10 : CBSI WRITER WARS ROUND 1 : Small Screen Originals by Jarred Maxwell
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As most comic fans and speculators know by now the industry’s two giants, DC & Marvel, are poised to release a huge amount of streaming and TV content in 2018. Soon the DC Universe will have its own network bringing exclusive content such as live action shows and animated series. Disney is set to follow suit with its own streaming network that will surely include many of Marvel properties when all is said and done.
Over the history of comics there have been several instances where a popular comic book character first appeared in an animated or TV series only to later be incorporated into the DC or Marvel Comic Universe. With all this new content set to be released speculators and fans should be on the lookout for instances of history repeating itself. Below is the brief history of such characters from the past, when they were first appeared in the world of comics and what has happened since then. As the article moves along you will likely notice a couple trends which I’ll discuss in more detail at the end. First a quick note, I’ve never written anything for public consumption before outside of office memos so any and all criticism and suggestions are welcome. Also, in the interests of trying to keep it somewhat brief I purposefully avoided including TV shows and movies in the article such as the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Harley Quinn (Harleen Quinzel)
So everyone likely already knows this story but I couldn’t write this article without including it. Harley first showed up in episode 22 of Batman: The Animated Series, “Joker's Favor”. Creator Paul Dini had to come up with a gang for the Joker. He was a fan of the 1966 Batman show and with that vaguely in mind he thought to create a quirky female sidekick. The other showrunners were not exactly convinced but Dini told them his plan was Harley would just be a one-and-done appearance. Instead the character appeared later in the series every time the Joker needed his gang of accomplices and became popular enough she even was the feature character of a few episodes.
Harley made her first comic book appearance one year later in September 1993 with Batman Adventures #12. The first in-continuity debut is up for debate between Batman #570 and Batman: Harley Quinn Special (1999). The character has become extremely popular as she has been incorporated into the DC Universe in near every aspect including being option for her own movie in the near future. Batman Adventures #12 sells for for an avg of $1500-1600 in a CGC 9.8 and can often run up to $300+ for a high grade raw copy. Not bad for a character that was originally supposed to be a one-off, walk-on role.
This may spark debate amongst Golden Age Superman fans, but Jimmy Olsen first was named in the radio serial Adventures of Superman. Being an entirely audio orientated production it was important that Clark Kent/Superman had other named characters to speak with to explain story via dialogue. Thus Jimmy Olsen was born.
Now there was a cameo appearance by a young unnamed office boy in Superman #6 (clearly child labor laws weren’t a big deal in the Golden Age). This cameo was before the production of the radio serial but Jimmy’s name and background originated with the radio show. His official 1st appearance came about a year later in Superman #13, a golden age book that has a record sale of just over $14,000 in CGC 9.0 (highest grade). A more achievable investment would to aim for a 5.0-6.0 which will cost about $1000.
Jimmy Olsen would become more popular in 1951 with the start of the Adventures of Superman TV series. A couple years later in 1954 he even got his own comic book series Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen which includes a few classic key issues from its 163 issue run. This is a major DC key issue but the long-term speculation potential of a character that’s been around for nearly 80 years may be null and void without some kind of major jump start by DC.
X-23 (Laura Kinney)
X-Men Evolution was an animated show that began in November 2000 and designed to be a X-Men show to appeal to a new younger generation. Many of the normal X-Men were made into teenagers for the debut but as the show moved along the creators felt they needed some fresh characters. So writer Chris Kyle tried to make a Wolverine for the younger crowd and created X-23, a young female mutant with 2 claws from each hand and 1 in each foot. She premiered in Season 3 Episode 11 aptly titled “X-23”.
Kyle used “X-23” and the following episode “Target X” to explore the character. A short time later in 2003 Marvel started a new limited series about a group of homeless teenage mutants called NYX. In NYX #3 Laura joined the group and this is the first comic appearance of X-23. This rolled into an X-23 limited series and over the last 10+ years Laura Kinney has become a major role player in the Marvel Universe including joining the X-Men in Uncanny X-Men #450 and even assuming the Wolverine title in All-New Wolverine #1.
NYX #3 has taken off in value especially since the release of Logan and X-23’s film debut. A 9.8 slab will go for an average of $800-900. The print run is estimated to be about 40,000 for this issue which is not exactly small but not large either. That said there have been over 2,400 copies of a 9.6 grade or higher so if investing in this one aim high and don’t settle for less.
Wonder Twins (Zan and Jayna)
Not exactly a super high value key but who could forget “Wonder Twin powers activate!”? Debuting on the TV series The All-New Super Friends Hour in 1977 the Wonder Twins, Zan & Janya quickly became popular characters with children in particular. This was probably because unlike their other Super Friend teenage predecessors Wendy & Martin these alien teenage sidekicks had powers that allowed them to actively participate in the action complete with a catchy phrase to power up. Later in 1977 they made their comic debut with Super Friends #7. A minor key, this 1st appearance will set you back about $250+ in a CGC 9.8. Note however there are only 8 graded at 9.8 on the CGC census. Also there have have only been 23 sales of a 9.0 or higher of this comic that I could find in the past 10 years so it clearly doesn’t move a lot in high grade making it hard to determine a solid value.
Despite their popularity in the Super Friend cartoons late 70s this did not translate to the continuity of DC Comics where they did not make their debut until nearly 20 years with Extreme Justice #9. Since then they basically languish in obscurity. Perhaps not a sky-rocketing investment but DC does have a habit of bringing back classic characters from the cellar to re-invent.
Batman (Terry McGinnis)
In 1999 Bruce Timm and Paul Dini were tasked with creating a futuristic take on another Batman animated series. The show they created was Batman Beyond, the tale a teen (Terry McGinnis) from the streets of future Gotham City who through a fateful encounter ends up taking over the Batman cowl for an elderly Bruce Wayne. The series gave the Tomorrow Knight a wealth of fun new bat-gadgets in the new high tech suit. Popular from the start the series had near-immediate name recognition and Terry McGinnis made a prompt 1st appearance in the series tie-in comic Batman Beyond #1. A book that sells for an average of $200-250 in a CGC 9.8 and it an easy $50 high grade raw book.
Terry McGinnis was later introduced into DC Comics Continuity and had his origin established in Batman #700. Since then Batman Beyond has had several volumes and spin-off series including one that is currently on-going. While seemingly a little tepid now Batman Beyond #1 potential for growth could be huge in the end, after all the character has been around for almost 20 years and already has a hit animated series. How long could it be before DC decides to make a futuristic Batman live action series or movie?
Firestar (Angelica Jones)
Premiering in September 1981 on NBC the animated series Spider-man & His Amazing Friends was one Marvel’s most popular of the 1980s. The series was envisioned to team Spider-man up with a couple of other heroes, namely fire and ice. The producers chose Iceman and the Human Torch but there was an issue. They could not use Human Torch because of contractual obligations to do a film which never actually developed. So the producers said “screw it, we’ll just make our own fire powered hero” and created a very Torch-like heroine in Firestar.
In the first episode our 3 heroes are all attending the same college when they foil the Beetle’s plan for stealing some high tech gizmo. With that success they all agree to move into Aunt May’s home and form a permanent “team of super friends” (see what they did there…). Just months later in December 1981 there was a Spider-Man & His Amazing Friends one-shot that is the 1st appearance of Firestar. The show ended in 1983 but reruns would appear routinely on TV for next 5 years. In 1985 Firestar was retconned into the Marvel Continuity with Uncanny X-Men #193 (which is a minor key with Warpath’s 1st costume appearance).
Like some of the other characters we’ve discussed so far Firestar’s potential in the future is hard to gauge. While she only has one solo limited series under her belt (which details her origin) since entering the Marvel Universe she has been a featured member of many superhero teams including the New Warriors, Hellions and the Avengers.At some point she will probably turn up in a TV series or movie based on those various groups. Her one-shot first appearance is valued at an average of $170 for a CGC 9.8 so if you can grab a high grade copy on the cheap it might be a good buy for the future.
Livewire (Leslie Willis)
Another creation of Paul Dini, Bruce Timm & team, Superman: The Animated Series released in 1996 on Kids WB. The series ran for 54 episodes but it was in the episode “Livewire” that we met Leslie Willis. She was an edgy Metropolis radio host with the attitude of a female Howard Stern. Willis is turned into a villian via a freak lightning strike during rock concert in which Superman save her life but she is electrocuted by the current passing through him. Turned pale and blue haired plus given the ability to harness electricity she becomes bent on a life of villainy.
The series tie-in comic came out in 1997 and Superman Adventures #5 features the 1st appearance of and origin Livewire. Sometime later in Action Comics #835 she make her DC continuity appearance with her origin only slightly changed. Livewire was later morphed into more of an anti-hero then back to villian again in the New 52 Era. Superman Adventures #5 is running at about $100 for a CGC 9.8 but can often be found much cheaper in a high grade raw (I got my NM+ copy for about $13+tax). Long term potential for the character is a toss up but the value of the book did receive a small bump in late 2015 when Livewire appeared in an episode of Supergirl on CBS (currently a CW show). Since then she hasn’t popped up anywhere but with the DC Universe network and Arrow-verse expanding chances are we will see her again soon in some capacity.
Batgirl (Barbara Gordon) – Before the cries of blasphemy ring out, yes I know about Detective Comics #359 and that 1st appearance was in fact before her appearance the Batman 1966 show. What many people forget is that the creation of Barbara Gordon came directly from the infamous 1966 show. The show’s producers wanted a new heroic female character to use. DC editor Julius Schwartz had scraped the old Batwoman/Batgirl characters prior so when approached he crafted Barbara Gordon at their behest (with Carmine Infantino art to boot).
Bebop and Rocksteady – The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon of the late 1980s introduced a few original villains to the viewing public. However perhaps none became as famous as these two. The biggest problem is Turtles creators Kevin Eastman & Peter Laird hate these two characters so much so that they successfully blocked them from being included in the Turtles Secret of the Ooze movie.
Green Hornet – Much like Jimmy Olsen this character became famous first on a regional radio broadcast serial based out of Detroit in 1936. The snowballing popularity meant a comic series in the 1940s and has ended up with character staying around in comics, TV & film throughout the past 8 decades.
H.E.R.B.I.E. – H.E.R.B.I.E., or Humanoid Experimental Robot B-Type Integrated Electronics, was a (rather annoying) robot character created specifically for the New Fantastic Four animated series of 1978. The same contract snafu with the Human Torch that came up in Firestar’s story was the issue. Unable to use Johnny Storm, H.E.R.B.I.E. was created to be a new team member by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby no less. He entered the Marvel comic universe with Fantastic Four #209 in 1979.
John Diggle – The “Arrow-verse” on C.W. pulls the majority of its characters from the world of DC Comics. John Diggle is one of the exceptions, appearing early in the series as Oliver Queen’s bodyguard, this ex-special forces soldier became popular enough that he was retconned into the DC Universe in Jeff Lemire’s Green Arrow #24 bearing a striking resemblance to the real life actor David Ramsey.
Isis (Andrea Thomas) – Secrets of Isis was a live-action show from the 2nd hlad of the Shazam!/Isis Hour in 1975. Essentially a female counterpart to Captain Marvel, Andrea Thomas was a teacher who finds an amulet that grants the power of the Egyptian goddess Isis. Her 1st comic appearance was in Shazam! #25 in 1976. If the popularity of the upcoming Shazam! Film pans out then perhaps we could see this character in a movie soon.
What’s Worth Watching?
As you can plainly see the actual value of these types of characters 1st appearances are quite varying. Still a few common trends show up over time. First is limited series tie-in comics, with the exception of X-23 & John Diggle all the Modern Age characters displayed above made their first comic appearances in comics that were a mini-series directly tied to the animated or TV series they originated in. Even NYX was outside of direct Marvel continuity. If any of the new streaming content from Marvel or DC produces a series watch closely for original characters making their first appearances.
Second is if it’s original, popular young supporting female hero or villain then you can probably bet you will see in the comics before long. I purposely tried to even out this list but if you look nearly all of the modern original characters are female. The most valuable 1st appearances on the list (besides the golden age one) are also female characters. Like it or not movie and TV producers love the idea of a diverse cast of characters and will even actively push for those characters to be popular.
We know very little about the forthcoming streaming content of Disney/Marvel & DC but I think it is nearly a sure thing that they will have to craft a few original characters to fill out all that content. These characters if proven popular will no doubt make appearances in comics and possible even the growing movie franchises of Marvel & DC. After all at some point there has to be another Harley Quinn, right?