Comic Books Posts

Introducing Devil’s Due Comics: The FIRST Comic Publisher to Join the hobbyDB Archives

Devil's Due comics coversWe’re super excited to announce that Devil’s Due Comics is the FIRST Comic Book publisher to bring their massive creativity and pioneering outlook to the hobbyDB Database.

Devil’s Due is a North American based comic book publisher and pop culture content creator. With hundreds of comic books carrying the Devil’s Due brand name since its initial creation by Josh Blaylock in 2000, a quick look through their various creators’ profiles shows a lot more diversity than one might expect in the world of comics. “We have always prided ourselves in a very wide range of diversity. Of stories, genres, and creators,” says Blaylock. “I’m excited to use the power of Hobby DB’s platform to nicely catalog and present our entire library of the past almost-twenty years.”

Devil's Due art

Panels from “PLUME” Written & Drawn by K Lynn Smith

Part of the heart and soul of the comics industry are the independent publishers. These companies often take risks on risky topics and undiscovered creators, which really boosts the future of the comics world.

While having produced several best-selling titles, companies like Devil’s Due are also willing to take on a title that might sell in the thousands rather than hundreds of thousands of copies. Another advantage of independent publishers is the willingness to allow artists with unique styles to present their work without having to fit into house styles and storylines. Devil’s Due covers genres such as Supernatural Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Historical, Western and even some political offerings.

Blaylock even co-wrote a book on self-publishing comics, a topic he should know a thing or two about. “Devil’s Due is a brand that embraces new, even risky concepts, even if pioneering means we risk getting hit with a few more arrows than those who’ll follow,” said Blaylock.

One of those ideas is embracing different means of distribution. “We interweave our experience with traditional distribution models with this newer industry – be it through digital exclusives, crowdsourcing, direct-to-retailer editions, or free content backed by corporate sponsors, what matters is developing characters and stories that entertain the Hell out of people.”

Devil's Due creators

Devil’s Due has a very diverse stable of comics creators.

 

Ultimately, via the hobbyDB search engine, collectors are bound to discover titles from Devil’s Due that they might not have been familiar with before. And in addition to the hobbyDB database, some special comics old and new will be available for collectors to buy in the hobbyDB marketplace!

Tips and Tricks to Grade and Value Your Collection

Most collectors, no matter what their interest, generally like to have a bit of an idea of what their collection might be worth. Even if you never intend to sell it, knowing the value of your collection is always worthwhile. Knowing how to grade and value your collection is, well, valuab.e

The Grading System

While we all collect very different items, there are some general rules of thumb that you need to be aware of when trying to grade and then value a collection. The easiest way to start is to gain a basic understanding of what each grade is and what they mean. For most collectibles (action figures, comic books, trading cards), grades can be broken down as follows:

Mint/ Near Mint

Absolutely perfect. There is no damage whatsoever to the item or its packaging (if it comes in any). It looks like it just left the factory. Note that shrinkwrap does not need to be intact to achieve a Mint grade. If you have an item with the shrinkwrap intact, it’s an added bonus and often known as “factory sealed.” Sometimes these items can fetch a higher price than a Mint-graded item without shrinkwrap. Near Mint is an almost perfect item. There may be the smallest of blemishes; a small page crease or a very slight chip or dent but unless you were specifically looking for defects you’d not notice them. Usually, these objects are considered to look as they would on the store shelf.

star wars comics

Very Fine/ Fine

This is where most people’s collectibles are probably at. At the Very Fine grade blemishes can be more noticeable, but still hardly impact the overall quality of the item. Small corner creases in books or comics are acceptable, as are small patches of chipped paint on diecast cars. The item has obviously been handled, albeit very carefully. Slipping to the Fine grade, cover wear on books and comics is apparent but has not taken the luster from the colors, and small stress along the spine can be seen. Items such as toys and figures may have a little discoloration, and production errors such as color misalignment or slight defacements are allowed. These errors don’t jump out at you but are visible on inspection.

Very Good/ Good

Items in the Very Good/ Good grades have obviously been loved. Comics and books have been read, possibly multiple times, and toys have been played with. Books and comics have visible cover wear and the colors may have diminished somewhat, and may only have the smallest of chips. The same holds true for toys and cars; they have obviously been played with, and there may be some color chips, dents, and discoloration. Moving down to a Good grade, a book or comic cover may have medium corner tears, and the cover may have come partially detached from the whole (only one staple holding it on, for example). Toys will have a noticeable amount of color missing, but still not detract from the whole. Toys should still have all accessories with them, however.

fair to poor comicsFair/ Poor

Items that fall into the Fair and Poor grades are significantly defaced. Books and comics are dog-eared, their covers are mostly detached (or fully detached but still present for Poor), and there are several chips and/or tears in the cover and interior pages. Toys have been well played with, showing dents, paint chips, discoloration, and, in the case of a Poor grade, missing some accessories. Basically, there are unsellable/ valuable items.

A Note On Age

When it comes to grading your items the only thing that matters is the items’ condition. Age of the item does not come into the equation except in some particular cases. So the argument of “it’s in Near Mint condition for its age,” does not hold water. A comic book from 1964 graded as Near Mint should be in the exact same condition as a Near Mint graded comic from 2019.

There are also more specific criteria for certain collectibles, such as diecast vehicles.

Finding the Value

Once you’ve determined the grade of your items, you can start researching what their value might be. There are many ways to find this information yourself, some of which are completely free. There are books such as Overstreet’s Comic Book Price Guide that provide extensive–if not complete – values of items, or monthly publications such as the UK’s Collectors Gazette which provides sale values of recently sold and auctioned items. There are also many websites which offer similar information, some of which are paid and some of which are free.

power rangers figuresOne of the best tools to use, especially if you’re after the value of only a few specific items, is eBay. By using the site’s “sold items” search option and then sorting the results by highest price + shipping you can get a reasonable idea of what your item is currently valued at. It’s a good idea to average out the sold price of the top three to five listings to get the closest possible actual value as sometimes items can sell for a lot more – or a lot less – than they are actually worth.

If using eBay to find values be aware that it’s a good idea to try and find listings that match the grade of your own item. Also, if you’re selling something that comes in a box or with accessories, see if you can find listings that include those things. While it isn’t necessary it just gives you a better idea of your item’s value. If you can’t find a listing that matches perfectly with your items, a little bit of educated guesswork may be in order.

And of course, hobbyDB has an ever-expanding system of keeping up with current values for all kinds of collectibles.

Also, for certain collectibles such as action figures or diecast, the packaging itself can be an important part of the grade.

professional comics gradesProfessional Grading

professional action figure gradeWhile you can determine the grade and value of your items yourself by using the above information, there are professional grading services that can do it all for you. While these services do of course cost money, they offer the most accurate and reliable grade/ value information for your collectibles.

Certified Guaranty Company, or CGC, is best known for their grading of comic books but also work with magazines, trading cards, and posters. Internationally regarded as a leader in the field, CGC will go over your items with a fine-tooth comb to give you the most accurate grading possible. Once graded, CGC will place your comic, magazine, or poster inside a special airtight casing to ensure that the grade does not diminish over time. Known as “slabbing,” this means you’ll not be able to read your comic or magazine again, however, if you are planning on having your item professionally graded chances are you’ll have another “reader” copy in your collection.

A similar method of professional grading can also be found for toys and figures. Businesses such as the Toy Graders Association will take your toys, be they boxed or no, and examine them to within an inch of their lives. As with CGC, this will guarantee you the most accurate grade possible. Toys can also be slabbed (although a better term would be “boxed,”) which means they won’t be able to be played with. But then, I’m sure that most people reading this don’t actually play with their toys.

Once graded and slabbed, your items are given a grading score. If you ever want to sell your items or are just curious as to their value, you can look up this score to find the corresponding price. Many price guides will list the slabbed value as well as the regular value, too.

A Final Word

Grading and finding the value of your collectibles can be a rather deep rabbit hole, but it’s a fascinating one nonetheless. It should be mentioned that while grading systems are unlikely to change, values are always in a state of flux so what something may be worth today may not necessarily be true tomorrow. Even then, there is no guarantee that your items will sell for any given price as it depends on who is currently looking. It’s always a bit of a gamble.

From Marvel to Marbles to Mar-Vell to Ms.: The Crazy History of Captain Marvel

Captian Marvel

captain marvel

Ron Ruelle

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

The early audience reviews for the new Captain Marvel film were not very good. In fact, they pretty much trashed the movie. The problem was, those reviews came out before the film was even released. It was a case of trolling fueled by… who even knows anymore? Something to do with the character suddenly being a woman, right? We live in weird times.

Once the movie finally hit theaters, critics and fans agreed it actually was pretty darn good and lots of fun. The retro ‘90s theme was a hit with audiences (just wait til Wonder Woman’s 1984 era movie comes out!), and Brie Larson nails the performance. So in the end, she triumphed.

captain marvelBut, come to think of it, when did Captain Marvel become a woman? Wasn’t she a guy in a live action TV show back in the ‘70s? He drove around the country in a Winnebago with a kid and guy who looked like a cross between Pat Morita and Stan Lee, right? Turns out this superhero has a way more convoluted backstory than you may have remembered.

captain marvelOf course it makes sense that Captain Marvel would have been created in 1967 by Stan Lee of…. wait for it… MARVEL Comics. Except, the character was actually named “Captain Mar-Vell” because the “Captain Marvel” name was already taken by another comic book publisher. A publisher that had been defunct for a decade and a half. Oh, and Captain Marvel was a man back then, so your memory is correct. Partly anyway.

See, there was an earlier character named “Captain Marvel” who appeared in various titles from Fawcett Comics from 1940 to 1953. That early date puts him right on par with the first superheroes, such as Batman, Superman, and Captain America, who debuted in the late 1930s and early ’40s. And that was the start of his problems.

captain marvel

Nothing at all similar between these two comics, right?

Fawcett unfortunately went out of business in 1953 after a copyright infringement suit involving the character. Not from Marvel, but from National Comics. Apparently they felt this caped, flying strongman was a little too similar to their character Superman. Wait, what? Yep, DC Comics was actually known as National Comics back then and sued over a character named after another comic book company that actually had yet to be named similarly to that character, but who subsequently named their new character after themselves. Did I mention this stuff is convoluted?

captain marvel hoppyBefore the lawsuit was settled, Fawcett really hunkered down on the character, creating Captain Marvel Jr., Mary Marvel, Uncle Marvel, Grandpa Marvel, and Hoppy the Marvel Bunny. (One of those characters I just made up. If you guessed Grandpa Marvel, you are correct. Yep, Hoppy actually existed. And I thought we were living in weird times today…)

Meanwhile, in 1953, issue #4 of MAD ran the story of Superduperman, featuring a nod to his lawsuit against Captain Marbles. MAD would of course eventually become part of the DC empire. (I am not making any of this up so far, aside from Grandpa Marvel. Seriously.)

captain marvelSpeaking of DC, they eventually acquired the rights to Fawcett’s Captain Marvel character and decided he had a lot of potential to expand the brand. Of course, with that name, he would be likely expanding the brand of their biggest competitor, so they gave him a new backstory and a catchy new title (but not a new name). The first issue of Shazam! was released by DC in 1973, complete with the subtitle, “The Original Captain Marvel.” So, naturally, there was another lawsuit. The producers of Gomer Pyle USMC sued over the “Shazam” catchphrase (okay, I made that up too, but honestly, at this point, it sounded believable, right?). No, of course it was Marvel Comics who sued DC over the name and the character. So the tagline was changed to “The World’s Mightiest Mortal.” And by the time it hit TV, people just kind of assumed that “Shazam” was the character’s name.

Got all that? Okay, back to Captain Marvel. The one from Marvel. The one named “Mar-Vell.” The one from the new movie. Yeah, her. Him. Let’s go back in time a bit… Captain Mar-Vell, a flying alien superhero from another planet (man, that sounds familiar), took off on his own in the late ’60s. Turns out he shared molecules with a kid named Rick Jones, and only one could exist in the world at a time, so they flip-flopped between the two identities. If that sounds familiar (it probably doesn’t but…) that was almost word for word the origin story of the original Fawcett character.

captain marvel

Ironically, while DC’s Shazam! was becoming popular with comic fans and TV viewers, readers didn’t really dig Marvel’s Marvel, so the character was killed off in the 1970s. And then revived several times since, as various male and female characters, most with the last name “Vell.” At one point he was resurrected long enough to die again in an explosion where his DNA was mixed with his cohort, USAF Officer Carol Danvers. So Danvers acquired super powers and of course became… Ms. Marvel. And then she eventually just took on the Captain Marvel name. At various times over the last couple of decades Ms./Captain Marvel has starred in her own standalone comics, made guest appearances in other stories, and has been part of the Avengers. So if you’ve been paying attention and weren’t confused by everything that happened before, all of this should make sense.

captain marvel

So yeah, now there’s a Captain Marvel movie, and the character is female, and it’s a pretty dang good movie, and you should see it despite what the trolls tried to tell you. And you’re going to love her cat Goose.

captain marvel

By the way, DC is releasing a Shazam! movie later this summer. It looks like a fun, goofy, good time at the cinema. No word on whether he’s called “Captain Marvel” anytime in the flick. Let’s hope not. That could get confusing.

Hey, That’s Not Santa! Collectibles in Claus Costumes

santa claus lead

Ron Ruelle

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

One of the greatest, most mysterious super-spies in history is hitting his busy season. He’s been surveying you and everyone in the world ’round the clock, ’round the calendar. He’s been compiling notes on everyone’s behavior in order to exact his own special brand of justice. But on Christmas Eve, Santa Claus rolls up his sleeves and really gets down to business.

As Christmas approaches, he has a network of “helpers,” doppelgangers who pop up at malls and shopping centers and street corners all over the world in December to give the illusion that he’s close by. Of course, some of those Alt-Santas have other motives, many of them quite naughty indeed. Here at hobbyDB, we decided to compile a list of Santa’s subterfugers (is that a word?) from the benign to the sinister to the positively evil. And of course, we have our own intel on each one.

yoda darth vader santaHarmless Imitators

There is a long history of fictional characters donning the red suit mostly for good natured hijinks, or simply to sit in the chair at the mall. Generally affable characters such as Yoda, Mickey Mouse, and Freddy Funko have all gone red for non-canonical merchandising reasons. Which really fits the spirit of Christmas if you think about it. Heck, even Darth Vader can be found in Santa garb, but since it’s not in any of the movies, we have to assume he was just goofing around, right?

gizmo gremlinCuddly But Creepy

Anyone who doesn’t think of “Gremlins” as a Christmas movie really needs to have their spirit checked. The Gremlins start out cuddly, but (Spoiler alert for a 35 year old movie) if they get wet, or are fed after midnight, they turn into horrifying little monsters. So it’s tough to say which side of the fence Gizmo, seen here, falls on. Also, is he really impersonating Santa, or just wearing a hat to be festive? Intentions and consequences unclear.

jakc skellington droppoGood Intentions, Bad Ideas

Jack Skellington has to go here, right? Sure, he plotted to take over Christmas, and sure, he usurped the good name and costume of St. Nick, and sure, he actually hijacked the sled (Spoiler Alert for a 25 year old cartoon) and attempted to deliver the goods on his own… but he swears it was all in good fun. Okay, and a bit of jealousy. However you want to judge his intentions, he probably could have done some jail time for his malfeasance if he ever went to court.

funko psycho santaAlso in this category, we have Droppo, the lovable goofball from Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, possibly one of the worst holiday movies ever. In any event, Droppo dons the suit to cover for Santa while he… look, I don’t want to spoil this one for you. You really should watch the Mystery Science Theater 3000 version of it, though.

“Looks Kind of Scary, but Who Knows?

Psycho Santa’s main motive is… well, that’s hard to say. He’s a crazy goblin-looking creature, with wily eyes, a mischievous grin, and a creepy tongue dangling out of his gap toothed mouth. The Psycho Goblin character is an original Funko creation, so he’s still building his back story.

santa grinch

Your heart’s an empty hole, Your brain is full of spiders, You’ve got garlic in your soul

And of course, Santa’s most sinister imposter has to be the Grinch, right? His elaborate scheme to steal the spirit of Christmas by stealing the materialism of the holiday was diabolical. He didn’t just wear the suit, he mimicked the sled, the reindeer, the mannerisms. And of course, (Spoiler alert for a 50-year old cartoon) his diabolical plot could only be derailed by… his own heart. Now for a real mystery… in Who-ville, does the real Santa look human, or Who-man?

robot santaWhat if Santa is some kind of Robot?

Oh, wait, you thought the Grinch was the best of the worst? In the year 3000, Santa’s duties are relegated to a harmless four-ton robot from Neptune. Well, Futurama’s Robot Santa Claus would be harmless, except he was erroneously programmed to judge the naughty from the nice with extreme prejudice. (Spoiler Alert for a 20 year old cartoon) He deems just about everyone naughty and worthy of a death sentence. 

Speaking of robotic Santas, over the years, “Doctor Who” has ended many of their seasons with a Christmas special, some of them featuring Santa.  It makes sense: He doesn’t hop across dimensions, and he doesn’t travel in time, but Santa does manage to cover a heck of a lot of square miles in an absurdly short amount of time. So it figures he would know Doctor Who to some degree. But he’s the good guy. In most of those specials, anyway. One year did feature a super creepy Santa Robot, the kind who occupied the uncanny valley, so he was the stuff of nightmares.

eric cartman santa suitThe True Meaning of Christmas is Ham… no, Presents!

The very first five-minute South Park cartoon features Santa Claus battling Jesus to settle the true meaning of Christmas. As bad as that Santa might sound, (and in subsequent appearances he’s not the nicest guy) he’s not an imposter, so he doesn’t really count for this list. On the other hand, Eric Cartman has been spotted in a full Santa suit several times over the years. Whatever his specific motive might be at any time, we can assume that Cartman Claus must be the most truly evil imposter of all.

Regardless of intent, it’s clear that the spirit of Christmas lives inside all of us. So merry Christmas to all and to all… make sure you look closely at who actually slides down your chimney this year.

Do you have a favorite undercover Santa Costumed character? Let us know in the comments below!

Cartoonist, Writer, Collaborator: What I Learned From Stan Lee

Ron Ruelle

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

The world of comics and pop culture in general lost a titan this week when Stan Lee, the biggest driving force behind Marvel Comics, died at the age of 95. His impact on comic book fans can’t be measured. Neither can his impact on comics creators.

Lee started with a company called Timely Comics in 1939, working mostly with largely forgotten kids fare. The publisher struck gold with their Captain America stories but didn’t do much to expand the concept. By the early 1960s, however, Timely rebranded as Marvel Comics and Lee was tapped to begin crafting a new world of allies for Cap, as well as competitors for DC’s superheroes who had been off and running (and flying and teleporting) for a couple of decades.

stan lee spideyHis first creation was The Fantastic Four, which was an immediate hit with readers. Within a few years, Hulk, Iron Man, and of course, his biggest success, Spider-Man were spinning tales of adventure of their own.

As a cartoonist myself, (insert shameless plug here), Stan Lee surprisingly wasn’t an early influence on me. See, my Grandmother worked for Western Publishing, whose Gold Key comic books included titles from Disney, Looney Tunes, DePatie-Freleng, and Walter Lantz. So that’s what I grew up on. They weren’t Marvel or DC comics, and aside from Super Goof, they didn’t include any superheroes. So I started drawing in the vein of those Gold Key titles. All by myself.

And there was Charles Schulz, whose “Peanuts” comic strip was in its creative heyday. Schulz famously said “If I were a better artist, I’d be a painter, and if I were a better writer, I’d write books — but I’m not, so I draw cartoons!” Made total sense to me. If I were ever going to make it in this business, I would probably have to go it alone. I gravitated towards becoming a newspaper comic strip artist, writing and drawing short, snappy jokes, often in the framework of a longer tale. But still a solo venture.

As I got a bit older and MAD magazine seemed less inappropriate (is MAD ever really appropriate at any age?), the idea of separate writers and artists began to appeal to me. But could someone really be a “cartoonist” if they only did one part of that equation? Did it matter if the end result was enjoyable to the reader?

stan lee marvel coversSo in a similar vein, I finally started to appreciate Stan Lee a bit later, in college, as I began collaborating with other creative types on class projects. Lee was primarily the writer of the ideas but was still considered still a “cartoonist” in the fullest sense. Would Jack Kirby or Steve Ditko have ever drawn those dynamic action panels of The Thing if Lee didn’t feed them the idea, the character, the inspiration? Would those ideas sear such vivid memories without their action-packed art?

stan lee hulk thingSuddenly, for me, the Charles Schulz approach had some competition as a way to do comics. If a solo cartoonist could crank out 7 pages a week, a writer and artist could crank out 14 together. Same amount of work for each, just divvied up differently. And a lot less lonely.

Stan Lee was supposed to be the keynote guest at the 2013 Denver Comic-Con but had to withdraw at the last minute. Fans were disappointed, and for many, this felt kind of urgent. It seemed like he was getting up there in years and might not be able to make it to a future Con, due to the inevitability of declining health or worse. We all wondered if we would ever get the chance to meet him.

But he came to Denver in 2016, and all was right with the world of superhero fandom.

I was at that Con, but didn’t get to meet him. As a cartoonist with a table full of books to sell, I couldn’t afford to step away for a few hours to stand in line for a photo, an autograph, and a brief word. As a cartoonist who was inspired by Lee, I regret missing the opportunity.

stan lee dccThese days, it almost feels like actual comic books are a by-product of the Marvel Entertainment machine. And yet comic book stores are full of fans and readers hotly debating the latest developments in new artists or writers being assigned to a particular title and whether a certain pairing worked well. Stan Lee probably would enjoy being there, watching comics being discussed as such important fare.