On Sunday morning, me and Jay visited yet another comic book show, this time in Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey. Honestly, the big draw for me was that the show was staged from a Holiday Inn.
I am all about random hobbyist conventions taking place at minor hotels. Those are the types of shows I grew up with, where vendors cram into modest conference rooms, and where there aren’t even the smallest hints of corporate sponsorship.
These shows are plain but intimate. If you’ve ever been to a giant Comic-Con event, I imagine that you spent weeks if not months preparing, strategizing everything from your budget to your outfit. By contrast, a show like this involves no prep at all. You kinda just go, even if you’re hungover and wearing yesterday’s clothes.
As it turned out, this convention was a sister to the one we went to last March, sharing many of the same dealers and even the same customers. I know this because I recognized the guy who subtly elbowed me away from a 50 cent longbox as the same guy who subtly elbowed me away from a 50 cent longbox last March.
If you’ve never been to a smaller show, they’re so worth it. A big convention might involve hundreds of competing dealers desperately trying to stay in the black, but at one like this, most of the dealers are friends, and none of them invest much money into being there. By and large, they all seemed happy enough just talking about comics, even when sales were slow.
Many dealers were there as extensions of their full-time businesses, but I got the impression that just as many were simply liquidating their extras and unwanteds, treating the show more like a yard sale. That’s a huge plus, mind you. I’d only consider a comic show a failure if it didn’t let me buy trash books at trash prices.
Ever the eavesdropper, I heard a few dealers mention their long-closed comic shops. Given their ages, my best guess is that their stores came and went in the ‘90s.
Ah, the golden era of marketing ploys and mass hysteria! Remember when comics got so hot that stores that had no reason to sell comic books often did? Hell, I used to live within walking distance of at least four different comic shops, back when the craze was peaking and every dead salon was just a week away from becoming some Thor fan’s realized dream.
Though you’re unlikely to recognize any of the dealers, these small shows still carry a “Where Are They Now?” air for anyone who remembers buying X-Force #1 from a goddamned bagel store.
As always, my focus was on cheap comics. Since I’m always hunting for old print ads, I’ll blindly buy stacks of them if the prices are low enough.
The fifty cent bins shown above were fruitful, but other dealers were even cheaper. One sold me sixty comics for just $20, all my choice, and all bagged and boarded.
I went home with exactly the number of comic books that I could physically carry.
Man, what a score! The “cheapie bins” found in the wild are normally “cheapie bins” for a reason: The books are in poor condition, the titles are either horribly obscure or forever unpopular, and the whole process is marked by the vague scent of rotten milk.
But I got some amazing books this time, largely from titles that I was already a fan of. Seems like every comic that I “invested in” during the ‘90s is now worth 50 cents, while all of the ‘80s books that I used to buy on clearance are still on clearance, for the exact same prices. Awesome!
I’m usually all too eager to rip the ad pages from old comic books. This time, it’s gonna hurt. Would you look at these titles? I scored everything from The Transformers to Inhumanoids! It’s like every passion I’ve ever had became a comic book series, and all of them were available for loose change.
My one splurge was Silver Surfer #50, which cost around ten dollars. Fittingly enough, this was the issue that originally made me rabid for comics, back when I was just the right age to take the bait on all of those 1990s gimmick covers.
In fact, at one of the first comic book shows I ever went to — at a similarly small hotel — I remember staring at Silver Surfer #50 and being horribly sad that I couldn’t afford the dealer’s $30 asking price. Now a day removed, I might prefer to have that extra ten bucks back in my wallet, but it’s still nice to go full circle.
The best part of any comic show? Going home. That’s when you get to dive onto the couch and bury yourself in a virtual foxhole of old comic books. It’s like trying to condense a decade’s worth of entertainment into one cold afternoon. Just me, my coffee, a tattered blanket, and several issues of Warlock Chronicles. Life was good.
And now I’m armed with at least ten different print ads for Bonkers fruit candy.
Life is still good.