The inaugural interview for the new Collectors Legion is Joey Davis, owner and editor of this very site! But don’t hold that against him! An avid old school DC fan, Joey has built an impressive collection of DC comics-related items twice in his life. The first one slowly faded from existence after he discovered girls at the age of 12. The second and current one has been growing and expanding since 2003. His goal in life is to re-acquire the treasures of his youth but is finding those items cost a lot more money now!
Everyone has their favorite universe to collect. What’s yours?
I mostly collect DC comics-related items, and mainly action figures.
So you have other items in your collection besides action figures?
Sure, I have about 5,000 comics book, glasses, mugs, framed art, clothing, movies, promotional material…
So really anything licensed by DC comics…
… bandaids, valentines day card, hotwheels, yeah, anything. Doesn’t mean I buy it all. I’m not out actively seeking it. Friends and family buy me gifts, some even make me things. I run across items at yard sales and thrift stores.
Do you actually find good items at yard sales??
Hell yes! I mean, collectors wouldn’t think so because, thanks to shows like American Pickers and Storage Wars, everyone believes anything wearing a cape is going to make them rich but, yeah, I do find items. One of the few Marvel pieces in my collection, a beautifully framed Jennifer Garner ‘Electra’ movie poster, was found at a yard sale for $5! Graphic novels, valuable action figures, Barbies. Toy Story is real, man! Kids grow up and parents purge their basements. Guys shut down their man caves at the insistence of their new wives or girlfriends. A lot of these are in their original packaging. Some are worth a lot more than the few bucks I’m paying for them. Of course, some are junk. Marvel and Star Wars figures are glutting the market. They’re everywhere. I mean, you can buy the latest Marvel Legends line at Walgreens. There’s a flea market a few miles north of me where Star Wars and Marvel figures go to die.
Sounds like the making of a great reality show! Your last reply opened up several paths for us to go down in this interview and I want to hit on each one of them.
First, you mentioned the you only have a few Marvel pieces. Why is that?
Well, unless you’re single and have a lot of cash, you can’t collect everything! I love Marvel, especially old-school Marvel. Whenever I walk past a Namor figure, I have to fight the urge to buy it. My favorite figure growing up was a Spider-man Mego. But I would rather collect DC.
Them’s fighting words to some!
Yeah, I know! If people think the arguments over Star Trek and Star Wars get heated, they’ve obviously never been in a DC vs Marvel discussion!
Is this a healthy rivalry?
I don’t think so. Well, maybe between the two companies but among fans, it’s different. Sometimes it gets as vitriolic as politics. My 13 year-old daughter, who is becoming quite the little activist, is currently boycotting Marvel movies until Disney makes a Black Widow movie! And I think she has a point. When she was 8 she went storming through the action figure aisle in Target’s toy department yelling ‘where are the girl dolls?!?!” With me, it isn’t quite as serious. I grew up with DC comics and characters. I have two older brothers who prefer DC over Marvel. Most of my friends in my age group – we’re in our 40s – do. In a lot of ways, the divide is generational. When we were kids, DC dominated comic books, cartoons, and movies. To a lot of us, DC characters are more noble, they’re inherently good, and that strikes a chord with a lot of people, especially us that grew up during the cold war when there were clear lines drawn between good and evil. I recall reading an article in some long forgotten fan magazine that stated Marvel characters were more like everyday people. Flawed. Relatable. They had human issues and struggles. And I think that made a lot of people identify with them and I get that, too.
So you believe there are some deep-seated emotional reasons people choose one universe over the other?
For us old-schoolers, yes. Movies are a different matter, though. It’s Millennials driving Marvel box office. They’re not as connected to the history and ideals of the characters. They like the colors and the humor and, yes, they may think of DC as their father’s superheroes. And there’s a certain Disney, Marvel, Star Wars franchise bias with younger film critics. They’ll label most anything with those names attached to them as ‘good’ even if they’re just mediocre. So, yeah, there’s emotional responses and generational perceptions that, in great part, drive the divide.
You’re not implying DC doesn’t have young fans, are you?
Absolutely not. My daughter, naturally, is a DC fan. Her friends are. One in particular comes from a Marvel household but she’s developed a connection to Batgirl. Young DC fans are all over the internet and the CW might be responsible for that. The same qualities that attracted us old guys to characters are still present. DC powers are, more often, gifts. The heroes are gods and they represent an ideal we strive for. Marvel powers can often be seen as curses. Their heroes are people from your neighborhood that won the lottery but are struggling with it. It all depends on what strikes you.
In a previous answer, you mentioned Barbies. Do you collect a lot of those?
I totally do. Actually, lately, I’ve been obsessed with them. The Superhero line from Mattel, Barbies, to me are the descendants of old-school action figures. 12 inches tall, real fabric costumes. They don’t feel like toys or, rather, they feel less like toys. And it seems their value increases, too. Whereas most deluxe Barbies only have the perception of being valuable, their Superhero line has definitely increased in value. Wonder Woman, Batgirl, Supergirl Barbies that retailed for $20 a decade ago sell for $200 – $400 now.
And that’s important to you, their worth.
Yes. I remember a few years back shopping for a Six Million Dollar Man doll on Ebay. I wanted a first edition still in the box, unopened. At the time it was $350! I remember the Christmas season that figure came out. The bionic eye, the roll-up rubber skin that revealed removable bionic modules, the Sears Wishbook price of $6! It’s when I coined the phrase, ‘they’ve not toys, they’re investments.’ If my collection’s worth keeps trending up as it’s currently doing, it will be part of my kid’s inheritance.
You just called that Six Million Dollar Man piece a ‘doll.’
I always called them dolls growing up. Hasbro invented the phrase ‘action figures’ to market G.I. Joe to boys who considered dolls to be a “girl’s toy.” But they were dolls to me when I was a kid. I saw no negative connotation to the word. I still don’t. But today’s plastic sculpted action figures seem less like dolls. My older brother, who was really into Big Jim, teased me about calling them dolls, but he might as well had been playing with Ken dolls. Big Jim seemed like Ken to me.
You’ve talked about your childhood several times. Do you recall the first action figure you ever had?
I do! I was around 7 or 8 and a girlfriend gave me a Shazam Mego figure without the cape, boots, or lightening decal. She thought it was Superman. I was sure it was Monel because of the red suit. So my best friend had a Mego Superman and we pretended my figure was his figure’s brother.
Just like the Superboy and Monel story in the comics!
How many pieces are in your collection?
Currently I’d estimate 2,000+ but I’m still in the process of cataloging them.
Age-old question: In the box or out of the box?
Look, I know why people open they’re action figures. They’re toys and meant to be played with. Some love to pose their figures. But other than a few pieces, I keep mine displayed in their original packaging. They’re more valuable that way.
What’s your most valuable piece?
An original early 1970s Mego Superman. My mother-in-law also gave me a signed Brandon Routh Superman pic with a certificate of authenticity for my birthday this year. It’s awesome to have friends and family who actually know what you like!
What is your holy grail?
Ah, I have several. Besides thinking I’ll one day find an Action Comics #1 at some little old lady’s estate sale, Ideal’s 1967 Wonder Woman doll, the first ever Wonder Woman doll, is on my radar. I used to see those growing up in the early 70s. It’s amazing they’ve become so rare. I also want the 1939 Ideal wooden Superman doll. Sealed in the original box is a bonus. Only 12 original boxes are known to exist.
Catalog your collection. I recommend the Sortly app. Insure them. And never, ever take them out of the box.
Thanks for the interview, Joey!