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!

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