19 April 2013

"From Here, It Looks Like an Achievement"

I took some things to Half Price Books last night. Just a handful of odd items I've had in storage for years that clearly didn't mean much to me and weren't going for any noteworthy amounts on eBay to justify going through all that hassle. Anyway, while I waited for the friendly and personable sales associate to tally up my offer, I rummaged through their comic books. I'm always on the lookout for cheap ways to fill in gaps in my library. In the Batman section was a single copy of Batman #404.

This issue is one of the most important Batman comics really of all-time. It was the first of the four-part "Year One" story in which Frank Miller updated Batman's origin story and established the foundation for the modern continuity. Even throughout DC Comics's various continuity tinkering, "Year One" has remained firmly entrenched as The Definitive Origin of Batman. I can't recall ever actually seeing a copy of this issue in person until last night.

Did I mention it was only a dollar?

Sold listing prices on eBay vary pretty wildly; some have sneaked through at a mere 99¢ to $103.95 for a copy that had been graded at 9.8 by the Comic Grading Authority. This seems to me a consequence of the shift in comic reading culture toward "trade-waiting" (i.e., passing on individual issues to wait instead for the collected edition). Regardless of that, even if you don't care about comic books at all, it should be pretty evident why this was an exciting find to make. I plucked it out of the box and carried it around with me. I browsed through some more things, received my payout and then came to a realization.

I already own the Batman: Year One collected edition trade paperback. I can already read the story contained in Batman #404. I didn't need to own the individual issue, even priced at just one dollar. I put it back into the box. Let someone else find it, I decided. Someone who will really flip their lid over it. Someone for whom that will be a truly exciting discovery and purchase. That Bat-fan out there just now starting to build her library, who thought she'd have to settle for the collected edition (like I did); let her be the one to spend her dollar and have the thrill of actually owning that important issue.

As I am wont to do, I later reflected on the situation in a more philosophical sense. I feel like I'm in a box of back issues myself, wondering: Will anyone ever be excited to find me?