This past weekend I attended the Boston Comic Con. I had a great experience, dressing up as Fantastic Five Spider-Man (from What If Vol 1 No. 1) on Saturday, scoring some signatures on a few books (Frank Brunner on the iconic Man-Thing #1 was a particular favorite), and then on Sunday attaining comic book nerdvana by getting my copy of Amazing Spider-Man #45 signed by Stan Lee. In between all of this I was gleefully raiding the $1 bins and other low hanging fruits; with a wedding coming up none of the “big ticket” items were tempting enough to overcome the hundreds of dollars I’ve had to dish out in the last few weeks. Still, a few good finds were had, including 2001: A Space Odyssey #1 for $1, Dr. Strange #178 (a Silver Age appearance of The Black Knight) for $2.50 (in acceptable condition, at least by my standards), and, from the same guy, Captain Marvel #13 for $1.50.
A 12-center for $1.50?! Surely he must be crazy. I’m a sucker for Silver Age Marvel, and given I could spend the same amount on some X-book from 1995, I decided to partake. I could already see that the front cover had a corner torn off — it was to be expected for such a low price. Still, upon further inspection I found a litany of defects, and given what I paid for it I could only chuckle as I began to make a mental list in my head:
- Corner torn off.
- Initials written on front cover in pen
- Captain Marvel logo partially colored in with pen
- Water damage on front cover
- First page has bleeding from ad on inside front cover
- General wear around all edges of the book. And the coup de grace
- On the back cover is two coupons to send away for seeds to sell One coupon is cut out (!) and another has a name written on it, matching the initials on the front cover.
After taking all of these into account, I saw this not as a damaged Silver Age issue, but as a piece of somebody’s childhood. Some kid had this book, drew on it, spilled things on it, tore off a piece of the cover lugging it around, and even decided to send away to sell seeds in hopes of the fabulous prizes promised by the advertisement. This comic book lost resale value, but gained sentimental value as it went through life with this kid. He probably got it because it had cool space stuff on the cover, and loved it, or at least gave it a wild life before it was retired and probably sold off as he reached adulthood. So as far as curios go, this is actually more fascinating to me than any damaged comic has a right to be, like a window into someone’s past.
As for the comic itself? Green and white Captain Marvel was always a bit silly to me, and in this he battles the Man-Slayer, a robot he had already defeated in a previous issue. Upon its self-resurrection, its “reserve power” only allows it to function if it denies its evil mission, though Captain Marvel still ends up fighting it off, then going up to a Kree spaceship to confront Yon-Rogg, Captain Marvel’s early nemesis.. There’s inconsistency abound (the titular character is referred to as Captain Marvel, Captain Marvell, and Captain Mar-Vell, as well as Mar-Vell), and it seems like many panels don’t have any background, just the primary characters and perhaps a small piece of the foreground filled in with a solid color for the background. Also striking me as bizarre was the lack of any sort of text bubble on the cover. Usually there’s a text box or some sort of writing hyping up what’s going on inside the book. Here the cover was just a picture, with no words, and it was a little jarring given what I’m used to. Despite this rushed appearance, the art has that classic Kirby-esque Silver Age style, and for all of its other flaws the pages are actually pretty crisp, so it’s definitely an interesting read. My advice? If you find a Silver Age book for $1.50, pick it up. It might not be a “collector’s item” in the traditional sense, but you’ll almost certainly find a place for it in your collection.