Monday, October 21, 2019
Comic books in the toy store
There were no comic shops when I was a kid, and as a total fiend for four-colour funnies, I was usually shit out of luck. There were just racks of the barest and most expensive Marvel and DC and Archie comics in the bookshops, and whatever randomly showed up at the local corner dairy. The thrill of the chase is all well and good, but sometimes you'd miss an issue of X-Men and it would literally be 10 years before you ever saw another copy of that issue.
But sometimes, there would be a dump of remaindered comics at a toy shop or supermarket, and that was like a gift from the heavens. They would be so much cheaper than the new stuff (where you'd be paying roughly three times the US cover price, and left you staring daggers at the fuckers in the letters page complaining about the 75 cent price tag), and they would often be brilliantly random selections.
Sometime in the mid eighties, I found a huge toy warehouse just off George St in Dunedin, and went in to see if they had any new Super Powers action figures. I still got the amazing red Parademon and the armoured-to-fuck Mantis figures, but the real excitement was up by the counter, where there were relatively new issues of DC comics that I'd never seen before, like their Star Trek title and the Red Tornado miniseries, for just 50c each.
All my school holiday money went into that giant bookshelf of DC joy, because you just didn't find those kinds of comics for those kinds of prices, and I still have some of those issues, all these years later.
It happened a few times after that, but never enough. There was the huge amounts of DC comics from the very late eighties - including almost every single Invasion! tie-in - that showed up at Timaru's biggest toystore (now a liquor outlet),;the odd three-pack at the local supermarket that would give you some Batman: Year One, a precious Uncanny X-Men and some bloody Star Comics thing; and there was the bunch of comics at the Christchurch airport bookstore that was the best of them all.
That last one was a hard introduction to brilliant things like Sandman and Doom Patrol and the 5YL Legion of Super-Heroes, but most of the time it was the dregs that got remaindered down to this level. A rare drop of Marvel at the supermarket where my Mum used to work in the early nineties was full of Nth Man and early New Universe comics, and it was obvious this was a bulk lot of rubbish that somebody couldn't get rid of, but I still hoovered a lot of it up, because I was still hungry for any comic book I could get.
Since nearly everything went fully direct market, you don't really see these kinds of things anymore, and I no doubt benefited over the years from massive overprints and a plentiful supply that just doesn't exist anymore. But I'm still keeping an eye out every time I'm in the supermarket, even if they haven't been there for years. You never know.