Obituaries for THE COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE (CBG) are to be found all over the Internet. Every comic book fan who ever had a subscription to this long running publication has a memory or two and some thoughts to share about the announcement yesterday that the next issue of CBG, #1699, will also be the last. Here are some of my thoughts on the matter.
I can't honestly say I'm surprised by this news. I doubt seriously that anyone who has been paying attention to what's been going on in the world of publishing, was caught unawares by this either. Over the last few years, the page count of the monthly CBG magazine had shrunk dramatically. The classified ads, once the very heart, soul and lifeblood of the publication back in the '70s and '80s, were for all intents and purposes no more. It took me less time to read an issue of CBG each month that it did any of the other magazines I subscribe to on a regular basis. There was less content in each issue that I cared about, less news, reviews and information that I couldn't get from any of hundreds of comic book related websites. In short, CBG as a monthly, printed publication, had become almost entirely irrelevant in the digital age.
Oh, to be sure, I still enjoyed reading the regular contributors, guys like Craig "Mister Silver Age" Shutt, Tony Isabella, Peter David and Andrew "Captain Comics" Smith. But long gone were the days of pages and pages of news, reviews, articles, columns and ads that once made CBG the essential comics related publication that it was.
I cannot recall with any degree of accuracy when I first subscribed to CBG. I do know that it was sometime in the early 1980s and the publication was still known at the time as THE BUYER'S GUIDE, or TBG when I ponied up my money for a subscription. In those days, TBG came out every other week and it was a huge affair, printed on newsprint and loaded with stuff you simply couldn't get anywhere else. There was no Internet in those days and other comics related publications all offered something different from what TBG had to offer. AMAZING HEROES and THE COMIC READER did a good job of keeping us up-to-date on new comics while Gary Groth and his writers at THE COMICS JOURNAL made sure to regularly piss on super-hero and other commercial comics of the day, leading several fans to dub the 'zine "The Comics Urinal".
TBG had news. It had reviews. It had columns. It had original artwork. It had articles on comics history. And most importantly, it had ads. Ads from established dealers and guys in their basement with a couple of long boxes. I know I bought comics from ads in TBG and likewise, I bought some small ads from time to time in an effort to sell some comics. Those ads met with limited success but it was in the classified ads that I scored big.
I regularly posted a listing in the classifieds (for years you got several free ads with your subscription). I advertised my list of comics for sale/trade and I got lots of responses. It was here that over the years, I established relationships with a multitude of trading partners across the country. I would regularly swap comics with guys like Craig "Mister Silver Age" Shutt, Marty Forbes, Juan Hernandez, Vance Toth, Frank Frleta and Dave Shrensky. If any of you guys are reading this, drop me a line and let's start trading again.
I still trade comics on a regular basis with Nelson Jimenez and Blake Long (hi guys!) and I always get good stuff from them. But the best trading partner I ever got from the classified ads in CBG is a guy named Gary Banks. Over the years, we've gotten to know each other pretty well and I'm proud to call him a friend. We don't trade as much as we used to but we still keep in touch via email. Several years ago, on a trip from Texas to West Virginia, Judy and I were able to meet Gary and his wife Arleen for lunch when our route took us through his home town in Alabama. It was great to finally meet this fellow comic book, horror movie and college football fan face to face. We had a blast.
Ultimately, it's those personal connections that I'll take away from my years of subscribing to and reading CBG on a regular basis. Comic books are great but friends are even better. I'd love to find some more connections like those I made through the CBG classified ads but since they no longer exist, I'll have to try a different approach.
If any of my regular readers are interested in trading comics with me, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'll be happy to send you my list of comics for sale/trade and maybe we can get some trades going on a regular basis. I'd love to make some new comic book friends. How about you?