by DIANNA TROYER
A comic book collector since childhood, Jaimz Lucero said it was kismet 16 years ago when he was randomly assigned a phone number for a comic book store that had gone out of business in Boise.
“I bought an Internet/phone package, and the number given to me was for One Million Comix,” said the 53-year-old Boise resident. “People started calling me, asking if I had certain issues on their want lists, or they wanted me to buy their comic books. Fate threw me a bone, so I ran with it.”
In his spare time, he began selling comic books and superhero memorabilia on Amazon, eBay, and Craigslist through his home-based business, Toys in the Attic.
“I won’t get rich doing this, but I’ve met great people who share my passion for this genre.”
After getting off work as a maintenance employee for the state of Idaho, he finds items for his clients. Lucero and thousands of residents of all ages throughout the Treasure Valley celebrate their enthusiasm for superheroes and the fantasy genre at comic book conventions, called ComiCons. The Boise Public Library’s ComiCon was so popular with fans, illustrators, and super heroes in costumes last year that it was expanded from one to two days this year.
As an adult, Lucero said he has grown to appreciate comic books for more than their entertainment value.
“Comic books help motivate kids to read and draw. The artwork really is amazing, and writers like Frank Miller and Alan Moore know how to tell a great story with action and suspense. Parents and kids read them together and bond over them, and that’s pretty special.”
Lucero said comic books have had a huge impact on his life, giving him a lifelong love of reading, storytelling, and drawing.
“My second cousin gave me my first comic books when he was drafted in the Vietnam War,” he said. “I was 2 or 3 at the time and loved them. I still have one, the first issue of ‘The Uncanny X-Men.’ The cover and a few pages are missing, and I scribbled in it, but it’s still sentimental to me. I finally bought myself a mint edition of it.”
Before his second cousin died 10 years ago, Lucero asked him why he gave away his collection. “He said at the time they were only worth their cover price, and no one thought they might be valuable one day.”
Depending on their condition, comic books can fetch millions at auctions. An original mint copy of Superman’s debut, published in 1938 and costing a dime, sold for $3.2 million on eBay in 2014.
While Lucero has not made millions on his sales, he said his childhood memories are priceless. He recalled turning pages of his comic books, being swept along in a superhero’s adventure.
“In second grade, I started reading Spiderman and Batman. To me, they were fantastic. Every summer when we drove to visit relatives in Colorado, Texas, and New Mexico, my mom bought us comic books to keep us from getting bored.”
As he grew older, his second cousin and an uncle gave him informal art lessons. “They would point out what made illustrators’ work unique, like how hands were drawn.”
Those early lessons sparked Lucero’s love of drawing and led him to several part-time art jobs. He is a freelance graphic artist, teaches art classes at the Eagle Elementary School of the Arts, and has designed T-shirts and painted murals at restaurants and for homeowners. He and his wife, Dina Matlock, are collaborating on an illustrated children’s book.
Lucero said his comic books are not only sentimental, but poignant. A special issue in his collection was published after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.
“After 9/11, Marvel did a Spiderman edition in December as a tribute to the firefighters and police officers who responded and were the real heroes there. The first call on my new number related to comics was from a man who wanted a copy of it.”
The attacks and another historic event, a recession triggered by the collapse of the dot-com bubble, helped Lucero launch his Internet comic book business.
“During the recession, some people began selling what wasn’t a necessity, so I was able to buy copies at reasonable prices,” he said. “After 9/11, many people realized how fragile and random life could be and wanted to spend time with family. Reading and collecting comic books was a shared interest that could bring families together.”