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A different (more difficult?) take on collecting foreign editions.

Posted on May 13, 2014 at 11:00 AM

Part 1:   A short introduction
    Up until now the majority of the discussions here at FCC have been about collecting “sets” of foreign books but now it’s time to take a look at another aspect.  Building runs.  In many ways this is more in line with the traditional mindset of collecting comic books but it has a downside.  When putting together sets you pick a book, research which countries it was printed in and begin the search for copies from each country.  Pretty straight forward stuff for the most part.  As you may recall, in issue #1 of FCC, I mentioned that the main focus of my foreign collection is comprised of books with covers by Neal Adams and Bernie Wrightson.  Because of this I’ve found that rather than collecting sets of individual books from many countries most of my time has been spent building runs of the titles they worked on.
    In theory, it seems simple enough to accomplish this.  In reality it’s pretty much a nightmare.  For nearly four years I’ve been working on twelve runs of Mexican comic books published by Editorial Novaro.  I’ve thus far only managed to complete five of them:

Batman & Detective Comics the original Ra’s Al Ghul storyline (completed)
Green Lantern (completed)
Strange Adventures/Deadman (completed)
House of Mystery (need 2 books)
House of Secrets (completed)
Phantom Stranger (need 1 book)
Spectre (completed)
Swamp Thing (need 1 book)
Unexpected (completed)
Witching Hour (need 3 books)
Bat Lash (need 3 books)
Tomahawk (need 2 books)

    These comprise the bulk of my collection which presently consists of 1077 foreign books.  The most difficult part of completing a run of foreign books is finding a reliable contact who’s willing to work with you affordably and to take the time to seek out the specific books you’re looking to obtain.  I can tell you from experience that a project like this is not something to be taken lightly, it requires determination, vigilance, a touch of insanity and an unbelievable amount of patience.  There are two things that make this such a challenge. 

1)  Being able to find the title and issue numbers of the particular books you’re looking for.  In most cases, books would be printed under different titles than they were in the US and the numbering never even comes close to being the same.

2)  Finding a copy that’s for sale.  It takes time, a lot of it and sometimes sellers aren’t willing to ship internationally.

    As an example, take a look at the Phantom Stranger and Swamp Thing runs.  I’ve been looking high and low for a copy, ANY copy, of the books I need to complete those runs and have, so far, not been able to find them.  You would think that scouring three auction sites (ebay, todocoleccion and Mercado Libre), at least twice daily, as well as inquiring with sellers in Mexico and South America that at least a ragged, beat down, ugly copy of one of them would come out of hiding.  Unfortunately… so far that is not the case.

Part 2:  The showcase

    Here’s a link to pictures of the six runs I’ve completed so far -

Batman & Detective Comics (Ra’s Al Ghul storyline)
The best the Dark Knight has ever been in my opinion.  This classic story by Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams has always stood out among the many adventures of the Caped Crusader.

Strange Adventures (Deadman)
A very tough run to put together.  I’ve been told by more than one collector from Mexico that you just don’t see these books very often, let alone all twelve.

House of Secrets (Neal Adams & Bernie Wrightson covers)
All 16 Adams and Wrightson covers from issue #81 through #107 with the exception of #93 which for some reason Editorial Novaro didn’t print.  There were a couple more Wrightson covers later on in the US run but Novaro stopped publishing this series before they reached those issues.

Unexpected (Neal Adams covers)
All nine covers that Adams did for this often forgotten DC horror anthology title.

Spectre (Neal Adams covers)
Again with these, they’re not seen very often and although it’s only four books this is an incredibly hard run to complete.

Green Lantern (Adams & O’Neil)
One of the most groundbreaking runs of the Bronze Age.  When Editorial Novaro published it for the Spanish speaking market they skipped issues #85 & #86 which contain Green Arrow’s sidekick Speedy as a Heroin user.  It’s odd how these issues were able to pass the Comic Code Authority’s standards of the day yet a foreign publisher who wasn’t limited by the same standards and practices opted to avoid them entirely.

Part 3:  How/why did I do it?

    FCC Editor, Define999 (Matt) will be the first to tell you... when it comes to tracking down hard to find foreign books I’m about the luckiest s.o.b. around.  I’ve managed to assemble my collection which consists of some incredibly tough books with, in all honesty, nowhere near the effort it should have taken.  Luck, knock on wood, seems to be on my side when it comes to these foreign gems.
    When I initially started collecting foreign books I didn’t have much of a focus.  I was buying books from all across the spectrum of foreign Silver and Bronze Age books.  It didn’t take long before I came to the realization that I needed to have a designated focus to keep my buying from getting completely out of control.  That’s when I decided to zero in on the Adams and Wrightson books of which I’ve always been a fan.
    Roughly a year into my endeavor an ebay seller out of Mexico City started listing books from a collection he had picked up.  It was full of a considerable number of the books I was looking for in grades you just don’t see, it very well may be the Mexican equivalent of the Edgar Church collection (not an exaggeration).  It ranged from super-heroes to romance and everything in between.  In many cases these books have incredibly bright cover inks and supple off-white to white pages.  They’re just stunning, particularly if you’re familiar with the average condition of books that you see from Mexico and South America.
    And so the bidding began.  At the time the awareness of foreign books was considerably lower than it is now which allowed me to acquire a great number of the books in the $20 range.  Another factor that worked in my favor was that for the first couple of months that he was listing them there didn’t seem to be any collectors from Mexico or South America that were aware he was listing them for sale on ebay (US).  That changed after a while though and eventually I started seeing competing bids on some books.  This didn’t deter me though, when it came to the focus books being listed I didn’t back down.  Some of the prices I paid increased to the $30+ range and a few exceptions topping out over $100 but considering the scarcity of these books in these grades, it’s been well worth it.  At least to me.

Tim Bildhauser
FCC Associate Editor

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