Super-Blog Team-Up Chromium: The Great Photo Cover Swindle.

Posted: January 22, 2020 in Uncategorized

SBTU Chromium Banner

Welcome Back Heroes!!

This writer is glad to be back with you to share another edition of Super-Blog Team-Up!! If you are unfamiliar with our group we are a group of like minded bloggers/podcaster’s who get together 3 to 4 times a year to write about a singular topic related to everyone’s favorite topic, comics!! There have been many SBTU events in the past covering a wide variety of topics but THIS is one topic I think many will find intriguing!! Super-Blog Team-Up Presents Chromium: The Era Of Excess. You know what that means right? Gimmicks!! Gimmicks in all their forms and glory. From the inception of comics there were always gimmicks used to hook and entice a potential reader to buy a particular book. Many of us took the bait!! Some more than others like this writer before your eyes today! From “Special Double Sized issues, to Annuals, to Variant covers, to first issues, to reboots!! The methods of reeling in new readers are as old as time. Many folks consider the era of Excess to be the wild collectors boom of the 1990’s and they would have a point however these tactics have existed all through out comics history in so many formats almost too many to mention. Today Ill weave you a tale of joy and of woe as your faithful author was lured into spending his money on the diabolical gimmick known as….The photo cover!!! Strap in tight heroes as The Satellite moves all the way back to 1982 through 1986 to a special time in my fandom.

Surfer Chromium

Transmission Date: January 22nd 2020

As a kid working with my father on his cola delivery business had its benefits. I couldn’t lift the heavy cases of two liter beverages like he could and my knees buckled at the weight of just one single tray of Coca-Cola as I would lumber my way inside a local convenience store swaying from side to side to manage the weight. In my youth would often find myself “Helping” my Dad as my Mom worked. You see instead of being babysat on evening that Mom worked ..I “worked” My parents were good like that. A day’s work was something my father instilled in me as a kid. “Ya gotta go to work boy!” he would say in his jovial yet stern manner. “Pull up your socks and get to work” was his mantra! I live by it to this day. The trips to these stores even though it involved “Hard work” at least in my 8 to 10 year old mind. In reality it was really only something my dad did to occupy me while he did deliveries. Often I was left to wander the store while he did his deliveries so I would check out the magazines, toys, and junk food often landing some potato chips or some other delicious treat. wasn’t so bad at all. One evening in particular I remember one trip to a little store across the train tracks in my home town gave me a little surprise that I still remember to this day. I remember the store well. It was run down on the exterior yet hadn’t been there for very long. Inside, the large overweight man greeted my father with a smile directing him where to lay the stock near the back coolers. As I struggled to lift in my single case I did my normal wander about the store. The shelves were not full like other stores. The chip rack looked sparse and basically empty. Looking back I probably would have feared dates on the products now that I know about food safety but we didn’t worry about that back then. As long as the chips still had a “Crunch” they were “FINE!!” Shelves looked cluttered and unkempt.

It’s clear why this place didn’t last long. The musty stale rat trap like aroma certainly could not attract many customers could it? Either way it gave my dad another stop on his delivery loop and more income, so it really didn’t matter in the end. While more than a little disgusted by my surroundings on a small cardboard box near the register sat 6 or seven comic books!! I had been a fan and had been buying them for a few years now but these were unique. They were not new fact they were old, well read and the prices were marked in thick black marker right on the covers. On top of the counter pile was a Charlton Comic! I always loved the thrill of hunting Charlton books cause they would pop up in the oddest of locales including this dump. On the top of the pile was a Bionic Woman comic, number 4 to be exact from 1977!! I still remember the bright red cover, it was well faded at this point but still had a small shine to it almost like it’s last shimmer of hope! It was priced dramatically at a quarter and I knew this because the shop owner scrawled “25 Cents” on a key part of the cover showing the characters! It was musty and damp but I didn’t care it was a comic and I was thrilled!! As my Dad finished up I was nosing through the book vigorously.


I vividly remember inside the book The Bionic Woman had to complete a maze. One of the pages was a splash page and was an actual maze that you the reader could do if one wished. I didn’t have to worry about that because the previous owner, who I suspect was the portly store owner had completed the maze with a thick black sharpie marker!! I can only imagine the value of this book today in less than “Good” condition, and emblazoned with a large poorly written 25 cent price smeared on the cover along with the fully completed maze inside to boot! My children’s university fund would not be propped up with a resale of this issue that’s for certain. None of this story is out of the norm for me…it was almost routine at this point..all that is until I was about to leave and for no apparent reason behind the cash rested an over-sized DC Limited Collectors Edition of SHAZAM The World Mightiest Mortal!!

Shazam live saction

It glowed from its shelf position with a bright yellow cover with the words SHAZAM blazing in bold red. The main feature that stood out to me was the cover. It didn’t feature the normal Shazam character I was used to seeing by artist C.C Beck, featured a live action Shazam!! Living in small town Newfoundland during the pre-cable TV-internet era I never knew such a thing existed! There was no Youtube for me to discover episodes of rare retro television at my fingertips!! Heck the closest thing I had was a handfull of episodes of the Nicholas Hammond Spider-Man Television series or the classic Bill Bixby/ Lou Ferigno Incredible Hulk live action shows! I even recall George Reeves as Superman existing from an old VHS tape that circulated in discount bins in Woolco at Christmas times…but Shazam!!?? Impossible!! However it WAS possible! I was staring right at it! Time had stopped. The book was HUGE! It would be in my adulthood before I would ever see a single episode of the Shazam. The Shazam TV show starred Micheal Gray as Billy Batson and Jackson Bostwick as Captain Marvel something I surely would have loved as a kid!! As fate would have it though my fathers truck was ready to leave the store as he yelled out to me to join him back in the truck to head to the next stop on our travels. I couldn’t even ask him to buy the book as he had already left the store. I however was excited to return and get this book the following week. Comics were not yet popular in my home town at that point and I felt like the “only” collector out there and knew in my heart of hearts that this book would definitely still be there when I went back! I would never acquire the book. Apparently the dirt, lack of stock , co-mingled with the putrid stench of the place did not equal sales and the store had closed before we had to do our next round of soft drink replenishment. I was sad. This book was burned into my mind! It was so unique!! Over-sized!! Limited Edition!! Photo Cover!! I didn’t realize it back then but I was just roped into a dark corner of comic book marketing!! Little did I know I was DC’s target demographic, a word that I am certain didn’t exist back then. I had just got switched on to the world of “Gimmicks!!”

Shazam SHS

These were not covers had existed long before this issue of Shazam. My location on earth dictated however that this particular book would be my first look at a photo cover comic. In my hometown Comic book stores in the early 80’s did not exist. Comics as a full on collectible hobby was not prevelant. (To my knowledge) at that point. It was a shock to the system for me!! Revolutionary! That book stayed etched in my head for years!! With no means of seeing or buying any back issues it would be quite sometime before I discovered another issue with this type of live action photo cover!!


It was now 1986 and my friends and I had a little routine started based around comics collecting. We collectively set aside time for the art form known as “Trading”. You faithful readers must understand I considered myself the more informed “collector” amongst my inner circle. You see it would only be during a vacation to the “Big City” (which was exactly two hours from my hometown) that I nabbed my very first Overstreet price guide. It was empowering. It gave me a distinct advantage when entering the lion’s den that was comics trading. It was an art to the form, almost a poker like game that positioned you in a place to make a great “get away” from the scene of the crime when you felt like you came out of this bedroom negotiation the victor. My price guide allowed me to manipulate prices and make informed trades in a professional manner. So as it would come to pass on one evening during a lengthly trading session I had laid out some chips (Comics from my collection) on the proverbial trading table.


On the block this day were my Mike Mignola Cosmic Odyssey and A Wolverine and Havok “Meltdown” deluxe book first issues. Both volumes had caught the attention of my friend. I was not a fan of parting with the Wolverine book but I had not let my anguish show. Even the Mignola book which I had gotten months earlier from a New England Comics ad made me anxious as I was in no rush to part ways with that book either. I did not show my anguished poker face. His long boxes were now placed on the end of the bed and I lifted the top off the long box and began flipping through the books at a rapid pace. I barely had to look. I knew the covers just seeing the top inch and a half of a title. I knew the comic scene in my area quite well. I knew “who” had what in a collection and who didn’t. I knew who was getting “serious” about comic’s and who the “casual’s” were. It was all a game really but with my Overstreet Price Guide I was a self made authority. It was one of the few areas of my life as a kid where I had a “little” reputation as a “Comics guy. My flipping stopped at an issue of Amazing Spider-Man. As I pulled the book from its trappings I noticed it featured a live action Spider-Man , however unlike the one I instantly recognized from the ill fated late 70’s TV show starring Nicholas Hammond. The individual playing Spidey on the cover was an actor/stunt man named Scott Leva, who was at that time doing a ton of promotional material for a potential Spider-Man film by Cannon Films circa 1985…

But why a random photo cover? Well there is not much else to speculate about that mystery other that Marvels main man and editor in chief, Mr. Jim Shooter, simply liked the idea of doing a photo cover. Issue 262 was a gap filling issue featuring the pencils of one Bob Layton so he thought that this issue was as good as any place to try one out. Scott Leva had played Spidey several times during promotional tours for Marvel and could even pull off his Spidey like moves and nuances. He was a stunt man by trade hence the reason he was a top prospect for finding a Spidey to fill a comic cover! Sadly no Canon Spider-Man movie was ever made despite several weeks of production between the Spider-Man films and a new Masters Of the Universe picture filming consecutively. Only the Masters of The Universe film ended up getting made as production budgets spelled the demise of the Spidey picture before it got started and forced serious production and planned effects changes to the He-Man film. The studio was left holding the bag and a suitcase load of unpaid production bills. Coincidentally they were however left with a deluge of costumes and sets. These were mostly all re-purposed for a low budget Jean Claude Van Damme film know as “Cyborg!!” True story.

asm262 (2)

On the cover itself Scott was dressed as Spider-Man, had his mask off as a photographer snapped a picture of him exposing his secret identity! I lost composure for a minute letting my guard down, showing my cards with my excitement at the find!! My friend looked at me knowingly with arched brow knowing that “something” had my attention. I had to shake off the enthusiasm for just a minute as to carry on my “uninterested” facade but it was too much, too late. I was exposed and I put the book to one side on the bed as I continued on through the remaining books in the long box. I remember seeing issues of X-Men, Byrne era to be exact. I also recall I saw some Gene Colon Marvel horror comics and passed by both of them. Although the only thing I remember leaving that room with that day was an issue of Comic Reader featuring Machine Man as I stood firm not loosening my grip on my Mignola DC prestige format book nor the Wolverine/Havok book. It was considered sacrilege to give up a prestige format X-Book at the time!! At the time all the New England Comics Ads in comics had these comic books listed as “Hot” and surely some random issue of Spider-Man was not an equal trade. To me this was yet another time when a book with a photo cover passed by my radar. I really wanted that book. Now, like the Shazam book I had two damn books that eluded my grasp!!


I did manage to hook up a Spider-Woman photo cover issue but the thing was in such disparaging shape that it was barely worth hanging on to…yet I did. It was painful having this book and not being able to hold it high for all to see but it was more or less a birdcage liner condition wise. The great photo cover comic hunt would have to continue another day.


One thing about me is that I would keep hunting…my issue of geography held me back and thank god for little blessings because I fear I would have accumulated so much debt due to comics collecting that I probably never would have been able to purchase a device to even type these few words for you today. The Spider-Woman book WAS a special book now that I look back it was a special issue. It was the 50th issue and the last issue all at once Why not go out with a bang…and a photo cover!! I didnt buy many issues of Spider-Woman previous to this issue yet ..the damn photo gimmick managed to steal my money!

Spiderwoman sbtu

As time went on during the very late 80s and early 90s pre boom era began and brought along with it a whole new issue in comicdom…yes thus were born the “posers”. What is a “Poser” you ask? They were people who scorned comics growing up who had now put away their Hockey card collections to overtake MY hobby. In a strange cultural twist in social circles these “Posers” were viewed as being somehow “Cooler” as a hobbiest than kids like me who were there day oneish! B.S. I say!! Comics for me was a passion, a sense of imagination and inspiration. It’s what my closest friends and I talked for hours about. Endless conversations about heroes and villains, favorite artists, or our favorite wish list books we all wanted, but now there were strangers on our island. Strangers that hunted the very books we wanted…dreamed of, fought about! It was truly a war of legitimacy. I felt “Legit”. I had a certain “Status” damn it! Surely that meant something right!!?? Right?

MTUP 128

I stood at the end of a longbox in my new town comics shop as the “Strangers” raped and pillaged the bins of number ones, first appearances, and gimmicked books. They were taking over. Even shop owners now catered to this new audience of strangers more than the kid who spent 20 dollars a week on comics since 1982!! As they demolished the already depleted stocks, one issue of Marvel Team Up surfaced, number 128 to be exact featuring Captain America and Spider-Man and had caught my eye. One of the “Strangers had pulled it out for purchase but was far from done in his buying spree. He continued adding to his pile, pulling books out and laying them on top of each box for collection later once he finished his shop. As I got closer to his pile which was made up of Marvel Punisher and Wolverine books, that were red hot in the day, I could see the Team Up book more clearly and I wanted it…Bad! . It was a photo cover!! It featured a live action Spider-Man and Cap standing on a poorly green screened city backdrop. I loved it! I brushed the other books over to the side to observe it and my stomach turned knowing this guy who had no passion, and a “Fake” collection only had intended to buy these books to resell them and make his fortune off their pages. I looked up the aisle the kid was still going intently sifting through the other boxes pulling out what had to be 30 plus books at that point. My pile had some Marvel Star Wars, an issue or two of Groo and a Gi Joe…all standard fare for me. That Marvel Team Up was only $2.50. I looked up at its claimer who was now engaged in conversation with the owner about hockey cards or something gave me an idea. I did something I never did up to that point. I was about to cross the line. With the swift hands of jesus I lifted the four books covering that issue from his pull pile and I nabbed that glorious issue number 128 photo covered Marvel Team up and shoved it quickly in between my selections and moved swiftly to the cash register. The lady at the register was the owner’s wife and fortunately knew little about comics but unfortunately took forever manually entering the prices of each of my books. I was doing everything to block the view of the counter but the lady was really bad at her job and made mistake after mistake and seemingly lingered on that Team up book holding it in her hand seemingly forever on display to the world of my shameful crime. Finally she got it right…two dollars and fifty cents was the cost and it was now purchased. The full amount of my selections added up to about 25 dollars but as the other customer collected his bin pulls behind me he was now in line at the counter as well. I felt like he knew. He knew that I had committed an offense like no other by grabbing his “claimed” book. I was sure he knew..I could feel it. I could feel the eyes of everyone in the place as the owner’s wife slowly, painfully, slid the books into a thin brown paper bag and presented them to me with all the grace and speed of a sloth. I snatched the bag not sure if I even said thanks I had to get out of dodge to my getaway car which was no car at all but a cheap grey mountain bike. My trusty steed. I loved my bike and I liked it even more once I peddled furiously away. I had gotten away with it! My first photo cover was the cause of my first “Collectors Crime”. I just loved those books but now it was affecting my morals!! There was a code among collectors but I justified it as taking back our hobby from pretenders. A bold statement, a bold and possibly unfair judgement but one that causes me zero guilt to this day. The Dazzler book was next.

Daz Photo cover

Outside of issue number 1 I was NOT a Dazzler fan. However.. Dazzler issue 21 was priced at $1.00 and was a :”Special” issue. It claimed to reveal Dazzlers “Shameful Secret Past!!” I didn’t care so much for the reveal but rather it was the cover that sold me on the book. It was a November issue from 1982 and the dollar cover price back then was very steep. The cover itself featured a Canadian Model named June Macdonald standing ina white body suit and standing in a dark room with only the lights from her hands shadowy illuminating the room just enough to make out the silhouette of this blonde Dazzler like lady. I was instantly enamored. However as stupid as this may sound It came too easy. There was no hunt, there was no one trying to steal the book from my cold dead hands. Instead it was in a forgotten longbox in the corner of a comic store neglected. Untouched and alone.


The collecting game had gone mainstream and back issues while still in demand had taken a backseat to new methods of comic book selling. Gimmicks. I almost hate saying the word even though I was as guilty and passionate about them as the next guy. This was now 1993 and gimmick covers were all the rage. Chromium covers, Foil Covers, Pre-Bagged books, Trading Card giveaways, GateFold covers. You name it…they tried it! I did enjoy that era…in fact I have a great passion and recollection of those times. I bought into every gimmick you could name and they were fun..but NOTHING grabbed like the photo covers did!

Reflecting back to that time I know many Gen X Collectors look back in wonder remembering the “Good Ole Days” of comics. The Bronze era was certainly a great time for me as a collector and certainly the height of my passion for the hobby. It funny that today “New Books” utilize the same gimmicks and hooks they always have except I dismiss them as trash. I dismiss them as being less than or cheaper versions what I grew up with. I almost have a sympathy for kids in comics shop rummaging through the slew of variant covers that serve more to annoy me than fascinate me. I always feel that these kids will somehow not ever experience the thrill of the “Glory Days”. Do kids still trade comics? Do they still engage in the “Can Superman take Spider-Man in a fight” conversations?? Do they? I hope so…I really do. Coming to grips that my hobby is no longer about or for me hurts a little. In fact it downright stings. I am at peace with the fact that I had what I had and I damn well loved my time as a collector. I loved my generations gimmicks and to this day they still give me great joy! One day I will find my DC Limited Edition Shazam book and I will finally buy it! I may even blog about it if blogging still exists at that time. The Spidey book can be gotten easily with a simple click of a mouse but I still enjoy the hunt. The discovery…the gimmick! Friends, no matter what you grew up with if you were passionate about it…embrace it. Remember it! Share it! One day you will be the dinosaur in front of your computer or god knows what device typing out your memories to hold on to them. To store them and have others enjoy them. One day my wife will finally read my words and somehow understand their fathers, their husbands , their friend as someone with passion and read my story which is this little blog. The blog I update when I feel I have something to share!! To my readers I thank you. I leave you with one request. If you love comics..and gimmicks..and just the thrill of the hobby by all means leave a comment! Click the links listed to check out a few friends of mine below and read along as they share their memories of the era of excess!! Thank you for joining us for Super-Blog Team-Up and I hope in some small way our stories will make you smile, remember and maybe share a story with a friend or colleague. We have the greatest array of blogging talent the internet has yet to discover. Curl up with your device of choice and enjoy…

Oh yeah…I almost forgot…Tell Em Hero Sent Ya!!

Till Next time Heroes…

End Transmission.

SBTU Continues Below

Super-Blog Team-Up Is…

Super-Hero Satellite: 70s-80s Photo Covers. A snapshot of pre 90s era of gimmicks, the evolution of a trend through the years.

Chris is on Infinite Earths (Blog): Adventures of Superman #500 (White Bag/Lenticular Cover/etc.)

Chris is on Infinite Earths (Podcast):

Episode 33: Team Titans #1 (1992)

Five Variant Covers… and five variant stories!

Comic Reviews by Walt:

The ’90s Revisited: Shiny Covers

Source material: Spider-Man Torment (issues 1-5) by Todd McFarlane –

Daredevil 319-325 Fall from Grace

The Telltale Mind (Geoff) – Worlds Collide – The Intercompany Crossover

Between The Pages

Guerilla Marketing

DC In The 80s

Justin’s 5 most memorable DC “gimmicks” (1990 – 1995)

Mark’s most memorable DC comic cover “gimmicks” (1980 – 1989)

Comics In The Golden Age (Mike)

Fawcett’s Mighty Midget comics.

Unspoken Issues

Darkhawk #25 –

Dave’s Comic Heroes Blog Connected Covers gimmicks

New Teen Titans 37/Batman and the Outsiders 5

When It Was Cool (Karl)

Polybag It! The Blight of the Polybagged Comic Book

Pop Culture Retrorama

Chromium… Glow In The Dark Covers

In My Not So Humble Opinion

It Came From the 1990s: Force Works #1

Pop-Up Cover

Black & White and Bronze Comics Blog

Spectacular Spider-Man Magazine 1968. Stan Lee’s foray into the magazine format.

Comments are closed.