You can add this puppy to the list of regrettable-buys in the Chasing Amazing collection. However, unlike others on the list, my purchase of Amazing Spider-Man #149 has absolutely nothing to do with being ignorant to comic grading terminology or some kind of deception or omission of truth by the seller. In honor of my two favorite sports franchises, the New York Mets and the New York Jets, this comic book purchase is an example of a Chasing Amazing choke-job.
Well-seasoned Spider-Man fans may recognize this issue as the first appearance of Spider-Man’s clone and the (at least for a few minutes) death of the Jackal. I’m sure when this issue first came out in the 1970s, the mighty minds of Marvel never thought that the character they created here would one day be brought back decades later in one of the most insufferable and controversial Spidey storylines of all-time in the “Clone Saga.” But even with my personal detest for the Clone Saga, this issue has long been on my radar for its collectability – let’s just say it’s hard to move past the impressions you get as a teenager.
As I’ve mentioned before, the Clone Saga kicked off as I was at the peak of my first wave of collecting as a teenager. And while the storyline would inevitably turn me off to comics for a few years, I can still vividly remember ASM 149’s prominent spot on Wizard magazine’s “hot list” for comics because the issue had suddenly been transformed into one of those lusted after “first appearance” books. Prior to the Clone Saga, the issue was best known for a some-liked-it, some-didn’t arc involving the Jackal revealing himself as Peter’s professor Miles Warren, and the debut of the Gwen Stacy clone. For Bronze Age aficionados and Jackal (and Gwen Stacy fans), I’m sure there was some desire to own this issue. But I certainly wouldn’t call it “collectible” in the way it was being presented in Wizard after the Clone Saga kicked off. But yes, in the early 1990s, I definitely remember people trying to get their hands on the “first appearance” of Ben Reilly. Something didn’t seem quite right about that to me at the time, but I hadn’t quite figured out how the marketing forces influenced comic books to that point.
During the Clone Saga era,getting my hands on a copy of ASM #149 was increasingly difficult and expensive. I remember seeing pristine copies of the issue in the ballyhooed “wall behind the table” position at comic book shows, usually reserved for the best stuff a dealer had to offer. I remember my eyes bugging out of my head when I looked up the issue in the price guide and saw it was worth five-to-ten times as much as all of the surrounding ASM issues from that era. It made the Silver Age issues I was picking up at the time seem affordable by comparison. So as a result, I just steered clear of ASM #149 because I was never going to have the cash on hand at one of these shows to walk out with one. Plus, even as a teenager, I knew enough about assets that it’s never wise to buy something when it seemingly skyrockets in value overnight. That’s buying high on something that probably has an unsustainable value, though who knows what would have ended up happening if Marvel had resolved the Clone Saga in some way that didn’t have people tearing out their eyeballs in anger.
Fast forward a good 15 years and I was back in the collecting game again big time and had reached the point in my collection where I had every issue of ASM after #200. While I was always interested in getting a good deal on an issue in the first 100 during this time, as you can probably guess from the issues that are left in my “chase,” I’ve always had a tendency to work backwards with my purchases. So I was around the point where ASM #149 was in my sights. The problem was, I couldn’t find it for a worthwhile price and in a worthwhile condition from any of my internet sources. At least it was no longer worth what the Wizard “hot list” value was in 1993, but there were no bargains to be found.
With a comic book show on the horizon, I decided that would be the venue where I could finally get my hands on a copy of ASM #149 and be done with it. And lo and behold, the very first table I approached had a copy of it and a very reasonable price. The problem was the issue was a Very Good minus, and it certainly showed. This wasn’t one of those “collector’s dreams” copies where the damage is obscured because it’s on the back cover, or inside in an area that doesn’t affect the story. This was just a well-read comic book. There had to be a better copy of this issue somewhere either at that show, or if I had just waited it out a bit longer, from one of my internet sources. There was no reason for me to settle for this particular comic book.
And yet I did. I honestly don’t know what came over me, but maybe in a moment of sheer panic – what if I never find this comic book again? What if every one that’s ever been sold for a reasonable price is now firmly in the possession of a die-hard collector who will never relinquish his goods? Was a VG- really that beat-up for a comic book I was willing to spend a little more on for better a better condition? Oh look, those wrinkles and creases all over the cover aren’t THAT bad.
Adding to my embarrassment is I remember talking up the dealer as I was sifting through his stuff, letting him know that I was currently on a quest to collect every issue of ASM. That I had already gotten more than halfway there having every issue back to 200 plus a few dozen more between issues #1 and #200. And then this is the one comic book I buy from him. The guy probably thought I was out of my mind. What kind of fool settles on a VG- on a book within the first five minutes that he arrives to a show when he could have probably found someone selling a Fine or Very Fine for a little bit more?
In retrospect, I like to tell myself I settled for this issue because my brain got stuck in some kind of time-vortex where I was mentally back in 1993, sitting on the floor of my childhood bedroom staring in awe at this “hot” comic book that was suddenly worth hundreds of dollars because it was the first appearance of some stupid clone. So when I saw it for such a low price, it didn’t matter what kind of condition it was in – it was my one great chance to get a highly desired comic book and say that I owned it. Perhaps I could have put it on my mantle as a conversation piece next to my trophy of “World’s Greatest Choke-Job During a Comic Book Show.”
I imagine the dealer was probably chuckling to himself afterwards thinking, “Man, I never thought I was going to find a way to unload an ASM#149 in a VG-. Who was that guy anyway?”
On the plus side, I was now an owner of what I believe to be the first appearance of Shea Stadium in an Amazing Spider-Man comic book. And it’s hard to think of choke-jobs without thinking about Septembers 2007 and 2008 at Shea Stadium.
All images from Amazing Spider-Man #149: Gerry Conway, Ross Andru & Mike Esposito