Riff Raff Riff Raff

Clunkers from the Back Issue Bin

I have certain comic books for sale that just won't sell. Ever. No matter how much I slash prices. I can't give 'em away!

Yet many of these comics are good. Or have a good page or two in them. They're worth keeping around just for conversation sake. I call them "clunkers". I can't sell them but I can't bring myself to throw them out.

You see comics like this over and over again in the back issue bins. The same ones. A certain era--1983 to 1992--is always well represented in almost every comics shop in North America. (Was it because they overprinted runs back then?) Most folks flip right by these clunkers because they look like garbage--and they usually are. However, some of them are worth a second look. Here are 9 of them.

The comics pictured below are all from my "Number One" box. These clunkers aren't wacky or special necessarily. They are the perennial long box filler. The price stickers I have on them tell me they've been in the "Number One" box for four years now. They all did time in the "Quarter Bin" also.


Captain Paragon from 1983. This is an AC comic or Americomic. All AC comics have good color and production values for the early 80s. This one has a cover by Greg Guler (below):



The interior art is by Don Secrease and Bill Neville. I like the "dissolve" of the face in the page below. This is one of those nostalgic riffs on the good ol' days of crime fightin' gone by:



Then there is some decent action later on. The panel layout on the top tier is weird in a good way. See how the fence posts creates a sort of panel border? And the hero maintains scale as the first tier transitions into the second. Simple and clear. This page kind of reminds me of Ditko from the same period. Maybe it is the inking of the last panel (below):



Go-Man #1 from 1989. The cover reminds me of a bad mash up of Howard Chaykin, Dan Clowes (like Lloyd Llewellyn era), and Ken Steacy. It's by Matt Wagner. Nice airbrush.




The comic inside is wildly out of date by '89. This would have been cool if it was from '86. I don't know what I mean by that but often in old comics like this it seems like it took the author years to package the material and the result looks "dated" somehow. I think Go-Man it's mostly a reprint of old material so maybe it was ahead of its time? The art and story is by Bill Widener.He has a couple good action sequences that are reminiscent of Scott McCloud's DestroyMeaning it looks like Kirby on speed. Not bad.



In the requisite page long explanation of how this comic came into being, the author said he got letters comparing this series to Watchmen. There's also an introduction by Matt Wagner. Almost all blurbs and intros from this era are by the same people. Seems like they were just giving away blurbs back then, haha. Here's a good example of that factoid (below):



Speaking of Watchmen, here's art by Dave Gibbons. I kept these around for Jog but he never bought them. Rogue Trooper was from Quality Comics and it reprinted older UK material (below):




I like the printing form these old Quality Comics. Art by Dave Gibbons (below):



I always thought ESP-ers or "S-pers" was a dumb name for a comic or a super group. Cool cover by John Bolton (below). This is from 1986 and was published by Eclipse. I think it is a reprint of older UK material also but I can't find a single mention of what it is in the indicia or on the title page. Just the usual editorial by publisher cat yronwode about something that has nothing to do with the comic itself.



More from ESP-ers #1. Interesting atmospheric art by Alan Moore alum David Lloyd (below):




Here it is the 1987 comic that helped inspire Michel Fiffe's Copra. Great cover by Howard Chaykin (below):




I can't sell this comic to save my life. Even if I show the potential back issue buyer this well executed action scene by Luke McDonnell (below):




Here is one of those gritty "real life" crime comics from the late 80s. I always liked the cover. I think it is by Ernie Colón (below):




This type of layout with the inset panels inside of a wide city shot was popular in the 1980s. This is a good example of it.




I think this is a fun action scene. Very 80's. Like a Miller Daredevil slow mo pan and reaction shot. There's a liveliness to the art that I find appealing--especially for the time period. Ernie Colón kind of reminds me of Kyle Baker here:




I know, I know. Don't groan too loudly. There were actually a couple New Universe titles that had decent art.




The art is by Tony Salmons and Bret Blevins. Good stuff. It's a decent Kirby Thor homage at times. Heavy on the Coletta Thor inking look.




The other decent art in New Universe title was Mark Texeira and Kyle Baker on Psi-Force (below):




I really like the way the bottom half of the page is broken up into small panels. This is very uncommon for the time period in a Marvel comic (below):




More interesting layouts for an action sequence (below):




Here's another great comic that no one ever buys.  Milo wrote about over at StudyGroup. I love this cover by Kyle Baker (below):




Kyle Baker's art from this period always feels "first take" to me. This is pre-digital Kyle Baker. He has such a lively line.




So, anyways. Maybe this can be a field guide for when you are digging through a 25 cent box of comics at the flea market. I see these comics all the time. And I buy them. But I can't ever re-sell them.  Sometimes I think about all the junk comics that I save. Will they be worth any money, ever? I tell myself that there were "junk" comics from the 1960s that were thrown out for no reason. Maybe I just have to wait another 25 years. I said something to Bill about it and he said, "It's funny to think that comics from the early 1960s--the dawn of the Marvel Age--were as old to us in 1987 as comics from 1987 are to us now".

Thanks for reading. Over and out.

39 Responses to Clunkers from the Back Issue Bin

  1. John Platt says:

    Good stuff there. I always liked Captain Paragon. ESPers was an Eclipse original, as I recall. Nightmask was inconsistent, but there were a few amazing issues in its brief run.

  2. Chris Pitzer says:

    I’ve never heard of Damage Control…. looks interesting.

  3. J Edge says:

    I loved that Damage Control book when I was a kid. Also, Tony Salmons and Bret Blevins on art? I would buy the hell out of that.

  4. Love looking through your curated comics, whenever I get the chance, Frank. And really enjoyed this – brought back lots of memories.

    I still have my full run (yes! full run!) of Psi-Force, and I got that first issue signed by Texeira at last year’s Baltimore Con. Good stuff.


  5. Bill says:

    I still have full runs of all the New Universe titles but I haven’t reread any of them since I bought them new.

  6. Michel Fiffe says:

    What Kyle Baker used to do in an afternoon (this issue) kills entire careers. All those Damage Controls are great, though; McDuffie & Colón made a solid team.

    Clunkers? Looking at these pics I thought it was Greatest Hits!

  7. Those Colón pages are killer! I wrote about his one-off Manimal comic on my tumblr – super weird!

  8. The first comic I remember reading was an issue of Ostrander and McDonnell’s Suicide Squad (#5 I believe) pulled out of a quarter bin more than ten years ago. After reading that one issue, I was hooked on the medium.

  9. Blake Sims says:

    ummmm I would totally buy that issue of Suicide Squad. I found a bunch of issues for cheap, but haven’t found #1 yet.

  10. Mike Baehr says:

    Agreed re: Salmons/Blevins — thanks for the tip, Frank! Adding to the want list.

  11. Goodman says:

    Speaking of Ostrander, another title from that era that has kind of fallen by the wayside was his and Del Close’s Wasteland which lasted 18 issues before cancellation. It was a surreal Twilight Zone-ish anthology book with a rotating cast of artists that included much in the way of autobiographical bits from the very odd life of the late Mr. Close who was a driving force behind Second City improv. I see scattered issues all the time when going through the bins and was able to pick up a complete run, including an extra copy of the issue that got printed twice but with unintentional different covers. I think I paid around $5 for the run and then I went and had them bound into 2 hardcover volumes (at the same time that I did my run of Fanta’s Scott Russo’s Jizz, also mostly found in a quarter bin but that was an unusual find), as I suspect it will be eons before DC gets around to doing so. There are indeed some lost gems from that time, to be sure!

  12. Are you selling a lot of Paul Gulacy comics these days?

  13. Oliver says:

    Speaking of ‘2000 AD’ strips reprinted in the States, I did at least enjoy ‘Nemesis the Warlock’, despite the garish colorization, because the switch from 2000 AD’s squarish pages to the more rectangular American format gave Kevin O’Neill the opportunity to add some entirely new artwork.

  14. Frank Santoro says:

    Gulacy still sells. Especially original MOKF.

  15. Frank Santoro says:

    Andrew White wrote something on ComicsWorkbook that references this post – check it out here
    my response – tumblr is a little hard to figure out how to read comments – but if you can its worth the read

  16. Ryan Watkins says:

    Maybe the reason you can’t sell them is you’re charging $26.00 for 9 comics I can pick up for under 10 bucks from an online comic book store. Am I missing something?

  17. Upon taking it out of the longbox, I’d buy Go-Man without hesitation

  18. Aaron says:

    Man I forgot all about that Damage Control book until I saw the cover there.

    I used to love that too.

  19. Wait, you can’t sell Suicide Squad no.1? For a $1? You have weird customers.

    That Kyle Baker stuff is so beautiful. I love his loose early line work, from The Shadow through to those Dick Tracy comics he did. I would sell my soul to have the natural cartooning chops of Baker.

  20. Frank Santoro says:

    I tried to sell them for 25 cents each at shows – and since they didnt for four years – I am selling these 9 clunkers for 26 bux postpaid, yes. Thats how much it costs for me to go to the post office these days.

  21. Pingback: Comics A.M. | Police auction off criminal’s comics on eBay | Robot 6 @ Comic Book Resources – Covering Comic Book News and Entertainment

  22. Dara says:

    ESPers is actually a VERY solid book, both in terms of writing, and obviously on the art front. One of the earliest and best examples of “superpowers in the real world” genre, without all the post-Watchmen baggage. Highly recommended.

  23. akkadiannumen says:

    I bought Suicide Squad and Damage Control and I’d buy Rogue Trooper, Espers, Go-Man and the New Universe stuff. Probably Underworld as well.

  24. LouW says:

    I have a confession to make: I own all the comics you showed above; bought them at my LCS back in the day.

    I’m old.

  25. tor says:

    that rogue trooper cover looks like a combat version of dr. manhattan!

  26. Oliver says:

    I wonder if the creators of the Bronze Tiger were familiar with Japan’s Tiger Mask manga?

  27. I really liked that series. One of my favourites was the one where the family return their unwanted baby, like all their other unwanted purchases.

    Still, it’s not up there with Beautiful Stories for Ugly Children. That’s the best, particularly the daffodil one. (Sorry to be vague, but I’d hate to spoil those stories for anyone). The Dave
    Louapre art is incredible on those.

  28. I can’t believe everyone misses out Strike Force Morituri. That art was amazing and the story so bleak. Aliens come to earth and throw people out of their ships to burn up in the atmosphere. Then earth responds by creating heroes using a process that kills them within a short period.

    That series was so ahead of its time.

    In the UK it got published at much larger size than standard american comics, think epic illustrated and then a little bigger. Maybe the artwork was flattered more by that.

    Either way, I was always more excited by it than I was with the Spiderman lead.

  29. He did a hip-hop comic for Marvel? It was called Breakin th Chain and came with a free tape as well. Well worth searching out. Sort of goes a bit Sam Keith/ Maxxish in look at points

  30. JRC says:

    I remember seeing some promo ads and interviews about Go Man back in the day, and could never find copies.
    Over the years it has evolved into a minor hobby keeping an eye out for any issues.
    I think Ice only found/bought 1 to date.

    I’ve got almost a whole run of Squad from cheap bins.
    I think I only paid ‘back issue’ price for #1 out of apathy.

    Damage Control is the best! I buy it for friends sometimes when a whole series turns up.
    It would be the perfect Marvel sitcom, if they weren’t all The Serious right now.

  31. Jeremy Holstein says:

    Second vote for Go-Man. I bought it for the Matt Wagner cover, but I stayed for the content. It was raw, crazy stuff, but it had a real kinetic energy.

  32. Andy says:

    I love Rogue Trooper–much like Judge Dredd it has a British narrative sensibility that comes off as freaking weird to this American reader.

    Plus the ink on those Quality biooks had a distinctive–and not exactly pleasant–smell.

  33. Andy says:

    This is my favorite era of comics. It’s not nostalgia – I got into comics in the early 2000s. There’s just something about this period that I like. I’m astonished about Suicide Squad, everyone I know who’s into cape comics at all would snap that up on sight. I’m curious, if that doesn’t sell, what does? Is it that your clientele is more art comics focused?

  34. Andy says:

    Marvel aren’t really “The Serious” right now, between Hawkeye, Daredevil, Deadly Foes and formerly, FF and Young Avengers. Those books have generous servings of humor. In fact I expect this trend to become more prevalent with them trying to replicate the success of Hawkeye.

  35. Andy says:

    I have no idea why my comment appeared here and not on the comment section proper.

  36. Andy says:

    Break the Chain was produced with KRS-One. There was a music video too. Not very good quality, but

  37. Andy says:

    Yeah, Ernesto Sierra de Cordobes Y Lopez Colón is one of my favorite artists too.

  38. Mike Hunter says:

    “Wasteland”was amazing; the variation in tone, the remarkable array of splendid artists. As an example of the extremes it could routinely go to, if I remember right, that “unwanted baby” — in a story set in the future, illo’ed by William Messner-Loebs, a “Wasteland” regular — wasn’t returned…it was tossed out a window!

    One story in that title surely (by Del Close, John Ostrander & David Lloyd: “Secret Lords of the DNA!”) ranks as the “Dr. Strangelove” of comics, an extraordinary work of satirical black humor, with a psychedelic/apocalyptic finale.

    For more info, see .

    The interview at also features pages from the “unwanted baby” (“So…what are you looking for?”) and “Secret Lords” (“Eat this”) stories.

    Though I never got into “Beautiful Stories for Ugly Children” ( ), I sure did love that writer and artist’s book of single-panel cartoons. As I’d written in April of 2009, in the TCJ message board:

    Books Deserving Reprinting #1: “The Wasteland”

    Not T. S. Eliot’s “Waste Land,” but the Dave Louapre and Dan Sweetman book of brilliantly twisted cartoons. A Piranha Press title, the creators owned the copyright, and for a while some of its cartoons were run on the last page of – if I remember right – horror-fan mag “Fangoria.”

  39. Tony Montano says:

    What The Clunk! Perhaps as a set: Clunker Item Classics (Something like that..?)
    BTW: Nice Site/Blog!

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