By Beau Smith
Something that was a part of my childhood was trading comic books and sports cards with my friends at school and in the neighborhood. If you were a child of the 50s or 60s then this was something you did.
You have to remember, there were no comic shops. You could only buy comics at the grocery store, drug store, newsstand and sometimes some other odd retail venues. There was no internet .No online buying. There were no promises that just because you had Amazing Spider-Man #16 that the same grocery store would have issue #17 the next month. This kind of collecting really put a worth on your comics. No so much in a money kinda way, but one where you knew what you had to go through to get that issue and that it would forever drip with sentiment.
Any time I look through my vast collection of comics from the 60s I can just about tell you where I bought it and even what the weather was like that day.
I have to admit there was a real excitement in the thrill of the hunt. You never knew what you were gonna find in the spinner rack. I still remember the joy of discovering Tower Comics with such great characters as Dynamo, Undersea Agents, Noman, The Raven, and of course, T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents.
I also had a pecking order. At the time Marvel and DC Comics were bought first, then if there were no new ones or issues that I really liked I would then turn to Charlton, Dell, Archie, Gold Key, Harvey or some of the other publishers. Rarely did I walk out without anything. I was a very good consumer. I always bought something.
That’s why trading comics was such an important thing to do back then. It was a great way to supplement your collection and reading. It was a wonderful way to try out new comics, characters and publishers. The main thing wasn’t worth, Hell back then we didn’t know comics were gonna be worth money, it was a matter of reading. Reading about characters you really liked and seeing art that made your eyes bug out.
One of the big thrills was trading for an older comic. That always had me stoked. I remember trading for an issue of Captain America from the 1950s. (Issue #78) It was shocking to me that there were comics before the 1960s. As a very young kid this really got me interested in finding out as much as I could about older comics and the treasure trove of off beat characters and publishers that had come before.
I still have Captain America #78. I’ll never forget the blurb on the cover that read: CAPTAIN AMERICA-COMMIE SMASHER. What red, white and blue kid wouldn’t love that? Many years later I’d discover that it was John Romita, Sr. that drew that issue of Captain America. Mr. Romita was the pivotal artist that got me back into comics with Daredevil #15.
One of my later regrets with trading comics was the afternoon I traded Showcase #4 (debut of the Silver Age Flash) for a couple of issues of Fantastic Four that I hadn’t read. All I knew was that I had read that Flash issue a bunch of times and was interested in this new team of heroes that argued with each other all the time. Any time you could get two comics for one was a great deal. Little did I realize that I was trading off a huge chunk of comic book history.
During the summer I can remember waiting for this older kid (musta been a whole 12 years old) who would ride his bike into my neighborhood. He had a 26 inch bike with double saddlebag style baskets over the read fender and they were stuffed with comic books. He always seemed to have cool new stuff that I had never read. It seems that on weekends he would go to his grandparents house and they lived in a city that was much larger than where I grew up in Huntington, West Virginia. Anyway, the selection there was much wider. I loved trading with him. He had new stuff, he was fair and he taught me how not to trade for comics that had been written in and stuff cut out. He was my first teacher on comic book condition and grading. I wonder what happened to him? Probably a rocket scientist now. That’s how smart I thought he was.
I know that the simple days of trading comic books are gone and will never come back. For lucky guys like me those days will remain a very fond memory like an old girlfriend that you didn’t have to marry. I stress this a lot here in my column that you as readers should really try and pick up as many Golden, Silver and Bronze Age comics every chance you get. With today’s column I’d like to remind to you pick them up even if the condition is not that good or even if they’re coverless. Get em’ to read. You can always move up in condition once you know if you really like it.
When you’re are the local comic shop, on Ebay or better yet, at a convention, really look for the oddball stuff from the Golden, Silver and Bronze age. It may not be the same thrill as being a little kid trading comics on the front porch in the summer sun, but it’ll be damn close to it. To me trading comics were the purest form of being a comic book reader and collector. All I’m hoping for is that at one moment in your life you’ll get as much fun of out comics as I have and do today.
Busted Knuckles Babe Of The Week
– actress, author and former counselor at a maximum security prison
With a resume and a body like Diane Farr you can see why she was chosen as this week’s Busted Knuckles Babe of The Week. Diane was great as one of the firefighters on Rescue Me and is now a profiler FBI Agent on the hit TV series Numb3rs. Both shows are on my must watch list as is Diane. I suggest you get with the program as well.
Busted Knuckles Manly Cover Of The Week
Comic Media 1954
Art By Don Heck
Back in the 50s comic books were at their height of full throttle testosterone. The comic book by Comics Media called Danger was a prime example of this. Every issue dealt with secret agents, spies, espionage and politically incorrect bad guys. In this issue alone Duke Douglas is up to his eyeballs in danger as he goes up against French Commies in a remote village full of Arabs, Berbers and Moors. Duke always lets his fists talk for him when he is dealing with commies and cutthroats in the shifting desert sands of Morocco. This great cover and the interior art are done by legendary master of manly art-Don Heck. His name is even on the cover which was very rare for those times. Anytime you find an issue of Danger I urge you to pick it up. There’s no way you’ll lose.
That’s gonna do it for this week. With fall weather really setting in I’m sure most of you have your minds on football and the new fall season of TV shows. I do too when I’m not thinking of free beer, free food, your girlfriend and how I can mix em’ all together.
My middle son, Brad and his girlfriend head out to Park City, Utah today for six months of snowboarding. He’s been itching to try out the powder out there for some time. He’s heard it’s not as icy as it is here in the Mountain State. He’ll be traveling across the country in his Jeep and taking in the sights. If you see him on his journey or boarding down the side of a mountain tell him he can never truly escape out from under my iron thumb and then buy him a beer. He favors Mexican beer the best.
As always I look forward to your comments and words of manly wisdom. You know where to find me.
The Flying Fist Ranch
P.O. Box 706
Ceredo, WV. 25507
Prove your manhood by visiting Beau at the Flying Fists Forum!