The Usual Suspects #24

 

Welcome to this week’s edition of The Usual Suspects. Moving away from the big 2 publishers, I thought now would be a good time to look at some classic Independent titles. And no I do not mean Image books. To be fair, these days collectors are more aware of smaller press publications than they were back in the comics boom of the 80’s/90’s. Today we see lots of heat around titles from Antarctic Press, Aftershock, Scout, Black Mask, and Vault; just to name a few.

 

 

BTW, it isn’t easy to find any sort of group shots of Indie publisher logos or titles or whatever. I literally had to raid my short boxes and throw a few examples on my ottoman to take this pic. If I had more time or patience I would’ve come up with a better selection, but this did the job. Just a little behind the scenes DVD extra tidbit for you.

Anyway, indie publishers these days come in all sizes. Indie could be referring to just under the big guy publishers like Dark Horse, Boom, Dynamite, or IDW. But at the same time it could also be referring to small publishers like Mad Cave, Zenescope, Amigo, Lion Forge, or Action Lab. These days there are just so many different publishers to choose from.

 

 

It wasn’t like this when I was younger. Most Indie publishers back then were considered like Underground books. Not exactly the same as Zap Comix or the Freak Brothers, but just books that weren’t well known.

 

 

You couldn’t just roll into any comic shop and grab the new releases from Megaton or Comico. That isn’t to say they weren’t in any shops, just not everyone’s local spot. So not everyone was privy to being able to grab the 1st Savage Dragon or 1st Grendel off the shelf. For most casual collectors, comics like this went generally under the radar and remained there for years.

This was pre-internet. So unless you had a friend in-the-know or had a good relationship with a knowledgeable shop owner, where could you even get information, the Comic Shop News? Truthfully, I threw most of those away without even taking it out of the bag. No, it wasn’t until 1991 when we got Wizard Magazine where many of started finding out a bit more about the comic world beyond our lone LCS that was close enough to ride your bike to.

 

 

Sure, Wizard came out at a time when “independent” publishers like Image and Valiant were about to take the industry by storm. An almost co-dependent symbiotic relationship grew between the magazine and these publishers. Now this eventual destructive relationship has been blamed by many as part of the Comics crash of the 90’s, and this has been covered by writers much better than me so I will just leave that right there. I’m not gonna speculate on that like I have the answer.

 

 

And this is not the point of what I wanted to talk about today. What’s done is done. The main point was that having a magazine as widely read as Wizard was in its heyday, provided an opportunity to shine a light on some lesser known titles. The profile of some of these smaller characters was expanded by being highlighted in Wizard, and really aided in raising them to classic status. Without the raised awareness, many of us wouldn’t have even known some of these characters existed at all.

With so many indies to choose from, I wanted to maintain my mission statement and to start with books that everyone knows. So I picked a few titles that featured first appearances of characters that have had multiple media incarnations despite their small press roots. And the last is an “Optioned” title that hasn’t yet been adapted, but we’ll see how that goes.

So without further preamble…let’s get into it.

 

 

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1

(Apr 1984)

Origin & 1st app. of the Teenage Mutant Ninja, Turtles, Splinter & Shredder.

 

Now most of us immediately associate TMNT with the animated series and not the original comic series from Mirage Studios. The original comic created by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird as a loose parody of Daredevil comics of that time eventually grew into the juggernaut Intellectual Property we all know and love. However if you ask the common Wednesday Warrior about TMNT, you will probably hear the 1st few bars of the theme song. Go ahead, finish it in your head, I’ll wait.

 

 

But outside of the cartoon, that original comic has become a Grail of many collectors. The miniscule original print run is one of the crown jewels of the Copper Age. Sure there have been many printings of that first comic book, and all maintain some level of collectability, but nothing comes close to that 1st Print. It truly is a “key book” and you don’t need an App to tell you so.

 

 

I’m just having some fun.

 

 

But in all seriousness, this book is a serious book and you don’t need me to tell you that. How many different animated series has it had over the years? And multiple feature film franchises. The Turtles are serious business and the prices of this book reflect that.

They are quite simply…

 

 

Active Listings:  There’s actually 16 copies listed right now which is more than I expected for the 1st Print. This is not an easy book to find even with the multiple printings. For the purposes of this article I am only going to look at the 1st Print to avoid data overload.

The most expensive listing is a CGC 9.6 listed for $25k. That’s only a 25% premium over the last 12 months in that grade. And it has a lot of eyes on it with 85 watchers.

 

 

It looks like all of the available copies are graded. That’s not surprising for a book like this. Even if one is found in the wild, folks rush to get it graded. Even at mid/low grade these bad boys get slabbed. It makes sense when you think about it. One benefit is that it creates a benchmark with the grade so you can easily slot it in a defined valuation. And on top of that, you get the comfort of knowing that it was evaluated for restoration and confirms that it is genuine.

 

 

Market Analysis:  

Ride it, my pony
My saddle's… waiting
Come and jump on it

Sorry, got that Pony song stuck in my head. Anyway, Big Boy sale of nearly $40k back in May. And that was at a 10% premium over the average for the year. In fact, nearly all grades are on the uptick as all but 2 of the most recent sales have been at a premium over the average. And even those sales that were under, were only under by 4% or less. That’s an arbitrary percentage, so it’s safe to say this book is still on the rise.

Super high grades of this boo trade at a significant premium. A 9.8 is nearly double a 9.6, which itself is nearly double the 9.4. From there the drops are less significant. And don’t bother searching for a raw as they aren’t easy to come by. Only 3 sales tracked by Covrprice and none on the market at the time I am writing this. So if you are searching for a raw copy, you might as well…

 

 

The Tick Special Edition #1

(Mar 1988)

1st appearance of the Tick in comics

 

Staying in the 80’s, we have another cult classic that found its way to multiple TV Show iterations. A classic cartoon is how I first found out about The Tick. I had no idea it was based on an actual comic as I thought it was just an amusing parody show. I enjoyed the show and would never have guessed it would have spawned, not one, but two live action shows. And it would give us one of the greatest battle cries ever.

 

 

The Tick was originally created by Ben Edlund as a spoof mascot for a chain of comic stores in the Boston area called New England Comics. That’s about the extent of my historical knowledge on the subject. I spent all day researching that tidbit.

 

 

Anyway, as the character actually first appeared in a newsletter in 1986. New England Comics Newsletter #14 to be precise, and that sucker sells for a nice chunk of change. There are even graded copies. You got $3,200? Then you can grab a CGC 9.2 right now. Check it out below:

 

 

Can’t track one down then you can grab the 1st Comic appearance in 1988 in The Tick Special #1. I believe this was more of a One Shot, but must’ve been popular as it was reprinted a few months later in June 1988 as a regular Ongoing.

 

 

Now for the purposes of my analytics I am just gonna look at the 1st appearance of the Special #1 and the Ongoing #1. Sorry fans of the newsletter, but that doesn’t fit my criteria, but I did want to note it. I would also point out that there were a ton of reprints of #1.

 

 

Yeah I reused the same joke, so what? I like Three Amigos. What of it? You want to Rumble?

 

 

Active Listings: I’d say there are about 10 copies available for the Special Edition and about double that in the Ongoing #1. A few slabs, and plenty of raw options.

Top copy on the market is a CGC 9.8 up for $2,500. That’s not too bad considering there are only 25 copies in the census. That has a nice sense of balance to it, $2500 for one of 25 copies.

 

 

What is more amazing is the drop from 9.8 to 9.6. Listed copies go from a $2,500 CGC 9.8 to under $500 for a 9.6. An 80% drop is ludicrous.

 

 

Apparently it’s 9.8 or nothing for The Tick. I honestly can’t think of another book that has such a steep drop in any grade, let alone from 9.8 to 9.6. And the drop is pretty steep to the 1st ongoing version with the black cover as the top available in that is a CGC 9.4 that’s just under $200.

 

Market Analysis:  The actually completed sales make the drop from 9.8 to 9.6 even more pronounce. Last completed sales in 9.8 vs 9.6 were $2,100 and $282 respectively. That’s insane. Sure there isn’t a lot of sales data to work with on this book, but I can’t fathom the spread between those 2 grades. I have to imagine the 9.6 is due a price correction. May up to at least $700-800. There are still under 50 9.6’s in the census.

But again the same holds true for the Ongoing #1. Prices really aren’t that far apart when you compare 9.8 to 9.8 as the ongoing 9.8 last sold for over $1600. But again the drop down to 9.6 was a $200 sale.

 

 

Oddly enough, it looks like nearly any other sale is somewhere in the $100-150 range regardless of grade. Raw sales seem to be on the rise while graded copies are either stagnant or down. It’s odd when you look at these numbers. One would think there aren’t that many copies, and yet all grades not 9.8 seems like no one cares. I’m not sure what may trigger a bump, but I really feel these other grades need to course correct soon.

 

 

Caliber Presents #1

(Jan 1989)

1st appearance of the Crow.

 

It’s a shame this doesn’t have a better cover. Not that this is awful. I like Tim Vigil. But this isn’t Faust. Can’t say I see many Cuda cosplayers out there. I honestly believe if the Crow made the cover the price on this would be double where it is now. I really do.

 

 

You tell me this wouldn’t be a $2k book if that wasn’t the cover. Go ahead.

 

 

But in all seriousness, this looks like it could be undervalued. I mean seriously, why is a CGC 9.58 of an Independent character who has had multiple movies made about him, including a legit cult classic with another feature supposedly on the way priced comparably to the Thanos 13 Albuquerque?

I enjoy Cosmic Ghost Rider as much as the next guy, but come on?

 

 

But seriously, Jason Momoa may have driven that price up. Sure I keep seeing Lobo when I think of test make up, but I really think he could’ve pulled this off. Too bad he and the director jumped ship over creative/financial issues with the owner of the rights to the character. Here’s to hoping this project comes back around.

 

 

Active Listings: Only 17 or so active listings on this bad boy. One seller is hoping for that jump and has a CGC 9.8 listed at $1,500. And there are 31 watchers. Now there is another CGC 9.8 listed for just under a grand, and that one doesn’t show any watchers.

Now either eBay has weird rules over which listings show the watcher count that I just don’t understand, or all the watchers @$1500 are potential sellers looking to see if this moves at that price and are not actual potential buyers.

If you are just looking for a cheaper copy you can throw a bid down on a raw copy that’s currently around $80 or you can drop $135 on a CBCS 7.0 and have done with it.

 

Market Analysis:  Prices are mostly on the decline, which I would imagine is tied to this past summer’s departure of the star and director of the reboot feature. Can’t say that’s too surprising. A retraction like this is typical, and this may create a good buying opportunity if you were in the market for this book.

If the reboot grabs itself a rising star like they had in Momoa or a Bradley Cooper (an old rumor form years ago), then this book will spike up again. I honestly believe that. However, when you look at the old rumors, you can see how delicate a game this is because they could pick the wrong guy.

 

 

If they chose Walberg or Tatum to headline this reboot, I would run for the hills. I could only offer the following advice…

 

 

So for our final selection I would like to note, that one of these is not like the others.

 

Harbinger #1

(Jan 1992)

1st appearance of Harbinger (Sting, Kris, Zephyr, Flamingo & Torque)

Harbinger #0 mail-order coupon included.

 

So unlike those other 3 books, this one has yet to be adapted to TV or film. But supposedly one is on the way, as they have named a director. Harbinger could work as this was Valiant’s answer to the X-Men or the Teen Titans. It could be a fun, but rather pricey endeavor for their prospective movie universe. I still feel the prospects of this movie really hinge on Vin Diesel’s shoulders.

 

 

If that film tanks, who would invest in anymore Valiant properties. Sure they could go the cheaper rout and bring us a character like Ninjak, but I feel like that would just recall the sour taste that web series must’ve left in their mouths. Oh, Green Ranger.

 

 

It’s like that one person you regret having slept with years ago, that one you just try to forget happened. You know the one. You are thinking about it right now. Go ahead, I’ll give you a minute to shake it off.

 

 

So will we ever get this valiant Universe on the Big Screen? Honestly, I’m still not sold. Sure I realize they wrapped production on Bloodshot, but can you honestly tell me you wouldn’t be surprised if that somehow went straight to Netflix? I mean if Will Smith can have a straight to Netflix picture, why can’t this Vin Diesel vehicle got straight to streaming?

I mean think of all the non-Marvel non Fast and the Furious movies he’s given us…

 

 

But Harbinger could be fun if it ever gets made. I just don’t know about pinning my hopes on this guy.

I’m just playing. It could be good. Maybe it will be like Pitch Black or Riddick, both of which I enjoyed.

 

 

Active Listings: Plenty of copies available I don’t feel like counting as a search returns all the #1’s from all the variations of this title. Just trust me, there are a lot.

Looking for one of the 328 CGC 9.8’s in the census? Then the top listing can be yours for the low, low price of $1,350. There are a couple other 9.8 options but your cheapest play on that would be the MCS one for $1,100.

Looking for a raw, you can find those too. There’s one listed for $250. Just be sure to check for the Coupon. A lot of folks removed the coupon to mail it in for issue #0.

 

Market Analysis:  Not that many sales when you compare it to how many copies are in the census. But this is an easy book to find. When you have a book that is this easy to find, that means it can be found in lots of local shops. You can get a better deal at an LCS plus physically see the copy you are purchasing. And of course you do not have to pay for shipping and play the “Can the seller ship?” Game.

 

 

But a quick review shows inconsistent results of most books down over the last year as well as the most recent 3 month window. But bucking that trend are graded books in the 9.2-9.6 range. Not 9.8’s though. Those are down. Weird.

 

 

Ok that’s it for this week, but let’s get One More for the Road…

 

 

 

Eternal Warrior #4 (2012)

This is the first appearance of Bloodshot. I’ve made a few jokes about the prospects of a Valiant Movie Universe hinging on this Vin Diesel movie; but it’s true. Bloodshot is probably Valiant’s most recognizable character and their best bet to kick start a film franchise.

A relatively affordable book considering it features the 1st appearance of a popular character. Some might call this a cameo, so you may also consider grabbing Rai #0 for the 1st full appearance.

 

Typical Sales Data courtesy of Covrprice.com:

CGC 9.8 – $207.00
Rai #0 CGC 9.8 – $142.00

Raw – $42.70
Rai #0 Raw – $10.25

 

You want one?

 

 

 

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7 comments

  • Did you do this one just for me? 😉

  • Tue L

    Great article. Read it thoroughly. Keep up the good work. Let’s show The Crow some love!

  • Great write up! I’d love to see more talk about those publishers you mentioned at the beginning: Black Mask, Action lab, etc. And what is Lionforge even doing. I don’t think they know. Or BM for that matter.

    Another not on those Valiant books (which was great to see) is that Eternal Warrior #4 had a pretty large print run over 100k that contributes to it’s low price. And that Harbinger #1 has one of the most brittle covers in comic history. So if you buy raw ask to see pics of the spine. Lot’s of splits on those around the staples and corners.

  • Mike Morello

    Great article! I’m with you guys… I love that Caliber Presents #1. A book I finally got my hands on after many years of searching. Not sure how rare it actually is, but in my experience, it hardly ever pops up.

  • Great article. Loved the information. Any guess on TMNT #1 first print price going forward? For CGC 9.8’s it seems that from public auctions, # of sales peaked in 2017. It could mean that the 23 or so out there are mostly in collector’s hands now or just that the market slowed down with the price increases. What’s your take?

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