In my last post I talked about getting my Doctor Strange #169 signed by Stan Lee at the Louisville FandomFest and I discussed the process of having comics signed and certified by the CGC, and why that is so important for comic book collectors. I also mentioned my white whale: Marvel Comics’ Strange Tales #110.
Why Strange Tales #110? Even though he is not on the cover of the comic, Strange Tales #110 contains the very first appearance of Doctor Strange. He is, by far, my favorite Marvel superhero. I can’t tell you why exactly, but I can give you some clues.
First, I’m a spiritual person, and Dr. Strange was the first Marvel character to bring comic readers into the spirit world, traveling to other dimensions, and using magic. I was always intrigued by his preternatural powers. So that made Strange and I simpatico on that level.
Second, reading a Dr. Strange comic is a lot like being on a psychedelic trip. The colors and the imaginings, the creatures, and the utter weirdness of the storylines – well – it just makes it different from say, Captain America, or Thor, or Iron Man. It is strange.
Third, most of my favorite science fiction and literary characters are doctors. Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy from Star Trek, Dr. Who, the infamous Dr. Frankenstein (a free version is here) and Dr. Jekyll, as well as Dr. Ransom from the Space Trilogy by C.S. Lewis, which is totally underrated.
[At one point in my early college career, I even wanted to be a pharmacist, and I eventually became a doctor. But as I tell people, “No not that kind of doctor. I can cut you open, but I can’t to put you back together!”]
Why doctors? I dunno. It’s a thing.
So how did I come to capture the white whale? It’s a long story. In summation let me put it this way. I got a Facebook Message from Shawn the owner of my local comic book shop Atomik Comiks while I was in Hawaii during the summer. I’ve been going to Atomik since I moved to JC. Shawn knows me. He knows what I am looking for. He’s always on the lookout. Plus, he’s simply a great guy
When I got back Shawn told me that he had a Strange Tales #110.
“Whaddya mean had?” I asked disappointedly.
“Well, I had it. And I was saving for you, but someone stole it.”
[Insert numerous expletives here.]
I’ve been looking for Strange Tales #110 for at least 20 years, about the time I became a serious collector. You can’t even imagine my consternation. I was soooooooooooooo close. I thought the opportunity had slipped through my fingers.
Yes, there are opportunities to by #110 on eBay, etc. However, here’s the thing. As most people who love books, and especially people who buy and collect comics know, there is something visceral about touching the book, seeing the book, turning the pages of the book, and yes, even sniffing the book. Particularly for comics, photos do not do justice to the actual condition of the book itself. You want to see these sorts of comics first hand, see the creases, the page yellowing, the stapling, etc. You want to know if it was in a household with a smoker. You want to check the innards for any water damage. All these go into determining if you are paying the right price for the comic. This is especially and absolutely true when you are talking about an old collectible comic from 1963. It’s older than I am!
Fast forward to this week. Another FB message saying that they had found the stolen merchandise and that he had Strange Tales #110 in his possession again. Needless to say, I paid the minimums on my credit cards, my rent, my other bills, scrounged up every spare dime I had and bought it, paying half in cash and the other half on a credit card. I own the white whale! I’m ecstatic! I’m almost out of what’s left of my mind!!
Next week I will be mailing it to New York Comics. They will be taking it to the Rhode Island ComicCon, have it signed by Stan Lee, and CGC certified. I’m more than stoked!
Now I just have to pay that bill off. If you need me the rest of October, I’ll be at home.
Eating Ramen Noodles.