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Comic Culture: Holy Grails

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Everyone’s taste in comics is different, and rightfully so. If we all liked the same things, then the world would be a pretty boring place, and comics would be as well. For some of us it takes a while to really figure out what hits the right notes within the medium, and for others it just comes naturally. Over time we create lists of things we want to purchase, and sometimes (if you’re like me) the list keeps growing instead of shrinking. Certain items are never truly “added” to the list because of the financial cost they bear, or the difficulty in actually finding them; and yet, they are always in the back of our minds. These specific items I am referring to are “holy grail” items, “white whales” if you will. What exactly are “holy grails?” Well, let’s examine that for a few minutes this week, and when it’s all said and done I just might let you know what a few of mine are as well.

Simply put “holy grails” are either comics, commissions, or original art that you know are well out of your normal comic price range, and yet you aspire to someday own them. Some lofty examples may include first appearances of certain characters like the Punisher in Amazing Spider-Man #129 or maybe on the other side of the tracks the Riddler in Detective Comics #140. Or maybe it’s the first issue of a series you are really into like The Walking Dead or perhaps Sandman. Interior art from a pioneer like Jack Kirby, who basically helped make Marvel what it is today, could be quite a catch (if you can afford it). Lastly it could be as simple as getting something like a Neal Adams Batman commission at a convention. Whatever it is, it will usually be different from person to person, but the key factor here is cost. These “holy grails” are spendy.

Some of us are fortunate enough, either by chance, or by sheer determination to actually acquire a few of these items. And currently, I have not been able to do so. Luckily the items on my list aren’t too “out there” by my estimation, so there might still be hope for me. So, now that you’ve made it this far, you’re in luck because I am going to tell you what a few of my “holy grails” are. Because honestly, with all the baiting up front, it’d be cruel if I didn’t! So, in no particular order, here they are:

A graded copy of Chew #1 Chew is the first “true” indie series that I began reading and remains one of my favorites to this day. I love the style of the art. I love the tone of the book. I love the characters and the zany world John Layman and Rob Guillory have created. I love everything about this book. I always look forward to reading it every month, and dread the day it is over. I owe a lot to this book because it allowed me to dip my toes into the proverbial indie waters, and since then I have not looked back. Granted, this book is a little “out there” conceptually but they hooked me from day one. Graded #1’s of Chew aren’t really that hard to find online; eBay seems to always have a few in rotation. Costs vary, and depending on how much I care about the “grade” and the “print run” I’m looking at anywhere from $50 for a 9.8 fourth printing to $500 for a 9.8 first printing. So, in the end, this grail is actually pretty attainable. The next one, however, is a little more of a stretch.

A graded Chew #1 off of eBay.

A graded Chew #1 off of eBay.

Original Tim Sale art (preferably from either Batman: The Long Halloween or Batman: Dark Victory) – Tim Sale is my favorite artist. Period. There’s something about the way he draws his figures. Brooding, yet sleek. Dark yet, full of light. And his ink washes, and colors are just breathtaking. Long Halloween and Dark Victory (IMO) are the epitome of Batman storytelling. These two books are among the few that started my graphic novel collection nearly ten years ago as well as really cemented my love for the character. And a lot of that is owed to Sale. His other work on Daredevil: Yellow, Spider-Man: Blue, Hulk: Gray, Batman: Haunted Knight and Catwoman: When in Rome are equally spectacular. But, for some reason, it just seems like he took it to a new level on Long Halloween and Dark Victory. Maybe it can be attributed to him breaking into the Big Two and really trying to prove himself. Or maybe it was at that time he really found his style. I don’t know. But, what I do know is that one day I would LOVE to own a piece of original Tim Sale art. Anyone out there want to make that happen for me? Tim Sale pages can range anywhere from the high hundreds, to thousands of dollars. And, since he is most known for his Batman work, these are the pieces that go for top dollar. So…this may be a pipe dream, but you never know. Dreams can come true!

Original Tim Sale art.

Original Tim Sale art.

Like I said neither of these items are extraordinarily expensive (in the grand scheme of things), but are still just out of reach at this moment in time. And the prices vary, depending on where you look, and the quantity on the market on any specific day. So, before signing off you’re probably wondering what you should take from all this. And, here it is. We all have “holy grails,” and we should. It fuels the fire in our bellies. If you are lucky enough to knock one off your list someday, consider it an achievement. Because it truly is. Feel free to let me know what some of your “holy grails” are in the comments below or on twitter. Until next week!

Happy reading.

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  • I think you’re nuts to go after a coffin edition of CHEW. But I don’t get the appeal of them, at all, so…

    • Yea, I am not a big fan of graded comics in general, but for CHEW I would make an exception because I love that book to death.