Comic book hobby sells out its heroes

By Don McAlavy: CNJ Columnist

(Editor’s Note: This column is the first in a two-part series.)

One of my delights when I get a newspaper, any newspaper, is to read the comics, the funny papers as some of us like to call them. That hasn’t changed since I was a kid.

Growing up in the 30s and 40s I spent a good portion of my hard earned money on 10-cent comic books, but at about age 16, I dropped them as being “kid stuff,” which most of it was, and sought new delights – girls, motorcycles, and heroes like John Wayne, Gary Cooper and a host of other bigger than life figures.

Well I got a shock the other day. Now my 14 year old son (talking about 1986) has been into reading comic books for some time. Unlike me, who threw or traded them off when I finish them, my kid is a serious comic book reader, and not only that, he collects some of the dern things.

He knows what’s valuable and collectable. Dumb old me, I wasn’t that smart! The shock I got first was when I dropped into a specialty comic book store in Clovis, Captain Comics, and found out from Frank Boone, the owner, that had I saved my Action Comics No. 1, that came out in June of 1938 with the first appearance of Superman, I could now sell it for $14,000. Yes, that’s FOURTEEN THOUSAND DOLLARS! “Holy Moley!” as old Captain Marvel used to say.

That’s well below the top price paid for Marvel Comics No. 1 which first appeared in November of 1939. Now if you had one of them, in mint condition, the going price is $17,000. Frank Boone told me that one went for as high as $20,000 recently! “Great Scott!” Superman exclaims.

Talking about Superman, Frank Boone informs me that the “man of steel” is going to be killed off. The May issue (1986) will see the last of the old Superman. It wasn’t kryptonite that did him in, it was sales figures that blasted him out of the sky.

But have no fear, comic book fans he’s to be recreated. John Byrne, Marvel Comic book’s top creator, has left Marvel to work on the recreation of Superman at DC Comics. That’s quite a blow to Marvel Comics, to date the leading comic book seller, two to one, over its nearest rival, DC Comics.

Don’t kid yourself, comics are big business, big money. What I paid 10 cents for when I was a kid now sells for 75 cents to $2.95. Expanded versions, called graphic novels, go from $4.95 to $6.95.

That’s a far cry from the first “comic books” called nickel comics as they sold for five cents.

Don McAlavy is Curry County’s historian. He can be contacted at:

dmcalavy@telescopelab.com