Spinning off the recently concluded Masters of American Comics show, Richard Corliss has a very long article on Time asking whether comics are any good.
In The Great Comic Book Heroes – a greatly comic and, in its way, heroic book – Jules Feiffer describes the odd spectacle of middle-aged men “who continue to be addicts, who save old comic books, buy them, trade them, and will, many of them, pay up to fifty dollars for the first issues of Superman or Batman.”
He wrote this in 1965. Since then, the comic-book collectibles market has exploded. In 2005, according to the Wall Street Journal, “A near-perfect ‘Action Comics’ No. 1, the book that launched Superman, lists for $485,000, up from $200,000 five years ago.” That’s nearly a 5 million percent markup from the 1938 street price of 10 cents. In 2002 Nicolas Cage, who had taken his stage name from Luke Cage, the first black comic-book super hero, got $1.68 million for his comics collection, which included an issue that introduced Batman’s sidekick Robin and another that convened the first super-hero team, the Justice Society of America. Cage then auctioned off part of his classic-cars collection.
Is Cage correct in considering a 1957 Ford pickup a work of art? Am I right in holding a 1953 Mad comic (#5, of course) in the same esteem? Or are we both merely venerating, financially and artistically, the tastes of our youths that we are too stubborn or eternally adolescent to outgrow?