STAMPED ON YOUR HEART: A REVIEW of the long-awaited book by Roy Thomas and the top-notch designers at Abrams ComicArts…
By JIM BEARD
Marvel Value Stamps: A Visual History really hit me where I live. And that’s in the past, by the way, which, yeah, is kinda sad, I know.
But it’s all OK, because the comic book past is a truly wondrous thing, and when I have books like this to remind me of it, I’m a happy fanboy.
Can we all just agree right here that Roy Thomas is now the undisputed living master of the Book Introduction? He’s a treasure trove of information, despite his claims of failing memory in his dotage, and the more we hear from him now about these great little corners of comic book history the better. Because, you know, like the great Marvel Bullpenners before him, he won’t be here forever (but books like these will).
The first thing I realized when I was paging through this tome, published by Abrams ComicArts is that it immerses the viewer in history. You don’t just get some talk about what was going on back then at Marvel in the early 1970s and this crazy little stamp thing they did, you get a wall-to-wall museum experience. When Roy or the captions tell you something, you get to see it. And see it big and colorful. I love that. Like I said, immersive.
You’ll notice I said “viewer” back there and not “reader.” That’s because, and I’m warning you now, this is essentially a picture book, not an exhaustive text tome. And that’s okay, too, because the pictures are gorgeous.
What you get here is the entire lead-in and roll-out of the Marvel Value Stamp program from Roy the Boy, the next best thing to having Stan the Man here himself to educate us on this (and maybe more so, since Stan’s memory was allegedly the very worst). Then you get the pictures, which includes every single Value Stamp they did, and — this is one of the parts I love — where their images came from.
I’m getting a little excited just typing this. Why? Because we get well over a hundred letters pages, too.
That’s right, True Believer; if you like to read vintage comic book letters pages, you’re in luck, bunky, ‘cause you get them in spades in this book. It duplicates all the pages the Stamps originally appeared on back then in their entirety, so we’re getting ones that probably have never been reprinted before, and probably never will again. For me, that’s worth the price of admission alone.
It’s also really fun to see where the Marvel office people pulled the images from and how they, in some cases, manipulated the pics to fit them into the stamp frames. And it’s not just Series A, either, but Series B, too, and even a look at the later pastiches Marvel did further down the road to emulate the program of yore. That was fun, too.
One of the other eye openers for me in this book is learning that the Stamp program didn’t start in the U.S. Nope, nuh-uh. It was actually kicked off as a kind of experiment in the Marvel U.K. mags as “coupons.” Personally, I didn’t know that before cracking the covers on this one, so that’s an extra-added bonus for me, Effendi.
In all, the book’s a real showcase of an era. Roy doesn’t pull any punches when he explains the Marvel Value Stamps were a fairly shameless shill for sales, but we all knew that anyway, right? In fact, when Roy told Stan that it meant cutting up the comics to get the Stamps and the Stamp Album mailaway coupon, Stan replied, and I paraphrase, “Yeah, that’s OK—they’ll just have to buy another copy!”
I love that. And I love this book. Rush out and buy one, and then cut it up and buy another one. You’ll be honoring history if you do.
Marvel Value Stamps: A Visual History is available now. It lists for $29.99 and is available at comics shops and booksellers. The 400-page hardcover measures at 6.5 x 9 inches.
— Dig These 13 Sensational MARVEL VALUE STAMPS. Click here.
— Classic MARVEL VALUE STAMPS to Be Re-Released as a Page-A-Day Calendar. Click here.
When JIM BEARD’s not editing and publishing through his two houses, Flinch Books and Becky Books, he’s pounding out adventure fiction with both original and licensed characters. In fact, he’s put words in the mouths of Luke Skywalker, Superman, Fox Mulder, Carl Kolchak, Peter Venkman and the Green Hornet… and lived to tell about it. His latest pop culture non-fiction tome is The Old Origin Changeth!, available here.