Sunday, 2 January 2011

Rob's Top 10 Comic-Related Bargains of 2010

2010 was a year when comic-related bargains became harder to find than ever. $3.99 became the standard price for most Marvel and DC comics, and thanks to a poor exchange rate and rising freight costs, that pushed the average price of one of these comics in a British comic shop over £3.00 (both companies have since pledged to put prices on certain titles back down to $2.99, but I doubt they’ll get back all the readers they drove away); high-end publishers like Drawn & Quarterly were releasing £12.99 / $20.00 hardcovers that only contained about 60 pages of material, took about 20 minutes to read, and made you (well, me) feel like a pillock for spending money on them (X’ed out by Charles Burns and Wally Gropius by Tim Hensley are the books that immediately spring to mind, but I’m sure there are plenty more examples); and Titan Books seemed to think that £18.99 was a perfectly acceptable price to charge for ‘deluxe’ hardcovers that only reprinted six comics (Batman and Robin by Grant Morrison, for example). Still, there were bargains to be found if you were prepared to go that extra mile to find them. Comic collecting / reading doesn’t have to be a hobby enjoyed only by obnoxious rich kids (although being an obnoxious rich kid helps), as the following list, my top 10 comic-related bargains of 2010, shows.

10. Batman and Robin Deluxe HC Vol.1

£18.99 my arse! Even the Amazon price of £10 (or thereabouts) was too much for my liking and I eventually managed to grab a copy on eBay, in an auction, for £6.00. I still haven’t read it.

9. Ex-Library Books

Until this year, I had always assumed that all those people selling ‘ex-library’ editions of graphic novels on eBay and Amazon had just stolen them from their local library, as I had never seen a graphic novel for sale in a library before, but it turns out that libraries do sometimes flog off graphic novels on the cheap. A few months ago, I picked up ex-library copies of ‘God Save the Queen’ by Mike Carey and John Bolton and ‘Vic and Blood’ by Harlan Ellison and Richard Corben for 20p each and then, just a few days ago, I managed to find a whole pile of graphic novels for sale in another library and picked up a copy of 'Silverfin' by Charlie Higson and Kev Walker for 50p. These finds probably would have placed higher if any of these books were things I had actually wanted.

8. The Walking Dead Compendium Vol.1 TPB

This big bastard of a book collects The Walking Dead issues 1-48 in one (softcover) edition. It has a recommended retail price of £45.00, but you can currently get it online (Amazon, Book Depository, Forbidden Planet International) for around £32.00, which is a pretty good price for a book containing this many comics. I got my copy from FPI a few months ago for just £28.00 (including postage) and then convinced someone else to get it for me for Christmas, which is why I haven’t read and reviewed it yet.

7. Marvel Essential / DC Showcase books

These books are pretty good value anyway, at around £10 for 500+ pages of Silver / Bronze Age goodness, but earlier in the year I managed to get several volumes in my local comic shop for £5.00 each (Essential Luke Cage Vol.2, Showcase Presents Batgirl Vol.1 and Showcase Presents Challengers of the Unknown Vol.1). Then, a couple of months later, I bought a copy of Essential Luke Cage Vol.1 on eBay, from a local seller, for £5.00, and ended up buying several more Essential / Showcase books from him for £5.00 each (Showcase Presents Phantom Stranger Volumes 1 and 2, Showcase Presents House of Mystery Vol.1, Showcase Presents Jonah Hex Vol.1, Essential Defenders Vol.1, etc.) when I went to collect it. Now all I need is the time and enthusiasm required to read them all.

6. Locke & Key Volumes 1, 2 and 3 (Hardcover Editions)

This idea that eBay is a great place to pick stuff up at a discount – a notion perpetuated by eBay in its advertising – is something that I generally find to be untrue. Certainly, most new graphic novels (and CDs and DVDs) that I see listed in ‘buy-it-now’ format tend to be more expensive than they are on Amazon (etc.). However, there are still bargains to be had at auction, if you look for them. Earlier this year, I managed to pick up the first three volumes in this rather good series (the hardcover editions, which have a recommended retail price of £18.99 each and had a combined Amazon price of around £40.00 when I bought them) for a mere £15.87, including postage. Bingo!

5. Amazon Listing Errors

A couple of months ago, Amazon screwed up the prices on some of their hardcover graphic novels. I ordered the Thor by Walter Simonson Omnibus for £22.09 (RRP £95.00) and the Captain America by Jack Kirby Omnibus for £19.13 (RRP £55.99) and Paul (Rainey), who told me about these listing errors, ordered a few Omnibus editions, too. It was always likely that Amazon would realise their mistake and refuse to fulfil these orders, but this possibility was made a certainty once Rich ‘spoilsport’ Johnson publicised these listing errors on his site and Amazon did indeed cancel the orders. Still, it was exciting while it lasted, and had these books actually turned up, this particular bargain would have placed higher.

4. Library Books

There are several series that I like to read but don’t feel the need to own (Ex Machina, Jonah Hex, etc.) and for these series my local library is perfect. My local library actually doesn’t have very many graphic novels in stock, but by going to the Kent libraries website I am able to get books from any library in Kent sent to my local branch, and all I have to pay is a 25p reservation fee. Kent libraries don’t seem to be getting that many new GNs in these days, but they do seem to order stuff in for me if I ask nicely, and I still only have to pay a 25p reservation fee. The fools!

3. Amazing Fantasy Omnibus Vol.1 HC

This particular Marvel omnibus edition, which collects all the pre-Spider-Man issues of Amazing Fantasy by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, has a recommended retail price of £55.99, although you can usually get it online for £40.00 to £50.00. This is something that Paul and I have both coveted for a while now, and last week we noticed that Forbidden Planet International had the Dan Brereton variant edition on their site for a mere £17.50 (plus £1.00 P&P) and ordered copies. Then, the following day, Rich ‘kiss of death’ Johnson mentioned this deal on his site, which has probably led to a rush of orders. I don’t know if we will ever receive the copies we ordered – this deal is still listed on the FPI website – but if we don’t I’ll know who to blame and if we do it will be a great bargain.

2. Charity Shop Graphic Novels

About six months ago, in an incident I now refer to as ‘the great charity shop haul of 2010’, I managed to find a shitload of comics and graphic novels for sale in various charity shops in Tonbridge in Kent. Some generous soul / mug had decided to give his comic collection away before he moved abroad, and one particular charity shop, which had received most of his collection, had transformed into a virtual Forbidden Planet for tightwads, with its windows full of graphic novels and boxed action figures. I nearly pushed over an old man as I rushed to get inside, and spent over £100 on cheap graphic novels in that shop alone. I kept most of the books I bought for myself but sold off the rest for a small profit, which effectively meant that the stuff I kept didn’t cost me anything.

1. 80+ Issues of Alter Ego Magazine

This was another great charity shop find: 80+ issues of Roy Thomas’s Alter Ego magazine, plus some other comic-related magazines and some comics, for a mere £7.00. I nearly broke my back carrying these back to the car, but it was worth it, as, after listing a few issues I didn’t want on eBay, I ended up selling them all privately to someone who emailed me a question for £150. This is the sort of thing dreams are made of! Well, it’s the sort of thing my crappy dreams are made of.

Will 2011 bring even greater bargains?


  1. Great entry Rob. Mine would include the mysterious man who seems to sell all the comics he's bought over the last year at an annual event I attend for 50p each.

  2. Your dedication astounds me.

    I tried ordering that Amazing Fantasy Omnibus too but I think I was already too late by the time I got there as even though it didn't say Sold Out, the website wouldn't let me add it to my basket.

  3. We still haven't received the copies we ordered but I'm optimistic. Some people who ordered this have apparently been getting emails from FPI telling them the book is now out of stock but neither of us have had an email like this yet. Hopefully they had enough to honour any orders placed before Rich Johnson publicised this great deal.