Slabbed: did I just throw thousands of pounds away? (Part2)
I had a comic that I knew a lot of these Hot Keys Collectors would want, but my nostalgic connection was to the UK reprint in Mighty World of Marvel issue 198 where I first read the story.
(MWOM 198 is actually the version with Herb Trimpe’s original cover drawing… parts were redrawn on the American edition before it was sent to print, but the British office was given the original artwork… this actually makes ‘our’ version the true first Wolverine in my book!)
I wanted to make a piece of art that celebrated my love for Herb Trimpe’s comic art and commented on the disturbing trader mentality I saw getting a hold on a hobby that is really meant to be cheap and accessible to all.
This is the comic I inherited from my late pal… pretty good condition; reasonably collectible; slabbed.
What if it really was in a slab?
Take a latex cast of a paving slab
Fill halfway with concrete mix and then lay the slabbed comic into the casing.Fill with concrete and leave to set
If I’m honest, the original plan was to find a loose paving slab in town and replace it with my Trojan Slab. But this was my first time casting concrete in a homemade mould ~ the finish was not good enough, probably not robust enough, to pass muster in an actual pavement.
(it’s a salutary lesson in why we should test and practice first, but my enthusiams got the better of me)
When life gives you lemons… slice them up and put them in a gin and tonic!
Art is more fun when it evolves and adapts, so I was quite happy with the idea I had to encase the concrete slab in a thick slab of polyurethane resin.
A comic in a slab of plastic in a slab of concrete in a slab of plastic… the Golden Hare type mystery is lost and the commentary might now be a bit on the the nose, but this was never really a subtle project.
Sprinkling green pastel powder in to the wet resin to reference the gamma radiation that creates the Hulk and using some plastic lettering from one of the kids’ toy sets to allude to Incredible Hulk 181, CGG grade 8.0, Stan Lee and Herb Trimpe was all the clue anyone not reading this description would have as to what the piece was about.
This then is SLABBED.
The viewer can’t see the contents, to remove the ‘valuable’ comic from inside would doubtless destroy its value at a stroke ~ the temperature and moisture of curing concrete and resin must surely have destroyed the paper product?
It’s just like the slabbed comic I started with. But a lot heavier!
I don’t know if this is a joke, a protest or a poignant comment on the commercialisation of our childhoods. It doesn’t really matter to me if it is all or none of the above… art is a thing we make or a thing we experience and I made this to be brutally beautiful and very, very solidly real.
. . . . .
And then Stan Lee kicked the bucket before I’d had a chance to write this project up. The Man had had a good long innings and lived a very good life, so I was a little sad, but curious to see how quickly the bottom would fall out of the slabbed market and my piece would have been out of date before it was ever shared.
It never did.
Prices for slabbed comics continue to climb to ridiculous levels. A CGC grade 8 copy of Hulk 181 signed by Lee, Trimpe and writer Len Wein sold this month (May 2022) for £6,290.
My copy may still be inside that slabbed-slabbed-slab, pristine and waiting for a super collector. But it’s probably ruined beyond any resale value at all. But it might not be. But I’m sure it is. But…
Did I throw away thousands of pounds? Nah it’s Schrödinger’s Money at best. I’m not sad that I’ll never see this comic again (I can read it online or in reprint any time I choose, for Jack’s sake) but it does make me sad to think that i’ll never open another email from the man who drew it or raise a pint with the man who gave it to me.
Like any piece of art, its worth is not found in the constituent parts but in the meaning they provoke in one’s heart.