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CSBG Archive

Saturday on the Grail Quest

In recent weeks, I’ve been taking a hard look at my buying habits, trying to figure out where so many of the books and comics around here came from and how to avoid cluttering the house up with even more of them in the future unless I really, really like having them here.

This sounds fine in theory, but there’s a problem I discovered in trying to suss it all out. It’s not just that I love reading comics. I love buying them, too.

Especially when that involves hunting for them. Far and away the bulk of the reading material in this place was bought used –  antiquarian pieces, back issues, or remaindered, out-of-print things. I resolved at the first of the year to cut new purchases back and I’ve done that, the pull-list stuff has dwindled to almost nothing. The few new comics purchases that get made around here tend to be reprint volumes (it’s almost embarrassing, how overjoyed I was to see that Doom Patrol Showcase a little while back.)

Even if I knew nothing about Arnold Drake or the Doom Patrol I probably would have found this irresistible.

I’ve gone on and on, many times, about how much I’m loving the current trend at comics companies to reprint even the obscure stuff. And I am totally okay with having a nice reprint volume instead of the originals. Recently the hardcover collecting The Losers by Jack Kirby arrived and I’ll tell you flat out that this book is one of the best things Kirby did at DC, and it’s wonderful to have it between two covers.

Just so you know, non-cosmic Kirby is every bit as compelling as the more famous stuff. This is an amazing book.

However, as our friend Kurt Mitchell pointed out to me not too long ago, it’s ridiculous that fans will pay $39.95 for a hardcover collecting comics that you usually can find discounted down to a dollar or less each for the individual issues. (I love my Losers hardcover, but not enough to have paid full price for it. I got mine for less than a quarter of what it retails for. )

Apart from the “smart shopping” factor involved in buying used and the great deals you can get, though, the plain truth is that I love the hunt. I get a big kick out of the act itself, of browsing through old bookstores and thrift stores, and most of the people I know feel the same way. Used to be when writer friends of mine would fly in to Seattle to visit, we wouldn’t do touristy things like visiting the Space Needle or taking a ferry ride to Bainbridge. No,  we’d do the bookstore crawl.

This place is awesome. Its owner, Bill Farley, was a founding member of the Wolfe Pack. These guys used to be open all night long on Friday and Saturday. That's HARDCORE.

Start at Elliott Bay in the south end of downtown, then to the Seattle Mystery Bookshop, followed by Left Bank Books a few blocks north, then maybe over to Twice-Sold Tales on Capitol Hill, then further up to the University District to amble through Beauty and the Books, Magus, the other Twice-Sold Tales, then wrap up at The Paperback Exchange up around northeast 52nd street. If my friend was a comics person we’d be sure to stop in at both the downtown and University Zanadu stores and maybe Time Travelers, too.

Sadly, several of these places are gone now, but we still like to do the bookstore crawl. Moreover, I married a woman who introduced me to the treasures an alert bibliophile can find at Goodwill and St. Vincent de Paul’s thrift stores, as well. So it’s inevitable that our home is filled floor-to-ceiling with things to read.

Our recent move put a dent in our tendency to accumulate books, and we are resolved to be a lot pickier about the stuff we bring home. However, even as I’m going through all these comics longboxes and crates of old paperbacks, grimly determined to by God have a real purge in the coming weeks, what I’m finding is that I really do love a lot of these books. Even more, I enjoyed hunting for them.

Here are a few of the ongoing grail quests in the Hatcher household. Bear in mind that yes, I know that searching online I could wrap up all of these in about an hour, especially if money was no object. But money is an object — part of the fun is trying to score these things for under five dollars — and more to the point, the search is part of the pleasure. Google-and-click just isn’t the same.

These are just some of the things I pick at, when we’re out noodling around old bookstores or garage sales or wherever. The items that are on the short list of What I’m Always Looking For.

Pulp-hero comics. Generally, someone’s always doing one somewhere. (I think Moonstone is the latest publisher to experiment with these.) But the real pulp revival was in the early 1970′s.

A fun book that, for whatever reason, nobody wanted. where this series fell down, I think, was doing adaptations. The magazine originals were much better.

Marvel tried Doc Savage a couple of different times. DC was doing The Avenger and the Shadow. These were all fun books, but nobody seemed to be able to make them go. The only one of the bunch to even get into double digits was DC’s version of The Shadow. That one is famous largely for the amazing work Mike Kaluta did on the art, but I also like what Frank Robbins and E.R. Cruz did on that run.

These were a lot of fun too. I love Frank Robbins and this pulpy stuff was perfect for him.

At any rate, I’m a sucker for these comics, no matter who worked on them or which publisher is trying them.

Bought this one new off the stands when it came out. DC did one too, but this team-up was better. You NEVER see this one. It's the hardest to find of any of the Docs out there.

The nice thing is that, by and large, most collectors aren’t that into these books, so you can find them for reasonable prices. At the recent Emerald City show I was able to pick up all four issues of DC’s Justice Inc. for less than three dollars. And Jack Kirby did three of them: one of the few Kirby jobs that’s unlikely to ever be reprinted. Though you never know.

Not even Kirby could sell this book. Kirby did largely originals too. Unlikely to ever be reprinted, so you should grab these if you see them.

Sadly, not even Kirby could sell the Avenger to DC readers. It’s weird; I can completely see why editors would think this was a good gamble, because at the same time, pulp reprints were having huge success in paperback. Doc Savage was doing great for Bantam Books, and over at Warner Books the Avenger was doing so well that they commissioned Ron Goulart to write a bunch of new ones.

These books were as ubiquitous as Mack Bolan, back in the day. always looking for these, too, just for the record.

Yet none of that success translated to the comic books. But I am very fond of those stories, as well as most of the other pulp heroes that have found their way into the comics.

Unlikely to be reprinted. These are comics that, for whatever reason (usually licensing issues) are probably never going to get any kind of Showcase or Essential collection. For example, my other big score at Emerald City a couple of weeks ago was a huge chunk of the DC Hercules Unbound.

I loved this book. SO much better than the Marvel Hercules. Yet that's the one fans latched on to.... go figure.

That was a terrific book, especially the early issues scripted by Gerry Conway, and with breathtaking art by Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez and Wally Wood. It opened with a blind teenager named Kevin and his dog Basil finding Hercules chained to the rocks on a small atoll off Greece, in the few short weeks after the onset of World War Three. Gradually it developed that the nuclear holocaust had actually been the result of Ares, the war god, manipulating world leaders, and… well, really, you should read it for yourself. The blend of Greek mythology and post-holocaust science fiction was what made it so much fun, and the series was at its best when it emphasized that culture clash.

The book only lasted twelve issues, with Cary Bates and Walt Simonson doing the final wrapup. It’s not without its flaws. I think Conway made a mistake when he tried to tie the series in to Kamandi, and Bates compounded that mistake by introducing the Atomic Knights into the storyline — this was a series that worked much better as an isolated piece of fantasy/SF, without a lot of DC lore larded on top. But on the whole it’s a good time. I’d heard all twelve issues were to be included in Showcase Presents the Atomic Knights and then that book was inexplicably canceled. (Maybe some Marvel lawyer suggested to DC that it was too competitive with its current Hercules book? Who knows?)

At any rate, you can put together the twelve-issue run for considerably less than a Showcase would run you. And I’d certainly recommend it. Still working on my set, but I’m only a couple of issues away now.

My favorite books to look for that I am reasonably certain aren’t going to get reprinted any time soon are a couple of the Marvel black-and-white series. I’m completely in love with the Marvel magazine line of that period anyway, and though several of the horror books have been Essential’d, my particular favorites are highly unlikely ever to get the trade-paperback treatment.

First among equals for me among the Marvel magazines is Deadly Hands of Kung Fu.

I am SO CLOSE on this one. I did see this one at the Emerald City show, but I wasn't paying any damn $70 for it.

Tracking down copies of this magazine has been entertaining me for several years now, and I know I’ve mentioned it in this space more than once. The thing is, I have enough collector in me to enjoy the hunt and the challenge of finding the things, but I won’t pay collector prices, and this series has become a Bruce Lee collectible. So you have to just keep an eye out for those happy accidents where you find a dealer whose primary interest is in something else and he has items like this as an afterthought. I’ve had better luck with finding affordable copies of this series in used bookstores and, amazingly, antique shops, than I ever have from actual comics retailers.

Though I did get one from a fellow at the convention last week for $4 — he didn’t even know that Tony DeZuniga, who’d done a lot of the interiors for that issue, was at the same show or you can bet that it would have been a hell of a lot more than that. I snatched it out from under him and then I felt guilty so I told him that he could probably get a lot more for his Savage Sword books, considering the artists who drew a lot of them were just on the other side of the show floor.

Deadly Hands of Kung Fu only ran for 33 issues and one Annual, and I’m only missing three of those. Unfortunately, one of those is the Bruce Lee biography/tribute issue, and that one never shows up anywhere for under thirty dollars. Most of the time dealers want fifty or more. But the challenge makes it fun. It’s unlikely to be collected because of all the licensing issues with Shang-Chi and the Fu Manchu rights, and I don’t know that there’s enough leftover material — or reader interest — to make it worth collecting the Sons of the Tiger/White Tiger series in its own book. Anyway, that would leave out the Iron Fist six-part serial, as well as the four-part “Swordquest” and the first Daughters of the Dragon two-parter and all sorts of other ancillary material that’s nice to have, not to mention the Shang-Chi stories that are about a third of the run. So I prefer to have the originals.

Another short-run Marvel magazine comic I am always on the lookout for is Planet of the Apes.

The orignals in here were always kind of cool.

This was an interesting little series because it had original stories as well as movie adaptations, along with all sorts of behind-the-scenes stuff from the movies.

These later ones are damnably difficult to track down.

Generally, the format was two stories per issue — an original leading off, then a backup that was a chapter adapting one of the movies, with a prose article of some kind in between. Again, this was something that looked like it should have been a hit but somehow just wasn’t. (The TV series didn’t really take off either and everyone thought that was going to be THE show to beat in 1975. Go figure.)

A couple of years later, Marvel reprinted the first two movie adaptations in serialized form in a color comic series titled Adventures on the Planet of the Apes that ran eleven issues, and the original-to-the-magazine stories somehow made it into print in a catchall anthology series in Britain called — I think — Mighty World of Marvel.

But, again, the best package was the magazine itself and so that’s what I look for. It ran twenty-nine issues in all and most of those that I’ve seen are very cool: there were several with amazing, psychedelic art jobs from guys like Tom Sutton and Alex Nino. This is getting rather difficult to track down on the cheap because the first half of the run, which I mostly own, had a much larger print run than the last half of the run. Once you pass, say, #19 or #20 it becomes damnably difficult to find them at all, let alone for a reasonable price. So this is a hunt that should keep me busy for a while, especially since I think the comic-book rights to the Apes series are so snarled up no one has any idea who’d even be allowed to reprint this one any more.

Young-adult adventure series books. That is to say, adventure series like the Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew, though my tastes run to the more obscure ones. These are not strictly comics, though the times I’ve mentioned them here, people have been interested. And comics people often worked on them. (I was flabbergasted to find out that Steven Grant, of all people, has several Hardy Boys titles to his credit.)

Four down, ywo to go. MINE is here in the original, not the facsimile, thankyewverymuch.

I’ve talked before in this space about the Whitman TV books and Christopher Cool: TEEN Agent, among others, but really the ones I love the most (and the ones that are the hardest to find in the original hardcovers) are the Three Investigators books.

When I talk about these books, I mean the REAL ones, damn it.

These were very popular books in the 1960′s and early 70′s, when I discovered them, and they hold up pretty well today. Even now, at the age of forty-seven, I can still read and enjoy these books simply as mysteries.

The Three Investigators were Jupiter Jones, a mildly overweight former child actor whose slob appearance concealed a fearsome, Holmes-like intelligence: Pete Crenshaw, an easygoing jock type whose bravery in tough situations belied his protests that he’d much rather be safe home in bed than out prowling haunted castles or abandoned graveyards and so forth; and finally, Bob Andrews, a studious library aide who never let his frail physique get in the way of being included in an adventure. They lived in southern California and operated out of an old house trailer in the Jones Salvage Yard. The trailer was concealed behind piles of junk and had all sorts of secret entrances and so on. The boys operated their detective agency as a real business, offering to find lost pets and similarly innocuous things. Inevitably, whatever innocent missing-parrot case they were looking into would turn into a showdown with international art smugglers or something.

Now, when I talk about these books, generally I’m referring to what I call the “real” ones. I mean the hardcovers that feature Alfred Hitchcock in the series title.

This was the one that caught my eye in the elementary school library, all those years ago.

This was strictly a licensing gimmick, Hitchcock had nothing to do with the books other than lending his name to the series — they didn’t even have his picture on them after the second volume because of licensing problems.

Harry Kane designed this so the shadowy figure could be anybody, but we all knew it was Hitchcock.

Nevertheless, in addition to purportedly writing the introduction to each book, Hitchcock was actually a character in most of the early books and it added to the fun to think of him ‘introducing’ each adventure.

Robert Arthur was the creator of the series and wrote the first eleven of the books. These are fairly easy to find in paperback, but the trouble is that all the Hitchcock references have been edited out, I guess on the theory that it dates the books too badly. I can’t really argue with that, though I think having Hitchcock there is part of their charm.

At any rate, I much prefer the original hardbacks complete with the Hitchcock title and the wraparound cover illustrations, as I first encountered them in my elementary school library and then later on at K-Mart.

Silver Spider is probably the best-written and plotted, though I have a soft spot for Mystery of the Stuttering Parrot, too.

Apparently, most collectors agree with me, because the hardcovers with the Alfred Hitchcock references intact are the ones that are hard to find and go for pretty steep prices on most dealer sites.

After Robert Arthur quit doing them, most of the rest of the series were written by either Mary V. Carey or William Arden.

My favorite of Mary Carey's. Possibly the best of the whole series.

Those are pretty cool too, but really goddamn hard to find unless you go through an antiquarian dealer and pay through the nose.

Word is that this is the best of the Ardens. though I've never read it.

Most of the early books in the series were illustrated by a guy named Harry Kane, who worked on a lot of these young-adult suspense-type books back then. According to his daughters, he worked in comics at some point too, but I have no idea on what or for whom. It’s possible that they’re simply mistaken, though there’s a kinetic quality to a lot of his illustrations that suggest he might well have done an adventure strip at some point.

There are many fan sites devoted to the Three Investigators — this one is probably the best of them, for those of you that are interested in further research. I’ve doubtless gone on way too long about them here already.

Anyway, I am continuing to pick away at finding the original hardcovers. There are forty-three in all, with the first thirty featuring Alfred Hitchcock. So far I’ve got five of the original eleven Robert Arthur volumes, one of Mary Carey’s, and I am keeping an eye peeled for the others. This is generally something we luck into at library sales or thrift shops, because the word’s out on these books as far as online dealers are concerned. If you can get one in good shape for ten dollars, that’s a steal, any more…. and those are the ones with the library stamps and so on. “Like New” or “Mint condition” generally will run you about thirty dollars each.

So this is not something I can really afford. But every once in a while, at a Goodwill or a Value Village, you get lucky. And that moment, when you see that great find right there on the shelf — well, that’s the whole point of the hunt in the first place, isn’t it?

*

So those are a few of my particular want-list items. I’d be interested in hearing from the other collectors out there as to what your “short-list, always-looking” items might be, just for fun, if any of you are interested in playing at home.

See you next week.

32 Comments

I own one Three Investigators hardcover (the Screaming Clock, I believe). I love the series. Interesting that they are so very rare. Who knew?

>>I’d heard all twelve issues were to be included in Showcase Presents the Atomic Knights and then that book was inexplicably canceled. (Maybe Marvel thought it was too competitive with its current Hercules book? Who knows?)

Ummm … Say what? Marvel is now calling the shots on Showcase Presents?

I’m missing something here, obviously.

I hear you about the hunt. When I first got back into comics, my big hunt was for anything Aquaman, or JLA, related. And it was fun. This was pre-eBay, so you had to actually GO places to find things. That is something that I miss now.

As for those “Three Investigators” books – I love those, although I have NEVER heard about them until now. I was a big Hardy Boys fan as a kid, and these would have been right up my alley. Sort of like the Hardy Boys meets Alfred Hitchcock. Sort of.

Very cool! I wish you luck in the hunt, but I also hope the hunt goes on for a long time! :)

Also, thanks for noting what DHOKF is so bloody expensive. MOKF can be had for pretty much dirt cheap, & until now I couldn’t figure out why the same wasn’t true of the b&w mag.

Ummm, you know that Gold Key Doc Savage you’ve got pictured there? I’ve got a kind of beat up copy of it in my elementary library. :) I found it for a buck or so and put it in with the rest of the comics in the library, trying to interest the kids in the character. So far it hasn’t worked. *Sigh* Oh well, I live in hope. After several years I’ve finally got some of the Garfield the cat fans willing to look at books like Richie Rich and Sad Sack. Oh, and I also have that Planet of the Apes #17 in the library – along with a couple of others. I got them at a garage sale for fifty cents apiece. Again, very few nibbles but I’m trying to pass on the pop culture. :)

I’m SO glad someone else knows The 3 Investigators. The library has one paperback and one hardcover (not with a wraparound cover though) featuring the boys – mostly untouched. I considered weeding them out, but just couldn’t bring myself to do it. Someday I’ll get a kid willing to read a book that isn’t Diary of a Wimpy Kid or an accelerated reader and s/he’ll get hooked. That’s my fantasy anyway. :)

And from one book hunter to another – good luck on your quest!

Ummm … Say what? Marvel is now calling the shots on Showcase Presents?

I’m missing something here, obviously.

It’s my wild unfounded speculation that maybe Marvel had complained to DC that it would conflict with their own Hercules book or something like that. Sort of like how DC can’t publish a “Captain Marvel” book but has to settle for calling it “Shazam,” that kind of thing. I really have no idea. I was just wondering out loud… well, in print.

Man, I would like to see that Hercules series someday (I believe I saw a total of *one* issue, and it was in Spanish- and suffered from translation problems due to having less room in the word balloons for dialogue.) People tend to forget DC had a *definitive* version of Hercules, and they kept coming with different versions all the time (see Heracles/Hercules in Wonder woman.)

As for the name? Hercules is a public property, and the actual title was “Hercules Unbound” so I doubt Marvel would have any grounds to protest a HU reprint. It’s more likely DC just said “Nah, not enough people would care.”

I also would have likely enjoyed The Three Investigators series (and many other young adult mystery/Sci Fi novel series) if my local library had more of them; I recall reading some, but never regularly.

I have several of the original TI books, but they’re pretty beat to hell. Great stories, nonetheless.

“The Three Investigators!” “The Mystery of the Dead Man’s Riddle” was my favorite! Those books introduced me to the idea of Hitchcock, not knowing that I would one day teach an undergraduate Hitchcock section at Columbia. (None of Hitchcock’s exhaustive biographies seem to acknowledge the books. I always flip right to the index under “Three” just to check.)

Man, I loved The Three Investigators as a very small lad, but it wasn’t until I read this that I realised I’d been confusing them with The Hardy Boys ever since. ‘The Mystery of the Dead Man’s Riddle’ and ‘The Screaming Clock’ were, indeed, awesome. Thanks for the reminder!

“A couple of years later, Marvel reprinted the first two movie adaptations in serialized form in a color comic series titled Adventures on the Planet of the Apes that ran eleven issues, and the original-to-the-magazine stories somehow made it into print in a catchall anthology series in Britain called — I think — Mighty World of Marvel.”

Greg, Planet Of Apes actually had it’s own Marvel UK series IIRC. It would have been packaged with reprints of other Marvel SF stuff like Jon Carter and Star Lord. Mighty World Of Marvel generally had more mainstream superhero stuff. It’s lead feature was the Hulk. It’s possible though that Planet Of the Apes folded into MWOM at some point as that has been a common thing in UK comics history.

Andrew Collins

April 19, 2009 at 3:01 am

Man, I’d love to have those kung fu comics from the 70′s reprinted. I wish Marvel could work out some of the licensing issues and just re-license the Fu Manchu stuff. One question:

“the first Daughters of the Dragon two-parter and all sorts of other ancillary material that’s nice to have,”

Marvel reprinted a 70′s Daughters Of The Dragon story in a one-shot that preceded the recent mini-series. Is that not the one you refer to above? Or is there an earlier DotD story I’m not familiar with?

I’d also love it if DC (or whoever currently owns the rights) could reprint those 70′s Pulp comic stories. I recently tracked down a copy of the hardcover DC put out in the late 80′s collecting the O’Neil/Kaluta Shadow issues and they are wonderful. I need to track down more of those later Shadow issues with Cruz and Robbins. Had no idea Kirby worked on The Avenger though, that’s interesting…

In Germany the three investigators are still very popular (they are called “Die Drei Fragezeichen” here, translated as “the three question marks”). There is a ridiculously succesful, long-running series of audiobooks and everyone has read the novels as a kid – they are readily available at every bookshop. I don’t know whether that was the case in the English novels as well, but in the German ones there were lots of little Hitchcock commentary interspersed throughout the text. He would tease the reader (“Have you figured out the mystery yet? Well, read page 17 again, very carefully this time. There might be a clue”). I loved the series adn idolized Justus Jonas throughout my childhood. It was very empowering for a kid to see this fat child detective who has the self-confidence and the smarts to outwit every adult and has this great charmingly arrogant way of rubbing it in. Part of the appeal, of course, used to be that the novels took place in California – and which German child in the 90′s did not dream of the USA? We were intoxicated with the country back then (and still are, though to a much lesser extent)

I love the hunt of tracking down complete runs of books. What a great topic!

The past decade I’ve really enjoyed this part of the hobby. I’ve tracked down complete runs on books. Often they’re books being collected in trade or Showcase/Essential format– like Howard the Duck– but I’ve preferred collecting the original comics because a) they haven’t been much more expensive and b) I prefer reading the original books–I love experiencing the original comics as a physical object, to see the letter columns and ads and the like to get a full sense of what it was like to read them.

I’ve really enjoyed the experience too, getting caught up on ’70s and ’80s comics I’ve always wanted to read or never read the complete run. I started out with DC’s run of The Shadow, then collected the complete Jon Sable Freelance (I never bothered with the Marv Wolfman book Sable though) and worked on completing my Alan Moore Swamp Thing collection (which I’m still missing one issue of!) I then went through a phase of collecting ’80s works I’ve always wanted to complete or own: Nathaniel Dusk, Thriller, American Flagg, Somerset Holmes, Miller/Mazzuchelli Daredevil, Dreadstar (Jim Starlin’s run on it), The Question. Then I caught the ’70s bug: Howard the Duck and Kamandi in particular.

Some of them were surprisingly hard: Dreadstar in particular. I got a large number from eBay, and the Epic Comics issues are always easy to find, but the later issues after it moved to First Comics were really hard to get. I managed to complete my set last year but I have a couple of duplicates of issues I didn’t need because I failed to keep a want list or a good memory of the covers of issues I already owned!

eBay was invaluable. I got a near-complete run of Kamandi, a complete run of The Question and 90% of Howard the Duck off of eBay and I got them really cheaply too. If I’m intersted in collecting an extensive run I almost always go to eBay first rather than going to physical stores. I get them cheaper and easier that way.

The result has not only been the thrill of the hunt but getting to read some great comics, often for the first time. The Shadow is everything I loved about ’70s comics: gorgeous pictures and a real attempt to experiment with the form. Jon Sable Freelance may be one of my all-time favourite comic books ever and I never would have come to that conclusion had I not collected the entire run. Howard the Duck was an absolute revelation– I had read none of it before and I was astounded at Steve Gerber’s aplomb as a writer. And The Question and Kamandi may be the best sustained comics writing Denny O’Neil and Jack Kirby ever did. (The Question is better than O’Neil’s ’70s Batman and Shadow combined, and Kirby’s art on Kamandi is stunning). Even less consistent work like Dreadstar was fascinating because Jim Starlin routinely re-invented it about every 15 issues.

And the stuff I read for the second the second time I made some great discoveries. Thriller is Grant Morrison before there was Grant Morrison. Uttlerly brilliant mind-blowing comics that were way ahead of their time. DC should collect it in trade and pay Robert Loren Fleming and Trevor Von Eeden to write and draw some concluding chapters and ditch the awful Bill DuBay and Alex Nino issues. Somerset Holmes features gorgeous art by Brent Anderson in a great Hitchcock-pastiche written by Bruce Jones. I loved this as a teenager but as an adult I was even more impressed by it– and the bonus for collecting is getting the trade collection from the ’80s which is slightly bigger and is reworked for that format by Anderson.

The past year or so I’ve had to give it up with getting married, moving and trying to find a job but I see glimmers of what I might go after when my life stabilizes a little more: Justice Inc. (thanks to Greg’s endorsement), The Shadow Strikes (ditto), George Perez’s Wonder Woman, Micheline/Layton Iron Man, the list goes on… oh and Swamp Thing 60! (If anyone has a spare copy going…)

Stephen Cassidy

April 19, 2009 at 7:01 am

eBay has Swamp Thing 60 in very fine condition, lowest price with shipping – $4.98.

I don’t know whether that was the case in the English novels as well, but in the German ones there were lots of little Hitchcock commentary interspersed throughout the text. He would tease the reader (”Have you figured out the mystery yet? Well, read page 17 again, very carefully this time. There might be a clue”).

Nothing like that here in the States in the Three Investigators books. I was aware that they had a huge following in Germany, and that the series has several entries that were only published there, never appearing in English at all.

However, what you are describing is a template for another young-adult book with the Hitchcock name, also by Robert Arthur — Alfred Hitchcock’s Solve-Them-Yourself Mysteries.

In addition to the Three Investigators books, Hitchcock lent his name to a variety of short-story anthologies here, The adult series of these books were very successful in paperback and were a perennial presence on spinner racks. However, there were also a series of large-format hardcovers aimed at teens — Alfred Hitchcock’s Haunted Houseful, Alfred Hitchcock’s Ghostly Gallery, Alfred Hitchcock’s Monster Museum, etc. Most of these books were edited and assembled by Robert Arthur and may have led to him getting chosen for the Three Investigators gig. Solve-Them-Yourself Mysteries was one of those collections, with five stories written by Arthur and featuring exactly those kind of asides from “Alfred Hitchcock.”

I’m fond of those too. We have three of them here — Monster Museum, Ghostly Gallery, and the aforementioned Solve-Them-Yourself Mysteries. They are much easier to find and more affordable than the Three Investigators books. I think there were only five or six in all — in addition to the ones I mentioned there was also Alfred Hitchcock’s Sinister Spies and a couple of others whose names escape me at the moment.

Greg,

Try contacting a shop in New york called Roger’s Time Machine (only on Sundays when Roger’s there, he gives better deals). He might have a lot of what you’re looking for and he is FAIR with pricing. He may do mail order if you ask.

Greg:

You know, every time my LCS has one of their “Vault” sales (their backroom with 35,000-50,000 items of stock), I always come across a variety of stuff that makes me think, “Is this something that Greg Hatcher wanted?” I can never specifically remember what it is you’re actually looking for. And not being a Sherlock Holmes / Tarzan / Doc Savage / Shadow afficionado myself, I end up passing on it all because I don’t know enough about the stuff to know what they may be worth, or whether you have it already (and nothing annoys me more than buying something for someone that they already have, especially when I know they’ve got so much stuff already). I’ve even attempted to call you while in store twice to confer with you about an item or two but got no answer (though that might have been because I possibly have an outdated number).

The store’s next Vault sale is May 30th. If you’re interested and care to bother, send me an email with a variety of your wanted items and I’ll look around. If not, no big deal, but please let me know one way or the other, so that I can set aside a budget for shopping for you.

That’s set aside a budget for shopping for you if need be.

Louis, that’s very kind of you, but honestly, I don’t really need anything more at the moment. I’ve had at least two months’ worth of new reading material come in the door over the last couple of weeks. We came home from ECCC with a huge pile of swag and today we just got in with two big shopping bags full of books from the Seattle Public Library’s gigantic book fair where they unload old stock.

So, yeah, that whole resolution about trying not to load up on more impulse-buy books, well, not so much. (Although Julie had a bag too, he added defensively.)

Anyway, I appreciate the offer, but I really should get through the giant pile that I just acquired over the last ten days before I allow myself any others.

“I don’t really need anything more at the moment. I’ve had at least two months’ worth of new reading material come in the door over the last couple of weeks.”

No problem. I know the feeling. I’ve got three Swamp Thing TPBs I got for my b-day in March I haven’t looked at yet, 22 total magazines between Asimov’s, Analog, Fantasy & Science Ficiton Magazine, and Realms Of Fantasy Magazine I’ve got sitting around waiting to be read dating back to last year, plus the two latest issues of BPRD: THE BLACK GODDESS, one issue of HELLBOY: THE WILD HUNT, and 4-5 issues of a JLA CLASSIFIED arc to get from my retailer in Michigan. I think I have some 20-30 SF collections and novels for the past two Christmases I haven’t really looked at yet either. And that’s just off the top of my head.

But when I’m writing and drawing my own stuff, I really don’t have the time to read everyone else’s, unless I’m being paid to write reviews or something.

Aww, man! Three Investigators! I was a Hardy Boys kinda kid, but I dug the few Three Investigators books I had.

[...] Should Be Good’s Greg Hatcher writes about the grail quest — or rather, the thrill of hunting for comics. I know that searching online I could wrap up [...]

Time Travelers, now thats a name I’ve not heard in a while. I was very excited by the Showcase Doom Patrol , another volume that rocked me was The Enemy Ace, man what a great collection wish I could get more I’ve ordered and paid for it I think seven weeks in a row now, but it’s never in the box, go figure. Now that I have a shop I don’t collect so much but I still like finding stuff like these collections to sell, another collection I like is Marvels two volume CHAMPIONS. Think they will ever collect Ditkos Shade the Changing Man, I’d buy that. later!

Huh! I found a couple of the ‘The Three Investigators’ hardcovers recently at library sales, and picked them up for the Alfred Hitchcock name. I think they were 50 cents each. I had no idea until now that they might actually be worth something.

Kaluta did a brand new 15-page story for the Secret Files of the Shadow collection put out in the late 80s. It might have slipped under your radar!

First of all, I agree with you 100% that the hunt can be just as fun as the item being hunted.

Secondly, wow! I had no idea you were a Three Investigators fan too! I absolutely adore that series, and devoured them as a kid. Like you, I still go back and re-read a random one from time to time, and they are as good as ever.

I never could get into the Hardy Boys as a kid…I read the Three Investigators first, and the Hardy Boys just weren’t the same.

For years, as I, like you, attempted to hunt down as many of the original Three Investigator hardcovers as I could, I labored under the misconception that they weren’t very popular, as used book store after used book was littered with copies of Hardy Boys and Nancy Boys.

Only within the last few years did I learn this meant the opposite was true: the Three Investigators were popular enough that whenever used copies came in, they were snatched up immediately while the Hardy Boys languished on the shelves, and that hardcover copies can be quite spendy when dealing with a knowledgeable dealer.

To this day, any time I go out of town I do the book store/antique crawl wherever I’m staying, searching for, amongst other things, Three Investigator books. I lucked out once and found a near complete set of the first twenty books, all in almost pristine condition, for five or six bucks a book at a Half Price Books, and I managed to fill quite a few wholes in the collection.

Did you ever read any of the late 80s/early 90s offshoot “Crimebusters” series, when the kids were teenagers and had apparently learned martial arts, so that they could get involved in more “dangerous” cases? Most of them were pretty hit or miss and lacked a lot of the charm of the original series (and of course, the Hitchcock/Hector Sebastien mentor figure) but there was a particularly fun one that took place at a comic book convention (after Jupiter came across a stack of old comics at the Salvage Yard).

I read it years before I attended a con for the first time, and the depiction therein formed my initial idea of what a comic book convention was like. To this day, I still tend to compare real cons to the one shown in that book.

Greg, i know that you have closed the comments on your ‘Comic Book Morality’ entry, but i had to comment somewhere.
First, i’m sorry that your Mom passed away. Especially with some old hurts & haunts unresolved.
Secondly, i really related to your story, as i used comics the same way growing up. These morality plays helped me to know right from wrong as well.
Thirdly, your words about living life in such a way as to always do the right thing, simply because its right, strikes to the core of the golden rule; “Act towards others how you would like them to act towards you”. There is much more i could say, but i’ll limit myself.
Lastly, there is a book called “What’s So Amazing About Grace” which touches on several of the same themes as you are bringing up. It has been a very important book for me and your column made me think of it immediately.
Thank you for sharing with us something so personal. It was well written, and very moving. All the best to you, dan j.

Greg – have a squizz at my 3 Investigator collection – navigate by clicking on my name anywhere on the site http://www.teeandtim.co.za it has taken me the better part of 30 years to complete my set and I suppose is largely responsible for me writing today – Seth (from USA – foremost expert on the 3 investigators said mine were a UK edition)
Gavin

I’m trying to collect three investigator books too and my son and I are slowly reading through them together. When we started I had no idea how much he was going to enjoy them. So after starting with a set of 10 paperbacks I decided instead to try to get us a little treasure by collecting the original 28 hardcovers. You have 3 of the hardcovers I’m missing so I can’t keep myself from asking you the question…. is there any way you would part with any of your copies? Just curious. If so then email me at simpleesimon_ebay@yahoo.com

I have 21 of the first 28 in Hardcover..not easy to find but great fun trying to collect these great books!

I do not know if you have an active site. But, outside of Chicago, on a cold winter night I could escape to another adventure with these guys. I do not know I was not into the the Hardy Boys. I loved these books during my elementary school years.

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