Bargain Boxes! I love them!
My mom was quite the shopper. She’d always come home from the stores and provide a detailed account of the amazing price she paid for each and every item, detailing the sales she’d find and the arcane combinations of coupons she’d use. Looking back, I think she just wanted to my dad to say, at the conclusion of her sales presentations, “Gee Cassie, you convinced me – you couldn’t afford to not buy it!”
I think (worry?) I inherited some of this discount mania from my Mom. And one way it translates is with Comic Shop Bargain Boxes.
In some ways, the jury is out on these boxes. Some stores don’t like them. One of my favorite shops, The Joker’s Child in Fairlawn, NJ has never had them, subscribing to the notion that they devalue the new, full-priced product that’s on sale. Other stores, like Comics For Collectors, in Ithaca, NY, always has a few bargain boxes ( 5 comics for a dollar). For them, it’s a great way to blow through old inventory, and provide an occasional treasure that adds to a customer’s in-store experience.
That’s just what happened to me there a few weeks ago. Recently, I’ve been very interested in the Australian comic series, Tip Top. They reprinted US comics, often times in black and white. My sweet spot is the many Tip Top issues reprinting Silver Age DC comics.
So when I saw an issue of Tip Top in the bargain box, I knew I had to rescue it. Imagine my surprise when I found it wasn’t the Australian series, but instead the March 1941 issue of the U.S. publisher United Features Syndicate’s Tip Top Comics.
The cover has is a treat – what we today call a crossover featuring Fritzi Ritz (with her niece Nancy) with Captain and the Kids (who were, essentially, The Katzenjammer Kids.)
This comic is stuffed with wonderful comics – many of them reprints from Sunday Newspapers. Some of the names we all know; Tarzan (with Hogarth art!), Li’l Abner, and Tailspin Tommy. There are others that we should know, but they are largely forgotten: Little Mary Mix-Up, Looy dot dope (no, that’s not a typo), Broncho Bill and The Triple Terror.
They all have a charm, but I was especially intrigued by on strip called The Mirror Man. Batman fans know there have been several Mirror Men in Gotham City adventures over the years, yet they are unrelated to the original Mirror Man.
The Mirror Man was created by Fred Methot and Reg Greenwood. It tells the story of a presumably wealthy guy, Dean Alder, who is the head of the Adler Academy. I have no idea what the academy does. But when danger rears its ugly head, Adler is more than willing to turn over the day to day operations to his compatriot, a man simply named Bennett. And then Adler slips into his red bodysuit, which is actually “the Mystic Garment”, that permits him to use mirrors and other reflective surfaces to transport to crimes. Batman may have needed a Batmobile, but Mirror Man clearly doesn’t need a Mirror-Mobile.
In this story, which is just the first part of an adventure, The Mirror Man (oddly wearing a purple hat and cape over his Mirror Man outfit), stumbles across an insidious plot by a nefarious, inventor, Pignalli (Those rotten Italians!). He’s creating statuettes that will be gifted to government officials. In reality, they are radio-controlled bombs. I hope no one from Funko ever reads this story.
There’s one particular sequence where Alden, when shopping for comics at a newsstand (!), realizes that an FBI secretary is actually a spy and part of Pignalli’s gang. He grabs her, but the men on the street assume he’s assaulting a woman, and he’s hauled off the to the local police station. Well, that never happened to the Golden Age Green Lantern!
It’s a cliffhanger and I don’t know if I’ll ever read the conclusion. But you know what, one Mirror Man adventure in a lifetime is probably enough.
* * *
I saw someone was selling their beat-up version of Tip Top Comics #59 for $50. I don’t know if it’s worth that price. The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide lists it a $31 in good shape. But who cares, really? This is a treasure. And it sure makes me want to scour through that next comic shop’s bargain bin.