This interview series is with another great product that I found out about while interviewing Victor Otero of Gator Guards. If you've been following my #comicbooktiptuesday on our Instagram, you'll know one of the tips I've mentioned is to always check the back of books before you buy them. And this product allows for you to see them without taking them out of the bag. We got a chance to sit down with the founder and learn more about their origins and their goals.
What got you into comics?
- My older brother had a subscription to Fantastic Four, so that was my first real exposure to comics. I was really into drawing and loved the artwork in my brother's books, so when a comic shop opened in our local mall, I spent whatever money I had on comics of my own. It was the early 90s, so books like Spawn and ShadowHawk were hitting the shelves. I probably ruined more than a few books tracing the artwork, trying to master ShadowHawk's helmet or Violator's teeth.
- I ended up taking a break from collecting after high school, but, like a lot of people, The Walking Dead pulled me back in. That, combined with my neighbor, who invited me over one day to check out his mind-boggling collection of silver-age keys and original art. After that, I was hooked again, but this time I had my eyes set on older books.
Favorite childhood memory about comics?
- Oh that one's easy--getting up on Saturday mornings and watching the X-men cartoon. Has there ever been (or will there ever be) a better theme song? The actors' voices are still the ones I hear in my head when I'm reading an X-men book. That show was just perfect.
How did you come up with Comic Clear Boards?
- For the last few years I've been focused on hunting down silver and golden-age books, and as my collection has grown, I've come to really appreciate the interesting ads on the back covers of those older issues. They're a throwback to the era in which the book was printed, so there's an element of history in them, and in many cases they're works of art in their own right. I hated hiding the back covers behind opaque paper boards, so I started looking around for clear boards to use for my older books.
- Surprisingly, there were only a couple options available, and they were either too expensive or sold in pack sizes that didn't make a lot of sense to me (who buys their backing boards 5 at a time??). I started looking into how I could source my own, and then my background in marketing started to kick in. I realized there was a gap I could fill on comic supply shelves, so the idea for a business was born. I told my wife about the idea, and she blurted out the name Comic Clear within 5 seconds. After it had a name, things just started falling into place. A few months later, here we are!
Biggest obstacle you faced when creating it?
- This is going to sound like a humble brag, but my biggest challenge has been keeping up with demand. I was completely caught off guard by how positively Comic Clear was received. I assumed a premium-tier backing board would be a niche product, and getting the brand to grow would be a tough slog. That really hasn't been the case. Almost immediately, I had customers posting reviews on YouTube and sharing their boards on Instagram and Facebook (and maybe on Twitter? I don't do Twitter.)
- People were walking their boards into their comic shops, so I had shop owners emailing me left and right. When I started this, I had a goal of being in 10 comic shops by the end of 2021. By the end of January, I was in 30 shops and I was sold out of Current and Silver-age packs. I'm reinvesting like crazy in more supply. My next challenge is figuring out where to put them all when they arrive.
What’s your favorite character or title to collect?
- I've recently been on a "Good Girl Art" kick. Anything by Matt Baker I can get my hands on (and I can afford) is a win. Old one-staple WW2-era books are on my list, too. There's just something intriguing about the fact that metal was so precious to the war effort that something as small as a staple was being rationed. That kind of detail is a tangible link between real-world events and the fantasy world on the comic's pages.
- On the other side of the spectrum, I've been really drawn to the artwork on particular variant covers, too. Mike Mayhew recently did an amazing Goya homage on Venom #30, and IGComicStore has an incredible Miles Morales: Spider-man 25 exclusive by Dell'Otto coming out in a few months. Aside from those, my pull list includes books like Saga and Monstress.
Next big thing for your personal collection? Your grail?
- As cliche as it may be, I've always wanted an Amazing Fantasy 15. But unless I find one at a yard sale or hiding in the attic of a new house, I can't see myself ever owning one. Maybe someone reading this would be willing to trade their copy for a few hundred packs of clear backing boards??????
Most unique or favorite thing in your collection?
- The most unique book in my collection is definitely a My Little Pony blank variant that I asked Charlie Adlard to remarque with a zombie pony. It's a one-of-a-kind piece, for sure. My favorite book is probably the copy of Fantastic Four 48 I found on the now defunct LetGo app. The seller had fanned out about 100 books on her floor, and the FF48 was barely visible in the background of the photo. As small as it was, I could tell it had thick black writing all over the cover. I bought the whole lot for her asking price of $100, fully expecting the FF48 to be a reader copy. To my surprise, all of the writing on the cover was in grease pencil, so I was able to carefully erase the writing. I'm guessing it's about a 5.0 copy. It's fun finding gems like that in the wild, but bringing that copy back to life was something really special.
What's the future for Comic Clear Supplies?
- Short term, I just want to introduce Comic Clear boards to as many people as possible. I think they're really cool, and I think every collector has at least 25 books that warrant a clear backing board for one reason or another. Longer-term, I want to expand into more board sizes and add a line of poly and mylar bags under the Comic Clear brand umbrella. I'm also really looking forward to conventions opening up and meeting folks face-to-face, too. Hopefully that can happen soon.
Best find or score?
- I've been really lucky to find quite a few gems in the wild. A Brave and the Bold 28, a slew of Amazing Spider-man key issues, even some Timely Captain America books. Last year I bought a collection once from a guy who was retiring to Thailand and was selling anything that wouldn't fit in his suitcase. It was an original-owner collection that included a complete mid-grade silver-age Thor run. I made a fair offer and he shipped the books. Boy was I surprised when the unbagged Thor 165 was in near-mint condition! Stuff like that is still out there if you have a lot of patience and a little bit of luck!
Advice to new collectors or those that want to come up with their own product.
- If you're coming up with your own product, spend all the time you need to get it right before you launch. If you don't 100% believe in what you're selling, it will be obvious, and what's worse, your customers will be receiving a product that is less than it should be. Whatever you sell, you need to stand behind and be proud to put your name on.
- With every Comic Clear order that goes out, I include a note thanking the customer for trying our boards. I hand sign each note and include my email so people can contact me directly with feedback, suggestions, complaints... I don't know how big Comic Clear will get in the years to come, but I hope the brand always feels like a small business run by a fellow collector. For that reason, the hand-signed note will always go out with every order.
- (For what it's worth, the same advice goes to anyone selling comics. Represent their condition fairly, pack them properly, and if you make a mistake, own it, even if it ends up costing you a little money. It takes a long time to build a solid reputation, but just a short time to ruin it. If you ever find yourself thinking you can save a few bucks by not doing the right thing for a customer, you'll discover pretty quickly how expensive that decision was.)