BY MATT TUCK
FB@ The Comic Blog
Controversy breeds sales as Maus tops Amazon and eBay’s bestsellers. Meanwhile, Marvel’s new characters are causing surging prices for Black Panther #3 and Hulk #3.
1. MAUS: A SURVIVOR’S TALE #1
When the McMinn County school board voted to have Art Spiegelman’s Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel, Maus, removed from the eighth-grade English language arts curriculum, they could not possibly have known they would cause a crusade against book banning across social media.
Published in 1986, Maus is the story of Spiegelman’s Jewish parents in the 1940s leading to their imprisonment in the notorious Auschwitz death camp. Being a cartoonist, Spiegelman depicts the characters as anthropomorphic animals, with the cats representing Nazis and the Jews as mice. Considering the mature subject matter of the Holocaust, there is mild language and one panel depicting nudity, though it is not in a sexual context.
The controversy began with concerns that the language and nudity depicted in the graphic novel was inappropriate, prompting the school board to remove Maus from classrooms. In response, readers took to online book stores to get their hands on the comic. Amazon reported Maus: A Survivor’s Tale #1 has surged through its sales charts, ranking second overall in the past week while The Complete Maus ranks just behind in fourth. Maus: A Survivor’s Tale #2: And Here My Troubles Began sits at a respectable eleventh. Comic collectors were making their voices heard as well, and first-print editions were selling for as much as $40 on eBay.
On the bright side, the controversy surrounding Maus has helped a new generation of readers discover Spiegelman’s moving tribute to his parents and all Holocaust survivors.
2. BLACK PANTHER #3
Marvel rolled out the tried-and-true new character formula again this week, sparking massive sales for Black Panther #3.
When it comes to the big two publishers, Marvel and DC have mastered the art of the new character hysteria. Whenever they need a series to get a quick boost in sales, all that’s needed is a fresh face in the pages. There’s no denying the method’s effectiveness, and we’re seeing yet another example this week.
The newbie in BP #3 is Tosin Oduye, and collectors are falling over themselves to get his first appearance. Marvel is teasing that Tosin will have a major impact on the events of Black Panther, and that is prompting inflated prices in a short time. The standard cover featuring Alex Ross artwork has quickly risen into the $40 range. That’s a bargain compared to the Taurin Clarke 1:25 ratio variant, which has sold for as much as $530 just this week.
3. MOON KNIGHT #1 (1980)
There’s no keeping Moon Knight out of the headlines, and that won’t change until his streaming series premieres later this year. The trailer looks like Moon Knight will be something different for Marvel, and the show should be one of Disney+’s best yet if the studio can tone down the slapstick and camp and focus on the psychological aspects of the character, but I digress.
Be that as it may, buyers are pouncing on anything tied to the character. With prices rising for his early appearances, many collectors are choosing the first issue of his solo series rather than paying the inflated prices for Werewolf By Night #32. Between the demand for all things Moon Knight and the high prices of his holy grail debut, it has made for a hot market for Moon Knight, Volume 1, #1. Raw copies have bordered on $100 this week. Earlier this month, a graded 9.8 sold for $1,325, which was just $25 short of the record high.
4. TALES OF SUSPENSE #39
The Force is strong within the Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness gossip circles. Practically any and every character under the Marvel banner is the subject of one rumor or another, and that goes double for all those Fox characters.
Much of this comes from the excitement for characters like the X-Men and the Fantastic Four to make their long-awaited MCU debuts. Couple that with the high expectations set by Spider-Man: No Way Home, and you have the perfect recipe for the copious amount of over-the-top rumors circulating around MOM. Of course, Marvel couldn’t be happier about it. In fact, I wager that Multiverse of Madness could rival NWH at the box office simply based on the volume of rumored cameos.
At the top of the list for expected cameos is Tom Cruise as Iron Man. The Hollywood A-lister was once in the running to play Tony Stark in the first live-action Iron Man film years before the MCU was a blip on the radar. Obviously, nothing came of that fantasy casting, but it has left fans wondering what might have been. If the MOM gossip is to be believed, we may get to explore that idea. Reportedly, Cruise has been seen on set sporting a motion capture suit, which is leading theorists to the conclusion that, indeed, he will play a Tony Stark variant from across the Multiverse.
As a result of the attention on an all-new, all-different Iron Man, even if it is only in cameo, collectors are gunning for those Silver Age Iron Man keys. For those buyers with deep pockets, they have been opening their wallets for his holy grail, Tales of Suspense #39. On Monday, a graded 3.5 sold for a record-breaking $14,900. What’s more indicative of the MOM hype’s impact on TOS #39 is the record $9,999 sale for a 1.8 on January 24.
5. MOON KNIGHT #3 (2016)
Again, the Moon Knight speculation is flexing its muscle over the secondary market. This week, a new contender has risen through the ranks.
While many buyers were searching for the traditional MK keys, other collectors and investors were turning their attention toward 2016’s Moon Knight #3. Up to this point, hardly anyone had been paying attention to this issue. Thanks to the trailer, it has caused a stir in the market, and now this comic is routinely selling for $20+.
What’s special about MK #3? It all comes down to live-action speculation. In the trailer, Steven Grant (aka, Marc Spector) is talking to a mystery woman named Layla. While no one knows who this person is, some theorists believe she could be Dr. Emmett, a psychiatrist turned supervillain after suffering third-degree burns from Sun King. Dr. Emmett first appeared in Moon Knight #1, but she didn't become a monstrous villain until MK #3. Thanks to the speculation, it is rising to new heights. Yesterday, a raw copy sold for $43.
6. HULK #3
Donny Cates has introduced a new figure to the Hulk mythos, and his name is Titan.
Only three issues since taking the reins from Al Ewing, Cates has launched Hulk to infinity and beyond with his “Smashstronaut” jetpack and headgear. Now, he’s got a new antagonist to contend with coming in Hulk #6.
Who is this mystery character? There’s green Hulks, red Hulks, blue Hulks, gray Hulks, and probably a plaid Hulk or two somewhere in the pantheon. Now, we can add the Black Hulk to the lineup. To keep the intrigue to a maximum, all that has been revealed about Titan is his face, which was seen in a cameo appearance in Hulk #3, and that issue has been red hot.
Marvel promises that more will be known when Titan makes his full debut in April’s Hulk #6. Not only has that sparked interest for that particular issue, but it’s pushing buyers to comb the auction sites and their local comic shops for Hulk #3 and all its variants. At the moment, you can add most copies to your collections for around $5.
7. BATGIRL #1 (2011)
The recent casting announcement for Batgirl has launched an interest in Barbara Gordon’s 2011 adventures. The character in question is Alysia Yeoh, who is credited as being the first major comic book character to be a transgender woman. For the most part, Alysia served as Barbara’s best friend and roommate. Reportedly, the original idea for her was that she would replace Barbara as Batgirl, at least for a short time, though that did not come to pass.
Although the main selling point for Batgirl #1 is Alysia, there’s more to this issue. Before the title was relaunched 11 years ago, Barbara Gordon, bound to a wheelchair after The Killing Joke, had been working as Oracle. Here, she reclaimed the title of Batgirl.
There’s also the first appearance of the Mirror featured in Batgirl #1. Far from a major villain, the Mirror gets his name from the reflective helmet he sports. He is a recurring enemy of the Bat-Family and blames Gotham’s crime on the numerous vigilantes. Primarily his target is Batgirl, which makes him a prime candidate in case there is a Batgirl sequel. With so many new characters being added to the movie, it’s worth the speculation dollars to hold onto this issue just in case Mirror is put in the starting rotation.
Need a copy to call your own? Yesterday, a raw copy sold for as much as $25, and Sunday saw another bring $35.
8. ACTION COMICS #254
Coming straight from the Silver Age, Bizarro has finally made his live-action debut. In the surprise hit CW show, Superman & Lois, the latest episodes have revealed the identity of the mystery man inside the containment suit. Just when fans were stocking up on Superman: Man of Steel #18, the mask is torn off, and it is Bizarro Superman in the guise.
For fans of Bizarro World, this was a long time coming. The character debuted in 1959’s Action Comics #254. A year prior, Bizarro Superboy was featured in Superboy #68, but he would only last to the end of that issue. When Bizarro Superman came about, he would prove to be the enduring version of the character, and that is what makes AC #254 the issue to own.
Depending on the reception for Bizarro in Superman & Lois, we could see plenty more of the character. Although he has traditionally been played for laughs, this is a character well worth exploring either in live action or in his comic series. At the heart of Bizarro is a confused anti-hero with a childlike understanding of the world around him. For that reason, Superman typically doesn’t want to fight his doppelganger unless there is no other choice. It would make for an interesting character study, and that would definitely add value to his first appearance.
For a key comic from the 1950s, AC #254 is surprisingly inexpensive. Last month, a raw copy advertised as being in the very good range sold for just $80. Prices are beginning to climb, and this month saw a graded 4.5 earn a record $380.
9. NEW TEEN TITANS #21
Another DC key is benefitting from the DCEU’s small screen exposure. In the past week, WarnerMedia announced plans for the next season of Titans, and the primary antagonists have been cast. After season three had collectors scrambling for those Red Hood keys, season four will send you on the hunt for the first appearances of Brother Blood and Mother Mayhem.
WarnerMedia announced that Joseph Morgan from The Originals and the Vampire Diaries along with Franka Potente, whom you might remember as Jason Bourne’s love interest in the Bourne Identity, will bring Blood and Mayhem to life. Although Sebastian Blood was featured in Arrow, it will be the first time audiences have seen Mother Mayhem in live action.
Lucky for buyers, their key issues can be found in one convenient spot: New Teen Titans #21. Along with Blood and Mayhem’s debuts, you also get the added bonus first appearances of the Monitor (in voice only) and Baron Winters. Blood is the high priest of his own sadistic cult, the Church of Blood. While there is no relation between the characters in the comics, what could make for an interesting twist is for Titans to include Jason Blood in the mix. That could pave the way for Jason to transform into Etrigan the Demon, which would delight many fans.
Most raw copies of New Teen Titans #21 have been earning anywhere between $15-$30. Earlier today, a graded 9.6 brought a respectable $89.
10. LEATHERFACE #1
Those horror comics from the 1980s and 1990s have been roaring back to life in recent years. From Aliens and Predator to A Nightmare on Elm Street, the horror franchises from your childhoods are quietly becoming hot comics in their own rights as filmmakers resurrect these classic characters. After Michael Myers regained his stride with the recent slate of Halloween movies, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is returning later this month.
On February 18, Netflix will release the first season of the TCM reboot, and the trailer is giving audiences cold chills in the best possible way. The result has made collectors comb through their long boxes for the cannibalistic serial killer’s first comic appearance in 1991’s Leatherface. Up to this point, most buyers probably forgot about this issue, but it has been reinvigorated with life thanks to the hype for the show.
In recent weeks, Leatherface #1 has been earning a premium on the auction sites. Although most raw copies tend to stay in the $20 range, one brought $70 on January 19. The next day, a graded 9.8 sold for $250, which is the highest it has earned since September.
Matt Tuck is the author of the novel, Lost Bones of the Dead. He is a professional writer, avid comic collector, former teacher, and the Blogger Supreme. You can follow him on his Facebook page, The Comic Blog, or on Instagram at matt.tuck.writer.