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February 2003  
1. Marvel Mystery Comics
2. Rip in Time
3. Internet-Only Auctions Become Even MORE Amazing in 2003
4. Love Among the Comics
5. Metropolis Acquires Highest CGC Graded 9.4 Copy of NM Showcase #4



February 28 – March 2, 2003

Orange County Convention Center
Orlando, Florida

May 30 - June 1, 2003
Wizard World Philadelphia

Pennsylvania Convention Center
Philadelphia, PA

July 17-20, 2003
Comic-con International

San Diego Convention Center
San Diego, CA

Nolan's Niche Marvel Mystery Comics
Michelle Nolan

Unless you are wealthy or recently won a lottery, you'll have a hard time affording many copies of Marvel Mystery Comics, one of the most expensive anthology titles of the Golden Age. However, that does not mean a collector should give up!

You'll be hard-pressed to find any copy of the 92-issue run of Marvel Mystery for less than $100 even in lower-grade conditions. In fact, it's rare to see very good or better copies available for less than $250. For $1,000 or so, you might be able to pick up about one to eight representative issues of Marvel Mystery, unless you are determined to have one of the first 20 issues (1939-41).

The famous "battle" issues involving the Human Torch and Sub-Mariner – #8, 9, and 10 and their "fire and ice" team-up in #17 – are prohibitively expensive. For my money – if I had that much! – I would rather consider the superhero-packed issues between #21 and #44 (June 1943) because every one of these consummate 68-page Golden Age gems contains five legendary Timely superheroes. The Human Torch and Submariner are featured in long stories (15 pages for the Human Torch in #21-30 and 12 pages for both in other issues), along with shorter tales of The Angel, The Patriot and The Vision. Alex Schomburg did most of the covers, a huge bonus for the Golden Age collector!

To narrow the focus even further, the ideal selection would include at least one issue between #21-27 because a sixth fantastic character, Kazar, is included in the run. But issues #28-44 are all worthwhile as well, especially #37 (a Hitler cover) and #40 (a Zeppelin cover). I would vote for #40, since Zeppelin covers were not common in World War II comics.

The page count dropped to 60 pages with #45 (July 1943), and the Patriot was dropped in #45-48. Unless you are a completist, I would skip #45-48; or Hitler collector – #46 has another Hitler cover.

Miss America, one of the best of the Golden Age superheroines, first zoomed into action in #49 (November 1943) as one of the last original costumed heroes of the era. Miss America replaced The Vision. The Patriot returned in #49, giving Marvel Mystery a lineup of five solid classic superhero strips through #74 – Human Torch, Submariner, The Angel, The Patriot and Miss America. Miss America ran through #85, but her stories were all only 7 pages long. Still, no Golden Age collection is complete without a Miss America appearance.

It was unusual to see five superheroes in one anthology in the period that covers #49 (November 1943) through #74 (July 1946). In fact, when the page count dropped to 52 pages with #58 (September 1944), it was an undistinguished non-superhero strip – Terry Vance, School Boy Sleuth – that was dropped instead of one of the five superheroes. For many collectors, the best issue of the run between #49-74 would be #63 (April 1945), which contained one of the final Hitler covers from any publisher. Issue #63 hit the stands only two to three months before Hitler died in his bunker in April 1945, ending the European half of World War II.

The last Angel story appeared in #79 (December 1946), and the Young Allies appeared in cramped 7-page stories in #75-83. For my money, though, the collector with limited funds would be well advised to skip #64-84 and focus instead on the last nine issues of the title – #84 (October 1947) through #92 (June 1949), before it became the horror/fantasy title Marvel Tales.

Captain America and Bucky appeared in 7-page stories in #80-86 (except #85), but they are not a primary attraction. However, Captain America's adventures with his later partner Golden Girl in #87-88 and #91-92 are well worth the collector's attention, especially the 12-page epics in #87 and 91.

The Blonde Phantom, a fun femme character, appeared in #84-91 and the much lesser known Sun Girl #88, 89 and 90, along with Sun Girl's guest starring stints in the Human Torch stories in #88-91. Namora made her debut in the Submariner story in #82 and Namora also appeared in #84-90. Venus, who ran in 18 issues of her own title, appeared on #91 and the Witness, who appeared in a one-shot comic, was in a 3-page story in #92.

Let's assume you have one or two pre-#80 issues, with all those classic heroes. If so, the best of the final 13 issues would then be #88 (Captain America with Golden Girl, Human Torch with Sun Girl, Submariner with Namora, plus separate stories of Blonde Phantom and Sun Girl.) Issue #88 also has by far the best cover of the later issues – a wonderful "posed" shot of Sun Girl, Human Torch, Submariner and a very glamorous Blonde Phantom.

However, for the best in Golden Age fun, I'd say you can't go wrong with any issue of #87-91.

The final issue, #92, is the only 36-pager of the run and contains only three stories – a 14-page recap of Human Torch's origin, an 8-page story with Captain America and Golden Girl, and the 3-page Witness story. However, this issue is historic, since it's the last Torch story of the Golden Age.

So there you have it – if you can collect only three issues of Marvel Mystery, try to snag one from #21-27, another from #49-74 (especially the wonderful Schomburg cover of Hitler and his infamous partners trying to flee), and finally #88. And if you can get #17 and maybe #9, you will really have a nifty set of Marvel Mystery examples!

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Rip in Time
Shawn Caffrey

Now that I have introduced you to the world of Richard Corben, as aforementioned in last month's article, I wanted to take the time to discuss one of his titles in particular. For me, not having any in-depth education in Golden or Silver Age comics until later in my collecting years, Modern comics were all that existed in my pre-adolescent reality. They weren't just any Modern comics either, they were the ones that none of my friends would read, the titles that they would push aside to satisfy their superhero fixations. While they were reading about Superman saving Metropolis or the X-Men battling Magneto, I was indulging myself in the black and white independent titles whose heroes closely resembled real people… well, as real as they are going to be in comics anyway. And one title in particular blew me away – Fantagor Press's Rip in Time. A title packed with gore, dinosaurs, and big-busted women. What else could a 12-year-old ask for?

Rip in Time issue #1 hit the stands in 1986 and continued for five issues. Fantagor Press wasn't a huge label, so the print run wasn't what people nowadays are used to. Being a little younger at the time, I never grabbed it from the newsstands, because I was probably still learning my ABCs. In my early teens, however, I found all five issues in that glorious 50-cent box that I have spoken so highly of in the past. And there it was, photographic-like color covers jam-packed with black and white Corben illustrations. And that was only the beginning. There, I proceeded to open the book and read.

The story takes place in the California desert where a secret government compound is testing a time portal device which allows a door to open leading to prehistoric times. This is where our hero, Rip Scully, LAPD, comes into the picture. After he and his fiancé find themselves in the middle of a liquor store hold-up, she is taken hostage and he is led on a chase by her captor. Somehow, the car chase winds up crashing into the secret government facility while they happened to be testing the portal. Don't you just hate when that happens? The next thing they realize is that they are surrounded by dinosaurs and millions of years away from home. And that's only the first issue.

Later, while they're fighting to stay alive in a wild world, the government organization sends a hit man to kill them so there are no survivors to reveal their secrets. So now they are surrounded by man-eating reptiles and a crazed madman. That's when Rip single-handedly battles the crazed government employee, gives an enormous Tyrannosaurus Rex a hard time, and makes his way back through the portal with only minor cuts and bruises. And to top it all off, Rip wins the girl in the end. What more could you ask for?

The story is very well scripted and reads like a movie. Not only was Richard Corben the artist, but Bruce Jones was the writer. And for you Modern comic book aficionados, you know that he is currently writing the new Hulk storyline for Marvel Comics. Rip in Time is a great example of Jones' talent. The dialogue reads like it's coming straight from your own lips. The story is great, packed with enough action that it would give Die Hard a run for its money. And the art… well, if you need to hear my opinion on Richard Corben again, then you should definitely refer to last month's article.

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Internet-Only Auctions Become Even MORE Amazing in 2003

"Having a life was nice while it lasted," chuckled James "Lon" Allen, Auction Coordinator for Heritage Comics Auctions (HCA). "But the collecting world has spoken, and I'm happy to respond."

Allen is referring to HCA's recent decision to expand its monthly Internet-only Amazing Comics Auctions' (ACA) to two sales a month.

"It's really a no-brainer," Allen says about the decision. "Our ACA sales have grown exponentially over the last year or so. There's a seemingly insatiable appetite amongst collectors out there for vintage comics and art at realistic prices, an appetite we're happy to feed."

The most recent ACA sale opened Sunday, Feb. 2, and features 1,767 individual lots. Read more

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Collectors' Society Boards

Phil's Corner Love Among the Comics
Phil Kaltenbach

Comic book enthusiasts waited breathlessly for this past Friday, Feb. 14, to arrive so they could attend the opening of the new Daredevil movie. A decent portion of the rest of the population, however, saw this day simply as Valentine's Day, an occasion to make a fuss about one's favorite paramour…or else! To celebrate the day properly, I thought we might take a look at Spellbound #14 (April 1953), an Atlas title from 50 years ago with a strong romantic sensibility.

This issue starts off with a characteristically stunning Bill Everett cover, which shows a startled young man sitting next to a ghoulish woman dressed in matching dress and shoes; indeed, he is surrounded by similar creatures, with a couple of skeletons looming in the distance for good measure. The cover features the first offering inside, "Love Story," wonderfully appropriate since this book surely graced the stands on Feb. 14, 1953.

"Love Story" spins the tale of an unhappily married tour guide in Africa, where he and his wife spend every day declaring how much each wishes the other were dead. She almost gets her wish when he is nearly killed by a python, but he is rescued and brought back to camp where the new doctor vows to nurse him back to health. Naturally, the wife falls for the handsome young doctor, and soon they begin to plot the elimination of the only impediment to their jungle love. Guessing their intentions, the husband strikes a deal with his native friends, so that when he finally succumbs (deliberately) to their schemes, the wife finds that those natives have murdered her lover and that she is now betrothed to the local witch doctor, a large fellow who coos lovingly in the last panel, "Stand still so me can put this ring thru your nose." This charming story employs one of my favorite devices in comic book horror stories in that it is narrated from start to finish by a dead man!

This issue offers several similarly romantic stories. In "Close Shave," a newlywed battle-ax keeps insisting that her mousy husband shave closer so he can kiss her properly, until he finally shaves off his entire face and offers to do the same for her. In "The Revolt of Wilbur Bixby," an unattractive but rich woman keeps her husband in line by threatening not to feed him, as she gives him no money and he cannot, after all, "eat grass." Finally, during a trip to Greece, Wilbur discovers a way to turn himself into a centaur so that he can indeed eat grass; we can only imagine the fate that awaits Griselda at the end.

My favorite is another Russ Heath gem, "The Heat's On," the story of Rock Zucco, the heartless foreman of a small group of laborers on board a ship who mercilessly forces his men to stoke the furnaces until they can barely stand up any more. Back home at the end of the voyage, he proceeds to mistreat his helpless wife until he catches a glimpse of a beautiful young woman in the apartment across the alley. He decides to push his wife out the window so he can pursue this lovely vision, but, blinded by a flash of light, he instead falls to his death. Turns out that the gorgeous woman is actually the devil who, whip in hand, informs Rock that he will be stoking the fires of hell for eternity. He definitely had it coming.

So, comic fans, enjoy the romantic maneuvers between Daredevil and Elektra all you like. For my money, Atlas really knew what love was all about in the fabulous fifties.

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Metropolis Acquires Highest CGC Graded 9.4 Copy of NM Showcase #4

Stephen Fishler and Vincent Zurzolo of Metropolis Collectibles have announced that they've acquired the highest graded copy of Showcase #4, the first comic book of the Silver Age. CGC graded it 9.4 Near Mint. It is the highest graded copy of the landmark issue known to be in existence.

"We are very pleased to now own this extremely scarce comic book," said Stephen Fishler, CEO of Metropolis. "Due to the rarity of this key book in such a high grade, we certainly don't expect to see another one like it. We have no immediate plans to put it up for sale."

Showcase #4 draws it's historical significance as the cornerstone of the Silver Age from the debut of Barry Allen, otherwise known as "The Flash." Prior to his appearance in the September 1956 publication, the comic book industry was in shambles. The superheroes introduced during World War II had faded into obscurity, and a restrictive code of conduct rendered most comic books impotent and without readership. These factors, coupled with poor distribution, had brought the industry to its knees...

...until, The Flash.

DC Comics, struggling with a dwindling audience, began thinking about bringing back superheroes. Needing a hero to lead the charge, Editor Julius Schwartz chose The Flash as the perfect candidate. Although a "Flash" had existed in the Golden Age, this new Flash would keep only the name, completely revamped for a new age.

The unparalleled success of The Flash ushered in the revitalization of other DC characters, and soon Superman, Batman, Green Lantern and more returned to the limelight. Inspired by DC's success, Marvel Comics soon began inventing and reintroducing characters of its own. The Renaissance now known as the Silver Age all began with this one book.

Vincent Zurzolo, COO of Metropolis added, "While there are almost a dozen 1962 Amazing Fantasy #15s circulating in Near Mint, this single copy of 1956 Showcase #4 makes it quite possibly the most valuable Silver Age comic book in the world."

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