Comic addicts and signed book junkies

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There are people who appear normal in everyday life but who are out there collecting comics, spending hours of their time like dope addicts, working feverishly to complete hard-to-come-by runs of particular issues.

For example, #37 of “Swamp Thing” by Alan Moore is the first appearance of John Constantine, who has his own run called “Hellblazer” now. That comic, in fine condition, can command prices of up to $90, sometimes more, despite the fact that it can be reprinted. Ahhh… but for the comic book junkie, to own the original is the goal.

There’s a hard-to-find comic called “Junk Comix,” which came out in 1971, a one-issue stand written by a heroin addict, that sells for $40 and up. The one advantage of comic book collecting as opposed to heroin shooting is that with heroin all you have left are memories and scars on your arms. With comic book collecting, if you keep them in good shape, you can always resell them when money gets tight. No one buys scars or memories.

If you buy new comics that come out every Wednesday, you may be making an investment in a comic that will grow in value, depending on it’s popularity. Of course, in the meantime you’re spending money each week, and, in the end, only true dealers make serious money.

For example, if you were lucky enough to buy the first issue of “The Walking Dead” and saved it in good condition, you can now sell it for well over $50. On Amazon and ebay there are special sites where comic book junkies can look for “bargains.”

Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose, but it beats scratch ticket odds because you at least have the comics to reread and sell—if you can detach from them. And that’s the key.

I’ve been collecting comics since I was 6 or 7 years old. I should have a collection that would be worth a small fortune. But I started shooting heroin at age 13 and sold many an issue that would fetch a hefty price today.

I had the first appearance of Spider-Man, the first appearance of the Hulk and the first appearance of the X-Men. Those issues sell for big money now. I sold the first appearance of Wolverine, in one of the Hulk comics, for $90, and now it’s worth well over $1,000.

I had a flea market stall in South Carolina (one of many attempted geographical cures for my addiction) where I bought and sold collections of comics but ran all the profits into my veins.

The good news is that I don’t use heroin anymore; I’m in recovery. However, my comic book addiction has reasserted itself and I have boxes, numbered and labeled like I was obsessive-compulsive, that occupy a small room in the finished attic. My wife worries about the money I spend on comics. I tell her it will be all right; I’ve labeled everything so if something happens to me, she’ll know what to get for them. Like she’s excited about the prospect of figuring out how to sell comics on ebay… Is this my legacy?

I have the full set of “Miracleman” soft cover comics, from #1–24, and I can tell you that the hunt was fun—just like the thrill of copping dope but without the threat of arrest.

See, I’m cured. It doesn’t get any better than this. And the writing in today’s comic world, especially with graphic novels, is better than ever. Even my wife reads them. There’s “The Sandman” by Neil Gaiman, “The Watchmen” by Alan Moore, “The Authority” by Warren Ellis and Mark Millar and “Planetary” by Warren Ellis. I’ll bet some of you have seen some of the movies that have come out; I don’t have to name them.

It’s Wednesday, comic book day. I’m waiting, as I write this, for the stores to open at 11.00 a.m. I’m clutching my money in my sweaty hand. After all, it’s better to have a day with comics and no money than it is to have money and no comics.

As the Furry Freak Brothers used to say, “It’s better to have a day with dope and no money than it is to have money and no dope.”

Before I close, let me confess another insidious habit. I love limited edition books that have been signed and numbered by the authors. Just like dealers who specialize in quality, some book companies specialize in limited editions.

The three favorites of mine are Subterranean Press, Centipede Press and PS Publishing. The books they put out are lavish and signed and numbered by the author.

For example, I have a book called “The Fireman” by Joe Hill, a great horror writer, that’s signed and has a special slipcase, and it’s limited to 974 copies. I have number 70, which makes it a special prize. There’s an entire bookcase in the dining room with nothing but signed and numbered books from various companies and well-known authors.

So I’m in “recovery,” but I still have an addiction. I’m weaning myself from the comics but picking up the book habit. Hmmm. What is it that they say about once an addict…?

Marc D. Goldfinger is a member of the board of directors of the Homeless Empowerment Project, which publishes Spare Change news. Formerly homeless, he serves as the paper's poetry editor.