The Usual Suspects #25
Welcome to this week’s edition of The Usual Suspects. As I noted in my Dollar Bin Digging article yesterday, Amazon Prime members have the opportunity to see Aquaman in a special preview screening this weekend. With my AMC A-List membership, I don’t pay for individual movies anymore, so I will wait until next weekend to check it out.
I’m happy to report that James Wan’s underwater epic is garnering some positive reviews. Not an earthshattering lovefest of praise, but a lot of positive buzz from what I’ve seen. I don’t typically read reviews, but the headlines seem positive. It even has a 78% Fresh Rating on Rotten Tomatoes, if anyone knows what that means.
It looks good, and I’m looking forward to it. It appears that Warner Brothers is moving away from the grim and gritty and completely changing course to make what appear to be more “fun” movies. I can’t be mad at that plan, but I hope they didn’t learn the wrong lesson from what happened with Batman V Superman. Just because dark doesn’t work for every character, i.e. Superman, that also doesn’t mean they should all be super fun like “Marvel movies”. We don’t need a wisecracking caped crusader.
They just need to be true to the characters individually and build from there. That’s why the MCU worked so well. It’s not just that they all had jokes. Some characters are funny, like Ant Man; and some occasionally have an amusing line. Winter Soldier wasn’t a slapstick laugh-fest, but some situations added a bit of levity, like “On your left.”
That said, Aquaman looks like it could be a fun movie. They’ve established that Jason Momoa’s Arthur Curry is pretty laid back and has some humor to him. And it worked in Justice League. Sure his role was pretty small by comparison to some of his cast-mates, but he made an impression. The sitting on the lasso scene was amusing.
So Warner Bros. was able to use Joss Whedon to interject some humor into the movie, but it didn’t all work. Every time Ben Affleck cracked a joke it felt awkward and made me cringe in my seat a little.
Ugh, that was brutal.
But a lot of Joss Whedon’s work is like that. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy it, but it is hard to deny that nearly every character has the same sarcastic “voice”. It like Brian Michael Bendis comics too. Everyone all of a sudden becomes snarky.
So that is part why a lot of Justice League didn’t work. But considering it wasn’t too prevalent in The Avengers, the singular character voice thing wasn’t a big detriment to the film. But if you add that little issue to the Frankenstein director mash up they were attempting by utilizing Zack Snyder’s already finished work, you can see where it went off the rails. They were probably better served scrapping what was done and starting over.
But alas we got the Justice League we got. I’m not exactly sure what to make with all of these announcements and rumors. Plastic Man, Blue Beetle, Zatanna? I’m not sure I know what they are thinking. I wouldn’t be opposed to focusing on some lower tiered characters. Let Batman and Superman sit on the sidelines for a while.
What do we know? We know that we are getting a Shazam movie next year and eventually a new Wonder Woman. Shazam looks pretty entertaining. Sure I do have a soft spot for Chuck Bartowski. I am secretly hoping for an Adam Baldwin appearance. Who didn’t love John Casey?
Now I’m not really sure what they are doing with Wonder Woman. It takes place in the 80’s even though she’s supposed to have been in hiding since WW1. Chris Pine is dead and or would be like a 90 year old man, but he’s back. Is it a sequel? A Reboot? An Elseworlds tale?
But before we get to any of that we are getting Aquaman. Now Aquaman isn’t the most iconic of heroes. He’s well known having been around since 1941, appearing in comics and cartoons like the Super Friends. We even got a couple live action versions from the CW. One actor played him on Smallville, and then they developed a pilot with eventual Green Arrow playing him with Ving Rhames set in the Florida Keys or some such nonsense. Something about the Bermuda Triangle and they were gonna call Arthur Curry, AC. How original. You can’t make this stuff up.
Well, we never got that show, but what could have been. They could have made the name AC cool again. Oh who am I kidding there will only ever be one AC.
Ok Preppie, can Aquaman finally break out and become an A-lister like Iron Man did? Ok so that might be setting the bar pretty high, but I feel like he can at least be brought to the level of respectability. He’s already on that path with what we’ve seen so far, but this movie can cement a new default view of what we all think of when someone mentions Aquaman. Because up until now he’s pretty much just been a joke.
But I have faith. Faith in Jason Momoa, and faith in James Wan. I don’t need a sprawling epic trying to be more important than it really is. I don’t need to consider the implications of what a being like this would have on our society. I don’t need to see the “hero” contemplate his place in this world and the effect he has on…Just don’t give me Batman V Superman. Just give me an entertaining superhero movie. If I wanted realism I wouldn’t be at a theater to watch a man talk to fish and lift submarines. But I have faith in Khal Drogo.
They even made the orange and green costume look cool. It’s got that nice balance of practicality and stays true to the original. How can you not be excited?
So without further gilding the lily and with no more ado…let’s get into it.
Now most of these first appearance books from the Aquaman movie feature characters that debuted in the 60’s. So these books aren’t super easy to find, but are by no means unattainable. We aren’t talking about an AF15 here.
That said, Aquaman #1 is not Aquaman’s first appearance. That would be More Fun Comics #73 which premiered back in 1941 and does go for AF15 money. Good luck finding that book. And it’s not even just Aquaman’s 1st appearance. Also appearing for the first time in that comic is Green Arrow and Speedy, so it’s a two-fer.
Overstreet values that book at $120k in a raw 9.2 NM grade, so we aren’t going to be covering that monster. But Aquaman #1 is much more affordable by comparison. One might even say it’s pretty comparable to ASM #1 in that they aren’t 1st appearances, but the first solo issues of classic characters.
But that is about where the similarities end. These characters are not on the same level. Spidey is easily Top 3, while Aquaman is hoping the list is big enough for him to make the cut. Don’t let Vinnie Chase’s fake box office record fool you.
Aquaman is a book that people have been pick up cheap for years and are now reaping the benefits of that foresight and patience. But even so, this is still an attainable book. You can grab a graded 3.0 Good copy for under $500, while an ASM #1 raw Good copy will cost you $5k. All superheroes are not created equal.
Active Listings: A quick eBay search yields round 20 results. Considering this is a Silver Age #1 issue for a well-known character, I am surprised as I would’ve guessed there would’ve been half that number. Most issues are slabbed, but there are a few raws to be had if that’s what you are looking for.
Top dogs are a pair of CGC 9.2’s looking for around $12k but both taking best offers. Granted the last time a 9.2 sold was for half that amount but that was back in 2015. The $12k isn’t that far out of range when you consider a 9.4 sold last week for $14k. That coupled with being on the cusp of the film’s release, that price seems to be in line with what could be expected. Still way out of range for my wallet, but if you roll like that, have at it.
What I find interesting is that there are also a pair of CGC lots up right now too. If you are looking for a lot of Mid-Grade 1-4 or 1-5’s you can grab the runs for about $3k. That’s something to consider if you are a hardcore Aquafan.
Don’t like your books encased in plastic? Then your top option is just over a grand and is listed as a Fine copy. If you’d rather go bargain hunting then you could score one for about half that price. Which is right in line with the average raw sale price @ $599. Don’t pay too much attention to that most recent $147.50 sale for a raw as that was a pretty rough copy.
So, just last month, one of the 4 CGC 9.6’s sold for a whopping $28,250. There are no 9.8’s of this book, so the 9.6 is the cream of the crop. No other 9.6’s sold or at least tracked for a sale so there I no comparison, but I would imagine it would have been up from any previous sale as all prices seem to be on the rise.
But that shouldn’t be a big surprise. Apart from being a Silver Age key, this character has a movie about to premiere so of course the prices are up. Now if you ask me whether these prices will hold long term…
Now inflation and general appreciate will keep this book on the rise long term, but as far as the bump in prices obtained during the lead up to the film’s release; that’s bound to drop a bit. A natural retraction always hits soon after a film’s release. Granted, this could buck that trend if the movie is a bonafide hit, but it’s only natural for process to come down a little as the fervor for the property fades as it is no longer this week’s hot new thing. That excitement and the $$$ behind it, will simply shift to the next big thing. That’s just the nature of the beast.
1st appearance of Mera
As we stay under the sea with more Aquaman books, who else could we turn our attention to? Aqualad? Aquababy? Aquadog? Aqua-something-else? I don’t know a lot about Aquaman. But let’s ignore my feigned ignorance and look to another 1st appearance of a key player in the movie based on the trailers, Ariel.
Wait that’s not right. Or is it? No, no. I meant Mera.
I think that under the sea comment got my brain going that way. So is that song stuck in your head to? Well at least just that part. Honestly, that’s the only part of the song I know, but it has been playing on a loop in my head.
Anyway, it was way back in Aquaman #11 that we were introduced to Mera, Aquaman’s future wife and Queen of Atlantis. Sure in the movie, we will probably get to see this relationship grow, but hopefully they don’t drag it out too much. We got some world building to get to.
But so far so good with what we’ve seen of Mera up to this point. She had a bit part in Justice League introducing her already so maybe we can get right into it. But she already looks so much better than her previous incarnation on Smallville. Not that the bar was set very high. She was just a girl in a wetsuit after all. Sure it had green accents, but really she was just a hot redhead in a wetsuit.
Active Listings: Currently there are about 34 active listings on eBay for the 1st appearance of Mera. This is a tough book to price. There are no 9.8’s or 9.6’s in the census. The top grades are a single 9.4 and a single 9.2, neither of which have come up for a tracked sale.
Right now the top listing is a CGC 9.0 that is looking for $3,900 which is at a huge bump up from its last recorded sale of $256.00. To be fair, that $256 sale was done in 2013. A lot has changed in the market and with that character over the last 5 years. Five years ago, Blurred Lines was a thing.
Mid-grade prices seem to be creeping past $1k. Plenty of low grade and raws up for around $500 or so. Actually many decent looking raws are up in the $300 range. Don’t care about grade, then you can grab yourself a copy for $30. That is along as you don’t mind heavy creases, Logo partially colored in, drawing on Cover, Cover detached, Re-stapled, & Small pieces of pages missing. It’s been frankensteined together.
Market Analysis: Prices are mostly up, but without many high grades in the census, it’s not a huge surprise we don’t have high grade sales. Plenty of green in the below chart, but if you look closely, many of the most recent sales are years old. Most of the movement appears to be in raw sales.
Lot of raw copies and a few low to mid-grade slabs have been moving and showing decent gains. Apparently high grades are too hard to find and don’t come up for sale very often. So a few hundred for a low grade or a raw is the play most run by buyers on this book.
Origin & 1st appearance of Ocean Master, (Orm, Aquaman's half-brother)
We have the makings of an epic Greek type tragedy on our hands. Half-brothers battling over the throne. Legacies and destinies colliding. Mythic weapons. Gladiator battles. This should be good stuff. And here in Aquaman #29 we have Orm’s 1st appearance. Sure the name Ocean Master is pretty lame, but they’ve keep his look pretty comic accurate.
They are going back to the beginning on this movie. A lot of times movie adaptations lean towards the comics newest creations, but here we are going back to the 60’s for this cast.
I do have one problem with the next image I am going to share. On the plus side, how awesome is it that we have Ivan Drago underwater rocking the armor and the red beard. I really need to get out to see Creed 2. I really hope we get at least one scene of Dolph wrecking shop.
However that epic-ness is undercut by the man-bun in frame. Editor’s note: My wife corrected me that this is not a man bun, but a man French twist. Carry on.
But seriously, a man bun? I get it, it makes sense. From a practical standpoint, you’re underwater so you don’t want your hair float around in your face. But why not cut it short? Why not just shave it off. Realistically, why have any hair at all underwater?
That said, it still has Drago and when I look at the above image, all I see is…
Active Listings: Plenty of active listings on this one. Quick search gives over 50 results. Looks to be an even split of graded and raw copies available. And prices aren’t too bad considering this is a 52 year old book.
Outside of a pretty sweet sealed DC Super Pack from 1966 that has a copy of this book in it, the top copy available is a CGC 9.0 listed for $1,250. Prices trickle down from there, but you can grab some decent copies for around $400 either raw or CGC 7.5’s.
Market Analysis: Prices are up and down, but high grades are up. Basically anything over 9.0 is over a grand. And then anything 8.5 or lower can be had for half that.
That’s a weird cut-off and a steep drop off. Typically the drop is more of a slope as opposed to these plateaus. But compared to Mera, the prices on this book are much cheaper. But villains are usually never valued as much as a hero 1st appearance.
Raws are up and they aren’t that bad. You could spend $100-$150 and get yourself a decent 1st appearance from the Silver Age. Sure this book probably won’t spike much, especially after the movie, but it’s not that high a buy in all things considered.
So for our final selection I am sticking on the evil side and he will undoubtedly outshine Orm on the big screen.
1st appearance of Black Manta. Ocean Master appearance
So he may not be the main villain of the movie, Black Manta will be the one we all remember when we walk out of the theater. That’s my guess at least. You Amazon Prime members who see it this weekend can let me know if I was right. Aquaman will have to wait until next week for me, as this weekend is all about Enter the Spider-verse for me and the fam.
Anyway, getting back on topic. Black Manta appeared just 6 issues after Orm and for most, he is the quintessential Aquaman villain. When I watched Super friends as a kid, this was the bad guy. Something about that helmet. Maybe it reminded me of Boba Fett or something, but he was so much cooler than Aquaman.
Not that being cooler than this guy is much of an accomplishment.
But it’s pretty easy to look cool to a 7 year old when your opponent is riding a pair of dolphins. Though I maintain, Manta will be the breakout of this movie.
Active Listings: Decent amount of copies available and once again, prices are in line with Orm’s 1st. Top listing is a CGC 8.0 listed for $1400. There’s an auction for an 8.5 that’s up to $999 right now so we will see where that goes.
Lots of Fine to VF in the $700 Range, followed by a few $400 VG’s. Plenty of raws to be had for under $300.Lots of auctions that are super cheap right now in the $50 range, but those will undoubtedly rise as cheapest Buy It Now is $180 from MCS.
Market Analysis: Prices are mostly on the upswing here, but with the lead up to a movie appearance can we say that is shocking?
But seriously, raws are on the uptick averaging around $300. That’s impressive considering that’s averaging all grades including those low to poor chewed up copies. So the average raw is more than a graded 4.5. And that’s over 80 sales which is not too shabby.
Ok that’s it for this week, but let’s get One More for the Road…
This is the first appearance of the Trench. They can be seen in the trailer as the cannon fodder that will undoubtedly show up to give us some excellent opportunities for some stellar action sequences.
A very affordable book and extremely easy to find. Granted the 1st appearance of a race of creatures like the Trench may not light the world on fire, but this was the start of a superb run by Geoff Johns. For that alone it’s worth picking up. Plus there’s a decent chance you can score one in a dollar bin. Keep an eye out for the Red covered 2nd Print as well. Super-duper cheap.
Typical Sales Data courtesy of Covrprice.com:
CGC 9.8 – $117.00
Raw – $9.32