Monday, March 29, 2010

My Life With Comic Books: Part # 71

Cast of characters:
Paul Howley: age 34
Brian Paquette: a friend and fellow collector


I had attended a convention called “Spy-Con” in the late 1980’s to promote “The Man From Uncle” comic book series that I was publishing. This convention was a gathering place for fans of spy-related movies and television shows including “James Bond,” “The Man From Uncle,” “The Wild Wild West,” “The Avengers,” and many more. Dealers and fans from around the United States set up booths to buy, sell, and trade many spy-related collectibles. I hoped that I’d be able to locate some of the rare Uncle toys that I was missing in my collection. I was disappointed to find out that most of the dealers only stocked the paperback books, magazines, and fan-produced fiction. There were very few toys offered for sale at this show.

One collector displayed a small notebook that contained photographs of many of his favorite Man From Uncle collectibles and this was of great interest to most of the Uncle collectors. Many of these items were rarely seen by collectors and a group of us discussed the need for a complete listing of everything that was made about The Man From Uncle. When I returned home, I got together with my friend, Brian Paquette, and we came up with the idea of publishing a book about The Man From Uncle collectibles.

I had published the official Man From Uncle comic books in 1988 so I figured that I could handle publishing a “real” book. Brian was an artist and I knew he’d be great with the entire creative end. Between the two of us, we had almost every item ever made about The Man From Uncle television show. We would use our collections as the main part of this new book project. We began photographing the hundreds of items using colorful backgrounds and began to write detailed descriptions of everything. We wanted this book to be different from most of the memorabilia guides based on other television shows so we made sure that the photographs were large and clear and the descriptions were detailed and accurate. We also carefully researched the current values and actual selling prices of these collectibles by attending toy conventions and monitoring dealers’ catalogs and auction results.

Since this project began before home computers were commonplace, the whole book was done by “hand”. The photos were taken using a film camera and then developed at a local photo studio. If the photos came out okay, we matted them with a black paper border. We designed each page and pasted the written descriptions underneath the photos. We got together at my house to combine our collections in order to create a photograph for the front cover of our new book. Brian designed our chapter title pages and was mostly responsible for the professional “look” of this project. We decided to title this project “The Toys From Uncle Memorabilia and Collectors Guide.” My good friend, Michael Warshaw, a very talented writer, wrote the introduction for this book as a favor to me. After a few months of work, we sent the pages to Associated Printers of North Dakota (my favorite printer) and they “screened” all of the photos so the photographs would reproduce quite clearly.

The cost to produce this project in full color, as we had wanted, would have been outrageously high. A cover price of almost thirty dollars would have been required. Brian and I wanted collectors to be able to buy the book for less than ten dollars so the book was printed in black and white with full color front and back covers. Most of the books were sold through Diamond Comic Distributors at fifty percent of the cover price of nearly ten dollars. Although it was a lot of work to put the book together, Brian and I enjoyed this experience.

Over the years following the publication of “The Toys From Uncle”, this book has become recognized as an important reference work and a valuable “checklist” for every collector of “The Man From Uncle.” Ironically, this book now sells on Ebay for as much as fifty-five dollars!

Next chapter: The end of the eighties.

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