Dream Come True

Comics, Geek

For years I had this recurring dream where I would be walking down the street and come across a huge stash of comics sitting in boxes on the sidewalk. In my dream, I never got to open the boxes and see what was inside, but I envisioned them filled with great old books to complete my collection or at least sell for a tidy sum.

So imagine my disbelief when Victor, my building superintendent, pulled me aside the other day. He took me into his storage space in the basement and showed me box after box overflowing with comics! Turns out they had been left to him by a couple of vacating tenants over the years, and he had just gotten the bright idea of trying to sell them. Even though I’ve lived in the building for over seven years, he never knew I was a cartoonist until fairly recently, so when he found out, he figured I was the guy to show them to. Now I love Victor; he’s a great super and he always goes out of his way to help out Sari and I. So I agreed to go through the boxes and see what was what.

It took me a week or so of hour-long visits, but eventually I went through the thousands of books, culling what I thought had some re-sale value. (I’m sort of touch with that market from selling books from my collection over the years.) Sadly, the vast majority of the comics were crappy ’90s Marvel and Image books, published during the speculator rage when supply way outpaced demand. But I did find a mother lode of vintage 1970s Marvels, going back to the era of 25-cent books. Most of the comics were in awful condition, having been read multiple times and never bagged or boarded. Even so, there were a couple of gems, including the first appearance of The Punisher in Amazing Spider-Man #129, the first appearance of Gambit in X-Men #266, and a nearly complete run of Claremont/Byrne/Austin X-Men.

I took the books with “potential” up to my apartment, and spent some hours here or there over the last few weeks putting them up on eBay. I also invested in some comics boxes and bags and boards. When all was said and done, I netted Victor over $300 (the Punisher Spider-Man alone sold for over $100!). Victor was thrilled when I brought him the cash the other day, and I’ve been getting to enjoy reading old comics, and filling some gaps in my old collection (mostly Byrne and George Pérez books). And I still have a bunch of books left to sell, when I get around to it. Who says dreams don’t come true?


1984 Letter to John Byrne

Comics, Geek

In 1984, when I was 16 years old, I wrote a letter to John Byrne, then writer/artist of Fantastic Four and Alpha Flight.

February 5, 1984

Dear Mr. Byrne,

I think you are doing a superb job on both Alpha Flight and the Fantastic Four. More and more, you are proving yourself as not only a great artist but a great writer too! Somehow, you are able to find the time to write, pencil and ink two comics while writing another. Not only that, but there is no sign of the strain on your artwork. Both Alpha Flight and the FF look terrific, and since issue 258 of the FF, the art has gotten better each issue (it seemed a little rushed in some of the issues previous to that).

I’m sure you’ve heard all that before, so what I’m writing about is something that I’m not quite so pleased with. My complaint with AF and FF (not The Thing, because I don’t read that title) is your lack of blacks or minorities drawn in their pages. On most scenes of cities that you draw, not one black is shown, and when they are, they are portrayed badly. For instance, FF 256. You show a black man with a large radio held to his ear, and you have him using such words as, “Ain’tcha got no radio, momma?” and, “There’s some bad nastiness goin’ down.” If this is the way blacks appear to you, I think you should look again.

Also, when the FF traveled to the Negative Zone, how come any race of aliens that they came upon always were consistently colored; all the members were yellow, all the members where pink-skinned, etc. And why did the race that looked most human have Caucasian skin? Was that your choice or Glynis Wein’s (the colorist)? To continue, what about Alpha Flight? All the members in Alpha, Beta and Gamma Flights are white! I know you know that there are minorities in Canada; why not one in the comic? Besides Shaman, there is nary a one. How about an East Indian superhero? There are lots of them in Vancouver.

The reason I am writing this letter is that I like the two comics you do. I would like them to be the best they can possibly be, though, and one way to do that is to put in a little more of real life. The earth is multicolored! Thanks for listening and please reply.

— Josh Neufeld

In response, I received Byrne’s Marvel business card. On the flip side, he had scrawled “Best to Josh” and signed it.