For every collector there is that “Holy Grail” item that a collection could not be complete without. If you’re a philatelist (stamp collector) it may be the British Guiana One-Cent Black on Magenta stamp, or if you prefer coins you might be in the hunt for an 1849 Double Eagle (Google these to see how much they've sold for). If, however, you happen to be a comic fan there’s usually two different comics at the top of your list. One of them is either going to be Action Comics #1 or Detective Comics #27, the first appearances of Superman and Batman respectively, for obvious reasons. Unfortunately, this is usually a pipedream never to be realized.
The second must have item is usually of a more personal note, and typically something actually attainable. If for instance you’re an old school X-Men fan, you may be in the hunt for Uncanny X-Men #1 from 1963. Alternatively, if you happen to be an X-fan from the 90’s boom you may be searching for Giant Size X-Men #1 which contains the first appearances of several characters who came into prominence during the 90’s.
But what happens once you get that missing item? It’s not like comic fans are the type to stop collecting just because they’ve found that long sought issue. That is a bridge I recently had to cross. If you’ve read my previous article, or talked to me, or seen me naked (don’t ask just accept it) you know I’m an Iron Man fan (Iron Fan? Nah sounds like an industrial cooling machine), and as such I’ve been on the hunt for a copy of Tales of Suspense #39, the first appearance of Shell Head. To much joy, fanfare, and money from my wallet, I was able to happily add this issue to my collection several years ago. For a few years I was able to rest happily, content with my acquisition. Unfortunately, the itch came back like a meth head watching Breaking Bad, and I just had to start a new mission. While I’m still searching for the ~20 or so issues of Tales of Suspense that my collection is missing, those don’t feel like a ‘hunt’.
Cue December 28th, to most just a halfway point between Christmas and New Year’s, but to the comic geek it’s also Stan “The Man” Lee’s birthday. This had prompted a few discussions I had discussing the legendary creator’s age, and how, unfortunately, he isn’t immortal. That rather unstartling realization led to conversations about the price boost anything he worked on will receive, not to mention anything signed by him…. And a mission was borne.
My collection had a massive hole that I was blind to, I needed, and I mean NEEDED, a comic signed by Stan Lee. A cursory search of websites I’ve purchased comics from in the past left me unimpressed with my options. I had found Lee signed copies of Batman, Spawn, and even Archie. These are issues he had absolutely nothing to do with, and I can only imagine someone seeing Stan Lee walking down a sidewalk and grabbing whatever issue they had in hand for a signature. Now I freely admit if I were to randomly happen upon The Man, I’d have him sign my recent copy of Chew if it’s all I have with me, however a signature like this isn’t the solution to the fix I’m fiending for.
At this point in my hunt, I’ve given myself two options: either 1) find Stan Lee at a convention and pay $100 dollars to stand in line and hopefully have him sign something (perhaps Tales of Suspense #39) or purchase a certified signed copy of a book he either worked on or is of a character he created. It’s a modest goal, certainly achievable, and will temporarily soothe the beast within until I need another hit.
Editor's note: While I haven't seen him naked, I can attest to his fandom. Here's hoping he gets his Stan Lee signature before too long, and it comes complete with a good story to tell us all.
For more from Alex Azar, check out azarrising.com