Celebrating the Unpopular Arts

I Have Questions

I daresay some of you noticed I’ve been gone for a while. Longest I’ve gone without writing a column since I started a decade and a half ago, in fact. More tedious medical stuff, basically; I was in the hospital for about six weeks. I’ll spare you the litany of health issues that have overtaken our lives, except to say there’s nothing more maddening and frustrating than when your body decides to just stop working. But I’m finally home and trying to adjust to the new normal–gimping around with a walker, many pills and injections, radiation five days a week, and so on–and reclaiming the pieces of my life that I can.

This is a piece that I had begun the day we had to drop everything and rush to Urgent Care. Not anything earth-shaking but it gives me tremendous personal satisfaction to finish it. Given our current state of affairs I can’t promise to be back every week; we are taking things a day at a time. But today, anyway, I’m very glad to be back.


This has been bugging me for a while now, and I finally decided to spend some column inches on it.

We have been watching The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and loving it.

The Cap movies are far and away my favorites among the MCU lineup anyway, and this show feels like a long-form Cap movie. I won’t spoil it because you all should be watching it, but it is a loose sort-of adaptation of the original John Walker storyline from Mark Gruenwald’s tenure on the Captain America comics. (Wyatt Russell as Walker is superb, though Julie and I are often distracted when one or the other of us blurts, “Jesus but he looks just like his dad!”)

So I went noodling around online for the trade paperback collecting Gruenwald’s John Walker arc. I already own it and I’ve been rereading it, and I was thinking I’d find a couple of scans to use here.

Found one.

And, well, I stumbled across this and just about fainted from sticker shock.

$80 used. $97 new.

What. The. Actual. FUCK.

I bought mine in 2011, for about $10 remaindered. There is a new Epic Collection covering that run, coming in July, that’s going to run $44 and change, which is almost reasonable, but still. This is a reprint paperback for Christ’s sake; there’s no original content at all, no intro, nothing. Who’s paying these gouger’s prices? And what the hell is wrong with you?

But wait, there’s more.

Fraser’s Blackhawk piece, and the comments on it, reminded me that I was going to look into getting a copy of William Rotsler’s Blackhawk novel.

Again the sticker shock was almost palpable.



This is a seventies spinner-rack paperback original. Rotsler was a fair writer– his Marvel novels featuring Iron Man and Doctor Strange were both pretty good.

In fact I’d suggest they are, in terms of value, equivalent to his Blackhawk. Entertaining reads, nice to have in the library, cool (but not knockout) cover art. But you can get the Iron Man for less than ten dollars from many places and the Blackhawk is stratospheric.

That’s insane.

“Well, there is a fervent Blackhawk fandom,” you say. No, there’s really not. If there was one, we’d have more Blackhawk stuff out there.

like a trade collecting the Evanier/Spiegle run. How about that, DC?

And anyway, guys who are into the Blackhawks tend to be older, reasonable people. They’re not demented fanatics like, say, Beatles collectors…. or, closer to home, people dropping hundreds of dollars on a CGC slabbed comic you can’t even READ.

So what’s the deal? Why Blackhawk? Why this Blackhawk?

Or take the case of Ron Goulart. Goulart wrote a bunch of comics-related tie-in paperbacks in the 70s under a variety of pen names.

All of them are pretty good. Enjoyable, fast-moving, lots of action and a nice smattering of humor. Most can be had for around ten bucks.

Except for Vampirella.

The prices for these start somewhere around eighty dollars and skyrocket from there.

And again I have to ask, why?

Look. Goulart’s Challengers of the Unknown is essentially equivalent in terms of collectibility. Kind of a mid-list comics character tie-in.

It can be had for about seven to ten dollars. Which is fair. But I put it to you that it’s qualitatively equal to Vampirella. There’s no earthly reason for the one to be affordable and the other to be insanely expensive.

There are certainly legitimate reasons for paperbacks to go sky-high in price. Stephen King’s Rage, the first of the Bachman books, is very highly sought after, especially after he pulled it from print.

Or Invasion, a very early novel from bestseller Dean Koontz, a Laser Books entry done under a pen name. Long out of print and hard to find.

Even the Dark Shadows paperbacks, which I suspect are more of a collectible than an actual reading experience for the folks paying gouger’s prices for them (because they are terrible books.)

You can make a case for those, even. But random entries from journeyman writers like Goulart and Rotsler? I don’t get it. I asked several career bookmen of my acquaintance–guys with serious bookscouting game– and it baffles them too. The best answer I got was a theory that it’s some kind of money-laundering scheme, which is as plausible as anything else.

So I put it to you, group mind. What s up with this? Inquiring minds want to know. Have at it in the comments, and I’ll be back soon with something cool.


  1. DarkKnight

    Third party sellers on Amazon have always been terrible but I think it’s really mostly to do with them taking advantage of the pandemic. People stuck at home with nothing to do and they start scouring the internet for anything to keep them busy. I collect video games and even that has got out of control. Prices have gone up almost four times over thanks to the pandemic. Most collectors I’ve talked to are hoping when things go back to normal, prices start to go down back to their usual levels.

    1. Der

      Oh DarkKnight, you know that those earthbounds are never ever going back to sane prices.

      a friend collects snes games and I used to scout flea markets and other places looking for games he wanted and the prices of snes games are bonkers, I’ve never saw a game drop in price, I’m glad I don’t collect videogames….said the guy collecting comics T_T

      1. DarkKnight

        Oh I know lol. Earthbound was always at ridiculous prices. I actually had a copy for awhile and then sold it when it was released digitally. Snes games are always in high demand and hold their value pretty well. I was mostly talking about stuff going back about three or four years. I was once a physical comic collector to but sold off my collection a few years ago. I’m very glad I read digitally now so I don’t have to worry about things going out of print.

  2. Le Messor

    Sorry to hear about your medical issues.

    I’ve seen all of The Falcon And The Snowm– Winter Soldier, and it’s a solid show that maintains its level of quality. It has a lot of concepts from the comics, though many are changed.

    “Wyatt Russell as Walker is superb”

    And now two MCU characters are the son of Ego, The Living Planet.

    I’ll never know why some things go collector and others don’t. But the sellers that get to me are the ones where you see:
    Copy #1: $12
    Copy #2: $15
    Copy #3: $15.50
    Copy #4: $150
    Who would buy copy #4?!?

    And I’ve seen it quite a bit.

  3. Tim Rifenburg

    Have seen it with Amazon and the same thing with ebay on some items. I have been looking for particular dvd copies on certain titles I don’t see in my Thrift shopping and I can’t believe the prices sellers put on stuff. I went down a searching for Banacek rabbit hole when I found a cheap library disk that only had a couple of episodes. (Had the 2 seasons before and stupidly figured I was done with them.) The prices on the sets were ridiculous on both ebay and Amazon. They are long out of print and I was amazed they were released to begin with.

    Other thing I have noticed with Amazon is the price fluctuation on their comic trades particularly their omnibus listings. Have seen a few that got below half and then shot up to a 15% off discount. (I regret not grabbing the He-man Omnibus when it was at 66% off for a $150.00 – 1500 page book.) Seems to be random but maybe it is something they do to keep people like me looking.

    Sorry to hear about your flare up of medical issues. Anything we can do? Looking for something in particular we can help you find? I know that is not the same as the thrill of the hunt, but you entertain and inform a lot of us so it would be nice to return the favor.

  4. Edo Bosnar

    You’ve floated the money-laundering theory before, and honestly that’s the one that sounds pretty plausible to me as well.

    Otherwise, I always have my eye out for reasonably priced copies of any of those superhero/comic character pocketbook novels from the ’70s/early ’80s, but so far I haven’t had much luck. Of course, international postage is a big problem for me, so even when something pops up for under $10 (which is actually pretty rare), the postage to Europe prices it out.
    So far I’ve had to settle for pdf scans of the two Spider-man novels that can be ordered directly from Paul Kupperberg.

  5. Terrible-D

    Firstly, so glad you’re back and feel healthy enough to share with us again. I’m sure I can speak for many here in the peanut gallery and wish you were cranking out articles like you used too, but we all understand, health comes first.
    Second, the subject of this article is one that I fine myself discussing a lot recently. A common theory is the pandemic has given people more free time and less ways to spend it. Comics, books, cards, movies, video games, almost anything collectible has jumped in price due to the demand creating scarcity. And with that jump comes the ridiculous behavior. Grown men getting into so many actual physical fights over sports/pokemon cards that Target has decided to stop carrying them in store. Speculation causing copies of West Coast Avengers 45 to actually sell for more than Avengers 57 in some instances.
    I have often told people that I collect comics, but I collect them to read and stare at the pretty, pretty pictures. Nostalgia makes me want to hold a physical copy, but with prices like these, I’ll have to start considering digital.
    Again, welcome back, and wishes for good health for you and the Mrs.

  6. Der

    I collect magic the gathering books(you know, the card game). That means that I have to look for them on the internet, those are not found in flea markets or second hand bookstores around here, and the same thing happened to those prices

    At first, they were like 10 cents(plus five dollars shipping, hmmmm) that was I don’t know, 10 years ago, 5 year ago they were like 5 dollars and 10 dollars shipping(fair enough because it was international shipping) and they had one or two that were extremely expensive, even in the 10 cents era(meaning 20-30 dollars) but those had reasons(the 30 dollars was the origin story of THE big evil dude of the whole game, and it was decently written, and out of print) thent they reprinted it and it came down in price. Now? The books selling for one to five dollars are selling for twenty, thirty(plus shipping) I mean, who wants those books, besides me? Some sellers think they have the next MCU on inventory or something, nothing else could explain those increases

  7. Lee

    Huh, you learn something new every day. I have a copy of ‘Invasion’ — I don’t remember how I came to own it, and I’ve never read it, but it is in my paperback collection. I didn’t know the name Aaron Wolfe, and I just assumed he was some one-off sf author who never wrote anything else. I immediately recognized the cover.

    I had no idea it was worth anything more than any other sf paperback I have (which I assume is next to nothing).

    1. Lee

      I should also mentioned what a relief it is to see a post from Greg Hatcher. I’ve enjoyed reading your stuff for years, first at the old site, and then here. I’ve gotten a tremendous amount of pleasure from reading these articles. Even if the topic isn’t something I am interested in, the writing style is engaging enough to keep me enthralled.

      I knew from a previous post about your medical problems, so I’ve been whispering good thoughts once a week when I check for a new article. I’m so glad you are feeling well enough to share with us again. I hope there are many more years of columns to come.

  8. Jeff Nettleton

    Yeah, the Blackhawk book is a decent pulpy read; but nothing earthshattering or anything significant in the Blackhawk world, except that it was part of a revival in anticipation of a Spielberg movie project that never happened (and Spielberg has denied any memory of discussing) and didn’t sell a ton of copies. It isn’t that rare, as I got a copy some years back (probably a decade or so, at this point) for less than $10. Has the origin story, a rationale for where the planes and related parts come from, a location for Blackhawk Island, War Wheel and some kind of giant flying aircraft carrier/flying wing (some kind of flying fortress) and at least one BDSM-themed villain, as I recall, that seemed to come out of left field, like Rotsler got mixed up which assignment he was doing (he wrote book porn).

    Stimulus money (and unspent entertainment money) + pandemic depression, multiplied by boredom, and the internet being the nexus of irrational behavior equals insanity. Now is the only time I wish I had sat on my 80s and 90s comics, because I could be fleecing some suckers out there, big time. Silly me, I donated them to charity, to a boys home.

    I glommed onto digital about a decade or so ago and have pretty much what I used to have in print copies and most of my wish list. Plus, there are enough legit sites on the internet for you to read whatever era you want, along with just as many less than legit sources, if you are so inclined.

    If you haven’t seen it, check out the Honest Trailer for Falcon & the Winter Soldier (I keep wanting to call it Falcon & the Snowman). Their gag credit for Wyatt Russel is Goldie’s Spawn, which is all kinds of brilliant! As if he didn’t look enough like his old man, he kind of went into acting because injuries ended his sports career (hockey); just like dad (baseball). Wonder if he has been approached yet about doing some kind of Snake Plissken franchise?

  9. Weird, I was logged in but it wouldn’t post my comment.

    As to the high prices on some of the books, there are a couple things that stand out on the Vampirella covers….

    I wonder if Amazon sellers figure people don’t check out other options, and figure they’re stuck with Amazon, and “have” to pay the high prices.

    Glad you’re feeling better enough to post again, and looking forward to seeing more of you more often again!

  10. I don’t know if this has anything to do with the prices that you are seeing, but I’ve heard of a thing where different sellers set their prices automatically via algorithms that look at what other copies of the same thing are selling for.

    So apparently you get things like where one is saying “Sell for 97% of the cheapest price out there,” but the other is saying “Sell for 105% of the most expensive one out there” or something, and then they start looking at each other and the prices skyrocket before a human being notices. Apparently, this is an explanation for why you sometimes see totally ordinary things going for prices in the $1000’s.

    I always look forward to your columns, Greg. I hope life and health permits you to continue to share your thoughts. All the best.

    1. Edo Bosnar

      At current exchange rates, it’s a little more than $280. But yeah, point well taken. Really, anything over cover price for a reprint collection, esp. one published so recently, is pretty ridiculous.

  11. Bookfinder.com is a good place to start because it aggregates multiple used-book sites. I went looking for “Hawk of the Wilderness” (first book in possibly the best Tarzan clone series) and found it for a third of what it was currently selling for on Amazon. Other books, yep, Amazon is as good as it gets, even when it’s not good.
    Some years back, I found a copy of Walter Kafton Minkel’s Subterranean Worlds (a history of hollow earth theories) in a local used book store. It was priced $10; I hadn’t found it online for less than $80. Which could mean everyone online was overestimating its value, or that there simply wasn’t much profit in pricing it that high in the Florida Panhandle. Who knows?
    Come to think of it, there used to be a used book store in the same town that was open one afternoon a week. That really does scream “We are not making our money off book sales.”

    1. We have seen a number of bookstores in our travels that have very limited retail hours. When I asked, I was told that the bulk of their business was internet mail order.

      Mostly the bookstores we see that are doing well with walk-in business are the places in resort towns like Seaside or Lincoln City, and they’re all about volume paperback sales. Beach books for the tourist trade. There’s the occasional anomaly like Robert’s in Lincoln City but that’s basically the Powell’s of the Oregon coast, it’s a legend that has its rep to help it along.

    2. Jeff Nettleton

      Bookfinder is good, to a point; but, it has a lot of the same listings of the people who are selling through Amazon, as does AbeBooks.com. Not on everything; but, I have seen duplicate listings from sellers across those platforms, in past. I always had good luck with AbeBooks, though some books had high prices no matter what.. It’s been years since I was hunting anything, though.

    1. A Bill Reed sighting! Good God it’s been years. Thanks for dropping by the new digs. Hope all goes well with you.

      I’m… managing. Dealing with the new normal. Day at a time and so on. Thanks for the good wishes. Don’t wait years to come by again.

  12. I know that Rotsler’s Blackhawk novel is very rare for some reason, but I’m forgetting exactly why right now. I’m positive it’s not $99 rare, though.

    But oddly enough, this column just reminded me that a Facebook friend of mine just offered to send me his copy gratis, as long as I pay it forward and send him back something cool in return. That’s what I love about collecting — Sometimes cool things just fall into your lap. 🙂

    There are several out of print books I’m after that are priced absolutely CRAZY high online. Just yesterday I got an email from AbeBooks telling me that they’ve located two copies of the 2008 Dave Stevens coffee table book A Brush With Passion. They’re priced at $596.83 and $739.41.

    Back around 2008, I read the US edition of the first book in Samantha Weinberg / Kate Westbrook’s The Moneypenny Diaries trilogy. I’d love to read the other two books in the series, but I guess the first one didn’t do very well, because the latter two never came out in the US. And the UK editions are ALSO priced at hundreds of dollars whenever I look for them online. It’s insane.

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