Take a look at the cover accompanying this article. Isn’t it great? Superman is taking a break from saving the world while getting his hair cut by cub reporter Jimmy Olsen, barber-on-the-side, who is using a pair of shears strong enough to cut Superman’s hair. The Man of Steel is enjoying the very comic that we’re looking at. Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen #110 was published in February of 1968, back in the day when you could find this issue on a comics spinner rack in just about Anywhere, USA. The artwork is by the legendary Neal Adams, who at that time was well on his way to providing the cover illustrations for a number of DC comics. And take a moment to marvel at the Jimmy Olsen logo; it’s not flashy, it’s not high-tech, it’s simple and inviting. It’s a happy logo. Yeah, sure, the story inside is a little ludicrous, but that’s okay; it’s all good, clean, goofy Silver Age fun, and without this kind of comic we’d probably never have All Star Superman.
I saw a copy of Jimmy Olsen #110 at the Pasadena Flea Market over the past weekend. It was in pretty sad shape, and the dealer wanted something like ten dollars for it, which was negotiable. It was tempting, but I couldn’t be sure if I had it or not, so I passed on it. As it turns out, the comic is indeed already in my collection, and probably has been for years and years. But there are a lot of issues before and after SPJO #110 that I don’t have, and this is a prime example of why I need to bring a “want” list along to the flea markets. Great as this cover is, I don’t need two of them.
Who would have thought that going to flea markets on a regular basis would inspire me to finally start taking a long overdue inventory of my comics. Flea markets are not like comic book shops and comic book conventions. Where comics are concerned, flea markets tend to weigh heavy with pretty unimpressive material from the 1980s and 1990s, but from time to time I do come across a vendor, scattered hither and yon across whatever venue parking lot is hosting the event, who will have bought a collection that includes books from the 1960s and 1970s. That’s where the four-color gems, some neglected, some obscure, many just plain forgotten, are to be found.
Many of these books I already have in my collection, but some present a real challenge, such as the aforementioned Olsen incident. On occasion a G.I. Combat book pops up and I can never be certain if I have it or not. I don’t visit my G.I. Combat pile often, which is a real shame on my part, because there are some interesting stories there. Not classics, not masterworks, but good, solid material from the like of writers Robert Kanigher and Bob Haney and artists Joe Kubert and Russ Heath. They don’t make comics like that anymore. I don’t think collectors are even looking for comics like that anymore. But nothing can be finer on a lazy Sunday afternoon, in a comic book fanatic kind of way, than reading an old war or superhero or mystery comic found earlier in the day for dirt cheap at the local flea market.
And one of the biggest flea markets in the country is just days away, at the Pasadena Rose Bowl, so taking stock is absolutely necessary to make sure I don’t buy what I already have. Again, it’s long overdue, and I certainly have serious gaps to fill in such titles as Superman’s Girlfriend, Lois Lane, Our Army at War, Star Spangled War Stories, and House of Mystery, to name a few. Sure, I can go to Mile High Comics and order them online or save up for the next big comic book convention to locate them, but there’s something uniquely cool about walking down aisles and aisles to gaze at other people’s antiques and discarded junk for sale and stumbling, sometimes quite literally, upon a dilapidated, forlorn box of comics and finding a surprise within. So this week I’m going through as many comics stacks as I can to figure out what I still need to get, all the while rediscovering a lot of books I purchased as a comics collector but haven’t really taken in yet as a comics reader.
I’d get a life if this one wasn’t so much fun.