We've all got a memory, a tale, of that one rare comic book  that we saw at a friend's house, at the beach, at the store, or the barber shop.

We have a memory of it, and of looking for it, or asking for it, or trying to trade for it, but never getting any luck in landing it.

Or, maybe against all odds, we DID find it, or scored it for a song.

This is your thread.  This is YOUR list.  This is where you should post that single most statisfying or frustrating pursuit.

 

I'll start:

When visiting my cousins, perhaps an hour north of our town in the middle 60s, I mentioned to them that I had fallen into reading and following the Fantastic Four.  Issue #60 had just come out, and I told t hem that it was the end of a major storyline with the Silver Surfer and Dr. Doom.  And that the last panel said, "Next: A New Danger Dawns".

My cousin made a smart-mouthed boast, "So, you don't know what the next issue is yet, huh?"

"NO, I don't," I admitted, instantly hooked and desirous for any information (He didn't have any idea either, but was just baiting me, teasing me.)  He refused to discuss it any further.

His mother, my aunt, remarked that "isn't that Marvel Comics the same as that Thor record you've got?"

Instantly, I was alert, as I knew there had been several LP records of the first Marvel heroes released in about 1965-66.  Cousin Kim had gotten one for his birthday or Christmas or something.

We went to their toy closet, and opening it up, found a tall stack of junk, notebooks, coloring books, kids books, comics, and odds and ends, that had been swept into a stack, out of sight. From among them, they pulled out the Golden Record album of Journey into Mystery #83, "The Stone Men from Saturn" debut of Thor.  The vinyl was not in a paper sleeve and faintly scratched, but intact, but the comic was missing. It should have been inside the sleeve with the black record.

I had only seen one similar record within the year. It was the FF version of the same release, and I had borrowed it and listened to the first FF adventure with the Mole Man, over and over. I had borrowed the record from another family, and returned it after a week.  But actually Thor wasn't as interesting to me, but I asked about the comic.  Comic books interested me.

"Oh, it's in there somewhere," said his mom, but she wouldn't let me unpack the closet and the topic was closed.

Several years later, we visited again, and I asked about the issue. No one was interested in pursuing it. I offered to unpack and repack the closet to find the issue, and while we did that quickly, we never found the issue. I quickly and carefully restacked the closet and regretfully put it out of my mind. It was gone.

 

About 18 years ago, my cousin Kim died. His had abused his liver and the transplant didn't take. He was dying of yellow jaundice. When we went up to see him for the final time, he was yellow-green and delerious. While we sat around making small talk, he was out of it on the couch.

Some how, the topic of the closet came up, and we opened it up. There in the top one or two items was the reprinted Thor adventure. It started on the inside front cover and ended on the inside rear cover.  I was puzzled, cause I didn't recall what this was at first. It had no price on it. I put it back on the stack and didn't bring it up during the wake.

On the ride home, it dawned on me that it was the long-lost missing reprint book that we had hunted for.  The key had been the lack of ads and that the story started and ended in b&w on the inside covers. There was no accounting for what had happened to it for 20 years. But now it was back!

Later that night, my cousin passed away, but we didn't return for the funeral.

I looked up the value of the book in the Overstreet price guide and mailed a letter to my surviving cousin, telling him what I thought the book was and what it was worth. I asked if he was interested in selling it, and he declined, saying it was part of his memories of his late brother. I understood. It was listed for just $4.00 in the guide. The memories were more precious. (Now, I see it listed for $1800!

I never saw it again.

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I have three of those comics, but I have never heard or seen any of the records. I would love the opportunity to transfer them to CD someday.

My own “Holy Grail” comics was Flash #189. I never owned it as a kid, but I did own a comic which advertised it in a house ad. I barely knew who Flash was at that point in my life, much less Kid Flash, but I knew I had to know the story behind that cover! If the purpose of a comic book cover is to attract a reader’s attention, then that one certainly succeeded. I eventually acquired a copy about 20 years later, and although I found the story inside to be somewhat of a disappointment, I still think that’s a great cover! (That big ol' teardrop gets me every time.)

I’ll play .
Legion of Superheroes  #38 (9/87) featuring the ‘death’ of Superboy was an issue I missed off the racks when it came out and I searched for for years to fill that crutial bit of character history and continuity.

Wonderful cover – as with the above – all a bit disapointing when I finally found it but definatly my comic collection holy grail for many years.

I have a couple of those record books too but not so old. But mine do have the records!

Off the top of my head, I came up with

  • ADVENTURE COMICS #416 (Ma'72), which was a 100 Page Super Spectacular that featured ALL super-heroines including the Wonder Woman Vs Villainy Incorporated story I read about in Michael Fleischer's WW encyclopedia. I got it at a small convention where I also got...
  • DETECTIVE COMICS #359 (Ma'67) which is, of course, the revival of.....KILLER MOTH!!!! No, no, though that's cool (sorta), it's the first appearance of BATGIRL. I never seen one and I got a decent copy for $20.
  • JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #171 (O'79)--a little back story: this was the summer before I went to high school and I never knew about comic shops nor did I leave my hometown of College Point much. Not even to go to the "City" or Flushing in those days. I bought my comics from two stationary shops, mostly. The week this JLA came out, the one where I got the majority of my new books was closed for vacation. And it was the first part of a JLA/JSA team-up! I'm betting it took me a few years to find that as it was the only hole in my JLA collection from #55 to the then present!

I remember going over to my friend's house--who I call "William" on my blog--and he had some comics. Which is kind of weird in itself, because I don't remember him having comics in general. But it seems this one time he had a stack of comics that we were both reading. One was a Justice League comic. Which I later figured out must've been JUSTICE LEAGUE 73, because it had Starman in it and I remember the good Sid Greene inks on Dick Dillin. That wasn't hard to find later--although my memory of the story and the actual comic are two different things.

But there were a few other comics he had. I remember reading this story about the Joker and how he came to be--but I must've dreamed this, because I've never found a comic like that. It's not the Red Hood story, I'm pretty sure--because I remember different and more vivid artwork. But maybe it doesn't really exist.

A couple of other holy grails, I mention on my blog SUPER-HEROES BY ANY other name would... and are: SUPER HEROES VERSUS SUPER VILLAINS and SUPER HEROES.

The first one I had in my possession, but it never had a cover and after hundreds of re-readings it was missing pages, but it was my favourite comic book in all the world. However I couldn't figure out what the name was as I explain on my blog.

It took me years to piece together the fact that it was SUPER-HEROES VERSUS SUPER VILLAINS, because there was nothing inside the comic that would indicate such a generic game. I essentially had to wait for the internet to be invented before I could find that comic. So thank you Al Gore. Once I knew the name getting it was easy.

The other one was the same sort of thing, except I never owned the comic. I just remember reading it and loving it. But the group was called the Fab Four. And searches for the Fab Four led me nowhere. I think I found the first issue--the issue I had read all those years ago, just by dumb luck at one of the regular Vancouver mini-coms. I instantly recognized the group on the cover and realized that the comc was called SUPERHEROES. 

Another was the second appearance of Poison Ivy. An older kid had lent me his stack of comics in around '66 and I was realy in love with Poision Ivy--even though I was seven--so I loved both the comics that had her in them. Having returned this stack, I later had to track down a lot of the comics that he lent to me. I don't know if I have found all of them.

Getting the first Poison Ivy was easy because she was on the cover. So it seemed like the next comic was the issue after that--182. But that was a giant. I think I finally figured it out by looking at the OPG and realizing the comic I wanted was 183, which didn't have Poison Ivy on the cover at all. So then that became relatively easy to find. But DC did that a lot, where they would interupt a continued story with a giant, so there were a lot of times when I was confused about the first or second part of a two or three part story.

My holy grail was undoubtedly Batman Annual #3 (1962), which came out just before I discovered super-hero comics.

I saw it in almost every DC comic I read, because it was featured in half-page house ads all over the place.

Another comic,"Case of the Real Gone Flash" in The Flash #128 (May 62) also showed up in a ton of half-page ads, but I managed to find that one somehow. Those ads also taught me that a cheetah and some kind of hawk were really fast.

But seeing that Batman Annual SO much, with all those bizarre and fantastic foes without knowing who they were or what happened in all those stories was a real killer. 

It took me many, many years to finally get a copy of that one. Needless to say, I paid more than a quarter for my copy, but it was well worth it.

-- MSA

Within the last ten years or so, I was slowly, slowly working backwards towards picking up all the earliest Jack Kirby Fantastic Four...having pieced together the holes in my collection from the 30-40 run, and then the 20-29, and finally 10-19. I have never had any hope of getting 1-10...

I realized I was swimming upstream, looking for more and more rare, and more expensive books, and so I was willing to accept worse and worse copies of these books, as long as they were complete AND contained the letters page as well as the cover. (These days, the Omnibus editions reprint the letters pages, and that's good!)

As I searched ebay for these books, I hit on a very odd listing. Instead of listing the issues by title and number, it was simply a listing under comic books "Fantastic Four lot" and contained a total of five books but jumped around a lot.  As I recall, the books included #25, #28, 55, 60 & 62.  None were in very good condition, but I had them all except for #28. As the original cross-over with the X-men, this had become in recent years a "key Marvel" and highly sought after.

I think I paid about $20 bucks for the total lot, which was being overlooked because it didn't list the issue numbers in the title of the listing.

When I received them, I sorted them out, bagged and boarded each one and made out a new listing on ebay for each, accurately describing them as just space-holder, not high quality, but given their age, somewhat rare opportunity. I believe I listed each one WITHOUT a scan (I had no scanner & no digital camera then) for $9.99 plus $3.95 for shipping in a UPS envelope.

To my great pleasure and surprise, every one was bid upon and sold to five different collectors. As their check or cash arrived, I would promptly mail out the book with a note of thanks.  It had been my plan to double my money, and since I didn't have #28 in my personal collection, I was going to fill that slot.

To my horror, I discovered that I had worked too quickly and efficiently for my own good.  I HAD LISTED ALL FIVE BOOKS, INCLUDING MY PRECIOUS #28.

Cover for Fantastic Four (1961 series) #28

It had sold. I had no choice but to honor the bid and mail it out.  It still remains a hole in my collection, even in the fine-good condition that I once had in my hands.

Since then, I have worked along and gotten virtually everything from #15 upwards, but #28 remains a hole. (Oh, I've read it, and seen reprints, and now I have the Omnibus, so i'm not missing it.  It just remains a sore spot that I'll never afford to fill!)

There's a copy on eBay right now for 99 cents: http://www.ebay.com/itm/SA-Marvel-Fantastic-Four-28-2-0-Cream-pages...

It's in crappy enough shape that it might not sell for too much. If nothing else, make up an eBay search so you learn when a copy goes up for sale. Granted you'll get a lot of noise, since there are other FF 28s, but it might pay off. I've done it a lot, but not for something that valuable.

-- MSA

Looks like my image of FF #28 has not stuck. Oh well...

Another of my holy grail issues was FF #52...the first appearance of the Black Panther.  

Now, I'm certain that I have told this tale over and over, so I won't bore you with the full adventure here, but I will recap it.

All the in-house ads of the month do not show the cover of #52, though they were supposed to. There's a star-burst saying roughly, "The latest bombshell from the House of Ideas!" and it obscures the entire cover.

So, for years, I had no idea what I was looking for.

One summer's day, I was visiting a bait shop at Hougton Lake, Michigan and in an old corrigated cardboard box was a stock of comics for a quarter or so... maybe ten cents. Anyway, as I flipped through the Archies and occassional DC, there was one worn, wrinkled FF that I didn't recognise. The cover said 12 cents, but I had no idea where it fit in the series. Then I saw that it was issue 52.  I hid it in the back of the stack, and ran back to my father, begging a quarter off from him. When I returned, I looked for the issue, but it was gone...not in the back...so I flipped through again, and there it was, second from the back.  I bought it and devoured it, and it still remains my copy today.

Now, I have heard that Marvel got cold feet about putting a black man as a hero on their cover, and so, changed covers too close to print deadline, so they covered the old image in the house ads, and Jack or whoever changed the costume on the cover so that it hid his race until the big reveal at the end.  They didn't want to give it away on the cover, they now say...


It remains one of the most elusive issues because of this.  (however, I will welcome additional speculation, correction or discussion on these points if anyone has anything to share...)

I don't know exactly what was going on with the changes, but prominently displaying a black superhero, especially one called the Black Panther, in 1966 was a risky move, especially for sales in the south. 

BP went through a lot of changes. Fairly famously, he began as a Kirby idea called, god help us, the Coal Tiger.

Needless to say, Stan nixed that idea--I have NO idea what that name was supposed to mean--and the new BP has a somewhat different costume, especially a half-mask. This is probably the cover that was covered over in the ads:

The costume still shows more shades of gray than were used, but the concept is the same. But they covered his face and redesigned the composition, possibly to make it look more like he was a partner than an enemy. They could have easily just drawn a full mask over BP's face, so there was more going on here than just covering his face,

But it's obvious they knew the changes were underway when they made up the ad. Maybe they used it anyway rather than another title just to draw a little more attention to the mystery of it. . 

I think it's likely they put a full mask on him to downplay his ethnicity, hoping to get their cake of introducing a black guy while eating it too by not turning off bigots until the final pages.

Is FF #52 really rare? It's more expensive and possibly in demand due to it being the BP's debut, but I've never heard anyone say it was rare.

It may be rare like Spider-Man #1. I hear that on media reports, yet I go to conventions and see dozens sitting on back display boards. That strikes me as expensive, not rare.

-- MSA

I have been hearing about the reluctance to create black super-heroes because they would lose sales in the South for decades now. Was that really true? Did Fantastic Four and The Avengers truly lose sales because of the Black Panther? Captain America because of the Falcon? Were bundles of Hero For Hire, Black Lightning, Black Goliath, The Gunhawks and the like left unopened in the Dixie states?

Given the longevity of the Panther, it seems doubtful to me.

 

Philip Portelli said:

I have been hearing about the reluctance to create black super-heroes because they would lose sales in the South for decades now. Was that really true? Did Fantastic Four and The Avengers truly lose sales because of the Black Panther? Captain America because of the Falcon? Were bundles of Hero For Hire, Black Lightning, Black Goliath, The Gunhawks and the like left unopened in the Dixie states?

Given the longevity of the Panther, it seems doubtful to me.

 

The times being what they were -- as well as the spotty distribution of comics back then, as well as experience of the congressional hearings over the content of comics -- I think publishers didn't want to find out the hard way.

But I have no doubt distributors would do that very thing if something came across they didn't like; they have, and they were pretty blunt doing so.

Also, any anecdotal indication that a given issue sold poorly brings with it the search for reasons why, accurate or not. You STILL see this in magazine publishing where you can count how many times a Black woman has appeared on the covers of magazines such as Elle, Cosmopolitan, and Vanity Fair over DECADES on your fingers.

Each step can blame the next one: Druggists could say they feared parents wouldn't like their kids bringing that comic home, distributors could say that druggists wouldn't put it on the rack, publishers could say distributors wouldn't put it in the bundles. How much any of that actually happened is hard to say, because there wasn't enough reward to try the risk.

By the early 1970s, the winds were changing, and comics were willing to be more pioneering. Even so, most black characters were stamped with "Black" something, and they were never runaway stars. It's hard to say whether that was due to racial prejudice or the mostly white boy audience wanting to read about characters like themselves--after girls got run out of comics, there weren't many big-selling female leads, either.

There's no way to know the sales on any one issue back there, and whatever sales results they reported were often approximate anyway. The FF letters column on BP was uniformly congratulatory, but that wouldn't have been hard to put together no matter how high the hate mail might've been.

Here's an interesting academic paper on the times and the response to BP in the media--which was mostly nonexistent:

http://altcasey.com/works/alt_bp.pdf. It notes that as late as 1970, when Beetle Bailey introduced Lt. Flap, the strip was dropped not only by a number of Southern papers but also, for a short while, by Stars and Stripes.

It also quotes Jim Shooter as saying, “I had tried to introduce a black Legion of Super-Heroes character in 1966. Mort Weisinger, my editor, rejected the idea. He said that with a black character in it, the book ‘wouldn't sell in the South,’ and that Southern distributors would boycott DC comics.”

Again, whether that's true or not doesn't matter if they thought it was true about the next step in the line.

-- MSA

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