Interviews Reviews Guest Stars Fanzine Misc

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Scavenging for cool stuff at the Ottawa Comiccon (2022 edition)

As mentioned in our Ottawa Comiccon 2022 wrap-up article, this was Ottawa's first REAL post-pandemic convention in the last three years and these type of events tend to not only draw in comic book vendors, but vendors who specialize in 80s awesomeness... I'm talking action figures, trading cards, movie posters, and other bric-a-brac. This is right up my alley: I love taking it all in and seeing what hidden gems I can unearth.   

I'm always on the lookout for any old action figures to add to my collection. I kept my eye out for Kenner Super Powers figs (loose or carded), but could only find one vendor selling them. A few vendors were selling loose Toy Biz DC figs, but it was figs I already owned (and mine were in better condition anyways). One vendor had a carded Toy Biz Robin for a very reasonable price ($25 CAD), but I paused on it and (unbeknownst to me) a buddy of mine scooped it up for his collection and sent me a photo the following day boasting of his score.

Nice pick up, Adrian!

There was maybe 4 or 5 vendors selling vintage actions figures from the 80s and early 90s. The other toy vendors stuck exclusively to new action figures released in the last decade or funko pop vinyls.

Before I tell you what I ultimately bought, I'll tell you what I walked away from:

1) Total Justice Black Lightning (1996 - Kenner)

Not a pic of the actual carded fig.
Image source: unknown

I've been passively collecting carded Total Justice action figs for the last two years and so far I've acquired most of the figs from series 1, 2 and 3. I still don't have Black Lightning here, but the seller was asking nearly double of what they typically go for. I understand that it was a comic convention and he probably marked up his prices to cover vendor costs, but $30 CAD was way more than I was willing to pay and rather than haggle the price with him I just moved on to something else. 

2) Legends of the Batman (1994 - Kenner)

not the actual carded figs I saw. source: unknown

At $20 CAD per fig this was a very reasonable price, especially since they still included their Skybox trading cards in the package (which can go anywhere from $3 to $10 CAD per card, depending on the seller). My issue with the Legends of the Batman figs is that, in all of the variations of Batmen in the collection, Dark Warrior Batman isn't the one I was most crazy about.  I would've easily shelled out $20 CAD for KnightsEnd or KnightQuest Batman (based on the AzBats designs from Knightfall), but couldn't justify it on a variations of Batman that probably only appeared once in an Elseworlds one-shot. As for The Riddler, well, there were other figures I wanted more (and I already own his Skybox trading card).

3) Man of Steel Deluxe Steel (1995 - Kenner)

not a photo of the actual fig I saw.
source: unknown

Among other things, Kenner's Man of Steel action figure toyline was predominantly known for having 9 different versions of Clark Kent Superman. Thankfully, they managed to sneak a version or two of Steel (John Henry Irons) into the collection. The deluxe version of Steel had a shinier finish and one of his weapons made a noise or something. Steel gives me all sorts of nostalgic vibes for the Death and Return of Superman storyline from the early 90s, but the vendor wanted $50 CAD for it. I considered it, but decided I could get more for my $50 if I looked a bit harder.

Every hardcore action figure collector knows that the REAL DEALS are found in the trenches -- especially if you have an idea of what you're looking for and have a pretty good memory of which accessories go with which figs.

I appreciate the vendors who try to sort their loose figs by toyline.

After about an hour of looking around, here are the figs I picked up:

photo source: mine

Robin from Kenner's Batman Returns toyline (far left) was only the cape, since I already owned a cape-less version of the fig. Kenner's Swamp Thing was found in the bottom of a vendor's bin of loose figures, and it was a version I didn't own yet -- so I quickly snatched that up. Mr Freeze is the 'Arnold version' from Kenner's Batman & Robin movie toyline and was actually dug out by a vendor after I told him what type of stuff I was looking for. While I told myself  I'd only stick to DC action figs before walking into the convention, Mattel's Secret Wars Kang was just too good of a price to pass over -- especially with his belt/harness-thing intact. It's too bad he didn't have any of his accessories, but hey, for the price I paid no complaints.

..and for anyone wondering, yes, I did purchase a carded fig:

photo source: mine

Of the new McFarlane Toys DC Super Powers figs, Darkseid was the only fig I was really seeking from the first wave. I've owned several different versions of Superman and Batman figs in my life, but I've never owned a Darkseid fig. Yeah yeah, I know... it's not his classic 'Super Powers Collection' design (which I would've preferred) but I'm willing to overlook that.

While rummaging through their wares, we briefly interviewed a few vendors on the last day of the event to find out what was hot and what was not...

Vendor: Ottawa Toy Hunter
Sells: A bit of everything (action figures, comic books, collectibles, memorabilia.. but mainly focusses on 80s stuff)

Darren (of Ottawa Toy Hunter) in front of a wall of Kenner Super Powers and Toy Biz Marvel figs. photo source: mine

Justin: So this is the first time in, like, 3 years you're actually in a convention again?

Darren: I've come out of semi-retirement for these shows, so it's really good to be back.

Justin: During the pandemic, how was the collector's market for vintage action figures? 

Darren: The pandemic definitely drove the market up... everyone was back home, people were getting CERB payments, and just reliving their childhood through nostalgia. I noticed a huge surge in sales for vintage toys.

Justin: So what did you see the highest demand for?

Darren: Kenner Star Wars figs from the early 80s, especially the ones from the Return of the Jedi film. G.I. Joes were extremely popular during the pandemic. I'd noticed that the value of G.I. Joes had risen tremendously, and WWF wrestling (as a whole... figs, memorabilia) had gone up. In regards to Marvel and DC toys? Marvel may rule to roost when it comes to the MCU (TV shows, movies), but when it comes to the toys, everyone LOVES DC Super Powers. Everyone has great memories -- especially of the 'Power Action' features. As a matter of fact, Todd McFarlane is reissuing the Super Powers figs and I'm hearing the sculpts are really nice. I think collectors are wishing McFarlane's figs had Power Action features, so maybe they'll start adding those in future waves. Who knows? But Super Powers are still well-loved. I sold a few this weekend. One was a loose but complete Cyclotron, who is super rare to find -- I actually picked him up in a lot in Ohio. A few loose Kenner Batman figs sold. Collectors look at the condition of the fig and if all the accessories are included. I also sold some G.I. Joes and Star Wars figs over the week-end, but no Marvel figs from the 80s or 90s yet. I just had a collector a few minutes ago looking for Transformers -- that's also been a hot toyline through all generations (G1, G2, modern) -- he was just here looking for accessories. If you're a collector, always keep your accessories. If you open it up, bag them and keep them all together.

Justin: So I also noticed you have also vehicles and playsets. Are these in big demand? Or are collectors mainly interested in single figs? Or both?

Darren: They want a bit of both. They want the figures obviously, but the vehicles and playsets so they can display their collection.

Justin: Are you noticing that collectors buy for speculative reasons hoping to flip it for more money after the new show or movie comes out? Or is the opposite where a show or movie (i.e. Masters of the Universe) inspires a collector to go seek out the old figs because they got hit with a wave of nostalgia?

Darren: There are many investors/collectors buying on speculation hoping to resell for higher when demand goes up, but there are also a lot of collectors who are buying with their son or daughter, trying to share their hobby with their kid. This really started to happen during the pandemic -- maybe they found their old toys and now they're re-living their childhood with their kids.

Justin: Can't blame them. They don't make action figures now like they did in the 80s. /stares into the sunset wistfully

Darren: With the new McFarlane Toys Super Powers, it's way cheaper to collect those then trying to track down the originals. I'm really hoping McFarlane Toys finally produces those wave 4 and 5 figs we never got due to the Super Powers Collection getting cancelled. I would love to see a Deathstroke.

Editor's note: You can find the The Ottawa Toy Hunter on Instagram.

Several other vendors we interviewed who specialized in 80s action figures and memorabilia echoed similar sentiments; all 80s vintage IPs were in demand, with G.I. Joe and Star Wars topping the list. Some vendors commented that the action figure collector market was unpredictable, citing demand for 1980s Ghostbusters action figures and playsets ebbing and flowing over the last three years [this might be due to 2021's Ghostbusters: Afterlife film renewing interest in the franchise].


I also tend to search vendor booths for DC memorabilia from the late 70s to the early 90s: coloring books, trading cards, board games, school supplies, posters, paintings, treasury editions, promo items, calendars, novelty items, paperback novels, toys... whatever looks interesting and worth blogging about.  

A few items I passed on:

1) Supergirl movie storybook (1984)

not pic of actual book I saw. image source: unknown

I totally dug Helen Slater as Supergirl and totally regret passing on this. It was full color book and included scenes from the film. I can't remember if it was softcover or hardcover. I don't know what I was thinking... I guess I was trying to be economical, but for the price the vendor was asking I should've just went for it.

2) 'The Untold Legend of the Batman' and 'The Superman Story' TOR paperbacks

I actually wrote about these in an article from 2021. For anyone who doesn't know what I'm talking about and doesn't feel like clicking on the link to read about it, TOR published a few black-and-white paperback-sized books reprinting a few select DC stories back in the eighties. They published seven in total and I didn't have these two. Why did I pass on them? Well, they were pretty banged up and are actually pretty common to find, so I figured there was a good chance I'd run into them again someday.     

3) Batman: The Animated Series 3-D board game (1992)

image source: Ottawa Toy Hunter

Anyone who grew up as a child in the 70s or the 80s probably remember the thrill of receiving a new board game as a Christmas or a birthday present. Board games would arguably get A LOT better in the next two decades, but we didn't know that back then and embraced them for what they were: another chance to demonstrate your superiority over your friends by totally destroying them at a game meant to foster friendship and community. I had a few board games and they received a lot of play -- most notoriously my Simpsons board game (in which I memorized all of the trivia answers) that made me absolutely insufferable to play against. So, riding the nostalgia wave of my youth, a board game based on the Batman Animated Series definitely caught my attention... the cherry on the icing being that it was a '3-D' board game:   

Just look at how much fun those kids are having on the back of the box!
image source: Ottawa Toy Hunter

Why didn't I buy this? Well, I spotted it at the beginning of the convention, but didn't really want to lug it around with me all afternoon -- so I made a mental note to swing by the vendor's booth before I left. One thing led to another and I ended up forgetting to go back. Maybe next time.

I ending up purchasing these two Golden Look-Look Books (circa early 90s and early 80s, respectively) after finding them in a vendor's big box of random books since I remember borrowing these from the school library when I was much much younger. Here's our review article on these.

image source: DC in the 80s


Every Ottawa Comiccon I've ever attended usually has at least one vendor selling vintage non-sports cards, and I tend to seek these dealers out like a rabid bloodhound. For this event I hit the motherload -- a dealer who seemed to have amassed quite a collection of non-sports trading cards after a 3-year convention hiatus:

It's hard to tell from the photo, but this a table filled with completed non-sports trading cards sets. image source: mine

I love these vendors -- you can purchase an entire non-sports trading card set (with no inserts or chases) for anywhere between $15 to $50 CAD (sometimes more, depending on the rarity and demand of the set). Are you seriously regretting sending your 1993 Valiant/Image Upper Deck Deathmate trading cards to the Salvation Army several years ago? Buy the entire set for $15 CAD. [That was a trick question -- nobody regrets throwing those out.]  Or how about a set of those 1980s Topps Wacky Packages stickers/cards you were always trying to complete? Here's the place to find them. 

Marvel Comics trading cards saw a huge jump in price during the pandemic (ex: a complete set of 1990's Marvel Universe series I went from $100 to $400 CAD, and that was without the holograms). As for DC Comics trading cards? Not so much. Actually, they seem to have gone down in price. For this reason, I have been known to leave sets on the table if I felt the vendor was asking too much and/or I already owned the set. What did I end up buying from this table? Nothing, because I was drawn to these instead:

If this isn't an impulse buy, I don't know what is.
image source: mine

My love for Topps non-sports trading cards goes back as far as I can remember. I've written about Topps products more than I care to admit. The brightly colored wax packages, the flimsy cards, the low price point, the cards that joined to form a giant puzzle... these are my favorite things to impulsively pick up, especially when they're at a $2 to $3 CAD per pack and there's a vast selection. My DC-related pick-ups from this table were:

While I already own complete sets of all of these movie trading cards, I still enjoy picking up and opening the occasional pack when I see them in the wild. What can I say? Cheap nostalgic thrills.

Also purchased from the same vendor (and once again proving that Topps would make a card trading set out of anything they thought could sell): wax packs of 21 Jump Street, ALF and Growing Pains cards:

For anyone too young to remember, 21 Jump Street was a police TV drama about young-looking undercover cops who investigated juvenile crime, ALF was a sitcom about a mild-mannered American family living with an alien, and Growing Pains was sitcom about a mild-mannered American family living with Kirk Cameron. Ah, the eighties. Out of pure anticipation to see what the trading card gods would bless me with, I had to rip these open [also, it makes for a more entertaining article].

...well, the Growing Pains pack didn't yield much. A few pics of teenage heartthrob Kirk Cameron hamming it up for the camera, and a Joanna Kerns sticker card. Well, at least I know what the completed puzzle is going to look like... a family portrait of the Seaver family... how unexpected. Truthfully, I didn't have high hopes for the set since I mistakenly confused it for Family Ties and was really hoping for some Michael J Fox cards. can't got wrong with ALF. Unfortunately I had to pry the two 'chase' cards apart (probably because they had been smushed together for the last 30+ years in the pack). ALF series 2 trading cards not only had sticker cards with puzzle backs, but special one-per-pack Bouillabaseball trading cards featuring never-heard-of characters who played a fictional game on ALF's fictional home planet. I remember the kids in my elementary school just going nuts for these and trading away REAL baseball cards to collect these. Everything else was par for the course: ALF making snappy zingers about the  least offensive things you can joke about on a prime-time family sitcom.

...21 Jump Street. I honestly don't remember ever watching this, so I'm really just in it for the Johnny Depp cards... and this set did not disappoint. Of my 5 cards, I got 2 of Johnny Depp and 1 puzzle back featuring a close-up of (what I presume to be) his throat, neck and chin. Score!


Additional wax packs I wish I had bought from that vendor:

For three measly dollars I could've had a pack of Three's Company trading cards, based on the American sitcom about the non-sexual wacky hijinks of a platonic FFM couple that ran from the late 70s/early 80s. I think they were there during my first visit to booth, but sold out when I returned. Damn. For anyone wondering, yes I looked it up and the puzzle is a portrait of the blonde roommate (Suzanne Sommers).

Back in the 90s, the only 'Bo' we had was Bo Jackson, who knew football, baseball and how to market himself, apparently. Back in the 80s, we had Bo Derek: American actress and model. Fortunately, this trading card set is about the latter. Unfortunately, the vendor wanted $5 a pack. Interestingly, this came with a little folded-up paper poster that measured about three cards tall by four cards wide.


Well, that concludes everything I picked up at the Ottawa Comiccon this year. As a side note, I'm always on the lookout for DC comics from the 1980s, but for whatever reason didn't go out of my way searching for them during this convention -- I guess I've gotten a little burned out after a year and a half of bin-diving. There were plenty of comic vendors at this event and they were all super-friendly and eager to help, but man... I was just not feeling that drive to go digging through longboxes. 


No comments:

Post a Comment