We’re serializing Rob Kelly’s awesome book about the “secret origins” of comics creators and superfans, written by the folks themselves. This week, Part 1 of Doug Slack’s entry:
I said the words slowly and carefully enough to convey the prestige of the four-color treasure I removed from the brown paper bag.
My mom hit the brakes and stared with her mouth agape. Perhaps her knuckles whitened as she gripped the steering wheel. I couldn’t say because I was busy watching her eyes as they lifted from the comic book in my hands to my face to some point further on out in the distance where she may have been hopelessly looking to see where exactly she had failed. I recognized this expression and braced myself for attack.
The comic seemed like a sound investment at the time. I spotted Tales of the New Teen Titans #1: Cyborg a week prior, sleeved in a thick mylar and pinned to the wall behind the counter of Heroes World. I had been collecting comics regularly for a few years and had just entered the Anal Stage. This is the most regretful, shameful stage of a comic fan’s life what with the plastic sleeves and the backing boards and the long boxes.
I was a devotee of the annual “Robert M. Overstreet Official Comic Book Price Guide.” I would actually spend hours reading that ridiculous book, poring over titles and prices, admiring the ludicrous supplies advertised in the color pages, wishing I could someday own one of those precious collector’s items that were worth thousands.
In my greedy quest to become New Jersey’s biggest comic book baron I bought every “Collectors Item!” I could get my hands on. Somewhere within my moronic reasoning synapses, I determined that limited series and one-shot issues were the best investment. Something about a limited run translating into increased consumer demand, I think. Occasionally this insistence on collecting first issues reaped quality material such as the original Claremont/Miller Wolverine miniseries. But it also compelled me to blow cash on Marvel’s “Annie” movie adaptation and Captain Carrot & His Amazing Zoo Crew #1 (Guest appearance by Superman?! Double score!).
So there was Cyborg, as rendered by George Perez, posing on the cover of the first issue of Tales of the New Teen Titans (4-issue limited series!) in all of his cybernetic glory. The hero who was part man, part robot stood firmly in the center of the cover, cyber feet planted a full yard apart, cyber fists clenched as he broke a giant steel chain from around his mighty cyber torso. It was the first time I had ever heard of the character and at least I can say that my initial interest wasn’t capitalistic. I actually thought he looked cool.
When I noticed the title had “Teen Titans” in it the dollar signs cha-chinged over my eyes. This was 1984 when The New Teen Titans was DC’s hottest book. The early issues were already worth double digits. Double digits! This was a mere spin-off title, but Heroes World — surely a fair minded establishment — already had it tagged at five dollars. Obviously the value of this book was going places and I could still afford to get in on the ground floor of this excellent investment opportunity.
To Be Continued!
DOUG SLACK is a comics artist/writer and the creator of Slacker Comics. He grew up and lives in New Jersey, where he also teaches cartooning and painting. At 10 years old he bicycled to the 7-11 and, for the first time, used his own money to buy comic books. He hasn’t looked back since.
“The Comic Book Baron of New Jersey” © 2013 Doug Slack