Just like with sports or politics, there are many anticipated milestones throughout the year in Geek Culture. As kid in the late ’60s and ’70s, I knew that summer meant over-sized Annuals and the Justice League & Justice Society of America team-up.
Before Covid-19 interrupted every aspect of business and culture, there was a rhythm to the convention season, kicking off in spring with shows like Emerald City Comic Con and C2E2, reaching a summertime crescendo with Comic-Con International in San Diego, and then celebrating one last burst with New York Comic Con in the fall before a handful of smaller regional conventions.
One highly anticipated tradition that’s been around for fifty years is the Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide. Ostensibly, the place to turn for authoritative price documentation on comics, it’s morphed into a scholarly celebration of all domestic comics, an exploration of retailing trends, the last word in listings, a showcase for top artists and a validation for nerds everywhere.
Defying Covid’s grasp, the Overstreet Guide has delivered again.
Got it Covered
Each year, the Guide invites a top artist to contribute illustrations. Back when I was a kid, we were enthralled with 1976’s Overstreet #4 with the Justice Society heroes on a cover. (All-Star Comics, home of the JSA, was revered in those days). We also loved the Joe Kubert Tarzan cover and the Will Eisner Spirit of ‘76 cover. I remember laughing with our local comic shop owner, Kim Draheim, how Overstreet #7, spotlighting Porky Pig, missed the mark. And Bill Ward’s Torchy cover on Overstreet #8 forced that year’s volume into the hide-it-from-your-mother category.
This year again offers top artists contributing cool covers featuring big properties. This year fans can choose from:
- Spider-Man and Spawn sharing a cover by Todd McFarlane
- The Valiant heroes by John K. Snyder III
- Wynonna Earp by Chris Evanhuis
- The Defenders by one of my favorite artists, Kevin Nowlan
Those Wonderful Ads
Every year Overstreet’s Guide is chock full of ads that tease the untold riches that will inevitably be a part of every fan’s collection, just waiting to be unlocked. But through the efforts of folks like publisher J.C. Vaughn and his team, it’s like a big party where they’ve invited all their industry friends. And they seem to “know everyone” in the industry.
A few of my favorite ads this year:
- Harley Yee is a hardworking back issue dealer. He’s been at it for years, but always seems friendly and upbeat. I’m certainly not one of his big customers, but somehow he always takes time to smile and ask how I’m doing whenever I’m pawing through his long-boxes at a convention. This ad, featuring Marvel’s Sub-Mariner with some lovely Bill Everett art, was unexpected and clever.
- AfterShock Comics has been creating cool comics for a few years now, but they still seem like a new publisher. Their ads have a such a professional feel, and that’s no surprise as their VP of Marketing, Steve Rotterdam, has such a rich and expansive marketing background.
- This year, The Heroes Aren’t Hard to Find ad showcases Shelton Drum’s long involvement with comics with a “then and now” photographs. He’s a tireless entrepreneur and is the man behind Heroes Con, the nation’s third longest running comic convention.
Odds and Ends
But you know what? There are so many interesting parts that make up each volume of the Guide. This year is no exception:
- What would a book about comic books be without a comic in it? Publisher Vaughn continues his tradition of using comic-style storytelling as a primer to explain comics to newcomers. He even inserts “real characters” from the rich history of American comics. And for these special pages, he again collaborates with artists Brendon and Brian Fraim.
- Rob Hughes (I especially loved his adaptation of ERB’s Outlaw Prince) wrote a deep dive into early Batman stories and explored Gardner Fox’s contributions to the bat-mythology. You know I’ve been fascinated with the Jennifer DeRoss’ Gardner Fox biography, and this essay serves as an insightful addition.
- Each year the Overstreet Hall of Fame announces several inductees. I was especially happy to see Louise Simonson honored. She was a guest at our recent ITHACON 44 and she is such a charming, bright light to both new and longtime fans.
- The market reports, where comic shop retailers and dealers chime in, is always a fascinating bird’s eye look into what’s really going on. And sometimes you learn about things you never thought you would. For example, Alika Seki of Maui Comics & Collectibles provides very interesting insights into comics retailing in Hawaii.
I wonder if Robert M. Overstreet could ever have imagined where his guide would be 50 years later? Kudos to all involved and, as you can guess, I highly recommend the 50th Edition of this Geek Culture tradition.