The Wild World of High-End Comics Collecting

Categories: Comics

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Photo by Chuck Cook Photography
This nearly-pristine copy of Action Comics #1 was purchased for $3.2 million dollars in August by Metropolis Collectibles in New York City.

When a person attends a comic book convention, there's an expectation of seeing people in Spider-Man T-shirts and brightly-colored Spandex costumes. However, at the Metropolis Collectibles booth in New York City, the dress code is more Wall Street than Wolverine.

Sharply dressed men in suits and ties engage in intense conversation, peering intensely at old comics safely ensconced in hard, clear, plastic cases. Some are those presented for consideration by hopeful sellers. At the other end of the counter, a man in who appears to be in his fifties quietly passes over a $3,600 check to purchase one of the offerings. No one at the booth appears to be younger than 40.

At the top of each of the plastic comic cases in bold lettering is a CGC grade. CGC (short for Certified Guaranty Company, LLC) is a third-party service that evaluates comic books and grades them according to their condition by specific criteria, just as a jeweler might grade a diamond. In diamonds, one looks at cut, color, clarity and carat weight. In comics, evaluation criterion includes cover, color and condition.

Everything is looked at during CGC's grading process. Are there creases in the cover? How white are the pages in areas that were not inked? Are there color breaks or misaligned staples in the spine? Does there appear to have been any restoration work done and what was the quality of that work? After evaluation, the comic is encapsulated in the clear, hard plastic protector and a grade from 0 to 10 is assigned, with "10" being assigned only to completely flawless comics.

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Best Comics in September Part 2: Green Arrow...The Dick We Need

Categories: Comics

Each month the staff at 8th Dimension Comics picks out the best book to review. Check out part 1 here.

Moon Knight #8

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Moon Knight took a long time to interest me, but I'm starting to finally see why the character is brilliant. He's Deadpool without all the bullshit meme stuff attached. Everything that people think they love about Deadpool, they actually love about Moon Knight.

He's the most psychologically damaged protagonist in Marvel. Completely deranged and just barely in control. At times he makes the Scarlet Spider look downright mentally healthy, and now that struggle is starting to come home to roost.

#8 is one of the most cleverly executed comics I've ever seen. Spector is called in to help a hostage situation in One World Trade Center where everyone is understandably a little jumpy. His action is told through security cam feeds and viral videos, with him never appearing in a traditional comic page until the action is over at the very end. It's inventive and keen, but it's also a grand way to look at Spector through the eyes of others.

He's even doing his level best to try and rein himself in, as one of his many personalities gets his police contact to call his doctor while on the case and setting up an attempt to capture himself. In the end, we get Die Hard with an insane superhero instead of an everyman hero cop, and the result is magic.

Rating: 8 of 10


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Best Comics in September Part 1: Holmes vs. Houdini and the Death of Wolverine

Categories: Comics

Each month the staff at 8th Dimension Comics picks out the best book to review. Look for Part 2 tomorrow.

Men of Wrath #1

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Jason Aaron got my attention with Southern Bastards, and here comes another terrifying trip into southern brutality and another grizzled old badass. Ira Rath is a contract killer, a man utterly without mercy. Within the first few pages we get to see him perform an act so unbelievably evil it's hard to believe that this is our hero. Yet, somewhere deep inside the now-dying, but still unstoppable murderer is another life that isn't born of cold-blooded death.

The story was inspired by Aaaron;s digging into his own family history, where he found out that his great great grandfather had stabbed and killed a man over an argument about a sheep. From there, a kind of curse was formed on the line, with others in the Aaron family meeting their own strange deaths. That idea of the sins of the father being visited on the son is old hat for Aaron, but it has lost none of its edge in the hands of the master.

I was excited about the new Thor before, but the more and more I come to know Aaron and his deep take on family and violence I more and more I can't wait to see what he does with the wielder of Mjolnir.

Rating: 8 of 10


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Women Celebrate Comics at 8th Dimension Ladies Night

Categories: Comics

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Photos by Jef With One F
When Annie Bulloch, one-third owner of 8th Dimension started going out to buy comics while living in Austin it was usually the same.

"You walk in," she says, "And everyone's perfectly polite, you know. But the questions always come. 'Are you looking for something for your boyfriend?' That sort of thing. There was always a sense that women wanting to be involved with comics was weird, and a little unwelcome."

She found a friendlier store while in Austin, and then years later opened her own store. From the very first day they were open, she and her husband Jeremy Bulloch and their partner James Carlson were dedicated to trying to reach out to women comic fans and make it known that their trade was welcome and encouraged.

Saturday was the fourth Ladies Night event at 8th Dimension. Going past close, each one has drawn a progressively larger audience (Minus one night when they neglected to notice it coincided with the opening weekend of the Texas Renaissance Festival). It's not unusual for them to pack the store with more than 100 people, with women and girls vying for spots at the gaming tables, browsing the merchandise, and having animated conversations in the aisle.

Bedrock City Comics has already started trying to launch its own Ladies Nights, and the 8th Dimension is partnering with Alamo Drafthouse to merge the two for a Labyrinth sing-along.

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Why Are Male Fandoms So Hostile to Women?

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Photo by Sam Howzit
Here there be sexism

Lately, I've become aware of sexism and misogyny in the most unexpected of place - geek fandom culture.

I was a comic book nerd when I was a kid, but haven't touched a super hero comic in decades, so I was unaware of the dramatic ways things had changed in fandom over those years.

So you'll have to excuse me for thinking that fandom stuff was still primarily the territory of awkward, but mostly benevolent, too-fat or too-skinny male outcasts who are persecuted for their interests. See, that's the thing. I grew up as one of those people, and most of my friends were into the same role playing games, comic books, and horror movies that I was. Some of them were also early computer nerds, so fascinated by the possibilities of the extremely primitive home computers they had at the time that they were willing to spend their time practicing old-fashioned programming languages instead of hanging out with the cool kids at school.


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The Best Comics in August Part 2: The Ninth Doctor Returns

Categories: Comics

Each month the staff at 8th Dimension Comics picks out the best book to review. Check out Part 1 here.

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Silver Surfer #5: The new adventures of the Silver Surfer are pretty amazing because they are both cosmically relevant and completely irreverent. The surfer is a being of unimaginable power, and that's always a problem when it comes to writing because it makes him distant and unlikeable.

That distance and hammy hugeness make for great comedy fodder now that he's paired with human Dawn Greenwood. Its very Doctor Who/Companion relationship, with the ending of this issue pretty much mirroring the ending of a first companion episode.

"To me, Dawn Greenwood!"

"You totally 'to-me'd' me. Do you have any idea how incredibly rude that is?

Doctor Strange and Hulk also join in as the Defenders attempt to locate a lord of nightmares that turns things all Cthulhu-like. Honestly, though, it's a sideshow to the awesome interactions between Norrin and Dawn. I imagine that their adventures off Earth will be most entertaining.

Rating: 7 of 10

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Amazing Houston Comic Con: A Good First Run

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Photo by Chuck Cook Photography
Jim Lee, co-publisher of DC Comics and well-respected illustrator, works on a live drawing during his panel at Amazing Houston Comic Con.

It's a rare convention that doesn't leave its attendees with much to complain about, so it's remarkable that Amazing Houston Comic Con accomplished that in its very first roll out of the gate.

OK, I do actually have two complaints, but they're pretty minor. Attendees with three-day passes received blue wristbands that couldn't be removed for the duration of the con. That's right: you ate, slept and showered with them, looking like an escapee from an institution wherever you went. It's the only pop culture convention I've attended where the wristband system was used in favor of lanyards. Actually, as press, I had a lanyard, too. At least that I could remove.

The other issue was that the main stage area, where the larger panels were held, were only divided from the main convention floor with curtains. This worked well during the cosplay competition, which was held after the exhibit floor had closed for the evening. During the day, though, general announcements kept booming over the presenters using that area. I hope that next year the main stage panel is held in one of the rooms on the second floor. (The main announcer, however, was awesome, making hilarious announcements like "John Smith, your credit card was found and we aren't afraid to use it!")


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The Best Comics in August Part 1: Barack Obama as Superman

Categories: Comics

Each month the staff at 8th Dimension Comics picks out the best book to review. Look for Part 2 tomorrow.

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The Fade Out: To me Ed Brubaker is like Led Zeppelin; I fully recognize the inherent genius of his work and 99 percent of the time I still can't stand it. It's weird, became I read a Brubaker comic and I can see the quality and brilliance, and I just still don't like it.

Fade Out is the one percent.

It's another noir tale from Brubaker, but this time around he has enough mix of old Hollywood setting and a perpetually drunk and amnesiac screenwriter/reprobate that it's much easier to dive into. If I had to put a finger on what I don't like about Brubaker's stories it's that he is just too damned dedicated to the mystery aspect and tends to lose me before a book's end. Fade Out is much more straightforward. You don't know who killed actress Valerie Sommers, but the rest of the cast falls nicely into place and doesn't require a ton of different threads to keep track of.

Rating: 7 of 10

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The Best Comics in July Part 2: Four Weird Mysteries and Lumberjanes

Categories: Comics

Each month the staff at 8th Dimension Comics picks out the best book to review. Click here for Part 1.

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Supreme Blue Rose #1
This part of the comic round up this month is dedicated to a quartet of strange mystery stories that all began in July. It was just a damned good month to start looking at things that are insane.

First up, Supreme Blue Rose by Warren "Here We Go Again" Ellis. Twin Peaks fans will know that a blue rose is a euphemism or code word that indicates something paranormal or extraordinary. This book takes that idea and runs with it Beginning on a strange dreamscape that rivals anything in the Black Lodge. we meet a young, recently unemployed journalist who agrees to work for a man that supplies impossibilities to his clients. It's a mind-warping trip of a tale that promises to bend the lines between reality as only Ellis can.

Be warned, you're going to be lost going in, but just go with it and you'll be fine.

Rating: 8 of 10


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The Best Comics in July Part 1: Jailbreaking Your Sexdroid

Categories: Comics

Each month the staff at 8th Dimension Comics picks out the best book to review. Look for Part 2 tomorrow.

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Alex and Ada #7
Look, we all know that sexbots are just a matter of time. It's like space colonization or reliable electric cars; it's going to happen. The question is, what happens when people treat their boinkotrons the way they treat their iPhones?

The jailbreak them, of course, which would be massively illegal. That's the premise behind Alex and Ada. Alex is a typical man that just wanted some artificial companionship, but when he gave Ada sentience he both created a true love, and a dangerous random number according to the government.

Now he's desperate to both show her the world and keep her safe in the face of government crackdowns. Jonathan Luna tells the story wonderfully and Sarah Vaughn's minimalist art really lays the stark, mechanical nature of the future out beautifully. It's a slow book -- I won't lie -- but a good one.

Rating: 7 of 10


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