Comic collecting ideas
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Why you should collect...
4th World Trilogy
In 1971, when the great Jack Kirby left Marvel Comics and jumped to DC, he revolutionized comic storytelling when he created a new universe of characters, later named "The Fourth World" by comic book fans.
It was breath-taking in scope, brilliant in its plotting and with all of Kirby's awe-inspiring artwork. It was the comic book event of its time. The books were published in sequence, with New Gods #1 followed by Forever People #1, followed by Mister Miracle #1, and then New Gods #2, etc.
At first, the Mister Miracle series seemed unconnected to the others, until we learned that Mister Miracle was .... oh, wait, I promised I wouldn't give away any secrets.
The stories dealt with the battle of good versus evil by two battling civilizations, each living on its own planet. The good guys lived on "New Genesis" and the bad guys on "Apokolips". "Darkseid", the evil lord of Apokolips was seeking the "Anti-Life Equation" which would enable him to control the thoughts of all people.
Now, let's take a step back. Darkseid, Darth Vader. See a connection? Kirby's work came five years before Star Wars and the bad guy's name is pretty much a play on his personality. Darkseid = Dark Side. Darth Vader = Death Father.
And there are lots more similarities. I won't give any away here, but when you read the series and spot them, don't think, "Gosh, what a rip off". After all, Kirby's work came BEFORE Star Wars.
A gigantic "wow" moment occurred in New Gods #7. Read it, and you'll never watch 'Star Wars: Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back' the same way again. But don't read the issues out of order. Don't spoil the surprise for yourself. The beauty of the original series was how the big reveal was 19 issues into the series. With each series series published every other month, Kirby hid the key plot point for a full year.
Another aspect of Kirby's "revolutionary" storytelling was that he thought that comic book characters did not have to live forever. He saw the medium in a different light -- one in which a set of characters could exist for a short run and where the story could be completely wrapped up and ended.
Kirby ended all three titles lasted with issue #11. Years later, DC revived the New Gods and Mister Miracle with other artists and writers, picking up with issue #12, but none of these issues can hold a candle to Kirby's original 11 issues.
At the same time Kirby was writing these series, he also drew and wrote Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen (issues #133 to #148) and he connected the then-current stable of DC characters to the Fourth World. But, the connection was not an essential part of the Fourth World story.
New Gods #1-11 were reprinted in New Gods (1984 series).
Soon after the series ended their runs, Kirby left DC to go back to Marvel. Then, in 1984 he returned to DC and continued the fourth world stories in Super Powers (1984 series) and Super Powers (1985 series).
Kirby's work won the Shazam Award for outstanding achievement. It wins my award for some of the best storytelling in comic history.
The Last Boy
The TV show and comic book The Walking Dead has everyone talking about post-apocalyptic societies, so I thought you might be interested in "Kamandi, the Last Boy on Earth", one of the first comic books to feature such a storyline.
Created by (here we go again) the great Jack Kirby, Kamandi was his longest-running title when he went to DC comics in the early 1970s. Kirby drew 39 of the first 40 issues. The series lasted 19 more issues without Kirby.
According to Wikipedia, DC attempted to get the rights to the Planet of the Apes movie, and when that failed (the rights went to Marvel), DC suggested to Kirby that he create a similar "end-of-the-world" adventure series.
If you love Kirby, you'll love this series. If you love Planet of the Apes comics or movies, you'll hate it. If you like apocalyptic future worlds, try it.
In the history of comic books, no title has launched more spin-off comics than the original X-Men series. Its popularity spawned titles such as X-Force, X-Factor, New Mutants, Generation X, and on and on. In fact, most every comic book that begins with the letter X is probably an offset of this series.
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If you're a fan of Superman or DC comics, this is a title that you shouldn't miss, since it provides an interesting eye into the culture of the USA from 1940 to the 1970s.
It was one of DC's longest running titles. It started in 1935 as New Comics, with a name change to New Adventure Comics and then finally Adventure Comics starting with issue #32. The series is one of a dozen in comic book history to publish more than 500 issues (503 to be exact).
But for me, the series really got interesting with #103, when Superboy became the lead story. I like both this series and Superboy (1949 series) because they contain the entire history of the original Superboy. In 1986, the Superman history changed and it eliminated Superman's exploits as a superhero before he got to Metropolis. As a result, there are no new Superboy stories (at least not the Clark Kent Superboy), so it is one of the few "finite" series. You can actually "finish" a complete series, without buying new books currently being published.
In addition to the Superboy stories, I love this series because of the variety of the back-up stories. The back-ups featured an array of heroes, with the Legion of superheroes, Green Arrow, Johnny Quick, Aquaman and the Martian Manhunter, among many others.
What Action Comics was to Superman (with Superman in the featured position) and Detective Comics was to Batman (Batman as the star), Superboy was to Adventure Comics.
Eventually, Supergirl became the lead character. The content changed starting with #425 from superheroes to fantasy/adventure stories.
Twenty-seven years after the last issue, DC revived the title with Adventure Comics (2009 series), and started the numbering with #504.
Believe it or not, back in the 1940's and 1950's, heroes were heroes and bad guys were bad guys. The heroes wore white hats and bad guys wore black hats. It wasn't until the 1960's that "gray hats" emerged -- a hero with faults or a bad guy with some good virtues.
There is no better example of "good vs. evil" in superhero comics than this original Superboy series, which was geared to younger readers.
The series started in 1949, told stories of Clark Kent/Superman as a boy growing up in the small town of Smallville in the years before he left the Kent family farm and moved to the big city.
I enjoy the series because it's the closest you'll ever get to going into a time machine and landing in 1950s rural America. Whereas only 2% of Americans live on a farm today, back in the 1950s, 50% of all Americans lived on farms. That's incredible. And the stories really capture the spirit of the times and the virtues of mid-20th century rural Americana.
There's no gray area anywhere. It's Superboy versus the bad guys. Period. Teenage angst? Sure. Is Clark Kent anxious that Lana Lang will discover his secret identity? Of course! Does Lana Lang have a sexually transmitted disease? Hey, just kidding, you'd never find that in Superboy comics.
So, if you want to return to the days when young adults helped the elderly cross the street, when lying was a sin, and respect for elders was at its zenith, this is the series to collect.
The series is also notable because it was DC's only successful launch of a superhero series between WWII and 1956. By the 1960s, the simple good vs. evil self-contained stories had lost their appeal and the Legion of Super-Heroes was elevated to the lead story. Finally in issue #222, the titled was changed to Legion of Super-Heroes (1980 series).
When DC re-wrote the Superman continuity in 1986, they discarded Superboy. Instead, Clark Kent became a superhero only as an adult in Metropolis. Poof... the Superboy's existance was wiped out.
So, be aware that the current Superboy in DC comics is a different character. The current Superboy is a clone of Superman and Lex Luthor, whose secret identity is Clark Kent's cousin, Conner Kent. Gosh, you need a degree in genetic biology to follow superhero family trees these days.
also known as
Saga of the Swamp Thing
This is the second Swamp Thing series. Launched in 1982 to coincide with the Wes Craven film, the stories are original, although Annual #1 adapts the movie.
In the original Swamp Thing comic series, Swamp Thing (1972 series), the Swamp Thing was a Louisanna-based creature. But, in this series, Martin Pasko, the writer, had the Swamp Thing roaming the globe.
The Swamp Thing first appeared in House of Secrets #92 in 1971 and the stories were set in the early 1900's, when scientist Alex Olsen was caught in a lab explosion. The character became a humanoid mass of vegetable matter, sort of a Superman of the salad set, who fights to protect his swamp and environment in general.
The Swamp Thing was created in 1971, at the onset of the environmental movement in the United States, just one year after the very first Earth Day was celebrated in May of 1970.
The series ran for 15 years -- a great run for a non-traditional superhero. As a second tier DC character, the series is a popular one for collectors because most issues are very inexpensive. A Near Mint- copy of issue #1 goes for under $6 and the rest of the series goes for less. Finding all the issues is pretty easy.
The original Tarzan series ran for 206 issues (Jan. 1948 to Feb. 1972). This series adapted most of Edgar Rice Burroughs' 24 Tarzan novels.
Tarzan was the orphaned son of English aristocrats marooned in Africa in the late 1890s. He is adopted and raised by a band of apes. So, if you're looking for adaptations of Burroughs' classic novels, you'll enjoy the early issues of the series.
Later issues featured photos of Ron Ely on the cover, who starred in the 1960's Tarzan TV show.
In 1972, DC obtained the rights to Tarzan and their series picked up the numbering with issue #207. This series also featured adaptations of Burroughs' original novels as well as original stories.
Joe Kubert's distinctive artwork was hailed by many as the best comic book depiction of Tarzan. These issues are as good as the 1948 series, but because they are not as old, they are generally less expensive.
Twenty years after the successful launch of the X-Men, Marvel writers had aged the original X-Men from teenagers to young adults.
So, what could Marvel do to attract the teenage reader again? Simple, they took the long-time writer of the X-Men, Chris Claremont, and had him create the New Mutants, a teenage team of X-Men in training.
After being launched in Marvel Graphic Novel #4, the group moved to this title that lasted 100 issues.
The New Mutants highlighted interpersonal and group conflict as well as action and adventure, and featured a large ensemble cast. When the series ended in April of 1991, the characters were relaunched as X-Force (1991 series) and that series ran for another 129 issues until 2002.
Like most series from the 1980's, there are plenty of issues in great condition still floating around and at pretty low prices. For example, as I'm writing this the price of the first 50 issues is as low as $60.80 (or $1.22 each - of course our prices change daily). The low cost reflects the large quantity available. The only issue that is not easy to find is #98, which features the first appearance of Deadpool.
So, if you're looking for a well-written superhero series where you can pretty much get the entire series easily, and a very low price, this is the one.
In 1981, Marvel changed the name of its 'X-Men' comic to 'The Uncanny X-Men". Then, 10 years later, it created this new 'X-Men series'. The hype for this new series was so great that issue #1 sold more than 8 million copies, making it the best selling comic book of all time.
In hyping issue #1, Marvel hit upon a novel idea -- they printed issue #1 with five different covers. It was the same story, only the cover was different. One cover was the "deluxe cover", printed on heavy-duty paper. The other four each featured one of the X-Men, and when placed adjacent to each other, formed a mural-like larger picture.
Initially, what made the series so desired was the teaming of writer Chris Claremont and artist Jim Lee, two creative super-stars. By 1991, the original team of X-Men, Cyclops, the Beast and Iceman had all drifted away from the X-Men story line. The 1991 series brought them back.
The series ran for 113 issues and was renamed New X-Men for issues #114 through #156. It reverted to its X-Men (2004 series) title for issues #156 to #207. Then, starting with issue #208 in 2008, it was renamed X-Men: Legacy (2008 series).
Since its first issue is 'recent' by comic book standards, every issue is relatively inexpensive. The deluxe version of Issue #1, is usually available at NewKadia for less than $2.50. So, if you're looking for an "A-list" title, that is affordable and broad in scope, or if you're looking for a gift for an X-Men fan, this is the one.
This is my favorite Aquaman series. Peter David gave Aquaman an entirely new look in this series, forsaking his former clean-cut appearance. Following his discoveries reading the Atlantis Chronicles during the Time and Tide series, Aquaman withdraws from the world. Garth finds him weeks later, with his hair and beard grown long, brooding in his cave.
In issue #2, Aquaman loses his left hand when the madman Charybdis steals Aquaman's ability to communicate with sea life and sticks Aquaman's hand into a piranha infested pool. Man, not even Spider-Man ever had it this bad.
Delving deep into the hero's emotions, author David gives Aquaman prophetic dreams, and then, in need of a "symbol", attaches a harpoon spearhead to his left arm in place of his missing hand.
But the dark and strange side of this new Aquaman doesn't end there. His classic orange shirt is shredded in a battle with Lobo in issue #4, and rather than going to "Superhero Uniforms Unlimited" for a replacement, he goes topless for a while before donning a gladiatorial manica. Oh, it gets much worse. His harpoon hand is destroyed...well, it's just not an easy time for Aquaman.
And that's why I like this series. It's never very predictable. If ever DC wanted to shed its image from the 1960s as a predictable good-guy with no neuroses comic book company, this series certainly accomplished that.
My only gripe (and it's tiny) is that if you spent your entire day swimming, you'd shave your head like Michael Jordan, rather than keep it as long as Jon Bon Jovi.
After DC successfully reintroduced its Golden Age heroes, the Flash (in 1956) and Green Lantern (in 1960), DC revitalized Hawkman in 1964.
Unlike the original Hawkman who was Carter Hall, an archaeologist and a reincarnated Egyptian prince, the new Silver Age Hawkman, Katar Hol, was an alien police officer from the planet Thanagar.
First introduced in Brave and the Bold (1955 series) #34, Hawkman came to Earth to capture a criminal from his home world and stayed to get his master's degree in "Earth police methods". After appearing in six issues of Brave and the Bold, and four issues of Mystery in Space (1951 series), DC gave him this title.
What made Hawkman unique among DC superheroes was that he was married. Shayera Thal aka Hawkgirl, had the same super-powers. The series also introduced magical spell-caster Zatanna to the DC universe.
So for old fashioned action stories that provide great escapism, this series is worth trying. It's a great read for young readers since you don't have to worry about anything too unsettling. No blood and guts here.
And finally, a nod to Hall of Famer Murphy Anderson's artwork. His Hawkman is stylistic and intense. You would think a man dressed in wings and a hawk mask would look corny, but Anderson made it work!
Batman Family focused on Batman's supporting cast -- Batgirl, Robin, Catwoman, Poison Ivy, Man-Bat and others. It introduced Joker's daughter (issue #6) and revived Batwoman (#10).
With only 20 issues, it's easy to collect and is an essential part of any Bronze Age Batman collection. Every issue was giant-sized and the fill-in stories at the back included reprints of key stories from the Golden and Silver Age.
In the 1950s and 1960s, Superman was by far the most popular comic book hero. And to capitalize on that fame, DC created comics for two supporting characters -- Daily Planet reporters Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen. Incredibly, each series ran for over 100 issues. Why was the Lois Lane series so popular?
What is amazing about the early issues, is the stereotypical way DC's all-male editorial staff depicted women. Their stories focussed on Lois' romantic interest in Superman to maneuver him into marriage and Lois' attempts to learn Superman's secret identity. The stories gave the editors a monthly excuse to make Lois look like a weak woman needing to be continually rescued by Superman. If you were a fan of Terry Hatcher's performances in the TV show, "The Adventures of Lois and Clark" in the 1990s, you'll see Hatcher's ditzy take on the character was partly grounded in the persona created in this era.
The first 81 issues were drawn by artist Kurt Schaffenberger and for years his rendition of Lois Lane became the definitive version of the character.
It wasn't until 1968 that DC woke up and changed the focus to Lois' career challenges and social issues and underplayed her romantic pinings. For example, in Issue #106 published in 1970, Lois transforms herself into an African-American woman for 24 hours.
But the change in editorial perspective wasn't successful. Could it be that readers wanted to escape the social upheavals of the era and be entertained with silly fantasy stories? By 1974, the series was cancelled as sales dropped.
When John Byrne re-tooled the entire Superman story line in 1986's Man of Steel series, Lois evolved again, into a tough-as-nails reporter and independent woman who rarely needed rescuing. When Amy Adams played Lois in the 2013 Man of Steel movie, she channeled this version of Lois Lane.
So, if you're interested in any of these eras, or in the depiction of American women in pop culture over time, or looking for a gift for either type of woman, check out Lois Lane comics.
Here's a video about Lois's impact:
The Eisner Awards are the comic book industry's Oscars. The six-issue Umbrella Academy series, about a "dysfunctional superhero family" won the Eisner Award as the year's best limited series. The series is great, but don't take my word for it, take the word of the professional comic book artists and writers who pick the winners.
Who would have figured that the rocky, cigar-chomping monster known as "The Thing" would be the most popular member of the Fantastic Four? By the early 1970s, Fantastic Four (1961 series) was not only one of the best-selling comics in the world, but the team of radioactive superheroes even had a Saturday-morning cartoon show.
To appeal to the popularity of The Thing, a stand alone comic featuring him was first tried in Marvel Feature (1971 series) #11. Marvel used this as a showcase to see if the Thing could financially support his own comic. He could and Marvel gave The Thing his own series -- Marvel Two-In-One.
This series features Ben Grimm, forever trapped as a superhuman orange behemoth teaming up with big-name Marvel superheroes like Captain America, Iron Man and Daredevil, and lesser-knowns like Spider-Woman, Nova and Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu.
Early issues feature great artwork by Sal Buscema and Gil Kane, with dynamic action and large, bold layouts. Eclectic writer Steve Gerber (creator of Man-Thing and Howard The Duck) set a slightly strange tone early on, injecting symbolism about the United States, dystopian futures and all sorts of weirdness that a "team up" book normally would not have.
Because Ben Grimm teams with a different character each issue, the storylines usually stretch for only one or two books, which is great if you are a fan of the guest star. Some of the more bizarre teammates are the Scarecrow (#18) and Skull the Slayer (#35). Many of the villains are just as strange. For example, Grimm battles the Impossible Man in #86 while teaming up with long-time foe the Sandman.
Marvel Two-In-One ran for 100 issues over a decade before being replaced by Thing (1983 series). The familiarity of having the Thing in every issue, as well as the novelty of seeing him without his Fantastic Four teammates and battling alongside a different Marvel hero every issue kept this series fresh and interesting through most of the 1970s.
If you're a fan of the Fantastic Four, you should be collecting Marvel Two-in-One. As a spinoff of Fantastic Four (1961 series), the issues are reasonably priced.
First appearing in Amazing Spider-Man (1963 series) #129, the Punisher quickly became a breakout sensation, in large part due to his tough, no-nonsense attitude and his gripping origin story: Vietnam vet Frank Castle becomes a vigilante after his wife and two children are gunned down by the mob.
What separates the Punisher is that he's willing to kill bad guys, having lost faith in a flawed justice system which allows some bad guys to walk free. I mean, how many times has Batman captured the Joker and had him imprisoned, only for him to escape and wreak havock yet again?
Typical was issue #10 where he and Daredevil were both pursuing the same criminal. The two heroes square off against each other because Daredevil wants the criminal alive to stand trial, and the Punisher wants him dead.
This series is the first ongoing Punisher series. It followed the successful five-issue mini-series, Punisher (1986 series).
Most stories have a gritty, real-life feel, which makes us believe the Punisher's world could really exist. Generally, he battled everyday criminals like drug dealers, terrorists, gangs, assassins, and the mob rather than steroid-enhanced super-powered aliens wanting to take over the planet.
The premise was so popular that Marvel spun off two other series: Punisher: War Zone (1992 series) and Punisher War Journal (1988 series).
The series also introduced the Microchip, who provided the Punisher with weapons and advanced technology, and later became a solid, recurring villain in other Marvel titles.
Before the current glut of Marvel superhero movies, a Punisher movie bombed. But not even a Hollywood dud could diminish interest in the Punisher and Marvel has pretty much kept publishing Punisher comics for most of the 25+ years since this series began.
Our Army at War
Sgt. Rock was DC's most popular army character for decades. He first appeared in Our Army at War #81 in 1959 and continued through #301 when the series was retitled ...
"Sgt. Rock" in February of 1977 starting with issue #302. Sgt. Rock ran until issue #422 in July of 1988. The run of 342 issues is the longest for any WWII comic book character.
Created by Joe Kubert and Robert Kanigher, Rock was a tough-as-nails sergeant in the U.S. Army during WWII. His tough character, along with realistic stories created enough interest that his exploits continued for 43 years after the end of WWII. This alone, is amazing.
It means that three generations enjoyed his stories. The original market for his exploits included veterans who had fought in WWII. By the end, many of their grandchildren were reading the stories.
This is the series for you if you want to start with a clean slate and not be burdened with 40 years of X-Men background.
With the first X-Men film as his only reference, Mark Millar completely reinvented the X-Men. As a result, if you've seen that movie (and if not, go watch it), you have all the background you need. I love that. After all, who can remember everything that has happened in 500+ issues of Uncanny X-Men.
So, by starting fresh, the series is easy reading. You're not burdened with 50 years of X-Men lore from past issues.
Millar's Ultimate X-Men were telepath Professor X, Cyclops, whose eyes shoot concussive beams, telepathic/telekinetic Jean Grey, weather-manipulating Storm, simian genius Beast, metal-skinned Colossus, and cryokinetic Iceman.
Here, the X-Men have no secret identities, and as mutants, they are mistrusted and hunted. Millar's work is edgy, featuring quick action-driven plots and fewer morality plays. For instance, Wolverine tries to kill Cyclops in "Return of the King" because he is envious of Jean Gray's love.
Millar shaped Ultimate X-Men into a commercial hit, outselling other X-Men titles such as X-Treme X-Men and the original Uncanny X-Men. After Millar's run, writer Brian Michael Bendis took over. Bendis' run was marked by the death of the Beast.
Brian K. Vaughan, best known at the time for his work on Y: The Last Man, followed Bendis. He re-imagined second-string characters he felt were underused. He introduced Mr. Sinister as a mutant-killing scientist with hypnosis and stealth powers as well as Mojo and Longshot as a corrupt TV producer and a mutant felon.
Ultimate X-Men established itself as a hit, lauded by critics and popular with the fans. And the series is relatively easy to complete since there are only 100 issues, and lots of copies in great condition are easily found.
I was leafing through an old World Book Encyclopedia and couldn't find any mention of Uncle Scrooge. So, I surfed over to Wikipedia.org and lo and behold I found a 5,000 word doctoral thesis-like biography of Donald Duck's uncle. It's scholarly in tone, serious in nature, and delves into Uncle Scrooge's motivations, psychology and morals and the reading public's fascination with him.
Wait a second! He's just a funny duck!
I thought he was popular because the stories were light and funny. But, no! To read the Wikipedia treatise, go to Scrooge McDuck
But, you don't need to be concerned that you never considered all the social implications of good old Uncle Scrooge and some overblown psychoanalysis of him. Just pick up a copy and enjoy this wacky old uncle.
Adventures on the Planet of the Apes
If you liked the original Planet of the Apes movies, then you should like this series. If you're not a fan, skip it.
The 11 issues adapt the first two Planet of the Apes movies. The stories are full-color reprints of stories from Planet of the Apes (1974 series), the magazine-sized series.
Created in 1938, Superman was the world's first comic book superhero. By 1985, 47 years later, a new generation of readers was buying comics and it was nearly impossible for a new reader to pick up a copy of Superman comics and know about all of Superman's history to put the story in perspective.
The same was true for other DC heroes with decades of history. So, in 1985, in hopes of eliminating inconsistencies in storylines and simplifying the DC universe, DC published Crisis on Infinite Earths (1985 series), 12 issues that simultaneously destroyed and rebuilt the mythos of many DC superheroes and (spoiler alert!) which included the death of Supergirl and The Flash.
The next year, John Byrne- the artist and writer famous for revamping key Marvel titles like Uncanny X-Men (1981 series) and Fantastic Four (1961 series) -- updated Superman's famous origin story in the now classic six-issue mini-series Man of Steel.
The mini-series took big risks with big changes: In Byrne's new world of Superman, Superman began displaying his super powers only as an adult in Metropolis. As a result, Superboy's exploits were retroactively erased. Lex Luthor went from being a mad genius to a rotund, billionaire businessman. Lois Lane's main endeavor of getting Clark Kent to admit he was Superman was discarded.
The follow-up to the Man of Steel mini-series was a complete rebooting of Superman's comics in four different titles. The lead title was Superman (1987 series) with the first issue numbered #1. With Byrne and Terry Austin at the helm, the series featured great artwork and self-contained stories. Early issues are a delight for anyone looking for Superman championing truth, justice and the American way. The original Superman (1939 series) ended with issue #423 and in its place Adventures of Superman (1987 series) began with #424. Stories with Superman's new history also appeared in Superman: Man of Steel and of course Action Comics (1938 series).
Dan Jurgens took the helm of all the books in the 1990s and created the one of the most enduring and epic storylines in the history of comics -- The Death of Superman. He created the villain Doomsday, who ultimately killed Superman. The Death of Superman story in issue #75 was one of the best-selling issues of all time (selling over 2 million copies). Fans flocked to stores for a chance to buy this "once-in-a-lifetime" collector's item available in a both a regular format and a special collector's edition, which was sealed in a black wrapper with an imprinted Superman's logo. The bag contained the comic and a black mourning armband. Collector's beware -- the issue was reprinted three times.
When Superman rose from the dead a year later, many fans were outraged, leaving the hobby (many for good). The implosion of the comic book industry in 1990s can be attributed, in part, to mass printings and shameless marketing stunts like this. Decades later, however, the "Death of Superman" storyline itself is still interesting, featuring a funeral, supporting heroes and friends, four mysterious "new Supermen" and ultimately the return of the one, true Man of Steel. Love it or hate it, the two-year "Death of Superman" saga remains a key storyline that fans remember.
Collecting tip: Because Superman stories appeared in four comics (Superman, Action, Man of Steel and Adventures of Superman) and stories are continued from one title to another, DC began a secondary numbering system, known as "the triangles". For long storylines like "The Death of Superman", the triangular numbers on the covers of the four titles indicate the sequence of the storyline.
The Walking Dead
Once a generation a title comes along that captures everyone's imagination and sparks a frenzy. In the 1940s it was Superman. In the 1960s it was Spider-Man. At the start of this century it was The Walking Dead.
Prior to its premiere in 2003, zombie comics and stories were not popular beyond a hardcore few. But the Walking Dead rekindled interest in the genre. Within a few years, The Walking Dead was one of the hottest properties in the world. The comics led to a ratings-busting TV show, tons of licensed merchandise, legions of fans, and many comic copycats.
The series focuses on Rick Grimes, a sheriff's deputy who wakes from a coma to discover the world he knew is gone. Zombies are everywhere. Entire cities are overrun with the undead in search of a meal of human flesh. Nowhere is safe and mysteries remain: Why did this happen? Is there a cure? Can safety and peace ever be found?
Various still-living people form alliances, but many of the people, and the alliances, do not survive for long. The Walking Dead repeatedly kills off its main characters, creating a real sense of danger for readers. Anyone and everyone is at risk of being permanently eliminated any time.
The comics have gotten more popular as the TV show gains fans. Is it too late for a TV viewer to jump into the comic book series? Absolutely not. Like any serial drama, the appeal is the ever-changing hellish landscape that Rick and his group endure. A word of caution: The TV series does not follow the comic story line perfectly. Some comic book characters died earlier in the TV series, some later, some not at all.
Written by Robert Kirkman (who later created Invincible), the stories focus on more than just bogeymen popping from behind a car. The interplay between the surviving members is fascinating. The roles they play in this new society, the leadership fights among them, how the group functions without laws, the moral dilemmas that each consider when facing life-and-death choices are great reasons to read this series.
Fans of the TV show and comic are quick to point out that "The Walking Dead" refers not only to the zombies, but to the human survivors, forced to fend for themselves in this new world of dread and near certain death.
Early issues are very expensive. But, Walking Dead trade paperbacks which compile about 6 issues each, are widely available, affordable, and a good way to catch up on the earliest issues.
The Uncanny X-Men comic book series is more than merely a continuation of X-Men (1963 series). Rather, it is important because of the influence of writer Chris Claremont, who wrote the series for 16 years.
The X-Men featured teenagers born with genetic mutations that gave them super powers. Different from most humans, they were viewed as outcasts. The X-Men stories explored themes of hate, prejudice and public fear and intolerance toward mutants. Although the concept was original, sales were mediocre. But Stan Lee, the co-creator of the series and Marvel's editor -in-chief salvaged the series. Rather than cancel it, he merely reprinted stories in issues #67 to #93.
The X-Men's popularity soared when Chris Claremont (writer) and John Byrne (artist) began as the creative team in issue #108 of X-Men (1963 series). The series was re-titled Uncanny X-Men with issue #142. That issue featured the second part of Claremont and Byrne's acclaimed Days of Future Past storyline which formed the basis of the 2014 X-Men movie.
Together, they created the greatest, most epic stories of our time, such as the riveting Dark Phoenix Saga (issues #129-137) in which Jean Grey fully turns to the dark side. That storyline introduced Kitty Pryde and Emma Frost (in issue #129). And Claremont and Byrne created the Canadian super-team Alpha Flight (#120), which also shed more light on the ever-popular Wolverine who was once affiliated with them.
In 2008, Comic Book Resources ranked Claremont and Byrne's work on Uncanny X-Men the second best creative team-up in comic book history. (Only Stan Lee and Jack Kirby topped them). In May 2014 Rolling Stone gushed, "Claremont combined soapy angst with cosmic scope, while hitting the prejudice theme harder than ever: Now the teenage outsiders who had begun to dominate comic-book readership saw the mutant struggle as their own."
Byrne left after issue #143, but Claremont continued for another 10 years - an incredible run. He created Rogue, who first appeared in Avengers (1963 series) Annual #10. Originally a villain and a member of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, she flipped sides and joined the X-Men in #171.
Claremont developed strong female heroes and introduced complex literary themes with deep, emotional stories that went beyond the usual action-adventure fare in comics. Claremont also created Jubilee (#244), Gambit (#266), the time-traveling Bishop (#282) as well as dozens of other X-Men characters, including Sabretooth, Captain Britain, Rachel Summers, and Madeline Pryor.
For example, in #303 Colossus' little sister, Illyana, dies from a fatal virus. A heartbroken Jubilee rages over the loss. Jean Grey comforts her, and in poignant writing rarely seen in comics says, "We come into this world alone and we leave the same way. The time we spend in between time spent alive, sharing, learning together is all that makes life worth living."
Even with 30 years of issues, from 1981 to 2011, the series in quite affordable since there are plenty of copies of most every issue in most every condition.
Before there was a 'Persons with Disability' law in the United States, before the blind were called "vision impaired" and in a time when such persons were sometimes ostracized and shunned, Stan Lee created Daredevil. Coming off his successes with the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, the Avengers and the X-Men, Lee really hit a homerun with his newest superhero.
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of the Unknown
If you're a fan of Indiana Jones or Jack Kirby, then check out Challengers of the Unknown, one of DC's secondary titles Kirby created a few years before he joined Marvel and co-created the Fantastic Four.
Reading the series is like traveling back to the golden age of 1950's action-adventure science fiction. The inspirations for the series were the action movies that attracted teenage audiences of the era -- stories about adventurers -- test pilots, mountain climbers, skin divers.
Even their names -- Ace Morgan, Professor Haley, Rocky Davis and Red Ryan -- are rugged, stereotypical adventurer names of the era.
The four did not have super powers, just super enthusiasm for adventure -- just four rugged individuals -- sort of a cross between Indiana Jones and Mission Impossible.
The series debuted in Showcase #6, with additional stories in #7, 11 and 12. From there, DC put the group in their title. Kirby drew the first dozen adventures, and many consider his work on this series among his best work of the 1950s. He then moved on to create the Fantastic Four.
So, if you enjoy adventures in exotic locales, check out this under-appreciated title. And, since it is unfairly under-appreciated, the prices are less than the headliner hero comics (like Superman and Batman) of the era.
Issues #76 to #80 reprint earlier issues.
Journey into Mystery
Journey into Mystery had three distinct formats spanning 125 issues. From its first publication in 1952 through #22, it featured a horror anthology format.
When the Comics Code Authority began censoring gore and extreme violenc from comic books, the title switched to science fiction and fantasy stories for issues #23 to #82. Stories in this era often featured prototypes of future Marvel heroes. For example, issue #43 contained a story about an invisible woman, which predated the Fantastic Four's Invisible Woman by four years. Issue #66 featured a monster called "The Hulk" - no relation to the Hulk we know today.
And, one year before the first appearance of Spider-Man, issue #73 featured a story about a spider exposed to radiation who gains human powers, a backwards spin to Spider-Man.
However, the series is best known for its third era which began with issue #83 with the first appearance of Thor. In the book "Excelsior!: The Amazing Life of Stan Lee", Lee explained, "I thought it would be fun to invent someone even more powerful than the Hulk. But how do you make someone stronger than the strongest human? It finally came to me; don't make him human, make him a god."
Based on the Norse mythology, in Marvel's version Thor was sent to Earth by his father Odin so he could learn humility. He entered the body of Dr. Donald Blake, and whenever he struck his walking stick on the ground he'd transform into Thor, although the movies have ignored his dual identity. Issue #85 featured the first appearance of his evil adopted brother Loki and #118 introduced Destroyer, both of whom appeared in the 2011 Thor movie.
For any fan of Thor or the Avengers, this series is essential, because #83 to #125 feature the first 43 Thor stories. Most were written by Stan Lee with art by Jack Kirby. As a result, these issues are far more valuable than the first issues of Thor (1966 series), whose numbering begins when Marvel re-titled the series, starting with issue #126.
World's Finest Comics
If you want to see the editorial difference between comic books from the Silver Age (1956-1969) and those of today, pick up some copies of World's Finest Comics and ...
World's Finest featured Superman and Batman from 1941 to 1986, back in the days when superheroes were always the best of pals. Seems like Batman and Superman went about 30 years without one argument or disagreement. Contrast that with Superman/Batman, where each has an edge and deep psychological scars that often clash with other. Superman/Batman has the interesting feature of "dual-narrators" which presents Superman's and Batman's
opposing takes of each other.
Superman/Batman was immensely popular, often one of the 10 best selling comics each month when first released. The series featured many long novel-length story arcs. Here is a list of the story arcs:
#1-6: Public Enemies
#8-13: The Supergirl from Krypton
#14-18: Absolute Power
#19: Pilot issue for the new Supergirl series.
#20-25: With a Vengeance
#26: Sam Loeb tribute issue
#27: Never Mind
#28-#33: The Enemies Among Us
#34-36: A.I. (the Metal Men)
#44-49: "K" (mission to rid Earth of all Kryptonite)
#50: The Fathers (Superman & Batman's dads met)
#51-52: "Lil Leaguers" (tiny versions of the JLA)
#53-56: Super/Bat- Superman's powers go to Batman
#57-59: Nanopolis (featuring the Prankster).
#62: Sidekicked. Supergirl and Robin (Tim Drake)
#63: Night and Day. (will Gorilla Grodd)
#64: Prelude to the Big Noise
#65: Sweet Dreams (Halloween issue with Luthor)
#66-67: Night of the Cure
#68-71: "the Big Noise"
#79-80: "World's Finest"
#81-84: Sorcerer Kings
#85-87: The Secret
Hellblazer stars John Constantine, an occult detective who battles demons, spirits, cults, and serial killers. It takes a tough guy to fight these battles and Constantine even commented in his first appearance in Swamp Thing (1982 series) #37, "I'm a nasty piece of work".
The series is Vertigo's longest-running title ever, lasting 300 issues over 25 years. Empire Magazine ranked Constantine #3 in their list of the 50 Greatest Comic Book Characters.
Constantine often operates in morally gray areas, like pulling a con to thwart a catastrophe or sacrificing a friend. As a reminder their ghosts often haunt him.
With scripts by greats like Neil Gaiman and Garth Ennis, the series featured engaging storylines, especially in 'Dangerous Habits' (issues 41-46) where Constantine is faced with his own mortality after he's diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer. This arc showcases Constantine at his witty, deceitful best as devises a cure.
The series offers plenty of realism -- no superhero appearances, indicating its world was a separate, more real-life universe. And, unlike most comic characters, Constantine aged throughout the series. Most stories take place near London and the settings offer a gritty atmosphere, perfect for the macabre storytelling.
The series spawned the mediocre 2005 film Constantine starring Keanu Reeves, which deviated alot from the comics. A new Constantine TV show premieres in October of 2014.
For me, this Metal Men comic book series is the most under-rated comic book of all time. The Metal Men were robots, not people. Created 25 years before Star Trek created the android named Data, the six Metal Men were Gold, Iron, Lead, Mercury, Platinum (or Tina), and Tin.
Each member's powers were based on the characteristics of their respective metals. Iron was strong and powerful, Mercury could change into a liquid, Lead could protect against harmful radiation and weak, pliable Tin, was the shy weakling of the bunch. Unlike other robots like the Transformers, the Metal Men had a wide range of emotions. They got angry, excited, sad, and even shed tears. A generation before Star Trek's Data brooded over his lack of an emotion chip, the Metal Men's only 'female' member, Tina, had to deal with having a crush on the team's creator, Dr. William Magnus.
The Metal Men first appeared in Showcase #37-#40, DC's tryout comic where characters debuted to test if they were popular enough to support their own title.
Fun and humor made the series endearing to readers - in issue #12 the Beatles even made a brief cameo. And in issue #21, after being criticized for only fighting other robots, the team goes searching for humans to battle, only to find the Flash, Batman, Robin, and Wonder Woman already dealing with these non-robot threats.
Ross Andru, a popular DC artist, whose work included Wonder Woman, drew the first 29 issues and Robert Kanigher wrote the series, which gave the series great continuity.
The title grew more serious in issues #33-37, when the Metal Men became hunted after the public believes them to be a menace. They adopt human identities in #37 to stop the police from pursuing them. Issues #42 through #44 are reprints and are less expensive than the rest.
In 1993 the team returned in a four-issue series, which generally costs around $10 for the entire series. The current DC editorial crew believes in this group. And they made their New 52 debut with Justice League (2011 series) #28.
With the advances in special effects, a Metal Men movie is finally possible. Executed well, it could drive the Metal Men way up from its current "C" list status. There's great potential here.
Tomb of Dracula
The popularity of the Twilight movie series and TV's True Blood, has got a lot of customers asking, "What's the best vampire comic book?" Hands down, it's Tomb of Dracula.
Part of the reason is that from the 1950s to the early 1970s, the Comics Code Authority (the industry's self-imposed censorship body created due to the political pressure of the mid 1950s) didn't permit vampires in comic books for more than 15 years, so there wasn't much competition.
Along with Werewolf By Night, this series was instrumental in the re-birth of Marvel's horror comics. And it is one of the longest running comic book series to star a villain.
The entire series was drawn by Gene Colan, whose great work on the early issues of Daredevil propelled that character into the top levels of Marvel's sales chart. Colan once said he based Dracula's visual appearance, not on the movie actor Bela Lugosi, the first to play the role of Dracula in the movies, but on Jack Palance.
Issues #69 and #70 are reprinted in "Requiem for Dracula". Issues #1 and #2 are reprinted in Savage Return of Dracula.
So if you enjoy the Twilight movies, or True Blood, or just enjoy reading about anyone who likes to practice mouth-to-neck blood transfusions, this is one series you'll enjoy.
Before there was a Saturday Night Live, The Onion, or The Daily Show, there was Mad Magazine.
For two generations of adolescent boys, this was the irreverent, satirical hot spot in the American cultural world.
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By the 1980s Spider-Man had become Marvel's most popular hero. His comics sold so well that Marvel was publishing multiple Spider-Man titles each month to meet demand. In addition to Amazing Spider-Man (1963 series), and Spectacular Spider-Man (1976 series), Marvel added Web of Spider-Man in 1985.
Marvel treated Web of Spider-Man as an equal to the other titles, In fact, some story lines crossed over into all three. For example, issue #31 began the famous Kraven's Last Hunt storyline. In a 2012 poll conducted by Comic Book Resources, it was voted the best Spider-Man story of all-time. After starting in #31, it continued in Amazing Spider-Man (1963 series) #293, Spectacular Spider-Man (1976 series) #131, Web of Spider-Man #32, Amazing Spider-Man #294, and Spectacular Spider-Man #132.
There are no major differences in the three series, but the Overstreet Price Guide has a bias against anything other than a hero's primary title. For example, Overstreet values Amazing Spider-Man issues of Kraven's Last Stand at $15 in NM- condition, while the value of the Web of Spider-Man's issues are 33% less. Same story line, same time frame -- it makes no sense.
Take advantage of it -- Web of Spider-Man is a bargain and it's a relatively inexpensive 129-issue series of Spider-Man comics.
Agent of SHIELD in
I frequently get asked, asked, "What's your favorite story line of all time?" So, I sat back and thought about it. It's Strange Tales #135 to #140, which featured the first battle of Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD vs. Hydra.
It was Jack Kirby at his gizmo-creating best, with a super-surprise ending that revealed the identity of the head of Hydra that still astounds me, 50 years later.
These issues appeared in the mid-60s when James Bond first burst onto the big screen and The Man from UNCLE came to TV. So there was lots of competition for the secret agent entertainment dollar. Had today's movie special effects existed back then, this would have been THE hot movie series. But there was no way 1960's special effects could have done justice to Kirby's spectacular vision of high tech weaponry.
Strange Tales started off as a Marvel mystery comic and featured The Thing from the Fantastic Four for a while. Dr. Strange ran from #169 to #183, but it is the Nick Fury series that I always thought was THE star of the book, and issues #135 to #140 were the MVP of the series.
DC Comics Presents
DC Comics Presents featured Superman teamed with a different hero each issue. Not only did the Man of Steel team up with the usual cavalcade of DC superheroes, like the Flash, Green Lantern, and Wonder Woman, but he also teamed with heroes you normally didn't see him paired with, like the Metal Men, the Swamp Thing, and even the Joker!
The typical villains that Superman and his co-star faced each issue included the usual assortment of alien creatures and vengeful gods. Other stories featured deadly epidemics, planets in peril, and powerful curses.
In one issue, Superman and Wonder Woman are put under a spell by a love god and kiss, which predates by decades their famous lip-lock in Justice League (2011 series) #12.
The series contains plenty of first appearances. In issue #27 the supervillain Mongul made his debut. In issue #47, He-Man made his first appearance in a full, ongoing comic book series (not counting the small, limited, mini comics he was in before). And the New Teen Titans made their debut as a special preview in issue #26, which many call their first comic appearance.
A true standout about this series is the list of its of writers and artists, including writers Gerry Conway, Len Wein, Denny O'Neil and artists Gil Kane, Jim Starlin, and George Perez.
There are lots of ways to collect this series. You can collect issues where your favorite hero or villain co-stars with Superman. Or collect issues featuring a specific writer or artist. Most stories are resolved in one issue, so missing an issue or two doesn't hurt.
With the phenomenal success of The Avengers movie and the upcoming sequel to Man of Steel, featuring Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, superhero team-ups are becoming more popular, which should make this series a bit more expensive to collect in the future.
DC Comics Presents is a must for a Superman fan and important for collectors of DC comics.
and other comics with UFOs and aliens.
In the 1950s, at the infancy of the space program, DC comics (along with other media) had a big interest in stories featuring aliens.
The mysteries of space were generally unsolved and writers and artists had a field day imagining strange creatures and alien worlds.
According to David Clarke, co-author of "Out of the Shadows", the widespread believe in UFOs that began in the 1950s was a social phenomenon spearheaded by the start of the Cold War, when the threat of atomic war hung over the world. "It was just simple to want to believe in something up there in the sky that could come and rescue us," he wrote.
Altough space stories existed before 1950 (think Buck Rogers and H.G. Wells), the 1950s was the genre's peak. Decades later moviemakers George Lucas and Steven Spielberg paid homage to the era in "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" and Robert Zemekis mocked a UFO crazed world in "Back to the Future". The comic that best captures the space-crazy fanaticism was Strange Adventures, DC's first science fiction anthology from 1950, followed a year later by
Mystery in Space (1951 series).
Most early issues of Strange Adventures are a who's who of alien creatures. Although conceived as an anthology, Captain Comet, introduced in issue #9 proved so popular that he appeared in issues #9-44, 46 and 49. He was one of the few superheroes introduced in the early 1950s. Captain Comet was one of three stories in each issue. The others continued the anthology theme.
His origin fits with the series' sci-fi theme. During birth, radiation from a comet affected his genes, giving him telekinesis, super strength, and psychic abilities. These mutations make him possibly the first mutant superhero predating the X-Men by a decade.
The UFO craze wasn't confined to DC's anthology titles. The genre spilled over into nearly every DC title, including
Batman and Superman. Other comics also featured outer space stories, including
Unknown Worlds and Mysteries of Unexplored Worlds.
When astronauts actually reached space in the 1960s, the UFO/alien fad faded and Strange Adventures returned to Earth, but retained plots propelled by science from other worlds. Animal Man first appeared in Strange Adventures. Caught in the explosion of an alien spacecraft, he could temporarily mimic the abilities of any nearby animal such as a tiger's leaping ability of a tiger or a gorilla's strength.
Deadman made his first appearance in #205. A circus performer murdered during a performance, he came back from the dead to hunt his killer. Interestingly, the story was the first time the Comics Code Authority permitted a reference to illegal drugs -- four years BEFORE Amazing Spider-Man (1963 series) #96-98, the famous set of stories featuring drugs that Marvel published without CCA approval. The Deadman run is also noteworthy for showcasing some of the earliest work of famed artist Neal Adams. His cover for issue #207, shown here, received an Alley Award for Best Cover of 1967.
This is the comic book that saved the comic book industry.
The year was 1961 and DC had a virtual monopoly on superhero comics, which have always been the bumper crop for publishers. Superman, Batman, and re-launches of The Flash and Green Lantern, along with Wonder Woman and several second-tier heroes. But, all their characters were good guys, and none of their characters had any, well, character. They were good. Through and through.
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Justice League Europe
This is an underappreciated gem. It was spun-off from the popular Justice League (1987 series), when the Justice League just got too big. The original European lineup included Captain Atom, Wonder Woman, the Flash, Power Girl, Elongated Man, Metamorpho, Animal Man, and Rocket Red. They were headquartered in Paris, France.
The series was often pretty funny. For example, some of the heroes (in their civilian identities) go to night school to learn French. To their surprise, their enemies, the Injustice League, are enrolled in the same class (the insanity!). The juxtaposition of adult superheroes behaving like high schoolers provides the comic relief. For example, in the class, one of Injustice Leaguers is caught trying to pass a note to his team explaining that they need to escape. When the teacher intercepts it, he reads the note aloud.
Even issue #1's cover winks at the reader. It mimics the cover of Justice League (1987 series) #1, with Metamorpho holding that same issue and breaking the fourth wall, saying, "Wow. Déjà vu!"
The series also featured more action than the primary Justice League title. The January 2010 "Comics Should Be Good" blog at Comic Book Resources praised it as "a fascinating comic, not the least of which is its European location ... unique in a superhero landscape focused on the East Coast of the United States."
Check it out; it's worth a look! Prices generally average about $2.50 per issue.
Werewolf By Night
After U.S. Congressional hearings in 1954, which included testimony from psychologists about the negative influence of horror comics on youngsters, the industry created the Comics Code Authority to censor violent material. As result, horror-themed comics featuring werewolves and vampires were banned. It took 20 years for the Authority to lift the ban on supernatural creatures like vampires and werewolves.
In response, Marvel created Tomb of Dracula and Werewolf by Night. The werewolf's alter ego was Jack Russell, who suffered from an ancient family curse. The series offered a unique take on werewolf mythology -- Jack didn't become a werewolf after getting bitten by one, but simply inherits the curse at age 18. And, he didn't only turn into a werewolf on the night of a full moon, but also on the nights before and after. I guess you could say he got 3 bites of the apple each month. He battled those who wanted to use the werewolf for their own evil purposes, power or sport. Other times he enlisted the werewolf to protect his loved ones from threats.
He first appeared in Marvel Spotlight (1971 series) #2-#4 before getting his own series. He battled hunters, vigilantes, other werewolves, and even Dracula in issue #15 in a crossover with Tomb of Dracula (1972 series). Iron Man guest-starred in issues #42 and 43. The superhero Moon Knight made his first appearance in #32. Originally an adversary to the Werewolf by Night, the popular Moon Knight went from a supporting adversary to a solo star in Marvel Spotlight #28 and #29 before landing his own series.
The series ran for 43 issues and sparked Marvel's resurgence into horror and paved the way for other supernatural Marvel characters like Ghost Rider.
In 1998, Marvel created an even more violent version in a 6-issue mini-series, Werewolf by Night (1998 series)
Has it been nearly 20 years since the debut of Ultimate Spider-Man? Well, yes it has. The series is a re-imagining of Spider-Man, updated for this century. No longer is Peter Parker a freelance photographer for the Daily Bugle. Instead, he's a webmaster. You get the picture.
The series was so popular when first published, and so unexpectedly so, that the value of issue #1 hit $150 on eBay. Things have cooled off a bit, and the Overstreet Guide now lists #1 for $90. (Careful, there are several versions, including a $3 Free Comic Book Day version).
Artist Mark Baldy and writer Brian Michael Bendis collaborated on the series for a record 111 issues. That run topped the previous Marvel record for an artist/writer team of which had been held for over 45 years by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby on Fantastic Four (1961 series).
What I found interesting was Spider-Man's new origin. In the original version, Stan Lee took 11 pages to tell the story. Blady and Bendis took 180 pages, spanning the first 7 issues.
The series ended after 133 issues when Marvel re-booted the series with a new #1. Because the series is so recent there are lots of Near Mint copies available. And, after the first 7 issues, the cost of a Near Mint- copy is under $10, so it's an affordable series to collect, even in near perfect condition.
When Marvel returned to publishing superhero comics in 1961, they were limited to only 8 comics each month by the company that shipped the comics to newsstands. As a result, when Marvel created new heroes, they often put two into one comic. Tales of Suspense featured Iron Man and Captain America,
Tales to Astonish had the Hulk and Sub-Mariner and Strange Tales had Nick Fury and Dr. Strange.
It took the distributor seven years to realize that strong Marvel comic sales warranted more titles. So, in 1968, Marvel split heroes into their own titles. That's why the first issues of Iron Man, Sub-Mariner, Incredible Hulk, Captain America, Thor, Doctor Strange, Nick Fury: Agent of SHIELD and Captain Marvel are all dated 1968.
Just two years later, Marvel's "House of Ideas" had run out of room yet again. So, they once more put two series in one comic -- Amazing Adventures. The first were the Inhumans and Black Widow.
First appearing in Fantastic Four (1961 series) #45, the Inhumans were superheroes whose ancestors gained powers when exposed to the DNA-altering chemicals by the Krees.
What's special about the earliest stories in this series is they were written and drawn by the great Jack Kirby, who created them along with Stan Lee. By 1975, with Marvel getting even better distribution deals, the Inhumans got their own self-titled series, Inhumans (1975 series).
The series also featured the first solo stories for Black Widow. For years a mid-level Marvel character, her popularity skyrocketed with the enormous success of movies like The Avengers and Captain America: The Winter Soldier, where she was portrayed by Scarlett Johansson.
One of the more sought after issues is #11, which began the X-Men's Beast run. It was the first time he was seen in his mutated, fur form, a look he's best known for today. This series offers something for everyone. Issues for fans of the Inhumans are #1-10; for the Black Widow (#1-8); and #11-17 for fans of the Beast and X-Men.
Starting with #18, the series changed to sci-fi stories, with the War of the Worlds (#18-#28 and #35-#39) and Killraven (#29-#34).
Don't confuse this series with Amazing Adventures (1961 series), an anthology of monster and adventure stories (with art by Jack Kirby), or Amazing Adventures (1979 series) which reprinted the original X-Men series.
Conan the Barbarian
When you get tired of heroes flying, or stopping bullets with their teeth, or emitting death rays with their eyes, and you merely yearn for the days when men were men, then this is the comic for you.
Conan the Barbarian (1970 series) is based on the pulp hero created by Robert E. Howard, and he doesn't have invulnerability, he can't turn into a ball of flame and he can't communicate with fish. He's just a guy, a really strong, ferocious guy.
If you were ever stranded in the New York City subway at 3 a.m. during the crime-riddled 1970s, he's the guy you'd want at your side.
The continuity of the series is spectacular since Roy Thomas wrote issues #1 to #115. Barry Smith drew issues #1-24 and John Buscema drew most all of issues #25 to #190. Many issues were adapted from stories written by Robert E. Howard, and as a result, the series holds true to the original author's intent.
Like other comics whose run started after 1967, the cost of the set is pretty reasonable. And, since Conan isn't a super-hero in the sense of Spider-Man and Superman, the cost of the books is a bit lower than a comparable set of super-hero issues.
New Teen Titans
Tales of the
The New Teen Titans was a revival of the 1960's DC title, Teen Titans (1966 series). The Titans were Robin, Wonder Girl, and Kid Flash from the original series, along with newcomers Changeling, Cyborg, Raven, and Starfire.
The series not only focused on the team's heroics, but also on their personal lives as well. Cyborg, the tormented half-man, half-machine, struggled to hold on to his humanity, and the mystic half-demon Raven fought against her dark destiny. And there was the budding romance
between Robin and the alien princess Starfire.
What also makes this series special is that stories included themes about growth into adulthood and self-discovery. In the book George Perez Storyteller, Perez explains, "There was a feeling of evolution to the characters. They were kids, but they were growing ... and having problems unique to young people."
Another reason the series is so popular is for introducing the iconic villain Deathstroke in issue #2. Originally hired to defeat the Titans, Deathstroke became a fan favorite who got his own series in 1991.
After #40, the series was retitled Tales of the Teen Titans and introduced Dick Grayson's new persona Nightwing.
We've been tracking the biggest selling comics at NewKadia for 15 years -- 180 months, and incredible as it may seem, Amazing Spider-Man (1963 series) has been the best selling comic here for 178 of the 180 months.
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Mystery in Space
Mystery in Space was DC's flagship science fiction anthology series from 1951 to 1966. It won several awards, including the 1962 Alley Award for best full issue story.
Mystery in Space featured some of the top science fiction writers of the 1950s and 1960s including Gardner Fox, Otto binder, John Broom and Edmond Hamilton. Hall of Fame artists Carmine Infantino, Murphy Anderson, Gil Kane, Alex Toth and Frank Frazetta were also featured.
With the public fixated on space exploration in the 1950s and 1960s, the series appealed to that thread by featuring science-fiction based stories, many featuring stories in the future with exotic aliens. Before the advent of blockbuster space movies like Star Wars, if you were interested in delving into new worlds, this was the comic for you.
Adam Strange became a continuing series starting in the early 1960s, appearing in 42 issues. Gardner Fox created the hero, in the best tradition of Flash Gordon.
So, if you want to read some of the stories that influenced George Lucas and the current generation of moviemakers of space opera epics, you should enjoy Mystery in Space.
When we discuss a top super-hero, the name Jack Kirby usually pops up.
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TV Show comics
Looking for a creative and different gift for anyone who grew up in the 1950's or 1960's? Dell TV and movie comics are the place to start, even if that person isn't a collector.
In the 1950's and 60's most TV shows had a comic book. So, if you're looking for a clever gift for the 45 and over crowd, you can find one here. All you need is the name of one of their favorite television shows.
Or, if you want to collect comics that are more familiar to your friends and relatives, this is the way to go. Most people don't know anything about the Metal Men, but most adults are aware of Lucille Ball as I Love Lucy. You can collect these TV comics in so many ways:
1. Collect comedies only, or westerns, or dramas.
2. Collect shows you watched regularly.
3. Collect one from every show, or all the comics from one show.
To search, click Dell TV & Movie Comics
or just click one the TV shows listed below, all of which were among the Top 25 TV shows in one or more seasons from 1958 to 1968.
Car 54: Where Are You?
I Love Lucy
Many Loves of Dobie Gillis
My Favorite Martian
Have Gun Will Travel
Wild Wild West
Man from U.N.C.L.E.
77 Sunset Strip
Ms. Marvel is Marvel's answer to Supergirl and Wonder Woman.
Carol Danvers was a U.S. Air Force officer and a supporting character to Captain Marvel when she was caught in an explosion. Her DNA altered, she gained super strength, durability and the ability to fly.
Her creation was a response to the women's movement of the 1970s. She was a strong, powerful, independent woman - a force to be reckoned with. As a result, she has become a wildly popular role model for female readers. Go to a comic book convention and you'll generally see alot of ladies in Ms. Marvel costumes.
But the comic is more than just a tribute to women. The legendary Chris Claremont wrote the stories starting with issue #3. His balancing of Ms. Marvel's work and romantic lives, while exploring her relationship with her family enhanced his already great reputation. Claremont also created memorable villains, such as the mutant Mystique, who would become one of the X-Men's top nemeses. Starting with issue #20, Marvel changed her costume, from the red and blue costume to the now famous black and gold with the lightning bolt on the chest.
After the series ended, Ms. Marvel joined the Avengers and also had a brief stint with the X-Men. By 2006, she would get another title. But it was this 1977 series that put her on the map. She remains one of the more popular and powerful female heroes in the Marvel universe.
Of the many reincarnations of The Shadow, this 12-issue series is my favorite. Written by Dennis O'Neil, it was faithful to both the pulp magazine versions and the radio version of the Shadow.
O'Neil, for those of you who might not know, was recently nominated for induction into the Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame.
If Stan Lee and Jack Kirby are the Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig of comic book creators, then Dennis O'Neil is among the next generation of super-stars, sort of like Mickey Mantle.And of course, that actually makes some sense, since one of O'Neil's first jobs in the comic book industry was that of Stan Lee's editorial assistant.
Interestingly, although O'Neil has made a name for himself on many, many titles, this is one of the few titles where he wrote every issue.
If you're a comic book fan who has been away from comics for awhile, the series "52" is must reading so you can catch up with life in the DC universe of super-heroes.
52 consists of 52 issues, which were published weekly for one year. Each details the events that took place in one week of the year after the groundbreaking "Infinite Crisis" series.
What makes this series so interesting is that it includes most every character from DC comic books. And, of course, DC found a way to connect a lot of characters in surprising ways.
So, to make up for lost time in the DC universe, pick up 52 and the series that preceded it, Countdown to Infinite Crisis and Infinite Crisis.
In the 1970s, good guys were the heroes of most fiction genres, comics included. Bad guys were the villains. So, it was a radical step when DC comics featured a villain as the star of his own book. Today, bad guys are often featured as stars (think Walter White in TV's Breaking Bad).
In DC comics, the Joker was the baddest, most villainous hombre of them all. In the Batman TV show, he appeared more often than any other villain.
This series led the way in featuring bad guys in comics. Its popularity led to other Batman adversaries, like Catwoman and Harley Quinn, getting their own comic books decades later.
DC discovered that having a bad guy as the star allowed for a different kind of thrill ride. While Batman, Superman, and others were doing the usual save-the-world thing, this comic had its title character plotting to steal, kill, and threaten his way to the top without batting an eye.
The Joker faced off against a crime-fighter or fellow villain in each issue, trying to prove his status as a master criminal extraordinaire. Two-Face, Catwoman, Scarecrow, Lex Luthor, and Green Arrow all appeared. In one issue, the Joker even developed a crush on Dinah Lance, aka Black Canary, and tried to kill her. Talk about a bad date. Although the series only lasted nine issues, it carved out a piece of history as the first time a villain was the star.
If you're a Batman fan or collector, this series is a natural extension for your collection.
What do William Shatner, Jim Carrey and Alpha Flight have in common? They're all from Canada! So, if you love everything Canadian, this series is for you.
The Canadian mutants included Nothstar, Aurora, Sasquatch, Snowbird and Guardian... talk about your stereotypes! What, no Hockeyman?
In any event, the famous John Byrne wrote and drew the first 28 issues.
The series hit during the comic book boom of the 1980s and as a result, you can get all 130 issues for about $1.33 each at NewKadia. We generally have nearly every issue in stock.
So, if you grew up playing in the snow in June, this is a series for you. But even if you live in the Sahara as long as you're a fan of the X-Men, this is one of the better supporting series in the X-Men family. After all, no bad comic lasts 130 issues.
Queen & Country
Here's a very good, but often overlooked, 32 issue series. It's overlooked because it was based on a TV show which generally don't generate as much excitement as stories that first appeared in comic book form.
The series was based on the British ITV series, The Sandbaggers, which ran from 1978 to 1980. The series follows Tara Chance, a member of the Special Operations Section of the British military. What makes the series stand out is that it deals realistically, not only with the dangerous missions, but also with the bureaucracy and politics agents have to contend with.
It won the 2002 Eisner Award as best new comic book series. Published by Oni, I wonder how much more popular it would be if it was published by Marvel or DC, both of whom could have given it a much stronger marketing push.
The Marvels won the Eisner Award for best mini-series of 1994. It told the story of the Marvel Universe from the perspective of news photographer Phil Sheldon, portraying ordinary life in a world full of costumed superheroes. The series helped launch the careers of writer Kurt Busiek and artist Alex Ross, whose cover art is spectacular.
When the Incredible Hulk TV show ignited interest in the Hulk, the lawyers at Marvel noted that anyone could lay claim to a female version of our favorite Frankenstein-like character. To preempt any such pilfering, Marvel created a female counterpart to Bruce Banner's alterego. Thus, the She-Hulk was born.
The Savage She-Hulk was created by Stan Lee and John Buscema. Jennifer Banner, the crusading attorney of Bruce Banner is shot and Bruce having come to the hospital to visit, becomes her blood donor for a life saving transfusion. Duh, Bruce, didn't the hospital have anyone else to donate blood that wasn't full of gamma rays?
Well, talk about serious side effects. The Hulk's blood gives Jennifer Hulk-like powers. But, there's a big twist. Unlike her cousin, Jennifer retains her consciousness when she's She-Hulk. And whereas some Marvel superheroes view their abilities as a curse and hindrance, she embraces her talents and green wild side.
She-Hulk became wildly popular and would later join, for a time, the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, and S.H.I.E.L.D.
She-Hulk remained popular after this series, and a later series, Sensational She-Hulk ran for 60 issues followed by She-Hulk (2004 series).
Collecting this series is easy (there are plenty of Near Mint copies available). For some reason, any character which is an off-shoot of a major star, never gets pricing respect by the Overstreet Price Guide. As a result the first issue (like all 25 issues) is quite inexpensive.
If you enjoy WWII stories of the Allies battling Nazis, then this is series for you. The first stories featured stories set during WWII, with the team of the original android Human Torch (not the Fantastic Four Torch), the Sub-Mariner and Captain America -- the top heroes from Marvel's golden age fighting the Axis powers.
It's an inexpensive series since the first issue appeared in 1975 and there are only 41 issues.
Don't confuse this series with the 2004 series, which is a different team featuring Union Jack, U.S. Agent, Thin Man and Tara. Those stories can't hold a candle to the original.
What does Babe Ruth have to do with the Mighty Thor? Well, do your ever wonder what it would have been like to have see Babe Ruth play in his prime? Well, guess what, it doesn't make a difference, because you can't.
For the full story, Click here
In 1961, at the dawn of the Marvel Age of Comics, Marvel retitled and reformatted Amazing Adventures (1961 series) as Amazing Adult Fantasy. Each issue featured about five stories, sporting aliens, monsters, magic, people with special abilities and bizarre events. Billed as the magazine that respects your intelligence each story contained a shocking, twist ending (think The Sixth Sense). The stories bring to mind a sci-fi TV shows like The
Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits.
With most stories written by Stan Lee, collecting the series is a great way to see early versions of future Marvel characters. For example, in #14, a teenager exhibits telepathic abilities similar to the X-Men's Professor X. And since this story was published two years before the X-Men debuted, you could argue he's Marvel's first mutant. Add into the mix that he resembles Peter Parker (as drawn by Spider-Man's original artist, Steve Ditko), and you begin to
see the development of the Marvel Age. There are only eight issues (numbered #7 to #14). After #14, it dropped the "Adult" from its title and was renamed Amazing Fantasy and the first issue of that series, #15 featured the debut of Spider-Man.
Only in the world of comics can there be two characters with the same name, published by different companies. But, that's the case with "Captain Marvel".
The original Captain Marvel appeared in Captain Marvel Adventures published by Fawcett and this "Shazam" series features his adventures as brought back by DC in 1972.
The story is a long and tortured legal tale, but in a nutshell, DC owns the rights to the character, but only Marvel can use the character's name -- "Captain Marvel" -- in a comic book title. Marvel's Captain Marvel is a totally different character.
The original Captain Marvel character, as featured in Shazam comics features 12-year old Billy Batson. Whenever Billy speaks the name Shazam, he is struck by a magic lightning bolt that transforms him into a superhero.
Billy Batson's Captain Marvel Adventures was the top selling comic book during WW II. But, once DC comics sued Fawcett, claiming the character infringed the copyright of Superman, his popularity waned, until Fawcett went out of business.
The series is popular because compared with the original Captain Marvel comics, these are very inexpensive. DC's Shazam series recaptures the feel of the 1940's and 1950's stories, but at a fraction of their cost. The new series featured both new stories and reprints form the 1940s and 50s. In most cases, the stories were set on "Earth S", a separate universe from where Superman and other DC characters existed.
What happens when one of Spider-Man's deadliest enemies, Dr. Octopus, gains control of Spider-Man's mind and body? That's the unique premise of Superior Spider-Man.
The series directly follows Amazing Spider-Man (2003 series), where a dying Doc Ock manages to transfer his consciousness into Spider-Man/Peter Parker's body (in issue #697) to get revenge against his greatest foe. In that series' final issue #700, Peter Parker "dies" in Doc Ock's deteriorating body, but his essence still co-exists with Dr. Octupus' mind.
Superior Spider-Man's concept is refreshingly original. "Spider-Man" becomes an anti-hero with Doc Ock in his body allowing for stories that couldn't have been told in a regular Spider-Man tale. For instance, in Superior Spider-Man #3, Doc Ock in Spidey's body inflicts serious injury on the Vulture, leaving the Vulture burned, bloodied, and blinded. This level of violence is something Peter Parker would never have committed.
It's also interesting seeing Doc Ock living Peter Parker's everyday life with interactions with Parker's friends leading to some humor. Because Doc Ock is so arrogant and conceited, he curses anyone he thinks is trying to undermine him, such as Peter's boss at Horizon Labs, whom he derides as being small-minded for daring to order him around. And in issue #10, Doc Ock as Peter humiliates his professor, calling his mid-term exam "child's play".
Also compelling is Peter's struggle to regain control of his body. In issue #9 Doc Ock and Spidey engage in a memorable battle in Parker's head. With Parker's consciousness still lurking in his body, he attempts to turn Doc Ock on the straight and narrow path and to make the right decisions.
Adding to Ock's character evolution is Anna Maria Marconi (first appearing in issue #5), a tutor Ock falls for. Through her we see a tender side of Doc Ock we've never quite known before, which gives the character and the series more depth.
The series is also big for fans of Spider-Man 2099, who returned in issue #17. Spider-Man 2099 has always been a popular character since his debut in Amazing Spider-Man (1963 series) #365 (with a hologram cover). Spider-Man 2099's stint in Superior Spider-Man #17-19 is not only the first time Spider-Man 2099 meets the "new" Spidey but it helps lay the groundwork for Spider-Man 2099 (2014 series).
The title is relatively new so it's easy to find copies. It also sets up and leads into Amazing Spider-Man (2014 series).
It's a relief to pick up an anthology comic book where the only thing you need to concentrate on is the story that you are reading.
That's the beauty of an anthology -- a self-contained story where you don't need to know anything about the characters except what the author is revealing as you read the issue.
And, G.I. Combat was D.C.'s best war anthology comic from 1957 through 1987. Many top artists worked on the series, including Neal Adams and Joe Kubert. The series included stories about WWII early in its run and then switched to Vietnam later.
There were some exceptions to the anthology concept including a series of stories under the titles "The Haunted Tank", and "The Bravos of Vietnam".
The series depicts the state of mind of the American war public relations machine for 30 years. Today, it's interesting to see how the various adversaries are demonized.
Further Adventures of Indiana Jones
Archaeologist and adventurer Henry "Indiana" Jones discovers the lost Ark of the Covenant.
Paramount Pictures releases Steven Spielberg's Raiders of the Lost Ark, the first of four Indiana Jones movies.
Marvel launches The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones.
Back in 1981, when Indiana Jones took the world by storm, there was no Internet, no smart phone captures of behind-the-scenes pictures and no "spoiler alerts". In fact, the only way to find out what was going on in sci-fi was to get a copy of Starlog magazine. But, by the time you read it, the news was months old.
So we had no idea what was in store when we saw a movie poster with Harrison Ford (looking much scruffier than he did as Han Solo) wearing a fedora and slinging a bullwhip. But, by the time the boulder started to roll, we all had a new hero and we couldn't wait for his next adventure.
And boy, did we have had to wait! It took Paramount three years to release the second Indiana Jones movie.
And, although Marvel (hot on the heels of their smash comic series, Star Wars) adaptated Raiders of the Lost Ark in 1981, it took until 1983 for readers to get new Indiana Jones stories.
The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones #1 hit the stands with superstar John Byrne at the helm. But he bailed by issue #2.
Regardless of the creative turmoil, the brand was too big for Marvel to give up, and, starting with issue #4, Indy's adventures fell to David Michelinie, who had a great reputation as the writer of Iron Man and The Avengers.
A self-professed huge Indy fan, Michelinie was the perfect choice. His penchant for snappy banter, slavish devotion to research, and adoration for the time period led to some of the series' most memorable tales. Ventures to Stonehenge, the Dark Continent, the Land Down Under and more were highlights.
So, if you're a big Indy fan, this series is a must.
Do you have a friend who's always getting into trouble? Always buzzing you to bail him out. Is he a real pain? Well, in the comics, we call that friend Jimmy Olsen and his savior is Superman.
Created for the 1940s radio show, "The Adventures of Superman", Olsen, a cub reporter for the Daily Planet befriended both Clark Kent and Superman. By 1952, the Superman TV show featured Olsen and it spurred his popularity even further.
In the comics, Superman, realizing Jimmy had congenital 'getting into trouble' disease, gave him an emergency signal watch which Jimmy could press when in danger. Presto! Superman, with his super hearing would come flying (literally) to help and save the dopey Olsen from yet another calamity.
These exploits were all captured in the comic book series Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen which began its run in 1954. The series was so popular among young boys that DC copied the format and launched a version which it hoped would appeal to young girls, Superman's Girlfriend, Lois Lane in 1958.
Jimmy's appeal, I believe, was that he was just an average Joe, who rubbed shoulders with a celebrity. (Sort of how Kim Kardashian got her start -- as Paris Hilton's sidekick).
By 1970, with American youth caught in the counter-culture movement, Jimmy's inconsequential exploits seemed irrelevant.
Jack Kirby saved the title by transforming it from silly stories to real adventure. The story goes that Kirby asked to be assigned the worst selling DC comic to show that he could turn it around. He did - writing and drawing issues #133 to 148.
In these issues, Kirby introduced his Fourth World characters -- the New Gods and Darkseid. He ended Olsen's dependence on Superman and made him a tougher, investigative type reporter/detective, on hand to witness cosmic events only Jack Kirby could create. For any Jack Kirby or Fourth World fan, these 16 issues are an indispensable part of the Forever People, New Gods and Mister Miracle story line.
After Kirby left, the title lingered. Unable to match Kirby's greatness, DC changed the title to Superman Family starting with #164 and rotated stories starring Olsen, Supergirl, Superboy, Lois Lane, Krypto and Nightwing.
The first series of Amazing Spider-Man comics (1963 series) ran for 441 issues. The second, Amazing Spider-Man (1999 series) ran for 58 and was numbered #1-#58. In 2003, Marvel consolidated the numbering (441+58+1=500) and Amazing Spider-Man (2003 series) started with issue #500.
The 2003 series contained several important storylines in Spider-Man's life, such as Civil War, One More Day and Peter Parker's body exchange with Doctor Octopus.
In Civil War, starting with issue #532, a government law ordered superheroes to make their secret identities publically known. Would Spider-Man abide by the law or keep his Peter Parker identify secret to protect his loved ones? The storyline worked well because it came across like a Shakespearean play with Marvel heroes pitted against one another, some supporting the act (Iron Man) and others not (Captain America) in dramatic fashion. Spidey's involvement is key. The story was also featured in other titles including the seven-issue series Civil War, Fantastic Four (2003 series) #536-543, and Captain America (2005 series) #22-25.
In the One More Day storyline, starting with issue #544, Peter and Mary Jane make a deal with the demon Mephisto to erase their marriage from history in exchange for Mephisto saving Aunt May's life. It resulted in a reboot of Peter Parker's character - single again and living with Aunt May. But, critics said it resembled bad television soap operas, whose characters routinely divorce, only to remarry, only to break up again. The story is widely talked about to this day and the story is a definite pickup for Spider-Man collectors.
The series also added new wrinkles to the Spider-Man mythos. Spidey first appears in his Iron-Spider armor, made by Tony Stark aka Iron Man in #529. The costume, with mechanical arms was controlled by thought, had bullet-proof armor, and a mask filter. It proved popular enough to appear in the first season of the animated show, Ultimate Spider-Man.
Flash Thompson, Peter's old high school adversary became the new Venom in #654. Flash's Venom became more of a hero, working for the government. Flash is shown, adding a new dimension than the bullying jock, on-and-off friend of Peter Parker. A war hero who lost both his legs saving a comrade during battle, you find yourself rooting for him in his new role as a superhero/spy.
Also noteworthy is #583, published during the hysteria that swept America just after Barack Obama's first election as President. The issue featured an 8 page story about Obama meeting Spider-Man and Obama appeared on the cover in the hard-to-find 2nd through 5th printings. It was the biggest selling comic book of the year.
J. Scott Campbell's sleek and stylish cover art for issue #601 was also an instant hit. It features a lonely Mary Jane while Spider-Man swings behind her. That cover became an instant classic. By November 2014 the issue was selling for $50 on eBay, almost ten times its Overstreet Guide value.
The series also added popular, new supporting characters, like J. Jonah Jameson's absentee father, Jameson Sr. in #578. Jameson Sr. eventually marries Peter's Aunt May in #600, making one of Spidey's biggest enemies, his father-in-law, too.
But perhaps the biggest key issue is #700. Peter Parker's personality and mind transfers to Doc Ock's body and vice versa. Once transferred, Peter “dies” in Doc Ock's damaged body. It's a milestone and further solidified Doc Ock as Spidey's fiercest opponent.
The ramifications were seen in the successor series, Superior Spider-Man, with Doc Ock in Spider-Man's body. Don't worry, no one really dies in comics. After the run of Superior Spider-Man, the series morphed back into Amazing Spider-Man (2014 series)
of the Galaxy
For his first 40 years, Iron Man was a "B List" character in the Marvel Universe. His comics were good, but Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four and the X-Men were always at the top of the heap. But once Iron Man movies hit the screen, he catapulted onto the "A List".
But, the power of a blockbuster Hollywood film was never more evident than when the 2014 Guardians of the Galaxy movie bumped the Guardians from the near anonymity of the "D List" to the apex of the comic book world.
Their stories were always great, but it took the movie to broaden their audience beyond a small core of loyal fans.
The Guardians of the Galaxy first appeared in Marvel Super-Heroes #18, back in 1969. But, even Marvel didn't know what to do with such an off-beat team. It was five years until their next appearance in Marvel Two-in-One #4 and 5. They floated from title to title, always as supporting players -- Astonishing Tales, Giant-Sized Defenders #5, Defenders #26-29, Marvel Presents #3-12, Thor Annual #6,
Avengers #167-177 and 181, Ms. Marvel #23, Marvel Team-Up #86 and Marvel Two-in-One #61, 63 and 69. They were truly the nomads of the Marvel universe.
It took until 1990, 21 years after their debut, for Marvel to put them in their own title. I can't think of any other Marvel superhero or team that wandered in the desert so long.
The cast of the Guardians has evolved, so don't confuse the original team with the movie team. The movie team of Star-Lord, Rocket Raccoon, Quasar, Gamora, Drax the Destroyer and Groot debuted in the 2008 series and Marvel re-booted that series in 2013 in anticipation of the movie.
Since the movie, the value of most early Guardian comics has exploded even though the cast is different than the movie cast. I can't explain, I don't understand it and it really makes no sense.
If you loved the movie, you're sure to enjoy the 2008 and 2013 series, since the character interplay in these series resembles the movie characterizations. And, the more recent series remain reasonably priced.
Although Wolverine had previously appeared in both X-Men (1963 series) (starting with issue #94) and in Marvel Comics Presents (1988 series), this is the first series specifically titled "Wolverine".
That alone makes the issues valuable, but it is the story by Chris Claremont, the long-running writer for X-Men, and the artwork by the exceptionally talented Frank Miller that makes this a standout series.
Miller's work has been phenomenal and diversified for years. Most all of his works have dramatically risen in value. In addition to this series, he is best known for Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, and Daredevil (1964 series) #158-#191 which included the first appearance of Elektra.
In this Wolverine series, Miller expanded on Wolverine's character and as a result, it was another industry success. It further cemented Miller's place as an industry super-star.
There are only 4 issues, and each one is a bit pricey, but if you're looking to collect everything by Frank Miller, this series along with his Daredevil run and Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, are the places to start.
This is our biggest selling comic book from the Bronze Age (1970-1983), by far. It's also the most cost-effective way to get a full run of a Spider-Man series.
Whereas the original Spider-Man series (Amazing Spider-Man 1963 series) is pretty pricey, this series is an affordable way to get a long running series (263 issues). The first 10 issues of Amazing Spider-Man in Very Good condition will run you $7,346, but the first 10 issues of Spectacular Spider-Man in Very Good condition only cost $62. That's less than 1% of the cost of Amazing Spider-Man's first 10 issues.
The price disparity makes little sense because stories in Spectacular Spider-Man are all new (no reprints) and the same length as those in Amazing Spider-Man. But this series' prices are much lower. For example, look at the issues published in September 1977 -- Spectacular Spider-Man #10 and Amazing Spider-Man #172. Amazing Spider-Man #172 in NM- condition is $30 and Spectacular Spider-Man #10 in NM- condition is $14 -- less than half the cost.
There aren't many comic books collected by non-comic book collectors, but Mickey Mouse is. If ever there was an icon for youthful enthusiasm and fun, it's Mickey.
Today, a comic book is a smash hit if it sells 100,000 copies. But back in the 1960s, Mickey Mouse's circulation topped 500,000 per issue.
The storylines are universal, but the specifics often mimic the times. For example, in 1966 at the peak of the James Bond's movie popularity, three issues (#107-109) were re-titled Mickey Mouse, Super Secret Agent. And, of course, Mickey never had a cell phone back in the 1950s.
If you have a friend who laments about missing the "good old days", then this is a great gift. Because nothing says endless childhood like Mickey Mouse.
Here's a Mickey Mouse animated cartoon from 1936 to give you a taste:
The Watchmen 12-part series is one of most sought after mini-series in comic book history. Written by Alan Moore, with art by Dave Gibbons, the series depicts an alternate history where superheroes emerged in the 1940s and 1960s, and where, by the mid-1980s, costumed vigilantes have been outlawed and most former superheroes have retired or were working for the government.
Structured as a nonlinear story, the series skips through space, time and plot. Watchmen is frequently considered as the best mini-series in comic book history. The 2012 prequel, "Before Watchmen" was created without the involvement of Moore or Gibbons.
One of the reasons I enjoy comic book series that began in the 1960s is that you can chart society's changes by the way the comic book stories reflect the changing moral fiber of the country. Marvel had proven a few years earlier that putting real world issues into their stories made the fantasy of comic books far more interesting. DC was slow to follow, but the Teen Titans finally made the transition to a more politically aware
The original Teen Titan series teamed up the teenage sidekicks of Batman, the Flash Wonder Woman and Aquaman -- Robin, Kid Flash, Wonder Girl and Aqualad. Their first appearance in Brave and the Bold (1955 series) #60, led to their ongoing series.
At first, the stories dealt with the group helping other teens, ignoring the politics of the day. But, as the 1960s moved to a conclusion, the stories explored some of the real issues of the day -- racial tension, the Vietnam War.
The series is a bit under appreciated and as a result, the books are priced lower than they probably should be. With only 60 issues, its one of the more affordable superhero titles of the 1960s and 1970s.
Weird War Tales
If you enjoy horror, science fiction or war stories, you should check out this under-rated series because it combines all three genres. Each issue is hosted by "Death", depicted in a different military uniform each issue. Stories included undead characters, paranormal characters and robot soldiers. It's like the Walking Dead meeting Patton meeting the Twilight Zone.
Since it's not a "superhero" comic, and since the series ran for 124 issues from 1971 to 1983, the prices are not in the stratosphere.
The first four issues retell Mary Shelley's original novel. The remaining issues are original. Midway through the series, Frankenstein was put into suspended animation and revived in modern times.
Alas, the public was no better at coping with someone, or something, out of the ordinary in 1975 than they were in 1812 when Mary Shelley first wrote the story.
The series' originally avoided having the monster chumming it up with Spider-Man or other Marvel superheroes. The series' original creators kept him off in a small corner of Marveldom, trying hard to live a life without interference from others. But alas, he finally did meet Spidey.
This series is an interesting take on Shelley's creation and with only 18 issues, is easily affordable.
House of Mystery
The success of The Walking Dead TV series brought to mind one of the first successful comic books featuring the supernatural and zombies -- DC's House of Mystery. It was DC's long-running horror comic book with a publication history spanning 321 issues over 32 years (1951 to 1983).
Within this one series, a reader can watch as fear of U.S. government censorship forced DC to drastically alter the content of the series.
The series began as a horror anthology, featuring tales of the supernatural. However, in the mid-1950s, when restrictions on horror-themed stories were imposed by the Comics Code Authority (banning stores with werewolves and vampires), the series evolved into stories featuring science-fiction monsters.
By the mid-1960s, superheroes infiltrated the title, including J'onn J'onzz, the Manhunter from Mars, followed by Dial H for Hero.
Finally, in the early 1970s, after nearly 20 years of self-censorship, DC began challenging the Authority and starting with issue #174, the series returned to horror stories. These stories were well-respected and won numerous awards. "The Demon Within", a story in issue #201 won the Shazam Award for Best Individual Short Story.
Later issues (#290 to #319) featured "I...Vampire", about a heroic vampire.
Dazzler was Marvel's 1980s entry in its never-ending quest to attract female readers. Dazzler was a mutant who could convert sound vibrations into light and energy beams. As part of Marvel's strategy, some stories focused on her career and her family relationships, rather than typical "fight the bad guy" plots.
In the series, which followed her debut in X-Men (1963 series) #130, Dazzler is an aspiring singer and uses her light powers to enhance her performances. In fact, she turns down an invitation to join the X-Men to continue her music career.
The 42 issue series is easy to collect -- a limited number of issues and a low cost for each (issue #1 in Near Mint- condition is only $4).
The first Star Trek comic series was published by Gold Key starting in 1967. It's unique because the series was illustrated by an Italian artist -- Alberto Giolitti. But that's not what's unique. Giolitti had never seen the TV show and he used publicity photos of the cast to draw the characters.
Most stories are original and not adaptations of the TV series. The series is popular among Star Trek fans and people looking for gifts for a Star Trek fan, because it was the first Star Trek comic series. The look is unmistakenly 1960s.
If you're not a Star Trek fan, don't bother. If you are a Star Trek fan, don't miss it.
The series is an under-appreciated madcap combination of comic book genres: part superhero spoof, part black comedy, part magic and fantasy.
Some stories were light-hearted, some were violent. Some readers objected to the series' star -- Norbert Sykes a Vietnam war veteran suffering from multiple personality disorder. Regardless, the title was strong enough to survive for 70 issues and also survived the bankruptcy of its first publisher, Capital Comics.
The Black Panther is yet another creation of Jack Kirby and Stan Lee, and as usual, they created an uniquely original hero.
Unlike DC characters of the 1960s, Marvel's characters had complex, multi-dimensional motivations and none more so than the Black Panther.
As king of the African country of Wakanda, he invites the Fantastic Four to Wakanda. There, he attacks and defeats each one. Why? To conquer the world? Nope. For revenge? Nope. For money and riches? Nope.
The Black Panther (T'Challa) was the ruler of a spiritually-based warrior cult -- and Wakanda was the most technologically advanced nation on Earth. As a 19-year old (in issues #52 and #53 of Fantastic Four (1961 series) he battled the Fantastic Four to test his own powers and to test the Fantastic Four to see if they would be an effective ally to help him protect his kingdom and people from their mortal enemy Klaw.
This was the beauty of Kirby and Lee. They actually created motivations for their heroes, other than the cliched irrationality seen in DC comics -- "I want to rule world, for no apparent reason, other than, why not?"
After his first appearance in Fantastic Four, he starred in Jungle Action #5-24 and then in his own series. The Black Panther was Marvel's first black superhero (a novelty in the 1960s) and beyond that, the series is recognized as the first successful series using multi-issue story arcs. The first arc, "The Panther's Rage" ran for 13 issues in Jungle Action.
Acclaimed writer Dwayne McDuffie raved: "This overlooked and underrated classic is arguably the most tightly written multi-part superhero epic ever. If you can get your hands on it ... sit down and read the whole thing. It's damn-near flawless, every issue, every scene, a functional, necessary part of the whole. Okay, now go back and read any individual issue. You'll find seamlessly integrated words and pictures; clearly introduced characters and situations; a concise (sometimes even transparent) recap; beautifully developed character relationships; at least one cool new villain; a stunning action set piece to test our hero's skills and resolve; and a story that is always moving forward towards a definite and satisfying conclusion."
If you're a John Byrne fan, this series is required reading. In it he weaved mature topics -- including sex, abortion and the pains of child abuse -- into his stories. This series is definitely not for young readers.
A group of youngsters given up for adoption by single mothers were experimented on by a team of scientists to create a group of super humans. The five escape from the scientists, only to be taken in by a U.S. Government agent.
Byrne broke with conventional comic story telling, that's for sure. In addition to mature themes, he eliminated thought balloons and sound effects. Looking for a different, more mature reading experience? This series is worth a look.
Comics with a
If you're a sports fan, definitely check these out.
For decades, publishers have tried to create popular comics with a sports theme. In the 1950s pseudo-biographical comics like the Thrilling Story of the Baseball Yankees, or comics featuring Yogi Berra or Jackie Robinson were popular with sports fans but never captured a broader audience.
Babe Ruth lent his name to Babe Ruth Sports, but there was no connection to him other than his name in the title.
In 1973, DC experimented with four issues of Strange Sports Stories (plus appearances in Brave and the Bold #45-#49), and three issues of Champion Sports. When I spoke with Carmine Infantino in 2004, the Hall of Fame artist and DC's publisher in 1973, he said he was proud of Strange Sports Stories for its creative and unique supernatural take on sports but that this innovative mixture of genres "just didn't sell".
Marvel tried sports in 1986 with Kickers, Inc., a 12-issue series starring a football team as crime fighters, whose super strength was created by a combination of radiation exposure and an experimental muscle-enhancing device. NFL SuperPro was another Marvel attempt, with Phil Grayfield getting doused with chemicals which turned him into a near-invincible superhero.
In the 1990s, independent publishers created Baseball Superstars, Baseball Greats, and Baseball Sluggers which featured bios of baseball stars, like Nolan Ryan.
Bo Jackson, the football and baseball star even faced off against Michael Jordan in, what else...
Bo Jackson versus Michael Jordan.
More recently, NASCAR Adventures and Legends of NASCAR featured bios of drivers. But, neither DC or Marvel, the two big fish in comics have published any sports title in years.
But, if you're a sports fan, or if you know a sports fan, these comics are a great way to start a comic collection. Unlike superheroes, there are only a few issues, which will limit your cost. And, since the issues are a bit rarer, you'll get a great sense of satisfaction when you find all the copies to complete any set. And, unlike superhero comics which are in high demand, the lower demand has kept prices for sports comics lower.
The Eternals were Jack Kirby's first creation after he jumped back to Marvel from DC comics. The Eternals were an offshoot of the evolutionary process that created man. The story line was similar to the New Gods in that it mixed mythology with science fiction.
1. Another Jack Kirby creastion.
2. Only 19 issues to collect.
3. Cost for the entire set runs from $70 to $111.
1. If you hated Kirby's 4th World Saga (New Gods, Forever People, Mister Miracle), you won't like this either.
2. Only 19 issues. Readers of the 1970s didn't think this was one of Kirby's best works.
Comics based on the movie "Alien"
If you're a fan of the movie "Alien" or its sequels (and hey, who doesn't love a creature exploding out of a man's stomach?) then you should check out Dark Horse Comics' comics based on "Alien" movies. Most are original stories which expand on the themes and creatures in the films.
Most series are only 3 or 4 issues, so it's inexpensive to get your fix of man-killing monsters.
If you're not a fan of Aliens movies, there's nothing here for you. Move on.
Blood and Metal
This 2 issue series was so successful that it convinced Marvel to create the ongoing Cable series. This mini-series explored Cable's ongoing battle with Stryfe and its effect on the people that surround Cable.
Both issues generally cost less than $2 each. If you're an X-Men fan, pick it up. If you're not into the X-Men, take a pass.
Give Me Liberty
Frank Miller, one of the most important comic creators of the late 20th century did it again with his 4-issue series.
Set in the near future, the United States has split into several extremist-controlled territories. It's part action story, part political satire. The series was one of the biggest selling mini-series of the era. And it won the 1991 Eisner Award for best mini-series.
Call of Duty:
Call of Duty:
Call of Duty:
In the aftermath of September 11, Marvel created three limited series honoring unsung heroes: Call of Duty: The Precinct honoring law enforcement,
Call of Duty: The Brotherhood honoring firefighters and Call of Duty: The Wagon honoring emergency services workers.
If ever you wanted to give a unique gift to a friend or family member who worked in these professions, this is it. One of the sets usually is priced under $6 and it makes a great gift. But even if you don't need a great gift, the series are short, well-written and well-drawn and makes you appreciate these often unsung heroes. For that reason alone, it's worth the read.
Kurt Busiek's Astro City
It's tough enough to win an Eisner Award, comic's equivalent to the Oscars, even once. But this series did it three times in a row -- in 1997, 1998 and 1999 -- for best continuing series. And it won in 1996 as best new series. Issue #10 also won the Eisner Award for best single issue; issues #4 to #9 won the award for best serialized story. Industry professionals, who vote for the winners have rarely lavished such praise on any series.
Astro City is a mecca for super-powered beings. The series is an anthology -- some stories are told from the viewpoint of the heroes, some for the viewpoint of average people, and some from the point-of-view of villains.
With only 22 issues, it's an easy series to collect and since it was published from 1996 to 2000, there are plenty of Near Mint or Very Fine issues available. At NewKadia, the price for the entire set varies between $65 and $90, depending on the condition of each issue.
A Dame to Kill For
Frank Miller did it yet again! His "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For" won the 1995 Eisner Award for best mini-series. In the Sin City universe, Dwight McCarthy is a clean-living photographer who tries to avoid trouble because he knows what he's capable of. When a girl from his past (who he can't say no to) shows up and professes her love, ;they're both in way over their heads. The website "ainitcool news" gushed in its review: "Dare I say the most perfect depictions of noir in illustrated literature form? yes indeedy..."
Not every comic series needs to cost a fortune, and for good stories and art, all 125 issues of Excalibur won't force you to take a second mortgage on your home. In fact, you can get each issue for an average cost of about $1.31 here at NewKadia.
And, it won't take you 30 years to track down each issue. Most issues are usually in stock, and for those that we don't have, come back into stock often.
Excalibur is a superhero group, an offshoot of the X-Men based in England.
Chris Claremont, best known for his years of work on the original X-Men series, wrote the first 34 issues. So, if you enjoyed his work on the X-Men, you'll like this series, too.
Captain Britain is one of the key characters. With superhuman powers granted to him by the legendary wizard, Merlyn.
Excalibur also featured Captain Britain's emotionally unstable shapeshifter lover, Meggan. With the help of a manic, dimension-hopping robot named Widget, they embarked on adventures through parallel worlds.
Starting with issue #68, writer Scot Lobdell changed the focus of the series. Captain Britain was lost and Meggan became catatonic and the newer members were summarily dispatched.
In addition, the tone of the series changed from a lighthearted, fun comic to a grimmer, darker series. Marvel stationed the team on the fictitious Muir Island, off the coast of Scotland and tied the series closer to the X-Men family, casting off most Captain Britain-related elements entirely, in addition to the characters that did not have close ties to the X-Universe (like Kylun and Feron).
In 1994, the great Warren Ellis assumed writing duties with issue #83.
Fantastic Four -
This series won the 2004 Eisner Award as best mini-series.
It imagines that the Fantastic 4's creators were inspired by folks they encountered in real life.
The story is extremely clever and certainly deserved the accolades it received.
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