BY MATT TUCK
James Gunn vows to “introduce one of the greatest MCU characters of all time” in the GOTG Holiday Special. Place your bets and see how the odds stack up for the top contenders, and why Santa Claus is the favorite.
The hype for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 has officially begun. Later this year, Disney+ will air the Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special, and director James Gunn is making some bold statements about the short film. The mastermind behind the first two GOTG movies and DC’s The Suicide Squad promises more of the whacky, over-the-top antics that we have come to expect from anything with Gunn’s name attached to it. What really has aroused fans’ curiosity is his recent Tweet.
Gunn has promised that the Holiday Special will bridge the six-year gap between GOTG Vol. 2 and 2023’s GOTG Vol. 3. He also promised a new character, but not just any new character. As he put it, this will be “one of the greatest MCU characters of all time.” That has led to plenty of intrigue and guessing games.
Considering this is James Gunn, the Holiday Special and GOTG Vol. 3 will be more in-your-face, awkward comedy and one-liners galore. That being said, this massive character he teased is likely a joke in and of itself. After all, the director/screenwriter has a penchant for obscure, quirky characters from the Silver and Golden Ages. Then again, maybe it is a comedy spin on an otherwise serious character from the comics. Who knows? The fun part is trying to figure it out beforehand.
The entire Holiday Special being one massive joke; the name should remind you of the ill-conceived, unintentionally hilarious Star Wars Holiday Special that was so bad George Lucas tried to have all evidence of it destroyed. No matter what character gets introduced, the sales for the first appearance will immediately go through the roof. Because of the MCU effect on first appearances, it will be wise to keep an eye on the fair market values for these first appearances just in case the big reveal is on today’s list.
On that note, here are the odds for the top contenders. No mathematical equations or formulas or just math in general was harmed (or even used) in the making of said odds. Enjoy.
FIRST APPEARANCE: (cameo) Fantastic Four #67; (full) Thor #165
By far, this would be the crowd-pleaser choice. Gunn has been dangling this carrot in our faces since the original Guardians of the Galaxy was released in 2014. If you recall, his famous cocoon was one of the Collector’s prized possessions on Knowhere. Afterwards came the GOTG Vol. 2 name drop when we see his shiny, gold chamber and Ayesha goes so far as to christen him with the name, “Adam.”
Since then, there has been absolutely nothing but rumors and gossip. Will he ever debut in the MCU? Some theorists seem to think that the Holiday Special will be his time to shine, and it will confirm that he is indeed a featured character in GOTG Vol. 3.
For all intents and purposes, Warlock makes the most sense for the above-mentioned reasons. While he is a far cry from being one of the greatest MCU characters of all-time, that could be the joke. After all, he was created by the profoundly narcissistic Sovereign, and it can be assumed that the perfect male specimen in the universe would view himself as far above even his creators. Therefore, Warlock would be the first to name himself as not one of but THE greatest in the MCU.
Originally known as HIM before transitioning into Adam Warlock, the golden god-man has a host of firsts on his list. To keep things concise, let’s focus on his brief cameo debut in Fantastic Four #67 and his full reveal in Thor #165. In either case, expect to fork out premium prices thanks to the heavy dose of rumors for his imminent arrival in the MCU.
On October 3, a 9.0 FF #67 sold for $1,500. Toss out the record $2,149 set in August, and this is on the higher end of the sales spectrum for that particular grade. When the grade drops outside the near-mint range, the prices are much more reasonable. Just this weekend, the 6.0 was selling for about $350.
The much more popular choice among Warlock keys is Thor #165. Again, look at the 9.0, which last sold for $3,524 last month. If you can’t get a 9.0 Thor #165 for $1,500, what can you get? Based on 90-day averages, you could just afford an 8.0, though the most recent sale was for $1,800. The good part is that the values take a sharp decline when the grade slips to 7.5. That one has averaged $858 over the past 90 days.
BETA RAY BILL
FIRST APPEARANCE: Thor #337
How long do we have to keep waiting for Beta Ray Bill to get his horse face on screen? He has been teased as long as Warlock. Remember that there was a mysterious figure in a red cloak inside one of the Collector’s pods in GOTG, and he looked suspiciously like Bill. Taika Waititi made a more direct reference to Bill in Thor: Ragnarok when he was one of the Grandmaster’s champions, and the distinct likeness of his face was carved into the side of the tower. Don’t forget that Bill’s fabled weapon given to him by Odin is Stormbreaker, and Thor happens to be wielding that item in the MCU.
This could mean that Bill is finally ready for live action, and he could appear in GOTG Vol. 3, but he is more likely to debut in Thor: Love and Thunder. Still, considering Gunn was the first to use Bill as an Easter egg, it would be fitting for the director to introduce Beta Ray to the greater MCU.
There really is only one Bill key that gets collectors and speculators salivating: Thor #337. All those teases make this a tough issue to come by, at least in the higher grades. For the past three months, the 9.8 has an FMV of $1,194, and the most recent sale saw one trade hands for $999 in September. The 9.6 is a much cheaper option with a price tag closer to $400.
FIRST APPEARANCE: NOVA #1
Another possibility, though remote, is Nova.
Like Warlock and Beta Ray Bill, Nova has been heavily rumored since the first GOTG movie. With the Nova Corps wiped out at the hands of Thanos and his Black Order, the stage would be set for the final member of the corps to take on the ultimate power and become the superhero Nova (which I guess makes him a super Nova).
There has been plenty of gossip surrounding Nova for years now, but it has intensified since the announcement of Gunn returning to the Disney fold to helm GOTG Vol. 3. Since the Holiday Special is going to bridge the gap between Vol. 2 and 3, then it would make sense for that monumental character to be Nova.
The Nova keys began to heat up three years ago, specifically his first appearance in Nova #1. Although there are questions as to which Nova will be under the helmet, investors will traditionally fall back to the mantle’s official first use when it comes to those fair market values.
In this case, collectors were aiming for the 9.8. Just yesterday, one brought $1,750. Although that is well below the record high of $2,470 set in May, that $1,750 price tag is still $10 above 2020’s highest sale. Like that Beta Ray Bill first, the 9.6 for Nova #1 gets much more budget friendly as the last sale for that grade was $384 yesterday as well.
FIRST APPEARANCE: X-Force #116
Out of all the picks on today’s list, this is the most James Gunn-ish. He’s basically the X-Men’s version of Slimer from Ghostbusters - a floating mass of green with arms but no legs. Who knows what he ever says? Doop tends to get the R2D2 treatment with squiggles and symbols drawn in his dialogue bubbles that readers can’t comprehend but somehow the characters clearly understand.
The fact that he is a quirky and relatively obscure character from deep within the Marvel Comics makes him a top pick to be Gunn’s mystery guest. The icing on the cake is that James Gunn has already broadcast his love for the oddball character.
The topic arose from a Gail Simone Tweet in which she wrote, “You get to pick FIVE mutants to be the X-Men for your dream comic. They can be from any era. Who do you pick?”
Gunn shared a picture of Doop, and answered with Storm, Kitty Pryde, Wolverine, Fantomex, and Doop, adding, “If Doop doesn’t count, I’m not sure I want to play this game.” Between the character’s weirdness and that Tweet, my vote is that “one of the greatest MCU characters of all time” will be Doop.
As soon as Gunn mentioned Doop in that famous Tweet, collectors hopped on the bandwagon. In turn, that escalated prices. Before the spring of 2018, a graded 9.8 was a $75 comic. Overnight, it jumped as high as $175. Since nothing else has been said about Doop following the Tweet, the values have more or less plateaued, and the most recent sale was for $185 in September. If Doop appears in the Holiday Special for as little as a cameo, that mark will be eclipsed in record fashion.
FIRST APPEARANCE (FOR MARVEL/ATLAS): STRANGE TALES #34
Only in the world of James Gunn (or possibly Taika Waititi) could Santa Claus and Doop be the odds-on favorites for the much-hyped new MCU character.
Even weirder, Jolly Ol’ Saint Nick is in the Marvel Universe, and he is a mutant. Honestly, what better explains his godlike ability to see us when we’re sleeping and knowing when we’re awake, not to mention travelling at the speed of light than by being a mutant? The only other explanation would be if he were a Celestial.
This pick checks off every box on the weird list. Santa is an established character existing in the Marvel Universe. He also has powers, making him a bona fide Marvel hero. Gunn would find it absolutely hilarious to establish him as a recurring MCU character, and probably a badass at that.
The biggest check mark is that, of all the comics for Santa to have his omega-level mutant status confirmed, it happened in the 1991 Marvel Holiday Special #1. Is it a coincidence that both Santa’s mutant coming out party and Gunn’s upcoming GOTG special happen to have the same name? I highly doubt it.
Santa Claus made his first comic appearance in 1934’s Famous Funnies #5, but he went on to become a Marvel character in 1955’s Strange Tales #34 under the Atlas banner. If you are looking to add that one to your collection, you can own a 6.5 for $949.
In the event that Santa becomes official MCU canon, the more popular issue will be the aforementioned Marvel Holiday Special #1. While it is not his first appearance by any stretch, this comic firmly planted him in the Marvel Comics canon as a superpowered being.
This issue is so overlooked that you can likely find it in the dollar bins of your local comic shops. In fact, there are no graded sales on record. As theories of Santa’s arrival in the MCU has gained traction, prices for the raw copies have started inflating. Just last month, there were sales as low as $2.50, and most were in the $5 range. This week, it has been consistently earning $10 due to the growing speculation.
THE MYSTERY DEEPENS
Who will it be? With Gunn at the center of this mystery, it could be a character so obscure that even us experts are taken by surprise. No matter, the GOTG Holiday Special should be the usual dose of Gunn fun, and playing the guessing game for a new face in the MCU is part of the game...reindeer games, that is.
Matt Tuck is the author of the novel, Lost Bones of the Dead. He is a professional writer, avid comic collector, former teacher, and an international man of mystery. You can follow him on his Facebook page, The Comic Blog.