Being a Comic Book Geek shouldn’t break your bank.
There are two types of comic book superhero geeks: Geeks who spend a huge percentage of their disposable income on everything even remotely connected to their superhero idols and geeks who have a true love for comic book superheroes and just want to keep up to date with the characters. Most of us start as the former and end as the latter.
I was lucky. I started my habit early when comic books were $.25 an issue. A dollar bought four issues of ad-laden comic book stories. The good news was that you always had a place to buy
I found comic books by accident through my cousin. He got me hooked on the comic book monkey with his old Marvel Comics collection by leaving a bunch of his thoroughly read comics on the floor. And, trust me, these were no longer in “mint”
My cousin was a true superhero fan. He read, re-read, folded, ate near them, and did everything you could do to a comic book. Marvel printed collectible stamps on their letters page (on the opposite side of their ads). He’d cut out the stamps, leaving giant holes in the pages. They weren’t going to be resold. He read with no intent of collecting and saving.
You see my cousin loved Marvel Superheroes more than anyone I’ve ever known.
Back in the days when Stan Lee was running things at Marvel as “Smilin’ Stan” sporting a full flowing head of hair, a thick mustache, and omnipresent prescription sunglasses, kids could still join the Merry Marvel Marching Society. My cousin would have been in their ranks.
His comics were loved with the complete abandon of a twelve-year-old.
This was a true shame because while I can’t remember where I usually keep my car keys half the time, I can tell you that he had pivotal issues of “The Avengers versus Defenders War”, Captain Marvel #28 (Jim Starlin wrote and illustrated it with Al Milgrom – where Thanos’ first major campaign was against Earth), Uncanny X-Men #65 (where Professor X fakes his death to his original X-men team), and some of the earlier Carmine Infantino Flash issues.Looking back, these comics came to me through drug dealer marketing done in absentia. My cousin just left the comics where any visiting six-year-old could wander in, read them and become an addict. The first issues were always free. After that, I had to fend for myself.
I was always jonesing for more.
The next year my dad had bought me a pocket sized collected work of The Amazing Spider-man issues #1-6. First off, there ought to be a law against giving an unprepared child six Lee/Ditko stories all at once. A fledgling comic book geek baby can’t take that. It was like taking crack. My allowance money forever went to supporting this new habit.
For those of you who have started collecting comic books now, you’ve probably figured out that collecting comic books is an expensive habit. Buying issues from your local dealer can get pricey. I’m one of those few individuals who live close to Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash in Red Bank, NJ. Despite the celebrity status of Comic Book Men’s reality television show, they still offer standard prices for their covers. Do they have everything? No. But, if you’re looking to get your comic fix out of the way, it will do in a pinch.
The standard cover price for a comic book is $3.99 per issue. This can get hefty if you’re following several hero story lines. Buying ten issues at a time is not uncommon. New titles come out weekly. Spending a hundred dollars a month on comic books is not the best investment for your money unless you’re buying rare comics. My current collection of comic books which I’ve been maintaining since the eighties, numbers in the thousands. When you add the cost of bagging, back boarding, and boxing (as well as the time and effort it takes to do that), you’d better figure out a way to economize.
Being a comic book collector can be very expensive and if you’re looking to travel that path, may God have mercy on your soul. Saving money as a collector is not really what this article is about. However, if you’re looking to follow superhero stories and keep some money for silly things like food, water, and rent, I have some tips for you.
Subscribe to Marvel or DC for Print Issues
It is often the simple and obvious solution that escapes our consciousness. Subscribing to Marvel and DC is one of the more obvious things you can do. There are definite perks to doing this.
Buying comic books from your dealer cost around $4 an issue of Marvel. If you subscribe and have them mailed to your house, they’ll cost you half that or $2 an issue. DC charges $24.99 for twelve issues which, according to them, is a 30% savings. The added benefit is that introverted comic freaks don’t have to leave their caves in order to get a near mint copy of their favorite comic. The downside is that most comic book collectors buy two copies of whatever they’re seriously collecting so they can read one and bag the other.
For comic book collectors who like to read an issue in their hands, this is a definite solution. It allows collectors to buy at discount.
Also, like Amazon, both DC and Marvel give a discounted rate to buying trade collections and graphic novels. This is good for fans like me who like to catch up on some past storylines I’ve missed. These editions also have added extras, like author commentaries and sketches added at the end. All these things make
for good reading.
Subscribe to Digital Issues
Within the last five to ten years, the digital revolution has made reading cheap. If you own a Kindle or iPod, iPhone, iPad, or Android device, congratulations – being a comic book geek just got that much cheaper.
Much like Amazon Prime, Hulu, and Netflix, Marvel Unlimited offers a service that gives access to 17,000 of their digital back issues for $99 a year or $9.99 a month. The yearly membership gives another 15% discount on current digital comics. DC offers similar deals within their digital apps.
All of these issues are downloadable to your device.
Personally, I recommend reading these off of a larger pad like an iPad. It’s just easier to work with.
These programs give new readers a chance to go back and read many of the classic stories that helped shape the heroes they see in the movies like Captain America: Civil War, Agent Carter, Iron man, Thor: Ragnarok, Spider-man, and The Avengers. Digital copies are great because many of these old issues are nearly impossible to find outside of a collector’s horde and can be read multiple times.
Plus they’re convenient to read anywhere.
It has to be nice to relax with your touchpad and read some of the older stories. Giving new fans and old fans access to these stories is a great way to keep the base engaged.
Buying Used Collections from Amazon
As much as I think digital comics are a godsend, some people, like me, can’t get used to the digital readers. I’m just old school. Sometimes there’s a lot of twisting and turning and it can slow things down.
Print readers should not despair. There are alternatives to digital readers.
Marvel and DC offer black & white trade copies of many of their back issues through their Essential and Showcase editions. Cover prices for these editions go about $17 to $21 a book. These are not collectibles; they’re collections. They’re cheaply made with regular low-grade paper pulp – which I like. They have the advantage of being thick and full of content. I use them for research (as well as enjoyment, too). Many of these editions are printed as they were originally published, warts and all – sans color. I own the collection of Captain Marvel Essentials Volume 2 that recounts issue number #29 as it was originally printed – which had a huge continuity error in it that subsequent collections have edited out.
These are good books.
What’s more, you can buy them “used” off of Amazon for a fraction of their price. Used copies can be bought for as little as $2 a book. All you pay for is the postage. Considering that none of these are collectibles, the condition of each book is irrelevant.
Plus, if you grow tired of them, they make great coloring books for children.
The Public Library and the Internet
I’ve saved the best for last – The Public Library.
Do you know that most libraries carry graphic novels? I discovered this a few months ago and it has curbed my comic book buying immensely. It’s like discovering a hidden channel on your television set that is the secret archive of every movie and television show you’ve ever seen or heard of. Trade paperbacks that I’ve put off reading for years were available to be checked out at my leisure. All for free. I was thrilled.
I caught up with Moore’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, From Hell, and The Watchmen within the first week. I found volumes of Neil Gaiman’s work published in graphic novel format – as well as his Marvel 1602. Many of the trade paperbacks they had gave me a chance to catch up with a lot of the stuff that’s going on with the Marvel Universe. DC had an entire collected edition of The New 52 hardcover and Grant Morrison’s Multiversity which I consider required reading for anyone who is looking to see what DC has been doing for the last
The only downside is getting damaged books. I belong to the Monmouth County Library of Freehold and I’ve only had one incident with a collected Batman work where one page was torn out. I was more disappointed in the reader who did it than with the library’s book maintenance team.
The last thing you can do only requires nothing but an internet connection.
If you’re completely lost on the character history of anyone within DC or Marvel, you can always look that character up on Wikipedia. Wikipedia is maintained by its readers and comic book readers are the most conscientious around. Changes in a character’s history are made as soon as they’re available. Even if the answer isn’t within Wikipedia, it’s a good springboard for getting to other resources that might have that
bit of information.
I use Wikipedia whenever I get to a “what the hell happened?” moment after I missed an issue or two. More often than not, it answers my question.
Another good free resource is wikia.com that connects to both DC and Marvel databases (dc.wikia.com and marvel.wikia.com, respectively). This site has everything. I even gave it my personal test in finding the most obscure characters of both publishers and they came up. As a quick reference, for characters, information, and fictional places, it is a great place to go.