Comic book opens the vault

Comic book opens the vault

One of the country’s biggest collections of comic books will be opened to the public for the first time ever this weekend.

Joe Koch, one of the owners of Forbidden Planet comic shop in Manhattan, has invited fans into a private lair filled to the ceiling with more than one million comics, memorabilia, action figures, cards, posters, and other stuff.

“There is a lot of cool stuff in the world,” said Koch. “There is something for everybody here.”

Indeed there is. The exterior of the warehouse at Second Avenue and 41st Street does not hint at the geeky treasure trove contained within, but inside there are more than 200,000 comics that cost only $1, as well as graphic novels that cost only $6.

There are classic comics from the 1970 to roughly 2002 like X-Men, Daredevil, Incredible Hulk, Superman and hundreds of others, as well as the occasional random piece of memorabilia, like a custom denim vest of the heavy metal legend Danzig, or the exercise regimen of Joe Bonomo, the “Arnold Schwarzenegger” of the 1920s.

“They have an immense amount of stuff!” said Mike DeVito, a collector who got an advance look last week. “You can get lost in here!”

Since Koch moved his collection to the warehouse in 1986, he has been expanding his collection while running a mail-order business.

“There is a lot of neat items just sitting in attics, basements, warehouses and storage bins,” said Koch, who expands his trove all the time by buying out comic shops that go out of business.

So, Koch spends most of his time tending to bulk orders of comics going to places as far away as Pakistan and Bangladesh — Archie is a big hit in both countries — while letting hardcore collectors into his lair of comics by appointment.

But with most comic shops abandoning the “back stock” of comics — think the old, dusty issues of comics in long boxes and clear plastic sleeves — Koch said he saw an opportunity to make some money (the rising rent going on his warehouse added extra motivation, too).

Koch started sporadically opening his space to the public in the summer, but only in the last few months has he begun making it a monthly event.

He expects plenty of bargain hunters and die-hard collectors to show up for the holidays.

He added that he had buried some valuable comics among the $1 assortment.

“A lot of collectors show up with checklists,” said Koch. “And if they did a good job they’d clean us out of the good stuff — there are $15 books in the dollar boxes that we leave in there to amuse everybody.”

DeVito had already gotten to work digging through the awe-inspiring collection.

“I was like, ‘Holy s— when I walked in here,” said DeVito. “I bought a bunch of Christmas presents — $6 graphic novels, you can’t beat it.”

Joe Koch’s Avalanche Comics, Neat Stuff and Collectibles [206 41st St. at Second Avenue in Sunset Park, (718) 768-8571], Nov. 20-21. Opens at 11 am.