Comic Hunting- Long Box Diving Adventure

Comic Book Bins
The Bargain Bins. Not pictured: the musky smell

Long Box Diving: Where Thrift Shopping Meets Comic History

At one time, my region had an abundance of comic shops and other hobby stores. There I was able to find a plethora of comic book long boxes. It was a treasure trove of back issue bins. Most of which were priced .50 to 1 dollar. It was a glorious time as a new reader looking to by older comics.

Sometimes, I would find gems and others it would be 30 copies of assorted X-Cutioner Song tie-ins, still in their poly-bagged prisons. It was a delight but as the years moved along so have most of these shops.

Right now, I have one comic shop in town—Dewayne’s world. Fine comic shop. It’s been my primary comic shop since I began taking the hobby seriously. However, just recently the took their remaining back issue bins off the floor in favor of more Gunpla and model kits. I don’t blame them.

I imagine Gundams sell better than hundreds of X-men comics that no one has bought since the 90’s. Sure comic collecting has become a hot topic as of late with many speculators snapping up “key” issues and chase variants, but the average back issue bin has become antiquated to the modern reader.

Forever trapped in their Polyethene tomb

Requiem for a Bargain Bin

The advent of digital platforms like DC Universe, Marvel Unlimited, and ComiXology/Kindle Unlimited, you can find most back issues with some ease. Okay, not with great ease if you are looking for certain series, but for the most part, the major stuff is accessible. Yet, I prefer the physical issue.

I love seeing the colors as intended, which is critical as most of these older comics come from a time when comics were printed on newsprint. The digital screen often makes the saturation garish, especially in older comics from a more traditional era of coloring. The analog is often warmer and feel more fitting when compared to the digital in these regards.

Plus, the physical includes the ads, inserts, and letters columns that are often omitted from digital presentations. These artifacts of the past are the parts I love to see. At one point I had hundreds of back issue comics. Many just cobbled together from various bin diving sessions and my own new purchases. Sadly, they are all gone due to a flood.

Going long box diving was often a cheap way for me to find joy and relax. I loved to thumb through the long boxes looking for holograms, embossed covers, special event logos, and anything that looked cool. I didn’t do it to flip comics. That hasn’t ever really been my scene. With the loss of my local bins, I can no longer just skim the bins during a light pull week and find the first appearance of Adam-X or an issue of Ladronn Cable that is phenomenal to look at.

The Targets

All hope is not lost though. In nearby cities, there are other comic shops and bookstores full of long boxes ready to be sifted through. Namely- Mr. K’s Used Book Store which sports a healthy comic section.

My main target for this session was to find a new copy of Superman (vol. 2) #123 aka the first appearance of Superman Blue.

Any comic can be someone's first, huh?
Any comic can be someone’s first, huh?

This comic was my first comic ever and I have had a couple copies over the years but when I lost my back issues, I haven’t been able to secure a copy. Additional, search goals included copies of Professor Xavier and the X-men, a mid 90’s retelling of the Silver Age X-men.

PUT THESE ON UNLIMITED, YOU COWARDS!
PUT THESE ON UNLIMITED, YOU COWARDS!

They were some of my first comics as well and are currently not on Marvel Unlimited. Finally, anything that caught my eye be it a 90’s artifact, a sick cover, or just something neat to read. Needless to say, I think I did well.

The Long Box Comic Finds

Ron Frenz was the main artist on three notable redesigns: Spider-man's Black Suit, Superman Blue, and Thunderstrike.
Ron Frenz was the main artist on three notable redesigns: Spider-man’s Black Suit, Superman Blue, and Thunderstrike.

Thunderstrike #1

Not the Ron Frenz lighting themed character redesign I was wanting but a real solid pick up. I am a sucker for this 90’s design. I did a write up on this comic long ago that I am planning on putting here on the site in the coming weeks. Thunderstrike is an underrated 90’s comic.

Marvel Icons Chamber #1 and Cyclops #1

I had a chance to buy the complete mini-series for both titles, but I was mainly interested in the covers here. I was prioritizing my purchases, but if they are there next time, maybe. Still, Bachalo and Texeria covers are too hard to pass up.

The mid-2000's were the X-men emo period
The mid-2000’s were the X-men emo period

Endangered Species One-shot

Mike Carey´s run on X-men is one of the best in the 2000´s and Endangered Species was the cornerstone of this era, for better or worse. I was never able to get this issue because I wasn´t going to a comic shop proper at the time. I was mainly going to either Walden Books or a Local Game Shop (Read about that era here) that happened to have a comic rack for my comics. This one evaded me for years. I am glad to have this in my collection. I just love this cover’s use silhouettes and colors.

Jack Kirby's Cable
Jack Kirby’s Cable

Cable #-1

Oh the Minus 1 Flashback issues was a wild gimmick for Marvel to experiment with in the mid 90´s all while Onslaught was wrapping up and Heroes Reborn was about to kick off. This issue is a great one. I have a hard time not getting a Ladronn cable comic when I find one. The art is phenomenal. More on this issue in the future.

Heroes Live. Heroes Die. Some are Reborn!
Heroes Live. Heroes Die. Some are Reborn!

Onslaught Marvel Universe One-Shot

This is the one that the heroes ¨die¨ in and leads to them being Reborn. I mainly got it for that 90´s artifact nature of it all but it is a decent issue overall with strong emotional beats. Onslaught is a much-maligned comic event, justifiably, but it has some solid beats. Even if the logic in the book is head scratching.

"Come Together Right Now, Over me" - Nightcrawler, probably
“Come Together Right Now, Over me” – Nightcrawler, probably


X-men Unlimited #30

I had a copy of this years ago and it features some interesting stories. It was from the second volume of Unlimited and it was an anthology volume. The stories included are pretty great including a neat Gen X story. That said, I bought it for the cover. I love the Beatles, I love the X-men and Abbey Road is my favorite album from the Beatles. It was a natural fit that I am glad to be able to replace.

Now the crown jewel of the Dive

Darwyn Cooke and Tim Sale goodness
Darwyn Cooke and Tim Sale goodness

Superman Confidential #1-5

This is a story I did not own before. It’s been on my list but always got moved for something else. With Tim Sale´s tragic passing I was on the lookout for new copies of Long Halloween or Superman: For All Seasons (no luck in the discount trades) but this made up for it. I wasn’t able to locate a copy of #11, which is the conclusion to the story. I will likely find that online through another comic shop or eBay. Hate to have to go that route but when looking for something this specific, Bin diving usually doesn’t work.

Either way, I was floored to find what I did and in great condition. These issues aren’t some big-ticket items, but I am not a reseller. I’m quite glad to have found them all in one trip. They are delightful and make the whole bin dive worthwhile.

Surprising Find

This wasn´t all I found on this trip. I was in a used bookstore after all, and I found the novel adaptation of Judge Dredd. Not Judge Dredd the comics or even Dredd the movie starring Karl Urban. Nope. I found the novelization of the 90´s Stallone vehicle, Judge Dredd. All for $2.50. I couldn´t pass it up.

It's against the Law to turn away this book
It’s against the Law to turn away this book

Now I am the proud owner of Judge Dredd the novel. I don’t own any other Judge Dredd comics either. Such a bizarre oddity.

End of The Day

I was unable to find Superman or Professor and the X-men but I managed to find some great comics to put on display and to read. The high of finding Superman Confidential’s Kryptonite arc in its (almost) entirety was hard to explain and this trip more than worth it. This is why one would want to do this. I found many more comics but only had about 30 bucks to spend and kept it brief. I miss the day when back issue bins were around a buck. Going rate of $2 for a back issue is taking some time to get used to seeing. Darn inflation.

Definitely going to try to do this again next month and may even hit a second comic shop. Check out Extremely Uncanny! for future finds.

Jordan Jennings

Jordan has written for wide array of comic review sites over the years including Comicosity, Comicon, and Comic Book Revolution. He has been reviewing and discussing comics for over 10 years. In addition to comics, Jordan enjoys various types of games be it video games or trading card games.

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