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Friday, October 10, 2014

Spending $4 Million+ at ComicCon in 9 Easy Purchases

Do yourself a favor if you jump into the media world: Stay away from the bourgeoisie state of mentality. Shoot for the lowest common denominator. This is whats sells product...the masses.

Get in touch with your inner 19th century French side and think of it this way:

  • The Bourgeoisie are those who own the land, the factories, the resources, the materials, and who employ the proletariat. However, they are disconnected from the production process while gaining from the output of the proletariat. 
  • The Petite Bourgeoisie are the people who may employ the labor of others, but are also working themselves. They may be shopkeepers or professionals. They may have resources, but do not profit exclusively from the labor of others.
  • The Proletariat is the working class, people who sell their labor. 
So where am I? Tonight I'll be at the Baltimore Orioles-Kansas City Royals American League Championship Opener for one of the Big Four networks dining on some delectable crab cakes in the press box (**** - See Andrew Zimmerman's recipe at the bottom for some homemade treats). Yes, good copy editors are hard to find and sometime I get a plum assignment or two. Yet, I digress.

Press Box Crab Cakes - Yum!
This morning I am at ComicCon in the land were a Twitter tweet can stop a union run commercial shoot, New York City. Yes, the Big Apple knows how to cater the Bourgeoisie and the common nerd. Regulars to the Media Struggles know my appreciation of Comics--to the Batman Media Conglomerate, to getting a College Degree to International Read A Comic in Public Day--this under appreciated artform is the backbone of American entertainment. I caught up with Bryan Menegus, a noted expert and writer in the field and he said, "While comics may have started as disposable entertainment, it's no secret that many books can fetch a hefty sum based on their rarity, CGC grade*, illustrator, and/or characters that may have first appeared in them."

The Proletariat has become The Bourgeoisie it seems. So without further delay, here are some of the most expensive items and what made them so pricy:

Original Palitoy Star Wars figures, complete set  

All twelve original Star Wars figures from Palitoy.
Jordan Hembrough, Hollywood Heroes:
"They’re the first 12 [figures] that came out back in the 1970s and these were done by Palitoy Corp. which was over in England. They weren’t available in the United States and the Palitoy Cards — the packaging from Palitoy — is extremely valuable right now."

Gobbledygook #1 and Gobbledygook #2

The comics that gave is the Ninja Turtles
Brian Tatge, Motor City Comics:

"Gobbledygook is very sought-after because it's the book that Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird put together to get the funding so they could produce Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1. So they did 50 of them... and distributed [them] within the Massachusetts area, where the guys were from. Once they were gone, they were gone. Up until the Internet, they were super hard to find. Some people classify it as the first appearance of the Turtles, so it sort of depends on your feeling on that."

Pep Comics #22 [Restored**, CGC Grade 8.0]

Yes, that's a swastika - 1941 was a strange time for comics.
Dan Gallo, Overstreet advisor and ebay store owner: 

"What makes this book popular is that it’s the first Archie. Most people don’t realize that Archie has been around for a very long time. Not only is this the first Archie, but it’s extremely rare. There’s only 10 restored copies and 10 unrestored copies ever graded by the CGC, so that’s 20. I'm sure there’s more than 20 people on planet Earth that would like to have the first appearance of Archie."

Strange Tales #110 [CGC Grade 9.4]

Have you heard of Dr. Strange? If not you soon will...
Robert Storms, High Grade Comics: 

"It’s the first appearance of Doctor Strange and Marvel is doing a new movie, so that’s increased the price. Doctor Strange basically doubled in price in the last year since the movie announcement."

Robert Crumb complete four-page story

Too rich for your blood? Keep on truckin'...

 Scott Eder, gallery owner: 
"Robert Crumb is probably the greatest living illustrator, internationally. He’s in museum holdings like the Museum of Modern Art, he’s represented by the world’s most important gallerist, David Zwirner. He’s an underground comics legend and godfather. One of the most important American artists."

Original art from Spider-Man #32  

VRRROOOM! Steve Ditko's hand touched that piece of paper - I may never wash again!
Mike Burkey, Romitaman Original Art:  

"The main thing is because Steve Ditko drew it. Steve Ditko is the first person that drew Spider-Man. Pages with Spider-Man on it by Steve Ditko just go for incredible amounts of money. Like at auction, a page from #29 with no Scorpion on it, just Spider-Man swinging, went for $125,000 like three years ago. It’s just supply and demand for this stuff."

Cover of Spider-Man #300

The content and number of an issue can be as important as the artist who drew it.
Barry Sandoval, Heritage Auctions: 

"Well it’s Spider-Man #300, which is one of the most famous comic issues of the modern era. It’s from Todd McFarlane’s tenth year on Spider-Man, which was a huge fan favorite and a huge top-seller. We sold a different McFarlane cover for around $650,000 a couple years ago. There’s really intense interest in his art. CEOs of companies, doctors, lawyers, people in the financial field, a lot of people in the entertainment industry. Movie directors and such, you know, collect comics."

Detective Comics #27 [Restored, CGC Grade 9.4]

Holy lifetime of debt, Batman!
Will Mason, Dave & Adam's:

"This is Detective Comics #27, the highest-graded copy in existence. It’s worth this much because this is the origin and first appearance of Batman. It debuted in 1939 and it’s also the first appearance of Commissioner Gordon. Just to give you a little bit of a background, the first Batman — which is Detective #27 — and the first Superman — which is Action Comics #1 — are considered holy grails of comic books. The reason this is only $550,000 is that it is a restored copy. That’s the reason why it’s got a purple label on it. But it is the highest graded copy in existence."

Action Comics #1 [CGC Grade 9.0]

Proud (and dapper) owner of the most expensive comic book in the world
Vincent Zurzolo, Metropolis/Comicconnect:

"Action Comics #1 is so valuable because it is the first appearance of Superman, and Superman is the first superhero. So without Superman there’d be no Batman, there’d be no Spider-Man, X-Men, Fantastic Four, Flash, Green Lantern — none of them. Superman is the character that started it all. He is the archetype from which all other superheroes are derived. There are less than a hundred copies known to exist in the world, and very few of them in unrestored condition. This copy happens to be the highest-graded copy — in 9.0 condition — with white pages. We just purchased it for $3.2 million and we’re extremely excited about it. We feel this book has a lot of upside potential... we will be selling this and making a profit. I can guarantee that. We’re not in a position where we desperately need to sell it. If we were we would not have bought it. But it’d go for north of $3.2 million, obviously.”

****Baltimore-Style Crab Cakes


This is the best crab cake recipe you will ever find. If you don’t overmix, and don’t pack your mounds too tightly, you will experience pure, unadulterated crab cake heaven. Seriously, they are that good. Follow the steps to the letter and you will be making these cakes every opportunity you have. For years I searched for a great crab cake recipe. I wanted one that didn’t have a lot of filler, had no minced red pepper, no parsley—none of the usual crap that chefs typically ruin a good crab cake with. There is, in fact, a right and a wrong way to cook some foods, and putting a lot of junk in a crab cake is one of the biggest transgressions I find in American cookery. Anyway, one night about 20 years ago, my best friend’s wife (who is from Baltimore) shared her mother’s secret "country club" recipe for crab cakes. This is it, verbatim. I make these in double batches and put the leftovers in the fridge. If you haven’t eaten a cold crab cake on toast with sliced tomato and Russian dressing, then you are really missing out.

I also make these as a master batch: Instead of just eight, I make 24 to 26 mini donut-hole-size crab cakes for parties.

Team these with homemade slaw, a warm potato salad and some fruit salad, and watch your family go to it like a swarm of locusts. Guaranteed.


1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 large egg, beaten
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
1 pound jumbo lump crab meat, picked over
20 saltine crackers, finely crushed
1/4 cup canola oil
Lemon wedges, for serving


1. In a small bowl, whisk the mayonnaise with the egg, mustard, Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce until smooth.

2. In a medium bowl, lightly toss the crabmeat with the cracker crumbs. Gently fold in the mayonnaise mixture. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

3. Scoop the crab mixture into eight 1/3-cup mounds; lightly pack into 8 patties, about 1 1/2 inches thick. In a large skillet, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the crab cakes and cook over moderately high heat until deeply golden and heated through, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer the crab cakes to plates and serve with lemon wedges.


By the way, here are some interesting pictures from Camden Yards at Oriole Park:
On the field, prepping for game one of the ALCS...
Eutaw Street marker of Rafael Palmeiro's 413' homer in 1998.
Press box - replete with bad phones!
The Babe Ruth statue is just short of breathtaking.

This Column's Fine Print

*CGC, or Comics Guaranty, is in independent grading service that launched in 2000 whose purpose is to determine how well preserved a book is. The scores are given out of 10, and the color of the label implies its state: blues are unadulterated books, purples are restored, greens have a significant defect and yellows are books that have been signed in the presence of a CGC employee. 

**Restoration can be accomplished in a number of ways including conservation (removal of dirt, debris, or stains) leaf casting (which fills in missing paper that may have rotted away) and color touch (recoloring worn pages). The process can be quite expensive, and restored comics are usually worth less than a blue labelled version of the same book.  

**ComicCon picture credits: Bryan Menegus