Do you know what day it is? No, not Hump Day. It’s National Comic Book Day! (Seriously? Who comes up with these?) And a pannapictagraphist is a comic book collector, who takes collecting comic books very seriously. Think a typical scene in Stuart’s comic book store on “The Big Bang Theory.”
Thor may be hot, but comic book collecting is even hotter. Diamond Comic Distributors, the largest comic book distributors in North America, shipped material worth around $45.72 million in August, including comic books, graphic novels, trade paperbacks and magazines. Comic-Con conventions continue to top attendance records year over year, with more than 180,000 attending this year’s Comic-Con in New York alone. Popular public Facebook groups like Comic Book Collecting, have hundreds of thousands of members. Tons of websites, including the Comic Book Collecting Association (a non-profit international organization made up of comic book enthusiasts who share an appreciation of the history, artistic merit and significance of the comic book medium as an important element of popular culture), ComiXology, ComicList and My Comic Shop are dedicated to detailed analysis and summaries of popular series, as well as weekly comic releases, and tips on collecting and selling comic books. Obviously, the Big Bang Gang is on to something.
A Comic Awakening
The comic book collection bug, however, wasn’t always such a big business or a big deal. Although comic books have been published for more than a century (beginning with the Platinum Age of comics from 1897-1937), the notion of comics as collectible art was celebrated by a disperse community of individual collectors. Even during the Golden Age of comics (1938-55, which featured the first appearance of Superman [Action Comics #1 in June 1938] and the first appearance of Batman [Detective Comics #27 in May 1939]), before the late 1960s, virtually no specialized comic stores existed. A few collector-based retail establishments had taken root, most notably Pop Hollinger’s retail and mail order shop for new and used comics. But it wasn’t until the Bronze Age of comics (1970-79) when Denver, Colorado-based retailer Chuck Rozanski acquired the high-value “Mile High Collection” — 16,000 comic books dating from 1937 to 1955 — in 1977 and slowly began releasing select editions into the marketplace.
During the late 1970s to early 1980s major comic publishers like Marvel and DC Comics began publishing material that was intended for sale in specialist shops only. When Marvel tested the new comics specialty market with the title Dazzler in 1981, the comic sold an astounding (at the time) 400,000 copies. Thereafter, comics publishers have been targeting more and more of their titles to collector audiences, with features such as limited editions, the use of high quality paper, or the inclusion of novelty items.
The Big Boom
From roughly 1985 through 1993, comic book speculation reached its highest peaks. This boom period began with the publication of titles like Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen. With the subsequent success of the movie Batman in 1989 and again in 1992 with “The Death of Superman” story line, the mainstream press began focusing on the burgeoning niche market and its potential for making money. Features appeared in newspapers, magazines and television shows detailing how rare, high-demand comics such as Action Comics #1 and Incredible Hulk #181 (the first appearances of Superman and Wolverine, respectively) had sold for thousands of dollars, with Superman #1 breaking the $1 million mark.
Turns out we have a few serious collectors here at Select Blinds who were kind enough to share some of their fantastic collections with us. To them and all pannapictagraphists, happy National Comic Book Day!