Illustration by Simon Kirby
This article orginally appeared in the August 6, 1974 issue of the Boston Phoenix
Compared to last year's Con, this year's New York Comic Art Convention went down as smooth as the Ooze That Walked Like a Man. Last year's convention was thick with the angst of dozens of young fans who had scripts and art to show the editors in so-called "hospitality rooms" set up by the large publishers. But the rooms were hard to find, seldom open, and otherwise inhospitable. In the dealers' room, entrepreneurs were selling old Uncle Scrooge at a 49,900% profit over the dime cover price. (Scrooge would have liked that.) Both the teeth-gnashing fans looking for a kind word and the heavy mercantile aroma hanging over the whole shebang characterized the internal struggle of an industry that just wants to make money - despite the pressure of writers, artists, and fans who insist that comic books are as important as the movies. Or books even.
This year the publishers took no chances, however. They had no hospitality rooms open to the young hopefuls. The Comic Convention was smooth and soulful - a pleasant, quiet event in a very quiet New York. Whenever the local media became desperate, they staggered into the dusty comfort of the Commodore Hotel and photographed the inevitable early copy of Action, featuring Superman's first appearance, which sold for $2500, just like a stamp whose time had come. The purpose of these news spots was to elicit a reaction something like, "Hey Marge! You won't believe this - some crackpot just spent $2500 on a comic! Christ, I had that comic when I was a kid!" The media have to focus on the stamp-collecting aspect of comics; the notion of old comics' selling for fantastic prices is just so outlandish. People understand that sort of thing. Comics have become like good china or silver, one of those precious manufactured commodities that can only increase in value, now that high inflation has become a part of life and an insatiable desire to preserve our past artifacts, from stamps to plots of land, drives up the price of anything not likely to be repeated.
For nostalgia buffs on a budget, there were a number of new offerings at the Con, such as the East Coast Comics reprints of the old Educational Comics group, which make available the art of the past at today's modern prices. And on new paper.
The collecting business is the only side of the art that the Convention turns towards the outside world. The enthusiasts take the thing a bit more seriously, pretending that comics already have something to say. True, the medium has great potential, but the state of the art still sits on a spider's web stretched between Dracula's fangs and Iron Man's rechargeable energy pods.
A number of events intended, with varying success, to discuss and determine the state of the art. Typical of these was the Marvel panel that attempted to elucidate the more important questions facing comic creators. The questions included, "When's the Silver Surfer gonna return?" and "How many of you want to see Thunda become a permanent member of the Fantastic Four?" (This to boos and hisses.)