Detective Sergeant Jim Healy had often been caught
reading comic books on duty, had been reprimanded,
made fun of, warned. And all to no effect. Was it then
a wonder that he visited a comics convention on the
day that he was off duty?
The first things that Jim Healy encountered as he
entered the convention hall were the color and the
sound. There was color everywhere – in the displays,
in the dresses that people wore, and even the hair-do
of people. As was usual for a comics convention, major
part of the crowd consisted of teenagers dressed in
outlandish outfits, quite a few of them sporting hair
done in strange colors and stranger shapes. At twenty
three, with crew-cut hair and dressed in quite
ordinary jeans and jacket, Jim soon started to feel
out of place.
And the sound. Oh yes, the sound! The sound of
haggling over prices, the sound of kids arguing over
who was better, Batman or Spiderman, the sound of a
tape playing the soundtrack of the latest Star Wars
It was the last day of the convention. The convention
was a success, as indicated by the number of stalls
displaying and selling comics, and by the crowds that
milled in the convention hall. A number of extremely
valuable comics were on display, therefore adequate
measures of security had been taken. There was a guard
at the door and there was at least one guard near each
cabinet that displayed really valuable comics. Close
circuit video camera over the single door of the hall
whirred softly, monitoring the goings-on.
The hall was divided into two sections: the artists’
alley and the dealers’ area.
To one side of the hall was a stage where an orchestra
had been playing some jazz music and had just stopped.
Jim Healy wandered about in hall, staring agog at the
mouth-watering displays. Here was the issue of the
Detective Comics in which Batman was introduced. There
was the first issue of the X-Men.
"Wow! Oh, wow!" Jim kept mumbling at varied intervals.
He came to an area allocated to vendors selling toys,
games and cards. He passed this area with hardly a
glance. Not his kettle of fish.
He moved to the artists’ alley. It was crowded. And no
wonder, given the artwork samples on display! There
was an over-abundance of nudity and violence. Jim
didn’t stay there long.
Back in the dealers’ area, Jim resumed his wandering.
At one booth, he stopped and stared. The first thing
he noticed was a security guard. The next thing he saw
was a glass display cabinet, empty but for a solitary
comic. But what a comic! It was Action #1, the comic
where Superman made his first appearance. The comic
was for sale. Jim looked at the price tag. It read
"$90,000". Jim whistled softly and after much effort,
managed to drag his eyes to the other comics at the
stall. Once again his eyes were arrested as he stared
at X-Men #94, the only X-Men comic that was missing
from his collection. It was priced at $100. Jim took
out his wallet and riffled through it. All he had in
there totaled just a little under $80. Jim shook his
head sadly, then pushed the wallet back in his pocket.
And only then did Jim notice the owner of the stall.
It was a beautiful girl, and she was looking at Jim
amusedly. Jim blushed and was about to move away from
the stall when there was a loud noise quite close to
him, and suddenly he found himself submerged in smoke.
The loud noise was followed by the tinkle of glass
breaking, which was in turn followed by a shrill,
panicky scream of the girl at the stall. Further small
and loud cries of surprise, consternation, even panic
continued to reached his ears.
"A smoke bomb," Jim guessed rightly.
It took a couple of minutes for the smoke to thin down
enough for Jim to be able to perceive his
surroundings. He saw that people had started running
to the door, but the guard at the door, with admirable
presence of mind, had locked the door close.
As soon as the smoke subsided, the girl at the stall
screamed once again. Jim turned to find her staring in
shock at a display cabinet that lay shattered and
empty. Action #1 had been stolen.
The security man who was guarding the cabinet also
looked panic stricken, but recovered fast. He
immediately picked up his cellular phone and called
The organizers immediately had the door of the hall
closed. An announcement was flashed over the speakers:
"Ladies and Gentlemen! There has been a theft in the
hall. An extremely valuable comic has been stolen. The
police have been called. Till the police arrive, you
are requested to remain in the hall. We regret this
The police arrived, led by Inspector Gomez. Jim came
forward and greeted him.
"Aha! Jim!" Inspector Gomez exclaimed. "I should have
"Of course," said Jim matter-of-factly.
"Of course," echoed the inspector. "So what's going on
"A comic book."
"All this hullabaloo for a single stupid comic book?"
"This comic book was priced at $90,000."
Inspector whistled. "No joke?" he asked in an awed
Then came the usual investigation procedures. The
inspector looked around.
"Only one door," observed Gomez.
"I take it that no one has been allowed to leave the
hall since the theft was discovered?" he asked Jim.
"Then it should not be difficult to find the comic."
"You know what I think?" the girl, whose comic it was,
said darkly. "I think it was this man here who took
the comic," she said, pointed to Jim.
"What?" Jim jumped.
Inspector Gomez snickered. "I wouldn't put it past
him," he declared.
"Alright, search me."
"Hey, I was joking," Gomez said.
He was searched and of course the comic was not found
A body search of all the people at the convention -
men, women and children – was clearly indicated. A
policewoman would be needed to body search the fair
sex. He phoned for one, and by the time she arrived,
he had the policemen with him search the whole hall
for the missing comic.
While all this was going on Jim was deep in thought.
He was thinking about the theft. It was all
pre-planned. That was evident from the smoke bomb. The
thief must have thought everything out quite well. He
or she would realize that as soon as the theft became
known, the hall door would be closed and people would
not be let out without being searched. In such
circumstances, how did the thief plan to sneak the
comic out of the hall?
After about ten minutes, one of the policemen came to
Gomez. He had found a comic in the men’s washrooms,
but it was not the stolen one. It was a Judge Dredd
comic and it was without its cover.
Jim looked at the comic and suddenly a bulb seemed to
light up over his head, the way it is sometimes shown
in comics. He quickly turned to one of the organizers
of the convention and said, "Do you have any other
copy of this Judge Dredd comic around? I want to know
what the cover looked like."
The man said he could find one, and he did.
Jim took the comic from him and looked for a long time
at the cover.
Just then, the policewoman arrived. Gomez then
stationed one policeman and the policewoman at the
door, with the instructions to let the people out one
by one, but only after thoroughly searching them and
their belongings. Jim stationed himself at the door,
the Judge Dredd comic in his hand. One by one the
people began leaving the hall after being searched.
About ten minutes passed when a person – a young boy
of thirteen or fourteen, wearing a Batman mask and
cape – was found to be in possession of a Judge Dredd
comic with the same cover as the one held by Jim. Jim
motioned him to stand aside. About an hour went by.
All the people in the hall were let out except for
four persons in whose possession was found the
particular Judge Dredd comic.
Jim looked at the bunch. Their faces reflected anxiety
to varying degrees. Other than the teenage boy, there
was a teenage girl, an old gentleman in his sixties,
and a young man about Jim's age. This young man was
the conductor of the orchestra that had been playing
in the hall. Jim knew this by the fact that he was
dressed in tux and was carrying a baton in one hand.
His other hand held a bag of comics.
Jim went to the teenage boy and asked to look at his
Judge Dredd comic. The boy handed it over to him,
looking apprehensive. Jim opened it, looked at the
inside and handed it back to the boy. He repeated the
action with the teenage girl. Then he moved to the
"May I have a look at your Judge Dredd comic?"
"Why should I?" the man said.
Jim looked up surprised. "I beg your pardon."
"Come on, man! What's going on here? The comic that
was stolen was not a Judge Dredd one, was it? Then
what's all this about?"
"How do you know it was not a Judge Dredd comic that
"Come off it. No Judge Dredd comic in the world is
valuable enough to rate this kind of fuss."
"Whatever. But I would still like to see your Judge
"And I will not show it to you."
Suddenly Jim lunged, caught the man by his wrist and
pulled the bag of comics from him. The man tried to
snatch it out of Jim's hands but he was restrained by
a policeman. Jim opened the bag and pulled out the
Judge Dredd comic.
By now, the attention of almost all the people in the
hall had become focused on Jim and the conductor.
There was a strangled sound from the conductor and Jim
opened the comic. There was a gasp from a few people
who were close enough to Jim to peer over or around
him at the opened comic.
Jim closed the comic and went to the comic stand girl.
"Here is your stolen comic."
"What nonsense!" the girl said. "The stolen comic was
Action and not this worthless Judge Dredd stuff."
The girl looked at Jim uncomprehendingly, then opened
the comic and immediately gave a cry.
"This is it! This is it!."
"What? What?" Gomez said.
"This is the missing comic."
"But I think you said that it was Action or some such
comic, not Judge Dredd."
"No, the cover is Judge Dredd but the comic inside is
Gomez stared uncomprehendingly at her, then turned to
"Explain," he said.
"Do you have a pipe upon you?"
"I want to put a pipe in my mouth and say
"Stop talking nonsense and explain."
"It's really very simple," he began. "When this man
planned to steal the comic he faced two problems. One
was to acquire the comic, which was solved simply by
exploding a smoke bomb near the stall where the Action
comic was on sale. The second problem was to get the
comic out of the hall. To solve this problem, here is
what he did. Immediately after grabbing the comic, he
made his way to the washrooms. Here, he selected one
comic from a few he had bought. This comic was the
Judge Dredd one. He tore off its cover, retained the
cover and threw away the comic itself. He then removed
the cover of the Action comic, put the Judge Dredd
cover on the Action comic, and there you are."
There was a gasp of shock from the girl and some of
the on-lookers. Oh, the horror! Imagine removing the
cover of the first Super Man comic! Sacrilege.
Once they overcame their shock, one of the on-lookers
managed to ask a question.
"But what did he do with the cover of the Action
For answer, Jim went for the only place that the
conductor could have hid the cover without it being
discovered during the body search. He took the baton
from the limp hands of the conductor and began prying
at it. The baton came away in two pieces, and all
rolled up into a thin cylinder, there was the cover of
the famous comic.
There were more gasps from the audience.
"As you see, the crime was pre-planned. He came
prepared with a specially constructed baton to hide
the cover in. Once sneaked out, the comic could be put
together," Jim continued his exposition. "Of course it
would not be in mint and condition and so the value
would go down by about 50% I guess. But you know what?
Fifty percent of $90,000 is $45,000."
Reverently, the girl took the cover from Jim's hand.
There were tears in her eyes as she unfolded it. One
of the on-lookers even moaned with misery.
After a while, when a semblance of calm was restored
in the hall, Jim turned to Gomez.
"The equation is now balanced," he said.
"What do you mean?" asked Gomez.
"I read comics on duty and I solve crimes off duty."
The girl came up to Jim, smiling shyly.
"I ... I am sorry that I accused you so wrongly," she
"It's alright," Jim said nonchalantly.
"I will do anything to make up for it." There was
enough honey in her voice to make Jim euphoric.
She lowered her eyes and nodded coyly.
Jim looked at the girl carefully, and his brows
knitted up in deep thought. Coming to a decision, he
"Then will you reduce the price of your X-Men #94 to
about $70 for me?" he asked brightly.