The Comic Book Friends is a series I began when my friend Kennedy and I started seriously collecting comic books. Our searches have brought us to interesting places and faces. In part I we found some great comics in a local man’s garage.
Part II took us to Canton Trade Days.
Our previous haul sated our comic book thirst for a few weeks. Then one day Kennedy said there’s a place that’s a wonderland for people wanting to find comic books. Like the kid from Willy Wonka, I listened attentively to every word he said about this magical place called Canton Trade Days and the rare comic books you can find. Growing up in Lindale, Tx, or anywhere in East Texas, for that matter, naturally I had heard of Canton Trade Days. Picture a huge flea market with anything and everything you could possibly want to put on your front porch. This place is like DisneyLand for junk dealers. If you want it, someone more than likely has it. Looking to add to your collection of old garden gnomes? They’ve got it. Need a snickers-themed ice chest? You’ll find it here. Picture the bazaar in Ocarina of Time and expand it exponentially, and add a whole lot of salt-of-the-earth, Nascar-loving, American Flag-waving, putting Bible verses on anything and everything rednecks, and you’ll begin to understand what kind of place this is.We arrived shortly before 8 am. The gates were open so we walked right on in. It was still cool – dew was still on the grass as we walked around. We had our game plan. And by his large backpack, bright red shirt, his neon yellow shoes, and blue sweat rag his wife and I make fun of him for constantly carrying around, I knew Kennedy was more ready for this than just about anyone could ever be for anything. I was still waking up. The coffee hadn’t fully kicked in yet so I was moving a little sluggish. the place was still mostly empty so we decided to start asking the different vendors about who may sell comic books or 90s children’s toys (Kennedy wants to have a collection to show his son the toys he grew up with). One of the vendors said there was a man inside the convention center who had comics and movie posters. We thanked him and darted toward the center.
The door was locked, but an older gentleman opened it for us, and behind him came a voice “Let them in! They look like they’re ready to spend some money.” That we were. We walked in and there it was. A man, I’d say at least 6’4-5, stood tall, surrounded by boxes and boxes of comic books, movies, and original movie posters. I was greeted with Mia Wallace smoking a pack of Red Apple Cigarettes. We were about to have a field day in here. We were there for about an hour when I got a call. It was my boss. Work has been extremely busy the past month, and I was on my fourth 50+ week in a row. I knew he’d most likely be calling to ask if I’d come in. He did. I had to tell him I was too far away and was doing important things. And by important things I mean adding to my cool collection of comic books, but he knew that; and oddly, he was perfectly OK with it. He said I could come in around 2pm. It was 9am at the time, so I still had about two and a half more hours to search this minefield of goodies.
I’ve been on an Alex Ross kick of late. He, Jim Lee, and Todd McFarlane are my three favorite comic book artists. McFarlane’s run on Amazing Spider-Man is still felt in the films today, and Jim Lee drew one of the best Batman graphic novels of all time: Batman: Hush: But Alex Ross, he is my absolute favorite. I remember being thrown off by his art at first, but I came back around not too long ago, and I’ve never looked back. Kingdom Come is one of the best stories ever written. The way he weaves religion and superheroes together in a way that respects both makes it such a joy to read. And Superman: Peace on Earth, is one of the quintessential Superman comics out. So I was overjoyed when I saw Marvels issues two and four in mint condition. Those, along with the first issue of All-Star Superman and near mint copies of the two issue run of Blade Runner back in 1982, I set aside in my stack as DEFINITE BUYS. Outside, there was a man who had plenty of Nascar and war memorabilia, and a few books on his table. Kennedy spotted a few comics there as well, so we went over. He only had about two or three left from the box he brought. He said, to his chagrin, that someone came by and bought almost his entire box from him for a package deal. He said he should have been more patient and he could have gotten more by selling them individually. He did have Stryfe’s Strike File #1, so I picked it up from him for a couple bucks. We talked a bit more – he was still waiting for his backpay from the Army for injuries sustained during the Vietnam War. As a son to a father who specialized in assisting disabled veterans find jobs, this is an all-too-common story for those who served. We said goodbye, but not before having him point us to another station that may have comics for us.
We found an older man with another who looked like his son. He had Nintendo 64 games, old gaming magazines, and a slew of other vintage need materials on hand. But no comic books this month. “I didn’t bring the full trailer this month, but I’ll have a load of comics next month.” Oh well. so Kennedy decided to ask where we should look. “Could you point us to some vendors who may have comics?” Another customer, looking through the vintage video games piped in, “I saw someone who had a stack of Archie comics.” The older man replied, “I don’t think these men are looking for Archie comics, Jon.” He then proceeded to give us directions: “take a left, then immediate right. Walk all the way down to the creek, but don’t go in the creek. You’ll see a blue trailer there that looks like its about to fall into the creek.” His directions were spot on.
Time was up. We had found a few more scattered here and there throughout the area, and as we were about to leave Kennedy found a place with a few gems; but I didn’t look much because fried fish tacos were calling my name, and my stomach would not wait any longer. While I stuffed my belly Kennedy sifted through some Avengers and X-men, and some Teen Titans comics in the little nook he found behind a popcorn stand. I missed out on some of the comics. But those fish tacos were worth it, so I didn’t mind. I already had everything I came for.
Driving home, Kennedy was in the drivers seat while I went on a comic pricing guide website and called out to him when I could, the prices of the comics we found. It took a while though; it’s hard to find good cell service down rural Texas roads, so the website loading bar looked like the turtle steadily running the race. We weren’t too concerned with the prices, some were winners, some were not worth as much as we had hoped – but that isn’t why we collect. We collect because it’s fun. We collect because between the front and back covers of the comics, there’s not only stories of heroes saving the day from villains, there’s stories behind them; stories of how a comic printed back in 1982 to coincide with the release of Blade Runner wound up in Canton, Texas, only to end up in the eager hands of a man who loves collecting comic books with his best friend. That’s why we do it. We are collectors and preservers of history. Some collect coins, antiques, or letters to preserve history, we preserve it through comics. Each comic has a story, and each story is worth telling.
In the next piece, read a bittersweet story of Joseph and Kennedy as they help a widow of a fellow deacon at their church to catalog his extensive comic book collection from owning a comic book store. Explore the history of a humble man who had been collecting comics for more than 40 years in The Comic Book Friends: The Legacy Lives On.