Wednesday, June 05, 2013

In the Bag

Pal Mike Sterling recently posted about Whitman comic book pre-packs, those wonderful treasure chests of fun pre-packaged inside plastic bags and sold for mere pennies at your local non-comics retailer (and here's another, earlier post on the pre-pack bags by Mike). I love/loved/will continue to love these packs; they were my first foray into back-issue buying with the Star Wars, Micronauts and Battlestar Galactica sets that Mike shows off. I never know what the technical term for those bags is called, but at least one publisher had their own specific terminology:

Comicpac ad printed in Detective Comics #306 (August 1962)

Comicpacs! Now there's a name I've not heard in a long, long time. Here's a full-page black-and-white (inside cover) house ad for DC's Comicpacs:

Comicpac ad printed in Batman #153 (February 1963)

Wow, that's a snazzy display stand, that I presume supermarkets and other retailers were paid to place in their stores via co-op or advertising money from DC and/or local magazine distributors. I've long wanted one of those spinner racks that say "Hey Kids! Comics!" on it to display my comic books, but I'd settle for one of these in good condition. I'll just need a hole punch so that I can dangle my copies of The Incredible Hulk #181 and other rare comics off those metal rods.

Say, folks, can you do math? Of course you can. (You have already shown your immense smarts by reading this blog!) So you'll see that selling four 12¢ comics inside a polybag adds up to a value of exactly 48¢, for which you are charged...47¢. OH THOSE FANTASTIC SAVINGS. Not too bad for a ploy to sell off what is presumably unsold overprinted recent stock of comics. Trouble was, you never quite knew what you were getting besides the comic book shown on the front and the one on the back. There might be Superman on one side and Detective Comics facing out on the other, but you spend your four bits minus three coppers and bicycle frantically home to tear open your Comicpac and discover the set had been stuffed with an issue of Falling in Love and one of Everything Happens to Harvey. The perils of blind buying! You pay yer money and you takes yer chances, as I believe Jonah Hex once said. If not him, then Benjamin J. Grimm.

Now, I have long thought (and I bet you did too) that polybags and Comicpacs and the like were part of the distant past, much like the passenger pigeon and The Heckler, and that we would never see their likes again. So imagine my surprise when, while wandering through a local branch of the discount store Five Below (home of the five-buck iPod case and an entire endcap of Iron Man 2 action figures), a table full of remainder books including a whole display of polybag sets of recent comic books, retailing for the (cheap!) price of four for $4.99.

Well, you can bet your bottom $4.99 I bought a pack of those comics, more for the nostalgia than actually thinking I was gonna get really great comics. Of the four comic books in the pack I could see two: an issue of Robin #155...

...and on the flip-side was a face-out copy of something called Starbreaker #29. Oh, sorry, wait, that's Justice Society of America.

But what two comics were inside this polybag o' fun? Altho' I peered and poked, I couldn't tell before I purchased it, so I had to bring it home and, thus forever destroying its mint value as a polybagged set of unsalable leftover comics, ripped it open.

So, what pair of poor-selling, over-printed recent comic books would I get sandwiched in between the two visible ones? Harvey's New Kids on the Block Meet Wendy the Good Little Witch? Marville #7? Identity Crisis? Any of the fourteen billion Spider-Clone comics? Which will it be, which will it be?



I cannot tell a lie in case you're jealous and ill-at-ease
The pair of comic books that I really got turned out to be these.


Robt Seda-Schreiber said...

I call shenanigans!

SallyP said...

You had me there for a mintute, Bully.

Blam said...

I haven't gone over to Mike Sterling's yet, so apologies if any of this is duplicate info.

// So you'll see that selling four 12¢ comics inside a polybag adds up to a value of exactly 48¢, for which you are charged...47¢. OH THOSE FANTASTIC SAVINGS. //

My suspicion is that this made sense wherever sales tax was 6% — and I don't know how widespread that was, exactly, but it feels like the most common percentage outside of major cities — because 48 x 1.06 = 50.88 but 47 x 1.06 = 49.82, so by rounding the customer could hand over a clean 50¢ rather than having to scramble for a penny or make the cashier make penny change. A keen mind and several years in retail at your service!

In the '70s and early '80s you mostly found 3 in a pack, not 4, and we called 'em three-packs or triple-packs. Geniuses, we were. Most of the ones I recall were the Whitman variants, too, which kind-of dulled the thrill of marginally cheaper comics. I'm unsure how much the triple-packs were at the five-and-tens I frequented in my younger days, when new individual issues went for 25¢ or 30¢, but by the time I found them at Kay-Bee at the mall they were a dollar and issues were 35¢ at least.