaking day, and also pushing my silly Pepper Potts Pin-Up strongly over Iron Man 3’s opening weekend), but I have no evidence Reddit views convert to readers. Sneaking in at the end of my Top 10 are Stash My Comics & the Chasing Amazing blog, and speaking of Stash My Comics

Superduperman

not even a Superduperman can do it all … reducing outside commitments!

Stash My Comics & The Longbox Graveyard Podcast

Last month I concluded my Dollar Box column for Stash My Comics after twelve monthly columns. “Twelve” seemed like a good number for a mini-series, and as I have been feeling spread a little thin, it only made sense to wrap up Dollar Box. That content was so similar to what I do here that Dollar Box effectively meant that I was publishing Longbox Graveyard five times a month, and that was starting to take a toll. It was fun to write for Stash My Comics, and we drove a few hits for each other, but I’ve decided to suspend outside commitments to concentrate on Longbox Graveyard. I assume my articles will stay up at SMC for awhile. Going forward, I will be republishing my Dollar Box columns here at Longbox Graveyard after the one year anniversary of each article’s original posting (starting with last week’s Nick Fury post).

I’ve also ended my Longbox Graveyard Podcast after twelve installments, for many of the same reasons I ended Dollar Box. The Longbox Graveyard Podcast was showing strong numbers and building an audience, but my passion is with blogging, and not podcasting. It was a tough call to walk away, as Mo Kristiansen was a great partner and made it very easy to do the podcast. It was fun to experiment with that form — and I may return to it at some point — but in the interest of sticking with my core interest, I have retired from podcasting and will be giving this blog my full geek attention.

FacebookMan!

Social Media

I remain active on social media. Pinterest doesn’t drive a lot of traffic but my boards are easy to maintain, and they do provide a worthy visual supplement for activities here at Longbox Graveyard. Instagram is closely tied to Pinterest, and again it is no big deal to post an image every day. It may not drive traffic to the blog, but my Instagram images do generate comment on Instagram itself, and also help stimulate conversation on Twitter, which remains a vibrant channel for me. I maintain an information presence on Facebook and Google+ to provide updates for the smaller community of followers that keep track of me on those services.

I think that’s about all the social media I can handle! I do push image and blog updates to Flickr and Tumblr but that’s automatically handled when the blog publishes and I don’t otherwise do much on those channels. I tried Quora for a little while but ran afoul of their naming policy. They put me in the penalty box until I would identify myself as someone other than “Longbox Graveyard” — I decided I couldn’t be bothered and deleted my account.

It will be interesting to see what happens with readership with the pending demise of Google Reader. Will the death of the leading RSS platform stimulate on-site views and email subscriptions? Being insufficiently competent to back out my email and RSS numbers from the stats dashboard, I guess I will never know!

Bat Cave Man Cave!

The Accumulation

Continuing work on The Accumulation has stalled out a little as I’ve gotten hip-deep in the remodeling project described in my Mancave Monday posts. I regard this a good thing. My manic desire to recklessly reduce the piles of comics out in the garage veered into extreme territory at times, and if I am suddenly more comfortable with where things are in that regard … well, that’s progress. Also, by shifting my energy towards building out a space where I can better enjoy my comics, I’m demonstrating a kind of accommodation, acceptance, and capacity for joy in the hobby that I did not anticipate when I started this project.

peace

I am … at peace … with my choices

My pace of buying books has slowed down, as well. I’ve filled in nearly all the back issues on my list, and there are relatively few trade paperbacks on my shopping list. For the most part I am reading what I’ve got. I am still enjoying my Marvel Unlimited digital subscription, especially now that it is available in an iPad-friendly form. A similar, all-you-can-eat subscription service from DC would be welcome (and would substantially increase the number of DC books examined by this blog!)

Reading

Comic books continue to dominate my reading, split about 50/50 between books I blog about, and books I read for the heck of it. Sometimes I surprise myself — I didn’t expect to like Sgt. Rock as much as I did, and never intended to cover it here at Longbox Graveyard, but these unexpected discoveries are one of the real joys of writing this blog. Other times, long-gestating ideas will reach the blog in unexpected forms, like all the Superman reading that wound up in my comparative essay on the death of that character, or my Brian Michael Bendis article that began as a Daredevil review.

Hawkeye

impressive visual storytelling characterizes the latest incarnation of Hawkeye, by Fraction and Aja

I’ve been reading the latest issues of Hawkeye, Daredevil, Saga, Criminal, and Guardians of the Galaxy — which likely won’t end up on the blog — while vintage Master of Kung Fu, Iron Fist, and Tomb of Dracula likely will. It isn’t that I dislike the newer books or lack opinions on them, but there are plenty of places for new comics reviews, and I also feel I can’t really appraise a comics run until it has been complete for months (or years!). For this reason, my reviews will for the most part continue to be confined to comics of decades past.

But … I suppose this is as good a subject as any for my bi-annual poll! Please vote, below!

Community Community Community!

What I’ve found most flattering about Longbox Graveyard is that it has developed a genuine community over the years. Even the least of my posts will earn a comment from my dedicated group of correspondents, and some comment threads have been better than the posts themselves. It is a special joy to see an older post earn a new comment, because that lets me know that the blog continues to find new readers, and that my legacy material (even some of the stuff that is now out of date) remains of value.

I can’t say it enough — I deeply value the Longbox Graveyard community. I am immensely proud and flattered to have developed a cadre of discerning and insightful readers, and I always look forward to your comments. Thank you for following my blog, and keep those (virtual) cards and letters coming in!

Community!

The Future!

First, the good news. Longbox Graveyard will continue! I am signing another six month contract with myself and plan to continue the blog through December of 2013.

However … I will be reducing the frequency with which I publish major content. After some soul-searching I’ve decided to downshift from publishing every Wednesday to every odd-numbered Wednesday, effective immediately. I suppose this is the blogging equivalent of “going bi-monthly,” which was usually the kiss of death for Bronze Age comics, but I hope a reduced publication schedule will allow me to keep Longbox Graveyard going indefinitely. I might even go back to weekly publication in the future. But for now … tune in every odd-numbered Wednesday for a new Longbox Graveyard article (if this is too confusing you can always see what is coming up and when with a glance at my Checklist).

There will also be some content changes here at the blog. I’ve already run several guest blogs these past few months (mostly by the talented Mark Ginocchio of Chasing Amazing Blog — thanks, Mark!), and this is a trend I would like to see continue. I think Longbox Graveyard benefits from other voices every now and then. Mark will be providing next week’s blog on the peculiar history of Spider-Man and the Human Torch, and I know he has at least one other idea on the boil for us. If you would like to guest blog for Longbox Graveyard, drop me a line (LongboxGraveyard (at) gmail (dot) com) — I’m looking for material that falls into the general purview of Bronze and Silver Age superhero stories evaluated from a personal point-of-view. There’s no pay, but you can’t put a price on comics blogging glory!

We Want YOU To Blog For Longbox Graveyard

In addition to guest blogs, I will be running some reprint material here at Longbox Graveyard. There will be the aforementioned Dollar Box reprints, and I also plan to start spotlighting my Pinterest boards with twice-weekly posts pointing toward the collection of images I’ve assembled over at that site, along with the original Longbox Graveyard articles that inspired them. On off weeks, even if I am not publishing a full article, I will sometimes jump in with a pinup or a plug for another site, so in some ways the blog will be publishing more often than ever before — I just won’t be running my more in-depth articles as frequently as in the past two years. I also have a scratch plan in place to put of digital scans of a select few comics that I wrote back in the day.

Thanks in advance for your patience as Longbox Graveyard evolves!

please leave a comment!

That concludes this edition of the Longbox Soapbox! Thanks for reading this column and for your support of the blog these past two years. I do very much want to hear from you, so please vote in my poll, and leave me a comment below. If you comment on only one Longbox Graveyard column each year, let this be the one! Let me know you are out there, and tell me what you think of the blog.

Thanks again for reading! Here’s hoping for another six strong months of Longbox Graveyard!

NEXT WEDNESDAY: #105 Best Frenemies Forever

Guide To Comics Bargains On eBay

Longbox Graveyard #62

Rule one of my Guide To Comics Bargains on eBay: look elsewhere! I’ve read good things about the U.K. eBay market, but in the United States I’ve found eBay a different story. In almost every case you’re better off buying back issues through an online retailer, where you can find competitive prices and it is easy to buy in bulk, reducing per-book shipping fees. Buying from a retailer may also give additional protection in terms of customer service if your order goes awry. I’ve had excellent luck from MyComicShop.com and recommend them without reservation.

(And if you want to buy a whole pile of books for about a quarter each, click HERE and read the special offer I have going for Longbox Graveyard readers!)

That being said, there are some good sellers on eBay (and many of them are retailers themselves). I will sometimes window-shop the high grade Gold and Silver Age key issues auctions, but the prices of most CGC graded books are too rich for my wallet, and I couldn’t spot a bargain there if it hit me in the face. I’m a reader, more than a collector, but this does open up some bargain opportunities, because it aligns with the one circumstance where I recommend buying comics on eBay: buy in lots.

eBay Comic Book Bargains — Comin’ At Ya!

The primary advantage to buying in lots is reducing the impact of shipping fees. Unless you’re buying a high ticket item, the cost of postage has risen to the point that buying individual comics on eBay just doesn’t make sense (and that’s just for domestic rates — international rates are even more obscene). The “Fed-ral Guv’ment” can fill my mailbox with coupons and mass mailers for all sorts of ridiculous nonsense for pennies on the pound, but if you want to mail a comic book, it costs as much as sending an anvil to Katmandu. When you’re bargain hunting for books costing a dollar or less, spending ten bucks or more on postage renders the exercise pointless — but a dozen books can ship as cheaply as one, and proportional charges decrease with bulk, so it is sometimes possible to get a good deal if you are willing to buy a dozen or more books in one go.

Survey results from my Longbox Soapbox questionnaire several weeks ago showed interest in articles about comics collecting. I’m far from an expert but I’m happy to share my experience in this area with you — and if you are interested in lower-grade “reader” copies of Bronze Age books, then you’ve come to the right place! If you follow a few simple rules you can quickly build out a fun collection of books that won’t measure up to a CGC graded collection, but which will look perfectly good in bags and boards and allow you to experience comics in their original form, rather than as digital or graphic novel reprints. These same principles apply to filling out the bulk of an old comics run, too — you might have to splurge to get that #1, but maybe you can make it up by shaving some dollars off acquiring #32-68 (or whatever).

the oldest issue of Marvel Two-In-One in my collection, purchased off the rack in 1974

Rather than list general do’s and don’ts, I thought I’d let you ride along on a recent eBay shopping expedition. Last week I reviewed every issue of Marvel Two-In-One, but when that project began, I had only 25 issues of the book’s 100 issue run. This week I’ll tell you how I filled in the rest of the series.

An important step is to make a wish list. I have thousands of comics and there’s no sense buying doubles of books I’ve already got. Make a list of the issues you want and keep it with you — I access my Collectorz.com comics database for my wish list via my iPhone, but you can just as easily use the notepad on your smartphone, or just write down what you want and keep the list in your wallet. Either way, you must make a list, and you must keep it with you, because I guarantee the day you find a treasure trove of books at attractive prices at a show or an old bookstore is going to be the day you left your list at home.

With a list in hand, it’s time to set your budget. Decide the average price you want to pay per book. For Marvel Two-In-One, I’d like to spend around a dollar per book. I’m not especially sensitive to grade, so this shouldn’t be impossible … and an insensitivity to grade is a functional requirement for comics shopping non CGC-graded books on eBay, where grading standards are all over the place, and I have several times wound up with books that were in poorer condition than advertised.

(Which is a bit of foreshadowing, by the way).

if the Hulk and the Thing wrecked Burbank in a battle … how could you tell?

If you have your list, and you’ve set a budget, it’s time to hit eBay. Search for your title several different ways — for instance I searched for “Two In One,” “Marvel Two In One,” and “Marvel Two-In-One” while conducting this particular shopping expedition. The other terms you’ll want to use are “Lot” or “Run” — this will sweep up all the listings that use those common terms in their title.

In this case my search returned 75 results, which I quickly narrowed down by sorting by “Price + Shipping: lowest first.” I’m bargain shopping so I need to zero in on the least expensive runs, and this pushes clowns like the guy wanting three hundred bucks for his 68-issue run of Two-In-One well down the page (and good luck with that one, pal). I’m looking for seventy-five books at a buck a book, so I won’t even look at anything that runs more than a hundred dollars or so, postage included.

This is the most important principle of buying comics on eBay — know your price, and stick to it. eBay is an auction site, and you will sometimes find yourself in a bidding war for what you want. The best way to win a bidding war is to withdraw. Seriously, it is a buyer’s market on eBay (at least it should be), so don’t bid a nickel more for a book than you want to pay. I recommend entering your top price when placing a bid and then NEVER bidding again. If you get your books for your price, that’s a good thing. If you don’t get your books for more than you wanted to pay, then that’s a good thing, too.

you cannot change the past, nor control the future, so bid ONCE and ONCE ONLY!

Next comes the tedious step — sorting through the listings. Few eBay sellers will give you the courtesy of stating exactly how many books are included in a lot. You will usually see something like:

MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE Lot #60-73 VG-FN+ Thing Inhumans

… which is fairly descriptive, but I still need to do a little math to see how many books are actually in that lot, then compare to the price plus shipping to see if I am in my dollar-per-book target range.

Worse, you will sometimes find borderline deceptive listings like this:

MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE lot (10) #23-66 (1970s) Marvel Comics

A cursory glance might make it seem that this is a lot of issues #23-66 … but it’s actually a lot of ten issues between the numbers #23 and #66. I hate these listings and I won’t bid on them. Likewise I skip listings by tools that insist I L@@K! or persist in branding their comics “vintage,” which is a code word for “I don’t know crap about comics and I am charging too much.” It should go without saying that you must always review the full item description to make sure what is on offer, and also examine any photos (which for bulk purchases such as these will usually show a sloppy pile of comics spilled across a horrid kitchen tablecloth).

About a half hour of poking around let me isolate two possible Marvel Two-In-One lots. Even allowing for the inevitable duplicates that come with buying in lots, for each of these listings, the cost per book (including postage) falls within my dollar-per-book range.

The mikevc21806 lot consists of seven issues that I don’t need or want, so I evaluate price as if this were a seventeen issue lot. He wants a reasonable $6.00 for postage, meaning I can bid eleven dollars for this lot and still get them for a dollar per book. The minimum bid is $9.99 so this is just barely possible — if no one goes up against me for this lot, I can get the deal I want. The same books at MyComicShop.com would run me $23.50 so this is a good deal.

The lot from sdm1000 offers a whopping eighteen books I don’t want — but also 34 that I do want. He wants $13.00 shipping and his minimum bid is $15.00, so this lot will also work for me, though it will result in a pile of books I will later need to sell or give away. These same books would run me $44.00 through my MyComicShop.com, so again, I have found an eBay bargain!

Now that I’ve found my lots, the next step is to …

… do nothing. Seriously, walk away. Put the books on your watch list and cool off for a couple days. I don’t suggest trying to “snipe” an auction with last-second bidding, but I do think you should place your only bid as the auction winds down rather than holding your place early with a minimum bid. Bidding early validates a listing for browsing competitors and may attract additional bids, which you don’t want. A bid is a bid and it locks you into a potential purchase, even if you change your mind or find a better deal before the bid comes due. Why commit yourself before you have to?

It was while my lots were in the watching zone that I did a little leg work to check other supply channels. A business trip let me visit The House of Secrets comic shop in Burbank, CA, where they have a pretty decent selection of Bronze Age back issues. I found that most of their Marvel Two-In-Ones were $2.99 — obviously more than my dollar per book target, but I will sometimes go a little higher if I can buy a book in person, because it lets me support a worthy store, I can eyeball what I’m getting right on the spot, and you don’t have to pay for postage. That was still too much to pay in the “lot” phase of filling in my run, though — at that rate, it would cost me $225 to buy 75 issues of Marvel Two-In-One, which is way too much. An issue here or there, sure, $2.99 is fine — it’s less than the cost of a contemporary comic and I like the oldies more. But that’s for later — we’re still shopping lots here!

There’s too much overlap between the two lots to buy them both, so this will be an either-or proposition. I decide that sdm1000’s lot will be my primary target, because the seller has a much higher feedback rating, and also because he’s charging more for postage — I suspect this will be for a USPS flat rate box, which should better protect the books in transit. The other lot wants only six dollars for postage, but he is offering too many books to fit in a flat rate envelope. I suspect he will be shipping media mail, which is economical but technically illegal for comics, which don’t quality for media rate because they contain advertisements (I don’t like it either, but direct your gripes to the post office).

After cooling off a couple days, I checked back in on Saturday night and determined I still wanted to buy this lot, so I entered my best bid and went to sleep. I bid $21.01, which when combined with that $13.00 shipping would net me the 34 books I want for my price of a dollar each. I bid the extra penny in the unlikely event I’ll need to beat someone who bids in round numbers.

And in the morning I found my minimum bid was good enough — at $28.00 including shipping, I got my 34 books for less than the dollar per book I was hoping to pay. Huzzah for eBay comic book bargains!

With this single purchase I have knocked off about half of the books on my Marvel Two-In-One want list. I’m still looking for 43 issues, so I’m in the market for one more lot purchase — but with 57 issues already in my collection, it will prove harder to avoid excessive duplicates in any run. It might make more sense to buy my next “lot” through MyComicShop.com, where I can quickly order only what I want and probably put together a big enough order to qualify for free shipping. Any missing numbers can be filled in through individual issue purchase at shops and shows — it’s always fun to be on the hunt for a couple books at a show.

A few days later and my box arrived. Joy!

But that joy was tempered when I saw several of the books were in unacceptable condition, with missing covers and pieces cut from them.

Never let it be said you don’t get the full experience here on Longbox Graveyard — warts and all! The seller was swift and amicable when I contacted them, and we wrangled out a solution, but it just goes to show that there’s never a dull moment on eBay!

So there you have it — Longbox Graveyard’s Guide To Comics Bargains On eBay!

Summary:

  1. Look elsewhere! Online retailers are usually a better source than eBay.
  2. Buy in lots.
  3. Make a wish list.
  4. Know your price and stick to it (including postage).
  5. Search for your books with terms like “lot” and “run.”
  6. Watch promising lots and place your bid when they are about to come due.
  7. Use the watching phase as a “cooling off period” and check other sources.
  8. Bid your best price and never raise.
  9. Remember, you will get what you pay for (and sometimes less!)

fear not, Ben, this isn’t the end … it’s not even the BEGINNING of the end … collecting goes on forever!

What if you simply can’t find a lot for the book you need? There’s one more thing you can try — but it’s risky. Search for .99 issues of what you want on eBay, then click through to the other items that seller has on offer — often sellers will combine postage for multiple items, and if they have offered other books you want individually you can build your own lot this way. Don’t forget eBay is a bidding site! It’s not fun to assume you’re going to win ten books and win only one, and find you’re saddled with a ten dollar postage bill for your dollar comic book bargain. Caveat emptor!

That about exhausts my low-rent eBay advice. Please share your own buying wisdom in the comments section, below!

And if you’d like to read my impressions of these ill-gotten gains, be sure to check out last week’s review of every single issue of Marvel Two-In-One ever published!!

And don’t forget to check out my limited-time offer to basically GIVE you a box of comics — click HERE for details!

NEXT WEDNESDAY: #65 Panel Gallery: Made It!

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