Saturday, November 4, 2017

Incredible Hulk #142

I've been gone for a while.  Soon I'll say a little about what I've been up to and share some observations about developments in the key comic market since I last posted, but I wanted to bang this out after having seen Thor:Ragnarok the other day.

I have long, long wanted to write a column about Valkyrie, specifically, about Incredible Hulk #142.  A few years back, I did some research on this character and her various incarnations, and decided at that time that Hulk #142 would come to be the key book associated with the character.  Why?  Reason being, in short, is that it is the first appearance of the first version of Valkyrie that wasn't just an illusion of the Enchantress.  What follows is a post I made on the Lyria Exchange Forums on Jan. 17th, 2014:

"On the topic of Valkyrie, I've come to think the market will settle on Incredible Hulk #142 as her first appearance. Valkyrie is three things: the 1) spirit of Brunnhilde, 2) a mortal female host, and 3) a costume. When the Enchantress took on her form in Avengers #83, you have only one of these things, the costume. I do not think Amora was possessed by Brunnhilde, I believe it was just a magical illusion. (This may have been retroactively changed in some later story, I don't know). Hulk 142 is the first time a mortal (Samantha Parrington) is possessed by Brunnhilde, and I was shocked that it guides for only $38, much less than Avengers #83 or Defenders #4 (in which Barbara Norris becomes possessed by Brunnhilde). What convinced me about Hulk #142 was when I read that Samantha Parrington came to host Valkyrie once again after that first time... What is for sure is that any of the candidate issues are undervalued, and the market will eventually settle on one choice, just as they did with Adam Warlock / Thor #165. "

Like many people, I was in the dark about Marvel's plans for the version of Valkyrie in Thor:Ragnarok when Tessa Thompson was cast.  Avengers #83 seemed to take off in value, but I did not place much stock in it (grading and selling my own long-owned copy as a CGC 9.4 shortly after the character was announced in 2016).  Today, I was reading the plot summary in Wikipedia, and realized that the character is called "Scrapper 142," which appears to be a reference to the Hulk appearance.  (I see that others have also picked up on this Easter egg over the past couple of days).

Although Ragnarok is the third and apparently final Thor film, this Deadline article asserts Thompson will appear in other Marvel films, and I think we will learn she is Samantha Parrington, although in the film she is said to be Asgardian.  The fact the original #142 story portrays her as a strong, Equal Rights Amendment-era feminist character would be very appropriate in today's Hollywood climate.  I think they may also play with different versions of the character.  We could also never come to know her mortal name, if she is indeed mortal.  This may be a minor Easter egg and nothing more.

Here's a timeline of the character:

Apr-63 (Journey Into Mystery #91): Odin's Valkyries introduced in the Marvel Universe:

Mar-70 (Incredible Hulk #125): First appearance of Barbara Norriss.  You can just barely see her head in on panel on page 19, and then again perhaps on the last page.  It could be any blonde girl since there was a group of people in the background of the story, although it's generally accepted to be her.

Incredible Hulk #125 page 19

Apr-70 (Incredible Hulk #126): First full appearance of Barbara Norriss.  She plays an important role in the story, eventually going mad and having to be saved by Dr. Strange.

Dec-70 (Avengers #83): A woman calling herself Valkyrie rallies some female superheroes together.  She tells them her origin story, which turns out later to be a lie when she is revealed to be Amora the Enchantress in a magical disguise.  These events are later retconned (?) to say that Amora was magically "borrowing" the power and spirit of the Valkyrie Brunnhilde, whom she had imprisoned in a crystal.

Aug-71 (Incredible Hulk #142): 1st appearance of the Samantha Parrington Valkyrie, who battles the Hulk in this issue.  Oddly, the story is inspired by Tom Wolfe's "Radical Chic.".

Feb-73: Barbara Norriss becomes Valkyrie II, and joins the Defenders (Defenders #4)

2002: Samantha Parrington became the Valkyrie again in one of the issues of The Order 1-6

(P.S.: This older, different Valkyrie is way cool too.  I was so psyched when I bought this copy!)

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Dick Tracy Comics Monthly #56 (1954)

A niche area of comic collecting that has grown the past 20 years is pre-code crime (and horror), a label referring to those genre comics published roughly from 1948-1954.  The most sought-after books in this category tend to be those with the most shocking or gruesome cover imagery and graphic story content.  The more violent and gruesome, the better!  This apparently is driven by a nostalgia for and/or interest in the halcyon days before Frederic Wertham and the nanny state revoked toddlers' right to enjoy depictions of beheadings, zombies, lingerie and torture in their comics.  Basically, anything that would be considered not politically correct or inappropriate for kids today is hot and getting hotter.  Books like Fight Against Crime #20 and Crime Suspenstories #22 are examples.  These are well-known (and therefore valuable) books, but here I am going to talk about a run of comics with graphic covers that are cheap and overlooked by many.

Dick Tracy began in newspaper strips in 1931, and was published in comic books starting in 1939.  Dell published his adventures until 1949, when Harvey picked up the series at issue 25. Whereas Overstreet highlights particular issues of other series of the era with notations like "severed head cover" or "torture cover", for the Dick Tracy series only #28 gets a notation for depicting bondage (actually, torture).

I picked out issue #56 as the focus of this post only because I consider it the most graphic of the run, but #28 and #56 are also good (bad?) covers.  Below is a list of several more with graphic-content covers (comic cover blood is actually very rare, but this run features plenty).  Even this list excludes other covers depicting scenes of violence against women and children, for example, and you may want to browse them and see what catches your fancy (sicko!).

# 28Jun 1950Torture cover
# 36Feb 1951Man slugs woman
# 37Mar 1951Torture cover
# 52Jun 1952Man stabs woman with pipe
# 53Jul 1952Blood (Dick Tracy's mouth)
# 55Sep 1952Dead man lies in trail of blood
# 56Oct 1952Mans beats woman with blackjack; woman bleeds profusely
# 58Dec 1952Bleeding head wound
# 59Jan 1953Dog mauls man; man bleeds from face and torso
# 65Jul 1953Criminals bleed from arm and head
# 69Nov 1953Criminal bleeds from head
# 70Dec 1953Dog mauls criminal's arm
# 71Jan 1954Criminal bleeds profusely from head
# 74Apr 1954Criminal in pool of blood
# 75May 1954Criminal bleeds from face
# 78Aug 1954Criminal shot through hand

Here is a copy of #56 which recently sold for $9.98:

Several File copies of these books hit the market a few years ago and generally sold at guide ($40 for a VF, for example).  Guide values are $12 (VG), $40 (VF) and $105 (NM-).  This hasn't changed in at least two years which means these books are really, really under the radar.

April 1955's issue 86 cover is the first to feature the seal of the comics code, and the fun was over!

Why aren't these books more widely known?  I have some theories.  Firstly, the crime genre is not the most widely collected.  Secondly, Dick Tracy is a character much more famous for his newspaper strips.  Thirdly (and this is an important note), many of the stories were reprinted from the newspaper strips. Series featuring fully reprinted material (such as Famous Funnies) have historically been shunned by collectors and guide values reflect that.  The good news however, is that this is vast unexplored territory.  Information at is scarce, with many of the books containing blank listings.  Archivists/volunteers have not begun to sort through them and figure out exactly what is original material and what is not.  If I had to guess, I would bet that the interiors of #56, to take an example, has a mix of original and reprinted material (would you know, I don't have my copy on hand at the moment to flip through, but I will update this post when I do).  All covers are almost certainly original to the comic.  As an example, here is the original cover art for #28.

Here is a $173,000 sale of a comic with a cover featuring a bound woman with Nazi and KKK imagery by Alex Schomburg. Investment in comics with striking cover imagery is a category of its own which I will discuss more in future posts.  Since attraction to particular cover subject matter is subjective, this can be tricky.  There are certain things that have proven value however, and if you get the hang of it you can be successful at identifying undervalued winners.

Meanwhile, enjoy the gallery below with a couple more of the cheap Dick Tracys, followed by graphic-content covers that will cost you considerably more than $10!

Thanks for reading!


Sold for $2748 in Feb 2016

Sold for $430 in Mar 2014

Sold for $8,962 in Nov 2015
Sold for $860 in Feb 2014

Sold for $17,925 in Aug 2015
Sold for $1314 in Dec 2015

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Secrets of Haunted House #31 (1980)

A late Bronze Age book I want to spotlight today is Secrets of Haunted House #31, for the simple reason it is a cheap book featuring a cover-featured first appearance of a 35-year old DC character with much potential.

Quick history: Mister E was the star of standard vampire-hunting stories in Secrets of Haunted House #31-41, then 10 years later was used by Neil Gaiman in Books of Magic as one of the "Trenchcoat Brigade," an informal "team" who taught Timothy Hunter about magic.  He's in pretty good company there, as Dr. Occult is a Seigel & Shuster creation predating Superman, Phantom Stranger's first appearance from 1952 is a thousand-dollar book in CGC 4.0, and Constantine's first appearance in CGC 9.8 peaked at close to $700 due to anticipation of his TV show (before coming down to around $425 currently).

Mister E was in a couple of Vertigo mini-series, then after being absent for 10 years was reintroduced in the New 52 with an altered appearance and a different explanation for his blindness.  His bibliography totals only around 50 appearances in the four decades he's been around (compared to 300 for Madame Xanadu).  I really have no idea why he has not been used more.  It is just a matter of time before a writer or film producer taps this character for bigger and better things, but for now his first appearance is very affordable.

The Overstreet guide lists this at $16 in NM-, $2 above surrounding issues.  Currently there are zero 9.8s of the mere 7 that have been graded) which is kind of odd, and it would make a fun quest to find the first certified 9.8.  I have found a few nice 9.0 - 9.4 range copies discounted from guide, in the $10-$12 range.  This is definitely a book to memorize and try to find high-grade copies at your LCS or at shows.

Mister E in the "Trenchcoat Brigade":

Mister E's debut in the SOHH #31 backup story:

SOHH # 35 sports an eye-catching Mister E/Frankenstein monster cover by Rich Buckler:

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Good Value Golden Age: Flash Comics #88 (1947)

The cheapest ticket to the Detective Comics #27 club is around $100,000; a 3.5-graded Detective #38 (first Robin) sold recently for over 22 grand.  Are Golden Age comics out of your reach?  Fortunately, there are many superhero and villain keys that are still affordable ($200-$300 for a lower grade, complete copy).  Here's one.

The Gentleman Ghost first appeared in Flash Comics #88 from 1947 (which also happens to be the third appearance of the Black Canary).  He may be a character not many think to look up, but almost 70 years after debuting the ghostly Jim Craddock is one of the few big two characters whose alter ego (and costume, mostly) is unchanged since his debut (even Two-Face's name was changed from "Kent" to "Dent", not to mention the Paul Sloane version).  After his debut, Gentleman Ghost appears 5 more times over the next 2 years in Flash Comics.  He is reintroduced in the Silver Age in Atom and Hawkman #43.

Gentleman Ghost is one of Hawkman's best-known villains, but has also faced Batman and the JSA.

He has appeared in animated media across multiple generations:

Super Friends (1970s)

Justice League Unlimited (2000s)

Batman: The Brave and the Bold (2000s)

 Action figures:

The character explained:

2015 Overstreet Guide values:

$132 $264 $396 $838 $1444 $2050

The same prices are listed for issues 87 (1st Foil) and 90.  I've seen a couple raw copies sell in the past 6 months for around guide.  Compare the NM- value to that of 1st Solomon Grundy ($20,000), 1st Cheetah ($5,500 guide, true current market value likely $15,000), or 1st Vandal Savage ($4,000, market value likely at least twice that) and you have a true bargain.

Here's the whole Hawkman story in which the Ghost makes his first appearance, from Flash Comics #88!  



Saturday, February 13, 2016

Tales To Astonish #63 (1965)

Tales to Astonish #63 (1965)

Three reasons I believe the value of this book will rise:

(1) The Leader is one of the most important villains Marvel has, and one of the Hulk's top adversaries (#1 in this list, #2 in this list if you don't count Wolverine)

(2) Our understanding of his true first appearance is evolving, with the "incorrect" one valued higher at present

(3) He is due for a reappearance in the Marvel Cinematic Universe
Let's look closer at point 3, and then point 2.

In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the fate of Samuel Sterns is a loose end

In the 2008's Incredible Hulk, Bruce Banner corresponds with an unknown figure who is later revealed to be Samuel Sterns, better known in comic books as the Leader.  Introduced as a normal, non-super powered scientist, Sterns' first transformation into the Leader is teased when drops of gamma-irradiated blood drop on his forehead:

We don't see the full transformation.  As there was no follow up to the Hulk film, the character hasn't been seen since.  This is one of the most glaring loose ends in the MCU, and one that I think sooner or later will be revisited.

Collectors don't know (or don't care) about the Leader's "true" first full appearance, but one day they will

As we know, a character's first full appearance is generally more valuable than a first "cameo" or "partial appearance" in a previously published book (the "Hulk 181 rule").  Where different opinions exist, it can take years before the dust settles.  A prime example is Our Army At War #83 ("true" first appearance of Sgt. Rock), which in recent years has dramatically overtaken #81 as the pricier.

In the 2015 Overstreet, notations on TTA 62 & 63 are incorrect, or should I say, "behind the times."  Market values have yet to catch up, which means you can buy the cheaper book now which "should" be more valuable according to the Hulk 181 rule.

The Leader - 1st brief app.

In TTA #62, the Leader appears twice, once on the first page of the Hulk story and once on the last.  In both panels his face is obscured by a mask.

TTA 62 (Hulk story), page 1:

... and last page:

Let's compare his first "brief" appearance with that of Ultron. 

Ultron - 1st brief app.

Avengers #54, last page:

The Leader - 1st full app.

The plot of TTA 62 involves the Chameleon snooping around New Mexico on the orders of the (disguised) Leader.  It does not recount any part of the Leader's origin (in contrast to what Overstreet says), which is shown in TTA 63 to have taken place before the events of issues 62/63:

CGC recently changed its notation on the TTA 63 label from "Origin and 2nd appearance of the Leader" to "Origin and 1st full appearance of the Leader", but there are many copies of 62 out there with the old wording, which is often reflected in listing descriptions such as these:

Let's now look at how the relative values of Avengers 54/55 and TTA 62/63 compare:

We'd expect TTA 63 to be worth more than 62.  Should the values be reversed, or should 63 be worth twice as much as 62?  Personally I think we can expect 63 to rise to at least $600-$800.

But wait! GPA data for Avengers 54/55 doesn't support my hypothesis, with 55 lately selling for more than 54... In 2015 the sale prices for 55 in CGC 9.2 vary wildly, from $350 to $800, and my estimate above is an approximate average.  Avengers 55 sale prices have come down dramatically while 54 seems to be holding steady...  I think if I had presented the numbers 9 months ago I think the picture would be differentI don't know if this is due to a decrease in popularity of Ultron due to the disappointing Avengers 2 film, or the high supply of slabbed copies of issue 55 (about 15 2015 sales as opposed to two for #54).  To me this means 54 should be coming down dramatically, but I don't know.  More research required!

Thanks for reading and please check out our comic market website, 

Thursday, February 11, 2016

All Star Western #117 (1961)

All Star Western #117 (1961)

Keys associated with popular, relevant characters are worth the most and are the recommended best investments, correct?  True, but some comics don't follow this rule.  How can the rise in value of a comic like Space Adventures #33 be explained, when Captain Atom isn't a significant character these days?  Some books counter-intuitively rise in value (often dramatically) despite an association with defunct or seldom-appearing characters.  Is there a way to identify potential books in this category?  Considering most investors/collectors are focused on characters with high and rising popularity, is this a smart area to invest in due to the lack of competition for available copies?

As the price of keys related to more established characters continue to rise, collectors look for pieces from the past that fit their budget but still have cachet and a reason to collectSpace Adventures #33, and books like it, gain a following of their own that exceeds the fame of the character that debuts within.  A critical mass of collectors are drawn to a book, and prices begin to rise.  These books are often described as "hard to find," or "rare in high grade" - claims that in general I advise buyers to take with a grain of salt.

One such book I believe has only a small following currently is All Star Western #117, which features the first appearance of Madame .44.  Putting aside for a moment the fact the "western" genre is probably the least collected and least popular comic genre (apart from perhaps "funny animal"), there is no reason that Madame .44 cannot approach the levels of popularity that characters like Lady Blackhawk and Mademoiselle Marie enjoy.  The first appearances of these two characters, Blackhawk #133 and Star Spangled War Stories #84, respectively, fit precisely into the category of collectible I describe above - defunct or rarely used characters whose first appearances have cachet due to their age, "rarity", and cover image.

Madame .44 debuted in the third-to-last issue of the All Star Western series.  Originally a Robin Hood-style bandit who steals from the corrupt and criminal, she teams up with Johnny Thunder to fight off an Indian attack.  They swap spit at their first meeting and later marry, in DC Comics Presents #28 (1980).  Madame .44 makes few appearances throughout the Bronze and Copper Age, and most recently was an occasional guest star in the 2007 Jonah Hex series and its follow-up, 2011's All Star Western relaunch.  I'm going to come out and say the 2007 Jonah Hex series are the best comics I've ever read.

Now regarding the western thing, in the DC world I believe there is enough crossover between the superhero, war and western books that this issue shouldn't suffer from the stigma of being a western comic.  It may currently, but I don't believe it should.

Three copies of this issue have been graded by CGC: a 6.5, an 8.0 (sold for $94 in 2010) and a 9.0 (sold for $255 in 2012).  This raw "VF" copy sold at auction for $113 in 2008.  I paid $28 for a VG copy in 2013, and $55 for a FN/VF (guide) in 2015.
The second story in this issue contains the first appearance & origin of another character, a Native American hero called Super-Chief.  Oddly, it is this event which is highlighted in the 2015 Overstreet Guide, with "Madame .44. appearances" noted only in a footnote.

The NM- value was raised a modest $5 over the 2014 edition.

You may even see her in an upcoming Legends of Tomorrow episode alongside Jonah Hex, but I won't make too much of that.  I'm not saying it's undervalued.  I'm saying it's a neat, affordable book to look out for.


Complete Madame .44 story:

Super-Chief origin story:

2nd appearance of Madame .44 & Super-Chief

3rd appearance of Madame .44 & Super-Chief