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Discount Bin Comics (a.k.a. Everybody Loves Cheap Comics!) – FIRE & WATER #92

Firestorm and Aquaman: The Fire and Water Podcast

The 92nd episode of THE FIRE AND WATER PODCAST is now available for your listening pleasure! THE FIRE AND WATER PODCAST is the official podcast of FIRESTORM FAN and THE AQUAMAN SHRINE.

This time around Shag and Rob welcome special guest and fellow podcaster, Professor Alan Middleton! Alan co-founded with his daughter the Relatively Geeky Network, the internet home of The Quarter-Bin Podcast, Uncovering the Bronze Age, and the Shortbox Showcase. He’s also a regular on the Book Guys Show. Alan is internationally renowned for his affection of cheap comic books! So this episode we’re celebrating the discount bins! Quarter bins, fifty-cent boxes, dollar comics… whatever you call them, we love ’em!

You can find the 92nd episode of THE FIRE AND WATER PODCAST on iTunes. While you’re there, please drop us a review on the iTunes page. Every comment helps! Alternatively, you may download the podcast by right-clicking here, choosing “Save Target/Link As”, and selecting a location on your computer to save the file (29 MB).

As always, thanks to my co-host Rob Kelly, Sea King of THE AQUAMAN SHRINE, for doing all the post-production on these episodes! Opening theme, “That Time is Now,” by Michael Kohler. Special thanks to Daniel Adams and Ashton Burge with their band The Bad Mamma Jammas for our fantastic original closing theme! This episode brought to you in part by!

Have a question or comment? Looking for more great content?

Also,be sure to check out Professor Alan on the interwebs:

Here is the splash page to Rob’s coverless Justice League of America #179!

Justice League of America #179 opening splash page

Thanks for listening! Support Firestorm and Aquaman! Fan the Flame and Ride the Wave!

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  1. Anj says:

    My comic book store’s ‘quarter box’ is sadly the ‘$1 box’ and you really need to want a battered old book to spend a buck. I am sure that if it was the fifty-cent box I would buy many more.

    That said, my store also has a reward system where if you spend $25, you get a card punched and when the card is full you get $15 in store credit. So if my weekly bill is $23 bucks, I often spend the extra couple of bucks to earn the punch.

    The boxes are a true mix including some very recent books but mostly are 80s-90s. The books I tend to buy out of those boxes are team-up books (DCCP, Brave and bold, Marvel Team-Up, Marvel 2-in-1). But I have also bought a ton of the post-Crisis Secret Origins books, some Fury of Firestorm (mostly Tokamak story), and some random Superman and Action. I even found the DC Samplers you guys covered there.

    I have a couple of dollar box finds worth mentioning.

    Superman #376: Included the preview of the Paul Kupperberg/Carmine Infantino Daring New Adventures of Supergirl which transitioned the character from soap opera actress in NY to grad student in Chicago. It was in near mint. And I was able to get it signed by Kupperberg at a con.

    Birds of Prey #8: This is an occasional wall book because Dick Grayson kisses Barbara Gordon. I found it in a fifty cent box in mint condition. I then brought it to another store and traded it in for $30 in store credit. Didn’t even read it, just recognized the cover.

    Marvel Team-up 57-64: Awesome Claremont and Byrne issues. Spidey with Wasp and Yellow Jacket. With Black Widow fighting Silver Samurai! Spidey with Human Torch and Ms Marvel fighting Super-Skrull. Spidey with Iron Fist and Daughters of the Dragon fighting the Steel Serpent.

    Just awesome awesome issues. So wonderful.

    Anyways, I thumb through these boxes looking for a jewel among the chaff.

    Thanks for the great show!

  2. Sadly, back issues, let alone quarter bins, seem to be a thing of the past at the comic shops near me. Far too much merchandise crowding them out. In fact, one store near me has 30 or more long boxes COVERED in crap from Previews catalogs, some dating back to the mid-90s.

    But I did greatly enjoy Prof. Alan’s guest spot! That Warlord comic sounds like a winner! According to Mike’s Amazing World, Demios never came back! That is quite a feat.

    I have that JLA issue with Firestorm’s induction. Probably picked it up sometime in the late 80s when the nearby shops still had accessible back issues. Mine has that famous Super-Dickery cover (it doesn’t help that Starlin drew the entire league looking downright demonic, either), but some kid drew pupils in every single image of Firestorm in the book.

    Power of the Atom was kind of meh, which is unusual for me because I LOVE Roger Stern’s runs on Superman, Cap, and Spidey. But I think I was spoiled by The Sword of the Atom mini and specials. DC did run ads positioning this series as the next step after Man of Steel, the Perez Wonder Woman revamp, Longbow Hunters, etc. Not quite.

    I was at a peddler’s mall this weekend, and saw some cheap comics in a 50 cent box, but I didn’t bite. Mostly Archies and Caspers. I did pick up the DVD of Howard the Duck for $1.50. I think I may have gotten hosed. :-)


  3. Kyle Benning says:

    Good to have Professor Alan on the Show! I really need to get to writing into his fantastic show! His site is blocked by my acursed work computer, so I usually am listening at work on my phone, and a tiny phone screen just isn’t the best way for sending feedback in.

    Alan has a great choice here! I love the whole Warlord series, but this particular segment is one of my favorites! I love this issue, and just re-read it a couple of months ago. This was one of the last issues that Grell wrote (#52 being his last as regular writer), he would go on to be credited as writer for the next year and a half even though it was actually his wife of the time ghost writing the title, and a number of artists including Mark Texiera, Jan Duuresma, and Dan Jurgens would take Grell’s place with the pencilling duties. Issue #51, features a reprint of Warlord #1. Issue #52 was Grell’s last issue as the regular penciller. With issue #53 Mark Texiera came aboard as the penciller. Grell still did the covers, and would come back and pencil #59. He was still listed as the writer, but it would be revealed in the letter column of a later issue that these issues were in fact written by his wife Sharon. Issue #60 was Duuresma’s first issue as penciller, he’d be replaced by Jurgens in Issue #63. Duuresma meanwhile was pencilling the Arion Lord of Atlantis ongoing series that was written by Paul Kupperberg and had first made its appearance as a back-up feature in Warlord.

    When are we just going to have a segment or monthly show of Fire & Water devoted to volume one of the Justice League of America? It’s obvious that Rob has an incredible knowledge and passion for the JLA, and the books features Aquaman and Firestorm during lengthy runs, why not cover that classic series? I think we’d all love to hear the monthly tales of the JLA. With most of the series (maybe all?) having been reprinted in some form or another, it would be easy for all of us to follow along!

    I’m like Anj, I don’t have access to any Quarter Bins, one local shop has a 93 cents bin ( + 7% Tax puts you have an even $1) and another local shop has $1 sales. My recent $1 scores include Teen Titans #13 (the issue where the New Teen Titans find Robotman in the jungle that Rob mentioned in his latest Mountain Comics episode) and a bunch of the DC Presents 100 page reprint books (that carry a $8 price tag).

    I have been at shops that had quarter bins in the past, the shop I used to go to when I was living in Des Moines a few years back had a 25 cent bin with loads of great issues. I picked up the whole 4 issue Phantom Stranger mini-series by Paul Kupperberg and Mike Mignola for 25 cents a pop! My best 25 cent steal was probably El Diablo (2008) #1, which was signed by both Penciller Phil Hester and inker Ande Parks, and also featured a Phil Hester mini-headsketch. An comic issue in great condition with two signatures and remarked sketch, all for 25 cents. Can’t beat that!

    Another great episode! I hope you guys have Alan on again! Fan the Flame, Ride the Wave, and I guess Flip the Coin?

  4. Tim Wallace says:

    When I first started collecting the store I bought from had grab bags. If memory serves it was 10 comics for $5. You could see the covers for the front and back books but everything in the middle was a surprise! I pulled some fun stuff out of those, and traded a lot with friends. I remember a few issue of Supergirl, Crisis, JLA…even a few Who’s Whos. I don’t remember many Marvel books being in there, but I may have just traded them.

    My current LCBS does FREE 3 book grab bags on Wednesdays. It’s a lot of current stuff…some New 52 books, Spider-Man, etc…but every once in a while some gems pop up…like the 3 Issues of “V” (the lizard aliens, not “Vendetta”), and some Infinity Inc.

    I also pulled some Malibu “Planet of the Apes” books from their dollar bin recently…fun stuff!

  5. Frank says:

    Pfft– did John Lewis ever shrink to six inches and jump into a time pool? Did he ever avenge the murder of an Asian successor that he had nothing to do with selecting because he was actually brought in as part of a plot by Chronos? Was the (2013) John Lewis comic drawn by (the long deceased) Gil Kane? Whatever Mister 13 time reelected congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis!

    Travis Morgan
    Violent Marv
    Not as far apart as one might think.

    I’d normally leap to the Detroit League’s defense, but they really were a whole different thing from the prior Leagues, who wouldn’t be restored until the Magnificent Seven period. JLA #16 must have been a disappointment for Rob.

    Grocer receptacles are for common people? Methinks thou dost protest to much, Robbie Mantle of the Riverdale upper crust.

    One of the reasons I like Ray Palmer is that he’s kind of a little jerk in his own book. That’s why the insecure Atom of the Satellite League rubs me the wrong way. Hank Pym is the suicidal wife beating neurotic. Ray Palmer is an deluded American “exceptionalist” escapist Reed Richards with a libido and a touch of bloodlust. He turned down the JLI on at least four occasions: twice in his own book, once under Giffen/DeMatteis, and once under Dan Jurgens. He was fairly judgmental of the group each time, holding them in such low regard as to be beneath his diminished station.

    As far as Power of the Atom goes, I think the idea at the time for DC was that Roger Stern was a “get” from Marvel, and Dwayne Turner a star in the making. Unfortunately, Stern never reached the same highs at DC as at Marvel, while Turner never really made it, and left the book early. Despite trying to ride the coattails of other, vastly more popular Post-Crisis reboots, the book was a dud out of the gate, so art chores were swiftly transferred to low rent journeyman Graham Nolan. Some of the hubbub was over returning the Atom to super-heroics from the fantasy genre. Also, this was a more “grim & gritty” take, with Ray plowing through people’s chest like a human bullet and ultimately becoming involved in C.I.A. black ops/the Suicide Squad. Like Captain Atom, his solo title was so atonal to the “funny” League that he’s have needed to be in the more serious JLE.

    I liked all the skullcaps becoming open air in the early ’90s, just as I enjoyed leather jackets, buckles and pouches until the novelty wore off. Today, I prefer to hew closer to the original costumes, and find a hairy Atom shrinking into people’s bloodstreams icky.

    I don’t believe I’ve ever heard of Mark (pronounced “Miller”) Millar’s Saviour, and I’ve got a friend who would probably love that.

    At my old smallish town shops outside Houston, especially the lower rent first one, we had 20¢ bins that would be stocked with the heavily surplussed and otherwise undesirable. It was the mid-90s, so there was no shortage of either. Having come in when new comics were 50¢ and altogether recognizing the value of the dollar, my favorite comics are also very cheap. When I pay Netflix less than $10 a month, and can rent a multi-hour, multi-million dollar motion picture from Redbox for $1.20, or own a sealed DVD for $1-5, I find it very difficult to justify $4 for 5-15 minutes of floppy copy disappointment. Local conventions are full of dollar bins, but quite frankly, I don’t feel most comics (especially used, abused, unbagged ones) are worth a Big Mac. I tend to dismiss those, since so many of the same comics in better grade are available individually or as sets online for less than a buck each. It’s worth the bother to dig through boxes marked at less that 75¢ each and take a chance.

    The one major benefit of buying cheap comics is that’s money the shop has already written off, so anything they get is profit. I find that I’m so disenchanted with the big two that I’ve gotten into the oddballs I passed on years earlier, like Chrome and Whisper. I need to actually read some of these purchases, but for now, I can just buy them and throw them in a corner.

    I rarely buy a comic over a $3 cover price, and I don’t actually pay much more than half that via mail order. I’ve largely switched to trades, and it better be something special to break the $19.95 barrier (of which I wouldn’t be out of pocket more than $15.)

    I disagree with the Professor’s basic assertion of price being a major contributing factor to the health of the industry. The truth is, we held the line at a dime for over twenty years, kept it under a quarter until the ’70s, and didn’t break the dollar barrier until the ’90s. There was rapid price point inflation in the Chromium Age, and comics still sold gangbusters because of the artificial demand. What has happened since the 1950s is that one new innovation after another has drawn young eyes away from comics, and they’ve never come back. We’ve had investment bubbles and waves of hipness, but the American comic book simply is not as appealing to an increasing majority of the population. If I had been born a decade later than I was, I would have probably skipped over comics and been a video game geek. Huge swaths of buyers still want chocolate. They simply do not want comic books at any price.

    As it is, we are comparable to collectors of 78rpm blues albums and Coca-Cola tin signs. We grew up in an era where we caught a niche bug that keeps us in its grip as the world has moved on. Sequential art will remain relevant as a personal, economical method of storytelling delivered free via a digital medium, likely supported by advertising or patronage. The print comic book will be dead inside twenty years, and there’s nothing anyone can do to stop that besides copy up their own like zines. Currently, publishers are milking the graying faithful until pay checks give way to Social Security, and their pricing structure remains dictated by the physical artifacts passing through ever fewer comic shops. We’ll all be getting subscriptions to publisher libraries in the future. The single serving 20ish page comic is very near its end.

  6. Kyle Benning says:

    I picture Frank sitting at his computer with multiple “Repent Sinners, the End is Near” signs laying around him as he typed that.

    DC has got to be running out of “doom and gloom” alternate future reality stories, maybe that will be the next one, on the heels of Multiversity, we learn that the Prime Earth is back, and this comics apocalypse comes to pass, resulting in the death of the industry, which then kills off the super-heroes from Earth-1 who star in those books being published. The heroes from the other earths in the multiverse converge on Earth-Prime to save the comic industry to ensure they survive. That at least would be a change of pace!

  7. rob! says:

    I gotta admit, “Robbie Mantle of the Riverdale upper crust” made me laugh.

  8. Xum Yukinori says:

    Great show once again, gentlemen. I especially loved Rob’s and the Professor’s point about the expectation that comes with a comic having a higher price point.

    I myself have been reading comics since 1973, and have been buying fewer and fewer titles as of late. This is mainly because the $3.99 price point combined with this trend of “decompressed storytelling” made me feel I was getting a lot less “bang for my buck”, as it were. It’s hard to buy a $3.99-comic which takes 5 to 6 22-page issues to tell a story that would have been told in 17 pages back in the 1970s … for 35 to 40 cents.

    I was mostly a DC reader, and this trend had reached the point where “The New 52″ became a major “jumping-off point” to my DC Comics reading, having been very disappointed to buy the first issue of the New 52 “Justice League” where very little happened plotwise. Later I had borrowed the trade paperback of the first Justice League 6-part story from a friend, and I still felt cheated by how fast I breezed through it — even though I didn’t buy it.

    (Of course, having read a lot of Japanese manga that is very rich in story plot and detail — in both the weekly serials and the “trade” book versions — I may have unrealistic expectations.)

    Also, I think one of the major factors (and there are multiple factors) behind the dramatic comic book price increases has to do with creator royalty and exclusivity agreements. These were non-existent in the 1960s and most of the 1970s — which may explain why comic book prices stayed relatively in line with the rates of inflation. While I would gladly pay a little extra to be sure a creator receives their due, I also want to get my money’s worth.

    Cheers, Gentlemen… and thank you for placing additional comic book podcasts of interest within my radar.

    “Professor Xum”
    Self-appointed Agent of F.O.A.M.

  9. Frank says:

    Xum, I think it’s unfair to lay much of the blame for price increases on creators. Most make so little money even after the improvements that the industry wouldn’t deserve to survive if they provided any less. Comics publishers used to have tiny offices and single digit staffs while providing cheap entertainer to millions of children and G.I.s. Now they’re swollen corporate entities with stockholders gouging a few hundred thousand hardcore collectors with enough disposable income to pay for prestige product on glossy stock. “The Man” stuffs his chubby fingers down your wallet and when you protest, he blames the basic compensation to the talent as the cause for your discomfort.

    That said, modern writers suck. They think they’re auditioning for screenplays when they’re supposed to be doing satisfying comic books. Modern artists also suck. They want you to pay them to produce two page spreads that make more money in the aftermarket than sequential storytelling, which are harder to produce besides. They’re graphic novels, not portfolios/original art preorder catalogs.

  10. This afternoon I visited a modern antique shop in New Hampshire. “Modern antiques” is code for kitchy crafts and furniture for the ’70s appealing to aging baby-boomers and college-age hipsters. Anyway, it had a wicker basket full of comics, unpriced, unsorted, unbagged. Just kind of there.

    But amidst the truly bizarre “collection” of different books were a handful of gems like All-Star Squadron, Doom Patrol, House of Mystery, Marvel Team-Up, and Shag’s most favoritest title, Sovereign Seven! They even had Warlord issue #58. None of them were in great condition so I had no idea how much the storeowner would expect for them.

    I ended up grabbing six books: THE AMAZING SPDIER-MAN ANNUAL #2 from 1965 featuring “the Wondrous Worlds of Doctor Strange” by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko; ALL-STAR SQUADRON ANNUAL #1 from 1982; ALL-STAR SQUADRON #41 from ’85 featuring the origin of Starman by Thomas and Kupperberg and a JSA portrait by Joe Kubert; HOUSE OF MYSTERY #152 featuring the Martian Manhunter vs. The Creature King; GIANT SUPERMAN ANNUAL#7 “celebrating Superman’s Silver Anniversary”; and for Rob–AQUAMAN#14 featuring a Nick Cardy cover barely clinging on by one staple.

    I brought the books to the counter and the guy told me the comics in the basket are all two dollars each, but when he counted up my six comics and looked them over he said, “Make it an even ten.” So they weren’t technically quarter-bin comics. More like $1.66 comics.

  11. Xum Yukinori says:

    Very good point, Frank. It was not my intention to “blame” the creators (though I can see how my earlier post implied that). In fact, I think it is important to compensate the creators without whom the publishing corporations would not make their profits.

    What I do believe, however, is that a portion of the price increase is to compensate for these monies to pay the creator royalties. In other words, the publisher corporations, rather than share their profit margin, have been more likely passing some if not all these costs onto the consumer.

    I also believe, and have stated, that there is no single reason for the price increases (costs of paper and shipping, for example, are other factors, and I am sure there are many more), but it is an interesting observation that the price increases really started to skyrocket right after the first royalty and other creator compensation systems were initiated.

    My apologies for the misunderstanding.


  12. Frank says:

    Xum, no need for apologies man. I just rushed past you and lunged at the straw men in my brain.

    Count, I’m confident what I paid for my Creature King comic would have covered half if not all of your books. How many $2 copies of Brigade and Plasmer did you leave in the wake of your steals?

  13. Seriously, I think there was a Brigade comic in the pile. That or some other kind of Youngblood spinoff.

  14. Kyle Benning says:

    “That said, modern writers suck. They think they’re auditioning for screenplays when they’re supposed to be doing satisfying comic books. Modern artists also suck. They want you to pay them to produce two page spreads that make more money in the aftermarket than sequential storytelling, which are harder to produce besides. They’re graphic novels, not portfolios/original art preorder catalogs.”

    I agree 100% Frank! Maybe modern comics would take more than 5 minutes to read if they were filled up with double page spreads with little to no text. I love double page splashes as much as the next guy, but when you have multiple in an issue that is already light on story, it makes swallowing that $4 to $5 price tag even harder. The mark-ups on those splash pages are ridiculous, yet people pay them. Todd Nauck has made an appearance at my local LCS, some kid I’ve never seen walked in, grabbed a double page splash Nauck had, asked how much, and then immediately pulled out his credit card and paid the $1500 asking price on it and walked out. It’s a fairly small shop, and I’ve never seen that dude again.

  15. Martin Gray says:

    Loved the show, and yes, have the Prof on again.

    I adored Power of the Atom, it was great to have Ray back in civilisation using his shrinking powers – extended ones to boot – rather than fannying about with a bunch of barbarians in a jungle, with a loincloth over his tights. Sheesh, what’s the point of a hero who can shrink when everyone he meets is the same size? And it reflected badly on Ray that having been betrayed by the super-smart Jean – which made zero sense, given how madly she was in love with him – he starts dating a simpleton. Give me superheroics and that Norman Mailer analogue any day.

    (There’s a nice nod to Sword of the Atom in this week’s Futures End.)

    And speaking of Mike Grell having his wife write Warlord, didn’t PotA writer Roger Stern’s wife Carmelo write some of his Legion books, with her getting a ‘special thanks’ credit, or something?

    I’ve never read a Warlord comic, barbarians, ugh. Even though I’m normally partial to a loincloth (didn’t work for Ray, either).

    Kyle, it may have simply been a slip of the pronoun, but Jan Duursema is a woman.

    We don’t seem to have cheap back issue bins in the UK. Sob.

  16. Michael Chiaroscuro says:

    Quarter bins! This episode was fantastic, gents. I’ve always loved searching for lost gems in the bins, but I’ve noticed in recent years I’ve become even more fanatical about it. I have a feeling that it’s a reaction to the high cover prices of modern comics, which I still buy, but I’m trying to restrain myself to about 4-5 new books per month, and even at that small amount I still feel a bit of guilt for spending 15-20 bucks on the new books that take me about 5 minutes each to read. I keep thinking, “I should really wait for trades, this makes no sense economically what I’m doing here!” Still, I’m enjoying the new books that I do read – Waid’s Daredevil has been consistently great for several years now; Moon Knight, She-Hulk, and Aquaman have been a joy to read. Still…when I secure a decent haul of quarter bin books and dive into those, there’s nothing quite like it.

    I think Frank’s point here is spot on: “As it is, we are comparable to collectors of 78rpm blues albums and Coca-Cola tin signs. We grew up in an era where we caught a niche bug that keeps us in its grip as the world has moved on.” It is a niche bug, no doubt about it. As I’m digging furiously through quarter or fifty cent or dollar bins, I am cognizant of how few people out there would actually find that sort of activity fun, let alone a good use of time! But for the rest of us, that strange tribe of collectors who find joy in not only reading dusty, floppy old comics, but in hunting for the damn things, it’s a helluva lot of fun and an enjoyable way to spend some of our leisure time. Find your joy, right Shag?

    Now, with regards to specific quarter bin finds, I’ve had several over the years, too many to mention (and too many that I’ve likely forgotten as well). But I thought you guys would enjoy this one–just the other day I was at my LCS, which has about a dozen stuffed quarter bins filled mostly with issues from the 1990s onward, but with about 25-30% bronze age books mixed in there as well. So I was flipping through the quarter bins and came across a five issue run of Micronauts, first volume, #44-48, with art from Gil Kane and Luke McDonnell. Gorgeous stuff!! I snapped them up. I bought a few issues of Micronauts in the ’80s and have wanted to read more ever since, plus I’ve heard Shag wax rhapsodic about the book several times, so I was thrilled to find a little mini-run in the bins. See, it’s finds like that which make all the time spent digging through the bins worthwhile.

    As always, keep up the great work, fellas. Fan the flame and ride the wave.

  17. Siskoid says:

    I am SUPER late on my F&W listening! Whatever, better late than never.

    Great guest star.

    Favorite bit: The awkward silence when Shag revealed he liked Sovereign 7.

    Like Rob, I never lacked for comics and books even though we were relatively poor, and it was all down to my forsaking sports equipment, even including a bike.

    I read and collected all of Power of the Atom, he was one of the characters I followed out of loyalty to the concept (I like miniature heroes).

    My favorite bargain bin (well, flea market) comic is probably Avengers 174, which is basically underdog Hawkeye saving every Avenger ever by defeating the Collector. Love that book to pieces and is the #1 reason I like Hawkeye to this day.

    Sadly, bargain bins today are so full of 90s crap, I don’t like to brave the fingertip eczema by flipping through them.

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