Comic collecting ideas
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Why you should collect...
Readers in the 1950s had many comic book choices -- romance, funny books, superheroes, and one the most popular genres -- war comics. In the aftermath of the Allies' victory in WWII, and when the superhero genre was in decline, DC published five popular war comics - Our Army at War, Our Fighting Forces, All-American Men of War, Star Spangled War Stories and G.I. Combat (1957 series).
Quality Comics published 43 issues of G.I. Combat from 1952 to 1956, when DC took over the title. DC's first issue was #44.
Rather than focusing on the same soldiers every issue, G.I. Combat featured multiple short stories with different regiments and soldiers. Unlike Sgt. Rock and G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero (1982 series), whose stars avoided capture, death or serious injury by the enemy for decades, G.I. Combat stories generally featured "regular" soldiers fighting in World War II.
The series also featured some great recurring features such as "The Haunted Tank" (which began in issue #87), in which the ghost of an American Civil War Confederate General roamed the battlefield, watching over an American tank and it's crew. If you enjoy Twilight Zone or Outer Limits, with weird plot twists and the occasional supernatural element, you'll enjoy issues that feature the Haunted Tank.
When the Vietnam War divided the USA in the late 1960s, the tone of G.I. Combat changed-gone were the days of glorified soldiers gallantly marching towards the Nazis; instead, fatigue, depression and anger often were the main driving forces in stories featuring scared and confused soldiers, forced to do things that they weren't even sure were noble or even justified. Issues from this era often showcased other warriors like guerillas or mercenaries for hire.
The greatest artist for war comics was the legendary Joe Kubert, who drew many issues of G.I. Combat during the 1960s. They don't get any better than Kubert, with dynamic battle scenes and riveting human emotions. Kubert also penciled many issues of Sgt. Rock and Star Spangled War Comics.
For years the letters column featured military trivia and quotes from famous leaders. Did you know that Costa Rica has no standing army? Or the U.S. in the early 1980s investigated ways to replace a soldier's dog tag with an implanted digital microchip? Sure, some of the trivia and news stories are outdated but they make for interesting reading.
As World War II veterans aged, war comics became less popular and G.I. Combat ended its long run with issue #288 in 1987. Although not as popular a genre today, fans of Joe Kubert and dramatic writing enjoy these books. Most copies, especially later ones, are inexpensive.
Comics by John Romita Jr.
Imagine the pressure when your dad is one of the greatest Spider-Man artists of all time. That was the hurdle that John Romita Jr, son of legendary artist Silver Age artist John Romita Sr, had to overcome.
But, John Romita Jr. (known as JRJR) hit it big at Marvel in the early 1980s. Starting with Iron Man (1968 series) #115, he teamed with the definitive Iron Man artist Bob Layton. The "Demon in a Bottle" storyline, featuring Tony Stark battling alcoholism, ran from #120-128 and won the 1980 Eagle Award for Favorite Comic Book Story. Romita Jr. contributed to over 40 Iron Man issues in the 1980s and 1990s.
During that time, JRJR was afforded another great opportunity. He pencilled the first ever Marvel limited series: Marvel Super Heroes Contest of Champions. This three-issue series showcased nearly every major Marvel hero and laid the groundwork for other limited series like Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars. Marvel executives saw JRJR's work across a broad spectrum, and they (and fans) liked what they saw.
Could John Romita Jr. follow in his father's footsteps on Spider-Man? You bet, and what a mark he has left. JRJR, along with his father and the great writer Roger Stern introduced one of Spidey's greatest enemies, the Hobgoblin in Amazing Spider-Man (1963 series) #238. The Hobgoblin fought Spider-Man numerous times in the next five years, with JRJR providing pencils for many of these classic 1980s issues. Rather than copying his father's style, JRJR's pencils are grittier and more stark.
Romita Jr. also worked on Uncanny X-Men (1981 series). He drew classic issues #175 (where Cyclops weds Madelyne Pryor), #200 (Magneto stands trial for crimes against humanity) and #300 (Legacy virus introduced). JRJR's depictions of the X-Men are iconic-check out the cover to #207 for a classic Wolverine from this era.
It's a testimony to his talent that he has remained one of the top artists for almost 40 years. One example is the 1993 miniseries Daredevil The Man Without Fear. Combined with Frank Miller's dark writing, Daredevil's origin was explored in detail, including a run-in with the Kingpin. JRJR's artwork is tough, bold and brimming with action-perfect for showcasing street fights set against the dark city.
Amazing Spider-Man (1999 series) got a jolt of creativity with #30, when writer J. Michael Straczynski teamed with JRJR. This run lasted through issue #500 (when Marvel returned to the original numbering).
In 2008, Mark Millar teamed with him to create one of the most unique and off-beat heroes: Kick-Ass. Extremely violent, funny and just plain weird, this dark comic became a successful movie franchise (starring Nicolas Cage) and has garnered a strong cult following. Kick-Ass 2 and Kick-Ass 3 followed. Each series is a great read and definitely not "regular" superhero storytelling.
From the extreme to the mainstream, JRJR is hot. When DC relaunched their line of books in 2011 with the New 52, JRJR came onboard with Superman (2011 series) #32. Teamed with writer Geoff Johns, Superman was taken in a new direction - he was given a new power known as a "Super Flare" in #38. This was the first new superpower for the Man of Steel in over 50 years. In a www.comicbookresources.com interview, JRJR explained the power. "When his heat vision is used, it is the power of the yellow sun that he is emitting. And it drains him completely of that power. The power is just a complete purging of his yellow sun power. And he goes 24 hours powerless afterwards... we were able to explore a couple of things with Superman like what happens to him without power for 24 hours and how it affects him."
For a full list of John Romita Jr. work, click here.
Grimm Fairy Tales
How do independent comic book publishers stay competitive with giants like Marvel and DC? Simple, develop a unique concept, like taking classic fairy tales and adding dark, modern twists.
Zenescope's Grimm Fairy Tales debuted in 2005 and quickly made impressive inroads among fans of fantasy and horror comics. Modifying classic fairy tales for use in movies, television or comic books is not new. Disney's early works in the 1940s often offered new spins on classic fairy tales like Snow White and Cinderella.
Zenescope's flagship title Grimm Fairy Tales takes the same concept but gives it a darker, more adult twist. The stories adapt fairy tales but include mature themes, horror, and sinister turns. You can recognize most Grimm Fairy Tales comic book covers from the buxom heroines in distress -- definitely not a comic book for young children or Disney fans!
Early issues featured classics such as Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella and Hansel and Gretel. Many people aren't aware that the Brothers Grimm stories from the early 19th century are quite scary and violent, and Zenescope has done a good job staying true to the original darkness of the stories while merging some 'Twilight Zone' elements as well.
Grimm Fairy Tales is written by Joe Tyler and Ralph Tedesco (who is also one of the founders of the company), and over time Zenescope has become one of the few successful independent comic book publishers capable of delivering a high-quality product on time. Rather than competing directly with powerhouses Marvel and DC, Zenescope serves a niche market of horror and fantasy books with loyal followers.
Horror comics were extremely popular in the 1950s, most notably EC Comics Tales from the Crypt (1950 series) and Shock SuspensStories (1952 series). While often gory and violent, these stories had a certain morality to them (often warning the reader that if they didn't change their ways, they too could end up like the unfortunate hero of the story). EC Comics ceased publication with the advent of the Comics Code Authority in the mid 1950s, and a half century later Grimm Fairy Tales rekindled interest in scary fantasy comics.
With over 100 issues having already been published, Grimm Fairy Tales is one of the most popular titles from an independent publisher. Zenescope has branched out. In addition to Grimm Fairy Tales, there are dozens of spinoff titles including Grimm Fairy Tales presents Robyn Hood (2014 series), Grimm Fairy Tales present Helsing and
many other titles. For those looking for a change from superheroes, Zenescope offers a fresh, modern look on a classic horror genre.
Be sure not to confuse this series with Grimm's Ghost Stories, which was published by Gold Key Comics in the 1970s.
Comics by Todd McFarlane
Todd McFarlane, one of the most influential comic book creators of the 1980s and 1990s, is best known for his bold, bombastic and truly visionary style which redefined the world's most popular superhero, Spider-Man. Many think he is the most influential Spider-Man artist of all-time, second only to Steve Ditko, who created Spider-Man.
Under McFarlane, Peter Parker ditched the black alien suit and Spidey fans were thrilled to see the wall crawler return to his roots.
The black suit resurfaced as an angry symbiote known as Venom in Amazing Spider-Man (1963 series) #300, creating another popular villain for poor Web Head to deal with. Spider-Man even battled the Hulk in #328, completing McFarlane's incredible two-year run on ASM before Marvel created a brand new title just to showcase McFarlane's talents -- simply titled Spider-Man (1990 series).
McFarlane is also the poster boy for sheer perseverance. Before breaking out, he was repeatedly rejected by Marvel, DC, and every other comic book publisher. And not just once. He submitted hundreds of submissions over three years and received nothing but rejection. It sounds like a legend -- no one could possibly be rejected that many times, right? On his Facebook page, McFarlane writes "I got rejected 350 times! And I have the letters to prove it! I used them for motivation, not depression. I've been doing comics for nearly 30 years (having done Batman, Spawn, Hulk, etc). So don't get discouraged if you don't get what you want on your very first try. Sometimes it makes you stronger mentally to have to 'earn' your way to whatever goal you set for yourself."
McFarlane finally broke in with tiny Epic Comics on the series Coyote and worked short assignments for a few years before breaking big with the Incredible Hulk (1968 series) with issue #330. Teaming up with writer Peter David, the duo struck new life into the Hulk, advancing a storyline involving the Grey Hulk. Check out the now-classic cover to Incredible Hulk #340, featuring the Hulk's old enemy Wolverine for an example of McFarlane's clever and original artwork. Under McFarlane, the Hulk became bigger, scarier and even more dangerous.
McFarlane admits in an interview with The Comics Journal that the grind of working for a big comic book company was grating. "From the very beginning I was on Spider-Man there was a fight. 'God, Todd, why are you making the eyes so big? Todd, why are you making those spaghetti webbings?' Any company, I don't care if I'm working for IBM, if you don't do it their way, they instantly take it that you think their way is wrong. It wasn't that their way is wrong--and I'll never make them understand it--it's just that there's more than one way of doing something."
Ready to showcase his very own superhero, Todd McFarlane left Marvel and helped launch Image Comics, along with superstar artists Rob Liefeld and Jim Lee. When Spawn debuted, it was a commercial success. He combined dark visual elements of Batman (1940 series) and Spider-Man, to create Spawn, a former marine who died, wound up in hell and came back to Earth. Spawn battled the underworld using dark magic while trying to piece his life back together. Although McFarlane is no longer the primary artist for Spawn, he contributes covers and writing, helping make Spawn one of the longest-running independent comics of all time (over 265 issues and counting).
In the 1990's, seeing the poor quality of comic book action figures, he created the McFarlane Action Figure line which totally disrupted the industry by greatly improving the quality of the product. McFarlane is not as active as an artist and writer today, spending much of his time running the action figure business and Image Comics.
But, in 2009, Walking Dead (2003 series) writer Robert Kirkman teamed with him on the series Haunt McFarlane fans will enjoy this series about a murdered priest and his secret agent brother. Although they don't get along, the brothers team up to solve the priest's murder. Using gothic themes and visual styles similar to Spawn, the book sold well but reviews were mixed. Despite some snazzy McFarlane covers, the artwork and writing feels a bit derivative of Spawn.
Forever trying to help young talent, McFarlane has created some great YouTube videos teaching drawing techniques. It is a fascinating look at the inner workings of one of the great modern-day comic book artists. For a complete list of Todd McFarlane's work, click here.
Quick -- name the most popular comic book character created since 1990. For many, that question is a no-brainer. For them, the answer is Spawn.
Created by Todd McFarlane, who attained superstar comic book status writing and drawing Spider-Man in the 1980s, Spawn was his first creation when he left Marvel to form Image comics.
Spawn is Francis Simmons, a CIA officer who was transferred to the super-secret U.S. Security Group and becomes an assassin. After Simmons is murdered during an assignment and sent to hell, he makes a deal with the devil to serve Satan in return for being returned to Earth to see his wife one more time.
Spawn is certainly not your typical American teenager bitten by a spider origin. Geared to older readers, the title sacrificed a young boy audience in exchange for darker, more adult themes, which made it extremely popular with its more mature audience. You won't find Jimmy Olsen saying, "Jeepers, Mr. Kent" in this series.
So, if you're looking for darker, less childish story lines, this just might be the series for you.
Comics by Jack "King" Kirby
He is "The King". It's unanimous and here's why. Over a 40-year span, he created some of the most popular comic book characters ever and innovated drawing techniques widely imitated and highly revered today.
In the early 1940s, he co-created Captain America, one of the best-selling and politically and socially important comic book characters of the century. The saga of Captain America is still going strong, 75 years after his debut - a testament to the brilliance of Kirby's creation.
Twenty five years after creating Captain America, and still at the top of his creative-game, he co-created the Fantastic Four (1961 series), which launched the 1960s Marvel Age of comics. At the time it was Marvel's most popular super-hero team. And over the next decade, he created hit after superhero hit - Thor in Journey into Mystery comics, The Incredible Hulk in Tales to Astonish comics, the Silver Surfer, and the X-Men (1963 series). Movies based on his creations have grossed billions of dollars.
Kirby's ingenuity extended to villains too - Dr. Doom, Magneto and Galactus, were his creations also.
Kirby was also the first "free agent" comic book artist to jump from one publisher to another and get a big PR "bump" when he jumped. Frustrated at Marvel in the early 1970s, he jumped to DC. "Kirby's Here" splashed across the covers of DC books he created. His Fourth World books for DC -- the New Gods (1971 series), the Forever People (1971 series) and Mister Miracle (1971 series) -- were THE talked about series of the era. Some of its notable characters have become mainstays in the DC universe, such as Orion and the villain Darkseid.
When his multi-year DC contract expired, Marvel finally realized what they had lost and lured him back. It was the first time artists were treated with the respect they deserved -- as the creators of characters of lasting importance, and not just hired guns with a pen and ink. Because of his prominence, Kirby's estate fought for, and has received, "created by Jack Kirby" credits on his works. X-Men movies, Captain America movies, Avengers movies, Fantastic Four movies all include this credit. Such credits have since become an industry standard.
Raw Power. Staggering, cosmic raw power, bursting from every panel! When fans think of Jack Kirby, a true innovator of comic's Silver Age, they picture thunderous clashes of gods and incredible futuristic worlds. Kirby helped define the dynamic Marvel look, with big bold heroes like Thor smashing through an army of otherworldly monsters, or the Silver Surfer unleashing incredible energy blasts to defend a terrified crowd of mortals. Although Kirby rose to prominence at Marvel in the 1960s, his influence began earlier.
A young Kirby began professionally drawing during the Great depression in New York. He churned out page after page, often working 12 hours a day. As World War II loomed, a new American patriot graced the cover of Captain America (1941 series). The iconic cover featured Cap punching none other than Adolf Hitler in the face! Two decades later, Kirby and Stan Lee pulled Cap from the ice as he burst onto the scene with Avengers (1963 series) #4, joining and eventually leading the Avengers. Kirby remained tied to Captain America, penciling adventures in issues of
(1959 series) and Captain America (1968 series), when he returned to Marvel in the mid 1970s.
In 1942, Kirby reworked the original Sandman for DC comics and created the blockbuster title (now largely forgotten) the Boy Commandos (1942 series), which sold over 1 million copies per month.
After the war, superhero and war comics declined in popularity, but Kirby's and Simon's workload did not. The duo pretty much created the concept of romance comics, which quickly became one of the best-selling comic genres. Kirby drew many issues of Young Romance and it was a huge seller, generally selling over 1 million issues a month. Like most of Kirby's work, it was widely imitated.
In the late 1950s when superheroes were starting to come back into vogue, Kirby created DC's Challengers of the Unknown, and drew Green Arrow stories in World's Finest Comics and Adventure Comics (1938 series).
And in the 1960s, Kirby, along with Stan Lee, changed the face of comics yet again. They created Mr. Fantastic, The Invisible Girl, The Human Torch, and the orange rocky "Thing" in Fantastic Four (1961 series). In 102 issues, they created a cavalcade of top Marvel characters -- Dr. Doom, the Black Panther, the Inhumans, Skrull and many more. Their masterpiece was the introduction of Galactus and the Silver Surfer in issues 48-50. Kirby departed The Fantastic Four after 102 issues, leaving behind what is considered by many the greatest run by one creative team in silver-age history.
Kirby was such a fast penciller that he was also created Sgt. Fury and drew the first 11 issues of X-Men (1963 series). Cyclops, Iceman, Angel, Beast and Marvel Girl, not to mention Professor Xavier, all have their distinctive look courtesy of Kirby.
No one could draw explosions, kinetic energy and fight scenes like Kirby. Whereas DC Comics were refined and reserved, Kirby blew the doors off of panels, regularly featuring exaggerated foreshortening, bold angles and mind-bending two-page spreads. Planets and stars would explode and heroes were contorted in dynamic poses, punching and blasting with such force that it felt as if they were literally leaping off the page.
He also worked on Thor in the 1960s and created the standard not only for the Norse god, but also many cosmic entities such as Galactus, Hera, Loki, Hercules and the powerful and mysterious Celestials. The covers of Thor (1966 series) issues #126-177 are stunning works of Kirby art.
By the 1980s (after a staggering 40-plus years in the industry), Kirby was no longer the driving force at either Marvel or DC Comics. Young artists like John Byrne and Frank Miller had changed the industry standard. However, Kirby continued producing distinctive artwork for Pacific Comics, creating in Silver Star (1983 series). While not a huge seller, fans of Kirby can enjoy the characters' muscular, dynamic style.
Kirby passed away in 1994 (at age 76), and his legacy is felt in today's comics and especially Marvel's movies like Captain America, Fantastic Four and The Avengers. The larger the threat to humanity, the more powerful and bombastic the villain -- the more Kirby we see in these modern-day heroes.
So prolific and important was his work that there's even a magazine devoted solely to his work, the Jack Kirby Collector.
Man of Steel
6 issue mini-series
If you were a Superman fan before 1986 you know that Superman left Smallville after his parents died, Krypto was his super dog and Lex Luthor was an evil scientist. Guess what? Everything you learned was wrong!
In 1986, DC revised the Superman mythology, junked his entire previous history and started from scratch. He never was Superboy (instead he only learned to control his powers and went public in Metropolis) and Luthor became an evil Donald Trump without hair, or hair-weave, or whatever is sitting on the Donald's head.
So, if you've been away from Superman, check out this inexpensive 6-issue series and see what Superman has been all about since 1986.
All-Star Superman won the 2007 Eisner Award (the Oscars of comic books) for the best continuing comic books series. Written by Grant Morrison and drawn by Frank Quitely. Morrison's aim was to write a "collection of timeless" Superman stories.
The 12 issues were published between 2006 and 2008, making it one of the first "classic" series of the 21st century.
All-Star Batman & Robin: The Boy Wonder
Written by Frank Miller (who also created the Dark Knight Returns mini-series), with artwork by Jim Lee, this was the first title in DC's "All-Star" line-up. The stories are self-contained story arcs existing outside of official DC Comics continuity. Translation: You don't need to know what's going on in other Batman comics to enjoy these. The series features Miller's non-traditional interpretation of Batman.
With only 10 issues (from 2005 to 2008), it's a relatively inexpensive series which re-tells most of the Batman saga.
Comics by Gene Colan
While artists like Jack Kirby and Neal Adams are mentioned as among the greatest of all time, one amazing penciller often goes unsung: Gene Colan. Much of his career was spent working on "B-list" books at Marvel and DC, but that doesn't diminish his astonishing skills and contributions to the Golden, Silver and Bronze Age of comics. No one was quite like Colan. His shadowy, moody artwork perfectly fits a career spent just out of the spotlight of the biggest-name books.
One such "second-tier" mag was Daredevil (1964 series). Starting with #20, Colan pencilled the blind superhero with a distinct style, using shadow and texture not often seen in comics of the time. Colan recalled in an interview with Adelaide Comics and Books, "An artist, as a rule, is not aware of a style; he just does it. You know when you write your name you don't think about how you're writing it but yet it can be spotted by everyone and they'll know that that's you."
Despite occasional pressure to mimic Kirby's Fantastic Four style or Steve Ditko's Amazing Spider-Man style, Colan stood his ground. "Stan [Lee] would say whatever book he thought was selling, he would have the rest of the staff try to copy the same style of work, but I wouldn't do it. I'd tell him if you want Stevie Ditko then you'll have to get Stevie Ditko. I can't do it, I have to be myself." Left alone, Colan formed an impressive run on Daredevil, working on most issues between #20 and #100.
He worked for short but important time on Captain America (1968 series), helping create the Falcon in issue #117. Sam Wilson was the first African-American superhero in the Marvel pantheon (the Black Panther was from Africa, but the Falcon was an American). While Colan's work on Iron Man (1968 series) consists mostly of the first issue and a few annuals, the cover to issue #1 is among the most iconic of the Silver Age. Colan also had a hand in creating Captain Marvel in the pages of Marvel Super-Heroes (1967 series) issue #12. The next issue, Colan introduced Carol Danvers to the world, later featured in Ms. Marvel (1977 series).
Moving from one mid-level title to another, Colan worked on Doctor Strange (1968 series) and Doctor Strange (1974 series), where his shadows and textures were a perfect fit.
Colan's most impressive run came when the Comics Code Authority relaxed their rules surrounding zombies, vampires and the undead. Tomb of Dracula (1972 series) is one Marvel's Bronze age triumphs and Colan drew all 70 issues, creating a cohesive look and feel to the series. Teamed with writer Marv Wolfman, the duo created Blade, the popular vampire hunter portrayed by Wesley Snipes in the movies. More than 40 years later, Tomb of Dracula remains the gold standard of what a great horror comic should be: beautiful artwork, scary stories and a pervasive sense of foreboding.
Colan also drew one of the most off-beat books of the decade: Howard the Duck (1976 series), which starred a smoking, satirical duck living in a world of humans.
Moving to DC, Colan put his stamp on two of their most prestigious titles: Batman (1940 series) and Detective Comics (1937 series). Batman #340-350 and Detective #510-567 feature many Gene Colan issues, and featured the introduction of some fantastic villains, like Doctor Death and Killer Croc. Colan teamed again with Marv Wolfman on the supernatural fighting team Night Force (1982 series). These issues are inexpensive and remain a great hidden gem in his huge pantheon of work.
Colan remained a popular draw at conventions until his death in 2011. A legend, he was voted into the Will Eisner Comic Hall of Fame in 2005. For the full list of Gene Colan's work, click here
Only a few comic book legends make a huge impact in both the DC and Marvel universes, but Gil Kane is one such legend. Kane was at the forefront of the Silver Age of comics when he introduced the revamped Green Lantern at DC in Showcase #22. Gone was the blonde, magical-ring wielding Golden-Age Green Lantern, replaced by fearless test pilot Hal Jordan. Kane worked on Green Lantern (1960 series), pencilling the first 59 issues. The Silver-Age Green Lantern was the perfect hero for the atomic age, complete with power ring fueled by alien technology. Whereas Superman was thick and chiseled, Gil Kane's Green Lantern was sleek and smooth.
In addition, Kane's style was perfect for Atom (1962 series) which featured scientist Ray Palmer shrinking to microscopic size and zipping through phone lines. This quirky series featured a hero that was not super strong or muscular-the Atom was a "regular guy" who just happened to be really smart, and really small.
Kane's artwork lives in in virtually every major DC comic title from the 1960s and 1970s, including Superman (1939 series), Batman (1940 series) and Flash (1959 series).
One of the few high-profile artists to move to Marvel Comics, Kane made his mark again in Marvel's flagship series Amazing Spider-Man (1963 series). He teamed with Stan Lee on issues 96-98, which were controversial for showing drug use (and not approved by the Comics Code Authority). He also pencilled the landmark 100th issue, and created Morbius, the Living Vampire in #101.
His drew perhaps the most infamous storyline of all: the death of Spidey's girlfriend Gwen Stacey, falling from a bridge at the hands of the Green Goblin and later, the goblin's own glider impales the supervillain, changing Spider-Man's life forever in issues #121 and #122. These issues are widely considered the greatest Spider-Man issues of all time. Kane's covers from this era also include the first appearance of both the Punisher (issue #129) and Peter Parker's clone (issue #149).
In an interview at www.comic-art.com, Kane recalled, "Yeah. [Morbius] was my character. I based him on Jack Palance. And I did Iron Fist, we did Captain Marvel. Those were all brand-new things we were generating at the time, so it was a lot of fun there during that period."
Kane helped evolve the little-known Marvel crime fighter "The Cat" into the more popular Tigra, and pencilled the cover to Amazing Adventures #11, featuring the first appearance of the Beast in a furry, mutated form.
Kane returned to DC in the 1980s to work alongside legendary artist Curt Swan on Superman (1940 series). Kane was instrumental in revamping two legendary super villains in Action Comics #544: Brainiac from his green-skinned alien form into the modern-day robotic shell, and Lex Luthor from his purple scientist garb into his green power suit. Both villains would dominate the 1980s in those updated forms, in the comics, action figures and Saturday morning cartoon shows.
Kane returned to his roots in 1983, pencilling the Atom again in the Sword of the Atom mini-series. It featured Ray Palmer leaving his wife and embarking on a quest in the jungles of South America. It mixed superhero, science-fiction and adventure -- an example of how DC actively pushed the envelope during this era to experiment with new formats and storylines.
In 1997, Gil Kane was inducted into the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame, and passed away in 2000. For a full list of Gil Kane comics, click here
Lots of movies have been adapted to comic books, but it's only fitting that one of the greatest movie series of all times spawned one of the greatest comic book franchises of all times. The original Star Wars comic book series was issued in July of 1977 and ran for a decade, with 107 issues and three annuals. Return of the Jedi was printed in a separate mini-series.
Issues #1-6 are an adaptation of the original movie (since renamed: Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope), and Issues #39-#44 adapted the Empire Strikes Back. All the others are original stories starring Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and other characters from the original trilogy.
The stories are a great read, and for the collector on a budget, these issues won't cost that much. It seems that comic books, even good ones like these, which contain basic story lines adapted from another medium (in this case, the movies), never seem to cost quite as much as comics where the characters got their birth directly in the comics.
By the way, I couldn't resist sharing the a video of the original movie trailer for the first Star Wars movie. Compared to trailers today, it moves at a snail's pace but it's VERY 1977 in style.
So, if you're a fan of space science fiction, this is the series for you. Or, if you're looking for a gift for the Star Wars fanatic, this is it. In fact, the first issues of this series will be OLDER than any Star Wars fanatic under the age of 33.
The first six issues were reprinted as Classic Star Wars: A New Hope.
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.
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.
For the full story, Click here
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 great 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"
starting with the Letter "A"
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).
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.
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.
Even though Wolverine wasn't one of the original X-Men, he is the most popular.
He first appeared in Incredible Hulk (1968 series) #181 in November of 1974. He is clearly the most popular comic book character created in that decade and Marvel has reacted to the demand for his stories by featuring him in the main X-Men series -- X-Men (1963 series) and Uncanny X-Men -- as well as giving him the starring role in his own series.
In May of 2008, Wolverine was ranked #1 by Wizard Magazine as the Top Comic Book Character of All Time. And this Wolverine series, with 189 issues, is the longest series starring Wolverine.
The first Wolverine series, Wolverine (1982 series) was a 4-issue series, but it is this ongoing series that more deeply developed his award-winning character.
Wolverine was typical of the anti-authority antihero that emerged in American culture after the Vietnam War.
Wolverine was also featured as the starring character in most issues of Marvel Comics Presents (1988 series).
The first few issues of Wolverine (1988 series) are a bit pricey, but you can get the great majority of issues for under $5 each. With a new X-Men movie hitting movie theaters every few years, interest in Wolverine has never been higher and prices will probably continue to increase in the years to come.
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
"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.
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.
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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.
When a new Three Stooges movie was released in 2012, it renewed interest in their comics.
The Three Stooges were famous for their slapstick movies, each about 20 minutes in length. That's back in the day when you went to the movies you saw a feature film and a 20 minute "bonus" short film. The Stooges churned out 190 of these one-reelers. In the 50's the movies became the stock in trade for afternoon kids' TV.
I've found that most people either love the Stooges, or hate them. So, if you're thinking of giving them as gifts, make sure the person you're getting them for laughs when he hears the immortal words, "Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk".
Here's the movie's trailer:
Animal Man is one of DC's most under-appreciated heroes. Buddy Baker is Animal Man, who can, based on some exploding spaceship mumbo-jumbo pseudo-science, "borrow" the ability of any nearby animal. The result is an endless supply of novel and unique story lines.
He's also an example of a superhero that DC couldn't figure out how to properly utilize. His first appearance was in Strange Adventures #180 in 1965 and 10 more appearances in various DC comics followed over the next 20 years.
Then, in 1988, when DC re-launched Swamp Thing by Alan Moore, and Sandman by Neil Gaiman, DC also re-launched Animal Man with Grant Morrison writing the first 26 issues.
Intended as a four issue series, sales were so good, it lasted 89 issues. The series championed animal rights (which means it also championed vegetarianism -- since the best way to advance animal rights is not to EAT the animals).
In 2011, when DC re-launched all of its comics, one of the titles was Animal Man (2011 series).
I like the series because it's such an original premise, you never quite know where a story will lead. The possibilities are endless, stories rarely predictable. As with most comics from this era, the supply of copies in great condition is large and their cost is low -- most copies in Near Mint- condition cost less than $3.
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