Comic book and collectibles show draws nostalgic, hardcore and eclectic collectors

PLEASANT PRAIRIE — Whether looking to spend a quarter or even a couple of hundred dollars, Sunday comic book and collectibles show didn’t disappoint.

“Everything here is fabulous. I just love it,” said Grae Sundberg of Wonder Lake, Ill.

She was among about 100 visitors to the show at the DoubleTree Hotel and Conference Center, 11800 108th St.

Sundberg said she loves both DC and Marvel comics, with her eclectic interests ranging from Batman to Deadpool and Teen Titans.

She grew up watching a lot of superhero shows as a kid, thanks to her father. “I’ve been hooked ever since,” she said.

Jeff Williams of Janesville, who has been collecting comic books for 54 years, perused the collection of dealer Sean Pankonie.

“It’s a way to recapture childhood nostalgia. A lot of these books I read as a kid and became interested in the characters, and I like the art and the stories,” Williams said.

“They’re also a good investment,” he added. His hobby helped him put his three kids through college, he said.

Williams is a serious collector, going to show all over the country. “I’m headed to New York tomorrow,” he said.

Pankonie and partner Anna Erickson, both of Kenosha, operate the Waukegan-based Cryptic Legends, which deals in thousands of collectible comic books.

Cryptic Legends was one of the original founders of the three-times-a-year comic book and collectibles show, which is now run by Kim and Jim Libasci.

Valuable comics

Comics gain value due to a number of factors, including age, condition and the characters involved. Traders rate them by number based on their condition.

For instance, “Amazing Fantasy” No. 15, the first appearance of Marvel’s Spider-Man, was worth $30 when Williams was a kid.

Today, a mint condition copy of the 1962 comic sells for exponentially more. He said a 9.6-rated version just sold for $1.1 million.

A knowledgeable collector, Williams said he bought a coverless version of Whiz Comics’ “Captain Marvel,” which he expects would bring about $6,000.

What’s hot

Pankonie said some of the most popular comic books feature mainstream superheroes. DC’s “Action Comics,” for instance, where Superman first appeared, will be publishing its 1,000th issue, Erickson said.

What’s popular? “Batman, Spider-Man, Superman — anything related to the upcoming movies,” he said.

Black Panther is hot right now, the couple said, as the movie about the first African-American superhero is due to come out this week. It is generating good buzz and ticket sales.

Black Panther was part of the Avengers and first appeared in an issue of the “Fantastic Four,” before receiving his own comic book series in 1977 drawn by the late artist Jack Kirby.

Kirby, a legend among comic book artists, was the co-creator of Captain America, the Avengers, X-Men, Fantastic Four and the Incredible Hulk, among others.

Also hot, the couple said, are comics featuring Thanos, the villain in the upcoming “Avengers: Infinity War” movie, which is scheduled to be released later this spring.

‘Pedigree’ collection

Collector/dealer John Hauser of New Berlin, who collects and sells mostly pre-1970s comics, owns the Turning Page in Milwaukee. His collection includes those with “pedigree,” or collections that have been well-preserved.

“One of the pedigrees that I got, I call ‘The Curator’s Collection,’” he said. It’s a run of Marvel comics that were collected by a museum curator.

“Because he was a curator, he could store them all in this locked vault in the museum. And they were finely controlled for like 40 years.”

The collection included the first X-Men comic rated at 9.8.

“It’s worth half a million now,” said Hauser, who sold it to Williams a number of years ago for $10,000. Williams has since sold it, Hauser said.

“There’s only two 9.8 ‘X-Men’ No. 1’s, and mine was one of them,” he said.

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