Tyrades! $317,200 -- For A Comic Book???

Friday, March 27, 2009

According to the Associated Press, a rare copy of the first comic book featuring Superman has sold on an Internet auction for $317,200.

Having grown up as the proverbial "kid with 10,000 comic books," I'm proud that this copy of "Action Comics #1" has survived the dangers of 71 years, humidity, World War II paper drives, silverfish, and the like. I'm glad that the auction price has stirred up a little publicity for a hobby that has become a niche interest. But what sort of reaction have others had to this fantastic price?

Emergency room workers are probably bracing for a heavy workload. Every time a story about stratospheric comic book prices hits the news, there's a rash of mothers and grandmothers kicking themselves for throwing out old comic books. These ladies should console themselves with the realities of supply and demand. If everyone saved comic books (or baseball cards or whatever) the term "collector's item" would lose its meaning. The majority of comic books need to weeded out periodically or they become worthless. Sort of like congressmen.

Joe Sixpack will be incredulous at such a price for an object whose only intrinsic value is to make someone happy. Once he gets over the shock, he'll probably spend a bundle on a hunk of carbon to go on Thelma June's ring finger.

I'm sure the elitists will bemoan something as mundane as a comic book fetching this price. It's not Real Art, they sniff. I guess if the cover had shown The Man of Steel tossing around a bowl of fruit instead of a car, they would've been happier. I apologize if Superman's creators didn't care enough to cut off an ear, but surely there's a case of Jerry Siegel or Joe Shuster getting a mean paper cut or accidentally stapling a finger.

The geeks who live for comic books will take vindication from the auction. Someday they will speak of this day to their children -- assuming they get the nerve to speak of any date to the hypothetical mother of those hypothetical children.

Old-timers will wax nostalgic for the glory days of comic books, before TV, video games, and the Internet devastated the audience. It was a bygone era when four-color fantasies were consumed by boys, girls, and our servicemen overseas. Comics were everywhere. Those were the days when druggists had to be really bilingual -- knowing how to say both "Why, no, Mrs. Figowitz, it's no trouble letting you pay for your corn plasters in installments" and "Hey, kid! This ain't a library!"

Flea market and yard sale operators will probably get the same wrong message about comic book values that they always get. Knowing nothing about age, scarcity, and desirability, they'll hang on to their overpriced prizes year after year. It's understandable that not every comic has Major Milestones, but some of these "treasures" don't even have Molecular Cohesion! ("That's okay. Don't buy it. Someone else will. To you, it's just brightly colored flakes of two-month-old Rottweiler-chewed paper in a plastic bag, but to me it's Johnny's Harvard education.")

I suspect that even Edward Libby, the CEO of embattled AIG, has thoughts on the $317,200 transaction. ("I hated springing for the extra $200, but I'm sure the board of directors will understand that we were out of gold-plated Charmin in the executive washroom...")

Note: Danny Tyree welcomes e-mail at tyreetyrades@aol.com.