Confessions of an Under-funded Comic Book Geek.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am an underfunded comic book geek. I have been for a little over 20 years. What does this mean? I will tell you. It means that I LOVE comic books with all of my heart but I can’t afford to invest heavily into my collection. With that being said I have always been the type of guy who pretty much only buys comics from “the long box”.

For those of you unfamiliar with comic book shops, when you walk into one the new comics and the collectors items are either on wall display racks or in the case of the valuable comics, in a glass case. The rest of the books, usually numbering in the 1000’s (at least in the good stores) reside in long, white, cardboard boxes called long boxes. These are the comics that are used, or are new back issues that didn’t sell. Generally these books can be had for under a buck a piece.

These are the comics that fuel my collection and for the most part they are the ones that aren’t that popular. This is one of the two primary reasons I like the types of super heroes that I do.

Let me expound on that a little.

The first comic book I ever received I got for Christmas when I was seven years old. It was a Donald Duck comic book. Actually, I got 20 of them because my mom bought them in a comic shop for 50 cents each. I continued collecting Disney comics for the next few years, mostly because they sold them in a little general store right down the street from my house and I would stop in and pick some up every Sunday on my walk home from church. Four years later when I was 11 my mom got me my very first superhero comic. It was “Supreme” number 1.

To be honest, I wasn’t that into Supreme, but I was very much into superheros. To be honest, at the time I was just starting into the adventures of puberty and I was going through changes. I could easily identify with the plight of superheroes who were also, “going through changes”.  I started to go to an actual comic book store to make my purchases, but due to the fact that I was still basing my income on a weekly allowance from my parents I bought the cheap stuff.

I bought a few Captain America books, I bought some Ironman and War Machine books but those were the exceptions to what I bought the most of which were the super cheapies. In particular I bought “The Punisher”, “Moon Knight”, “The Phantom”, “ZEN:Intergalactic Ninja” and a whole host of comics by companies like Dark Horse and Valiant. Titles that the original writers probably don’t even remember making.

Of all the El Cheapo books I bought, I came to own the entire collections of the original “Punisher”, “Punisher: War Journal” and “Punisher: War Zone”. I bought comics almost religiously for the next 7 years. Up until the time I was 18 I spent probably $30- $40 a week on cheap comic books and I amassed a pretty formidable collection. Some have even proved to be good investments. For example, I have “Punisher Kills the Marvel Universe”, the entire first printing of the original run of “The 300” comic, as well as the first issue of Miller’s “Batman: The Dark Knight Returns”. For the most part though the books I have remained at the same value that they where when I bought them. I mean Honestly, have you even ever heard of Marvel’s “Sleepwalker”?

After high school I got out of collecting for a while. I was in college and I really enjoyed drinking and other things that took up my limited funding. For about 2 years I didn’t buy a single new comic other than the few issues of Dare Devil written by Kevin Smith and a few Frank Miler books because he was awesome. For my birthday one of my room mates got me a few of he new Punisher books, but that was about it. For entertainment I began raiding my room mates’ collections and got into reading some of the more popular books. “Spiderman”, “The Avengers”, “X-Men”, “Batman”, “Superman” and various others. I liked them because they were comic books, but honestly with all of the re-writes, adjustments to origins and “Multiple Universe” theories, I felt that most of those titles weren’t reading. I mean, how could I come to love a character who’s complete story line changes every five issues or so.

One comic I really did get into during this period was Hellboy. A close friend of mine introduced me to the series and I LOVED it. The other major thing that happened during this time to affect the type of collector I am was the creation of a table top role playing game called “Super System”. I was really into table top rpg’s at the time and myself and my room mate’s used to hang out at a place called Phantom of the Attic in Pittsburgh’s Oakland neighborhood.

One of the guys who worked there was developing his own game and asked my friends and I to be testers. Part of playing this particular game was to put together a superhero team consisting of characters that you created. I spent a lot of time writing origins and because of that became totally obsessed with the origin stories of all superheroes.

I started re-reading all of the books I had access to and realized that I wasn’t a big fan of the “popular” comics because they had been rebooted so many times it was impossible to follow all the aspects of the story and there was almost no continuity. On the other hand, the books I had originally liked because they were cheap were now my favorites because the characters didn’t have conflicting story lines between multiple story lines based on the same title.

After college I moved to Detroit where I got back into collecting pretty seriously. I bounced from Detroit backed to the Pittsburgh area over the next 4 years and continued to pick up books along the way. I also got really into going to comic book and action figure conventions and picking up cheap titles in bulk. Like an entire long box of comics I may or may not have heard of before for $8. There was one time I bought $100 worth of those. I ended up selling a lot of stuff on ebay because I already had it or it was just crap, but I also got a lot of good titles out of it to.

When I was about 26 I got out of collecting again because I had gotten married and I was expecting my first kid. I couldn’t see fueling my habit when there were things like diapers and food that had to be bought. My wife is amazing and at that time still encouraged my addiction by buying the occasional comic for me, but I couldn’t make myself buy them. I did however start to re-read my entire collection. Again, the stuff that most people never heard of, or the titles that got cancelled after only a few issues were my favorites.

So, why am I telling you all this?

For the longest time, comic book movies were crap. Poorly made, low budget and not really related to the comic book peices of shit. Comic book fans still loved them though because even though they were cheesey and lame, they were ours. Hell, you can still go to almost any con and find some guy selling boot leg copies of the original, never released because it was so god awful, copies of the Fantastic Four from 1994. Then in 2000 something happened. Marvel put the X-Men movie into theaters. The thing about this movie is that t wasn’t written for comic book fans. It was written for the average viewer.

Marvel bet that the die hard fans would see the movie no matter what, but to line their pockets and secure the future of their company they needed to make a movie that would appeal to a broad audience. They bet wisely. X-Men was huge and was responsible for making comic book movies popular. They also pissed off a few people. I went to see X-Men on opening night with a few friends. Now as I have said multiple times already, I was not the biggest follower of X-Men comics. In Fact, most of what I new about the X-Men came from the Saturday morning Fox cartoon. I didn’t think it was a bad movie, but I was aware that the characters, story line and other things had been changed immensely to attract a wider audience. One of my other friends however almost walked out of the movie because he WAS a die hard fan and felt offended that Marvel would disrespect the people that stuck by them and bought their comics for years by changing things so drastically.
Over the last 8 years the story has been the same for almost every movie based on a comic that has been released by Marvel. D.C. on the other hand has taken a different route. They have actually decided to make movies that the comic book fans will like and figure that the rest of the people would come around. They did it with Batman Begins. They did it to the tune of one of the highest grossing movies of all time with The Dark Knight and they appear to be doing it again with the Watchmen. Dark Horse has done it with Sin City, 300 and Hellboy.

When I saw the second Punisher movie, the one starring Tom Jane, I was o.k. with it. Sure I have been a die hard Punisher fan forever. Sure, I probably know more about the character than anyone on the staff currently at Marvel. Sure I still own almost every comic with Punisher in it for more than one frame but I let all that go and just tried to enjoy the movie. Even though they switched up parts of the Punisher’s origin claiming he lived in Florida instead of New York and that his family was killed in Puerto Rico instead of Central Park, but I overlooked all that because I thought the movie was still pretty good.

Then this year Marvel makes “The Punisher: War Zone” and says that it is going to be a lot more “comic book like”. I got chills when I heard this because any time a company says that about a movie what they really mean is, “We are going to hire a bunch of people that have never actually seen a comic book ever and let them make what ever piece of shit they want”. If you need an example, see Ang Lee’s “Hulk” or “Batman Forever/Batman and Robin”. They aren’t “comic book like” they are cartoony pieces of elephant fecal matter.

On the other hand Marvel put out Ironman which I did think was awesome and the animated Avengers/Ironman/Dr. Strange movies and I thought all of those were awesome so I will give them props for that.

I guess what it all boils down to is that I consider myself a comic book fan AND a movie fan. I don’t want people dumbing down the things that I love so that people who could give a shit less about the characters, or worse yet people that used to pick on comic book nerds, can spend their money on a comic book movie.

This all brings us to today. This morning I read a headline that read, “Sequel to ‘The Phantom’ to be filmed in Australia”. I am worried for a couple of reasons. First of all, I think the Phantom is a great comic. I like the comic because first off, Falk pretty much created the modern superhero look of skin tight costumes and masks with no pupils in the eyes. Also, the Phantom has no actual powers, he just intimidates people with his wits and physical prowess. I also dig that people think he’s immortal because some one has always been the phantom for 20 generations. My two favorite parts of the Phantom are probably that he is called “The Ghost Who Walks” and his Skull ring. He also actually fights with pistols which is out of the ordinary for superheros.  It is easy to say I am a Phantom fan. I am worried because the 1996 Phantom movie starring Billy Zane was shit.

I really hope this isn’t going to be a sequal. I hope they just call it a do over. I  know it is supposed to have a pretty decent budget and that the producer wants it to be more serious so that puts my mind at easy a little but it just seems that the characters I really love are the ones who suffer the worst in the movies because they weren’t that popular to begin with. I am worried because the guy that produced the 1996 film is doing this one too but at the same time I think that might be alright because if he is doing this one 12 years later than maybe he really is a fan.

I guess I will have to wait and see.

One response to “Confessions of an Under-funded Comic Book Geek.

  1. You can rest easy, the new Phantom movie will NOT be a sequel…

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