apparently didn't really become prosperous until
the Archie Gang began to dominate the small comic book
producer's titles in the mid-1940's, or
the company would not have been one of the first to
dump superheroes. During 1940-44, though, MLJ produced
a goodly number of the most highly sought-after and
collectible comics of the Golden Age.
Those 1940-44 MLJ comics are among the priciest and
most difficult to obtain of the Golden Age; they are
almost always hot sellers on eBay and almost always
sell for at least $100 even in "good." Yet
the nifty aspect of collecting MLJ is that you can obtain
a highly representative collection with only about a
dozen comics or so.
The company also produced several short-run superhero
titles. In this installment, we're concerned with the
"Big Four" – Blue Ribbon, Top Notch,
Pep and Zip. Beginning in November 1939, MLJ produced
one new monthly title for four consecutive months during
a period of feverish expansion by numerous publishers.
Blue Ribbon is the least known of the four titles, since
it ran only 22 issues (Nov. 1939-March 1942). The title
featured four superheroes – The Fox in #4-22,
Mr. Justice in #9-22, Inferno in #13-22 and Captain
Flag in #16-22. The Fox was something of a Batman knockoff;
Mr. Justice was a supernatural hero who first appeared
one year after DC's The Spectre; and Captain Flag was
one of the earliest patriotic heroes, first appearing
in the Sept. 1941 issue. Captain Flag followed Captain
America by only six months.
That makes Blue Ribbon an easy title to pinpoint –
#16-22 are the issues to aim the hardest for unless
you have unlimited funds. You get the gamut of Blue
Top Notch was MLJ's second title. Issues #1-27
ran from Dec. 1939-May 1942, followed by its meaningful
title change to Top Notch Laugh, which carried only
one superhero through #44 – Black Hood. The collectible
heroes in Top Notch are The Wizard in #1-27; Bob Phantom
in #3-25; The Firefly in #8-27; and Black Hood #9-27.
Once again, it's not hard to pinpoint the issues to
get: #9-27. The difference is that these are much more
plentiful than Blue Ribbon #16-22, simply because the
best part of the run ran 19 issues compared to 7.
Pep was the longest-running title with a superhero.
The Shield, the original patriotic hero, appeared from
#1 (Jan. 1940) through #65 (Jan. 1948). But you've
got to look a lot harder at Pep than you do at Blue
Ribbon or Top Notch.
The Comet – an original concept with blazing eyes
– ran in #1-16, followed by his death in #17.
It was in that issue that MLJ's best period piece,
The Hangman, took over in a unique story. The Comet
became the first comic book superhero to die in that
tale; The Hangman, his brother, succeeded him. Nifty
Minor characters abound in Pep: The Press Guardian #1-11,
Fireball #12-20 (a Human Torch knockoff), and Madam
Satan #16-21. Captain Commando started in #30 and ran
in most issues through #56. None of these are worth
getting too excited over.
So your best bet is to get one issue of Pep #1-11, followed
by another issue of Pep #16-20. If you can get #17,
though, that's a true prize. The most sought-after
issue of Pep, of course, is #22 (Dec. 1941) with the
first Archie story, but that is a spendy, spendy book,
especially considering that the story has been reprinted
several times. Veronica first appeared in #26, making
all the difference in the world in the success of the
series; Betty and Jughead were there from the start.
Just about any issue of Pep with Shield and Hangman
stories (#17-47) is well worth acquiring. It's one of
the most underrated of all Golden Age comics, since
you get early Archie and Co., along with Captain Commando.
Zip Comics, with one of the best names to come out of
the Golden Age, was the last monthly to debut, with
#1 dated Feb. 1940. Steel Sterling ran throughout the
series in #1-47, but the other early characters –
Mr. Satan in #1-9 and Scarlet Avenger in #1-17 –
are of interest only to completists. Still, one issue
of #1-9 represents an energetic title.
Black Jack, which ran in #20-35, and the Web, which
appeared in #27-38, were violent crimefighters in crime-oriented
stories. So that makes Zip #27-35 the best of the bunch.
As for the ridiculous Red Rube in #39-47 – forget
it. Those nine issues are among the most overvalued
comics in the Golden Age.
Many collectors don't know that Archie's
second-string teen hero, Wilbur, beat Archie into print.
Wilbur debuted in Zip #18 (Sept. 1941), three month
ahead of Archie! The difference, though, is that Wilbur
never offered colorful co-stars, while the Archie Gang
became pop culture icons.
The MLJ heroes received a revival boost in The Mighty
Crusaders and other Archie Series titles during the
1960's, which contributed mightily to the scarcity
of the Golden Age versions when fans became aware of
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CGC's 4th Anniversary
January 4th, 2000, after years of planning and research,
CGC finally opened its doors for business to mixed reviews
from the collecting community. Four years later, almost
all of the people who were against the idea of CGC are
now some of our biggest clients!
With only four years under our belt, CGC has become
the industry standard for buying and selling comics
at conventions, at auction and on the internet. This
has happened not only because of the record setting
prices that CGC certified comics often bring, but also
because of the knowledge, professionalism, and hard
work of the people behind the scenes. People like:
Mark Haspel (Finalizer and Pedigree Expert), and Paul
Litch (Finalizer and Modern Age Expert), who gave up
their social life for the first two years working sometimes
seven days a week and twelve hours a day! CGC might
not have become as successful if not for the dedication
and hard work of these two.
Chris Friesen, who after months of my begging him to
become our Restoration Detection Expert when the volume
of our business became too great for me to do both the
finalizing and restoration check, gave up his very successful
restoration business to take a chance on a future with
Pre-Graders Dave Couillou, Shawn Caffery, Jerry Stephan
and John Slater, who are the back bone of the grading
room, filling in writer, artist and key comments for
every label and counting the pages of every comic that
comes through the door!
Harshen Patel (V.P. of Operations), who came on board
three years ago and became an indispensable part of
our team by forming great relationships with our clients
Scott Talmadge, originally a CGC client, after seeing
how busy we were, applied for a job and now is manager
of our receiving and customer service departments.
Gemma Adel and Kory Hall (Customer Service Representatives)
who, when not carefully opening packages full of comics,
spend the day on the phones making sure that all our
customers' needs are met.
Kim Henley, who packs and ships all the packages that
Mike Martinez, Jesus Ortiz, Miguel Figueroa, Maria Castro,
Donnell Hagan, and Cesar Sanchez, who work in encapsulation,
carefully handling every comic that goes into CGC's
state-of-the-art tamper evident holder.
While it is true that all these people are a part of
the reason that we have become so successful, the real
reason is that you, the collecting community, have made
CGC the industry's stamp of approval. Your comments
and suggestions have helped shape CGC into the company
we are today.
So, we at CGC just want to say "Thank you"
to all of our customers for making our first four years
Vice President / Primary Grader CGC
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Vault Auctions Features
CGC Certified Comics
Following a relocation move at the end of last year,
Vault Auctions will be having their largest auction
to date on Sunday, February 22nd, 2004. They have established
a strong USA customer base and are considered as Europe's
largest comicbook auction company, bridging the gap
between collectors from the US and collectors around
The auction will be going live in early February with
over 900 Lots from the early 1900's to the 1980's and
will be heavily orientated towards high grade Bronze
Age. Having said this, the Golden Age selection happens
to be their largest offering to date and also not forgetting
our prime high grade Silver Age issues which also include
a nice selection of Pre-hero Marvels.
A sample selection of highlights include:
DETECTIVE COMICS #33 : CGC App. 9.0
DETECTIVE COMICS #36 : CGC App. 8.0
HUMAN TORCH #2 (#1) : App. CGC 5.5
L'IL ABNER #61 (#1) : CGC 9.2
TALES FROM THE CRYPT #38 : GAINES CGC 9.0 (Double cover)
TWO FISTED TALES #23 : GAINES CGC 9.4
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #12 : CGC 9.0
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL #2 : CGC 9.4
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #28 : 9.0
FANTASTIC FOUR #48 : CGC 9.4
FANTASTIC FOUR #73 : CGC 9.6
IRON MAN #1 : CGC 9.4
JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY #92 : CGC 9.2
TALES TO ASTONISH #44 : CGC 9.2
ADVENTURE COMICS #247 : CGC 5.0
G.I. COMBAT #102 : CGC 9.6
CONAN THE BARBARIAN #1 : CGC 9.4
DEFENDERS #1 : CGC 9.6
THE CAT #1 : CGC 9.6
GHOST RIDER #1 : CGC 9.4
GIANT-SIZE X-MEN #1 : CGC 9.4
INCREDIBLE HULK #181 : CGC 9.4
MARVEL SPOTLIGHT #1 : CGC 9.6 (Double cover)
MARVEL SPOTLIGHT #7 : CGC 9.6
TOMB OF DRACULA #1 : CGC 9.6
BATMAN #260 : CGC 9.6
HOT WHEELS #6 (Neal Adams) : CGC 9.6
HOUSE OF MYSTERY #174 : CGC 9.4
HOUSE OF SECRETS #92 : CGC 9.0
SUGAR AND SPIKE #90 : CGC 9.4
For more information go to www.vaultauctions.com or
call +44 (0) 1342 300 900.
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to Offer CGC Certified Mile High Run
of National Comics
Heritage Comics Auctions (HCA) is proud to announce
that it will offer the Mile High Run of National Comics
in its upcoming Signature auction, to be held February
6-7, 2004, in their new offices in Dallas, Texas.
"We've been very fortunate to offer many important
collections, and individual items over the past two
years," said Ed Jaster, Director of Acquisitions
for HCA. "None of those offerings, however, is
more extraordinary than this run of National Comics
from the Edgar Church (Mile High) Collection. This event
is an exceedingly rare opportunity to purchase 'the
best of the best', an important title from the finest
collection of comic books ever assembled." More...
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after my "Y: The Last Man" article last month,
I have had a few interesting conversations about comics.
Most of them were about modern titles and the level
of intelligence and in-depth dialogue that many publishers
have in the pages of their best selling comics. There
was one conversation, however, with my younger brother
that spawned this article. He called me the other night
and we got on the topic of how comics originated. I
know a fair amount about the Golden Age of comics, just
wasn't really sure about the beginning stages. Having
told him I'd get back to him, I waited until the following
day, where I asked around at work. Jerry, a fellow co-worker,
passed me a trade paperback that he thought would be
the ticket in helping me out. The trade was "The
Dreamer" by Will Eisner. He immediately asked,
"You have read The Spirit, right?" Answering
only with an insecure "yes," I brought it
home, only to be educated and entertained beyond my
own level of expectations.
"The Dreamer" was originally published in
1986 by Kitchen Sink and was written and drawn by Will
Eisner. A graphic novel set during the beginning of
the comic age, it was an extraordinary read. The story
stars a man named Billy, an aspiring comic artist who,
unbeknownst to the reader, reads a lot like Will Eisner's
actual biography. Billy is experiencing difficulties
with breaking into the business of illustration art
during rough economic times. Set against the backdrop
of the early 30's depression era, work in general is
hard to find. Billy finds a publisher, and together
they decide to go into their own business with comics,
due to the dying market of pulp magazines. What spawns
from their own idea is a series of adventure comics
written and drawn by Billy. Their success leads to the
formation of an actual work studio, where multiple artists
set on a salary work together, passing the pages amongst
each other, until every panel is inked and lettered,
then sent to the press for publication.
"The Dreamer" is a great way to see how the
comic industry came into the market during a time period
when it was difficult to keep anything on the stands.
Pulps were selling poorly and the only comics on the
stands were all reprinted comic strip art. Besides being
a historically accurate portrayal of the 1930's
and the beginning of the comic book industry, the story
is immensely enjoyable with its sharp illustrations
and beautifully written script. For me, being unfamiliar
with Will Eisner's most well known work "The
Spirit," and after enjoying "The Dreamer"
so much, I look forward to reading Eisner's other
works in the time to come.
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Comicspriceguide.com has chosen Comic Guaranty, LLC (CGC) as its exclusive certification and grading company.
IN (January 19, 2004) – Comicspriceguide.com,
the Internet's largest online pricing guide, announced
today that it has chosen Comic Guaranty, LLC (CGC) as
its exclusive comic book certification company.
"CGC has proven itself to be the only reliable,
consistent and professional certification company in
the industry. CGC'd comics usually command much greater
prices than comics that have not been certified, so
it is only natural that we allow our customers to follow
the CGC certified market. We felt adding CGC graded
pricing to our site was needed to continue to add value
for our members," states Bryan Neely, Founder and
President of Comicspriceguide.com. "Our community
members have grown to expect comicpriceguide.com to
be the most thorough, comprehensive and diverse pricing
guide on the net; by providing CGC grading and pricing
as features, we hope to exceed our member expectations."
Comicspriceguide.com will continue to add features and
information about CGC grading and pricing throughout
2004. These features will include the ability to manage,
store and view a members' CGC graded collection, CGC
specific search capabilities, CGC online auctions, heavily
discounted pricing for members to get their books CGC
graded, and CGC graded price trends.
"We are very pleased to be able to give our members
the opportunity to view, sell and grade books exclusively
using CGC's incredible service," Bryan adds,
"2004 will be a great year for comicspriceguide.com,
our members and CGC."
About comicspriceguide.com (CPG)
Comicspriceguide.com is the internet's largest comic
pricing guide. CPG has over 80,000 active members who
use ComicsPriceGuide.com as a guide to browse for prices
from over 1200 publishers, 18,000 comics and 185,000
books. CPG also offers auction services, message boards
for collectors, an online store, classifieds, monthly
newsletters and discount CGC grading.
For more information visit www.comicspriceguide.com
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Cool is This?
November 11th, 2003 in Toronto, Canada, Paul Gulacy,
Michael Wm. Kaluta, Joe Rubinstein, Howard Chaykin,
Steve Rude and Jim Starlin were all at the Paradise
Comics Toronto Comicon. Besides being there, what else
do these creators have in common? They all had done
work in "Heroes for Hope Starring the X-Men"
from Marvel Comics.
After looking over the convention's guest list, comic
book fan Alex Hunter figured out what book he could
get the most creators to sign in one shot. With "Heroes
for Hope Starring the X-Men" he found his answer.
With a CGC representative on hand, he was able to get
the comic signed and witnessed for the Signature Series.
"Luckily I was able to get signatures from all
six of these creators -- Gulacy, Kaluta, Rubinstein,
Chaykin, Rude & Starlin -- in one show, and to meet
them as well. It doesn't get any better than that,"
Alex said. "To me, this is what makes the CGC Signature
Series books so special. This will always be a truly
unique, one-of-a-kind item. When else will these six
creators be in the same place at the same time, except
maybe at the next Paradise Comics Comicon?"
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