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Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Inflated Values for Spider-Man and Hulk Comics?

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I've been reading the series "Skaar, Son of Hulk" lately. It's a highly visual story that takes place on the planet Sakaar, after Hulk departs for Earth at the end of the Planet Hulk storyline. Hulk thought his son had died along with his wife in the nuclear explosion that devastated Sakaar, or he would never have left. But Skaar grows up alone, raised by a priest, and defending villagers from the armies that battle for control of the ravaged planet. He feels rage at his abandonment, and at the injustice of the millions of peaceful inhabitants who die while a few warlords battle for supremacy. So when the Silver Surfer arrives, and announces that Galactus will soon come to feed on Sakaar, Skaar fights him instead of organizing an escape for everyone. It's up to the shade of his mother Caiera, sustained by the planet's Oldpower, to hurl Skaar into the nearby wormhole, so she can order soldiers to put down their arms, load up the spaceships, and escape the planet before Galactus arrives.

When Skaar exits the wormhole, he finds himself on Earth. Enraged at the destruction of his home planet, he seeks out the father who abandoned him and his world. In his rage at his father, he attacks, and such aggressiveness causes the Hulk to respond in kind. As they pound away at each, cracks form in the ground beneath them. As the cracks widen, and the ground shakes, Skaar realizes that the battle with his father has significantly damaged a nearby nuclear power plant. He could not save his beloved Sakaar, but he can undo the damage he has caused, if he is willing to vanquish the rage that has fueled his life up to this point, and focus the Oldpower he inherited from his mother to strengthen the walls, foundation, and underlying bedrock of the nuclear power plant.

Through this sacrificial act, in trading-in his rage and desire for revenge, he saves Earth, the planet his father ultimately loved more than Sakaar. Doing the right thing costs Skaar, and brings him little in satisfaction or acclaim. But then, the lot of the common people, and his desire to save them from the injustices inflicted upon them by the warlords of Sakaar, are who Skaar is, and what makes him a hero.

I've enjoyed learning about Skaar's origins, and Greg Pak's world building skills are impressive for the comics medium. So I was willing to seek out the final issue I couldn't find at my usual comic store, and pay the extravagant price of $4.25 to complete the series. I couldn't wait in the hopes that it would turn up in the $1 section any time soon: I had to read it now!

So imagine my surprise when I saw two well-dressed ladies plunk down $3000 in crisp, unblemished $100 bills for an old Spider-Man comic. Although I couldn't tell for sure, I believe it was a copy of Amazing Fantasy 15, which contains Spider-Man's origin story. The comic was stored in a hard plastic (or glass?) case, which the owner had to screw to open in order to take out the comic to show the ladies. Presumably, this case forms a hermitic seal, and keeps the comic from aging. Then, when they want to read it (if they want to read it), the ladies will carefully extract it from its case, and using gloved hands (and specially designed tools?), turn the pages.

People collect books, and my collection probably rivals many readers when it comes to quantity. As for quality, I've never worried overmuch about condition: what mattered was that I had the story, as a reminder that I had read it, or so I could read it (or reread it) when I wanted. Comic books have grades, upon which their value is placed. But, as in all other aspects of the free market, demand dictates the selling price, not an item's purchasing price or its intrinsic value. Given the ups and downs of the stock market, and the way house prices can rise and fall unexpectedly, I suppose that paying $3000 for an old, rare comic, that lots of people will always want to own makes a certain amount of sense. Still, I'm satisfied with my own high-priced issue of Skaar, and my reprint of Amazing Fantasy 15 that was included in the San Diego Union Tribune back in 2006. I have no plans to sell either any time soon. I can take either out of its plastic case, handle it without gloves, and enjoy the story again and again 

Still, nobody else had better try to handle my comics without my approval, or do so in a reckless fashion. Otherwise, they're apt to see my muscles swell and turn green. You wouldn't want to see me when I'm filled with rage, would you?

Dragon Dave

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