The Usual Suspects 47
Welcome back for another edition of The Usual Suspects. This week I wanted to get away from the movie related spec and look at something just related to comics. So ahead of its June 5th release, I wanted to look at some issues related to Felicia Hardy, The Black Cat.
It’s been two weeks since my last article, which has given me some time to reflect and look back on what I’ve written recently. Sure I should’ve been studying for my Series 9/10 exam, but we’ll deal with that next week. But what I’ve noticed is how movie-centric my articles have become. Granted, timing had a lot to do with it. We did just have Endgame after all, but I didn’t want to completely forget that we are here for these pretty little pictures.
Speaking of pretty little pictures, who does a better Black Cat than J Scott Campbell? She has to be his favorite subject. I mean look at all of the classic covers he’s done of her over the years. Seriously, look at how many covers he has for this first issue alone. I count nearly a dozen. He has store variants with a few other stores, like these 4 at Frankie’s and a couple other places:
But then my man has another couple of variants at other stores. That’s right, Comicxposure has another Trade/Virgin set of Felicia in a milk bath, while Ssalefish has yet another cover.
Wait we aren’t finished. We still have the 4 covers he has for his own online store. In this batch we have the Spider-Man #1 homage, what looks like an homage to his own MJ cover for ASM 601, an MJ Red Cat cosplay cover (looks familiar but can’t place it so sound off in the comments), and finally an homage to that famous frenchie poster. You know the one. That one is really cool, but I believe you have to buy the whole set to get it so, looks like I’m not getting it.
Whew. I think that’s plenty of JSC covers, but not enough Black Cats. Here are a few more of my favorite Store variants covers coming out that aren’t Campbell covers. These all have virgin versions and are very nice. That said, I honestly won’t be buying any. I’m just worn out on these store variants and my wallet just can’t take it. But they are pretty. We have an Adam Hughes, a Ben Oliver portrait that looks very much like ScarJo to me, and Greg Horn even gives us Spider-Ham plushie shot.
Anyway, enough previewing all of these covers for Issue #1. I think it’s worth pointing out that she’s never carried a title of her own longer than a mini. Sure she’s a well-known Marvel character who’s shown up in all types of other media already. She’s had various appearances in Spidey’s animated series going back to the 1980s and the 1990s Spider-man: TAS.
She was also in an early draft of Spider-Man 2, and then that storyline subplot was used for the video game adaptation. There were other rumors that she was originally supposed to appear in Sam Raimi's Spider-Man 4, though she would not have transformed into the Black Cat, as in the comics. Instead, Raimi's Felicia was expected to become a new super-powered figure called the Vulturess. And Anne Hathaway would have played Hardy if Spider-Man 4 had been made.
Felicity Jones of Rogue One fame, portrayed Felicia Hardy in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 with designs that she would eventually become The Black Cat in a later installment. So much for that.
There were more rumors of a Black Cat and Silver Sable-centered film. It was intended to be a part of a shared Spidey character universe, maybe with Venom as its new centerpiece. The idea being that they would be in the MCU but not crossover. This has since been scrapped and split to be re-worked as individual features, but honestly who knows what Sony is doing. But it looks like no Silver & Black.
But anyway, why would Felicia Hardy, the daughter of a world-renowned cat burglar, be a good protagonist for her own title? And why now? Short answer, is money for Marvel. She has a nice little story recently in the current ASM title, but more on that later. For now, let’s just take a quick look at her as a character before we get to the books.
So the interwebs tell me that after suffering a traumatic experience as a college freshman, she trained herself to fight and flip, yada-yada, and she decided to follow in her father's footsteps as a thief. So she adopted the costumed identity of the Black Cat. As Black Cat, she has a vague power set where she affect probability fields, producing “bad luck” for her enemies. Kinda like Domino in Deadpool 2.
What I found more interesting was that she was originally meant to be a villain for Spider Woman. So Dave Cockrum designed her costume and Marv Wolfman created her based on a character on a Tex Avery cartoon, “Bad Luck Blackie”. When Marvel moved Wolfman to The Amazing Spider-Man, he brought his Black cat idea with him. He and Cockrum made a lot changes to the character to get us to the one we all know and love. The Black Cat that was intended to debut in Spider-Woman had only her name and powers in common with the one who eventually premiered in The Amazing Spider-Man #194. At the bottom of the letters page of ASM #194, a thumbnail of the intended cover for Spider-Woman #9 appears along with a rejected cover for The Amazing Spider-Man #194.
Anyway, even though her character was originally a super-villain and adversary of Spider-Man that evolved over time to the point where the two fell in love. The plot development allowed her to transition more into an anti-heroine, and his partner. However, things got weird after it became apparent that Black Cat was only attracted to the alter ego of Spider-Man and had little interest in the hero's civilian life as Peter Parker.
After her first few 2 issue arcs in ASM where she seemed to die at the end of each one. A play on the whole 9 lives of a cat thing I suppose, but she eventually became a staple of Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man. Clerks Writer/director Kevin Smith began writing the Spider-Man/Black Cat: The Evil that Men Do miniseries all the way back in 2002. After the third issue the series went on a hiatus like a George R.R. Martin book.
But unlike A Song of Ice and Fire, Smith came back in 2005 to actually finish the miniseries.
There was also a 4 Issue mini back in 1994 can be found in dollar bins. In the mid-2000s, she also starred alongside Wolverine in a limited comic book miniseries titled Claws. A sequel to this miniseries, entitled Claws II, came out in 2011. It was ok, but it had a decent Joe Linsner art that was different than the usual comic-fare of the time.
Black Cat was also a lead character in the 2006-2007 Heroes for Hire series. And her last 4 issue mini was back in 2010. You know the one that had that great JSC variant for #1. But the regular Amanda Connor covers were pretty nice as well even if they aren’t worth all that much.
So with that said…let’s get into it.
1st appearance of the Black Cat, (Felicia Hardy)
Well as I already mentioned, this issue was her 1st appearance. Well, I already touched on how she was meant for Spider-Woman, but if she was just a foil to Jessica Drew, would she be popular enough to get her own series? Would we even know who she was today?
Honestly I’m not so sure. Spidey is Marvel’s flagship character and she played a very significant supporting role for years. Without that Spidey boost, I doubt she’s any more memorable than Needle who ended up premiering in that Issue #9 instead of Black Cat.
Right from jump she stood out as an interesting new character. And she immediately made an impression on ol’ web head. She delivered a promising story angle that would continue for years. That flirty on again off again recurring tête-à-tête.
Active Listings: About 100 copies on the market at the moment in various grades. All grades move, so buy a copy you can afford. Top listings are a CGC SS 9.8 signed by Stan Lee for $3,350 and a CGC 9.8 Blue Label for $2800.
Looking for a bargain, try an auction. Or grab a foreign edition. You can grab a Spanish edition, or a German edition, or a Dutch Euro version if you were so inclined.
Foreign copies are pretty cool. I mean look at the coloring on the last one. But that’s a rabbit hole I don’t need to be going down personally. That said, lowest BIN listings are about $60-$65.
Market Analysis: You pay for High Grade. CG 9.8’s have been moving around $2k. CGC 9.6’s only around $600. And mid grades can be had for under $100. So pay for what you can afford. But don’t go crazy. There have been nearly 5,000 copies graded through CGC so this isn’t a “rare” book.
Origin & 2nd appearance of Black Cat
This book is a continuation of the story that started in #194. The backstory of Felicia Hardy is fleshed out as she returns her dying father home and then reveals herself to her him. She tells him how she modeled herself after him, as he was a cat burglar himself. She shares how she trained in Martial Arts and Gymnastics, etc.
She would also “die” at the end of this issue after the two battle and Spdey just can’t hold on.
Anyway this won’t be her only “death” as subsequent appearances led to more “deaths” in the other 2 part appearances in ASM over the years. It was kind of her thing for a while.
Active Listings: By comparison, her 2nd appearance is super-duper cheap. Nearly twice as many copies available and you can possibly even find this in a dollar bin if you are lucky. Top listing is a CGC 9.8 for $270. Or you can grab a bargain CBCS for only $184. Cheap BINs can be had in the $7.50-$10 range.
Market Analysis: Much like what’s available, what has sold is pretty cheap as well. Last CGC 9.8 sold in Jan for only $135. And 8.5-9.6’s have all sold under $50. This is a $5 raw all day, but maybe you pay double for a higher grade.
This book came at a time when Spidey wasn’t selling as many books as he did before, or even as many as he sells today. These were rough times for Spidey so the print runs were a bit lower than you’d expect. That said, with this classic JSC cover along with the following issue, these have become must have ASM issues. Just great covers that need to be in every PC.
Years later, Siya Oum did a pretty solid homage cover in a Comicxposure variant.
It’s also worth noting that this issue had a couple of variants. I’m not entirely sure where the Partial Sketch version is from but there is a second sketch version that was exclusive to the Long Beach Comic Con. It looks to be an Atomic Comics/ Golden Apple Comics variant.
So I guess you would consider these later print variants of some kind. Some folks view Con variants differently than the traditional 2nd/3rd print etc. Even though they may be printed months after, they somehow get grandfathered 1st print status. But that’s a topic filled with potential pitfalls so let’s leave it at that.
Active Listings: Lot of copies on the market. You can grab a CGC 9.8 for $130. Or raws seem to be in the $50+ range.
Market Analysis: CGC 9.8’s have been averaging over $160. Newsstand copies however seem to trade at 3 times the regular market. A newsstand 9.8 sold for $460 not that long ago. And again, raws have been moving in the $50-$60 range.
This is probably the better known JSC cover and it came out a week after the last issue. There really isn’t that much to say about this book. Classic cover that’s a little expensive, but won’t break your back.
Active Listings: This book is also not hard to find. But this one is a bit more sought after due to the cover. CGC 9.8’s are listed in the $400+ range on this one despite it being as readily available as 606. Does that mean 606 is underpriced or 607 is overpriced? It’s a hot cover to be sure, but is it really 3x’s better?
Market Analysis: Asking prices aside, this seems to be selling more in the double 606 range with CGC 9.8’s averaging under $300. In fact on 9.8 sold last week for $215. Again another $50-60 raw book if you are interested. Though higher grade copies trade at a premium, thanks to the higher 9.8 sales.
Newsstands again are highly sought after as that niche market has some extra $’s. A CGC 9.4 of this one sold for $365 not long ago.
1:100 JG Jones Virgin Variant
This one was a semi recent Incentive variant that was a 1:100 virgin version of the JG Jones variant. It was the 1st part of an interesting 3 part heist storyline that obviously involves Marvel’s answer to Catwoman. It’s pretty funny how these two have followed similar arcs in that they were both created as villains, but one could argue that their subsequent popularity pushed them towards the anti-hero angle.
That’s just how it goes in comics. Get popular enough and eventually they will make you a “good guy”. Right, Venom?
What’s amusing is that this is nearly the exact opposite of Harvey Dent’s mini speech in The Dark Knight.
In comics, you become popular enough, you eventually become the hero. Ain’t that right, Wade?
But apart from this JG Jones variant, the subsequent Ramos covers were also pretty nifty. Ryan Ottley and Humberto Ramos have a nice little back and forth going on this book. They both have a dynamic style that really lends itself for Spidey. Ramos may be a bit more stylized than Ottley, but that’s ok. A little variety never hurt anybody. The spirit is still the same throughout.
Active Listings: Only 4 copies on the market for the virgin edition. Top listing is a CGC 9.8 that’s looking for $200. Next is one raw copy at ratio, $100, and then a par of other raws from the UK that would end up being around $70 after shipping.
Market Analysis: Not a lot of sales on this one. And some have been very cheap. I mean a CGC 9.8 of the virgin at ratio? A raw for $30? That’s not bad. It’s a decent cover but not outstanding. Can’t say it’s a key issue with any future importance status yet either so it shouldn’t be a surprise that it’s trading so far under ratio. This is evidence that there are too many Incentive variants and to not get too crazy investing in them.
Ok that’s it for this week. I feel like it’s been longer than two weeks since I last wrote this article. I feel rusty already. Anyway, I’m sure I’ll get used to this schedule. Like I said I have to keep it like this for a while so I leave myself time to study. But fear not dear friends, I still have plenty more content coming your way. Next week I gotta shoot you guys May’s edition of Wizard Rewind. So keep your eyes on CBSI.
Limited Edition Comix Variant
We are all aware of the gorgeous JSC cover for this issue, but this Adi Granov is pretty sweet.
I’m doing something in this section that I normally don’t do, which is spotlight Store Variant covers.
With the plethora of Black Cat Store Variants hitting us in two weeks, this just seemed appropriate.
Typical Sales Data:
CGC Census 9.8 – 40
I’m telling you that Black Cat has to be Campbell’s favorite subject. Look, we have yet another example.
And with 3 different covers, I’m wondering if this was an early precursor to the slightly tweaked art to pump out multiple copies. I mean whether it’s a slight costume or pose tweak, or a virgin or B&W version, it’s all basically the same art.
But I would only want the color edition if it were up to me. The other two just don’t pack the same punch for me.
Typical Sales Data:
(Regular, Sketch, Negative)
CGC Census 9.8 – 299, 276, 233
Up next we have Artgerm getting in on the action, delivering a regular Trade Dress and a Virgin edition as well. This has almost become the standard practice of the store variant.
This is a great cover and I haven’t seen one in person. If I did, I would probably just grab it. That said, it is pretty cheap and may be worth a grab. But without anything important happening under the cover, the upside is limited.
These store variants either pop immediately or they wither on the vine. But if it’s for the PC, withering means cheaper which is good in my book.
Typical Sales Data:
CGC Census 9.8 – 32, 25
J Scott Campbell Store
Had enough Campbell Black cat yet? I didn’t think so. That said, this was one cover from his store that was part of a group of like 8 variants sold on his store’s website.
This copy was only available in select packs. The best covers are always only available in packs. Makes the buy in so much higher, which is why I normally refrain from participating. I’m sometimes down, to buy a store variant. But no so much if you make me buy 4 or 8 of the same book.
Typical Sales Data:
CGC Census 9.8 – 119
Big Time Collectibles
Well, this is a beautiful mark Brooks cover. He really deserves more love. I might need to spotlight his covers soon. Just stunning art on this one.
I say one because it’s basically the same cover 3 times with a slight tweak and then a virgin version.
Standard practice for store variants as I said. I’m not hatin’ on the game, I’m just not playing.
Typical Sales Data:
(Regular, Spidey, Virgin)
CGC Census 9.8 – 69, 108, 61
…Anyway, I’ll see you guys back here in two weeks….