The Man Who Ordered 35,000 Copies of GI Joe #1

One of the earliest comic book retailers and comic historian Bob Beerbohm (author of Comic Book Store Wars) set up the first comic book store chain store, before doing the same again with Best Of Two Worlds. Bob Beerbohm writes, with permission for BC to republish, of what the scene was like forty years ago. With the launch from Marvel Comics of GI Joe #1.

The Man Who Ordered 35,000 Copies of GI Joe #1
GI Joe #1 from Marvel Comics

GI Joe #1 in 1982 from Hasbro as a Marvel comic book was made returnable for the first issue by Jim Shooter. So as Common Ground, part of Best of Two Worlds comic book store chain in the Bay Area, I pre-ordered 35,000 copies. Sold a lot.

Then, as now, certain comic books that the publisher had great faith in but the comic shop may not have, were made returnable to the Direct Market, to encourage retailers to find a ceiling of demand for the comic among their customers and maybe increase non-returnable orders for future issues after finding a larger reader demand than anticipated. Didn't always work, but it worked for Bob.

I went out on a limb, then pre-ordered 17,000 copies of #2  which most every one else seemingly vastly under ordered on. Within a few months it was $10. Within a year some stores were gouging as much as $35 to keep a copy on their back issue wall. I cleaned up big time off GI Joe #2. HUGE demand. Suddenly I seemed to be many dealers' best friend.

In 1977 I used spec proceeds to buy 200 original art pages from Jack and Roz Kirby out of the trunk of their car during San Diego that year. I got to pick first from 600 pages in there. $20 a page equals $4000 in cash to them. They asked me.

In inflation terms, that would be $100 a page today. A reasonable amount then, but they go for so much more now. Including this cover which sold for just shy of half a million.

Enabled me to also buy stuff like 200 pages one shot from George Perez at an LA show for $20 a page. ALL DC Teen Titans pages. George came up to me and my then partner Bob Borden at an LA show circa 1984. Another $4000 wise investment paying what the artist was asking per page in a bulk like that.

And you can see what they go for as well…

I used my new spec stuff like GI Joe #1 35,000, #2 17,000; X-Men #114 onwards thru #143 last Byrne 10,000 pre-ordered of each. Began pre-ordering getting Miller Daredevil in the multi-thousands by #168 intro of Elektra culminating in #181 15,000 for when I brought Frank Miller into my Berkeley store for his first ever in-store signing Dec last week end before Xmas 1981. I would trade Byrne X-Men for key Marvel DC #1 and special issues. I took in thousands of 1940s and 50s from dealers EAGER to trade.

At one point by 1980 my stores had taken in some 50 copies of Fantastic Four #1; a hundred Amazing Spider-Man #1, all kinds of EC became stocked in depth.I began training my Berkeley store employees when someone was asking if we had a copy of some 60s Marvel "key" to answer "What condition would you like one in, sir"

By 1987 though I was backing off the huge spec as all the monthly comic book price "guides" kept pumping out their ju-ju juice voodoo forecasts of what to buy a bunch of any given month to make money on.

But then the central BTW warehouse becomes mostly paper mache bricks beginning Feb 1986. I entered a new different level in the comics world.

You know if you'd had a million comic books destroyed by floods then you might talk about it a lot as well…

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About Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.
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