Friday, July 9, 2010

The Thrill of the Hunt

Batman 608.

That was the one. The first one. The one that sent me running all over town. It sent me to the comics shops I knew of, to every magazine rack at every Borders and Barnes & Noble within a 50 mile radius, and even to every five and dime and convenience store I could think of.

But to no avail.

Whatever I tried, wherever I ventured, I just could not find a copy of Batman 608. Which, as I’m sure many of you would agree, isn’t that big of a deal, in the Grand Scheme of Things.

But as it lingered, on and on, the hunt consumed me. And, honestly, looking for that book was both maddeningly frustrating and incredibly fun. Mostly at the same time.

As I've mentioned before, the Jeph Loeb/Jim Lee "Hush" storyline in Batman was the very first comic I bought on a month-to-month basis. I picked up my first issue mid-run, at number 613. (That's the one right after Superman and Batman fight, for those keeping score.)

That's really the story responsible for getting me into the comics shop, and as such, I have a soft spot for all of the issues in my (black, cold) heart. But issue 608.

Man, did I want that book with a passion.

I was able to backtrack and find issues 610 through 612, and I picked up the first trade at one point to catch up fully before reading the later issues of the run. I was even able to find the sketch variant cover to issue 612 (signed by Jim Lee, no less!).

And, one day, I walked into my comics shop at the time and walked out with the rare and hard-to-find second printing of issue 608. Whose print run was at 30% of the first print's.
Still, I wanted--I needed--to own the first print of issue 608. It was my mission, and I was not going to fail.

And I didn't want to buy it online, either. That's important, because at the time, there were tons of them going for pretty good money on eBay and on comics shops' sites.

And, no, I didn't mind paying market value for the book--but I wanted to find it...on my own. No cheating allowed. I wanted to find that one, magical store where the book would just be sitting--maybe behind more current issues, forgotten about and un-loved--waiting for me to pick it up.

Well, after months of looking, I had all but given up.

Then, one day I walked into a store a couple of towns over (it no longer exists, by the way--in fact, the store that replaced that store no longer exists, either) and I started looking around.

There were a couple of new issues I'd missed out on, a couple of trades I needed to pick up. I walked around the shop, not finding anything to my liking, and decided to rifle through the stack of Batman books on the New Comics Wall.

Why not?

I'd never find issue 60--hey, wait. That's Batman's foot, isn't it? It looks like...I pulled the ten or so books in front off the shelf. And there it was. A copy of Batman 608.

I think I paid ten bucks for that book, but I'll never forget the thrill--it was actually a thrill--I got when I came across it. Like finding gold in the basement, or hitting a walk-off home run.

Flash forward to a couple of Wednesdays ago. I was in my LCS, buying comics as usual. I looked towards the back issue wall, and there it was. A copy of 608. The first I'd seen in about five years.

It brought back all of the memories of the hunt, and it made me think about that person out there, searching in vain for that issue. That issue that's just waiting for him or her at that comics shop.

And I smiled.

-- -- -- --

As an addendum to this post, just out of the blue, really, I stumbled across a copy of the variant to issue 608. It was in a bag of other books, all on sale for a dollar. I couldn't help myself. The find was just too good, and so I bought the bag.

What else was in it? The entire "Hush" run.

Missing, of course, was the first print to issue 608. Which I though was utterly appropriate.

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