As many of you know, I’m sort of a big kid. Â Some might argue that all men are “sort of big kids.” Â For me that means a few things. Â I still love watching movies, listening to music, playing video games and sometimes even reading a comic book or two.
It should come as no surprise to anyone that I have a small collection of comic books and sci-fi magazines from years past. Â They’ve been stored away for some time. Â Like Indiana Jones unearthing Â long forgotten treasures, I Â have been unearthing Â a cache literary gold from the old trunk in the darkest corner of my office. Â Amongst the treasures was a complete set of Star Trek comics as well as a smattering of Buckaroo Banzai, Batman, Superman, Worlds Finest, Spider-Man, Avengers, Fantastic Four, Disney Comics and many more. Also in the trunk were several back issues of Starlog magazine from the 80s and early 90s.
So why the sudden interest in comic books? Â Well, it really started back in May just before my wife and I went on a trip to Paris and London. Â We purchased iPads for the trip. Â The iPad is solely responsible for rekindling my interest in comic books. Â Not only has the iPad revived my interest in comics with such apps as Comixology. But it has also allowed me to purchase treasures like these from Amazon—full collections of comic books in PDF format! Â With the GoodReader app on the iPad, these are truly a blast to read. Â I bought the entire set of Star Trek comics which includes every comic in every genre from every publisher from 1966 to 2002 on one DVD! Â I also purchased 44 Years of the Fantastic Four which includes over 500 Fantastic Four comics from the first issue in 1961 on up!
For a comic reader… this is the best of all possible worlds! Â You can now own digital copies of your favorite comics and the coolest thing is they take up absolutely no space in your closet! Â OK, that isn’t the only cool thing—but it’s pretty sweet. Â Another cool thing about reading comics from the past is that they comeÂ complete with their own social an political faux pas as well as pop-culture references and ads from the era in which they were printed. Â For instance in an early 1961 Fantastic Four comic, in order to capture and jail the Human Torch—they kept him in a cell lined with Asbestos. Â In another scene the Invisible Girl is fighting for women’s rights in a skirt that goes down past the knees. Â In yet another they refer to the Russians as commies! You won’t find that language in any modern comics. Â Ads include such gems as: Grit! X-Ray Specs! Atlas! Â Sea-Monkeys! Â And of course you’ll find ads for other comics.
Devoutly to be wish’d. To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: aye, there’s the rub;
In reading these archives from my past, I was reminded of many comics I could either not afford or that my parents wouldn’t have bought for me based on content. Â There were several titles that I decided I would have to add to my collection. Â The DC Star Trek series of the 1980s was probably the best written Star Trek comic series ever produced. Â It translated well for me both as a teenage kid and as a teenage adult. Â In several of the 1985 issues I saw ads for “V” based on the “V” miniseries and television series of the same name and realized that I would probably enjoy reading those very much. Â And so I found myself visiting my local comic stores for the first time in years. Â I shopped at Hot Comics in Crystal and Richfield, The Nostalgia Zone in Minneapolis. Â Eventually my quest led me toÂ Mile High Comics where IÂ ended up buying a full set of the series.
Another comic that I only had a couple of were The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones series published by Marvel. Â Subsequently, Â I’ve recently acquired a complete collection of those as well. Â These further adventures feature Indy running around in more foreign places and discovering more weird and awesome treasures than ever could be covered in the movies.
However, the most coveted series that I own is the Buck Rogers in the 25th Century series by Gold Key and Whitman. You see, recently I’ve been on a sort of 70s nostalgia kick. Â I’ve been watching old episodes of the Rockford Files. Â I just watched Towering Inferno for the first time in my life about two weeks ago. Â I also recently finished the 3rd season episode of Psych entitled “Disco didn’t die—it wasÂ murdered!” Â And you know I love me some 70s sci-fi any day of the week. Â In fact, we all love science fiction from the late 70s! Â Who could forget the string of inspired TV series and spinoffs of the era? Planet of the Apes, Logan’s Run, Space 1999, Doctor Who with Jon Pertwee & Tom Baker, Â Blake’s 7 and so much more! Â But what I probably loved most when I was a kid was the original Battlestar Galactica series and the glorious camp of the 1979 television series: Â Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. Â To me, Gil Gerard and Erin Gray will always be Buck and Wilma. Â And who could forget those incredible Star Fighters designed by the great Ralph McQuarrie? Â And Twiki! Â You gotta love Mel Blanc as the little “ambiquad” that carried Dr. Theopolis around on his neck!
There are plenty of details one can learn about the comic industry by searching for every issue in a particular series. Â First, in unearthing my own collection I learned that you should never store your comics in a trunk made of pressboard or plywood. Â That type of material is prone to wicking moisture which is not good for comic books or magazines. Â Luckily when I broke the seal on my 20 year old trunk—I had mine all in plastic bags and though there was a little bit of moisture on some magazines that hadn’t been in bags—everything was in great condition. Â IÂ alsoÂ learned the plastic bags I bought in the 80s were of excellent quality. Â They were of a thickerÂ gaugeÂ than anything you can get today. Â Today’s comic bags are cheaply made and there are few choices when it comes to buying bags to protect your comics. Â Over time all of the bags that my comics were in had yellowed. Â I have since bought all new materials for both my comics and my magazines and every comic has been boarded and bagged—regardless of their estimated value.
In my search for a complete collection of the Buck Rogers comics printed in the 80s, I also learned a bit about Whitman and Gold Key. Â For instance, Issues 1-6 were printed by Gold Key. Â They were also printed under Whitman for distribution in grocery andÂ convenienceÂ stores. Â Whitman also reprinted some DC titles such as Superman, Batman, Flash and Wonder-Woman for redistribution in the 70s and 80s. Â These had a very distinct combination Whitman/DC logo in the upper left of the comic. Â In these cases you would usually find them in three-packs hanging from a rack near the checkout. Â Another oddity in the Buck Rogers collection is that the numbering system starts at #2. Â The reason for this is that back in 1964, Gold Key published their first Buck Rogers comic. Â Whomever was responsible for putting Buck Rogers back into distribution saw that a #1 had already been published and so they started with the number “2” some 15 years later. Â But their trouble with numbers didn’t end there. Â Issues 7-16 were published exclusively by Whitman. Â Except number 10—which simply does not exist! Â In talking with experts from Mile High Comics, I learned that Whitman wasn’t particularly detailed oriented when it came to comic distribution. Â Apparently, they frequently ran into numbering issues. Â I’m glad when I was a kid I didn’t collect this series because I would have been wondering why I missed issue 10 and it probably would have driven me nuts.
I know what you’re thinking right now—and it’s probably true.
And this brings us to the climax of the story—my search for book 9 of the Buck Rogers in the 25th Century comic book. Â Over the course of the last few months, I have been able to collect very nice copies of the series—save issues 8 and 9. Â Legend has it that issues 8 and 9 Â of the series have the distinction of having only been distributed in grocery and convenient stores in plastic packs. Â There was not a normal run for newsstands and comic stores. Â As a result, issues 8 and 9 of the Buck Rogers series are extremely rare. Â Now, you’ve probably gleaned from this cascading text that not only am I nuts but that I’ve been diligent in my quest to complete this collection. Â I’ve scoured brick and mortar stores all over the twin cities and even a couple when I was out in West Virginia on a business trip. Â I have gnarled my way through the interwebs looking on ebay, in collector forums and following every lead I could to find these last two comics. I have put them on my “want list” on more than one comic book site. Â Then it happened. Finally! I was able to find them in stock at a Canadian comic book store through an exhaustive online search. Â One man in Steinbach, Manitoba would have what I was looking for: Â Doug Sulipa who maintains http://www.dougcomicworld.com/.Â Â Now… originally they had told me both were in stock and I was so psyched! Had I actually found the last two magazines? Â Sadly when I received issue number 8 it also came with a note that number 9 had been previously sold. Â Needless to say, I was a bit discouraged. Â The search resumed and I ended up going in a big circle. Â I looked on the site again recently and it turns out they stumbled upon a excellent copy (graded VF = Very Fine) of #9. Â It is en route to me today via AirMail. Â I should receive it within the next 5-7 days! Â And that… is what the hunt is all about.