Vincent Zurzolo is a renowned authority in the world of vintage comic books and pop-culture collectibles. He has cemented his position as an internationally-recognized figure in the industry by revolutionizing the collectibles market along with his business partner Stephen Fisher. Their groundbreaking achievement of surpassing the million-dollar threshold in 2010 with the sale of ‘Action Comics’ #1, the first Superman comic, opened up new possibilities. Since then, they have facilitated an impressive fifteen deals surpassing the million-dollar mark.
Zurzolo’s dedication extends beyond the realm of commerce. He is the founder and curator of Metropolis Gallery, the only gallery in New York City solely dedicated to comic and fantasy art. But not only that, he is soon launching his own comic book series titled ‘The Addiction.’ We had the opportunity to discuss with Vincent his business ventures, his hobby, the comic, and everything in between!
Comic Basic: As an internationally-recognized authority on vintage comic books and pop-culture memorabilia, what initially drew you to this field? Was it your love for the craft that was the single most important thing when it came to success or your shrewd business sense?
Vincent Zurzolo: I’ve loved comic books since I was a little boy. I had two older brothers who collected, and I wanted to be like my big bros. I recently learned from my middle brother Jerry that when we were younger, we were in the King’s Plaza Shopping Mall in Brooklyn. He asked me what I wanted to do when I got older. I replied- I want to collect comic books.
When I asked him how old I was when he asked me, he replied, “Around six years old”!!! I was blown away. He’d never told me that, but he had always told me he was glad I followed my dreams. It was a very cool moment for me. I was drawn to comics as a kid because of the art and stories.
The love I had as a kid never left me. In fact, it increased the more I read and learned about the rich history of comics. When I was 15, I started buying and selling comics. I really took to it and enjoyed the challenges of running a business, being competitive, buying and selling, and also getting to read so many comics!
Breaking the million-dollar threshold for a comic book sale was a significant milestone in the industry. Could you share the story behind that historic transaction and its impact on the market?
Being the first person to ever sell a comic book for a million dollars was one of the coolest accomplishments in my career. How did it start? A young client who had done very well for himself inquired about a high-graded copy of ‘Action Comics’ #1 (the first Superman).
We started talking price and seeing what we could work out. We talked about some very big numbers. The next part of the puzzle was sourcing the book. We had sold a really high-grade copy years before and went to the owner and offered him a hefty profit. He took some time to think about it as he wasn’t looking to sell.
After waiting a little bit longer than was comfortable, we heard back from the owner. There was some negotiation, and a deal was struck. When I called the buyer, he was ecstatic. A deal had been made for the first 7 figure comic book. When we made the announcement, a friend in the business called me and reminded me that he and I had had a conversation about when the first million-dollar sale would happen.
He said I had told him in 15 years. I asked him how long ago did we have that conversation; he replied- 15 years ago. That was almost as cool as the sale itself.
What is the single most valuable thing you’ve put up on sale on the site?
I sold a copy of Action Comics #1 for $4.7 million.
As the founder and curator of Metropolis Gallery, could you discuss the importance of having a dedicated space for showcasing comic and fantasy art?
One of my main goals in the comic book community is to elevate the art form and collectability. When I was fresh out of college, I’d get asked what I did for a living.
When I said I sell comic books, there was one of 3 responses- No, what’s your real job? Can you make a living doing that? And if it was a girl at a party asking, she usually just walked away. Lol. The Gallery is a passion project for me. I have always dreamed of a place where comic art could be displayed and sold.
We anchor our shows with our permanent collection of art, which is one of the greatest in the world. Throughout my career, I’ve always pushed the envelope. I started off as a dealer, then co-founded the longest-running comic convention in NYC, the Big Apple Con, then hosted an online radio show for five years called comiczoneradio.com, later I started an auction house, ComicConnect.com, and then Metropolis Gallery. I’ve been looking for my next big challenge. I think I’ve found it
Throughout your career, you’ve had the opportunity to interact with icons like Stan Lee and Frank Frazetta. You’ve also hosted a Comic Zone Radio podcast also. Can you share any memorable experiences or insights gained from these interactions? And how do you navigate your role as a spokesperson for the community?
I have so many fond memories of meeting my idols in the comic world. I remember the first time I met Stan Lee. I was at a San Diego Comic-Con award ceremony, and during the cocktail, I was standing there all alone.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw someone approaching me; a hand was stretched out, I turned, and before I saw who it was, I heard, “Hi, I’m Stan Lee”! I was in shock. I think he saw me alone and was nice enough to come by to say hello. It made my night. Heck, it made my whole convention. I had the opportunity to interview Stan twice on my radio show.
One of my favorite moments was asking if he had the chance to meet any one of his characters in real life, who would it be? He said- The Thing. In my opinion, The Thing was Jack Kirby, and that was a very touching moment. When Stan passed away, I was asked to do an interview on the BBC. It was a very humbling experience to do a eulogy of sorts for one of the greatest of all time. Of course, I brought some Silver Age Marvel comics with me!
Have you, in your wildest dreams, imagined that comic books and the various derivative media, such as the MCU, will become such global phenomena? How did the MCU itself affect your business & hobby in both positive and negative ways?
I love how popular comics and comic movies have become. I am not sure I could have imagined how big they’d get. It is really incredible. I have such a good time seeing the movies and watching the tv shows and animation.
The positive way it affected my business is an increase in prices, demand, and readers. The negative is that some people are very negative about superhero movies as an art form. It also stinks when a movie bombs, and the value of a comic doesn’t increase because of it.
What are some of the most unique or rare pop-culture collectibles you have come across throughout your career that aren’t necessarily the most expensive, and do any stand out as personal favorites?
I own Bruce Lee’s only signed movie contract. It is one of my favorite items in my collection. It is from 1971, the year I was born. I have it hanging by my desk. When I was a teenager, I studied Bruce Lee’s martial art, Jeet Kune Do. His books were my first exposure to Eastern philosophy, and it really made an impact. I consider Bruce Lee one of my major influences and, in essence, a mentor. His teachings complemented what my parents ingrained in me from an early age. It was a natural progression.
Looking ahead, what are your goals and aspirations for the future of ComicConnect.com, Metropolis Collectibles, and your other business ventures?
My companies are like my babies. I want to see them grow in a healthy manner. My hope is to expand into other categories.
You are currently working on your own comic series. Can you tell us a bit more about it? Who are the main characters? Who is the superhero? The Villain? Tell us everything about it.
My new challenge is my comic book, ‘The Addiction.’ Believe it or not, I began working on this in the mid-90s. The idea sprung out of a quest for meaning. I had an existential question to answer. What am I doing here on this planet? I looked at comics I really enjoyed, like ‘The Question,’ ‘Spider-Man,’ ‘Batman,’ ‘The Flash,’ ‘The Crow,’ ‘Nexus,’ and I am sure a few more. I wanted to tackle a taboo topic for comics and chose the name The Addiction.
Soon after, I partnered up with my co-creator and co-writer David Quinn of the horror comic ‘Faust fame.’ Having David on my team is amazing. His experience and sophisticated and fun way of dissecting storylines, characters, and plots are beyond impressive. Eventually, we put ‘The Addiction’ away, and it stayed dormant until the spring of 2020. That’s right. The pandemic is responsible for ‘The Addiction’ coming back to life. Throughout the lockdown in Manhattan, I confronted my mortality on an almost daily basis. I realized at one point that we never know when our number is up.
I realized that if I had dreams I wanted to make a reality, I better get to it. It was at that moment, almost like an epiphany, that I called David and told him that it was time to share ‘The Addiction’ with the world and to see how David felt. I was relieved that he was as excited about it as I was. Our super creator team-up was reborn, and we started working on our story with the idea of having fun and not putting too much pressure on ourselves… until 2023, which is when we decided ‘The Addiction’ would make its debut.
Our heroine is Niki Tino. She is a doctor fighting drug addiction until the mob kidnaps her and shoots her up with a cocktail of drugs. They leave her for dead, and she does die. Later the drugs mix with her blood and bring her back to life. Now, with her slightest touch, she can inject a person with any type of drug she can think of. When she gets a second chance at life, she realizes she’d been a workaholic and decides she needs to live a little, so she finds romance with her boyfriend, Enzo Zuppadipesce.
She continues to fight drug addiction but in a more direct manner, going after drug cartels and the mafia itself. But our comic isn’t just about Niki’s war on the drug world; it has a touch of romance, comedy, and, very importantly, food! Niki is half Chinese American and half Italian American. She loves to eat! We’ve actually partnered with my favorite Pizzeria in NYC, Grimaldi’s, and soup dumpling company Mila to cross-promote the comic and their great food too!
It is the first time a comic book has been launched directly in conjunction with restaurants and food-related e-commerce businesses. And this is just the start! My favorite villain so far is Mr. Licorice. He is a disgruntled candy creator who turns to a life of crime. All of his weapons, gadgets, and crimes are candy themed. He is quirky, strange, and deadly as a candy-coated heart attack!
Where did your biggest inspiration come from? Were you inspired by the classic tales of bravery, or did you decide to go in a different direction adopting a new and modern outlook on superheroes?
I was inspired by so many comics that came before from the Golden Age all the way to today. So many different genres too. I was inspired by great modern comics like ‘Saga,’ ‘The Walking Dead,’ ‘Y The Last Man,’ the Japanese Manga ‘Uzumaki,’ and ‘Miracleman,’ and of course, I was brought back to Denny O’Neill’s ‘The Question.’
Who created the art & what kind of style can we expect?
Who created the art & what kind of style can we expect? Our interior artist is the very talented Claudia Balboni. Claudia is from Rome, Italy and has worked for Boom, Darkhorse, and Image. In fact, she is Eisner nominated for Killer Queens. She has an incredible style that blends European and Japanese artistic sensibilities and moods into a fresh and evocative look.
Her perspective, both figuratively and literally, and her influences compliment the writing and create a beautiful tapestry of comic book storytelling. Her creativity with panel structure and sequential storytelling is impressive. Whenever we received new pages from her, I felt like a kid on Christmas morning! It would be an understatement to say it has been thrilling to fulfill a childhood dream of making my very own comic book. Working collaboratively with an artist of her skill level has been fantastic. If readers enjoy The Addiction a fraction of how much we have enjoyed creating it, it will all have been worth it.
When will the series be available? And where can we check it out?
We will be premiering the New York Comic Con Variants for issue #1 in NYC in October of this year at New York Comic Con.
We will also have an art exhibit at Metropolis Gallery during NYCC as well as a digital launch. And if you are in NYC, stop by a participating Grimaldi’s Pizzeria (I love the Limelight location) and order Niki’s Special Pizza Pie. You’ll receive a QR code and will be able to read pages from the premier issue! Our first story arc is three issues and will be available at your local comic book store and online (TheAddiction.co) starting in November. You can follow the fun on Instagram at TheAddiction2023