THE COSMIC AEROPLANE COLLECTION OF GOLDEN AGE COMICS
(By Par Holman)
While working at the Cosmic Aeroplane from 1976-1981 I was entrusted with grading and pricing what became known in the comic book world as the Cosmic Aeroplane collection. Comics from this collection still show up for sale and auction and can be identified by penciled checkmarks accompanied by a number, in the page margins. The checkmarks usually indicate panels that feature sexy women or pieces of fantastic, science-fiction equipment.
Over the years I have read speculation from some Golden Age collectors as to the significance of the numbers and checkmarks. The consensus is some nonsense that the comics were part of an art service, which marked the books so their artists could re-draw the panels. This is what the checkmarks in the Cosmic Aeroplane Collection really signify: the original owner of the comics would check off panels he wanted to trace (crudely) in pencil on pieces of tracing paper. We took all of the tracing paper out of the comics before listing them for sale.
I didn’t have anything to do with the acquisition of the collection, but my recollection is that Ken Sanders, one of the partners in the store, was approached by a woman who had old comics to sell. She explained that they had been bought by her late brother. He had gone to By’s Magazine Shop in downtown Salt Lake City every Saturday from 1939 to 1961 to buy the new comics. He kept them in an old trunk, which preserved them in their pristine condition.
I also made ads to sell the comics, which ran in a tabloid-sized publication called The Buyer’s Guide for Comics Fandom. In those pre-computer days I did all the mechanicals by using my electric typewriter to type lists on our store stationery. If there was room left on the page I might draw a cartoon or two. We used the Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide to set our prices. There was a problem with Overstreet’s book. It was available to anyone, and it caused some problems with us when people wanted to sell their comics to us.
The Guide prices were listed for various conditions. Obviously, the mint condition comics commanded the best prices. One day a middle-aged woman came into the store with a box of old comics. From heavy use and abuse all the comics in the box, which included a copy of Batman #1, had become just piles of paper. All of them were long since separated from the staples and covers, some of the poorest condition comics I had ever seen. The woman explained her husband had bought them when they were new, and over the years he had let his kids and grandkids read them. They read them to death. The woman had a price in mind for the books. It was obvious she had gotten a copy of Overstreet and had seen the mint condition prices, because that’s what she wanted. I didn’t think the comics were worth anything, but I believe one of the guys who had authorization to buy old books and comics offered her a price, maybe a hundred dollars or so. She left the store in a huff, carrying her comics. Later she called the store and accused us of stealing one of the comics, an early fifties issue of Black Magic. I overheard one of our guys telling her on the phone, “Lady, if we were going to steal any of those comics it sure wouldn’t be that one.”
Non-comics collectibles often came through the comic book room, also, including a set of Mars Attacks bubblegum cards. I made a photocopy of the ad before sending it off to the Buyer’s Guide. I can’t find any copies of my comic book ads.
From Wikipedia: The Mars Attacks trading card series was created by Topps in 1962. Product developer Len Brown, inspired by Wally Wood’s cover for EC Comics Weird Science #16, pitched the idea to Woody Gelman.
Gelman and Brown created the story—with Brown writing the copy—and created rough sketches. They enlisted Wood to flesh out the sketches and Bob Powell to finish them. Norman Saunders painted the 55-card set.
The cards, which sold for five cents per pack of five, were test marketed by Topps through the dummy corporation Bubbles, Inc. under the name Attack from Space. Sales were sufficient to expand the marketing and the name was changed to Mars Attacks. The cards sparked parental and community outrage over their graphic violence and implied sexuality. Topps responded initially by repainting 13 of the cards to reduce the gore and sexuality, then, following inquiries from a Connecticut district attorney, agreed to halt production.
My current blog — Pappy’s Golden Age Comics Blogzine (at http:// pappysgoldenage.
blogspot.com ) grew directly from my experiences with the Cosmic Aeroplane collection.
I think it’s great that even though the store has been out of business for years, the Cosmic Aeroplane name is still used to identify a very significant collection of rare comic books.
Par Holman, February, 2015
See Par Holman’s entry in Lambiek’s Comiclopedia, an online index of Comic artists.
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Blogmeister Michael Evans is an author and historian.
He also drew illustrations for his book
The Great Salt Lake Mime Saga and Amsterdam’s Festival of Fools.