SCENE: A lonely comic-store owner is sorting a stack of comics and putting them into bins after hours. There is a heavy rain outside, and a crescent moon shines through the window of Bob’s Comics & Cards as Bob continues to sort. He has a small trash can on the floor next to the bins. Most of the books go into the upright wooden bins, but occasionally, a torn or discolored or coverless comic is thrown into the trash. Bob comes at last to a copy of Action Comics #464; aged, water-stained, and creased down the middle. He shakes his head and throws it into the trash, then continues shelving the rest of his stack. Something makes him look back into the trash can, though…and on second thought, Bob fishes the book out with a nostalgic grin, and places it in the bins with the other comics. Smiling to himself suddenly, he finishes the rest of the books and then, grabbing his raincoat, he closes up the store for the night.
And as he waits at the bus stop for his long ride home, he misses this chapter in the secret lives of comics.
ACTION COMICS: Whew! I was almost a recyclable! Uh…hello? Anyone? My name is Action Comics, but you can call me A.C.! Hello?
LOBO #22: Hey, man…pipe down. I just woke up, fer chrissake!
DEMON #46: Hey, Lobo! You want I should teach this punk some manners?
BISHOP #3: Yeah, yeah, Lobo! Just say the word and we’ll turn this greenie into giftwrap!
WITCHBLADE #35: STOP! You guys…I swear. Lobo, can’t you get better than THESE jamokes to do your dirty work? Leave the rube alone. He don’t know nothin’ about what goes on around here. You can SEE he ain’t right. Look! He’s been FOLDED!
A.C.: Heh, that’s certainly true, pretty lady! Folded right down the middle and stuck in a kid’s back pocket…!
LOBO: All right, Witch. For you, we go easy on the punk. For now. I ain’t got no need to be stompin’ on a water-damaged bastich, anyhow. (Turns to A.C…points his finger meaningfully…) But listen, you. We don’t want no stinkin’, unbagged, unboarded FOLDIE hanging around, see? It’s only cause Witchie’s got a soft spine for stragglers that I don’t pulp you right now…
A.C.: Hey, there, big fella…I don’t want any trouble. There’s no call for being rude. I was just talking to the pretty lady…
BISHOP: Are you sassing the Main Man? Listen…NO reading copy gives lip to the MINTS, get me? Why don’t you just mosey your little cheap-paper back cover outta here right now?
A.C.: Now, look…Let’s not forget what kind of comic I am. I mean, see this big guy in blue on my cover? That IS Superman, you know.
DEMON and BISHOP: HA! SUPERMAN!
DEMON: Old news!
BISHOP: He’s not even a mutant!
LOBO: Heh! Why don’t you two guys show the newbie here what it means to be in Mint condition, huh? Downgrade him to Very Poor, why don’t ya? I think maybe he needs a little…educatin’…
DEMON and BISHOP: Wit’ PLEASURE, Boss!
To the tune of “The Jets Song” from “West Side
BISHOP and DEMON
Doo doodoo doodoo doo doodoo doodoo doodoo
When you’re in Mint,
You’re first class without fail
From the kid who first buys,
Til his mom’s garage sale…
When you’re in Mint–
Simply can’t be denied!
You’re the top of the stack
And you’re WAY above guide…
BISHOP and DEMON
You’re never alone, you’re always with your cousins!
Lots of Youngbloods, and Dragons by the dozens…
And Wizard’s BUZZin’!
When you’re in Mint
Even “FINE” doesn’t mesh
‘Cause you’re MORE than just clean
You are COMIC-store fresh!
When you’re in Mint
You don’t hang out with “poor”
You go STRAIGHT in the box
Lock it up, close the door!
LOBO, BISHOP, and DEMON
When you’re in Mint,
LOBO: And THAT, my little newsprint friend…is why YOU. AIN’T. WANTED. Now SCRAM!
DEMON: Go back to the quarter bin, where you belong!
A.C.: I can take a hint. I’ll go. But, Miss Witchblade…will I ever see you again?
WITCHBLADE: Mints and reader copies don’t mix, A.C. You’re sweet, but…well, it just isn’t in the chase cards for us.
A.C.: I don’t believe all this “Mint” stuff! Why can’t all comics just be enjoyed for what they are, not how they look?
DEMON and BISHOP: Aww! Look at the loveboids! Hahaha!
LOBO: Better decide, Witch. Are you a MINT, or are you one of THEM?
A.C.: She’s a big girl comic! Let her make her OWN decisions!
WITCHBLADE: Listen, A.C. See my cover? How glossy it is? No one touches me, EVER. Get it? It ain’t that I wouldn’t like to be held and opened…but I got a responsibility to stay the way I am, you see? It’s like this:
To the tune of “Call Me” by Blondie
Cover me with mylar, baby, store me acid-free
Make it so a CAT Scan couldn’t read a page of me
Waiting for the moment when
I’ll never see the sun again…!
Ah la, you can bag me, board me, box me up
Ah la, you can zap me with that freon stuff
Cover me in plastic, baby, show me where to hide
Some fans have bought a truckload and not seen a page inside
Lock me in a closet tomb
Armored up like Dr. Doom…!
Ah la, you can bag me in a plastic snug…
Ah la, feels just like a prophylactic hug!
WITCHBLADE: I’m sorry, A.C. Maybe, in a different, less anal-retentive world…
A.C.: I get it. All right. I get it. I’ll go to the other shelves. I guess you’re right. I guess a beat-up Foldie really DOESN’T belong with…well, with a Mint Girl like you. Okay, forget about me. I won’t be back.
Witchblade looks on remorsefully as A.C. wanders to the other side if the shelf, now totally alone…
LOBO: Never mind, Witchie. You’re too good for him. He gets it now. It’s just the way it is.
A.C. wanders over past the quarter bins, to the No Man’s Land shelf of the store, where broken action figures are heaped next to stacks of Ultraforce trading cards…
A.C.: I guess this is where I really belong.
To the tune of “Losing My Religion” by R.E.M
Oh, “Fine”…is better…better than me,
And I am not “Good”–The crease along my cover
The wrinkles on my spine
Oh, no been read too much…I’ve had enough
That’s me for a quarter…In love with a Mint Girl
Grading my condition-trying to judge what’s inside me
And I don’t think that she can do it…
Oh no been read too much….not good enough…
That’s me for a quarter…
Every thumbprint, every spot of ketchup, I’m…
Losing my Condition, dropping the price of me
And I don’t think that I’m in Wizard…
Oh, no been read to much, I’ve had enough
That’s me for a quarter…
A.C.: I guess I really AM just a Foldie. How could ANYONE want me in my condition?
An out-of-the box, well-used Kenner Lex Luthor Mego action figure turns towards A.C…
LUTHOR: So, that’s how it is, is it? I see…You believe all that trash the Mints are always on about? I guess I expected more out of a Superman book, somehow.
A.C.: Oh…sorry. Didn’t notice you there…but, yeah. I mean, LOOK at me! What collector is going to buy ME? My back-up story is a Clark Kent thing, for Pete’s sake! And look at this goofy villain!
LUTHOR: Listen to me. I’m a Lex Luthor doll. I’m the BAD guy. I’m the first one tossed off of the roof and the last one taken out of the duck pond…When the dog wants a chew toy, you think he gets the Chrome Armor Spider-Man? I’ve been on this shelf so long I remember when POGS were hot. And you know what? I wouldn’t change a thing…listen:
To the tune of “Ironic” by Alannis Morrisette
An old man, turned 68
He got his royalties, and then died the next day
It’s crappy b-teamers, in your JLA
It’s prices on comics, that no one can pay
And isn’t it ironic…don’t ya think?
A little too ironic, and yeah, I really do think…
It’s like a stain, on your Wolverine!
It’s a cover gone, when the pages are clean…
It’s an Elfquest… that gets rated obscene,
And who would have thought…
Life has a funny way,
Of U.P.S. messing up on Comics Day…
An old tale, of heroes and crooks
A kid loves the story, he doesn’t care how it looks
And you should be proud, of being halfway destroyed
‘Cause your only true value, is being read and enjoyed
And isn’t that ironic…don’t you think?
A.C.: I GET it now, Luthor!
It’s a pain, to treat comics this way!
To wrap them up, and then stow them away
In a steel vault, til Judgement Day!
And who would have thought…I matter!!
A.C.: I never thought I’d be saying this to YOU, Luthor…but thanks! I guess I got caught up believing that “collector” stuff. What a fool I’ve been. I’m luckier than ANY of those mint comics!
LUTHOR: Trust me, A.C. No one’s buying those comics. Hot one day, untouchable the next. One day they’ll be landfill, unread and unmissed. But YOU-you were a COMIC BOOK! You were ALLOWANCE-BOUGHT! …And that’s a pretty great thing, don’t you think?
A.C.: Hey! Someone’s coming…!
LUTHOR: Be quiet! Don’t move!
A rain-soaked Bob returns, as though a struck by a sudden whimsical notion. He turns on the overhead light, and is momentarily puzzled when he looks at the back-issue bin where he’d been working. His eyes eventually settle on the worn copy of Action Comics next to the Luthor doll. He scratches his head, then cheerfully puts the comic in a bag, anticipating rereading his childhood’s first Superman comic on the long bus ride home…