Jan. 28 2009 12:00 AM
Spider Man and Barack Obama team-up.
In his preparations for what proved to be one of the most intense political campaigns this country has ever seen, Barack Obama knew he would need the help of many to accomplish his goals. That help came from many sources, but the most unexpected may have came just before his inauguration from Peter Parker, better known as the spectacular Spider-Man.

Released the week before Obama was sworn in as president, “Amazing Spider-Man” No. 583 was shipped to comic stores across the country to unprecedented demand. The comic featured a five-page story of Spider-Man helping to save President Obama from a super villain and was available to some retailers with a variant cover featuring the then-president elect. Unfortunately for local retailers, the special issue was only announced a few days before it shipped, which meant many area comic book sellers were unable to adjust their orders accordingly.

"We didn't know Obama was going to be in it until it was too late," said Steve Jahner, owner of Lansing’s Capital City Collectibles, who managed to sell two copies of the limited edition cover printings for more than a $100 each. Demand on the issues was so high that many of the stores that were able to stock copies instituted a one-per-customer limit.

As soon as it was announced, the book became an instant political collectible before it hit shelves. The resultant instant sell-out may have already pushed the issue to become the best-selling comic book of 2009 before the first month has even set and cooled.

Joe Quesada, editor of Marvel Comics, publisher of “Spider-Man,” has declined to say exactly how many of the issue were printed, but has said it was “slightly more” than usual. According to a BBC story, Quesada got the idea after Obama admitted to being a fan of the web slinger during his campaign.

On eBay, a search for “Obama” and “Spider-Man” turns up 1,300 results, with the first editions of the comic at more than $70 with a half-hour left in the bidding.

Sara Dutcher, manager of Just for Fun Hobbies and Comics, in Lansing, agrees the book was a success, but she has reservations about the efficiency of the release. "It certainly drove sales for the book, but from outside of the counter, it would have been nice if there had been more copies available."

A second printing was announced, with equally short notice, and sold out immediately. A third printing with a slightly different cover ships this week. Although sales of the issue were high, especially among non-comics readers, retailers remain skeptical as to whether media boosted events like these will create new customers. Andrew Morrow, owner of 21st Century Comics and Games in East Lansing, sees events like the forthcoming “Watchmen” film as creating more new comics readers than the sudden collectiblility of a single issue. "We sell a few, or sometimes a lot more issues of something, but its usually a one-time thing," Morrow said.

Regardless, the hotly anticipated third printing will likely sell just as well as its predecessors, as may the just announced fourth printing. Though perhaps not a comic to treat as an investment, it's sure to be regarded as a famous piece of memorabilia for years to come.