ISSUE #23: Where’ve You Been All My Life?

Well, hello there, fine folks. Another rather quiet one for the Wednesday Warriors, this past week, but hopefully you had time to dig and managed to unearth some treasures. I went down my own rabbit hole, last week, and hunted Adams covers for House of Secrets/Mystery. I found some amazing stuff. So, if nothing else, my article was a little self-serving. I hope it had something for you all, as well.

Anyhow, this week, we have a combination of some beautiful covers from modern books and artists. All of this week’s artists have seen acclaim either from Eisner nominations or other accolades and deserve to be featured. A couple of them are currently hot and at least one of them has sort of been shuffled under the carpet a bit in recent years.

Modern Age collecting is funny. There was a brilliant poll put up this week by the inimitable Ben C. asking you all to choose between five books and their investment prospects over the next decade. The poll sparked some great debate over what makes a good investment in the modern age. Is it all about film/television optioning? Is it all about covers? Is it about rarity? Is it about the staying power of the origins and story potential for the characters in question? It is probably some magical combination of those, but what exactly makes a modern book the next Hulk #181?

I’m going to get struck down by lightning for saying this, but let’s face it, Hulk #181 is not a great cover. It’s a famous cover, sure. It’s an iconic cover, sure, but that’s because it’s the first Wolverine on a cover. It’s not his first appearance, overall, and the art isn’t really very good (sorry Herb). It’s dynamic, I’ll give it that, but that’s about it. It’s expensive and goes up stratospherically every month because of character. That is what makes it iconic. That is why it will always have value. We have become programmed to think it’s a good cover because the vast majority of us want one, but it’s all about Wolvie and that magical combination of factors.

For the most part, you could hand me 90% of the “hot” modern covers and I would instantly sell them, especially the ginormous variants. Why, you ask? Well, for starters, most of the price points on them are scary and will not sustain if there is any sort of industry crash like many are predicting. They will be the first to take the hit, in most cases. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be holding on to a Captain Marvel #17 2nd print if the book dies or the character flops or her movie does (whatever or whenever that might occur). The cover is not a good piece of art and the character is largely untested. That’s awfully shaky ground to base a multi-thousand dollar investment on, in my opinion. I don’t want to have to play hot potato with my comics.

The prices on the vast majority of similar books are due solely to rarity and often not good art or good characters (I’m not saying Kamala Khan is a bad character, It’s simply that I just don’t know, yet). That, in-and-of-itself is frightening. Look at Walking Dead #1. The show has faltered and, therefore, the book is faltering. It is also a legitimate rarity like Captain Marvel #17 2nd print, but that doesn’t seem to matter. The same will happen with other, similar, books. It is the way of all collecting hobbies. There’s no reason to believe this time will be any different. Only the tried and true characters and a handful of iconic covers ever survive for the long haul.

Why am I on this tangent? Well, because at the end of the day, we all need to be smart about our investments and buy what we like; buy what we’d still love to own even if the bottom fell out of everything, tomorrow. With that said, we don’t have to spend a fortune to get ourselves great books with beautiful covers. Here are a few around $10 or less.

 

1. Final Crisis #3 (2008 Series)

PUBLISHED: DC Comics – September, 2008

ARTIST: J.G. (Jefferey Glen) Jones

 

When one thinks about painted covers, most instantly think Ross or Parrillo or Dell’Otto or one of the other hot painter artists. Unfortunately, they don’t often think J.G. Jones, but they should. This Supergirl cover is a prime example of why. I admit, on many Jones covers, there is the feeling of them being somewhat overworked. Sometimes shadow seems forced and there are often slight proportional issues, but not on this masterpiece. As a matter of fact, Jones’ biggest career “fault” is that his run of Wonder Woman covers comes after Adam Hughes’ run. That is hardly really his fault, but he had a tough act to follow. The runs of various Final Crisis titles have a myriad of amazing covers. This is, by far, my favorite and I think the most masterful.

The Supergirl character should have a fun, innocently sexy, demure quality to her and that is captured impeccably in this composition. I think it’s her hands. It gives the feeling of shock and a bit of that “Damsel in Distress” feel, but it is also the position of her head and the fact that there is just enough skin, but not too much, that makes this seductive and flirtatious. Jones’ spatial awareness and use of light and color are astounding, here, which makes for a near-perfect cover. In my opinion, this should be ranked among the best Supergirl covers, ever.

This one carries an ever-so-slight premium, but not much. It should be easily snagged for less than $12.

 

2. Daredevil #5 – Women of Power “B” Cover (2016 Series)

PUBLISHED: Marvel Comics – May, 2016

ARTIST: Sara Pichelli

 

My lord, I love this cover. Sometimes simple is best. This is one of the cleanest uses of space, color and simplicity I’ve seen on a cover in quite some time. Pichelli’s signature work is that of crisp, sleek lines and, for some reason, her work is largely overlooked. It has all the “comic-booky” qualities AND the figural grace that I want in a female action pose. Obviously, the movement and perspective is there as our line of vision is taken on the path of the sai being thrown at us. It doesn’t quite achieve three-dimensional quality, but it does provide dynamics. The subtly dramatic lighting plays a large role in the mood of this cover and really help Elektra pop.

This is technically a variant, but it was a “B” cover and, as such, was cover price on release day. It can easily be had, now, for under $10.

 

3. Lola xoxo #3c (2014 Series)

PUBLISHED: Aspen Comics – July, 2014

ARTIST: Siya Oum

 

I apologize in advance because I am breaking my own rules, heavily, here. I just could not NOT share this with everyone. Full disclosure, this is a 1:8 incentive variant. It can still be gotten for $10 or $12, though, and I have no idea why. Thus, I thought you all might let me get away with including this one.

When I look at what we all deem classic covers, this one screams all of the same traits. It is simple, elegant, sexy and simple. It is a classic pin-up that could be from any age. Timelessness is good for the longevity of any piece of art. It is almost a virgin cover, too, which lets the art shine brightly. I realize it is not tied to a character/title most people are aware of, but when has that ever mattered before when it comes to classic covers?

Also, as an added draw to this one, it is really scarce. The main print run on the book was 5,787 copies. This as a 1:8 means there are only about 725 copies of this puppy.

Do yourselves a favor and take a gander at all of the Lola xoxo covers from both the 2014 and the 2017 series. There are ton of variants (shocker… Aspen), but sooooo many of them are exquisite. If Oum continues her hot streak, and I think she will, this one is going to be the one people absolutely need. She (Oum) is a little bit Benitez-y, but also unique. The sketch quality gives it a raw allure and I just can’t take my eyes off of this one. I need one. Actually, I may need more than one.

 

4. Redlands #5 (2017 Series)

PUBLISHED: Image Comics – December, 2017

ARTIST: Vanesa Del Rey

 

Somehow, this one was totally off of my radar when it came out, last year. I normally wouldn’t feature such a mainstream title that’s this recent, but this is a beautifully eerie and macabre cover that seems to have totally been passed over by most. Del Rey is very much hit or miss for me, especially when it comes to faces which are extremely important for me, but she definitely has a few really gorgeous covers.  This is one of them.

This cover is all about mood. Of course, it has all of the elements of a classic horror film frame: Fright, darkness, the unknown entity, feminine vulnerability. However, it also has the feel of an artist with classical training, almost Renaissance. The subtlety of the reflected skeleton is a nice shard of foreshadowing and that coupled with the black water helps draw us to the girl’s facial expression (as does the flash in her eyes). There are many gaps for us to fill in with our own imagination which makes it infinitely more frightening; I can imagine much scarier things than anyone can depict for me.

The element I find most interesting, here, is that the nudity is decidedly not gratuitous. It is not there for sex-appeal. Quite the opposite, it is there to heighten the fright we feel for her. The empathy created by this variable is brilliant

I don’t know how I originally missed this one, but I plan to remedy that by hunting one down, ASAP. Luckily, I can have one for next to nothing and so can you.

 

5. Red Skull: Incarnate #3 (2011 Series)

PUBLISHED: Marvel Comics – November, 2011

ARTIST: David Aja

 

Man, this cover is menacing. Just a straight propaganda poster-style cover that is rendered so well, I’d swear it were really from the 40’s. Aja has had three very distinctive styles in his career. First, there was a heavily painted style which I love, love, love and can be seen nicely on his Immortal Iron Fist covers. His most current style is cool, albeit a bit too much on the Michael Cho side for it to stand out. Sometimes I love it (like his Daredevil #600 variant). Other times, though, it’s a little bit of a yawn.

In the middle of those, he employed this style which has a wonderfully dramatic woodblock print quality and amazing contrast. This style really draws out the industrial elements, the machines of war if you will, quite well. The simple red color splash choice on this one draws us to the main subject nicely and makes it all about simple line, shadow and shape.

All of the covers in this run are awesome, but this one is the best of the bunch and packs the hardest punch. It is an easy get at cover price or less.

 

***

That draws us, yet again, to the end. This week, I honestly and truly want every one of these covers. I can’t wait to find them. I hope you feel the same. Until next time, thanks for reading and happy hunting.

 

 

 

 

10 comments

  • Great picks!

    Do you think that all the heat that 52 #11 (first Kate Kane Batwoman) is going to be getting over the next while will get JG Jones a lot more attention? That is a really great cover too.

    I haven’t read Redlands, but have been thinking about grabbing one of those just for the cover. I agree with everything you say in your analysis.

    • Mike Morello

      Boyo, thank you so much for the comment. I hope you’re right about J.G. Jones getting more love because of that Batwoman cover. You’re right, it is a good one as are many of his others. Even some of his Wonder Women covers are excellent, but they are overshadowed by Hughes’, which is a shame.

      I too have not read Redlands. That cover caught me by surprise and I can’t wait to have one. When I do, I also plan to read it. I hope it’s good.

  • CountZeroInterrupt

    I hear what you’re saying about these modern variants Mike and for the most part, I agree. The one issue I have here is Kamala Khan being used as the example of a book that could flop for the reasons you stated. You count bad cover art as a reason for Captain Marvel 17 2nd print not being a stable investment, but in the previous paragraph you basically make the case for that not being a factor (citing Hulk 181’s bad art) due to the character and the list of factors mentioned in regards to the poll.

    “It’s expensive and goes up stratospherically every month because of character. That is what makes it iconic. That is why it will always have value. We have become programmed to think it’s a good cover because the vast majority of us want one, but it’s all about Wolvie and that magical combination of factors.”

    The thing is, all of those factors are present in Kamala Khan. I’ve seen others write articles and mention their skepticism about the book here on CBSI and other sites. What they all have in common is that they don’t read the book. How can you make any kind of judgment about the merits of a character (or their profit potential) when you haven’t done your due diligence and read the book? I know this site is about investing but I assume most of us got into it through our love of comics.

    Plenty of people have reviewed this book and lavished it (and the creators working on it, notably G Willow Wilson) with the very high praise of being true to the grand traditions of Marvel in its character work and relatability. When my budget shrinks and I have to trim the pull list, this book will always makes the cut. People who don’t even read comics are aware of this relatively new character because of her popularity. She’s popular because of word of mouth being generated due to the quality of the book. The book is hot because many speculators slept on it, cynically thinking of her as a gimmick, then when she caught on they rushed to catch up with people who had gotten in on the ground level.

    CM 17 2nd is a great investment in my opinion because it’s rare (under ordered), introduces a great character that (due to the terrific work of the creators) has a bright future and is STILL under-appreciated by people who should know better. These factors practically guarantee that there’s still a lot of meat left on the bones as far as value.

    I’m sorry for the long rant or if I come off as pretentious. I really love this site and its writers for what they bring to the comic collecting community. It just puzzles me to see that some speculators have a particular blind spot when it comes to the basic function of the medium they are speculating about.

    (Steps off soap box)

    • Mike Morello

      CountZeroInterupt, first let me thank you for your well-crafted and passionate response. I appreciate the time it took you to construct it. I also very much thank you on behalf of this site’s writers for your compliment of the time we invest into making this a site you love to use.

      Next, let me address your concerns. They are legitimate and deserve the time to go into more detail. As far as the section you are viewing as a contradictory one (The Hulk #181 vs. Captain Marvel #17 2nd print), it is not, in fact, a contradiction. Hulk #181 can get away with its bad art simply because it is the 1st appearance of a tried and true, highly tested and beloved character. Wolverine has decades of popularity, story and crafting behind him. As such, a multi-thousand dollar investment in a book like Hulk #181 is sound as it will remain fairly immune to the markets of film and/or comics. People will always want it despite its faults. There may be slight fluctuations, but the strength and history of the character will forever cement it in place as a mega-key. Remember, Hulk #181’s popularity has already proven it can survive some lackluster Wolverine films.

      Unfortunately, Captain Marvel #17 2nd print’s poor art (since we’re using art as a common variable, here) cannot be overlooked because of those same, aforementioned, factors. Kamala Khan MAY prove, eventually, to be just as important to Marvel as Wolverine, but she isn’t right now and has an awfully long way to go before she is. While she has her fans and they state similar reasons for liking her as you do, there are still yet many others (who have actually read her books) who think her concept is silly and that her diversity is forced. Whether or not those things are true, her status with the larger comic world is tenuous and her popularity will largely hinge on what happens with her either in the MCU and/or in her future comics. Say what you will (and I appreciate your love for the Kamala Khan character, I sincerely do), but she is nowhere near the status of Wolverine at the present time. Making the same level investment choice in a book like that is risky. If she never finds her footing, her books will falter along with the rest of the portions of the market that are overly inflated.

      Inasmuch, as an important note, my example really had very little to do with Kamala Khan, herself. It could have been any example plugged in there and perhaps I should have chosen a different character. I chose her simply because she and her book were on this week’s poll. As far as this site is concerned, I can assure you that we have no duplicitous plot against Kamala Khan. Many of the writers and members, here, love her. I cannot speak to it either way and I do state quite clearly that I have not read her enough to know by saying, specifically, “I’m not saying Kamala Khan is a bad character, It’s simply that I just don’t know, yet.”

      Time will tell, CountZero, if she becomes what Wolverine is. I sincerely hope she does, I really do. It would be fantastic for comics. One thing is certain, though… If it ends up that Captain Marvel #17 2nd print’s value ends up being based solely on rarity, alone, it will go the way of the Dodo simply because, if the character does in fact flop, it does not have good enough art to sustain it as a classic cover.

      Thank you, again, for your stimulating and well-thought-out comment. I very much appreciate your time.

      • CountZeroInterrupt

        Thanks for the reasoned and thorough follow-up Mike. I hope I didn’t come across as terse in my comment as it reads to me now that I’ve had some coffee and time to reflect!

        One again, I agree with your assessment about the long established popularity of Wolverine insulating Hulk 181 from market fluctuations. I think that time will tell regarding whether or not the cover art of CM 17 2nd will hinder its fortunes. If the character continues to gain in popularity then the cover won’t make much difference (see Wolverine). It’s hard to make a direct comparison between the two books given the decades-long head start that one has over the other but that leads me to something I think about a lot when it comes to speculation:

        Too many people are contributing to what many perceive as a bubble because they aren’t thinking long-term. When I buy a book like CM 17, I’m putting that thing in a box and moving on to whatever else I might be chasing (more copies of that same book?) because to me comic investing is a long-term play. I’m thinking in decades, not months or years. I’m not looking at what a movie might do to a book in the short term because to me development for some other medium is just another step towards long-term profitability. Think of all the people that sold copies of Hulk 181 when the X-Men movies started dropping. I bet a lot of them are kicking themselves now. Too many folks have gotten into comics with the idea of making money as a first priority instead of a happy by-product of enjoying their hobby.

        Kamala Khan is a great character. She doesn’t have the cool factor of a Wolverine (really, how many do?) but the book is FUN! Maybe that’s not everyone’s cup of tea but having read comics for as long as I have I think it’s enough at the beginning of what is turning out to be a great run. There are plenty of characters I think are better, but as far as potential I think she’s got it in spades. Also, you may not even like the character/book but don’t let that cloud your judgement. I’m still facepalming from selling off my New Mutants 98 because I can’t stand Liefeld’s art! Don’t sleep guys/gals!

        • Mike Morello

          Well said. I absolutely agree. Additionally, the 30 year head start that a book like Hulk #181 has on modern books definitely is a factor. That’s an excellent point. We will have to wait and see. I always want people’s investments to pay off for them. I hope those who are holding CM #17 2nd prints can retire on them one day. As such, I fully plan to give Kamala a read, soon (as soon as I catch up on Monstress. Ha!). Thanks again for your comments.

  • That Final Crisis is one of my favorite depictions of supergirl, I’ve picked up several copies of that one. i’ll definitely be adding that red skull and daredevil to my search lists.

    Siyo Oum is an excellent artist and she has some great covers, both on her series and for Marvel, but she’s another one that gets no spec love unfortunately.

  • I pick that Final Crisis up anytime I see it cheap. Crazy that still doesn’t sell well but the Batgirl popped.

  • JG Jones has regrettably taken a needed break from his comic work. His talent is amazing!

    • Mike Morello

      Sadly, I had heard that, Tim. Hopefully, he gets back at the artist table, soon. I’ve heard he’s a very nice guy. I’ve not ever met him. There’s a recent interview by Heidi MacDonald that talks about the reasons and has some fun past stories along with some future plans.

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