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Signing away your comics

August 16, 2011

So, the latest Fan Expo is only a few weeks away. Fan Expo is starting to get the reputation for being “San Diego North”, and with it’s explosive growth in popularity over the last 5 years, it’s hard to debate that.

At it’s heart, Fan Expo is still a comics convention, though it’s now a comics convention on steroids, bringing dozens of movie actors, video game designers, and anime voice actors into the mix.

Fan Expo has received a lot of bad press lately, particularly last year, when over-capacity forced the doors closed during Saturday afternoon, it’s busiest time. You can search blogs to find what’s being said by both defenders and detractors. I was not happy last year. But it’s hard to not get excited by Fan Expo.

For some, it’s nerdvana. As I age, it’s becoming a 4-day marathon of fatigue and senses overload. I will, eventually, need to give it up, or limit my exposure to it. Waiting in line for hours is for the young.

Aside from the monumental amount of money you can spend on back issues, prints, DVD’s, toys, and anything else connected to sci-fi / fantasy / horror / anime / gaming, the one thing that’s on sale the most at this type of convention is signatures. Whether it’s an actor or a comic book creator, signatures are what the nerds line up for.

It’s what I line up for.

Over the last 20 years of collecting, I’ve amassed roughly around 1300 signatures on my comics. As I gear up for the war that Fan Expo can be, I’m looking back at some of the cooler signatures I’ve managed to get.

A few notes about signatures

Before you think, “Hey, sounds like a great way to make money!” there are a few things you should know about signatures.

Getting complete runs can be hard. Some creators work on a book for years, the most legendary run being Dave Sim’s epic 25-year run on Cerebus. Nobody’s matched him yet (though Stan Sakai is only a few years away), but 25, 50, even 100-issue runs by a stable creative team are not uncommon. Because many creators will cap the amount of signatures you can get at once, it can be really challenging to get a full series ‘inked’.

It’s rare for creative teams to show up at the same con. When creators are just starting out in their careers, they do ‘team up’ to hawk their books. But, as they move to other projects, the likelihood they’ll all show up at once becomes rarer.

Creators don’t always sign with archival pens. This makes getting a signature a bit of a deathtrap for collectors. Creators make no bones about this (they sign a few hundred books an hour, so speed is often more important), and if you’re really concerned about keeping the books for a long time, you can bring archival quality markers with you.

You don’t always get a choice of where the book gets signed. Some sign on the cover, some sign only the part they worked on. They won’t necessarily ask if you have a preference, and you may get shunned if you make a big deal out of it.

Lastly, it hurts the value of your books. Or, it makes them more valuable. Or…well, it depends on who you try to sell to. Because there are so many counterfeiters, a lot of dealers won’t touch signed books with a ten-foot pole. Also, the books can potentially be damaged if they were signed in non-archival ink. Even if you can establish providence, by getting the book signed you’ve cut off a lot of options. Some collectors just consider a signature ‘damage’, period.

Some will only sign it to you, as in “To Jeff, from Creator X”. This is done for simple economic reasons: there are a lot of speculators that get things signed only to flip them on eBay the next day. One creator related a story where he spent an hour creating a beautiful sketch for a patron, gratis, only to have that patron turn around, lift it up to the crowd, and shout “Fifty bucks!”

Remember that these folk are at cons not just to generate buzz, but also to connect with fans. Be respectful, and you’ll get it returned.

As much as I’d like to dump my 180 issues of The Uncanny X-Men in front of Chris Claremont and have them all signed, it’s just not cool. In fact, I’ve been to a con where a patron tried to do just that…Claremont refused to sign anything, and forced her out of the line.

My rules are fairly simple. When I have more than 10 books I’d like signed, I bring them all, but have the 10 I most want signed at the top, in order of preference. I ask what the cap is. If it’s less than 10, I get only those signed. If it’s more than 10, I get those signed. I never go past 20 books. It usually ends up somewhere in the middle, so everything works out.

Some cool authors

Below are some of the legendary ‘victories’ for me in getting books signed. They aren’t all valuable in money terms. But their value to me is in the great stories they contain, and getting to shake the hand of the person who made them.

Neal Adams

Anyone who can afford the original run of these books in mint is seriously rich. The hardcover brings it all together affordably, and it’s a great read.

  • The Green Lantern/Green Arrow Collection

Terry Austin and Chris Claremont

Austin was part of the legendary Byrne/Claremont Uncanny X-men run that cemented the series and their heroes in the popular imagination.

  • Marvel and DC Present The X-Men and Teen Titans
  • Phoenix the Untold Story

Timothy Bradstreet

You probably know Bradstreet more for his gritty commercial design work than for his comics. This was a great team-up with Timothy Truman about an truck driver running a shipment through an apocalyptic future America.

  • Dragon Chiang

Howard Chaykin

  • American Flagg #1-3

Becky Cloonan

  • Demo Volume 1, #1-12 (also signed by Brian Wood!)
  • Demo Volume 2, #1-6

Guy Davis

What if the Victorian era lasted till the 1980’s? What if Sherlock Holmes was the lesbian lead singer of a London punk band? What if Jack the Ripper was…but that would be spoiling it. Read this series. It’s awesome.

  • Baker Street #7-10
  • Baker Street: Honor Among Punks

Ben Dunn

NHS led the charge of North American made manga in the 80’s, and is still a comedy classic.

  • Ninja High School trade paperback

Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird

The originators of the black-and-white explosion. The creators of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Legendary airbrushers. Turtle Power.

Eastman and Laird

  • Donatello, Leonardo, Michaelangelo
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Volume 1, #1(4th), 2(3rd), 3(2nd), 4(2nd), 5-11, 14, 19-21

Laird only

  • Raphael, Fugitoid
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Volume 1, #12, 15

Warren Ellis

Ellis is his own industry, these days. A brief appearance a few years ago allowed me to get a few signatures on some of the most brilliant books I’ve read in a while. More Planetary!!

  • Come in Alone, Orbiter
  • Planetary #1-3, 6, 11, 12, 17, 20
  • Planetary/The Authority: Ruling the World (also signed by Phil Jimenez)
  • The Authority #1-4

Michael Golden

I loved the Micronauts as much as I love the X-men when I was a kid. Getting both a sketch and signatures from Golden was…well, Golden.

  • Micronauts Volume 1, #1-12

Mike Grell

  • Jon Sable Freelance Volume 1, #1-6, 11, 19, 25-27, 39

Larry Hama

Another series I loved in the 80’s. I was one of the first ones to show, and I did ask if he had a cap before getting these signed. Since the lineup was slow to form, he graciously allowed me as much as I wanted. Thank you, Larry, for so many great stories. Sidenote: he was in an episode of M.A.S.H.!

  • G.I. Joe Marvel Volume 1, #1-10, 19, 21, 22, 24, 26, 27, 40, 41, 43, 50, 53, 60, 85, 94, 95, 96, 144, 155

Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez

  • Love and Rockets Volume 1, #1 (2nd printing)

Dylan Horrocks

Hicksville has got to be one of my favorite books of all-time. He showed up in a panel discussion for the Toronto International Festival of Authors. I was glad he came. Love the book to death, Dylan.

  • Hicksville

Michael Kaluta

  • Starstruck (Epic) #1-6

David Lloyd

What’s strange about V is that it’s so well-known in comic circles, it’s strange to see the mask being used politically.

  • V for Vendetta #1-10

Jason Lutes

  • Berlin #1-9

David Mack

  • Kabuki Volume 1, #1-9, .5
  • Kabuki Agents: Scarab #1-8
  • Kabuki: Circle of Blood #1-6
  • Kabuki: Reflections #1-4
  • Kabuki: Skin Deep #1-3
  • Kabuki: Masks Of The Noh #1-4

Jim Mahfood

  • Clerks The Comic Book
  • Grrl Scouts #1-4
  • Grrl Scouts: Work Sucks #1-4

Linda Medley

You should stop reading this and go pick up Castle Waiting right now. Especially if you have kids. They’ll love it.

  • Castle Waiting Volume 1, #1-8
  • Castle Waiting Volume 2, #1-6, 14-16
  • Castle Waiting: The Curse of Brambly Hedge

Terry Moore

Got half of these in Chicago, and the rest in Toronto.

  • Strangers in Paradise Volume 2, #1-14
  • Strangers in Paradise Volume 3, #1-12, 26, 85-86, 93298

James O’Barr

  • The Crow Volume 1, #2-4
  • The Crow Volume 2, #1

Paul Pope

  • Escapo
  • Heavy Liquid #1-5
  • Sin Titulo
  • THB #1 (2nd printing), 6a, 6b, 6c, 6d
  • The Ballad of Doctor Richardson

Jim Rugg

  • Street Angel #1-5

Stan Sakai

  • Usagi Yojimbo Volume 1, #1, 17, 31, 32, 38
  • Usagi Yojimbo Volume 3, #75
  • Usagi Yojimbo Book One

Dave Sim and Gerhard

  • Cerebus (signed by Sim only): #6, 19, 27, 36, 48, 49, 50, 65, 66, 74, 75, 86, 100, 118, 137, 138, 147, 150, 160, 193,
  • Cerebus (signed by both): #65, 66, 74, 75, 86, 100, 118, 137, 138, 147, 150, 193

Jim Starlin

The complete core Warlock series! A lucky break.

  • Strange Tales: #178-181
  • Warlock: #9-15

R.G. Taylor

Wordsmith’s a much overlooked series by local Toronto creators about a pulp fiction writer of the 1930’s. Each story was split between the adventure he was writing and his everyday trials and tribulations. Hard to find, and I was lucky to get the signatures.

  • Comic Book Confidential
  • Heroes from Wordsmith
  • Wordsmith #1-12

Jill Thompson

Another great series for young kids.

  • Scary Godmother #1-6
  • Scary Godmother
  • Scary Godmother Activity Book
  • Scary Godmother Bloody Valentine Special
  • Scary Godmother: Revenge of Jimmy
  • Scary Godmother: The Boo Flu
  • Scary Godmother: The Mystery Date
  • Scary Godmother: Wild About Harry #1-3

Timothy Truman

Truman came to a con in Toronto that had to be at least 15 years ago, if not more. I was young, and I made him sign them all. This is one of the few times I’ve truly stepped out of bounds with a creator, and I thank him for allowing me a youthful indiscretion. It sounds a little hokey, but it’s really a respect issue. I apologize.

  • Scout #1-24
  • Scout Handbook
  • Scout War Shaman #1-16

Charles Vess

  • Stardust #1-4 (also signed by Neil Gaiman)
  • A Fall Of Stardust
  • Rose #1-3

Matt Wagner

  • Grendel Volume 2, #1
  • Mage The Hero Defined #1
  • Mage The Hero Discovered #1-15

Len Wein

  • Classic X-Men #1-2
  • The Incredible Hulk and Wolverine

Barry Windsor-Smith

Known for his Conan work, I have to admit this was a great series from the 80’s that I loved a lot. Getting this was really awesome.

  • Machine Man (limited series) #1-4

Brian Wood

  • Channel Zero #1-5
  • Channel Zero: Dupe
  • Public Domain: A Channel Zero Designbook
  • The Couriers
  • The Couriers: Dirtbike Manifesto
  • The Couriers: The Ballad of Johnny Funwrecker

The books with multiple signatures

Avengers Volume 1

  • Roy Thomas: #88, 101
  • George Pérez: #168, 195, 196, 198, 199
  • Jim Starlin: Annual #7

Cerebus Jam

This is a huge book for me, as it’s the only thing I own that’s signed by Will Eisner. Unfortunately, it was the only thing I owned the time he showed up in town. He showed up once more, shortly before he passed away, but the lineups were too intense. He was a grand creator, sorely missed.

  • Signed by Will Eisner, Dave Sim, Gerhard, and Terry Austin

Daredevil

It’s Miller time! Sorry…had to get that out. The Born Again storyline was a high watermark for Marvel, and remains one of the best stories to ever come out of the House of Ideas.

  • David Mazzuccelli: #208, 227-233
  • Frank Miller: #230

The Incredible Hulk

  • Peter David: #340, 345, 377, 406, 417, 418, 420, 425
  • Dale Keown: #369-377, 379, 381-388, 390-393, 395-398
  • Gary Frank: #406, 418, 420, 425

The Incredible Hulk: Future Imperfect

  • Peter David, George Pérez: #1-2

Kingdom Come

The one con I attended in Chicago was very fruitful, and this was an awesome break.

  • Mark Waid and Alex Ross: #1-4

Kraven the Hunter: J.M. DeMatteis and Mike Zeck

A storyline that ran through all 3 Spider-man books. I was lucky to get both creators at different cons.

  • Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man: #131, 132
  • The Amazing Spider-Man: #293, 294
  • Web of Spider-Man: #31, 32

Master of Kung-Fu

I’ve seen Gulacy several times at different cons. He doesn’t show up in Toronto very often. The Mike Zeck sigs were gathered over several days at one con. Jim Craig showed up to a Paradise con about 5 years ago. This is one of my most autographed series. Sadly, Gene Day is no longer with us. Between Gulacy, Zeck and Day, they defined the gritty look of Marvel action books in the 80’s.

  • Jim Starlin: #17, 24
  • Paul Gulacy: #18-20, 22, 25, 29-31, 33-35, 38-40, 42-50, annual #1, Giant-Size MOKF #1-3
  • Jim Craig: #51, 54, 56-58, 61-63, 65-66
  • Mike Zeck: #55, 59-60, 64, 67-69, 71-101

Sandman

Gaiman kept coming back to Toronto for signings very early in his career, and these were gathered over multiple trips. Unfortunately, his popularity in the fiction market has left him out of the con circuit. I seriously doubt I’ll be able to get the whole series signed, as many of the artists either don’t show up to Canadian cons, or have sadly passed away.

  • Neil Gaiman: #1-31, 50 (sealed edition)
  • Chris Bachalo: #12
  • Charles Vess: #19, 62, 75
  • Matt Wagner: #25
  • Shawn McManus: #31-37
  • Vince Locke and Jill Thompson: #40-49
  • Michael Kaluta: #50

Uncanny X-Men

Some of the great, singular artists and writers over the last 40 years of comics. Claremont is attending Fan Expo again this year, and hopefully I’ll be able to add a few more issues to this list.

  • Roy Thomas: #56, 62
  • Neal Adams: #62
  • Terry Austin: #120, 122, 123, 125, 127, 129, 130, 131, 133, 134, 138-143, 186
  • Chris Claremont: #133, 141-143, 150, 153, 162, 172, 173, 175, 186, 205, 245, 268
  • Bob Wiacek: #180
  • Barry Windsor-Smith: 186, 198, 205
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2 Comments leave one →
  1. August 16, 2011 8:49 pm

    Ummm, forgive me if I’ve mis-remembered, but… shouldn’t “providence” in “Even if you can establish providence, by getting the book signed…” be “provenance”?

    Just sayin’

  2. Jeff Wyonch permalink*
    August 16, 2011 8:55 pm

    Everyone’s a speller… 😉

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