After years of false starts and publishing delays, “Dale’s Comic Fanzine Price Guide 2011” was finally published late last year.
I’ve been a comics fanzine aficionado and collector since the early 1970s, and have done quite a bit of research on the subject. I’ve even published a number of complete or partial indexes of key fanzine titles, such as “Star-Studded Comics,” “The Comic Reader,” and “The Buyer’s Guide for Comic Fandom” (now “Comics Buyer’s Guide). And while the TBG index only focused on the first 400 issues, it was a highly comprehensive, three-part, cross-referenced index that included 59 cover scans.
So, more than most, I have a pretty good idea just how difficult an undertaking “Dale’s Comic Fanzine Price Guide 2011” probably was. It speaks volumes that this is the first price guide in the 50-year history of modern-day comics fandom to revolve entirely around comics fanzines. Unlike professional publishers, comics fanzine publishers had highly erratic publishing schedules, frequently changed the names of their publications, sometimes had incredibly low print runs, and sometimes didn’t bother to provide even basic publishing information on the cover or inside of their publications.
That said, overall I was disappointed with this price guide for the simple fact that there is far too much information missing.
Yes, comics-related fanzines is a very tough collecting niche to create a price guide for. Yes, Dale had to make many decisions about what should and should not be included. But even giving him broad discretionary latitude, his price guide seems to have far too many glaring and arbitrary omissions.
For example, when I first started flipping through the book, I quickly noticed about a dozen or so 1970s comics fanzines I had personally contributed artwork to, or was familiar with because they were published by friends, were not listed. Those omissions prompted me to sit down and do a much more detailed cross-check between the “Dale’s Comic Fanzine Price Guide 2011,” and the comics fanzine index data I’ve been gathering on my own since the 1980s. To my surprise, there were literally hundreds of comics fanzines missing from the book – many of which were readily available to contemporary comics fans and well-publicized when they were originally published, and many of which I have in my personal collection.
Here’s just a random sampling of some of the fanzines that one would think should be in such an index, but were not: “Action Illustrated,” “Amazing Science Fantasy,” “APA-Five,” “Armageddon,” “Art & Story,” “Assorted Superlatives,” “Bumbazine,” “Captain George’s Penny Dreadful,” “Collector’s Corner,” “Comet,” “Comic Block,” “Comicaze,” “The Comicist,” “Comic Collector,” “Comic Courier,” “Comicdom,” “Comic Forum,” “Comic Hero,” “Comics Fandom Examiner” (Comics F/X), “Comic Lore,” “Comic Times” (the original version), “Comic Vendor,” Endeavor,” “Epitaph,” “Fandom Annual,” “Fandom Newsletter,” “Fantastic Fan Fiction,” “Fantasy Advertiser,” “Fantasy Fanzine,” “Fanzation,” “Fanzine Illustrated,” “(Irving) Forbush Gazette,” “Forum,” “Fulcrum,” “Funnyworld,” “FVP,” “Graphic Fantasy,” “Graphic Gallery,” “The Harvard Journal of Pictorial Fiction” (yes, this IS a fanzine), “Heroes Unlimited,” “Huh?,” “Marvel Gazette,” “Marvel Main,” “Marvel Mania” (the one that predates the later, slicker version), “Marvel Manor,” “Mask and Cape,” “Mindworks,” “Minotaur,” “Nucleus,” “Nova,” “Paragon Illustrated,” “Poor Richard’s Adzine,” “Qua Brot,” “Sensawunda,” “Spectrum,” “Spidey Fan,” “Stan’s Weekly Express,” “Tetragrammaton Fragments (the United Fanzine Organization club ‘zine regularly published since the 1970s), “Title,” “Touchstone,” “Train of Thought,” “Unpublished,” “Venture,” “What Th…?” and “Woweekazowie,”
Then there’s the seemingly arbitrary decision to list some slick fanzines/prozines such as “Anomaly,” but omit others. When the price guide’s scope is discussed in the introduction, Dale rationalizes his comics fanzine vetting process by stating that “Comics such as ‘Phase,’ ‘Star Reach,’ ‘Infinity’ and so forth are really more of an early independent or alternative comic than a fanzine.”
“Star Reach,” and unnamed fanzines like “Hot Stuf,” maybe. But “Phase” is as much a fanzine as is “Anomaly” or “Abyss” – both of which are listed in Dale’s price guide. And despite the fact that Dale says he won’t list fanzines like “Infinity,” “Infinity” is, in fact, listed on Page 98 of the guide.
Leaving out fanzines like “Phase,” “Nimbus,” etc., is not at all helpful to comics fanzine collectors simply because it is these fanzines that had larger print runs and might be more readily accessible. Face it, the average fanzine collector will never see a copy of “Xero,” but will pretty likely stumble across copies of “Phase” sooner or later.
There are also many problems in Dale’s price guide with cross-referencing omissions of various fanzines. For example, “Robyn (sic) Snyder’s History of Comics” is listed through volume seven, and at the bottom of the entry, it states that it becomes “The Comics.” Yet, even though the highly informative and respected “The Comics” is still being published today, and is on at least volume 22, there is no entry for the latter version of the title.
Another example of a glaring cross-referencing problem is the listing for “Comic Buyer’s Guide.” It doesn’t directly address the fact that this publication was once “The Buyer’s Guide for Comic Fandom.” It apparently assumes that fact is something everyone buying the price guide already knows. That’s a bad assumption. It also does not address page counts and section counts of the pre-Krause issues – something that is absolutely crucial for any collector or seller to know if they want to be relatively certain they are buying a complete issue. After all, who wants to pay $100 for the 100th issue of TBG, only to find out later that it is supposed to consist of four tabloid-sized sections and 80 pages rather than one section and 24 pages? And if you think that doesn’t happen, think again. I’ve seen eBay auctions of old TBG issues where a single cover section is listed and shown, but I know through my own indexing efforts that the issues being sold actually had two or more sections.
On the plus side, “Dale’s Comic Fanzine Price Guide 2011” lists many of the key classic comics fanzines – including most of the best-known publications – so it should be useful to most collectors in that regards. As for the actual pricing in the guide, I’d say it’s like any other price guide: Some of the prices seem too high, and some seem too low. Still, it does provide a decent baseline for pricing discussions, and one that’s long overdue.
In addition, the price guide contains an added and unexpected bonus: A price guide section for comics-related hardcovers, softcovers and trades. However, like the comics fanzine section that precedes it, what’s included and omitted in the book price guide section is a hit-or-miss proposition.
All-in-all, despite its shortcomings, I’d have to say “Dale’s Comic Fanzine Price Guide 2011” is a must for any comics fanzine collector or dealer – for the simple reason that a “snapshot” view of comics fanzines is better than no view at all.