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Nexus Graphica
by Rick Klaw

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Other Nexus Graphica Columns
For more information, you can try the following:
Miracleman
Warrior
Alan Moore
Eclipse Comics
Miracleman ownership
Brought to Light
Christic Institute
Marvel Omnibus
Jack Kirby
The Eternals
The Silver Surfer (1978)
Robert Crumb
Harvey Pekar
Richard Corben
Neil Gaiman
Echo
Terry Moore
All-Star Superman Vol. 1
Herbie Archives Volume 1
American Comics Group
Mome Vol. 12
Recent Books of Interest

Echo: Moon Lake by Terry Moore (Abstract Studio) Echo: Moon Lake
After completing the successful twelve year run on his acclaimed Strangers in Paradise, Moore recently turned his artistic attentions toward his next endeavor, Echo. The science fiction series centers around photographer Julie Martin, who after an explosion, discovers a powerful atomic armor adhering to her skin. Moore wisely relies on his strong sense of characterization especially his portrayals of women, both as an artist and writer. Echo: Moon Lake collects the first five issues as Julie attempts (poorly) to come to grips with what has happened to her. As with all Terry Moore stories, this first volume piques the reader's interest, leaving us wanting more.


All-Star Superman Volume One by Grant Morrison (script) and Frank Quitely (art) (DC) All-Star Superman Volume One
In perhaps the most enjoyable Superman comic ever, the cerebral Morrison, whose prodigious output varies from mediocre to sensational, successfully creates a story full of scientific wonder, multi-reality excitement, and diabolical evil. Quitely's delicate, expressive art perfectly compliments the intricate, intelligent tale. If Warner Brothers has any sense, All-Star Superman would be the basis for the next Superman film.


Herbie Archives Volume 1 by Shane O' Shea (script) and Ogden Whitney (art) (Dark Horse) Herbie Archives Volume 1
Created and written by American Comics Group editor Richard Hughes under one of his many pseudonyms, Herbie chronicled the adventures of the most unlikely of heroes, the rotund, everyman Herbie Popnecker. The most memorable title from ACG relied on sharp witted scripts and Whitney's understated art. Energized by his arsenal of magical lollipops, Herbie exhibited a wide range of powers in a variety of genres against an odd assortment of villains. Fifty years after its initial publication, this handsome collection of the first sixteen Herbie stories demonstrates that these tales still supply a simple, near perfect parody of superhero comics and its fandom while remaining uniquely its own entity.


Mome Vol. 12 edited by Eric Reynolds and Gary Groth (Fantagraphics) Mome Vol. 12
The graphic equivalent of the literary journal returns with its twelfth quarterly issue featuring 18 original contributions by the likes of Sophie Crumb, Ray Fenwick, Olivier Schrauwen, Dash Shaw, Al Columbia, Derek Van Gieson, Sara Edward-Corbett, and Paul Hornschemeier. While the quality fluctuates throughout, exemplary pieces by Nate Neal, Tom Kaczynski, Jon Vermilyea, Killoffer, and the always reliable David B. elevate this unique anthology above the standard fare, showcasing a series ground-breaking graphical story-telling realities.


Miraclemen, Covert Ops, and Secret Histories

Miracleman Book 3: Olympus
Warrior
Brought To Light
The Eternals
American Splendor
Things changed earlier this decade. Graphic novels, largely ignored by both comic and book collectors, suddenly acquired a collectible status similar to their prose and periodical brethren. I first noticed this phenomenon about five years ago when a customer came into Half Price Books to sell Miracleman Book 3: Olympus.

In 1982, the U.K.'s Warrior magazine, Watchmen scribe Alan Moore introduced his postmodern deconstructionist vision of the popular 50s character Marvelman.1 When the American publisher Fawcett ceased publication of original Captain Marvel stories, the British publisher L. Miller & Son re-imagined the popular character as Marvelman, from 1954 through 1963.

Following Warrior's 1985 cancellation, Eclipse acquired the character rights, and to avoid copyright infringement with Marvel Comics, changed the name to Miracleman. Eclipse produced 24 issues (including color reprints of the Warrior appearances), 16 written by Moore and eight by Neil Gaiman, as well as a the three-issue series Miracleman: Apocrypha, which featured original tales of the 50s Miracleman Family by various creators. The stories were eventually collected into five volumes. Eclipse's 1994 bankruptcy thrust Miracleman into rights purgatory, and 14 years later ownership still remains unresolved. The collections are currently out of print and most likely will remain that way for the foreseeable future.

Knowing all this, I decided to do a little research. What I discovered floored me. The few listings I uncovered priced the book anywhere from $300 to $500, depending on condition. Book 3 collected issues #10-16. According to comicspriceguide.com, the original seven issues can be purchased together for $195 in excellent condition. Curiosity drove me to investigate the other collections. The other four (Book One: A Dream of Flying, Book Two: The Red King Syndrome, Book Four: The Golden Age, and Apocrypha) start at around $50 and can go far as much as $400.

What about Moore's other Eclipse graphic novel Brought To Light? A flip book with Shadowplay: The Secret Team by Moore (his first major non-genre work) and Bill Sienkiewicz, and Flashpoint: The LA Penca Bombing documented by Martha Honey and Tony Avirgan and adapted by Joyce Brabner and Tom Yeates, the graphic novel chronicled several CIA covert operations and history, using material from lawsuits filed by the Christic Institute against the U.S. Government. This scarce book is difficult to find in decent condition since the cover easily separates from the pages. Turns out Brought To Light ranges from $65 to $280, again depending on condition. Like the other Miracleman titles listed, none were signed by any of the contributors.

Premium prices for out of print, hard-to-find graphic novels written by the popular Moore make some sense. Scarcity and demand drive up the price. More difficult to understand is the high cost for the Marvel Omnibus edition of Jack Kirby's The Eternals.

Published as an oversized $75 hardcover, this 2006 book collects The Eternals #1-19 and Annual #1. While interesting, this secret history of the epic struggle between mankind's genetic cousins the Eternals and the Deviants reads like an inferior version of Kirby's classic Fourth World saga. Yet this handsome out-of-print volume goes for anywhere from $150 to $800(!). A complete near mint run of the individual issues can be found for $170l, less as the condition goes down.

Unlike Moore's deeply influential Miracleman, the quality of Kirby's bombastic, overblown "epic" ranks well below his previous efforts. If anyone else had created the Eternals, the whole series would have faded into obscurity.

Most other out-of-print Kirby collections and graphic novels vary from $25 to $200, including the groundbreaking The Silver Surfer (1978) from Fireside. The first graphic novel produced by a major mainstream publisher and distributed through regular bookstores, this Stan Lee-written, Kirby-drawn book represented a watershed moment in comic book publishing and a tantalizing glimpse of an early 21st century style bookselling model.

Moore and Kirby are far from the only collectible graphic novel creators. Many of legendary underground artist and counter culture icon Robert Crumb's out of print works demand a premium. Titles such as Fritz Bugs Out (Ballantine, 1972) and R. Crumb Sketchbook 1966-67 (Zweitausendeins, 1981) command as much as $500.

First editions of Harvey Pekar's American Splendor collections can be bought for around $100. Many of Richard Corben's graphic novels go for over $150. Gaiman joins in the fun as well with several of his first edition graphic novel hardcovers being offered as high as $200 unsigned (a lot more if autographed).

As with prose books, graphic novel values are determined primarily by scarcity, demand, and condition. Age often has little to do with it.2 Exuberant prices always existed in the comic book markets but until recently primarily for the individual issues. The arrival of the traditional book reader has changed not only the way the genre is produced and perceived but the way it's collected. Most mainstream readers prefer books over individual issues, much in the way that science fiction fans keep the bound novel rather than the serialized chapters from the magazines. The new acceptance of the sequential form created a demand for out of print and first edition graphic novels and collections. Walking into any bookstore or read any book review column, the change is self evident. Graphic novels have infiltrated the popular consciousness.

So before giving away that old 90s X-Men graphic novel or collection, you better do some research. You might be pleasantly surprised.

1 In that same magazine, Moore premiered the nihilist, near-future series V For Vendetta.

2 As I'm fond of saying, many 19th century books can be often purchased for as little as $1 at most used bookstores.

Copyright © 2008 Rick Klaw

Rick Klaw produced four years of the popular monthly SF Site column "Geeks With Books", and supplied countless reviews, essays, and fiction for a variety of publications including, The Austin Chronicle, The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy, Moving Pictures RevolutionSF, King Kong Is Back!, Conversations With Texas Writers, Farscape Forever, Electric Velocipede, Cross Plains Universe, and Steampunk. MonkeyBrain Books published the collection of his essays, reviews, and other things Klaw, Geek Confidential: Echoes From the 21st Century.


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