A Golden Age Hero’s Journey: From 1 to 1000!

by Patrick Bain

Journey-300x157 A Golden Age Hero's Journey: From 1 to 1000!Action Comics #1000 marked a landmark in comic history!  It also set a comic book collector’s journey into motion.  In the category of simple thoughts turning into major commitments, Nick’s query-to-self ranks near the top.  Nick wondered, “How interesting would it be to read the whole series [Action Comics] starting at issue 1 to see character progression over the years…”.  Nick expanded his idea to include other major superheroes of the era.  And in his words, “it snowballed from there.”  Now, something else you’ve got to know: Nick didn’t limit his ‘journey’ to a single title or two.  He’s reading enough different titles from various publishers that he can only read about one Action Comic featuring Superman each week, maybe less.  By my simple math, Nick’s Golden Age Hero’s Journey is more like a Tolkien quest.  That’s TWENTY-plus years to read from Action Comics #1 to #1000.

Where Nick’s Journey Began

Action-Comics-1000-1930s-variant-edition-195x300 A Golden Age Hero's Journey: From 1 to 1000!Nick describes himself as a guy who started reading and collecting comics in the late 1980s/early 1990s.  Before he began his journey of Golden Age heroes, Nick indicated he didn’t know much about the Golden Age.  (I assess my Golden Age knowledge the same way, and probably you do, too.)  Quickly realizing that it would be impossible to read everything from the era, Nick focused on major heroes.  Particularly, those costumed superheroes still relevant in the modern age with 50+ overall appearances.  After selecting the comics and stories he wanted to read, Nick set off in chronological order for the journey of a lifetime.

For our benefit, Nick shares his travel log each week on his video podcast The Hero’s Journey Project on You-Tube.  There, he talks about the comics he read that week.

A Side Excursion On A Golden Age Hero’s Journey

Action-Comics-10-219x300 A Golden Age Hero's Journey: From 1 to 1000!Diverting for a moment from Nick’s story and early observations, I want to talk about you.  You may think, “whatever floats Nick’s boat is good for him, but what does it have to do with me?”  Possibly nothing if you have no interest in Golden Age comics.  However, some have indicated that Golden Age comics offer significant investment potential for a few reasons.  First, hot demand is NOT in that era.  Thus, the price escalation for typical 1940s/1950s comics doesn’t match the crazy increase of later published comics.  Next, scarcity is REAL, even among mid-grade comics.  But one major caution if you jump into Golden Age comics; some characters died with their title and fans.  I see it all the time with art that’s seventy years old but sells cheaper than common pages that were published in the last few years.

Raspberries for Blue Beetle

Blue-Beetle-2-219x300 A Golden Age Hero's Journey: From 1 to 1000!Returning to Nick’s trip through four-color time.  Let’s be honest.  Comics have evolved through the decades.   Even those of us who don’t like every snakelike twist and turn of modern interpretation, still have to agree that some works from the early days were junk.

Blue Beetle originated with Fox Comics and later, Charlton.  Though nearly as old as Superman and Batman, the character fared poorly compared to those industry legends.  DC revived and modified the character after purchasing his rights in 1983.  Nick describes early Blue Beetle stories as convoluted.  And not making “sense from panel to panel”.  That’s generally a bad thing for a visual storytelling medium structured like a comic.  Apparently, Nick found the Blue Beetle art destroyed the readability of the stories, too.

Though Nick recommends passing on reading the Blue Beetle, I mention him because a person who buys Blue Beetle comics or art from the Golden Age AT LEAST has the connection to the modern heroes currently being collected.  Not all Golden Age characters can stake that claim.

Two Long Pointy Ears Up for Batman

Batman-6-219x300 A Golden Age Hero's Journey: From 1 to 1000!There’s a reason Batman has endured.  For me, he is one of a few Grade A characters.  Nick glowed in his comments on The Batman.  While Superman is Superman, Nick’s impression of early Superman stories differed greatly from Batman tales.  First, Nick complained that most Superman stories seem to involve petty hoods.  Bizarrely, these villainous bums frequently kidnapped Lois, forcing Superman to save her.  And that’s a bread and butter storyline for the Last Son of Krypton.  On the other hand, Nick loved the early array of memorable rogues that Batman encountered.  The combination of Bill Finger and Bob Kane “must have had an incredible imagination to build out a universe so quickly” opined Nick.  Nick loved the depth of the early Batman stories aided no doubt by a “quick-witted, colorful sidekick”.

Wonder-Woman-7-219x300 A Golden Age Hero's Journey: From 1 to 1000!Clearly, for those who want to navigate the Golden Age, Nick thoroughly endorses reading Batman.  Also praised by Nick, the early Wonder Woman stories with art by H. G. Peter.  We talked about his works before in my Wonder Woman article.  Nick appreciated the bold lines of Peter, who was able to keep Wonder Woman “feminine without being a sex object.”

Some Basics If You Want to Join In

Marvel-Mystery-Comics-5-219x300 A Golden Age Hero's Journey: From 1 to 1000!Suppose you are ready to grab a staff and put in some extra thick Dr. Scholl’s inserts to join the Golden Age Hero’s Journey.  Obviously, pick what appeals to you and read in any order that makes sense.  Your reading of the classics may inspire purchases based on your personal admiration of a particular issue.  Possibly, you may read about a character and discover an untapped key.

At the nitty-gritty level, where can you read these things?  Obviously, DC and Marvel both have subscription services with some content.  Nick finds his digital readers at “Comic Book Plus” and “Read Comics Online”.  Though I can’t endorse any of these sites or even know if they are legitimate, you can explore.  If you are fabulously wealthy, consider creating a library of bound Golden Age Readers and we’ll all stop by to check them out.

Monthly Visits on Nick’s Golden Age Hero’s Journey

Action-Comics-15-cover-art-by-Fred-Guardineer-215x300 A Golden Age Hero's Journey: From 1 to 1000!While Nick Begin chronicles his journey on his You-Tube channel, we’ll follow along monthly.  The big idea: see what Nick finds interesting and MOST worthy of comments, because those same comics will stand out to collectors and speculators.  And just maybe we can get some early insights and pick up some diamonds in the “wild”.

Finally, let me know what Golden Age titles you’ve been reading through and share your insights as well!

Featured Golden Age Images: (1) Action Comics 10 – 3rd Superman cover.  A CGC 3.0 sold for $76,000 in 2020.  The highest graded -9.0-, sold for $258K in 2011. (2) Blue Beetle 2  Published by Fox in 1940.  A CGC 6.5 sold for $1,425 in 2017. (3) Batman 6 published in 1941.  Graded 9.4 sold for $27,600 in 2020.  (4) Wonder Woman 7 cover by H. G. Peter.  CGC 7.0 sold for $10,800 in 2020.  (5) Marvel Mystery Comics 5 featuring the Human Torch, Sub-Mariner, the Angel, and Ka-Zar.  The highest sale is $33K for a CGC 8.5 back in 2012.  (6) Action Comics 15 original cover art by Fred Guardineer.  Even though Guardineer is not well known, the 1939 art sold for $286,800 in 2014.

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nick April 8, 2021 - 12:38 pm

Thanks for the write up, Patrick! I look forward to working with you in the future.

Patrick Bain April 8, 2021 - 7:30 pm

Nick, I want to hear if you see any increased traffic at your you-tube channel. If not (or even if), we’ve got a lot of work to do to get the word out on your interesting personal journey.


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