Ryan’s Long Journey to Amazing Spider-Man #121

| June 27, 2012

For the most part I write blogs that are silly and fun with not much heart. Tonight I am going to change that(maybe). The journey of me finally getting the first part to the most amazing(pun intended) Spider-Man story is long and full of highs and not really lows because I have had a great time tracking this elusive issue down. I have told some of these stories before to my friends and quickly on my podcast but never in a short story form. I just cracked open a bottle of Yoohoo so sit back and enjoy a quest 23 years in the making…

1989 was a tough year for my family. My parents just got divorced and for awhile my mom, my two brothers and I lived in an apartment not far from my father. But when we finished our school year in Arvada my mom chose to move us west to Golden. I don’t remember the move that much but I do remember not wanting to be further away from my dad, and I was not happy that I had to make new friends in a new school.

(welcome to Golden Ryan)

The school year approached fast and I was nervous about going there. (It’s strange how no matter how much time has passed you can remember how you felt at specific parts of your life.) The dread was really creeping in when my mom pulled into the round-about of Earl Johnson Elementary School. “Have a nice day boys” my mom would say in the sweetest voice. My mother still has the most comforting voice when it is needed. My brother Steve was in the 4th grade and nothing seemed to phase him. Much like today he walks into any situation like he owns the room and if you don’t like him, so what, he can kick your ass. I was more nervous. I used to want people to like me, which I think I still do but to a lesser degree now that I’m married, and really only make sure I don’t look like an ass in front of my wife. My brother Nathan was in 1st grade and seemed to just go with the flow. 

So we all parted and went to our separate classrooms. I can’t remember my teacher but I do remember Jimmy Bollinger. A friend who not only is a great guy but was so gracious to me it’s something I will never forget and I am proud to say that he is still my friend. (He is always helping people in other countries but thanks to facebook we can still talk). I was introduced to Jimmy and he was assigned to help me get used to being at a new school. A job most kids would not like but Jimmy took me under his wing and a friendship was born. After getting to know more kids through Jimmy(he was popular and a nice guy what a combo) I was adjusting to life in Golden well.

One day at recess a bunch of kids were hanging out by the swings. I Must have gotten out of lunch late because Jimmy was already down by the swings as well. When I got to Jimmy he was trading cards with a bunch of other kids. At first I was excited because I thought they were baseball cards. Which I collected with my brothers and my dad. But as I got a closer look at them I saw that they were comic cards. These collectible cards were a lot like baseball cards were they had the hero or villain on the front and on the back were a bunch of stats. I asked Jimmy were he got those cool cards and he said any comic or card shop has them. I told Jimmy that I thought they were cool, but I knew in my head I would not be able to get any because we were poor. But Jimmy being the stand up guy he has always been said, “Here Ryan you can have all my doubles so you can start a collection.” Jimmy reached into his pocket and handed me a stack of cards. The first card I flipped over, Spider-Man vs. Green Goblin.

(this is the card that I was given)

I was mesmerized by the card. Spider-Man I knew, but the Goblin was something new. I loved his character design. He was smiling while he was fighting. But my true fascination started when I read the back of the card. It turns out that the Green Goblin was Spider-Man’s greatest enemy and he killed Spideys girlfriend Gwen Stacy by throwing her off a bridge! My inner Spider-Man geek was awakened! Soon I was bugging my dad to take me to a comic shop so I could buy the comic of the Goblin killing Gwen. He finally agreed and we stepped foot into Colorado Coins, Cards, and Comics!(my favorite comic store that I still go to every week to pick up Peter Parker’s adventures.)

I asked the gentlemen working there if they had an issue where the Green Goblin kills Gwen Stacy. He said yes and pointed me to the comics that were hanging from the ceiling. There it was calling to me, as my father and I approached it my excitement soon turned to sadness. The price on the comic $75. My dad said “there is no way I am spending $75 on a comic book! Here’s $20 and go pick out a bunch of Spider-Man comics.” I did, I found as many comics with the Green Goblin I could find and that my $20 would buy. I left with 15 comics most with the Goblin, but that was the first and not the last time Amazing Spider-Man 121 would slip through my fingers…

A couple of years passed and I would save all the money I could to purchase more Spider-Man comics. My collection was getting bigger but my one true prize kept on being out of reach. My father owned a hydraulic company for a long time and I was finally old enough to “work” there. I told my father that I wanted to work with him over the summer so I could save enough money to buy that comic. My dad said “ok I have a bunch of things for you to organize and you can sweep my shop everyday and I will give you $50 a week.” I thought wow $50! I would only need to work two weeks and I would have enough money to buy that comic! My dad would pay his employees every week so the first check I got I kept safely in my piggy bank. Next Friday came and I was so excited, my Grandpa Leon was my dad’s accountant and gave out the checks. So I waited for him to come by with my money. When he handed it to me I ran to my father’s office and said “Dad, can we go and get the comic I want? I saved my check from last week and I can pay for it!” My dad didn’t think I should spend my money that way but was proud I saved the money. “Ok Ryan we can, but it’s only 10:30 you will have to wait until 4 when we leave work.” Talk about a long work day.

After work my dad took me to the bank where I cashed my checks and was holding a cool $100 bill. As we pulled into the parking lot I was so excited. Just imagining myself holding and reading that issue was so amazing to me. We entered the store and I went to where the comic was for the last year and…it was gone! I was heartbroken. I asked if they had another one and they did not. I was too late! The next best thing was issue 122 was there which I bought instead for $65, I was so upset. The comic shop guy did tell me I could get the reprint for only $1 if I wanted to read the story. So I got the original 122 and a reprint. It would be a long time before I even saw 121 again.

 (this is the first expensive comic I ever bought. It was at the time an unhappy purchase. I really wanted 121, but it was gone by the time I saved enough money to get it. An ironic twist is this has become my most favorite single issue of Spider-Man. I could write a whole other blog about this and I probably will but for now I will just focus on issue 121)

As my comic collection grew so too did my quest to track down all the comics the Goblin has appeared in. I became obsessive however about finding issue 121. I didn’t trust websites because I could not see the issue and I didn’t want to be ripped off. I found some amazing issues along the way. But for some reason I saw more of the first appearance of The Green Goblin then issue 121. 

 (the first issue featuring the Green Goblin is rare and expensive but I saw this more in the last 15 years then I did of 121. This comic is worth 4k in near mint and is one of only 3 Goblin comics I do not own. The three I do not have are Amazing Spider-Man 14,17,39)

When it was announced that Denver would be having its own comic-con I made it my mission to find 121 and get it no matter what. I waited too long not to get it and I wasn’t about to let this opportunity pass me by. One of the greatest things that has come from this podcast was I had the privilege to showcase my podcast at the Denver Comic-Con. When we arrived at the con before the doors opened to the public and our booth was set up I took it upon myself to check out all the vendors that were there so I could see if maybe 121 was there.

To my great surprise there were at least 6 copies of 121 and I was now on the prowl for not only the comic but also not to be ripped off. The first place I checked wanted $425 for it! If it was in near mint maybe but it wasn’t so that one was a big no especially since I knew there were others. I decided to wait until Sunday to buy it because I figured maybe I could get a good deal on it. So on Saturday I took another lap around to make sure there were still a few options if needed. And to my surprise I still counted 6 different copies of the comic.

Sunday was here and it was no or never for this Green Goblin collector. In between juggling my duties as the host of this podcast and my James Marsters panel I knew I had to make my move. So with James in tow I set out to buy the most elusive comic for my collection…

We stopped at a couple of vendors just to get a feel and they were not budging on the price. I wasn’t trying to take advantage but I knew how much the comic was worth and I didn’t want to over pay. James told me he saw the first appearance of Captain America in the modern age just tucked in a box if I wanted to see it. And of course I did. So we headed over to a great little vendor set up and James pulled out Avengers #4, that was cool. I glanced over to my right and there it was, Amazing Spider-Man 121 just staring at me. I asked the gentleman running the booth if I could inspect the book and he said yes. As he pulled it out I was getting anxious because I knew I was going to buy this book… 

(yes I was really nervous holding this book, I wanted it so bad)

I asked the gentlemen if they would be willing to sell me this book for $30 less then they were asking for it. A very long 30 seconds passed before the owner of this book looked at me, looked at the book and said “yeah, we can do that”. Joy soon crept in. After 20 years searching and wanting this book my moment had arrived! I reached into my wallet and pulled out all my cash, I was short! I got really nervous again, I asked “do you take debit?” he said “we do but there is a charge for it” I didn’t care I wanted that comic so bad! But James swooped in and said “here’s the $30 you need happy early birthday.” And like that the transaction was done and I was in possession of the comic I wanted the most my whole collecting life.

(me at our podcast booth so excited to finally be holding my very own copy of Amazing Spider-Man 121!)

So that’s my really long winded story about my search for Amazing Spider-Man 121. I really want to thank Jimmy Bollinger for introducing me to the sensational world of Spider-Man, even if it was by accident I appreciate it. Also thanks to my dad for not getting why comics are important to me but supporting me anyways. Thanks to James for being there so I didn’t have to pay the extra charge for the book. Thanks to Brad and James of Reel Nerds Podcast for helping make our podcast the official podcast of Denver Comic-Con. And thanks to my rock, my best friend, my better half, my beautiful wife Laura. You never get mad when I spend our money on my funny books, you just support me and love me for me. And that’s why you will always be my Gwen, I love you. 

(my wife Laura, me, incredible comic artist Zach Howard, James Hart, and Brad Haag, we are the Reel Nerds Podcast)

About the Author:

As far as nerds go, there are not many reeler than Ryan. His love for movies is unmatched. He also loves comic books. When you combine comic books and movies Ryan is at his happiest. He enjoys all forms of pop culture and prides himself on knowing more then average nerds. Ryan has a couple of characters he prefers over the rest, first and foremost is Spider-Man. He also loves Ash from the Evil Dead. Ryan also enjoys Finishing people in Mortal Kombat and hopping on Goombas. He has attended Comic-Con and several Starfests with his good buddy Brad. He is amazed on how awesome Brad is at designing Reel Nerds pages. But don’t tell Brad he needs to stay humbled. Favorite movie: Army Of Darkness Favorite Genres: Action, Horror, Comic Book, Comedy
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