Saturday, November 24, 2007

Terakoya - 1976

Here's something from the Leiter Family Archives that most of my friends might not know about. Back in the Fall of 1976, my dad, Samuel L. Leiter, who at the time was Professor of Theater at Brooklyn College (later to be chair of the dept. until retiring in February, 2007), translated and directed a production of the Japanese Kabuki play, Terakoya. Around the same time, his first (of many) books was published - The Art Of Kabuki, Famous Japanese Plays In Translation, of which Terakoya was one. For a synopsis of the storyline for Terakoya, click on this link: Terakoya Synopsis For the role of the young prince, Kan Shûsai, I was recruited. At the time, one of my father's best and most promising theater students was the yet to be famous TV actor, Jimmy Smits. Jimmy played my father in the play. I have many great memories of working on the show, in rehearsal, getting to put my own make-up and just being around the set and working with all the actors. It was the only show I ever did; later as a student myself at Brooklyn College, I took a couple of acting classes for fun. Here's the only known surviving photo of me in make-up. It was scanned from a pretty beat up Polaroid. The video included here is from a performance of the play that we put on in Brooklyn College's television studios. It was intended to be shown on their cable access TV station I think, but I'm not sure if it ever aired. Unfortunately, the entire show hasn't survived the years - only about 45 min of it still exists. The voice-over narration is by my dad. Represented here is my entire on-stage appearence. I'll try and get some of Jimmy Smits performance up soon. A few brief clips of it were shown on some early 90's TV shows of the 'before they were stars' variety. As I don't have DVD editing capabilities (or at least don't know how to edit a DVD!) I've filmed this off of my TV, hence the slightly shaky camerawork. Hopefully I'll be able to upgrade the video down the line.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

John Byrne and Terry Austin - NYC Creation Con - c. 1979

The pics below were taken by my dad at a Creation Comic Con in NYC in the late 70's. I'm figuring it's likely 1979, right during the heart of the Claremont/Byrne/Austin run on X-Men. I remember their table being swarmed with people and briefly thinking about getting a commission, but realizing there was no way I'd be able to. Take a look at that piece Austin is working on....pretty darn
detailed! For years I thought that they were working on a convention sketch, but as I found out a couple of years ago, it was, in fact, the cover to The Comics Journal #57, Summer 1980.  odd that they'd be working on a published cover at a comic con!

That's me, off to the right, eagerly enjoying watching Austin at work. Even the pencil sketch that Byrne is working on in the first shot (likely later to be passed on to Austin) seems to be possibly a group shot, as if you zoom in and rotate the pic 180 degrees, you can see that there's more than just Wolverine there. The paper that Byrne is holding over the drawing, to prevent his hand from smudging it, looks like it's hiding Nightcrawler, as it appears to be his hand coming out from under it. What's odd, though, is that the pencil sketch appears to be the same image as the cover, yet Austin is also inking that same image. Strange. As if they were working on the same piece, like a recreation. John Byrne has a forum on his webpage and I think I'll have to ask about this, should he even remember. The photo of John Byrne in conversation, was after a talk he did. I only seem to remember being around for his talk just a little while. I don't remember any of what went on. It was at this same con that I got a Moon Knight sketch from Bill Sienkiewicz, which I then brought over to have inked by Joe Rubenstein. The two were working together on the character's appearences in the back of The Rampaging Hulk magazine. Moon Knight didn't yet have his own title.


Monday, August 6, 2007

Keeping the Star Wars flame alive...

I got very lucky this weekend. My neighbor of the last eight years has decided to move. That's not why I got lucky; he's a great guy and we'll certainly miss him and his wife, but in the process of cleaning up his home, where he's lived for forty years, he discovered some vintage Kenner Star Wars figures. The figures were his son's, who's around my age. Saturday afternoon, in the midst of a nap, the phone rang. It was Ralph next door. 'Might I take a look at some of these Star Wars figures that he had?' My wife had mentioned earlier in the week that Ralph had said something about Star Wars figures, but I had forgotten about it. 'Sure, I'd be over in a little while,' I said. Before heading over I took a look thru a recent issue of Toyfare magazine to get an idea of what some of the vintage 12" figures and 3 3/4" figures were going for in loose shape. I figured these might be a bit beat up and missing weapons (which they were). The prices listed were a bit too high for reality, as I used a better judge and went onto Ebay, checking some ongoing and recently completed auctions. Unless the figures were mint and complete, or in boxes/carded, they weren't going for too much. I took the 30 second walk over to Ralph's place and followed him down to the basement, where laid out on the pool table were Kenner Star Wars carrying case boxes, filled with figures, as well as three large scale figures, of a Stormtrooper, Darth Vader and Chewbacca. They were all without any weapons or accessories, and kinda dirty (especially the Trooper) but they weren't broken (aside from a loose arm on Darth). I figured on Ebay the lot of large figures, cleaned up, might sell for $25 or so. Add in Ebay and Paypal fees and you're not making a killing. The small figures were also almost all missing their weapons, but the figures were intact and just in need of a bit of cleaning. (Funnily enough, the R2-D2 was in better shape than mine!). I figured you could get a couple of bucks each on Ebay. In addition to the figures, there was a loose Tauntaun (c. 1980) and die-cast Snowspeeder. But there was more. There were a few boxes of Matchbox/Hot Wheels cars as well, all in carrying cases. There was even a Corgi Superhero cars carrying case that was pretty cool. A few of the Corgi diecast superhero cars were there, but most all of the cars were pretty beat up. One last bit of stuff was in the best shape. A full box filled with maybe thirty vintage Burger King glasses for The Empire Strikes Back and a few for Peanuts and a couple of other comic titles. These were all in pretty much perfect unused condition. I remember having some of the glasses and they were used in our house...and dropped, as well. It's funny how you can have an emotional connection to a glass, but my Burger King Star Wars glasses meant a lot to me. At this point, Ralph's son, Greg, had come down to the basement and I gave him my assesment of the worth of the figures. I didn't really know the value of the cars (not much, at least based on condition) or the glasses and I told him this. I offered some money for the Star Wars figures, but he was not willing to take any money and offered the lot to me for free. Wow..great..sure - Thanks! I could see there were a number of the smaller figures that I didn't have and I'd always wanted the 12" (the Darth and Chewie are more like 14") figures. Cool! Ralph had mentioned he was just going to throw them away, but I assured him that there was no need for that! He said he'd box them up and bring them over later. Later in the evening, after getting home from dinner, I saw Greg's wife, Vicki, in front of Ralph's house. I recounted the story about the figures and said Greg will be welcome to 'visit' his old toys whenever they might be in town (they live in Saratoga, NY). She then mentioned she'd heard about my collection and would love to see it. So I invited her over. A little while later, she and Greg came by, with Greg bringing over the SW figures and carrying cases. It was really quite a cool thrill to be handed over his childhood toys. Even though he hadn't remembered the figures, you could see he got a lot of play value from them. Now, they'd stand beside some of my own vintage figures and fill out the collection. All told, there were 31 figures, including about 11 or so 3 3/4 inch figures that I didn't have, all from Empire. A bunch of Cloud CIty guys, like Lobot and some of their security guys. The figures went up to Jedi, as there was even a Leia Boush helmet, but, alas, no figure. The top pic here includes some of the new additions. See if you can notice the new ones from the last blog entry pic!

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Star Wars - Happy 30th Anniversary!!

It's been awhile since I've done much of an update on this blog, so in honor of the 30th anniversary of Star Wars, here are some pics from my Star Wars collection. Included here are a bunch of my original, vintage figures, including the original Early Bird Luke figure, with the double extending light saber. Because of the nature of the thin plastic on the second extending section of the light saber, alot of these pieces tended to break off. Luckily mine is intact. The first releases of Obi-Wan and Vader also had the same double telescoping light saber function, and I have those as well. Unfortunately, however, the entire length of those lightsabers are now gone (along with Kenobi's cape.) I also have the Early Bird versions of Leia, R2 and Chewie. Chewie's missing his crossbow and Leia her original blaster. In case you were wondering just what the Early Bird figures were, when Kenner got the license to produce Star Wars toys, they weren't initially thinking action figures. With the films massive popularity they realized an action figure line was going to be a neccesity. But with almost a year needed to produce a line, they saw that they would not be able to get product into the stores by Christmas. So, without any figures yet ready, they came up with the ingenious idea to put out a certificate package to be in the shops for Christmas that could be redeemed by mail for a set of four figures that would be sent out in the early months of 1978. Besides the mail-in certificate for the initial four figures, the 'empty box' as it's come to be known, came with a picture display stand with drawings of the main characters and a flat black board with the character names that the figures could be placed on, as well as a Star Wars club membership card and color Star Wars stickers. Below is an audio clip, also from 1978 of me reading some descriptions of the action figures from the back of one of the cards. I should be 10 years old on this bit of analog tape. I remember recording this and a few other things on an old Radio Shack portable tape deck, which is now long gone. Click on the link to hear it. Justin's 1978 Star Wars Ad The bottom set of pics are of the very rare 1995 Power Of The Force Boba Fett with only one of his hands having a painted dot on the back. As you can see in the close-up pic of his left hand, there's an unpainted sculpted circle. I only found out about this variation (at one time worth around $200 MOC) after the fact. When the Power of the Force figures came out in 1995, I bought two of each character. I'd open one and keep the other on the card. Naturally I wound up opening the rare one, unknowingly. As a loose figure, it's only worth around $25.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Mars Attacks!

Ah the good old days of Creation Comic cons. I took these photos sometime between 1979-1981..I think.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Captain America Is Dead! Long Live Captain America!

The annoucement a few weeks ago that Marvel had killed off Captain America came as a bit of a surprise to the comic community and certainly helped get a lot of people that don't normally step into comics shops, in there in droves to purchase one or more (if they were able to) copies of issue #25 of Captain America. Within hours, copies of the issue were up on Ebay, selling in many multiples of dollars of the original cover price. Will Captain America stay dead? Well, the issue in which he's killed is just Pt.1 of an ongoing story arc. Marvel never said they were cancelling the Captain America title, so I think we can imagine that he'll be back in some form, somehow or other down the line. It'll be interesting to see how many issues of Captain America will be published without ever showing Cap himself. Maybe they'll do alot of flashbacks. Here are issues #100-#110 of Marvel's solo title for Cap, following his resurrection in the mid 60's in Marvel's Tales Of Suspense comics. Tales of Suspense ended with issue #99, and became Captain America, continuing a story begun in the earlier book. All the covers from #100-#109 are the work of Jack Kirby. #110 is by new Cap artist, Jim Steranko, who brought dynamic new design work, heavily pop art influenced, to the title and Marvel Comics. The dynamism and exaggeration of proportion are what draw me to the Kirby covers - and the use of color, especially on #107, which also has a terrific cover layout. My copies are for the most part in pretty nice shape, with a few, in beautiful, Near Mint condition. The #100 is a decent enough copy, but unremarkable, with several surface flaws. The back cover has a small burn hole of some kind and there is general cover wear and dulling of the ink reflectivity. The spine has it's share of creases as well. I'd rate it a Fine-. On the other hand, the #103, #106, #107 and #109 are in really great condition, with amazing cover color vibrancy. My first series Cap collection ends in the mid 200's after the John Byrne run, in the early 80's. I then picked it back up with a bunch of runs of issues in recent years, particularly the John Cassady pencilled issues, as well as most of the latest series.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Stan Lee Ripped My Comic !!!

Sometime in 1979 (if memory serves me correctly; it may have been 1978), my childhood friend and fellow comic collector, Joe Carbone, and I, were taken to a NYC comic con by his dad. I think I went to the show with maybe $50 or $60, deciding that I was going to put a good portion of it toward getting one really nice book. I wound up choosing issue #11 of The Fantastic Four, featuring the origin and first appearence of the Impossible Man. I think I paid around $30 for the book. The Overstreet Guide from 1979 places the value in Fine at $33, so I guess $30 sounds about right for the condition of this issue, which I'd put around a Fine -. The 2006 guide has it at $264 in Fine and $1750 in Near Mint. The Excelsior himself, Stan Lee, was at this con and signing comics. I got in line with my new purchase, figuring, “Ah, perfect, I can get my #11 signed by Stan Lee himself! The line wasn't too long and it was set up in the hallway of the convention. I can't remember what hotel it was being held at, but it was a relatively small space in the crowded hallway. When I got to him, Stan, sitting behind a small table, asked me my name (and made some now forgotten comment about the old F.F. issue) and proceeded to inscribe it to me and sign it. Unfortunately, Stan pressed fairly hard on the cover and as he signed it, his ball point pen sliced right through the (then) 16-or-so-year-old-paper. I noticed that and showed it to him, so he took it back and wrote the now infamous line , “I'm sorry I Ripped It - Stan.” On the one hand, I was pretty pissed that Stan had ripped what had been a pretty proud investment for an eleven-year-old, and on the other, I had a special, one-of-a-kind note on my book from Stan Lee! As I was leaving the table, I showed the book to my friend's dad who got pretty upset and used a couple of expletives about Stan ripping a kid's comic and how he should have paid for it. I let it slide and I guess the book is fairly unique. I've often wondered if I'd prefer to just have a nice clean copy of the book, without any signature at all, as, to many collectors, writing on the cover of a comic, other than maybe a store date, is frowned upon. Later on, I did a trade with my friend Joe for his Fantastic Four #14, which he bought that day and also had signed. Looking closely at that signature, you can notice that Stan tore into that cover a bit as well!

Addendum - Looking back at the signature on the #11, it's in a bit of a different style for Stan. The way the 'S' leads into the 't' is more of a cursive 'l' than the normal upside down and elongated 'V' shape that he usually uses. On March 31st, 2012, I met Stan again (for the 3rd time) at the New York Comic Book Marketplace, where he signed my copy of IDW's The 'Amazing Spider-Man John Romita Artist's Edition.' (btw, a video I put together showcasing this book can be seen here: John Romita - Amazing Spider-Man Artist's Edition The signature he used on that is closer to the one on the #14 here, than it is on the #11.  So that makes the #11 even that much more unique!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Number Nine, Number Nine...

Up until last year, the only number I was missing out of the first 20 issues of The Amazing Spider-Man was #9. It's a classic issue, featuring the first appearence of Electro and a beautiful Steve Ditko cover. For some reason, over the 28 previous years of my buying comics, that book never made its way into my collection. In this photo from a 1979 NYC Creation Comic convention you can see my mom considering purchasing a copy of Spider-Man #9, while I and the dealer look on. I can't say I'm totally thrilled at the way my mom is holding the book . . . seemingly creasing it at the mid-way point in the spine. I'd much prefer it be cradled in the left or right palm, and the pages turned with the other. And I'm surprised at the dealer, pretty much leaning his body weight right on top of his own books for sale! I'm just an innocent bystander, hoping that my mon will buy the book but, unfortunately, she ultimately passed on it. I seem to remember the dealer wanting $80 for it; however, looking back at an Overstreet Price Guide from 1979-1980, #9 in Mint is listed at only $33. Based on a close-up, zoomed-in view on the photo here, this #9 looks to be in pretty nice shape. Too bad we didn't get it. It was probably around $30! The 2006 Near Mint value is $2150. Last year, I finally picked up a copy of this book. I'd followed a number of Ebay auctions for #9 over the last few years, but never really seriously considered bidding on any of the nicer grade copies because they were going for too much money. But last year I saw an auction for what looked like a pretty clean copy, except that, when you looked at the cover in a certain light, you could see some scratches or impressions of writing on it. The cover reflectivity and colors were still pretty good, it looked pretty smooth otherwise and laid flat, and it had a low opening bid, so I went ahead and bid on it; to my surprise, I won it for $125! The 2006 Guide lists it in only Good 2.0 condition for $108. Without the scratches/marks I'd grade the book a Fine +, which would put it in the $400 or so area . . . so if you take off a bit for the scratches and I think it was a pretty good deal. Overall, the book looks great, with a bit of edge wear at the top and some corner blunting and creasing, but with some nice cover gloss still retained . . . and in a mylar it looks awesome!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The Amazing Spider-Man

The heart of my comic book collection consists of my Amazing Spider-Man books. Up to issue #300 of the first series, I'm missing only #27 (third Green Goblin appearence) and #217 (not sure why I never picked this one up). Granted, not all of the books, especially early on, are in the greatest shape, but there are a few really nice copies. #13 with the first appearence of Mysterio and #14, featuring the first Green Goblin story, are particularly nice. #2 and #7, both with classic Vulture covers, are in overall nice shape as well. My #1, purchased for me by my mom for $325 in 1980 , is what I would consider a VG+/FINE – book. It’s a nice book (hey, it's Spider-Man #1!) but by no means a CGC 9.0. The same day that the Spidey #1 was purchased, we also picked up a Spider-Man #4, with the first appearence of the Sandman. I remember the day well, when Richie from Tomorrow's Treasures came over our house in Queens with some choice books. We knew him well from buying comics at his usual Acqueduct flea market set-up; he’s still operating after all these years. Richie is the first comic dealer you see at the NYC Big Apple Cons when you come up the escalator. The only regret from that day is that we didn't buy a copy of Amazing Fantasy #15. It was in better shape than the Spider-Man #1, but it was the same price. At the time Amazing Fantasy #15 was worth less in the guide than the Spider-Man #1. Of course, now that's changed and the #15 in high grade is worth more than the #1 in a comparable grade. My mom was making the money decisions and she figured I was putting together a collection of the Amazing Spider-Man, so it made more sense to go with the #1. Thinking about it now, I wonder why we didn't just buy both, but $325 for a comic book in 1980 was still a lot of money! Looking back at the Overstreet Price Guide from 1980 it's amazing to see that after #1, the prices for Spider-Man comics were actually pretty low in the high grades. The #4 probably cost around $40. I likely paid in the $10-$20 range for a lot of the other early Spidey books, most of which were acquired in the late 70's/early 80's. I've been debating whether to get the #1 professionally graded by CGC. I've also thought about having it “pressed.” a process used by comic restorers (although, technically, this isn't considered restoration) where they literally press the comic to remove wrinkles and some surface defects. It might raise the grade by a bit, for a relatively low price. Naturally this requires the book to leave my hands, so maybe that's what's held me back from doing it so far.

Sunday, March 11, 2007


Most of my friends know I've been an avid collector of all kinds of comic-, art-, and music-related ephemera and non-paper collectibles; it's something I've been doing since I was old enough to make the decision to keep something I owned, rather than have someone else (read: parents) make that choice. I've heard lots of horror stories over the years of parents throwing away their kids’ toys and comics and it saddens me. From my own family I can hear the dissapointment in my Uncle Jack's voice when he recalls how after going to serve in the Armed Forces in the late 50's, he came home to find all his comics gone, thrown away by his mother, my late Nana Rose. We're talking Golden Age Supermans, Action Comics, along with much more DC, probably Timely, and lots of EC Horror books. In todays market, this represents thousands upon thousands of dollars worth of comic books. Of course, the only reason those same comics are worth as much as they are today is precisly because my grandmother chose to discard a few boxes of seemingly worthless “joke books” taking up valuable floor and closet space in a small Brooklyn apartment. She can hardly be faulted for failing to forsee the future worth of those cheaply printed comics. Still, there were those few individuals, even at that relatively early time, who did realize that some of the toys and comics of their day might be worth money down the line. Though—until I was ten or so—I didn't treat the comics I read as a kid with much more respect than most kids would, I still managed to hold onto most of them, even the Ghost Rider #15, featuring the villain with a big eye for a helmet, the Uncanny Orb, with multiple puncture holes on the cover. When I was nine, one of my father's theater students gave me a box of his old late 60's comics, including some issues of Spider-Man. Most of the comics were pretty beat up (the Spideys in particular!) but my mom had heard about a comic price guide, so she went to the library looking for it. It had been checked out, along with the two or three other remaining copies of the guide in local libraries. Finally, she was able to track down a copy and discovered that these comics, in better condition, could be worth a lot of money. From there, it was a natural progression to build on my comics interest and actually start collecting. That led to her writing, a few years later, one of the very first books on collecting comics, titled Collecting Comic Books (what else?). You can see the cover, drawn by one of my favorite artists of the time, Michael Golden, well known for his work on The Micronauts (and you can bet I had a lot of Micronauts toys!). You can see the cover here: Collecting Comic Books This blog will showcase some of the items that I've amassed over the years, including scans of comic covers, original art, toy pics, and various other photos (vintage and new) and scans of interesting things in the collection. Hope you like what you see!