While at the factory outlet center in Camarillo, California on a beautiful Sunday afternoon over the past weekend, I planted myself on a comfortable bench in a shaded, secluded area and perused some comics while my wife did her shopping. The day before we had visited Ralph’s Comic Corner a little further north in Ventura. Those of you who frequent ProgressiveRuin.com know this is the comics shop where Mike Sterling works. Along with the purchase of some new comics and a couple of Our Army at War issues from the late 1960s, I found a few gems in the bargain boxes.

Items in the bargain boxes often elicit various responses from me–amusement, surprise, befuddlement; and even despair–because sometimes I can’t believe what I come across. I’m sorry to see such 1980s series as DC’s Arion, Lord of Atlantis or Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld or Booster Gold or Manhunter included. I always kind of hope that they’ll be worth a little more, or at least have enough of a cult following to avoid being deposited in the bargain boxes.

I was genuinely surprised to see several issues of the Roger Stern, Marshall Rogers, and Terry Austin run of Doctor Strange sandwiched between Image’s Brigade and Malibu’s Rune. I’d always been under the impression that the Stern, Rogers, and Austin Doctor Strange was a revered Marvel series from the early 1980s that ranked right up there with John Byrne’s Fantastic Four and Walt Simonson’s The Mighty Thor–but maybe that was just the impression I had of it because I’m a big Marshall Rogers fan. However, I wasn’t such a big fan that I had ever actually read his run on Doctor Strange, so I was happy to select a few issues at the bargain price.

There were a lot of Malibu comics to be found in the bargain boxes–Hardcase, Prime, and Firearm stood out prominently (especially with Firearm being a James Robinson book.

A big surprise for me was coming across Ms. Mystic #2 from Pacific Comics. Ms. Mystic was a highly touted Neal Adams creation from back in the day when creator-owned series were making a big impact on the comics industry–such as Jack Kirby’s Captain Victory and the Galactic Rangers and Silver Star (both from Pacific Comics), Mike Grell’s Starslayer and Jon Sable, Freelance (from Pacific and First Comics, respectively), and Howard Chaykin’s American Flagg (from First Comics).

I remember buying Ms. Mystic #1 when it first came out–because it was by Neal friggin’ Adams for crying out loud–but not being all that impressed, unfortunately. I passed on #2. Almost 30 years later here was #2 for a buck, and I was delighted to pluck it out of the box.

And it looks beautiful, although Adams was beginning to develop a sketchier illustrative style, which would really come to fruition later in his Continuity line–which is where the series eventually migrated after Adams started that short-lived comic book company.

Finally, I was saddened to see issue 15 of The Spirit in the box. Other stores would still be charging at least $2.99 for it, but at Ralph’s it was apparently impossible to sell. I stopped purchasing the series after Darwyn Cooke left. Budget constraints have really cut into my comics buying lately.

I’m still an avid reader and collector, but I don’t buy a large volume of titles like I used to. I don’t have time to read ’em all, either. Heck, I have to isolate myself at an outlet center just to make time to write about a particular comic book shopping escapade!

My wife and I try to get up to the Ventura area at least twice a year, and Ralph’s Comic Corner is a must-stop–even more than the beach. I always find a bargain, no matter what my emotional response–and those bargain boxes at the front of the store are always a terrific entry for a trip down memory lane. Keep ’em coming, Mike!

About The Author

Jim Kingman is a writer for Comics Bulletin