We Are All Pawns in the Game of Life

Mark Evanier, one of the biggest writing talents in TV, comic books, and blogging is here to share his insights into reality TV and comics. If reading this doesn’t make you a more discriminating TV viewer, there’s a good chance nothing will:

by Mark Evanier

Our pal Steve Stoliar caught this. On this week’s new episode of Pawn Stars, a gent brings in a book from the mid-seventies to sell — a bound book in which 41 cartoonists signed autographs and most also did a sketch for someone named Katherine. I used to like this show when I first discovered it but it got so repetitive and formulaic and obviously rehearsed that I gave up on it. (I also didn’t like how in some episodes, the Pawn Starsfamily treated each other badly. I’m told there’s less of that on the program now.)

As is usual for this show, a member of the Pawn Stars team (in this case, Chumlee) says something like, “Hey, this is neat. Would you mind if I got a buddy of mine who’s an expert in these things to come down and take a look at it?”

The would-be seller says sure. The Expert Buddy comes in…and about 90% of the time, the E.B. authenticates the item and says it’s worth X, then says “Thanks for letting me take a look at it” and leaves. Expert Buddies in Las Vegas seem to have nothing better to do than drop everything they’re doing and rush over to the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop to help out, even if it means helping a competitor. The seller almost always accepts what the Pawn Stars guy’s friend says. Then, once the E.B. is gone, the haggling starts with the seller starting by asking X and going down from there.

In this case, the seller came in wanting $2000 for the book and though the expert said it was worth $2000, the seller settled for [SPOILER ALERT!] $800. I don’t know how fair that would be since we don’t see all 41 autographs. We get quick peeks and see Milton Caniff, Don Rico, Steve Leialoha, Trina Robbins, Frank Ridgeway, Brad Anderson, Russell Myers, George Clayton Johnson, Walter Gibson, Jim McQuade and one or two others.

The two biggies the show focuses on are Joe Shuster and Jack Kirby. What would make this book truly rare is if someone somehow managed to circulate a sketch book at a San Diego Con and somehow didn’t get Sergio Aragonés.

My keen deductive abilities suggest the book was circulated at one or more San Diego Cons and I have a hunch some of the circulating was done by the con’s figurehead founder, Shel Dorf, on behalf of Katherine, whoever she is. The Caniff drawing is dated 1976 and I don’t think Caniff was at the con that year. Shel was then lettering the Steve Canyon newspaper strip for Caniff and visiting him often. Maybe Shel took it along on one of those visits….

Read it all at Mark Evanier’s outstanding blog