Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Iron Man #28 (1970)

1st slab to sport the label

Watched the latest Agent Carter episode last night.  Love, love, love Howard Stark.  Loved him in the first Cap movie, loved him in the Agent Carter short, love what they've been doing with him in the comics.  As a fan of Marvel stories based in WWII and the 1950s, he's one of my favorite characters.  He's grown from just being part of Iron Man's back story to being one of the most important characters in Marvel's history, up there with Nick Fury and Captain America.  He was portrayed by Gerard Sanders in Iron Man 1, Dominic Cooper in Cap 1, then again in the Agent Carter short and TV series.  John Slattery played him in Iron Man 2.  He'll appear yet again this summer in "Ant-Man", in what will be his fourth big-screen appearance.

In the comics, he first appeared in a one-panel flashback in Iron Man #28.  CGC notes it on the label now because I requested it on a submission form last year.  His next appearance isn't until 7 years later, in Iron Man #104, where he is pictured in a portrait hanging in Tony Stark's house.  In the next issue, he appears in a hallucination.  He appears in Avengers Annual 9 in 1979, but I'm not sure how - my guess is it's a flashback image having to do with some robots the Avengers were fighting.

Iron Man #28, 1970
2nd appearance (Iron Man #104, 1977)
3rd appearance (Iron Man #105, 1977)
5th appearance (New Warriors #4, 1990)

It is established that he had an adventurous past in what is his first significant story role in my opinion, in the 22-page "A Soldier's Story" from 1990's Captain America Annual #9.  This relates a Howling Commandos mission to save Howard and his wife Maria from the Red Skull during World War II.  This story also establishes that Howard Stark met Captain America during World War II.  I could only find an image of Howard punching out a Nazi thug, but this issue should have been on my pull list as a young collector.  I'm going to dig it out to read first chance I get!

Captain America Annual #9, 1990

Attached are images from some of Howard's early appearances, plus the cover of Operation: SIN #1 which came out just this month.  Here's a good article about his film and comic appearances.

A recent appearance

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Thor #127 (1966)

My copy

I'm a big fan of comics with multiple important events and/or first appearances.  There's more bang for your buck, and greater the chance that a character debuting within will go on to bigger and better thingsWhen those first appearances are under the radar, valued no higher than surrounding issues (#128, #129, #130) well, in my book that's what you call an undervalued comic.

Today's highlight is Thor #127 from April 1966.  The Overstreet Price Guide and CGC's label notation reads "1st appearance of Pluto" - big deal, right? But this issue also features two other nice historic Marvel events that not many people know about.

The first is that this issue is the first appearance of Hippolyta (later Warrior Woman). A minor character for sure, Warrior Woman is Marvel's version of Wonder Woman and had a starring role in the short-lived Fearless Defenders series from 2013. Someone must have thought she had potential! But with Wonder Woman getting such a high profile in the nascent DC Cinematic Universe, is Marvel likely to introduce Warrior Woman in theirs? I don't see them introducing Olympians when they have already asked audiences to accept the existence of Asgardians. Still, you never know and this is an interesting character debut worth knowing about.

Hippolyta's debut in Thor #127

Warrior Woman as depicted in the Fearless Defenders (2013 series)

The Other Thing

Loooooong before Thor: Ragnarok was announced, it was pretty clear a sequel to the Dark World would be in Marvel Studios' plans (Chris Hemsworth is the sexiest man alive, after all), and anyone with a knowledge of Thor comics and good guessing skills and could have predicted it would cover the Ragnarok storyline. I don't know about others, but the first thing that comes to mind for me when I hear Ragnarok is the Midgard Serpent. And sure enough, the Midgard Serpent a.k.a. the World Serpent a.k.a. Jormungandr first appears in the backup story of Thor #127. He/it WILL appear in Thor 3, albeit as a CGI character - that's my opinion. Check out the Serpent's debut in the image below, and pay special attention to the last panel.  What word interestingly appears THREE times? Yes, this might be the first time Ragnarok is foreshadowed in Thor comics.
"As Lo, there shall appear the MIDGARD SERPENT -- proclaiming the day of RAGNAROK!! RAGNAROK -- the time the gods themselves shall perish!  RAGNAROK -- the end of the world!!"

Would Jormungandr incite the collector interest of Fin Fang Foom, or be something of a lifeless dud like Krona in Thor: The Dark World? More likely the latter, but how cool is this trifecta of trivial tidbits?
  • First appearance of Pluto
  • First appearance of Hippolyta
  • First appearance of the Midgard Serpent and first mention of Ragnarok*.

* For well-rounded research, it is worth nothing there is an Atlas-era issue of Venus predating JIM 83 in which Thor and Loki appear, but it is coveted by Atlas collectors for other reasons.
For good measure, debut of Pluto, Hollywood honcho

This issue is technically Thor #2 (the title having changed from "Journey Into Mystery" to "Thor" with #126), so it is collected for that reason.  I purchased a copy at auction last year (graded VF but more like a NM-) for $44. Having been published during the Mile High II years, there are lots of copies out there, not expensive, and easy to find in highest grades.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Books to Watch 1: Wonder Woman #160 (1966)

1st Silver Age appearance of the Cheetah and Dr. Psycho

I have a pick to share that I haven’t seen discussed in the past year or two on any of the various blogs or forums discussing such things.  Accompanying this pick is an analysis/comparison of the values of "1st Silver Age" appearances of characters vs. their "1st (Golden Age) appearance".

Wonder Woman #160 is the first Silver Age appearance of both the Cheetah and Dr. Psycho, the Number One and a Top 10 Wonder Woman villain.  We all know that Warner Bros has big plans for Wonder Woman, with a solo film (not 100% confirmed but likely) for 2017 and a big role in Batman v. Superman: DOJ and two Justice League films.

The first reason the book is a sleeper is simply because its significance is not broken out from the issues around it in the price guide (values of this and surrounding issues are the same) and from what I can tell this pretty much agrees with actual sales.

Secondly is the rise in value of Wonder Woman #6 (Cheetah’s first appearance) in the last few years.  There was a landmark sale of a 7.5 in 2012 for $5975, since then sales have not been as high as this but well above what they were before.

Here is an estimate of 8.0-grade fair market values using GPA data for WW 6 vs. 160, as compared to the 1st / 1st S.A. appearance of three Batman villains: Penguin, Riddler, and Scarecrow.  FMV for Wonder Woman #6 is far out of sync with guide (almost 4X guide) compared with the other characters (column G).

Should there be a correlation between the values of a characters first S.A. appearance with their first overall?  It stands to reason that there would be and this piece is predicated on this.  A character’s popularity transcends age and income brackets; the G.A. collector will desire the earlier book while the S.A. collector wants something in their price range and collecting category.

You can see from column O that the FMV of WW 160 is only 1.82% the FMV of WW 6 while for the other books it is around 5%.  (Scarecrow seems to be an outlier, which points to the undesirable cover of World’s Finest 3 and the title being outside the interest of the Batman/Detective collector.)  If the ratio were more around 5%, the FMV of WW 160 would be $356 in VF making it more than 50% undervalued.

Percent of WW 160 to #5 (1st Psycho) FMV is higher (7.14%) when compared with first Cheetah, but since Cheetah is the dominant character we can essentially throw out the Dr. Psycho data (as cool as the character is).  The fact WW 160 also contains the first Silver Age appearance of Dr. Psycho is an added bonus that should make the book that much more desirable.

When looking at first S.A. appearances, I also like to check how long the character spent out of the spotlight.  I feel the stagnation of Avengers #4 has to do with increased familiarity by collectors of 1950s-era books and the fact the Captain has many previous appearances.  The last Golden Age appearance of the Cheetah was Wonder Woman #28 (March 1948) which is a relatively long time out of the spotlight.  For Dr. Psycho it is Wonder Woman #18 (July 1946).  This makes WW 160 only the fifth appearance of the Cheetah (following WW 6, Sensation 22, Comic Cavalcade 11, and WW 28) and the third full appearance of Dr. Psycho (from what I can tell).

I have 4 copies of this; the highest is a VF+.  I wanted the slabbed 9.4 that was auctioned in September but I put my money into other books.  There are 22 graded copies according to the census.

In summary, there are many reasons WW 160 is undervalued even before any hint of a DC cinematic universe.  A compounded increase in value will depend on Warners’ plans for the characters.  Also have a look at Wonder Woman #163, first S.A. Giganta (a personal fave) and Baroness von Gunther.

If this book was already on your list, hope you may have learned a little. Looking forward to reading along.