Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Overstreet: The Geeky Secret of My Hometown!

Last week I wrote about the show I am helping to put on in my home town. This week I want to talk a little bit about the geeky secret of Cleveland, TN.

I live in a town called Cleveland, TN.  Its small and quaint, but it has a strange connection to geek culture that most people don’t know.  Cleveland, TN is the birthplace of the Overstreet Comic Book Price guide.  That's right, Robert Overstreet created the standard price guide for comic books right here in my home town.  Its one of those odd little facts that older men tell you when they hear you like comic books. “Oh well you probably know about Bob Overstreet” they say. They would tell me stories about how he used to ship the the price guide out from the company he worked at and get a laugh out of it.  That is when I get to tell them the story that I am going to tell you, dear reader, right now.

Back in 92, the comic book boom was in full force.  This is the era when comic companies were printing things like “Instant collector item” right on their books, and putting things in poly bags to entice people who thought they could make a buck.  My 12 year old self was into the comic boom deep.  My dad, my uncle, my brother, and myself would each get our pull folders and drive all over the place looking for back issues.  If we heard there was place that had comics, we went.

It was during this time that I suspect an old man said to my day, “Oh you like comics huh, well you probably know about Bob Overstreet”  I don’t think he did, I mean We had the guides but I don’t think he knew he lived here.  My dad is never one to be afraid of a phone call so he did what my dad does, he looked Robert Overstreet up in the phone book. . .and he was listed!  There he was in the white pages, the creator of the Overstreet price guide.  His number was just there.
Mr Overstreet was happy to sign our book!

Let me break in here to put things in perspective, For me Robert Overstreet had his name on a book.  This was fame to me.  I had never been to a convention, I didn't know this was normal.  Someone like this seemed like they were above humanity. . . (I was a very sheltered child).  

My dad called him.  Had a nice conversation with him, and we were invited over to his house.  Just like that.  We set a time, It was a Tuesday if I recall.  When the day approached my dad, my uncle, my brother, and myself loaded into the car to go to the Overstreet house.  It was a big house, I can’t remember where it was in town now, but I remember it was in a nicer part of town.  The house looked like a castle, It had a spiral staircase and everything.  

As we got there we were greeted by him and his wife, they were incredibly nice, they brought us in and took us to the living room, where we got to ask him questions.  We talked about Comics, and artists and the history of comics.  It was a great time.  Then he did something amazing, he started pulling out his collection.  Amazing Fantasy 15, Fantastic Four 1, He just kept showing us these comics that we would probably never see again (at least I thought so).  

After he showed us these books he took us upstairs (yes up the spiral staircase) and up stairs there was a long hall with odd paintings of the Salem witch trials.  To this day this still confuses me.  But then he opened a door and let us see a huge room that was just filled with long boxes.  This was a man where comics were his business.  He knew about them, he lived with them, and he loved them.
After this he signed our price guides and we left and it was a great experience.  A few months later we went back to the house for Halloween, because he told us he gave out comics for Halloween (the publishers send so many of them to him).  I think my brother and I both got archie books, but it was ok, it was from Robert Overstreet.

I think more recently Robert Overstreet, has moved out of Cleveland, from what I gather, he does still work on the guide (though he has long since sold it off).  During the 80's and even early 90's Cleveland was a hotbed for collectors, there were shows going on all the time.  We had a regional distributor near by, and there were a really hoping comic book shops all over the region.  Then it just kind of fizzed out, but I think a lot of that energy can be given credited with The Overstreet price guide.

So that is Cleveland Tennessee’s connection with geek culture.  Does your city have a secret connection to geek culture?  Tell me about it in the comments.

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