Pocket change for millionaire Bruce Wayne...

IT MIGHT BE

July 11, 1992

IT MIGHT BE pocket change for millionaire Bruce Wayne, Batman's alter ego, but most of us couldn't imagine spending $100,000 on a comic book. That's what a Virginia dentist-comic collector did recently, and he bought it from Steve Geppi of Woodlawn, a nationally known comic distributor.

The sale of Marvel Comics No. 1 is the highest ever paid for a comic. The exchange of eye-popping sums for kids' books is old hat for Mr. Geppi. Last February, he pocketed $75,000 for the first comic in which Batman appeared, "Detective Comics" No. 27 (May 1939) -- now the fourth-highest sum paid. Since then, he bought another copy of that comic for $81,000, the third most-expensive transaction. Easy come, easy go.

The Bat-mania fueled by the movie "Batman Returns" surely won't hurt comic book and memorabilia biz. Just before the movie's release, 1,200 people attended a three-day trade show at Festival Hall sponsored by Mr. Geppi's Diamond Comic Distributors Inc. This isn't the last we'll see of comic-book heroes on the big screen, either. A Spider Man movie, slated to be directed, written and produced by the fellow who directed Arnold Schwarzenegger's "Terminator 2: Judgment Day," is scheduled for release in late 1993 or early 1994.

For mass appeal, though, Mr. Geppi thinks it'll be hard to top Batman. "Batman is a more believable character," he says. "Superman is not believable." For sure. Dressing in a cape and pointy ears, dueling with costumed foes and outfitting a cavern like the control room at Goddard Space Flight Center is surely something to which all of us can relate.

* * *

EVEN IN AN era when physical unfitness is considered a sin, it's hard to identify with the models in print advertisements for department stores.

You know how it goes: Just after scowling at a piece of bad news at the top of a newspaper page, you peek at the ad below the story and scowl even more fiercely at the clothing ad featuring hunks and hunkettes who appear to have been assembled at some laboratory in Southern California.

That's why it was refreshing to see a recent Hecht's ad for men's clothing. Typically, hunks were prominent in the two-page spread, but they were accompanied by a guy whose sort is not often seen. Modeling sport shirts in a pair of photos, the 40ish man was bald as a newborn, and though no Quasimodo, he wasn't exactly blessed with Robert Redford looks. The man also was sitting in a wheelchair.

Give Hecht's credit for this display, though cynics might see it as pandering to the politically correct. The company ran an ad that used not just an ordinary-looking man, but an ordinary-looking, wheelchair-bound man. It's nice to see at least one department store chain realizes hunks and hunkettes aren't the only ones who buy clothes.

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