Message Board
Subject: Recommended cheap comics (Revised & Expanded)
| Replies | Post Reply | Message Board |

Posted by Rimes on June 09, 1997 at 14:25:00:

I posted the following long message on the old Surveys board (at the old site) before it closed down. I then reposted it in two parts on the Alvaro message boards, adding an entry for The Teen Titans & Who's Who especially for that board. I now present the expanded version of that post here, since the original one on the old site got no response. Hope you enjoy it...
I should add that I believe in supporting the work of creators you enjoy...And that I also buy brand-new work at cover-price when it appears (thru PREVIEWS or when I see it on the shelf). For example, when I see new comics using formats or genres I wish to see more of, I will not wait until those comics are in the discount bins before buying them; I will support them when new so that they can hopefully succeed. Also, some comics from smaller companies, while likely candidates for the discount boxes, may rarely be found in there because of low circulation. Therefore, I would suggest buying these comics when new rather than waiting until one sees them in the cheap-box (since one might never find a copy there anyway).
I will have more to say on the subject in a forthcoming post on some comics I bought for ten-cents each last week. Until then, here's the main article....

Here is my guide to some hidden treasures (reading-wise) that can occasionally be found in discount boxes at conventions and some shops. Many discount boxes at shops in my area, I've noticed, offer comics for 3 for $1.00 or 50 cents each. Sometimes, however, you can find comics lower than that, especially at conventions, where it is not unusual to find someone selling comics at 25 or 10 cents each. Some of these comics are no doubt deservedly cheap, but in some cases the seller does not perhaps realize the significance of what he is selling, its worth to a particular reader (say, someone who likes to read old comics but cannot afford the originals or a fan who collects certain artists) or doesnt happen to share a fan's ideosyncratic taste. Here is my list of comics that I have bought cheaply, many for only 50 cents or less.

Cap is widely recognized as a poor-selling character who is not a fan-favorite with today's younger readers and consequently good issues of this title can be found in the 25 cent boxes. A few months ago, I picked up a good portion of the run from 1988 to 1994 for 25 cents each (and Avengers, too). I had not cared for Mark Gruenwald's handling of the character when the comics were first issued, but now I have a better appreciation of it (hey, as long as I didn't have to pay much for it). I found myself very surprised at how much I enjoyed "The Bloodstone Hunt" issues, particularly #358-360, which had the pace of an Indiana Jones movie. Obviously, other good Cap issues to acquire include Mike Zeck's run on the book (my favorite being #267) which might cost a little more, but still should be pretty cheap.

MARVEL's reprints:
Marvel reprinted a ton of good stuff in the 1970s and even into the 1980s, saving some of us the hassle of having to acquire the expensive originals. Unfortunately, as Marvel's page count shrank, they started omitting pages to fit the stories in. Around 1983, Marvel increased their page-size, so they had a little more room to fit in some obscure stuff at the back of the issues (an Ant-Man story in Marvel's Greatest Comics, an Inhumans serial in Marvel Tales, British Hulk stories in Marvel Super Action, etc. even some new stuff occasionally). But then, all the reprint books (except Marvel Tales) got the axe. Now they can be picked up cheap in discount boxes, for even less money. A good one to look out for is the 1970s Human Torch series, which reprinted his early Strange Tales appearences and short Torch tales from the 1940s and 1950s. More recently, Marvel reprinted Barry Smith's early Conan comics under the title "Conan Classic." Even issues of Classic X-Men can occasionally be found in the discount boxes.

MARVEL "pre-Marvel" reprints:
I can't afford the originals of many of Marvel's 1950s mystery & fantasy comics, but I have nevertheless amassed a large amount of those stories via 1970s reprints of them. One of my all-time favorites is Crypt of Shadows #9...four great stories, drawn by nobody I ever heard of. Other favorites are Monsters on the Prowl #27 (all-Kirby issue), Chamber of Chills #11, and Weird Wonder Tales #10, 11, & the later issues around #20 with Doctor Druid. Many of Marvel 1950s war stories were reprinted in the early issues of War Is Hell (1970s series). Western stories, some from the 1950s like Apache Kid, were reprinted in Western Gunfighters and Mighty Marvel Western. A more recent series by Marvel (early 1990s) with a Western flavor was Zorro, also a cheap-box contender.

SUPERMAN titles:
In the early 1980s, the New Adventures of Superboy series contained stories evoking the spirit of DC's old comics, with art by Kurt Schaffenberger and amusing back-up stories featuring Krypto or Superbaby.

When that title was cancelled, Action Comics and Superman began following a similar old-time format, occasionally having three short self-contained stories per issue, and featuring art by Swan, Schaffenberger, and sometimes Wayne Boring and Keith Giffen. These are some of my favorite comics of the 1980s. Some of my favorite issues are Action #559, 570, & 574 and Superman #416.

DC Comics Presents had some nice issues during its run that some fans may not be aware of. For example, #66, which has pencils & inks by Joe Kubert, or #26-29, 36 & 37, which have art by Jim Starlin. (I think #36 looks best.) My favorite issue of the title is #32, however, with art by Schaffenberger, a fun story about Superman and Wonder Woman being hit by Cupid's arrow. The comic had back-up stories during this period, too, showcasing forgotten characters.

When Kirby left Jimmy Olsen in 1972, the title initially reverted to the style of the early Jimmy Olsen issues and introduced his "Mr Action" persona. One of my favorites from this period is #154 with nice Schaffenberger art. Even though it is from 1972, it feels like a comic from the 1950s (yes, that's a good thing).

I'd forgotten to mention in my original post that many issues of the 1980s New Teen Titans series, including most of the excellent Perez issues, can be routinely found selling for 25 cents each at conventions and some shops. I first bought an issue of The New Teen Titans with #25, around 1982 I guess, and got a subscription about a year later. And when Perez left, I stopped following it. Now, thanks to the discount boxes, I have been able to pick up nearly all the issues of the comic before I'd started reading it, all of the holes in-between, and many issues after I had stopped following it -- including recent ones. I'd long thought that TT was a hot comic back in the Perez days...but it can be found real cheap now, which is to the advantage of all fans of good comics.

Another series which can be picked up real cheaply is DC's original "Who's Who" series. When I cleaned out one guy's cheap-box of these issues, he kind of cautiously warned me, "Gee, I don't know how good the information is in those comics now." But to someone like me, who prefers the older ones to their present incarnations, and is more interested in reading about the original characters than their annoying replacements (if the characters still even exist now!), the Who's Who series is worth getting.

DC comics:
A series like Men of War (1977-80) can usually be picked up cheap. One of the reasons to get this series is not for the lead, but for the Enemy Ace back-up stories that occasionally appeared in it. Howard Chaykin's Enemy Ace stories are in #9, 10, 12-14, 19, & 20. Unknown Soldier also had some interesting back-up serials including Enemy Ace drawn by John Severin (circa #251-261). I'm currently trying to get more issues of DC's mystery books like "Ghosts" and "Secrets of Haunted House" for as cheap as I can find them. I've often bought cheap comics at conventions only to find that they were drawn by some terrific artists... Chaykin and Alex Toth stories in Blackhawk #260 (1983), Green Lantern #171 by Toth (1983), Talos of the Wilderness Sea #1 by Gil Kane ( this for like ten cents!), First Issue Special #9 (Dr Fate) and the 1970s Hercules series, both drawn by Walt Simonson. All bought with nickles and dimes...

(I'd add that many issues of the Legion of Super-Heroes, including Giffen's original run on the title, can be found in cheap-boxes...which is where I got my copies of it!)

DC Reprints:
One of the 1970s series that reprinted Silver Age and Golden Age superhero stories was "Wanted, the World's Most Dangerous Villains!" Unfortunately, people seem to have caught on to what a good series this was, and they aren't usually found selling for a quarter. Another good series from that period is Four-Star Spectacular. One of my all-time favorite comics is a 1970s DC reprint comic: DC 100-Page Super-Spectacular #20, reprinting the first three Two-Face stories (from 1940s Batman), and great 1940s stuff of The Spectre, Black Canary, Dr Mid-Nite, etc. If you see this comic for 2 or 3 bucks, definitely buy it. (I saw it at a convention for $1 or $2 last year.) A more recent DC reprint series that can be found cheaply (I got mine for 25 cents each, and not all from the same guy) are Best of Brave & the Bold #1-6 from 1988. These reprint Neal Adams B&B stories as well as great adventure back-ups by Kubert & Russ Heath. Sometimes the 1983 Masterworks series can be found cheaply...including Frazetta's Shining Knight in issue #1 & 2, and Wrightson reprints in #3. Some 1970s comics reprint 1940s Simon & Kirby work: Boy Commandoes (I have #1, still have to get #2), and Black Magic (I' d say that #1 & 2 are best...the first story in #1 is great).

Charlton has one of the worst reputations in comics. But behind the shoddy printing of their pages lay some interesting work, particularly for fans of particular artists like Ditko and Joe Staton. I've always felt that Staton's early work for Charlton was more interesting than the stuff he did for DC later on. Some examples can be found in various Charlton ghost comics of the 1970s and early 1980s (the ones from the late 1970s and early 1980s are mainly reprints of 1970s stories), E-Man, and a little-known series he drew called Primus, based on a long-forgotten TV show.

Some interesting (if amateurish) work appeared in the early 1980s series Charlton Bullseye. The best issue of this is probably #6, which has a Thunder Bunny cover inked by a newcomer named Jerry Ordway. When Bullseye, got cancelled, some of the work intended for it appeared in Scary Tales #37 (1983). The first issue of Charlton Bullseye contained a new Blue Beetle/Question team-up, though disappointingly done. A later issue (#7) featuring Captain Atom was better, and had a Nightshade back-up drawn by Bill Black (who would soon acquire the rights to these characters for his AC Comics line).

As one of its last ventures, Charlton published two issues of Ditko's Static in 1985, which is one of the few times that Ditko's intriguing Objectivist work was available to a mainstream audience. (The other instances being Ditko's Hawk & Dove and The Question.) The second one (#12 it is called, for some reason) is the best of the two.

Many artists got their start at Charlton including John Byrne and Mike Zeck. Byrne did not do much (if anything) for their ghost titles like Zeck did, however, so Byrne's Charlton work is easy to identify and collect, whereas Zeck's is more difficult to collect. Zeck did several covers to issues where he did no work inside. And he would have an 8-page story at the back of an issue featuring work by others. Pages of early Zeck work can be found in Scary Tales #2, 6, 24 (reprint), 25 (reprint of #6 story), 26 (reprint), Dr Graves #59, Monster Hunters #6, 7 (Zeck did the story & art for this one...and his cover for it also appeared on an issue of Rocket's Blast ComicCollector at the time), & 9 (an excellent full-length Zeck tale, which was also reprinted in Ghost Manor #72). All of these Zeck stories date from around 1975-76. A reprint of another Zeck story (and cover) is in Ghostly Tales #166 (1984) which is an enjoyable comic. (Incidentally, Unexpected #221, a 1982 DC comic, also has a Zeck story hidden in the back, and can be found cheaply.)

Some more Charlton ghost comics I can recommend...Dr Graves #65-66, all reprints but with some great stuff by Ditko (from 1968), Aparo (poking fun at comics themselves), and Tom Sutton (whose art reminds me of Simonson's Thor for some reason here). Dr Graves #62 is all-new material, surprisingly, by Ditko and PAM (an underrated artist who has influenced "Wordsmith" artist R. Taylor...more PAM work can be found in the 1970s series Vengeance Squad). Charlton also did some good Westerns and War comics, too.

CHARLTON reprints:
In the 1980s, Charlton began reprinting some stories from their archives, including 1950s Ditko work; since the original issues of those 1950s Charltons are quite expensive, the 1980s reprints are probably the only place I will get to experience them. Unfortunately, Charlton did not seem to have the collector in mind when they reprinted these 1950s stories, so sometimes they are hidden in issues reprinting 1970s stories. One 7-page 1950s Ditko tale appears in Ghost Manor #73, for example....another short one appears in Ghostly Tales #168...and another in Haunted #71. Two 1950s Ditko tales appear in Ghost Manor #76 and two in Scary Tales #46. All five of these comics were printed in 1984, and should be available for rock-bottom prices, if you can find them. Entire issues full of 1950s Ditko reprints include Monster Hunters #14 (1978) and Ghost Manor #54 (1981). Ghost Manor #55 has three 1950s non-Ditko "Mysterious Traveler" stories. Another reprint issue to look for is Attack #48 (1984) which is filled with 1960s Wally Wood war stories, and has a Simon & Kirby cover! Sometimes you can even find the 1950s Ditko stuff reprinted in the late 1970s Space War cheaply...and the late 1970s Space Adventures, which reprinted Ditko's early Captain Atom stories. In some cases, these are the only times these stories have been reprinted. One of these days I hope to find an issue of Charlton's 1983 reprint series "Soap Opera Love" and "Soap Opera Romances." The Overstreet guide says they exist, but I've never seen 'em...

Archie/Red Circle Comics:
I was a big fan of Archie's adventure line back around 1983-84. their titles included Mighty Crusaders, Blue Ribbon Comics, Shield/Steel Sterling, Original Shield, Black Hood, Comet, and The Fly. My favorites are Blue Ribbon #1, 5, 8, & 10 (all reprints), Fly #5-8 (I've liked it so much I bought it twice), and Black Hood #2 (again, have two copies, it's so great). (NOTE: These Archie superhero characters last appeared as part of DC's Impact line which personally I didn't care for, but those Impact comics can also be found cheaply.)

Atlas/Seaboard 1970s comics:
My favorites are The Scorpion by Chaykin and Police Action which has two serials about cops. (DC had a similar idea with Lady Cop [First Issue Special #4], although she wasn't blood-thirsty like Atlas' cops). The Grim Ghost was another violent character. Morlock 2001 #3 had pencils by Ditko, inked by Wrightson, an interesting combination.

Miscellaneous reprint titles:
Pure imagination, run by Greg Theakston, has presented some interesting reprint comics through the years, one of the earliest being Doc Weird's Thrill Book in 1987. Another issue I have by that company is called Intense! and reprints old humor strips (including Powerhouse Pepper) by Basil Wolverton. Caliber and Pure Imagination presented a series titled "Buried Treasure" by various comics greats, in a variety of genres.

Some great old stuff was reprinted around 1990 by Recollections, including The Red Demon, The Man in Black, and the original Black Cat. I have issue #2 of the latter which is all in color...if you ever see this one cheap, definitely buy it! (NOTE: These were Harvey characters.)

Eternity has done a lot of reprints, although some have poor reproduction, filled with gray. 1950s horror stories were reprinted in "Fifties Terror," which have some of the worst ones I've ever read...a few are so bad, they're good. "Strange Worlds" reprinted science-fiction. "Cosmic Heroes" reprinted the early Buck Rogers comic-strip. "Crime Classics" reprinted The Shadow comic-strip. "Private Eyes" reprinted The Saint comic-strip. Other comic-strip reprint titles by Eternity included Charlie Chan and Sherlock Holmes. Whenever I dig through a discount box, I always hope I'll pick up some more of these. (I didn't even know about most of these titles until I saw them in discount boxes.)

Pioneer also reprinted old comic strips. I'm trying to get more of their Mandrake the Magician issues (I got the first one a few months ago for a quarter).

Eclipse's old Seduction of the Innocent series is great for 1950s crime & horror, especially for fans of Toth. Other good Eclipse reprint series include World of Wood, Siegel & Shuster: Dateline 1930's, Power Comics, and some of the Mr Monster comics.

Dark Horse reprinted several old Basil Wolverton comics including Spacehawk and Wolverton's Marvel work.

Another nice comic is Bruce Webster's The Best of Horror & Science Fiction Comics, reprinting the best of the best artists. Apple Comics' reprints of Warren's Blazing Combat are also something to look for.

Fantagraphics reprinted early Frazetta with great production values in "Untamed Love" and "Thun'da Tales." When i pulled "Thun'da Tales" out of a guy's 25-cent box at a convention, he said "Ah, a fan who knows his artists..."

Early Jim Starlin can be found reprinted in Big Bang's Dr Weird (1994) and Pacific's Darklon the Mystic (1983).

AC Comics reprints a lot of old stuff, especially westerns. I initially wasn't going to buy issues of their "Good Girls Quarterly" from a discount box, until i noticed that there was some terrific-looking Golden Age reprints in the back, some reprinted in color. (NOTE: In the early 1980s, AC acquired the rights to Charlton's superheroes and published new stories featuring the likes of the Blue Beetle and Captain Atom. These stories are often overlooked even by those familair with both the Charlton and DC versions of these heroes.)

Various good artists:
Jay Disbrow was an old-time artist who did some work in the early 1980s. I've often seen his "Captain Electron" one-shot in cheap boxes. A better comic he did from the same period (and also cheap) was Quest Presents Lance Carrigan of the Galactic Legion #1-3 (#3 being in color). I'd count Disbrow as one of my favorites, but I only have these four comics by him.

Robin Snyder's series of comics for Renegade in the mid-1980s (Revolver, followed by Ditko's World, followed by Murder) contain some interesting Ditko stuff. Murder #3, in fact, has two of my favorite Ditko stories of the 1980s, and among my favorites of ALL his work. The Topps "Secret City Saga" stuff can be found cheaply...I recommend Ditko's Captain Glory #1.

The Deluxe series of "Thunder Agents" from the mid-1980s has work by favorites like Perez, Dave Cockrum, Giffen, & Ditko. (I wonder who owns the rights to Thunder Agents now?)

Well, I could go on longer, but you get the idea!! There's a lot of great, obscure stuff hidden in those 25-cent boxes at conventions and shops. They're definitely worth looking into. (P.S.: Thanks for listening, all who have made it this far!) Comments welcomed!

Rob Imes


Post Reply:
Link: (optional)
Site Title:

| Replies | Post Reply | Message Board |

Jonah Weiland's Comic Book Resources

© 1997 Jonah Weiland & Boiling Point Productions.