Thursday, March 31, 2005

Lamont Larson

Joe Tricarichi found the collection. Jon Berk found the collector.

When Tricarichi, a Cleveland dealer, unearthed Larson's distinctively marked collection of 1,000 Golden Age books in the early '70s, he jealously guarded the identity of the original owner. It took Berk, the president of the American Association of Comic Collectors in 1994, to track Larson down, not far from where Larson grew up in Nebraska.

Born in 1927, Larson began reading comic books in 1936, picking up his favorite issues at the Cruetz Drug Store. Because the kid periodically missed a comic, store owner Fred Cruetz said, "I'll tell you what: We'll put your name on them...and when you want to come in and get them, they'll be here."

To reserve the comics, two store employees- Tryg Hagen and Cecil Coop - would scrawl his name on the covers. Larson told Berk that Hagen wrote either "Lamont" or "Larson" in a flowing cursive," while Coop, who came on staff after Hagen died in 1940, wrote "Larson" in a somewhat tighter script. The initials on some of the comics - "PN" for Publishers NEws and "ON" for Omaha News - marked the distributors to which unsold books would be returned.

Larson stopped reading the funny books in 1941, but he carefully stored his comics in a box. That box ended up in a Nebraska barn for most of the next 30 years. The comics were eventually purchased by antique dealer Dwaine Nelson, who in turn sold the collection for less than $100.

The condition of the Larson books varies, often falling far short of the Mile Highs, but the two characteristics of the collection- its original owner and the length of time it remained intact- warrant its pedigree.

--Comics: Between the Panels

Monday, March 21, 2005

IRS Collection

The IRS name is a misnomer - collector Aran Stubbs worked for the Colorado Department of Revenue, not the Internal Revenue Service - but we're stuck with it, as we shall explain in a moment.

Aran Stubbs was, in the words of his lawyer, "a little different than the average person." "Very eccentric-looking," said Dorothy Dahlquist, a publicist with CDR. "Very eccentric-acting. And absolutely brilliant." "He had a very special Spartan lifestyle," according to attorney Steven Katzman. "It was just Aran and his dog." And as far as anyone could tell, Stubbs didn't care a whole bunch about the dog. He had two passions in life - computers and comic books - and his genius was figuring out a way to use the first to acquire the second.

When Stubbs was first hired by the Department of Revenue, the agency didn't run background checks, so the agency never discovered that its new clerk had two convictions for burglary as a teenager and in 1979 had pleaded guilty to mail fraud, serving four months of a four-year sentence. All CDR knew was that Stubbs was very good at his job and very adept with computers. He rose steadily through the ranks and kept his eyes open. By the time Stubbs became a chief computer programmer in 1990, he knew how the system worked.

He knew, for example, that if someone prepaid an estimated tax, then died due a refund, CDR would never send it out. Because no one would file for the refund, CDR would stow the money in that unopened account forever. "Never say forever." That was Stubb's motto. He had a huge comic book collection - several hundred long boxes - but he didn't have the money to fill in all the holes until he started tapping those unopened accounts.

"Aran would manipulate the system," Dahlquist explained, "forcing it to issue a check, either to himself or to the account. then he would either intercept the check or have it sent to his house." Dahlquist said agency investigators believe Stubbs began diverting funds in August 1991, and for several months no one was the wiser. Stubbs kept the checks small and his ears open, in case CDR had plumbers listening in for small leaks. As he hit the major-league mail-order dealers around the country, he always paid with cash.

But the caution didn't last. "The process got addictive," Katzman said. "You don't know when enough is enough. Greed overtakes your better judgment. The thing overtook him." Stubb's mistake was to begin paying for his larger orders not with cash but with the actual state warrants. "He contracted at least one dealer," Dahlquist said, "saying, 'I am representing a group of people who want to invest in comic books. I will send you a Colorado state income tax warrant. It will be endorsed. Just use that as payment.'"

The scheme quickly pricked the suspicions of one dealer, Harley Yee of Detroit, who called the Department of Revenue and asked if the check was good. When the investigator researched the refund check, he discovered the name on the check belonged to a dead man. Dahlquist said the agency security systems were already tracking a thief inside the agency: "We knew someone was doing it. The comic book angle identified Aran."

Stubbs was arrested on March 19, 1992. "If the scheme had run its full course," Katzman said, "Aran would have been out of the country. He didn't expect them to find out about it so soon." Estimates of what Stubbs stole ranged from $150,000 to $500,000, but the state eventually settled on $180,000. Stubbs was charged with a Class 3 felony - theft over $10,000 - and pleaded guilty to a Class 5 offense, embezzlement of public property.

Stubbs could have gone to jail for up to 16 years on the original charge; he ended up escaping prison time entirely. Instead, he was sentenced to four years' probation and ordered to forfeit his collection to repay the Department of Revenue. The collection consisted of 400 long boxes, or approximately 60,000 comics. Stubbs had stored the best of the lot - Detective #38, for example, and Showcase #4 - in three freezers in his house. In no mind to go into the retail business, the CDR decided to auction off the entire array in one lot by sealed bid.

The winners of the auction - RTS Unlimited of Golden, Colorado - quickly dubbed their take the "IRS Collection" in huge, obnoxious ads in the Comics Buyer's Guide. Although others who had viewed the collection came away unimpressed by its quality or the number of key books, RTS promised buyers that "each comic will be issued with a certificate of authenticity to validate it's pedigree and unique origin from this important part of comicdom history."

How important? RTS demanded $22.85 ($19.95 for the catalog and $2.90 for shipping and handling) for the "100+-page inventory listing" of Aran Stubb's ill-gotten gains.

--from Comics: Between the Panels

Hooded Menaces

Many themes occur on comic covers, themes such as bondage covers, headlight covers, or even Robin corner shock covers. One such theme is Hooded Menace covers. These covers depict the villain with his head covered, typically in a red colored hood.

The most prolific artist to depict such hooded menaces was legendary GA artist Alex Schomburg. "It was just whatever came out of my stupid head," Schomburg said. "Then I put a swastika on them and made them nazis."

Below is a partial list of Hooded Menace covers:

Avon #27
Black Terror #20
Blue Beetle #29
Daredevil #27
Daring #2
Detective #191
Exciting #42
Fighting Yank #11, 23
Flash #20
Green Hornet #15
Human Torch #6, 16
Kid Komics #4, 9
Marvel Mystery #18, 28, 29, 45, 51, 52, 69
Master Comics #98
Mystery Comics #2, 4
Mystic #1
Shadow #61
Shock SuspenStories #6
Startling #20, 40
Sub-Mariner #13
Super-Magician vol. 4 #5
Suspense #3
Terrific #5
Venus #18
Wow# 3

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Comic Butcher/Scam Artist

In case some of you have not heard of Daniel Dupcak aka Comic-Keys aka Hammer.

Please check out the following site which will enlighten you as to the shameful practice he perpetrates upon the collecting community.


Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Marvel Comics #1

Possibly one of the greatest comic book grails of all time. Given the higher number of Action Comics #1 appearances, I would think this book to be rarer. This is the beginning of the Marvel Comics empire. This is by far the best copy I have ever seen of this book, notice that it is unrestored. Currently being offered on Ebay --->LINK

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Sin City Movie

From legendary artist Frank Miller comes the gritty pulp Sin City to the big screen. Several of Miller's books are combined into one movie. What makes this film unique is the way the filmakers attempted to recreate the comic book feel. Much of the film is done in Black and White with CGI color added to it as well as CGI effects to make it seem more like a comic book.

Directed by Robert Rodriguez / Frank Miller
Hartigan.............Bruce Willis
Nancy................Jessica Alba
Gail....................Rosario Dawson
Jackie Boy...........Benicio Del Toro
Dwight...............Clive Owens
Marv..................Mickey Rourke
Shellie................Britney Murphy
Yellow Bastard.........Nick Stahl

Official Site