CBSI Writer Wars Round 2 : Comic Culture Review by James Vandiver



The goal of Comic Culture Review is to take a closer look at books, movies and TV shows related to comic books. This would be inclusive of both speculation and those who simply want to indulge their love of comics.

I thought that a good place to start would be a book that I recently finished called Slugfest: Inside the Epic, 50-year Battle between Marvel and DC by Reed Tucker.

I have noticed that more than a few people have asked for CBSI to write articles targeted at newbies.  This book is a great place to start if you are new to collecting/speculation and want a deeper understanding of the comic book industry. It certainly helped me.

First, here is a little background on myself. I am in my mid-thirties. My comic book collecting started as a result of my love for the 1990’s Fox Kids line-up of Spider-Man, X-Men, and Batman. I grew up in a rural area so it was difficult for me to buy comics every week.

I mostly purchased back issues and would sporadically pick-up current titles. My formative years were during the 1990’s speculation boom and the rise of independent titles.

Despite my love for comics, I never had a deep level of knowledge about the industry. I largely dropped out of reading comics in the late 1990’s because I was afraid that girls would think it wasn’t cool. That concern has since passed now that I am married with children. I started collecting comics again in the last three years. My hobby is a mix of speculation and reading for fun.  For the most part, I use speculation to fund the books that I buy on a weekly basis.

Finding CBSI a couple years ago was great for learning about the hobby and how to successfully flip a book for a few dollars.  However, I was still left with many lingering questions about the industry.

Slugfest filled in the gaps. Through the book, you get a picture of how both Marvel and DC emerged as titans in the industry.  It also provides insights into the artists, writers and other industry players (past and present) that are so often talked about amongst the CBSI community. I was left with a much greater appreciation for the hard work that went into many of the characters and stories that I enjoy now.

The back and forth between the companies was fun to learn about as well. Some of the tactics used by the companies were more cut throat than I would have ever expected.  A book excerpt found here tells a story about one incident involving spying between the companies and the counterintelligence measures that were put in place to out the mole. It is basically Jack Ryan for nerds like myself.

For a speculator, it was interesting to learn more about the industry business model and how it changed over time.  It also shined light on something that I had previously found mysterious; print runs. I had no idea the volume of books that were produced over the decades.  Previously, it had been a mystery to me why many books published in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s were not worth more money. Being a newbie, I remember one occasion a couple years ago where I was shocked to learn that Spawn #1 was only a $10.00 book. Wasn’t this the first issue of an iconic character?

This brings me to my favorite part of the book; the 1990’s. Like most guys my age, I am nostalgic for that period of my life. Learning about what was going on behind the scenes during my formative years brought me back to when I was a reader picking up titles off the spinner rack.

I had no idea about the insane number of books that were being published or the crazy amounts of money that creators were making when compared to decades past. I finally learned why you can find stacks of comics related to the Death of Superman in the $1.00 bins of every LCS in the country. This was very useful context for me to have now as a collector with little background in the comic’s game.

My only complaint is that the book focused almost exclusively on Marvel and DC.  It would be nice to see a follow-up book on independent titles. There is definitely a story to tell.

I have to admit that the book left me a little misty eyed at the end. Knowing more about the emergence of the comic book industry left me thinking about the fact that comics won’t be around forever. I am doing my best to pass on the torch to my children and nieces/nephews. I hope that they love comics as much as I have. But all good things must come to end. It is up to us as fans to keep the hobby alive as long as possible.

In conclusion, I would highly recommend Slugfest if you want to do a deep dive into the history of the industry.  Please comment below and let me know what you think of the book.


James V.


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