Comic collecting ideas
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Why you should collect...
Comics featuring a Hero's debut
We've said it before, and we'll say it again: Before speculating buying and selling comic books, buy some stock in Apple, Inc.
If you bought 1 share of Apple in 2000 for $20, it would be worth about $630 today. That's a 31-fold profit -- a better return than most comic books.
But, if you buy comics to speculate, then you're probably better off buying a comic which features the first appearance of a hero, over any other type of comic.
If the past is an indicator of the future, then these books stand the best chance of beating inflation. It's easy to spot the first appearance of a hero -- the issue is usually numbered #1.
But, there are exceptions. Superman's first appeared in Action Comics (1938 series) #1. Batman first appeared in Detective Comics (1940 series) #27. Spider-Man first appeared in Amazing Fantasy #15.
Many Silver Age DC heroes first appeared in Brave and the Bold (1955 series) or Showcase. So, you can find the first Justice League of America story in Brave and the Bold #28 and not in Justice League #1. The first Green Lantern story is Showcase #22, not Green Lantern #1.
It's not surprising that when actor Nicolas Cage began investing in comics, he bought Action #1.
And this value inflation is not limited to Silver age comics. Issue #3 of NYX, which featured the first appearance of X-23, sold for $2.99 in 2003 and for $350 in 2017.
If you're on a budget, enjoy the window shopping. But, if you just won the Mega Millions Lottery, start shopping for real.
When the X-Men were created in 1963, the team consisted of Angel, Beast, Cyclops, Iceman and Jean Grey, a great mix. But as the comic series progressed, various writers ran out of ideas for them and the metamorphosis of the team began. By issue #94 of the original X-Men series, an entirely new group of mutants had taken their place.
By 1986, the originals were relegated to other Marvel titles, but not the original X-Men comics series. But the original characters were still great fuel for storytelling.
Enter the X-Factor team. Its members were the original X-Men but with a really interesting twist. Professor X had placed their old enemy, Magneto, in charge of the new team. The five set up a business which they advertised as mutant-hunters for hire.
The series is pretty good for a collector because there are plenty of issues in great condition and most all are $4 or less in Near Mint minus condition. But don't believe me, believe comic book fans -- X-Factor is consistantly among NewKadia's best-selling comic books.
This one is easy. The 2011 Green Lantern movie moved this title way up the charts. DC is still behind Marvel when it comes to creating great movies, but the Green Lantern movie did well at the box office.
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In the 1950's and early 1960's, just a few years removed from the Allied victory in World War II, some of the best-selling comic books were DC's war comics, G.I. Combat and Our Fighting Forces. They appealed both to the adults who fought in the war, and to young baby boomers whose fathers served in the military.
When Marvel achieved incredible success with its superheroes starting in 1961, Stan Lee took aim at war comics. Bringing Marvel's unique creative approach to the genre, Marvel created Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos -- the first Marvel war title in years, and the only one that achieved success in the Silver Age.
The series ran for 167 issues, although new stories alternated with reprints from #80 to #120, and only reprints ran from #121 to #160.
What is so interesting is that the title's popularity peaked during the Viet Nam War when anti-war sentiment was at an all-time high in the United States. The success of the title was due, in part, to writers being able to incorporate anti-war sentiment within stories set in WWII -- which had little of the moral ambiguity of Viet Nam.
Sgt. Fury commanded the Howling Commandos, an elite special unit stationed in England during WWII.
This is our best selling mini-series. We constantly get more copies and they consistently fly off the shelves. That's what happens to a series that some consider the most important DC mini-series of all time.
Published in 1985, the series was designed to simplify the then 50-year old DC universe. The problem originated when DC re-booted their superheroes starting in 1956 with a re-introduction of a new Flash. To reconcile the new Flash with the Golden Age Flash, DC said that the two superheroes existed on "alternate" earths. In fact, DC threw all of their Golden Age heroes (including a duplicate Superman with gray hair) into that alternate
universe, named Earth-Two. That opened up a Pandora's box of alternate worlds, like Earth-Three (where heroes were villains and vice versa) and Earth Prime.
By 1985, it was pretty hard for readers, and DC's writers, to keep track of all the different worlds. Crisis on Infinite Earths tackled the problem by combining all the worlds into one universe in this 12-issue mega event. In the process, DC consolidated everyone into one universe and killed off about 30 characters.
The series was very successful in sparking renewed interest in comics and popularizing "crossover" events, where one story line spans every title of a publisher's line of comics, which is now an annual event for both DC and Marvel.
Four Color Comics
One of the most-respected comic books, Four Color Comics offers an amazing glimpse into the past - early appearances of now-famous licensed characters, beautiful artwork and a fascinating view into 20th-century pop culture. The series' name, Four Color Comics was devised to set the colorful series apart from the only alternative for readers in the 1940s- dreary black and white comic strips published in daily newspapers.
First published in 1939 - one year after Superman's debut in Action Comics, Four Color Comics showcased characters still popular today (like Bugs Bunny) and icons of the last century, now mostly forgotten (like Bozo the Clown, Jungle Jim, Spin & Marty and Spike & Tyke.
Most collectors don't collect the entire series, but rather hunt down issues that feature their favorite characters. High-grade issues often fetch hundreds if not thousands of dollars because in many cases, the first comic featuring a character, like Bugs Bunny, appeared in Four Color Comics. Enjoy Rocky and Bullwinkle? Frosty the Snowman? Tom & Jerry? Western heroes? Action movies or TV series of the 1950s? You name it, chances are any character of the mid 20th century, animated or live action movie or TV show, was showcased. That's why they're a popular buy for people looking for a gift for people born before 1960 because the characters featured were a part of their childhood.
Multiple issues appeared each month, and Dell produced 1,354 issues in 25 years - the longest run of any comic book ever.
The series featured characters hugely popular in the 20th century, many now all but forgotten like the Hardy Boys, Huckleberry Hound, Jim Bowie, Johnny Mack Brown, or now politically incorrect, like Marge's Tubby. Characters that first appeared in syndicated newspaper comic strips, like hardboiled detective Dick Tracy made many appearances in Four Color Comics, as did the popular action-adventure series Terry and the Pirates. Many 1950s and 1960s TV shows were featured, like Twilight Zone, Leave It to Beaver and 77 Sunset Strip.
Arguably the most popular characters from Four Color Comics are Disney properties such as Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck and one of Disney's original characters, Oswald the Rabbit. Legendary artist Carl Barks drew Donald for the first time in Four Color Comics in 1942 (issue #9) and later created Uncle Scrooge.
Scanning the endless covers is fun as well! For those interested in the stories but not needing the originals, Gladstone published many beautifully-illustrated Carl Barks Donald Duck stories in Walt Disney's Donald Duck Adventures (1987 series) and Walt Disney's Donald Duck Adventures (1990 series).
Good luck hunting for your piece of 20th century nostalgia.
Warmongering aliens! Maniacs trying to take over the world! Destructive Monsters! A superhero's work is never done. But, giving super villains their own title? In 1975, Marvel published two Giant-Size Super-Villain Team-Up books, featuring Dr. Doom and Namor, the Sub-Mariner (either battling it out or teaming up) and they proved popular enough to warrant an ongoing series.
Super-Villain Team-Up was born. It boasts some cool covers and solid artwork by workhorses John Buscema and Gil Kane. Don't confuse this Marvel series with DC Comics' Secret Society of Super-Villains (1976 series) which featured Flash adversaries like Captain Cold, Gorilla Grodd and Captain Boomerang.
The first issues of Super-Villain Team-Up featured Doom and Namor battling Attuma, the Atlantean warlord bent on usurping Namor as the ruler of the underwater kingdom. The novelty of villains as protagonists, rather than just getting thwarted and slinking off into the night, makes the series a worthwhile read.
Doom and the Sub-Mariner go their separate ways after issue #10, and the evil Red Skull and Magneto swap team-up duties with Doom. The final issue features the Red Skull and a rare appearance by the Hate-Monger.
History has been kind to Super-Villain Team-Up. Many fans appreciate the solid artwork and "A-list" villains. To meet publishing deadlines, some issues, like #15, reprint earlier silver-age classics from Astonishing Tales. There are some key moments in the series as well: the death of Betty Dean, Sub-Mariner's long-time romantic interest (issue #2) and the first appearance of The Shroud (issue #5).
starting with the Letter "S"
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There are hundreds of mini-series featuring Spider-Man.
What is great about them is that each has a complete storyline. And, since mini-series are recent in origin (late 1970's to today) and since there are only 4 to 12 issues of each series, they're quite inexpensive.
If you're a Spider-Man fan, or if you're looking for a gift for a Spider-Man fan, this is a good place to start -- the reader isn't burdened by a long back-story, since most everything they need to know to get "into" the story is contained in the series itself.
And, if the gift recipient enjoys the series (about 22 pages per issue), then you've got the potential for great ongoing gift ideas -- for the holidays, birthdays, whatever.
We have lots of mini-series in stock and we have every issue of plenty of them.
Tales to Astonish
I like this series because there are so many ways you can collect it.
It was a horror anthology for its first 34 issues. So you can pick up any issue and get several self-contained stories, with no need to find the previous or next issue.
Starting with #35, and with Marvel's success with its newly created superhero comics, the series started to feature Ant Man. So you can either collect the first 34 issues, or the Ant Man issues. Then, starting with #49, Ant Man became Giant-Man (and I guess he had to buy a whole new wardrobe). Giant-Man stories ran until issue #69. So, the 21 Giant-Man stories are another way to collect.
But wait, there's more. Incredible Hulk stories were a feature from issue #60 to #101 (Then, the series was renamed The Incredible Hulk (1968 series) starting with issue #102). Sub-Mariner replaced Giant Man in #70 and appeared through #101. Then, Marvel moved Sub-Mariner to Sub-Mariner (1968 series).
Let's count the ways to collect this series:
1. The entire run #1-#101.
2. Just the Ant-Man stories
3. Just the Giant Man stories
4. Ant-Man and Giant Man stories
5. Just issues with Sub-Mariner
6. Just issues with the Incredible Hulk
7. Just Ant Man and Sub-Mariner
8. Just Ant Man and the Incredible Hulk
9. Just Sub-Mariner and Incredible Hulk
10. Sub-Mariner in Tales to Astonish plus Sub-Mariner (1968 series).
11. Incredible Hulk in Tales to Astonish plus Incredible Hulk (1968 series).
Comics by John Buscema
If you were a Marvel Comics fan in the 1970s, you know the artwork of John Buscema. The Mighty Avengers. Conan the Barbarian. The Silver Surfer. The Fantastic Four. The look and feel of all were the vision of "Big" John Buscema. Stan Lee called him "the Michelangelo of Comics". Buscema was one of the main forces at Marvel Comics during the Bronze Age because he worked on every major Marvel title during that era.
His first long run was on the Avengers (1963 series) starting with issue #41. Check out the classic cover of Avengers #57, featuring the first appearance of The Vision.
After the legendary Jack Kirby left the Fantastic Four (1961 series) after 102 issues, John Buscema took over the artwork with issue #107 and inspired a new generation of FF fans. Instead of imitating Kirby, Buscema used his graphic design skills to make the Fantastic Four look more refined and detailed. Like Kirby, Buscema was fast, pencilling two (or more) full books a month. Buscema's long run on Thor (1966 series) starting with issue #182 lasted seven years.
Stan Lee and John Buscema teamed up on what many consider to be Buscema's finest work: Silver Surfer (1968 series). With the mournful Surfer trapped on Earth, this 18-issue series features the first appearance of Mephisto in issue #3. The cover to issue #4, where Thor and the Surfer are about to clash in a battle for the ages, is as good as it gets and widely regarded as one of the greatest covers in Marvel history.
By the end of the 1970s, John Buscema artwork was the gold standard for Marvel. Stan Lee worked with Buscema on one of the most beloved art books ever: How To Draw Comics the Marvel Way. Covering everything from perspective, faces, backgrounds and layouts, it is a fantastic resource for any budding young artist and remains in print to this day.
If John Buscema had stopped at this point, he would still be a hall-of-fame artist. However, next was yet another great legacy: his 165 issue run on Conan the Barbarian (1970 series) (issues #25 to #190) and the companion magazine Savage Sword of Conan (1974 series). These are fantastic specimens in the sword-and-sorcery genre. The magazine featured stories by Roy Thomas and other artists such as Neal Adams and Gil Kane lent their skills to make these a true treasure of the Bronze Age of comics.
A true workhorse, Buscema often handled last-minute fill-in duties, and many Marvel issues in the 1970s tafeature John Buscema pencils-everything from occasional issues of Captain America (1968 series) to Howard the Duck (1976 series). Buscema also worked on the first nineteen issues of Tarzan (1977 series). This series really showcases his skill, drawing various savage animals like lions, monkeys and elephants in addition to crafting a realistic jungle world.
When John Buscema passed away in 2002, he left behind legions of fans, many of whom are professional writers and artists. Peter David (writer of countless comics and novels) wrote a fantastic essay about Buscema shortly after the death of this comic-book legend. To read it, click here.
For a complete list of John Buscema's work, click here.
Vampirella is one of the most recognized horror characters in the world, having graced the covers of comics and magazines for over 40 years. And she is the original "bad-girl" of comics. Her costumes are a common theme at many comic book conventions. Who is this mysterious bad girl of the night?
Vampirella was a different type of vampire right from the start. Instead of just introducing horror stories, she was the main protagonist with the superpowers of a vampire (super strength, blinding speed and the ability to transform into a bat). The magazine, which was not bound by the self-censorship of comic books adhering to the rules of the Comics Code Authority, mixed horror, science fiction and fantasy. Vampirella was originally a member of an alien race (known as the Vampiri) on the planet Drakulon. After battling a human space traveller, Vampirella discovers that he has blood in his veins. She pilots his spaceship to Earth, beginning her adventures among us unsuspecting mortals.
Vampirella can't just feast on blood without running into trouble, however. The van Helsing family (the same family that battled the original Dracula) finds out about Vampirella and are out for vengeance. Throughout the series, Vampirella battles every imaginable foe -- from monsters, aliens, werewolves... she even travels back in time to face Dracula himself. Vampirella quickly evolved into a scantily-clad strong female lead with a well-established cast of supporting characters. Instead of just simple cheesecake, these stories have imaginative plots and interesting villains in well-written horror adventures.
Horror magazines were a staple in the late 1960s, with Warren Publishing producing Creepy (1964 series) and Eerie (1965 series). To differentiate themselves from other magazines, many horror comics often featured a scary host. Rival EC Comics had the Crypt Keeper introducing stories in Tales From the Crypt (1950 series). The Vault Keeper had a similar role in Vault of Horror (1950 series), and a scary old witch guided readers through the Haunt of Fear. Warren Publishing followed suit with their magazine Eerie, featuring the aptly-named Cousin Eerie. Sister mag Creepy featured "Uncle Creepy". When Vampirella (1969 series) premiered, instead of a decrepit old hag or a gross-looking monster, a sleek, sexy vampire graced the cover and hosted the magazine.
The artwork in Vampirella features beautiful painted covers and is a great throwback to the 1970s. The logo, font and stark colors are definitely a product of the times. The covers feature an interesting mix of titillation and violence. Jose Gonzales was one of the great (and underappreciated) artists of the decade, and his iconic cover of issue #19 (with a bat resting on Vampirella's outstretched hand) is still seen worldwide on posters, memorabilia and online. His work from issue 12 to 34 is considered not only a high point for Vampirella, but for the sword & sorcery genre in general. Aimed at an older audience, the magazine features human sacrifices, warlords, evil empresses and weird combinations of technology and dark magic. Gonzales was involved throughout the entire run, working right up until issue 108.
When Warren Publishing declared bankruptcy in the early 1980s, Vampirella and other Warren magazines ceased publication. However, the rise of "bad girl" comics in the 1990s gave new life to Vampirella. Her origin was tweaked and she resurfaced under the Harris brand with Vampirella (1992 series) and Vampirella (2001 series). She has also teamed up with other bad girls like DC's Catwoman, Lady Death, Shi and Purgatori in various one-shots over the years.
The Vampirella property was purchased by Dynamite Entertainment, a company primarily known for adapting comics from movies, TV shows and other media. Vampirella (2010 series) debuted under their banner, followed by Vampirella (2014 series).
Bad-girl/femme fatale comics are an acquired taste and may not be for everyone. While the original Vampirella magazine is a historic and high-quality book, there are other, more modern options available such as Shi: The Way of the Warrior, Lady Death (1994 series) and Darkchylde. For more mainstream female leads, DC Comics Catwoman (2011 series) and Marvel's Elektra (2014 series) offer a slightly more family-friendly take on the bad-girl genre.
There have been many "Green Lanterns" -- from blonde-haired Alan Scott, the original Golden Age Green Lantern, to the Silver Age's Hal Jordan to countless aliens donning rings in Green Lantern Corps, to Simon Baz in DC's "New 52" relaunch in 2011.
While Green Lantern helped usher in DC's silver age in Green Lantern (1960 series), and Neil Adam's artwork in the 1970s garnered critical acclaim, by the 1980s Green Lantern had become an ordinary title with safe storylines and mediocre artwork. To spice up the series, the edgy anti-hero Guy Gardner and John Stewart also became Green Lanterns. When the series changed names to Green Lantern Corps (1986 series) and finally ended, the Green Lantern mythos was confusing to many.
In an attempt to reinvigorate the Green Lantern family, DC decided to focus again on the Silver Age Green Lantern, Hal Jordan in Green Lantern (1990 series). An older Hal Jordan (with grey hair at the temples) was joined by fellow Corps members John Stewart and Guy Gardner.
Issues #48 to 51 feature a key storyline where Hal Jordan goes crazy, apparently killing fellow Green Lanterns (and getting their rings) to try to restore his destroyed hometown of Coast City. As Hal Jordan goes off the deep end, a new Green Lantern (Kyle Rayner) is selected in issue #51.
Green Lantern (1990 series) was popular enough to retain some fan interest, especially with Kyle Rayner learning how to control the powerful ring and injecting some new personality into the franchise. However, there is little here for the key comics collector -- the artwork is average, the storylines are three and four-issues long, and it can be difficult to keep track of the seemingly endless parade of superheroes with a ring calling themselves Green Lantern.
However, for a dedicated core of fans, that is exactly what makes this series so enjoyable: the huge variety of heroes and villains. Since the Green Lanterns can travel into outer space, storylines often feature bizarre aliens and far-out plotlines. Hard-core Green Lantern fans will enjoy this, but the casual reader may find this series hard to digest.
Comics by Curt Swan
Superman was the world's most popular hero in the 20th century and from the mid-1950s to the mid-1980s, no one penciled more Superman stories and covers than Curt Swan.
Dependability and reliability are great characteristics for a professional artist, and it is a testament to his ability to meet deadlines that Curt Swan had endless assignments. The 1960s saw Swan as the primary contributing artist (or cover artist) for Superman (1939 series), World's Finest Comics, Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane, Superboy (1949 series) and Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen. As if that wasn't enough, he was the cover artist for long stretches on Adventure Comics (1938 series) and Action Comics (1938 series), two of DC's most prestigious titles.
When you conjure an image Superman in comic books, or on lunch boxes, advertisements or Saturday morning cartoons, you probably think of Curt Swan's version of Superman.
Swan was one of the most prolific artists at DC after WWII. He began penciling Superman occasionally as far back as 1948 and also penciled the Boy Commandos and Tommy Tomorrow.
Swan in the 1960s brought a "new look" to Superman. He softened Superman's square jaw. His Metropolis had a realistic-looking supporting cast that featured a consistent-looking Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, Perry White and Lex Luthor.
Whereas Joe Shuster (the original Superman artist and creator) had been somewhat cartoony, and Wayne Boring had been bold and dramatic, Curt Swan drew the Man of Steel as handsome, realistic and friendly.
An often-overlooked talent in comics is the ability to realistically draw backgrounds and supporting artwork: cars, trees, animals, cities, and everyday people. Scan through any Curt Swan Superman adventure and chances are will you enjoy detailed (and realistic) artwork of city streets, forests, or even distant planets. Babies, horses, cars -- these things are often difficult to draw, but Curt Swan was a master of consistency.
It's difficult to overstate the important of Curt Swan during some of Superman's most iconic moments: Superman meeting Brainiac for the first time (Action Comics #242), the first appearance of Supergirl (Action Comics #252), the first Superman/Flash Race (Superman #199), the first appearance of Bizarro (Superboy #68), the first appearance of Krypto, Superman's dog (Adventure Comics #210) and Superboy meeting the Legion of Super Heroes (Adventure Comics #247). All of these historic books have Curt Swan covers.
When the "Amazing New Adventures of Superman" was introduced in 1971, superstar artist Neal Adams updated the look and feel of the Man of Steel on the covers, but the interior artwork was still for the most part Curt Swan. With DC wanting more bold and modern stories, Swan was given the freedom to expand his panels, use more dynamic angles and update clothing and backgrounds to make Metropolis more modern. Although Neal Adams is often credited as a pioneer in the Bronze Age of comics, Curt Swan was right there through the change as well.
As the Bronze Age dawned, Swan lengthened Superman's hairline and gave Clark Kent and Lois Lane a modern wardrobe. Most Superman merchandising at the time, from lunch boxes to peanut butter all used Curt Swan art (or was inspired by it). DC Comics revamped Superman in the 1980s and with it Curt Swan was unceremoniously replaced by John Byrne, ushering in a new age for the Man of Steel. Swan's final send off was a brilliant two-book farewell with Superman #423 and Action Comics #583 called "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?" It is often considered a high point of Swan's career and is highly-recommended reading.
Underrated and often overlooked, Curt Swan helped define Superman's universe for over 30 years. He was inducted into the Will Eisner Hall of Fame posthumously in 1997.
For a complete list of Curt Swan's work, click here
G.I. Joe: A Real
When Marvel created their military-themed G.I. Joe, A Real American Hero comic book in 1982, many young readers had no idea that the phrase "G.I. Joe" had its roots back in the mid-20th century.
The series ran for 155 issues over 12 years. One major factor for its success was the synergy between the comic book, Hasbro toy line and after-school animated TV show. Marvel editor and main writer on the G.I. Joe series Larry Hama worked closely with Hasbro to create characters with actual back stories and relationships. Popular characters include the ninja warrior Snake Eyes, crossbow-wielding Scarlett, and muscular Marine Gung-Ho.
But it was really the villains that brought the series to life -- mainly the silver-headed villain Destro, and the ultimate bad guy, Cobra Commander. Both villains remain mainstays at comic book conventions today. There are always a few Cobra agents wandering around. Another popular baddie is Cobra Commander's bodyguard Storm Shadow. A popular storyline involved the brotherly bond between Storm Shadow and his enemy Snake Eyes; both served in Vietnam and were friends, but later found themselves on opposite sides of the global war of Cobra versus the Joes.
Although sometimes viewed as a "toy book" and not part of Marvel's pantheon of superhero titles, G.I. Joe has a loyal fan base, partly because of nostalgia for the cartoons and toys and partly for solid writing. Issue #21, for example, features no words -- the entire story is told through pacing, action and facial features (an unusual feat, even by today's standards).
Even though the last issue was published in 1994, the popularity of the Joes continues -- successful movies (the latest starred Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson) have renewed interest in the series. Subsequent G.I. Joe comics series, most notably Image's G.I. Joe (2001 series) and IDW's G.I. Joe 2008 series), rebooted the origins of many of the heroes and villains.
However, for older fans, the original series remains the definitive books for the Joe collector.
Nick Fury: Agent of SHIELD
For a hero with no super powers, it's remarkable that Nick Fury repeatedly finds new life. He's recognized today as the cigar-chomping leader of S.H.I.E.L.D, played by Samuel L. Jackson in the Captain America and Avengers movies. But, his origins go all the way back to the very beginnings of the Marvel Age of Comics.
In 1963, Jack Kirby created Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos, a war comic featuring an elite band of misfits fighting the Nazis in WWII, led by Nick Fury.
His popularity soared and in 1968, Marvel aged him and moved an older, wiser Fury to 1968 as a then current-day hero in Strange Tales (1951 series) starting in issue #135 when he made his first appearance as "Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. The stories and Jack Kirby's art were inspiring, and the series became a quick fan favorite. Marvel spun him off into his own title, Nick Fury: Agent of SHIELD (1968 series).
Nick Fury: Agent of Shield is definitely a book of the times. Marvel was producing groundbreaking, psychedelic artwork by Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, and in the case of Nick Fury's self-titled series, the great Jim Steranko at the helm taking over for Jack Kirby. The Nick Fury covers by Steranko are bold and eye-catching. He was one of the first artists to use optical illusions in his art -- just look at the cover to #4 for an example of some eye-popping appeal.
Another cultural influence at the time was super-spy James Bond. So, Nick Fury was transformed from a grizzled World-War-II hero into a sleek, tech-savvy agent of espionage. As the leader of a secret organization called S.H.I.E.L.D. (originally standing for Supreme Headquarters, International Espionage, Law-Enforcement Division). Fury's war-time buddy "Dum Dum" Dugan also made the cut, surviving World War II and joining Fury within the ranks of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Although the series only ran for 17 issues, Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. is widely regarded as one of the high points of the Silver Age. Jim Steranko wrote, drew and even inked Nick Fury, and that level of creative control really shows during the early part of the run. A rotation of artists such as Frank Springer, Barry Smith and Herb Trimpe took over for the rest of the run (and all were all very good), but it is the Steranko innovations that really caught the imagination of a dedicated group of comic fans. Within a ten-year period of late 60s to 1970s, comics went from basic storytelling to dynamic, bold layouts. Steranko even used outrageous four-page spreads and elements of photorealism with great effect.
For those looking for more Jim Steranko work, it can be slim pickings-check out X-Men (1963 series) #50-51 and Captain America (1968 series) #110-111.
Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. will definitely appear dated in places, but if viewed through the lens of the late 1960s, it is a fun thrill ride-and definitely entertaining. This work, along with Neal Adams on Green Lantern (1960 series) and Jack Kirby at DC working on New Gods (1971 series) really helped move comics from a simpler art form into a more mature, "hip" entertainment medium.
Comics by Frank Miller
What do Daredevil, Wolverine and Batman have in common? If Frank Miller is involved, the answer is grit. As an artist, Miller set the industry standard for minimalist, shadowy film-noir style. As a writer, he evolved each of these superheroes into dark, conflicted vigilantes. He set the tone for the modern-day anti-hero.
Frank Miller first made a splash with Marvel's Daredevil (1964 series) in issues #158 to #191. After sporadic success working with other writers, Marvel finally let Miller write and draw his own book and the result was dynamite. Daredevil went from Marvel's B-list to a best-selling crime drama. The Kingpin was reintroduced as Daredevil's main foil. Hell's Kitchen in New York was showcased as a violent hellscape. Miller reduced or eliminated many cosmic elements (such as Avengers guest appearances and alien invasions) and Daredevil became a realistic drama, filled with martial arts and organized crime. Fans loved it and Miller's run on Daredevil is often considered the high point of the series. A key introduction during Miller's run was the super-assassin Elektra in issue #168. Her showdown with the hit man Bullseye is a must read for any Daredevil fan.
Miller also teamed up with X-Men writer Chris Claremont for Wolverine (1982 series). The four-issue miniseries follows Logan as he ventures to Japan with girlfriend Mariko to fight crime lords. It remains one of the most popular miniseries Marvel has ever published and the four wordless comic book covers remain a testament to Miller's dark and powerful artwork.
After Wolverine, Miller joined DC Comics and premiered Ronin, a six-issue series that combined Japanese manga and noir style. It was one of the first "creator-driven" series at DC. While Ronin was not met with the same mass appeal as Daredevil, it was a critical success and helped cement Miller's reputation as one of the few artists that could script their own work.
The evolution of storyteller and artist reached the next level with arguably Frank Miller's greatest work ... Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. Miller painted a futuristic Gotham where a middle-aged Bruce Wayne reluctantly comes out of retirement to stop a gang of cyberpunks. The innovative artwork is bursting with action and the series remains one of the most valuable books of the modern age. Miller's Batman shed all remnants of the campy 1960s television show. Batman became truly dark, mysterious and violent. The look of the 1989 Tim Burton movie and the feel of the Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy was inspired in part from Miller's ground-breaking work.
Miller continued defining Batman for a new generation, writing Batman (1940 series) issues #404-407 in the famous "Year One" storyline. A huge best seller, it retold the origins of Bruce Wayne and helped explain the ferocious, pathological drive of the Batman. Miller redefined Batman as grim, determined and downright scary--a true vigilante that must face evil head on in order to conquer. The Dark Knight Returns and Year One set the mold for the look and feel of Batman that continues right up to present day. Comics as a medium evolved as well--the idea that fans would follow an artist's work (regardless of the project) was cemented. "Frank Miller" had become a household brand that would help sell books.
Along with Miller's evolution of Daredevil, Wolverine and Batman, other titles followed suit. The 1980s saw a rise in popularity for darker, psychologically-complex books like DC's Swamp Thing (1982 series), Watchmen (1985 series) and Marvel's Punisher (1986 series), all inspired, in part, by Miller.
Frank Miller had a falling out with DC Comics over censorship and moved toward more creator-driven projects. He created the Sin City franchise for Dark Horse Comics, moving into noir crime. Miller also penned the Spartan-fantasy-war miniseries 300, which also became a successful box office hit.
In 2005 Miller teamed with superstar artist Jim Lee to create All-Star Batman & Robin: The Boy Wonder, which met with mixed reviews-some fan loved the dark, twisted psychology behind Batman and claimed it was the best book of the year, while others were repulsed at the violence and portrayal of Batman as a pathologically cold and emotionally distant mentor to young Robin. Despite the controversy, Miller has never wavered in his vision or tried to placate fans-which is exactly the reason why he has remained a fan favorite.
For a full list of Frank Miller's work,
This series' biggest claim to fame is that it spawned an animated TV show in 1979. Like other female spin-offs (Supergirl, Batgirl), she was designed to bring female readers to the hobby.
Stan Lee, Marvel's editor commented at the time that she was created so another publisher couldn't create a female character with the 'Spider' prefix.
With its creation driven by protecting the Spider-Man brand, not artistic vision, the series is not very distinguished. In fact, its Wikipedia entry discusses none of its storylines or characters found in its 50 issues.
The series lasted five years because Marvel's strategy of reaching female readers was successful. So, if you're looking for a series that empowers women, try it. If not, ignore it.
Few comic books adapted from movies make an impact on comic book collectors, but the newest series of Star Wars comics is sure to make an impact. The stories are set immediately after the events of Star Wars: Episode VI.
Dark Horse comics had the rights to Star Wars comics for decades, but with Marvel Comics now owned by Disney, the ability to cross promote both the movies and the comics has never been greater. Star Wars will again be everywhere -- on Disney's TV channels, in theme parks, etc. Yet another generation worldwide will be drawn into the Star Wars world.
Of all the previous Star Wars series (and there have been hundreds), the one that is still the most popular among collectors is the original 1977 Star Wars series, first published when the first movie hit in the late 1970s.
Issue #1 of the 2015 series sold a reported 1 million copies, which made it the biggest seller of 2015. This series is attractive because with new issues appearing every month, prices are still reasonable.
If you're a Captain America or Iron Man fan on a budget, Marvel Double Feature is a must read. The oldest silver age Captain America stories and the first Iron Man stories shared each issue of Tales of Suspense (1959 series). As a result, Captain America stories in Tales (#59-99) and Iron Man stories in Tales (#39-99) are the most expensive of their stories.
All 21 issues reprinted the best of these stories. Like other reprints, the issues are reasonably priced so you can read the original stories without breaking the bank. If you're not a Captain America or Iron Man fan, skip this series.
"You are traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land of imagination. Next stop, the Twilight Zone!". These words were spoken in 1959 by Rod Serling, the creative force of the uniquely original TV show, The Twilight Zone.
Since then, "Twilight Zone" has entered our language as a synonym for anything mysterious, weird and/or spooky. The original black-and-white TV show can look dated (it debuted in 1959), but one thing about it remains timeless: suspenseful writing. The Twilight Zone (1962 series) adapted the tone and style of the TV show, with original stories. It was published by Dell and Gold Key comics.
Each issue featured several stories with a straightforward theme: the hero suffers some weird twist of fate or runs into a trouble featuring a variety of monsters, aliens, time travel or the supernatural. The interior art is relatively simple, but the comic books feature beautifully painted covers that usually show the hero in a mysterious peril. Like the TV series, each story is "stand alone", so you can grab any issue and not worry about being thrown into the middle of a long, drawn-out story arc.
Twilight Zone was one of the few horror/science fiction comics during comics' Silver Age because Dell and Gold Key never adopted the "Comics Code Authority", which censored comics, reducing or eliminating terror and violence.
This is great news for collectors looking for truly scary, compelling fiction. Some issues are downright terrifying. Stories could end with our hero stuck in an intergalactic zoo, or destined to relive a horrible nightmarish situation ... for eternity. This was scary stuff. The comics pushed the boundaries and featured characters in peril all over the globe, or in outer space. Stories sometimes took the reader back to the Middle Ages or Old West.
The 1962 Twilight Zone comic series ran for 20 years and 92 issues. The series can be dated - hairstyles, automobiles and technology have evolved. You don't see many jewel thieves sporting a derby hat and driving a 1967 Ford Mustang these days. However, this is part of the charm of the comics.
The TV show was rebooted in the 1980s, and NOW comics published a series, Twilight Zone (1991 series). More recently, Dynamite created Twilight Zone (2013 series).
If you are looking for a blast from the past, the original series is a great read. They don't make them like this any more.
Comics by Neal Adams
Ever wonder when and why comics evolved from the Silver Age to the Bronze Age? Look no further than Green Lantern (1960 series) #76, featuring Green Arrow shooting an arrow through a surprised Hal Jordan's lantern. The iconic artwork is by Neal Adams, one of the most respected and influential artists and writers of the past 50 years.
His work on Green Lantern, Batman and Superman transformed each character giving each a modern, relevant temperament. Mixing current events and ethos in his stories, his works drastically redefined the definitive "look", style and tone of those characters in the 1970s. His style has influenced the generations of artists who have inherited those characters. As such, his comics are highly sought after by collectors.
Adams joined DC comics in the late 1960s. Within a couple of years, he was drawing incredible covers for Strange Adventures (1950 series), helping popularize Deadman with issue #207 and later Batman (1940 series) with iconic covers like issues #222, #227 and #232.
He also freelanced at Marvel working on Avengers (1963 series) and X-Men (1963 series). Check out Avengers #92-94 and X-Men #56-63 for examples of his amazing covers.
Neal Adams is best known for his groundbreaking work on Green Lantern (1960 series) and Batman. As much as Silver-Age comics are beloved by collectors, most fans would agree that they were aimed primarily at a juvenile audience. With Neal Adams, comic books became relevant, including plot lines and characters that reflected the real world. College kids and adults could enjoy Green Lantern and Batman. These books tackled social issues. This was a new age of comics, now known as the Bronze Age.
He took over the slumping Green Lantern title with writer Dennis O' Neil for a legendary series of issues known as the "hard travelling heroes". In issues #76-#85, Green Lantern and Green Arrow tackled racism, worked with a new Green Lantern (John Stewart) and discovered that Green Arrow's ward was a drug user. With detailed artwork and fantastic writing, DC ushered in new relevant storylines, with sharply drawn characters displaying real emotions and reactions, at the dawn of the 1970s.
Adams also revamped Batman, just as the hugely-popular, but campy 1960s TV series ended. Adams discarded the campy elements and took Batman back to his dark roots, having the Dark Knight appear only at night. Again with writer Dennis O'Neil, this superstar team created one of the most popular Batman villains: Ra's al Ghul in Batman #232. Neal Adams' Batman inspired an entire generation of artists and set the standard for most of the 1970s (until it evolved yet again with Frank Miller's Dark Knight Returns mini-series). Adams pencilled many covers for DC during the 70s, such as Superman, Lois Lane, Action, Batman and Detective, and World's Finest Comics.
Neal Adams is not only respected by fans, but comic creators as well. Adams has been a proponent for creator's rights, helping Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster get additional compensation from DC for their creation of Superman.
Neal Adams was inducted into the Will Eisner Hall of Fame in 1998 and is a frequent guest at comic book conventions. In 2010, he wrote and drew Batman: Odyssey for DC, spinning a mini-series for Batman fans set in the current day.
For a comprehensive list of Neal Adams' work, click here
Even before the 2014 TV series, this Flash comic book series was our second best-selling DC series from the copper age, behind only Superman.
One reason is that this Flash was more flawed than his predecessors. Barry Allen, the alterego of the 1960 Flash series could move quickly without limitation. When he was killed off during DC's 1986 Crisis on Infinite Earths series, he was replaced as the Flash by his nephew, Wally West. The Wally West Flash could not maintain his fast speed indefinitely. Instead, he'd have to eat like a glutton to build up his metabolism. A marathon
runner beefs up on carbs before a big race. And Wally West needs to eat a house to keep up his speed. By limiting this Flash's endurance, the stories became more nuanced and threatening.
The series was also successful because the artwork is great and the villains memorable -- Reverse Flash, Gorilla Grod, Razer, and more.
The series ran for 247 issues. The character remains one of our best sellers of the era. You can get issue #1 for less than $10 in Near Mint- condition, and every other issue is less expensive. With the early issues published in the late 1980s and early 1990s, issues are easy to find at low prices.
Horror comics became extinct in the mid-1950s due to harsh restrictions of the Comics Code Authority. The Authority, created after the anti-comic book campaign of the 1950s, censored comic book publishers and eliminated horror and gore from comics. Also banned were graphic depictions of excessive violence and sexual innuendo.
What made the Authority successful was that no store would sell a comic unless it passed the Authority's censorship tests.
So, comics said goodbye to beheadings, torture, vampires, werewolves, and women with cleavage. As a result, every comic book featuring these themes was put out of business -- and ground breaking titles like Tales from the Crypt, The Vault of Horror, The Haunt of Fear ceased publication. Others, like DC's House of Mystery were watered down to less violent genres to abide by the new guidelines.
To avoid the censorship of the Authority, the artwork and stories of the banned content moved out of comic books into larger, magazine-sized publications, which were not subject to Authority censorship.
Creepy was the most successful successor to the banned content of those EC horror comics. Since Creepy wasn't under the scrutiny of the CCA, no horror tale, no matter how violent or horrifying, was off the table. Plots involving monsters, vampires, werewolves, shape-shifters, and even classic stories based on the works of Edgar Allan Poe and Robert Louis Stevenson appeared.
The inside pages of each issue were black and white, reminding you of old horror movies, setting up just the perfect gothic mood. It's a technique still used today in other horror and terror magazines, including The Walking Dead (2003 series) comic books.
Creepy attracted top talent and featured the artwork and storytelling of many famous names in comics. Archie Goodwin, Frank Frazetta, Wally Wood, Steve Ditko, Neal Adams, and Otto Binder were among the artists featured. The series inspired other horror magazines such as Eerie and Vampirella (1969 series).
Creepy was published for over 20 years and is regarded as a horror classic. So if you're searching for bone-chilling horror stories in the style of old EC stories, then Creepy is for you.
One of the drawbacks of the recent flurry of super-heroes movies is that the images from the movies can ruin your own image of a character. For example, for years I had a certain vision of Spider-Man and Peter Parker as a nerdy, zit-faced teenager. But once I saw the movie, that picture was replaced by Toby Maguire's face. And as much as they tried to make him look like a dork, he'd didn't.
So, one of wonderful things about the Sub-Mariner is that he's one of the few remaining Marvel characters who hasn't been portrayed in the movies, so whatever image you have of him is created in your own mind and subject to the nuances and biases of your own brain. No Hollywood casting director can formulate your image of the Sub-Mariner. And for that, I'm grateful.
His 1968 series is a wonderful one to collect for that reason and several others. First, since the earliest and most expensive Sub-Mariner stories were published in Tales to Astonish (1959 series) , the Sub-Mariner series is pretty inexpensive. Second, with only 72 issues in the series, it's a great starter set for a youngster to test to see whether he'd be interested in collecting comics. After all, it won't take a long time to find all the issues and that can fuel the interest of a new collector.
The Sub-Mariner is one of the first super-heroes. He debuted in 1939, and was one of Marvel's top three heroes, along with Captain America and the original Human Torch. He was the son of a sea captain and a princess of Atlantis. He has super-strength and aquatic abilities that dwarf that of Mark Spitz or Michael Phelps.
He has been alternatively portrayed as a short-fused superhero and a hostile invader from the sea seeking vengeance against us surface dwellers for slights against his underwater home. Hmmm... he might very well have been the first environmentalist superhero.
In a comic book world dominated by male readers, Wonder Woman is the biggest selling comic book in history featuring a female hero.
I always realized the need the for role models for young girls, but it didn't hit home until my own daughter dressed up as Wonder Woman one Halloween.
I'm no psychiatrist nor psychologist, but it's pretty apparent that people always drift to idolizing heroes who are similar to them. Spider-Man was a teenager back in 1963, and guess who the biggest buyers of comic books were back then?
Wonder Woman's creator, William Moulton Marston, created Wonder Woman because he believed in the educational potential of comics. Marston, a psychologist, struck upon the idea for a new superhero, one who could win any battle with love, rather than fists.;
You may think that the women's liberation movement began in the 1960s, but read what Marston wrote in 1943, in American Scholar magazine:
"Not even girls want to be girls so long as our feminine archetype lacks force, strength, and power. Not wanting to be girls, they don't want to be tender, submissive, peace-loving as good women are. Women's strong qualities have become despised because of their weakness. The obvious remedy is to create a feminine character with all the strength of Superman plus all the allure of a good and beautiful woman."
For me, Wonder Woman comic books are important, not only as a positive role mode for female readers but as reinforcement to young men that their female counterparts are equally deserving of respect. (Except, of course, if you live in Saudi Arabia).
The 1942 series features the more expensive earlier issues, while the 1987 series is more affordable. In May of 2011, Wonder Woman was ranked as the 5th most popular comic book hero of all time by IGN.
Howard the Duck 1976 series
"Trapped in a world he never made!"
That was the cover blurb for one of the craziest comic book series of all time. Forget the George Lucas-produced cinematic abomination from 1986 (which bears little resemblance to the comic) and focus instead on these entertaining tales.
Howard is an anthropomorphic duck plucked from his home planet, Duckworld, and transported to earth. Created by writer Steve Gerber and artist Val Mayerik, the cynical, cigar-chomping fowl first appeared as a gimmick character alongside Man-Thing in Fear #19, moved to a backup feature in Giant-Size Man-Thing. One year later he had his own title.
The morose mallard waddled the streets of Cleveland, Ohio, providing satire and social commentary (not to mention Quack-Fu), thanks to the brilliant mind of Gerber, whose real-life world, at times, also crept onto the book.
Gerber perfectly captured the zeitgeist of the 1970's. He was a pioneering author who tacklied such touchy issues as the effects of violence in the media, politics (Howard for President? He got some write-in votes!), and even the comics industry. Gerber gave us a tremendously trippy time with Howard and his zany cast of characters, including companion/girlfriend Beverly Switzler and super villain Doctor Bong. Throw in some spiffy spoofs (including Star Wars) and pencils by
legendary artist Gene Colan (23 issues), and you've got the makings for a "must add" to your comic book collection.
Be warned, Howard may resemble Donald (enough that Disney threatened a lawsuit), but this is not a children's book. The series deals with adult themes, especially the Marvel Max series, Howard the Duck 2002 series, so you might need to check out an issue or two before committing to the collection.
What if...you could take your favorite comic book character and turn his or her world upside-down?
What if...you could rewrite classic adventures and alter the original outcomes?
Well, Marvel did just that in these two series of What If. They are imaginary tales built on the notion (and owing a bit to Robert Frost's poem 'The Road Not Taken') that if you take an event, find a point of divergence, then choose an alternate path, the consequences of that action (or inaction) could make for an equally compelling story. And the editors at Marvel were right!
The first series ran 47 issues and the second for 114, indicating the success of the concept.
From the very first issue (What If Spider-Man Joined The Fantastic Four? - a re-imagining of The Amazing Spider-Man #1), readers were hooked. What followed was an upending of the Marvel universe: What If...Conan The Barbarian Walked The Earth Today? (#13) ...Wolverine Had Killed The Hulk? (#31) ...Spider-Man's Uncle Ben Had Lived? (#46)
Some stories even found their way into Marvel continuity, in one form or another: What If...The Hulk Had The Brain Of Bruce Banner? (#2) ...Elektra Had Lived? (#35) ...Spider-Man's Clone Lived? (#30)
At times, What If was even able to inject some humor into the proceedings such as when Marvel's writers and artists gave themselves the powers of the Fantastic Four. (#11)
A series of one-shots and specials have kept the What If brand part of the Marvel Universe up until today, and they are readily available.
If you're not a fan of Marvel and aren't familiar with some of their classic tales, these issues could be a bit perplexing, so you might want to steer clear. But if you're the kind of fan that always wanted to know What If...Captain America Had Formed The Avengers? (1989 series #29), then these series are for you!
The price is right, too. Most issues of the 1989 series in NM- condition are priced between $3 and $6 and with the exception of the first 14 issues of the 1977 series, most every issue in NM- condition is priced below $8.
If you grew up from 1940 to 1970, at one time you probably read an Archie comic. Archie was a "typical teenager" and the comics always had a light, happy, upbeat positive tone. The creators, writer Vic Bloom and artist Bob Montana were appealing to fans of the popular Andy Hardy movies, which was the most lucrative movie series of the 1940s. The series was so popular, that the company typically published six or more titles each month, all featuring Archie and his friends - Jughead, Betty, Veronica and Reggie.
The comics weren't the least bit socially or politically conscious in those days and by the late 1960s they were generally viewed as a cornball view of the American teenage experience.
In 1969, when Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In was the #1 watched TV show in America, Archie comics created Archie's T.V. Laugh-Out, ripping-off the name, and having nothing to do with the TV show.
The old comics are rated G and are suitable for any age.
The characters drifted into social topics in the 1970s, but unlike other media outlets which tried to capture a progressive, liberal air, they countered with a conservative series of religious themed issues, co-published with Spire Christian comics.
Boy, have times changed! A new ownership has shaken things up and today Archie Comics has morphed into a comic line featuring both the old goofy characters as well as stories which better reflect current media fads. In 2013, they created Afterlife with Archie which depicts a zombie apocalypse which began in Riverdale. The company also created a title with Archie as an adult, rather than as a teenage. In 2014, they killed the adult Archie, saving his gay friend from a hateful attack.
So, if the evolution of the media's depiction of the American teenager appeals to you, check out an issue or two. Pick copies from various eras to see how different times were depicted.
If our civilization is dumbing down, Classics Illustrated may just be our last hope, or a part of the contribution.
As its title suggests, the title highlights a classic piece of literature and illustrates it. Hamlet, The Three Musketeers, The Count of Monte Cristo and 166 other of the greatest books in history are given the comic book treatment.
For the full story, Click here
If you're looking for a short (240 pages), relatively inexpensive series, this it. Nearly every Marvel super-hero is included in the 12 issues, including Spider-Man, the Avengers, Captain America, Captain Marvel, Fantastic Four, Iron Man and Thor. The ladies are represented too, by Spider-Woman and the She-Hulk.
This is the best selling Marvel mini-series of all-time. Marvel had previously featured lots of crossover appearances in its regular series, but this was the first time it brought together a whole gaggle of characters in a long series. Back in 1984 it's what made the series unique. The 12 issues gave writer Jim Shooter (Marvel's then editor-in-chief) room to create a large epic story.
The most valuable issue is #8, which featured the first appearance of Spider-Man in his black costume.
Two years earlier Marvel had experimented bringing together lots of heroes in the 3-issue Marvel Super Heroe Contest of Champions mini-series, but it was the financial success of Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars that put company-wide character get-togethers a regular feature of comic book publishing.
The series was created to hype a series of action figures and toys. As a result, the series is a really good starter set. If a young reader is going to get interested in reading comics, then they'll definitely find one or more characters they really like in this series.
The series was so successful, that a sequel, Secret Wars II was published two years later.
Shadow of the Bat
Following the success of the first Batman movies, DC added this Batman title in 1992.
The series introduced many new villains and the most notable was serial killer Victor Zsasz, who made his first appearance in #1. His motive -- to "free" his victims from a dull, zombie-like existance. He's become a popular Batman villain and had a cameo in the 2005 film Batman Begins.
This series also added fresh layers to the Batman mythos. The first issue introduced Dr. Jeremiah Arkham, head of Arkham Asylum. Issue #45 explored Wayne's ancestors, and one is revealed to have been an abolitionist. For the first time that I can remember I knew a bit more about Bruce Wayne's ancestors beyond that his parents were murdered. Turns out that the Batcave was once part of the Underground Railroad which helped runaway slaves escape to the North.
The series is also known for writer Alan Grant's creativity and artist Brian Stelfreeze's painted covers. Grant told stories in a truly original way. For example in issue #46, most of the story is framed as flashbacks with narration by serial killer Cornelius Stirk.
Painted covers, used through issue #82, (most by Stelfreeze) established the title's gritty, realistic style, rich in tone and definition. The phrase "art popping off the page" applies. In July 2014, Stelfreeze won the prestigious Inkpot Award.
The series shared storylines with other Batman titles. The biggest crossover was 1999's No Man's Land. With Gotham City devastated by an earthquake and cut off from the outside world, escaped criminals try to seize control - a theme that served as the key point in the 2012 film, The Dark Knight Rises. The storyline appeared in the final 12 issues (#83-94), Detective Comics (1939 series) #730-741, Batman (1940 series) #563-574, Robin (1993 series) #67-73, and Nightwing (1996 series) #35-39.
The series is a must for any big Batman collector, and with low cost copies due to high supply, is a good way to start an affordable Batman collection.
Looking for a well-written crime drama with the look and feel of Batman or the Punisher? Vigilante will suit your tastes.
The Vigilante is Adrian Chase. a district attorney who crossed mobsters. In revenge, they murder his family. Now alone and angry, Chase seeks vengeance. He dons the guise of the Vigilante to serve up justice where courts have failed.
Unlike super powered heroes, Vigilante is just a normal guy who puts on a black costume with infrared goggles and holster, and starts taking the law into his own hands. Unlike Batman, he is not a world-class athlete or martial-arts expert. As such, he often gets beat up, injured and loses his fair share of fights. When the hero is terrified and fighting for his very life, it makes the tension more harrowing.
The 1980s were the age of the anti-hero -- dark, brooding and morally ambiguous heroes like Wolverine, the Punisher and Watchmen's psychopath Rorschach.
Writer Marv Wolfman challenged readers' preconceptions about revenge, justice, and what it means psychologically to put on a suit, grab a gun and run around chasing bad guys. Wolfman's Vigilante is hell-bent on revenge, but is often conflicted about killing. He even "corrects" some of his own court cases where a criminal avoided punishment due to a technicality or a bribed judge. Vigilante is tormented by his actions, growing more mentally unstable as the series progresses. Some times, Vigilante inflicts justice on criminals he later finds out were innocent! Such is the series' real-world feel, where actions can have damaging consequences.
Vigilante was published on a high-quality glossy paper (rare in 1983). This prestige format really made the artwork pop compared to comics printed on regular paper. Many covers are ominous. Issue #1 has a silent Vigilante pointing a gun right at the reader. This comic is definitely intended for mature readers.
Vigilante has never made it to the big screen and has never become a household name. As a result, issues (even the first one) are very inexpensive, even in high grades.
This series is beloved by a small, dedicated group of science-fiction fans, who often cite ROM as an example of sci-fi that actually works. Marvel offered something unique (an alien cyborg) and familiar (existing in the Marvel universe). Similar to the Silver Surfer, ROM looked at humanity from an alien perspective. The narrative flowed from issue to issue which allowed the stories to grow complex.
The series was created in 1979 to tie into the "ROM, the Space Knight" robot which hoped to tap into the public's new fascination with space adventure spearheaded by the 1976 debut of Star Wars. Electronic toys were new, and ROM robot was one of the first.
But, for every Rubik's cube, there are hundreds of toys that aren't successful and the ROM toy was a bomb. Where Star Wars had an entire army of heroes, villains and vehicles, ROM was just the one clunky robot -- with no supporting cast.
Luckily for fans, Bill Mantlo was an accomplished writer, having enjoyed long runs on Marvel Team Up (1972 series) and Micronauts (1979 series), also based on a toy. Mantlo made ROM a cyborg -- an important distinction for a hero of an ongoing comic book. Cyborgs have life, feelings and emotions. ROM could make choices, opening up a world of possibilities.
With Sal Buscema's artwork, Manlo created an interesting series. Motivated in early issues to find his home world of Galador, ROM spends time fighting his primary foes, the Dire Wraiths (alien shape-shifters). Later issues focus on themes such as interstellar war and what it means to strive for humanity -- pretty heady stuff for a toy-based comic.
While G.I. Joe and Transformers rarely crossed over into the world of Marvel's other superheroes, other mainstream Marvel characters appeared in ROM, like Power Man & Iron Fist, the infinitely-powerful Galactus and even crabby J. Jonah Jameson.
Because of complicated copyrights, ROM has never been reprinted, and has not appeared in the Marvel Universe since the 75-issue series ended. Back issues are inexpensive, with only the first few issues commanding a high price. If you're looking for an affordable run of high-quality science fiction, ROM offers an interesting take on a cosmic scale.
What do you do when you're a major corporation with a character so popular and making so much money for you in his current persona that you cannot kill, grow or alter him in any meaningful way? This is always the dilemna in any medium, and it was Marvel's problem in the early 1990s.
Spider-Man was spectacularly successful, appearing in multiple titles -- Amazing Spider-Man (1963 series), Spectacular Spider-Man (1976 series), Web of Spider-Man (1985 series), Spider-Man (1990 series), and Marvel Tales (1964 series) -- and writers were struggling to come up with fresh and storylines but were restrained from making any severe changes to his character or storyline. After all, "Don't kill the golden goose".
So, in 1992, with Marvel running into this same problem with other characters, it created a new line of comics including Doom 2099, Punisher 2099 (1993 series), X-Men 2099 and Hulk 2099. This permitted writers and artists to use an already familiar brand (mainly the name of the hero) while creating completely new situations in a dystopian future, with fresh supporting characters and villains. Less than a decade later, Marvel did it again, creating the "Ultimate" line of comics, re-imagining its top characters in an alternative universe.
For Spidey is was Spider-Man 2099, first introduced as a 5-page story in Amazing Spider-Man #365.
Set a century in the future, the hero of Spider-Man 2099 was Miguel O'Hara, a Latino who works for Alchemax, a drug company with corrupt board members. O'Hara winds up the guinea pig in a risky genetic experiment and gets his DNA spliced with the genes of a Spider. Now infused with superpowers, he dons a costume based on the "Day of the Dead" Mexican holiday. More than just another guy in a spider costume, O'Hara's DNA has been genetically altered -- he has venom glands and sharp fangs.
During the run, Spider-man 2099 fought evil corporations and fought for the downtrodden. Of course, there are some team-ups as well, with Spider-Man 2099 eventually joining forces with the futuristic counterparts of the Punisher and the X-Men.
While Spider-Man 2099 was well received by fans, at the time Marvel was struggling both financially and creatively. One casualty of seemingly endless staff firings, artistic change-ups and corporate restructurings was the Marvel 2099 line -- the series' editor was let go in 1996, and almost all of the writers on the 2099 line left as well. As a result, Spider-Man 2099 ends rather abruptly after 46 issues.
Miguel O'Hara surfaced over the years in various cameos and one shots, and eventually travelled through time to the current day in Superior Spider-Man (issues #17-21).
There is a dedicated group of Spider-Man 2099 fans, and Spider-Man 2099 (2014 series) was launched with writer Peter David at the helm. Miguel O'Hara is back- but this time he is a Spider-Man stuck in present day! Whether you want to enjoy the original 1990s series or the new, ongoing book, both series offer solid writing from David, as well as a cool costume and a fresh take on the future. Spider-Man 2099 offers fans a new way to look at a familiar web-slinger.
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.
Valiant Comics and
In the early 1990s, the hottest comics were not Marvel Comics nor DC Comics. No, the hottest comics were Valiant comics. They were "the only publisher to have ever seriously given Marvel and DC a run for their money,' according to comicbookbin.com. "If you read comic books, [in the early 1990s] chances were you read Valiant comic books … They were the books everyone collected and the ones everyone was excited about", according to IGN.
By 1993, just one year after creating a line of 8 superhero titles including Eternal Warrior (1992 series), Harbinger (1992 series), H.A.R.D.Corps (1992 series), Rai, Shadowman (1992 series), and Solar, some issues from just one year earlier were selling for up to $100 per copy, according to
the Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide. Valiant was founded by Marvel editors Jim Shooter and Bob Layton and they recruited some of Marvel's best talent to jump to Valiant.
And in this Valiant galaxy, X-0 Manowar became its first breakout hits. Created by Shooter, Layton and Joe Quesada (who later became the chief creative officer of Marvel), X-O Manowar #0 sold over 800,000 copies making it the biggest selling non-Marvel and non-DC comic book of the decade and Diamond Comic Distributors awarded it its "Best Cover of the Year" Award.
If you're a fan of Iron Man and epic heroes like Hercules, or Conan, this series is a must. Its story: Aric Dacia, a fifth-century Visigoth, abducted by aliens, escapes and takes their powerful suit of armor. The armor had many capabilities. It could hack into computers, fire deadly blasts, provide air and protection to the wearer, and could be commanded by pure thought. Transported to modern-day Earth, this a true fish out of water tale, as Aric goes from a barbaric Medieval life to one of modern comforts.
Aric, a child of a barbaric age, would often take things to the extreme. For example, in issue #17 he lays waste to mob members. He leaves only one alive so he can send a message to the survivor's boss. The series also featured guest stars from the Valiant line. Issue #4 featured the first appearance of Jack Boniface, who became Shadowman. Also, Turok, Dinosaur Hunter guest-starred in #14 and would appear on and off throughout the rest of the series.
According to Comicbookbin.com, three of the 10 best comic books of the decade came from Valiant - Solar #0 (Alpha and Omega) was at position #8, Magnus Robot Fighter #1 (6th) Harbinger #1 in the top spot. But publishing is an expensive business, and when the entire comic book industry faltered in the mid-1990s, Valiant lost its funding and it mojo.
By 2000, the value of those $100 early Valiant issues had dropped back down to $5 or less. In 2012, the line was reinvigorated, with the new owners hoping to convert their cache of heroes into billion dollar movie franchises. With new issues of Valiant comics available, the values of the originals are increasing again.
This version of The Flash was so influential, comic book experts mark the beginning of the Silver Age of comics with his debut in 1956. That's right, without this series, there probably would never have been a Silver Age of comics. Superhero comics were at the bottom of their useful life by 1956. Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and only a handful of others had survived Congressional hearings into the detrimental effects of graphic horror comics of the era. Then, in Showcase #4, DC comics re-launched The Flash, one of their heroes from the 1940s. But, instead of resurrectiong the old character, they created a brand new Flash.
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Life is tough enough as a superhero's sidekick -- but how do you establish your own identity when you have fought crime alongside Batman, one of the most famous superheroes of all time? Dick Grayson was the original Robin, followed by Jason Todd. Tim Drake, the third Robin, was introduced in the late 1980s in the pages of Batman (1940 series) and his stories are chronicled in Robin (1993 series).
In the audience at the circus the night Dick Grayson's parents were murdered, a young Tim Drake correctly deduces Dick Grayson was the original Robin. Years later after Dick Grayson had become Nightwing, DC replaced him with a second Robin, Jason Todd. Unpopular with fans, DC killed off Todd. Later, Tim Drake was introduced and he befriended Nightwing. Fan reaction to Tim Drake was much more positive than Jason Todd. Drake convinces Grayson and Batman that the Robin identity should continue to exist, to help combat the darkness of Batman's vigilante mind. He also convinces them that he is the person to fill the costume.
Unlike the first two Robins, however, Drake was not an acrobat and possessed no fighting skills. He's just a kid with remarkable intelligence and deductive insight.
The 5-issue limited series Robin (1991 series) showcases Tim Drake's long training regimen. Robin II (The Joker's Wild) features Drake taking on the Joker and Robin III: Cry of the Huntress was a successful 6-issue series. These series garnered sales and critical praise, especially for long-time Batman writer Chuck Dixon and feature the Dynamic Duo mostly from Robin's (rather than Batman's) point of view. Unlike Dick Grayson and Jason Todd (who were wards of Bruce Wayne), Drake's parents are still alive, and he has a house and a life outside of the Batcave.
Robin (1993 series) features the solo adventures of Tim Drake. Why the split from Batman? The series debuted right after the famous Knightfall storyline, where Batman is crippled by the monstrous villain Bane. A new Batman takes to the streets -- Jean-Paul Valley (later known as Azrael)-- and Drake is forced to team up with a new, unstable and violent anti-hero calling himself Batman. It was a perfect opportunity for Robin to strike out on his own.
Dixon, who created Bane, has written hundreds of Batman stories. Here, Dixon wrote the first 100 issues, providing ongoing plots and twists. Robin's stories are not "leftover" Batman stories, but rather a long-term look at a teenager struggling to juggle all sorts of problems -- the missing Bruce Wayne, a teenage girlfriend, schoolwork, a dangerous new Batman and of course, a barrage of weird villains that could only land in Gotham.
The interplay between Drake and his girlfriend is especially fun to watch. Drake often lies about his whereabouts, the reasons for his bruises and disappearances at inopportune moments. Early Marvel Spider-Man issues are often praised for this type of realism, and Robin strives for a similar approach. It's also interesting to watch Robin take on fully-grown adults in battle. Often he's physically outmatched (after all, no amount of Tibetan martial arts will help a teenager defeat a 400-pound mobster with a gun).
The series ran for 183 issues over 15 years -- an amazing feat considering it features a sidekick and was launched in the early 1990s (shortly before the comic book industry imploded). It also enjoyed a remarkably low turnover of writers and artists, giving fans consistent storylines.
Following DC's 2011 reboot, DC remade Tim Drake as Red Robin. But the 1993 series, along with the three mini-series give lets you see Robin not as a sidekick needing rescue, but rather as a bona fide superhero in his own right. Great art and especially adept writing make this series a great read.
In the 1960s, Marvel had great success featuring two superheroes in the same comic. Tales of Suspense (1959 series) featured Captain America and Iron Man and Tales to Astonish (1959 series) starred Hulk and Submariner. Eventually, Marvel split the books and gave each character his own comic.
Marvel tried it again in the 1970s with Astonishing Tales, which featured a jungle caveman, Ka-Zar, sharing a comic with a power-hungry, armor-wearing monarch, Marvel's greatest supervillain - Dr. Doom!
In issues #1 through #8, Marvel showcased Ka-Zar and Doom in two completely separate 10-page stories. Early issues featured Dr. Doom fighting off a potential usurper to his Latverian crown, and later he even fights the Red Skull. Although the artwork was average, it was the first opportunity to see Dr. Doom living his day-to-day life in Latveria, and for that reason alone it remains a solid collectible.
Doom dropped out after eight issues, leaving Ka-Zar to carry the load through issue #19. The popularity of the series led to Marvel spinning him off into Ka-Zar (1974 series).
After Ka-Zar got his own book, Marvel changed gears. Many fans associate Marvel with superheroes, but in its early days, Marvel (or Timely as it was known then) churned out entertaining monster stories, with scary dragons and winged demons terrorizing cities. Astonishing Tales re-emerged as a monster magazine for issues #20 to #24 with "It!" These stories featured lots of destruction and scared citizens running for their lives.
Marvel switched gears again with issue #25, introducing the cyborg Deathlok the Demolisher. Deathlok has remained a staple in Marvel Comics, appearing in Deathlok (1990 series), Deathlok (1991 series) and Deathlok (2014 series).
Few comic books have reached the cultural and historical importance of Detective Comics. Many key moments span this series including the very first Batman story (issue #27), new characters first appearances such as Batwoman and even lesser-known weird characters like the impish troublemaker from another dimension, Bat-Mite. Decades upon decades of history lie in the pages of Detective Comics.
The brand name "DC" even comes from the title, short for Detective Comics. Since Batman's debut, his exploits have continuously appeared in both Detective and Batman (1940 series).
But over 800 issues, where does a collector begin? Each decade featured a completely different Batman -- the 1940s and early 1950s showed a more innocent "kid-friendly" Batman, with almost no violence. His sidekick Robin also played a prominent role in Batman's early adventures.
From the late 1950s through the mid-1960s Batman and Robin battled aliens and mad scientists. In the mid-1960s, the tone shifted with the hugely-popular and "campy" Batman TV show affecting pop culture -- the artwork, bright colors and gaudy super villains were reflected within Detective's pages.
In the 1970s, after the TV series ended, superstar artists Carmine Infantino and Neil Adams re-imagined Batman as the "New Look" Batman -- the ray guns and aliens were gone, and a sleeker, darker, more mysterious and mature Batman appeared --- often only at night to hunt criminals on dark Gotham streets.
Fans can enjoy not only the different eras, but also the different interpretations over the years of the greatest rogues gallery in history -- The Joker, Clayface, Mr. Freeze, Ra's Al Ghul, Killer Croc, Bane.
Early issues (from #1 to #200) are extremely expensive and often hard to find. However, it is fascinating to read early Batman stories and get a glimpse into middle 20th-century culture -- clothes, hats, cars, the attitudes towards females and minorities and even cultural references like "the Soviets" have all evolved greatly.
The Bat family grew in 1967 with the introduction of Batgirl (issue #359). The daughter of the police chief, Barbara Gordon often teamed alongside Batman and Robin.
But Detective was more than just Batman, Robin and Batgirl. In addition to the Caped Crusader's lead story, other characters were featured in their own stories. "The Martian called J'onn J'onzz" (Martian Manhunter) debuted in #225. Roy Raymond, TV Detective was another popular feature throughout the 1950s-Raymond would investigate (and often debunk) spectacular claims made by people who wanted to be seen on his "Impossible But True" TV show. Mysto Magician Detective was another popular feature from this era-the powers of ancient mysticism help a stage magician fight crime using illusions and misdirection.
Also in the 1950s Detective would reprint stories from earlier decades- stories featuring Gang Busters, Alfred "Armchair Detective", Danger Trail, Strange Adventures, Rex the Wonder Dog, Sierra Smith, Captain Compass and Casebook Mystery were all reprints.
In the 1970s, another great backup feature starred the Elongated Man (starting in #327). Stretchy Ralph Dibny travelled the country solving mysteries. With witty banter and intelligent writing, these are true "Detective" stories, featuring hidden clues and often a direct challenge to the reader to help solve the puzzle or crime.
The Batman family grew in 1967 with the introduction of Batgirl (issue #359). She was popular enough to eventually share the billing on the title. Batgirl was featured in many backup stories in the 1960s and 70s often teaming up with Robin. Detective Comics hosted others, including solo adventures of Robin; Tales of Gotham City, which featured no super-powered people but rather ordinary citizens; and Human Target, a master of disguise who worked as a bodyguard and private detective for hire.
Other notable backup stories in the 1970s included criminologist and private investigator Jason Bard and the critically-acclaimed Manhunter series, which mixed globetrotting adventures and martial arts. Detective moved to a giant-sized "Batman Family" format with a $1.00 price in 1978, allowing for even more backup stories, such as solo adventures of Man-Bat, The Demon and even Bat-Mite.
In 2011, DC rebooted their heroes and the popular Detective Comics (2011 series) carries on with new stories and numbering.
Although Detective and Batman form the backbone of the Dark Knight's adventures, don't forget about his team ups with Superman in World's Finest Comics and with other DC characters in later issues of Brave and the Bold (1955 series).
In 2008, Brian Cronin surveyed comic book readers asking them to name their favorite comic book series of all time. The winner was Sandman (1989 series). That alone is reason enough to collect this series.
Created by Neil Gaiman, this series helped make him a legend. The series follows the adventures of Dream, who rules over the world of dreams. It is a great series.
The series is the only comic book to win the World Fantasy Award and the graphic novel which reprinted parts of the series was on the New York Times Best Seller List. It was also one of Entertainment Weekly's "100 best reads from 1983 to 2008". This series is the comic book industry at its very best.
When the X-Men were created in 1963, the team consisted of Angel, Beast, Cyclops, Iceman and Jean Grey, a great mix. But as the comic series progressed, various writers ran out of ideas for them and the metamorphosis of the team began. By issue #94 of the original X-Men series, an entirely new group of mutants had taken their place.
By 1986, the originals were relegated to other Marvel titles, but not the original X-Men comics series. But the original characters were still great fuel for storytelling.
Enter X-Factor. Its members were the original X-Men but with a really interesting twist. Professor X had placed their old enemy, Magneto, in charge of the new team. The five set up a business which they advertised as mutant-hunters for hire.
For a collector there are plenty of issues in great condition and most all are $4 or less in Near Mint minus condition. But don't believe me, believe comic book fans -- X-Factor is consistently among NewKadia's best-selling comic books.
Johnny Depp, who created the behemoth Pirates of the Caribbean movie franchise tried his magic again when he starred in a new version of the Lone Ranger in 2013.
And even though the movie was a box office disaster, each time a motion picture has been released, the demand for its comics and their value, have increased.
The Lone Ranger's exploits started on network radio back in the 1930s and successfully transitioned to TV in the 1950s. As we've said before, when a character holds the interest of the public for 80 years, there has to be great storytelling connected to that character. A classic is a classic only if the character strikes a chord in the soul of his readers.
The Lone Ranger was an ex-Texas Ranger (not the baseball player, but the law enforcement officer) who fights injustice in the Old West.
The first issues of the 1948 series reprinted syndicated newspaper comic strips. New stories began in #38.
The 2006 series was a critical success. Some criticized it for its excessive violence.
Savage Sword of Conan
For fans of Conan the Barbarian, this series is a must. Printed in an over-sized magazine format, the magazine was not subject to the Comics Code Authority. The CCA was formed in the 1950's to monitor the comic book content to eliminate salacious or overly violent comic books.
As a result, the Savage Sword of Conan could present Robert E. Howard's Conan without the Marvel's self-censorship in its 1970 Conan the
Barbarian comic book series.
The series was created for an adult audience. The battles are gorier, the ladies sexier and scantily dressed, and the language rougher than its comic book counterpart.
The series is considered a cult classic. With 235 issues, it's one of the longest running magazine-sized comics. The covers are in color, but the interiors are black and white. The size of each page is about 40% larger than a comic book, and frankly, I love the larger format.
A person trapped in a hostile environment or lost civilization is a common literary theme. It was the theme of the original "Planet of the Apes" movies and countless others.
One of the best comic book versions is "Warlord", the story of U.S. Air Force pilot Travis Morgan who crashes in the underground world of Skartaris. Quickly he becomes leader, due in part, to his fully loaded .44 caliber pistol.
With its first issue in 1976, the series lasted 12 years (133 issues) which is a testament to its popularity. But somehow, the series never entered pop culture. Perhaps it was that Morgan was a Viet Nam veteran and the series debuted at a time when the war was still extremely unpopular.
Most people know something about Superman or Spider-Man, but ask them about Warlord and a blank stare is returned. As a result, demand for the comic is relatively low as is its cost. But in any event, it is one of the best comic book examples of a hero trapped in a strange world.
During the series' run, several characters appeared in their own back-up stories, including Arion, Arak: Son of Thunder and OMAC.
Todd McFarlane, one of the hottest comic book artists of the late 1980s, is a name forever synonymous with Spider-Man. His unique drawing style of the webslinger (premiering in Amazing Spider-Man #298) captured the attention of Spidey fans, who loved seeing long, detailed spaghetti strands of webbing and flexible, seemingly-impossible contortions.
In 1990, after a short run on Amazing Spider-Man, McFarlane was the hottest name in comics and when Spider-Man #1 premiered with McFarlane's artwork, the issue sold a then-record 2.5 million copies. This was one of the first books to feature variant covers (encouraging readers to purchase the same story, but with different covers, several times).
McFarlane's artwork on this series is as good as anything he has ever done. The detailed, innovative drawings of Peter Parker, Mary Jane Watson and villains like the ridiculously-muscled Venom and a new, more-savage looking Lizard were a delight for fans. However, one widely-held criticism is that the stories are a little on the weak side (McFarlane is considered an incredible artist but a very average writer). McFarlane had some fun on Spider-Man, especially with covers (Spider-Man #3 which featured an upside-down logo, and issue #13 a beautiful homage... to his own cover art on issue #1)
McFarlane penciled Spider-Man #16 (which happens to be completely drawn sideways, including the cover) and then left Marvel to help start Image Comics. The Spider-Man series continued, featuring a rotating stable of writers and artists such as Eric Larsen and Bob McLeod. Originally a stand-alone series, after McFarlane's departure Spider-Man started to mix storylines with its other monthly counterparts, such as Amazing Spider-Man (1963 series), Spectacular Spider-Man (1976 series) and Web of Spider-Man (1985 series).
For the Spidey fan, this series is an affordable way to collect some stellar McFarlane artwork. Issues of McFarlane's Amazing Spider-Man run (issues #298-328) command a much higher price, partly because of the introduction of Venom in #300, and partly because Overstreet values the original, flagship title higher than the others. Because Spider-Man was (and is) so popular, this series sold in huge quantities so there are plenty of copies around (and they are quite affordable).
One word of caution: There are many versions of issue #1, each with its own Near Mint minus
Platinum Silver Silver bagged
Green Gold   Gold 2nd print
value: Platinum ($150), Silver ($10), Silver bagged ($25), Green ($8), Green bagged ($12), Gold ($25), and Gold 2nd printing ($125).
Marvel Milestone Edition
DC Silver Age Classics
If you want to enjoy the first issue of Amazing Spider-Man comic books, you can buy an original issue #1 for $50,000 or a reprint for about $4.
Marvel Milestone Edition reprinted the most important Marvel comics, including issue #1 of Spider-Man, X-Men, Fantastic Four and others.
DC Silver Age Classics reprinted classic titles from 1956 to 1969. Millennium Edition reprinted other top DC titles from other years.
So, either rob a bank and get the originals, or read these same stories for a fraction of the price.
Official Handbook of the
How are Rama-Tut, Kang the Conqueror and Dr. Doom related? Speaking of Doom-what exactly powers his medieval-looking armor?
By the 1980s, the Marvel universe included thousands of characters. Keeping track of 25 years of stories, thousands of characters and storylines could get overwhelming and confusing.
The series solved the problem. It was an expanded version of an in-house guide used by Marvel's writers to keep things consistent with past adventures. The series was an all-inclusive encyclopedia for readers. It featured biographies of Marvel superheroes and villains, and detailed pictures of each character by leading artists like John Byrne and John Romita, Sr.
Issues #1-12 are alphabetical listings of characters from A-Z, and the last three issues feature deceased heroes like the original Human Torch as well as weapons and hardware. You can enjoy close-up views (and descriptions) of Captain America's shield, the evil Mandarin's rings, or even Wolverine's adamantium skeleton.
The handbooks have no storyline, but include detailed specs on major and minor Marvel players. The series was a huge help for those engaged in a favorite 1980s pastime: role-playing games. Similar to Dungeons & Dragons, the Marvel Super Heroes Role-Playing Game was popular -- fans would play the roles of the Fantastic Four, Uncanny X-Men or even made-up aliens or mutants that they created. The Handbook became an invaluable tool for gamers.
Although RPGs are not as popular now, the handbooks have retained their popularity because they're an inexpensive guide to biographies and detailed pictures of Marvel characters.
As a fan, you can enjoy the biographies which rekindle memories of key storylines or teach you something new about your favorite characters. Did you know that Galactus had two different heralds? How many maniacs have called themselves the Green Goblin? Trivia fans love the series, too.
The series proved so popular, a 20-issue sequel was released just two years later -- Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe (1985 series). It featured covers that form an uninterrupted run of beautifully-illustrated characters. An update, Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe (1989 series) was published three years later, and an updated All-New Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe A to Z was published in 2006.
Issues of all the series are inexpensive and a great way to learn something new about the rich history of Marvel. DC published a similar series in 1985, Who's Who: The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe.
Recognize the catchphrase, "More than meets the eye?"
If you do, you were probably young in the mid-1980s and a fan of the Transformers -- robots that could turn into vehicles.
Marvel's Transformers comic books were based on the toys of the same name. The premise was simple: the good guys were automobiles, the bad guys were airplanes. It was one of the first large-scale cross promotions which included the toys, an after-school cartoon show and the comic books.
The toys and comics were hot -- most every kid in North America had heard of Optimus Prime, Megatron and Bumblebee. Intended as a four-issue limited series, Transformers (1984 series) sold extremely well, and ran for 80 issues. The original four issues are valued by collectors. Many early issues were reprinted.
At the same time, Marvel was also publishing G.I. Joe, A Real American Hero (1982 series) and Marvel cross-promoted both properties in G.I. Joe and the Transformers (1987 series). With artwork by Herb Trimpe, the Autobots and the Joes work together to smash the Decepticons and Cobra.
The Transformers storyline is simple: a spaceship crashes on Earth, and Optimus Prime and his heroic Autobots team with humans to thwart the evil Decepticons and their plans for domination. Major characters like Bumblebee, Shockwave and Starscream are staples. Transformers were extremely popular with an entire generation of youngsters, but when these fans aged, book sales suffered and the series ended in 1991. During the comic book run, many mainstays were introduced such as the Dinobots (issue #8) and Omega Supreme (issue #17).
Twenty years after their debut, with the success of the Transformers movies, IDW revamped the line with Transformers (2005 series) and Transformers (2009 series), with stellar artwork and improved production (as is the case with most modern comics printed on higher-quality paper). So there is something for everyone -- enjoy the original series, or check out the newer, up-to-date Transformers in the IDW series.
In 1986, DC re-booted its super-hero universe in Crisis on Infinite Earths. But it was the Legends 6-issue mini-series that followed it that greatly added to the new DC mythology. It was also springboard for new titles.
In the series, Darkseid plotted to destroy all superheroes by launching an anti-superhero media campaign with his message that superheroes were a menace. The storyline was a psychological, rather than physical, battle.
The series introduced the new Justice League and the Suicide Squad. The original Suicide Squad included heroic individuals who lacked powers. The new team consisted of super-villains Captain Boomerang, Deadshot, Bronze Tiger, Blockbuster, and Enchantress.
It borrowed its premise from the 1967 hit movie, "The Dirty Dozen". The villains would receive a full pardon for their crimes if they successfully carried out a deadly assignment for the government. Their mission -- defeat Darkseid's creation, Brimstone, who had unleashed fear and chaos upon Earth. And, as with any team of anti-heroes, you never knew if one would double cross the team, or even if they would survive. The team proved so popular it was given its own title in 1987. And a Suicide Squad movie is currently in the works for 2016.
Government agent Amanda Waller formed the Suicide Squad and she didn't take any guff. For example in issue #3 when Captain Boomerang makes the mistake of calling her "Amanda, m'dear" she forcefully tells him, “You ever call me Amanda or Sheila or m’dear again and you’ll be using those cock-eyed sticks of yours as splints!” Pretty good for 1987! And she doesn't hesitate to use extreme methods, such as clamping an explosive device on some of the members to ensure they follow orders. Waller has become more popular over the years and is often featured on the TV show, Arrow.
The series also re-launched the Justice League and the new team had a perfect blend of action and humor, and consisted of heroes other Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, like the Martian Manhunter, Black Canary, Guy Gardner, Captain Marvel (Shazam), and Dr. Fate.
If you're a fan of the Justice League, Legends is a perfect addition to your collection. The tentacles of the Legends storyline reached into other DC titles, with offshoots of the basic themes appearing in 22 other DC comics. And although Legends reads well as a standalone series, you can also read the other 22 stories to see how the series affected the re-booted DC universe.
She's been portrayed in the movies by Anne Hathaway, Michelle Pfeiffer, Halle Berry, and on TV by Julie Newmar, Lee Merriweather and Eartha Kitt, but with the possible exception of Hathaway, no one has captured the personality and motivations of Catwoman better than the artists and writers of this series.
The series' artwork by Jim Balent, who drew the interior art (and some covers) for the first 77 issues is notable. He drew Catwoman as a sleek, graceful, tenacious character, perfectly encapsulating her playfulness and athleticism.
In this series, Catwoman is an anti-hero who enjoys what she does, whether it be stealing or kicking butt. Whereas Batman's moral code is to save lives, even the bad guys, Catwoman isn't tethered to this ideal. She prefers to allow those who wronged her to die even if she can save them.
The series depicts Catwoman as more than just a street-level criminal. For example, her stint working as a spy for the government (issue #15) was full of action, adventure, and suspense. In 2001, Comic Book Resources ranked it among the 10 Greatest Catwoman Stories ever.
In the early 1990's, this series was one of the few DC titles with a female starring character. Only years later did other female superheroes get their own DC titles, like Harley Quinn (2000 series), Power Girl (2009 series), and Zatanna (2010 series).
Collecting this series is interesting, especially if you collect hero/villain crossovers. Two-Face appears in #38-41, 46-47, 60, and 92, the Joker stars in #38-40, 60, 63-65, Bane appears in #1-4, 35, 60, and Batman arrives in #0-2, 5-7, and 19 other appearances). Harley Quinn, pops up in issues #82-84, and #89. The series is the longest-running Catwoman series, lasting 94 issues. If you're a huge Catwoman or Batman fan, this series is definitely worth checking out.
The X-Men were created in 1963. It's hard to believe now, but poor sales in the early 1970s almost led Marvel to cancel the series. As a last resort, Marvel just reprinted X-Men stories for five years before finally rebooting the team in 1975 in issue #94 and Giant-Size X-Men #1 with the new team of Wolverine, Storm, Nightcrawler and Colossus.
The new team reinvigorated the title. The team became so popular that in 1991, a second title, X-Men (1991 series) was launched with superstar artist Jim Lee at the helm.
And what a launch it was! According to Guinness Book of World Records, X-Men #1 remains the best-selling comic book of all time (5 different cover versions sold 8 million copies).
In the comics, the X-Men were divided. Storm led the "gold team" in Uncanny X-Men (1981 series) while Cyclops was team captain of the "blue team" in X-Men (1991 series).
If you're a Jim Lee fan, this series has it all -- big splash pages, lots of battles and plenty of action featuring Wolverine, the most popular X-Man. Lee left after only 11 issues, but Andy Kubert proved to be a worthy replacement, with strong, dynamic pacing and art. There are some great story arcs as well: the introduction of the villain Omega Red in issues #5-7, the X-Cutioner's Song storyline in issues #14-16, and X-Men #25, where Magneto pulls the adamantium skeleton out of Wolverine's body.
This series ran for over 200 issues but the numbering can be confusing. With issue #114 it was renamed New X-Men, but then went back to X-Men (2004 series) with issue #157. For issues #208 through #275, the title changed to X-Men: Legacy (2008 series). Regardless of title, the book enjoyed a long run showcasing Marvel's popular team of teenage mutants.
If you like Spider-Man comics from the 1970s, then Marvel Team-Up, one of the most under-appreciated comics in Marvel's line-up, should interest you. It teams Spider-Man with a different 'guest star' each issue. As a result, the stories are always original, never get stale, because the guest star appears and is gone. Also, you can read most every issue as a standalone story, without the need to have read the previous issues to understand what's
The series ran for 150 issues over 13 years, a testament to the quality of the series. If the stories had not been compelling, the series would never have lasted that long.
And along the way, Spidey met everyone. And I mean EVERYONE. Guest appearances included the typical Marvel superhero galaxy -- Wolverine (#117) or Iron Man (#48, 49, 110), or Thor (#7, #26), as well as Marvel characters who weren't fighting crime and evil, like Frankenstein (#36) or Werewolf by Night (#12), or even the cast of Saturday Night Live (#74).
In short, the series is entertaining, different, and never slips into tedium.
More importantly, since it wasn't Spider-Man's primary title (Amazing Spider-Man), the people at the Overstreet Price Guide don't value it highly. That's a shame if you're selling it, but it means a big bargain if you're buying it. Most issues after #19 are less than $10 in Very Fine condition, and most of the later issues after #70 are less than $5 in Near Mint- condition.
And of course, like most Spider-Man titles other than the Amazing Spider-Man, issues in great condition remain plentiful and affordable.
Groo the Wanderer
Looking for something a little different? How about a sword-wielding, dim-witted buffoon who means well but always gets into trouble? Meet Groo The Wanderer!
Sergio Aragonés is the artist behind Groo. If the cartoony pencils look familiar, it may be from Aragonés' decades-long run at Mad Magazine (remember those little drawings in the margins?). Aragonés teamed up with writing partner (and comic-book historian) Mark Evanier to create Groo, one of the longest-running creator-owned characters in the business. This series ran from 1985 to 1995 (120 issues) under Marvel's Epic Comics line.
If you've never read Groo, think "Conan the Barbarian" meets "The Simpsons". Because of Aragonés lightning-fast drawing style, the artwork in Groo is lavishly illustrated, with rich backgrounds and intricate cities and civilizations. The characters are often exaggerated in physical appearance and there are lots of comic gags.
Some stories are goofy and funny, but some have surprisingly serious undertones and speak to larger issues, such as slavery, racism and wealth inequality. There are running jokes as well. Often, Groo will gleefully run into a fray, waving his sword around while not knowing (or even caring) why there is a battle to begin with!
Just like Batman eventually needed a Robin, Groo found a loyal sidekick in his dog Rufferto. Originally a pampered pooch bored with the fancy life, Rufferto joined Groo's quest for adventure in issue #29. Fiercely loyal, the lovable Rufferto is the smartest character in the series - often bailing out Groo from a sticky predicament (usually without Groo ever figuring it out).
One of the first successful creator-owned characters, Groo has been published off and on by different companies including Pacific's Groo (1982 series) and Image's Groo (1994 series).
Back issues are inexpensive and you can easily grab a large run. The stories are similar (epic adventure with a moral), and most issues are self-contained, so you can enjoy any issue in any order. Don't worry about long, complicated storylines. The only thing you need to know is that when Groo shows up with swords and his loyal dog, villagers run for their lives!
It's hard to fathom today, but the Silver Surfer's creation and first appearance were totally startling to readers.
Before he first appeared in the mid-1960s, the typical superhero was almost always a spandex-clad human - Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern. Their powers were generally the result of birth in a foreign world or environment (Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Thor) an accident (Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, Hulk, Daredevil, Captain America), or mutation (X-Men). Most every one was a Caucasian American.
When Jack Kirby unveiled the Silver Surfer for the first time in Fantastic Four (1961 series) issues #48 to 50, he came as a seismic jolt to readers because he broke the mold of superhero stereotypes. He was an alien stranded on earth, but one who didn't desire to assimilate (like Superman). Instead, he was incredulous about the foibles of the human condition.
He began life as an alien from a distant planet, which was threatened by the world-eater Galactus, who needed the energy of other worlds to survive. When Galactus was about to consume his home world, he agreed to become Galactus' herald and search for other planets for Galactus to destroy and consume.
Eventually, he scouted Earth to prepare it for Galactus' destruction. But, moved by humanity's plea, he saved Earth. As punishment for this disloyalty to Galactus, Galactus created a barrier around Earth functional only to the Surfer, exiling him here, never to see his loved ones again.
In 1968, Marvel launched the Surfer in his own series, which followed his attempts to escape Earth while saving people who mostly feared and despised him. He saved them because of his morality and to create goodwill with humans.
The series was a startling indictment of the violent nature in the human spirit. It offered insightful, thought-provoking dialogue. The Surfer spoke out against society's ills - like humankind's propensity for violence, fear and hate. Coming during the peak of the 1960s social revolution and the Vietnam war protests, the Surfer became one of the most popular contemporary fiction characters on college campuses.
Just as the TV show Star Trek disguised contemporary issues in a science-fiction context, the Silver Surfer did the same. No TV show or magazine in the 1960s would dare to deal with a real discussion of current issues - to avoid antagonizing its audience. With the United States divided down the middle on issues like the war in Vietnam and the civil rights movement, a discussion could only be had by disguising it within a science fiction setting. The success of this series was due in no small part to dealing with these hot button issues when no other media would.
To emphasize the importance of the message and the series, Marvel launched the series with 44 page stories compared to the typical 22 page comics of the era.
In a 2007 interview with Comic Book Resources, comic writer Simon Spurrier noted, "The Surfer is a perpetual idealist: he can spot the potential for great things in the people around him, but can't understand why, in spite of it all, they're so petty, small-minded and intent on self-destruction." In a 2010 Newsarama interview, comic writer Greg Pak noted, "The Silver Surfer may be the most original character in superhero comics."
The unique theme of the series created a cult following but never a mass audience, and the series was cancelled after just 18 issues. Decades later, the series remains a portal into the consciousness of the counter culture of the 1960s.
Twenty years after his introduction, and long after the counter culture movement of the 1960s had ended, Marvel changed the basic conflict of the character and in Silver Surfer (1987 series) he escaped Earth to travel the galaxy. In a post Star Wars environment of strange new alien worlds to explore and absent the basic ideology of the original series, the new series appealed to a wider audience and lasted 11 years and 146 issues.
Why a surfboard? Was it symbolic of the counter culture's free-wheeling vitality or anything like that? Uh, no. According to "The Ultimate Silver Surfer", Kirby put him on a surfboard because he was merely "tired of drawing spaceships."
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.
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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