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

Books to Watch: 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

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Books to Watch: Immortal Iron Fist #8 (2007)

Immortal Iron Fist #8 (2007)

Soon Marvel Studios will be two seasons deep into their successful and critically acclaimed collaboration with Netflix.  This year will bring the second seasons of Daredevil (March 18th) (trailer breakdown here) and Jessica Jones (November); by the end of the year we should also see the first episodes of Luke Cage.  The popularity of these shows has breathed new life into key issues related to their starring characters, including Daredevil #1, #168, Amazing Spider-Man #50, #129, Alias #1, Hero For Hire #1 and many others.  Next to film will be Iron Fist, and last we heard the main character is cast but being kept secret.  Marvel Premiere #15 is the obvious key to look at, but the subject of this post is a cheap modern book that may be flying under the radar of many collectors.

The 2007 Immortal Iron Fist series adds a lot to the Iron Fist mythology and is full of first appearances.  Issue #8, part one of a seven-part arc, is the most important in my opinion as it introduces five new characters (the "Immortal Weapons") and the Seven Capital Cites of Heaven, both which are likely to feature in the Netflix series, in a second season after the legend and supporting characters are established, if not in season one itselfDisney's CEO recently said there is no end in sight for films featuring Marvel superheroes.  With storylines and contracts coming to an end in Phase 4, they will likely turn to a fresh batch of characters to keep the film universe going.   I believe the Netflix shows are serving to popularize characters that will move to the film universe post-Phase 4, and the Seven Capital Cities of Heaven would make an outstanding premise for a standalone Iron Fist film.

The Immortal Weapons are the champions of the Seven Capital Cities of Heaven.  They feature prominently in the remainder of the 27-issue run in addition to their own follow-up mini-series.  The characters which first appear in this book are:

Fat Cobra
Bride of Nine Spiders
Dog Brother #1
Tiger's Beautiful Daughter
Prince of Orphans

These characters are examples of what I call "retroactive legacies" - brand new characters inserted retroactively into comics' long and deep continuity (Peggy Carter being one of the most well-known).  Fat Cobra, for instance, is 111 years old, was inserted into the pre-war history of Ulyssess Bloodstone, the WWII adventures of Union Jack and the Kid Commandos, once competed against Hercules and Volstagg in an eating contest, is said to have taught Kung Fu to Elvis Presley, travelled to many of Marvel's mythical lands including Monster Island, the Savage Land, Wakanda and Atlantis, and fathered hundreds of children.

Matt Fraction seems particularly interested in fleshing out Marvel's early 20th century history and I'll talk more about other characters he has created in future posts. (It's too bad his days as one of Marvel's most talented creators seems to be over.)

As is the case when many characters are introduced in a single comic, one or more may be breakout hits (like Amadeus Cho in 2004's Amazing Fantasy #15) while others tend to vanish into obscurity.  With five new characters however the odds of this comic breaking out are good.

This was a sought-after book at the time of publication due to the popularity of Fraction's run, but I don't think it broke the $5 mark.  I see a copy on eBay for $4.52 with free shipping (which makes it practically free).  There is only a single graded copy in CGC's census (although other grading companies may have seen copies).  I would expect to see more than this if people were aware of its significance.

The book's cover imagery doesn't hurt since there are people who collect skull covers

Here is the Immortal Weapons interior and cover debut.

Intro of Immortal Weapons in Immortal Iron Fist #8

Immortal Weapons on the cover of Immortal Iron Fist #22

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