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

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