Over the last several months, I’ve picked up several comics from CGC facilitator Rich Henn. These purchases have included some CGC Signature Series 9.8 pre-sales, a book “From the Collection of Doug Moench”, and more. In a typical year, Rich would be busy in the middle of convention season right now. However, given the COVID-19 related show cancellations, Rich was available to answer some questions for us about his experience as a CGC facilitator and more.
Gary Govel: What’s your comic collecting origin story?
Rich Henn: I first got into comic books in the mid 1970s. If I had to guess, probably around 1975. We lived out in the hills of Western NY, Steuben County. The closest store was 15 miles away, with the exception of say, the country store. The country store was exactly that—it sold bare essentials like bread, milk, eggs, dry products such as cereal, etc. Two gas pumps outside. And there was a comic rack just inside the door of the store. Richie Rich, Superman, Batman Family—I clearly remember those. And my Mother used to get me comic books that were missing the covers from a local thrift shop. The first comic book that I remember was a DC horror anthology called GHOSTS. Specifically, it was GHOSTS #33. The Harvey comics were a favorite—I couldn’t get enough of the Richie Rich, Hot Stuff and Jackie Jokers comics.
Spider-Man was the title that I latched onto very shortly after that. When I was 10 or 11 years old, I was able to get a subscription to Amazing Spider-Man. A few years later, I was subscribing to Spectacular Spider-Man, Master of Kung Fu and Fantastic Four. The storylines that interested me the most were the original Gwen Stacy clone saga, Dark Phoenix and The Last Galactus story (serialized in Epic Illustrated, but never completed). The Beta Ray Bill and Malekith storylines in THOR was another favorite. I was always more of a Marvel guy as opposed to DC, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t say that New Teen Titans was one of my favorite books as a teenager. The teaming of Wolfman and Perez was DC’s answer to Claremont and Byrne. As I grew older, my tastes changed, and I found myself gravitating toward a lot of the indy books coming out at the time. Mage, Grendel, Cerebus, Jon Sable Freelance, Twisted Tales, Alien Worlds, Miracleman to name a few.
GG: Since becoming a comic book dealer, do you still read and personally collect, if yes what interests you now?
RH: I don’t really read as much as I used to. It’s hard to find the time to really sink into something. However, there are certainly a few titles in the last few years that I’ve picked up which most certainly captured the pure joy and imagination I had reading comics as a kid. SCALPED was a recent favorite. When I say recent though, I actually discovered it about 5 years ago. I would pour through each TPB front to back. When the last issue came out, I wanted to savor it. I waited until my everyone in the house went to bed, so there would be no distractions. I went downstairs to my office, poured a glass of wine and read each page, slowly. I didn’t want it to end. When I finished it, I was a little sad because what had become my favorite comic in years, was over. The story was complete, and I found it very satisfying. I recommended it to every friend I had who read comics. I gave my TPB collection to a buddy so he could enjoy it. But here’s the truth—if I had never read SCALPED, I probably would never have picked up any of Jason Aaron’s other work. Since then I’ve read his THOR, Punisher and Southern Bastards work. His run on THOR is equally as good as Walt Simonson. And to me, I always felt there was only one THOR run you ever needed to read, and that was Simonson’s run. Additionally, THE SIXTH GUN by Cullen Bunn & Brian Hurtt was exceptional. It was like Clint Eastwood’s UNFORGIVEN meets Matt Wagner’s Mage: The Hero Discovered.
GG: Many collectors know you as a CGC Signature Series Facilitator. For those that don’t, tell us a little bit about what a Facilitator does (and can’t do), and how you became involved with CGC?
RH: A CGC signature series facilitator is basically a third party service who acts as the go-between for the customers who cannot attend the conventions, but still wish to get their books signed and submitted to CGC for grading. My involvement with CGC as a facilitator didn’t start out that way though. It started because I was aware of what certain high grade keys were selling for online. My wife and I made a short term investment in an original owner copy of Amazing Fantasy #15. The goal was to get the book graded at CGC so we could sell it, clear our debt and start a family. That was 18 years ago. To this day, the inside joke between myself and several of the old school employees at CGC is that we refer to my oldest daughter (who just turned 17) as “the CGC baby.”
After the sale of the AF15, I started to dabble a bit more in grading comics. Mostly bronze and copper age books. Then I started to move into modern keys. However, I still claim that it was fellow facilitator and good friend, Dan Partouche of One Stop Comic Shop who gave me yellow fever. Dan was doing a private signing with Mike Zeck. At the time, Zeck was not a fixture on the comic convention circuit, so I jumped at the chance to get my favorite Zeck books signed for signature series. I still have a few of those books. His Captain America and Master of Kung Fu covers were always some of my favorite pieces. After that, I was hooked, but I still wasn’t a facilitator yet. That would come a year or so later. And when I did eventually become a full fledged CGC signature series facilitator, it wasn’t as a full time operator. I did it because it was fun, it was “beer money” for lack of a better word.
When my day job imploded (I was in the printing industry for 17 years), I turned my “fun” job into my full time gig. I became a steady presence on the CGC message boards, and over the years slowly built a steady clientele list. I learned how to press comics for my customers, providing them the opportunity to improve the potential grades on their books. I was also able to take what I learned in printing and pivot that toward my ability to pre-screen comics. Because of what I learned from almost two decades in printing, on top of learning over time what CGC looks for in grading, my eye instantly jumps to certain defects in comic books that perhaps another person might not spot. I’ve learned how to look at comics and spot things when the light refracts off the surface in a certain way. Back covers—you’d be surprised how many defects hide on the back cover because you might not think to look there. Stains, trim, faint spine stress, stacking curls, offsetting, you’d be surprised. Even brand new moderns off the rack have defects.
GG: How many shows do you hit in a typical year, and how do you pick which to visit?
RH: I’ve added several shows to my annual itinerary, but I also work hand in glove with a few of the other facilitators in case there’s an event I am unable to hit. We help each other. I’ll take books for a few of the others, as they will for me. But my staple shows include Great Lakes Comicon, East Coast Comicon, Chiller Theatre, Monster Mania, DC Awesomecon, Heroes Comicon (my favorite), San Diego Comicon, Baltimore Comicon, New York City Comicon. I also handle signings at Third Eye Comics in Annapolis, MD (my LCS) as well as private signings with Doug Moench a few times a year, and the occasional mail-away signing with copper age artists, Ed Hannigan and John Totleben.
GG: Do you have a table at the shows you work?
RH: The only show in which I set up a table and take submissions at a show is Great Lakes Comicon. Aside from that, I walk the shows with my witness and a hand truck of two short boxes. I don’t sell books at the conventions. However, I do have a booth at SDCC where I display the comics I used to self-publish years ago.
GG: Do you offer pressing on books that collectors submit to you, or do you use CCS?
RH: I offer a pressing service to my clients, and will typically pre-screen for them if they ask to ascertain if any work can improve the quality of the book. I’ve been pressing for about 12+ years.
GG: What books have you gotten signed the most times over the years, and whose signatures have you obtained the most?
RH: Wow. That’s a loaded question! LOL I’d have to say it’s a tie between Stan Lee and Frank Miller. And not so much for myself, mind you, but for customers. I had a private signing with Stan at his hotel once a few years ago, that was exciting. Frank Miller was a big one because for years he was a white whale, so to speak. He rarely made convention appearances and many people in the community were concerned about his health. When he starting signing again, the flood gates opened. I’m personal friends with Doug Moench, so I get out to see him often and do books. So if I had to guess, I’d say in order of quantity of books signed by said creator, the winner would be Frank Miller, followed by Stan Lee and then Doug Moench. But the TOTAL of books signed by Doug for CGC s/s would probably be less than 300 books, if I had to guess.
GG: Who are a few creators that you consistently have the best experiences obtaining signatures from?
RH: I would have to speculate the ones that are personal friends. Harlan Ellison was a close friend. Signing with him was always a good time. Obviously, Doug Moench. Doug has some great industry stories. Remind me to tell you how the Secret Wars storyline was an accident because of an entirely different crossover event that Jim Shooter wanted to do—never happened. John Totleben, another buddy, signing with him is always cool. I used to get “fan fever” though when I would see Jason Aaron. I absolutely love his body of work. SCALPED was one of the single best series I think I’ve read in recent years. His THOR is a mind blower as well.
GG: Does the experience of getting a signature from a comic book creator differ from that of a movie/TV celebrity?
RH: I think I’m a little numb to it at this point, even though it’s a true pleasure to meet such a wide variety of people—both creators and celebs, for the most part it’s a job. It’s a job that I still enjoy, but because I’ve been doing it for so long, stood in so many lines and met so many different people, the initial “thrill” if you will goes away after a while. I think the biggest thrill, if I had to pick one, was meeting Leonard Nimoy. I had one opportunity to meet him, back at Emerald City Comicon in 2010. My mother was a huge Trekkie and she had just turn 80 years old that weekend. With minimal persuasion on my part, I convinced Mr. Nimoy to chat with my Mom on the cell phone and wish her happy birthday. And then he did the most unexpected and thrilling part of that call. After chatting with her briefly, he actually sang “Happy Birthday” to her. And then he wished her well, said goodbye and passed the phone back to me. And I can tell you she was thrilled. There probably wasn’t a single birthday present I could have got my Mom that would have surpassed having Spock sing to you.
GG: Tell us a little about the Signature Series pre-sales which you offer via the CGC chat boards.
RH: I started offering pre-sale 9.8 CGC signature series books exclusive to the message boards a few years back. Typically, if I see a book coming out down the road that I believe the community might be interested in (and I know I have a signing coming up with said creator), then I like to make said book available with a guaranteed 9.8. Fortunately, I have a great LCS, Third Eye Comics, which for the most part orders multiple copies of any given title, so I have the ability to pre-screen maybe 50-100 copies of a title and pull 10 to 20 copies that I believe will hit the 9.8 mark. If I have any doubts regarding a copy, I’ll press the defects out and get it where it needs to be prior to grading. If I offer say, 8 spots of an exclusive variant, then I’ll make sure that I order at least 10 copies of that book, in case there are a few clunkers in there. The whole process can be time consuming, but I do my best to make sure everyone gets the book requested.
GG: You recently started offering CGC books uniquely labeled as “From the Collection of Doug Moench”. Fans of course will recognize Moench as the creator of Moon Knight, Bane, Black Mask, and co-creator of Deathlok. How did you come to know Doug, and become involved in selling these books from his personal collection?
RH: I first met Doug at a small LCS signing in Pennsylvania about seven years ago. Afterwards, I reached out to him about possible future private signings, because quite honestly, that LCS signing was a rarity. Doug doesn’t do conventions or public appearances. So twice a year, I would take books from clients who were interested in Doug Moench signature series, and I would drive out to his house with my witness. And then sometime early last year, I asked if he had any interest in moving some of the books from his personal collection. That started a dialogue over the course of several months between Doug, myself and CGC. The collection itself is impressive in both runs and keys. To me, the definition of a pedigree collection is unique, extensive, deep consistent runs of titles, and all original owners. The Moench collection checks all those boxes. Unfortunately, it’s not an uber high grade collection. Because of that detail, we can’t get the coveted CGC Pedigree label, but we do get the CGC label designation of “From the collection of Doug Moench.”
GG: What was the process of getting CGC to recognize this collection and designating it on the label of these books?
RH: It began with multiple conversations with CGC regarding the volume of the collection, how unique it was and the simple fact that it all belonged to one of the most prolific writers in our hobby. The books themselves had been sitting untouched in a room for 50+ years made it potentially a very desirable designated label to bring to market.
GG: What can collectors expect to see as you reveal more books “From the Collection of Doug Moench”?
RH: I’ve only really begun to scratch the surface—-sadly, there are a number of books that are so low grade, it’s not worth it to have them graded. But I’ve been trying to find some of the more popular keys; 1st Galactus, 1st Punisher, 1st Black Panther, 1st Moon Knight, as well as a nice healthy run of Neal Adams Detective, Batman and X-Men books. I’d never seen copies of Amazing Adult Fantasy outside of AF #15 before, but this collection had issues #8-14. Morbius is popular right now, and part of what is currently available is Amazing Spider-Man #101 and FEAR #20. I have a lot of work in front of me in regards to going through the books in more detail, and a lot more to still retrieve from Doug’s house. At the moment I have roughly 30+ short boxes to go through, but later in May I’ll have another 60+ graded books to offer on my Facebook page, “Rich Henn Comics.”
For more info, visit Rich Henn Comics on Facebook:
Check out Rich’s Signature Series Pre-Sales on the CGC chat boards: Rich Henn Pre-Sales
… as well as his 5th Annual Tax Man Sale
… his sales on eBay: Rich Henn eBay
… and last, but not least, check out the FF46 “From the Collection of Doug Moench” that I recently picked up from Rich: