Tag Archives: Comic Book Collecting

From My Collection: Finding A Bargain Box Copy of Fantastic Four #51

Fifty years ago today Fantastic Four #51, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s classic “This Man…This Monster” hit the spinner rack and quickly became one of the most memorable and beloved stories of their incredible run.

I’ve seen many references to “This Man…This Monster” over the years, each with a scan of Kirby and Sinnott’s splash page of the Thing walking the streets of Manhattan in the rain. But regardless of how many times I’ve seen a blurb or article praising FF #51’s story, art, and its place in comic book history, I never actually read the story.

I’ve recently started collecting Marvel Masterworks, including the first volume of the Fantastic Four covering issues #1-10. As much as I enjoy reading the classic Silver Age stories in that format, I find the new coloring a bit “off” and I still very much prefer reading original comic books in their four color glory, which is part of the reason I hadn’t read “This Man…This Monster” until recently. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Back in June of 2015 I had attended Special Edition NYC, Reed Expo’s offshoot of the New York Comic Con, which was a smaller convention that is more focused comic books and the creators than NYCC. In spite of the mile long line to get into Pier 94, the crowd was very manageable for that venue. Normally at comic conventions I tend to stay in Artist Alley and spend most of my money on sketches, but his time around I was looking to buy some Bronze Age Marvel and DC Comics. One vendor in particular caught my eye with several tables of long boxes with comics priced from $2 to $7. I was expecting to find books from the 70s and 80s (and there were plenty of those) but as I worked through the boxes, I started to find more than a few Marvel books from the 60s!

And there it was: Fantastic Four #51.

Priced at $2.00

Fantastic Four #51 Cover

Fantastic Four #51 (Copyright Marvel Comics)

It had to be a reprint, I thought. But a quick glance of the cover made it clear that I was holding a well read original copy of “This Man…This Monster.” How it was still in the box was a mystery to me considering the crowd gathered at this booth and the low price. Granted it was in very bad shape (it would probably have been graded as a 0.5), the cover was still barely attached by one staple and there was an old Marvel Comics sticker affixed to the back. Coincidentally the sticker was the Kirby/Sinnott drawing of The Thing from the cover of this particular issue. In spite of the condition, I had to have it even if it was falling apart and destined to be a reading copy.

Fantastic Four #51 Splash Page

Fantastic Four #51 (Copyright Marvel Comics)

The story begins with a dejected Ben Grimm (The Thing) standing in the rain in the streets of Manhattan, feeling sorry for himself and his present physical appearance. A mysterious stranger invites him into his home, offering Ben a cup of coffee and a sympathetic ear. But all isn’t as it seems. The mysterious host is a frustrated scientist jealous of Reed Richards and has drawn Ben into his home to drug him and test his “duplication apparatus.” He hooks the machine up to Ben and himself, taking on the physical appearance of The Thing while Ben reverts back to his human form.

Fantastic Four #51 page

Fantastic Four #51 (Copyright Marvel Comics)

Several days later in the Baxter Building as Reed Richards (Mr. Fantastic) works on a weapon that would take on Galactus, the impostor Thing enters and begins to help Reed with the heavy lifting. But no sooner than he arrives, the real Ben Grimm storms in warning Reed and Sue (the Invisible Girl) that the orange monster in front of them is a fake. Despite the real Ben’s pleas to believe him, Reed and Sue can’t believe that Ben would have reverted back to his human form. Ben storms out leaving the impostor in his place, which could be fatal to Reed.

Fantastic Four #51 panels

Fantastic Four #51 (Copyright Marvel Comics)

No spoilers here. This is a great story with all of the elements of classic 60’s Lee and Kirby and emotional impact on every page. And it wouldn’t be a Kirby FF without a splash page or three that truly showcases his genius. Reading this original copy of Fantastic Four #51 inspired me to find and collect other original issues from Lee and Kirby’s run. I bought my first Lee/Kirby FF a couple of years back during an impromptu visit to the Astro-Zombies comic shop in Albuquerque, NM thinking that would be the the only pre-FF #100 issue I would own. And while I won’t be able to afford a copy of Fantastic Four #1 any time soon, I’ve begun a collection of pre-FF #100 issues (ranging from issues #33 to #93) that numbers twelve and counting for less than $10 each. They may be reading copies, but they’re mine and I still treasure them.

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Off the Spinner Rack: January 1985

Lately I’ve been looking back on the comic book runs that hooked me during the 1980s.  Back then my brother and I would visit our local comic shop every Saturday and plunk down a few bucks for the latest issues of The Uncanny X-Men, The Fantastic Four and Thor among other (mainly) Marvel titles (by the mid-80’s there would also be a few independent titles in the mix).  I recently opened up the old box o’comics and wondered how many comics I would have bought on a month to month basis during my prime years of collecting.

I recently discovered the fantastic Newsstand Time Machine at Mike’s Amazing World of Comics, a comic book database that allows visitors to search for the titles that were on sale during a particular month and year.  I figured I would use my usual 30 year benchmark to look back, and I was able to track down our exact comic book purchases for January 1985:

Alien Legion 6 Cover
Alien Legion
#6

Alpha Flight 21 Cover Alpha Flight 22 Cover
Alpha Flight #21 and #22

Doctor Strange 70 Cover
Doctor Strange #70


Fantastic Four #277

Groo The Wanderer 2 CoverGroo The Wanderer 3 Cover
Groo the Wanderer #2 and #3

New Mutants 27
The New Mutants #27

Thor 354 Cover
Thor #354

Uncanny X-Men 192 Cover
Uncanny X-Men #192

Void Indigo 2 Cover
Void Indigo #2

Looking back on this list, the titles we bought that month aren’t surprising.  At that point in our comic collecting we were primarily Marvel readers, with only sporadic purchases of DC titles.  Alpha Flight, Doctor Strange, Fantastic Four, Thor and The Uncanny X-Men were consistent favorites of ours for several years and would make up the bulk of our comic book collection.  Bill Sienkiewicz’s art got me hooked for a second time on The New Mutants, and Groo the Wanderer by Mark Evanier and Sergio Aragones would become a new favorite over the next twenty or so issues in 1985-1986.

Missed comics:

Cerebus 70 Cover
Cerebus
#70

Crisis On Infinite Earths 1
Crisis on Infinite Earths #1

Jon Sable Cover 24
Jon Sable Freelance #24

Dave Sim’s Cerebus and Mike Grell’s Jon Sable Freelance were also consistent purchases for us, but that month’s issues sold out at our local comic shop before we could buy them.  Crisis on Infinite Earths #1 was a flat out miss on our part and that’s one I regret not picking up back then.

January 1985’s purchases added up to a whopping $9.05 for ten comic books ($19.86 today adjusted for inflation).  The same number of comic books today would run me about $44.  In my opinion we got better art and more story/character development per issue for a fraction of the price back then, and it’s no coincidence that my comic book purchases over the last year or so have been mainly back issues.  Sure they cost a few bucks more nowadays, but I enjoy the feeling of nostalgia I get when I find a back issue from the 80’s that I missed the first time on the spinner rack.  In a way I’m glad we missed a few issues back then.

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A Day at Special Edition: NYC

Special Edition NYC

On Saturday June 14th I had the opportunity to attend Reed Expo’s Special Edition: NYC at the Jacob Javitz Center.  Since its announcement earlier this year, I was looking forward to this event due to its smaller size than October’s New York Comic Con, and its greater focus on the comic book creators.

I arrived at the Javitz Center about a half hour after the doors opened Saturday morning, and at first I wondered if I was in the wrong venue.  There was no line to get into the convention center and it was almost completely empty.  The exhibit hall/Artist Alley was located in the North section of the convention center (Artist Alley at the last two NYCC’s) and while it was a smaller show in terms of space and overall attendance, there was still a good buzz and a good sized crowd for the room.  It was much more low key than NYCC and it gave attendees a better opportunity to meet and chat with the writers and artists in attendance.

Special Edition NYC show floor

Special Edition NYC - Ultron

First stop in Artist Alley was Jerry Ordway’s booth.  A sketch from Jerry was always high on my “must have” list, and I was fortunate enough to have Jerry add Superman to my sketch book.

Jerry Ordway - NY Special Edition

My priority at any comic convention is adding new sketches to my sketchbook, and one of the realities of this obsession is standing in line, sometimes for hours, just for the opportunity to meet or get an autograph/sketch from a favorite creator.  But  it’s always great to meet fellow comic fans on line and talk comics and comic art.  While on line for my Ordway sketch, a fellow attendee showed his latest ink:

Batfan Joe shows off his tattoo in progress of the Joker (front) and Batman (back).

Batfan Joe shows off his tattoo in progress of the Joker (front) and Batman (back).

Another highlight of the show for me was meeting writer/artist/editor and Alien Legion co-creator Carl Potts.  Alien Legion was a favorite comic of mine in the 80’s, and one of my favorite pieces of original comic art in my collection is a page from Alien Legion #4 written by Potts, and drawn by Frank Cirocco and Terry Austin).  I purchased a copy of his latest book The DC Comics Guide to Creating Comics and was happy to hear that Titan Comics will relaunch Alien Legion with Alien Legion: Uncivil War #1 on June 25th.  Needless to say, I’m looking forward to the return of Jugger Grimrod, Torie Montroc and Sarigar!

NY Special Edition - Carl Potts

Some other pickups at the show included two hardcover copies of Marvel Masterworks, X-Men #122 and #123 by Claremont, Byrne and Austin, New Gods #4 by Kirby and Micronauts #2 by Mantlo and Golden.  The final highlight of the show for me was the opportunity to stop by the table of freelance artist and good friend Jose Molestina of Journey Studios.  In all Special Edition: NYC was a great time and I hope Reed Expo brings it back next year.

Jose Molestina of Journey Studios and his sketch of the Flash, the newest addition to my comic art collection.

Jose Molestina of Journey Studios and his sketch of the Flash, the newest addition to my comic art collection.

 

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