HOLY BOOKS, BATMAN!
IT'S A COMICS
IT'S A COMIC
THE SEATTLE TIMES-April 13, 1992
Author: JOE HABERSTROH
In brightest day
In blackest night
No evil shall escape my sight!
Let those who worship evil's might
Beware my power -
Green Lantern's Light!!
- The Green
Gather round, you faithful fans of Batman, of Spider-Man, of
the Silver Surfer, and, yes, even of the Punisher, and breathe in
the musty aroma of genuine comic-book lore.
The year is 1940. A wiry young Martin Nodel, fledgling
comic-book artist in New York City, waits on a dusky subway
platform. He is deep in thought. His superiors have asked him to
come up with another "title" - another hero to add to their gaudy
All Star Comics line-up. Then he sees the
subway worker down on the tracks with his lantern. The worker
would wave a red lantern to an approaching train if there was a
problem, and if everything was OK, he would wave . . .
a green lantern.
Nodel, now 76 years old, held court yesterday at Center Con
23, where more than 80 exhibitors offered comic books, fantasy
trading cards, T-shirts and Star Trek trinkets. Nodel's
Green Lantern - wielding his all-purpose Power Ring - debuted in
All American Comics No. 16 in 1940 and quickly became the leading
All-American character. A No. 16 in good condition recently
brought $22,000 at a London show. Nodel
answered many of the reverent who approached him with a similar
refrain: "Thank you very much, but tell DC, will ya?" That
reference to the giant comic-book company was his way of saying
he'd like to return to the business sometime.
And this is a business, as became clear at the convention
yesterday. More than 1,200 people paid $3 to attend what's known
as Center Con 23, said organizers Carl Waluconis, who teaches
English literature at Seattle Central Community
College, and Bill Wormstedt, a computer programmer.
Once inside, those in attendance could pay hundreds of dollars
for books from the so-called Golden Age of comics, issued usually
before World War II. A restored Superman No. 1 title had a price
tag of $15,000.
Most people walking among the aisles were there not to plunk
down the price of a new automobile but to fill out their
collections of particular comic series. Tim
Raynor, local car salesman and father of two, seemed a perfectly
honorable citizen, even if he has spent much of the past 3 1/2
years hunting for title Nos. 6 and 9 of the Hellblazer. He didn't
find them at Center Con. Raynor wore a
sinister-looking Sandman T-shirt and a watch whose face featured
the image of Sandman's little sister, Death. He has collected all
issues of the Sandman, described as "the Lord of the Realm of
Sleep - he controls people's sleeps and dreams." Raynor
wandered the Con with his wife, Lynn, and their two children,
Layla, 6, and Dylan, 3. "I never considered myself a comic-book
person, but it seems they appeal to a much more mature audience
now," Raynor said.
Perhaps more mature, but certainly also darker, more
bloodthirsty, less innocent. The Legend of the the Arachknight
(that's Spider-Man for the uninitiated) has now been joined by
comparatively vicious "heroes" such as the Punisher.
"It's pandering to the tastes of the audience of the 1990s,
which is white male, aged 12 to 24," said Holly Forbis, a dealer
at the Con who also operates the Games Plus store in Woodinville.
"The characters are much meaner. It's a '90s street attitude."
And as if you needed more evidence that America was in
decline, Marvel even published a "swimsuit edition."
In thongs and bikinis were featured the comelier members of
Marvel's stable of crime-fighters, including Storm, Rogue,
She-Hulk and Kitty Pride.