Casper Gets Friends, Batman Lines Up Records, LucasArts Remembered

Casper Gets Friends, Batman Lines Up Records, LucasArts Remembered

By J.C. Vaughn

Harvey Comics Get Two Chances to Shine

In a pop culture world in which the superheroes seem to get all the press, it’s sometimes easy – though never proper – to overlook the timeless characters of Harvey Comics such as Baby Huey, Casper the Friendly Ghost, Hot Stuff the Little Devil, Richie Rich, and Wendy the Good Little Witch.

Doug Schmell’s Pedigree Comics, though, has made that a harder mistake to make. In an auction closing as this issue goes to press, Pedigree is offering “file copy” collections and many of the best known individual copies of many long running titles. The term “file copy” generally denotes comic books that come a publisher’s or creator’s company or personal files of work produced. In many cases file copies command significant premiums compared to normal copies of the same issues.

The next edition of this column will have details of the results.

Additionally, fans of Harvey Comics should check out the online Harvey Comics Merchandise Virtual Museum, located at www.HarveyMercheum.com. The website is devoted to Harvey characters and their depiction in toys, games, and other items featuring the familiar characters. One can search through items by manufacturer, such as Dimensions for Children, Funko, Larami Corporation, and Tyco Toys Inc. You can search by copyright year from 1959 through 2001 and item type like apparel, board game, inflatable toy, rack toy, and school supplies. The site is also searchable by character.

On the site, Harvey fans can learn about recent exhibits with Richie Rich, Casper, and Harvey Comics matchbook and read the Mercheum blog for posts about a Richie Rich stamp set, Hot Wheels pop culture line, and new exhibit posted about the Casper Punch Bag. Check back regularly for updates and in posts.

Batman in the Spotlight (Again)

Shortly after this issue heads to press, dealers, collectors and market watchers alike could be looking at some new record prices for key, vintage comic books featuring Batman. The Dark Knight is never at a loss for attention, but a newly found CBCS-certified 7.5 copy of Batman #1 could reach or exceed $100,000 and a CBCS 9.2 copy of Batman #2 is also expected to attract significant attention at Philip Weiss Auctions’ Sunday, February 15, 2015 sale.

Just a few days later, a restored CGC Apparent 7.5 copy of Detective Comics #27, the first appearance of Batman, will go up for bid Friday, February 20, 2015 as part of Heritage Auctions’ Comics & Comic Art February 19-21 Signature Auction at the Fletcher-Sinclair Mansion in Manhattan. It is expected to bring $100,000 or more.

While restoration was considered the kiss of death for high prices for many years, the market has clearly begun to realize the scarcity of copies of rare, vintage, key Golden Age issues in any grade.

In addition to the Detective Comics #27, Heritage will also offer a CGC 4.5 copy of Batman #1, which is estimated at $65,000 or more.

Remembering LucasArts

Despite what marketing arms of video games would have us believe, the releases of their products are rarely landmark events. January 27, 2015 might have been once of the exceptions as Grim Fandango was re-released in a remastered format.

Here’s why this is noteworthy:

The game is remembered for many things, ranging from its intriguing story and characters to the impact it had on the company responsible for developing it. Though the remastered edition was put together and released by Double Fine Productions, game director Tim Schafer’s, new studio, Grim Fandango originally had a much larger name attached to it: LucasArts.

LucasArts was founded in 1982 by George Lucas as Lucasfilm Games, a division of Lucasfilm. It primarily developed games based on Lucasfilm properties. For the first decade, the company worked on titles for early home consoles such as the Atari and the Commodore 64. Lucasfilm Games was renamed LucasArts in 1990, a year that also marked the release of one of the company’s best known games, The Secret of Monkey Island.

Though LucasArts had released similar graphic adventure games, such as Maniac Mansion and the game adaptation of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, the Monkey Island series was the first to introduce the wit and humor that would become standard in the writing process. The Secret of Monkey Island was also far more forgiving than other previous adventure games, as players didn’t so often find themselves in “unwinnable” or “lock-out” situations that would have resulted in them needing to start the game over. Following the success of the first Monkey Island game followed several sequels, as well as other titles that played in a similar vein with a similar sense of humor, like Sam and Max and Day of the Tentacle.

All of these games were experienced in a flat, 2-D environment, and it wasn’t until the 1998 release of Grim Fandango that the adventure genre would move to the third dimension. Grim Fandango follows the exploits of Manny Calavera, a travel agent at the Department of Death in the Land of the Dead. Because of the setting, all of the characters are skeletal, based on Mexican “Calaca” figures that are used to celebrate the Day of the Dead – the angular designs took advantage of the limited 3-D rendering technology at the time. Though the game was widely praised and was well-received critically, it did not sell particularly well and led to the restructuring of LucasArts as a company and the general decline of the graphic adventure genre.

That’s not to say that LucasArts wouldn’t produce more quality games outside of the adventure genre, though. Many of the Star Wars titles they produced were critically acclaimed, especially the Battlefront series, as well as the collaboration with BioWare that resulted in Knights of the Old Republic.

However, in 2012 LucasArts was acquired by Disney when they purchased  Lucasfilm, and in 2013 it was announced that LucasArts would cease operations as a video game company (though it still exists primarily for licensing purposes). Future Star Wars titles will be produced by Electronic Arts, thanks to the efforts at Double Fine and similar productions, the golden age of LucasArts’ adventure titles will live on.

J.C. Vaughn is the Vice-President of Publishing for Gemstone Publishing. Gemstone’s Carrie Wood and Amanda Sheriff contributed to this column.