Unless you are wealthy or recently won a lottery, you'll
have a hard time affording many copies of Marvel Mystery
Comics, one of the most expensive anthology titles of
the Golden Age. However, that does not mean a collector
should give up!
You'll be hard-pressed to find any copy of the 92-issue
run of Marvel Mystery for less than $100 even in lower-grade
conditions. In fact, it's rare to see very good or better
copies available for less than $250. For $1,000 or so,
you might be able to pick up about one to eight representative
issues of Marvel Mystery, unless you are determined
to have one of the first 20 issues (1939-41).
The famous "battle" issues involving the Human Torch
and Sub-Mariner #8, 9, and 10 and their "fire
and ice" team-up in #17 are prohibitively expensive.
For my money if I had that much! I would rather
consider the superhero-packed issues between #21 and
#44 (June 1943) because every one of these consummate
68-page Golden Age gems contains five legendary Timely
superheroes. The Human Torch and Submariner are featured
in long stories (15 pages for the Human Torch in #21-30
and 12 pages for both in other issues), along with shorter
tales of The Angel, The Patriot and The Vision. Alex
Schomburg did most of the covers, a huge bonus for the
Golden Age collector!
To narrow the focus even further, the ideal selection
would include at least one issue between #21-27 because
a sixth fantastic character, Kazar, is included in the
run. But issues #28-44 are all worthwhile as well, especially
#37 (a Hitler cover) and #40 (a Zeppelin cover). I would
vote for #40, since Zeppelin covers were not common
in World War II comics.
The page count dropped to 60 pages with #45 (July 1943),
and the Patriot was dropped in #45-48. Unless you are
a completist, I would skip #45-48; or Hitler collector
#46 has another Hitler cover.
Miss America, one of the best of the Golden Age superheroines,
first zoomed into action in #49 (November 1943) as one
of the last original costumed heroes of the era. Miss
America replaced The Vision. The Patriot returned in
#49, giving Marvel Mystery a lineup of five solid classic
superhero strips through #74 Human Torch, Submariner,
The Angel, The Patriot and Miss America. Miss America
ran through #85, but her stories were all only 7 pages
long. Still, no Golden Age collection is complete without
a Miss America appearance.
It was unusual to see five superheroes in one anthology
in the period that covers #49 (November 1943) through
#74 (July 1946). In fact, when the page count dropped
to 52 pages with #58 (September 1944), it was an undistinguished
non-superhero strip Terry Vance, School Boy Sleuth
that was dropped instead of one of the five superheroes.
For many collectors, the best issue of the run between
#49-74 would be #63 (April 1945), which contained one
of the final Hitler covers from any publisher. Issue
#63 hit the stands only two to three months before Hitler
died in his bunker in April 1945, ending the European
half of World War II.
The last Angel story appeared in #79 (December 1946),
and the Young Allies appeared in cramped 7-page stories
in #75-83. For my money, though, the collector with
limited funds would be well advised to skip #64-84 and
focus instead on the last nine issues of the title
#84 (October 1947) through #92 (June 1949), before it
became the horror/fantasy title Marvel Tales.
Captain America and Bucky appeared in 7-page stories
in #80-86 (except #85), but they are not a primary attraction.
However, Captain America's adventures with his later
partner Golden Girl in #87-88 and #91-92 are well worth
the collector's attention, especially the 12-page epics
in #87 and 91.
The Blonde Phantom, a fun femme character, appeared
in #84-91 and the much lesser known Sun Girl #88, 89
and 90, along with Sun Girl's guest starring stints
in the Human Torch stories in #88-91. Namora made her
debut in the Submariner story in #82 and Namora also
appeared in #84-90. Venus, who ran in 18 issues of her
own title, appeared on #91 and the Witness, who appeared
in a one-shot comic, was in a 3-page story in #92.
Let's assume you have one or two pre-#80 issues, with
all those classic heroes. If so, the best of the final
13 issues would then be #88 (Captain America with Golden
Girl, Human Torch with Sun Girl, Submariner with Namora,
plus separate stories of Blonde Phantom and Sun Girl.)
Issue #88 also has by far the best cover of the later
issues a wonderful "posed" shot of Sun Girl,
Human Torch, Submariner and a very glamorous Blonde
However, for the best in Golden Age fun, I'd say you
can't go wrong with any issue of #87-91.
The final issue, #92, is the only 36-pager of the run
and contains only three stories a 14-page recap
of Human Torch's origin, an 8-page story with Captain
America and Golden Girl, and the 3-page Witness story.
However, this issue is historic, since it's the last
Torch story of the Golden Age.
So there you have it if you can collect only
three issues of Marvel Mystery, try to snag one from
#21-27, another from #49-74 (especially the wonderful
Schomburg cover of Hitler and his infamous partners
trying to flee), and finally #88. And if you can get
#17 and maybe #9, you will really have a nifty set of
Marvel Mystery examples!
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Now that I have introduced you to the world of Richard
Corben, as aforementioned in last month's article,
I wanted to take the time to discuss one of his titles
in particular. For me, not having any in-depth education
in Golden or Silver Age comics until later in my collecting
years, Modern comics were all that existed in my pre-adolescent
reality. They weren't just any Modern comics either,
they were the ones that none of my friends would read,
the titles that they would push aside to satisfy their
superhero fixations. While they were reading about Superman
saving Metropolis or the X-Men battling Magneto, I was
indulging myself in the black and white independent
titles whose heroes closely resembled real people
well, as real as they are going to be in comics anyway.
And one title in particular blew me away Fantagor
Press's Rip in Time. A title packed with gore,
dinosaurs, and big-busted women. What else could a 12-year-old
Rip in Time issue #1 hit the stands in 1986 and continued
for five issues. Fantagor Press wasn't a huge label,
so the print run wasn't what people nowadays are used
to. Being a little younger at the time, I never grabbed
it from the newsstands, because I was probably still
learning my ABCs. In my early teens, however, I found
all five issues in that glorious 50-cent box that I
have spoken so highly of in the past. And there it was,
photographic-like color covers jam-packed with black
and white Corben illustrations. And that was only the
beginning. There, I proceeded to open the book and read.
The story takes place in the California desert where
a secret government compound is testing a time portal
device which allows a door to open leading to prehistoric
times. This is where our hero, Rip Scully, LAPD, comes
into the picture. After he and his fiancé find
themselves in the middle of a liquor store hold-up,
she is taken hostage and he is led on a chase by her
captor. Somehow, the car chase winds up crashing into
the secret government facility while they happened to
be testing the portal. Don't you just hate when
that happens? The next thing they realize is that they
are surrounded by dinosaurs and millions of years away
from home. And that's only the first issue.
Later, while they're fighting to stay alive in
a wild world, the government organization sends a hit
man to kill them so there are no survivors to reveal
their secrets. So now they are surrounded by man-eating
reptiles and a crazed madman. That's when Rip single-handedly
battles the crazed government employee, gives an enormous
Tyrannosaurus Rex a hard time, and makes his way back
through the portal with only minor cuts and bruises.
And to top it all off, Rip wins the girl in the end.
What more could you ask for?
The story is very well scripted and reads like a movie.
Not only was Richard Corben the artist, but Bruce Jones
was the writer. And for you Modern comic book aficionados,
you know that he is currently writing the new Hulk storyline
for Marvel Comics. Rip in Time is a great example of
Jones' talent. The dialogue reads like it's
coming straight from your own lips. The story is great,
packed with enough action that it would give Die Hard
a run for its money. And the art
well, if you
need to hear my opinion on Richard Corben again, then
you should definitely refer to last month's article.
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Auctions Become Even MORE Amazing in 2003
"Having a life was nice while it lasted," chuckled James
"Lon" Allen, Auction Coordinator for Heritage Comics Auctions
(HCA). "But the collecting world has spoken, and I'm happy
Allen is referring to HCA's recent decision to expand its monthly Internet-only Amazing Comics Auctions' (ACA) to two sales a month.
"It's really a no-brainer," Allen says about the decision. "Our ACA sales have grown exponentially over the last year or so. There's a seemingly insatiable appetite amongst collectors out there for vintage comics and art at realistic prices, an appetite we're happy to feed."
The most recent ACA sale opened Sunday, Feb. 2, and features
1,767 individual lots. Read
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Among the Comics
Comic book enthusiasts waited breathlessly for this
past Friday, Feb. 14, to arrive so they could attend
the opening of the new Daredevil movie. A decent portion
of the rest of the population, however, saw this day
simply as Valentine's Day, an occasion to make a fuss
about one's favorite paramour
or else! To celebrate
the day properly, I thought we might take a look at
Spellbound #14 (April 1953), an Atlas title from 50
years ago with a strong romantic sensibility.
This issue starts off with a characteristically stunning
Bill Everett cover, which shows a startled young man
sitting next to a ghoulish woman dressed in matching
dress and shoes; indeed, he is surrounded by similar
creatures, with a couple of skeletons looming in the
distance for good measure. The cover features the first
offering inside, "Love Story," wonderfully
appropriate since this book surely graced the stands
on Feb. 14, 1953.
"Love Story" spins the tale of an unhappily
married tour guide in Africa, where he and his wife
spend every day declaring how much each wishes the other
were dead. She almost gets her wish when he is nearly
killed by a python, but he is rescued and brought back
to camp where the new doctor vows to nurse him back
to health. Naturally, the wife falls for the handsome
young doctor, and soon they begin to plot the elimination
of the only impediment to their jungle love. Guessing
their intentions, the husband strikes a deal with his
native friends, so that when he finally succumbs (deliberately)
to their schemes, the wife finds that those natives
have murdered her lover and that she is now betrothed
to the local witch doctor, a large fellow who coos lovingly
in the last panel, "Stand still so me can put this
ring thru your nose." This charming story employs
one of my favorite devices in comic book horror stories
in that it is narrated from start to finish by a dead
This issue offers several similarly romantic stories.
In "Close Shave," a newlywed battle-ax keeps
insisting that her mousy husband shave closer so he
can kiss her properly, until he finally shaves off his
entire face and offers to do the same for her. In "The
Revolt of Wilbur Bixby," an unattractive but rich
woman keeps her husband in line by threatening not to
feed him, as she gives him no money and he cannot, after
all, "eat grass." Finally, during a trip to
Greece, Wilbur discovers a way to turn himself into
a centaur so that he can indeed eat grass; we can only
imagine the fate that awaits Griselda at the end.
My favorite is another Russ Heath gem, "The Heat's
On," the story of Rock Zucco, the heartless foreman
of a small group of laborers on board a ship who mercilessly
forces his men to stoke the furnaces until they can
barely stand up any more. Back home at the end of the
voyage, he proceeds to mistreat his helpless wife until
he catches a glimpse of a beautiful young woman in the
apartment across the alley. He decides to push his wife
out the window so he can pursue this lovely vision,
but, blinded by a flash of light, he instead falls to
his death. Turns out that the gorgeous woman is actually
the devil who, whip in hand, informs Rock that he will
be stoking the fires of hell for eternity. He definitely
had it coming.
So, comic fans, enjoy the romantic maneuvers between
Daredevil and Elektra all you like. For my money, Atlas
really knew what love was all about in the fabulous
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Metropolis Acquires Highest CGC Graded 9.4 Copy of NM Showcase #4
Stephen Fishler and Vincent Zurzolo of Metropolis Collectibles
have announced that they've acquired the highest graded
copy of Showcase #4, the first comic book of the Silver
Age. CGC graded it 9.4 Near Mint. It is the highest
graded copy of the landmark issue known to be in existence.
"We are very pleased to now own this extremely scarce
comic book," said Stephen Fishler, CEO of Metropolis.
"Due to the rarity of this key book in such a high grade,
we certainly don't expect to see another one like it.
We have no immediate plans to put it up for sale."
Showcase #4 draws it's historical significance as the
cornerstone of the Silver Age from the debut of Barry
Allen, otherwise known as "The Flash." Prior to his
appearance in the September 1956 publication, the comic
book industry was in shambles. The superheroes introduced
during World War II had faded into obscurity, and a
restrictive code of conduct rendered most comic books
impotent and without readership. These factors, coupled
with poor distribution, had brought the industry to
...until, The Flash.
DC Comics, struggling with a dwindling audience, began
thinking about bringing back superheroes. Needing a
hero to lead the charge, Editor Julius Schwartz chose
The Flash as the perfect candidate. Although a "Flash"
had existed in the Golden Age, this new Flash would
keep only the name, completely revamped for a new age.
The unparalleled success of The Flash ushered in the
revitalization of other DC characters, and soon Superman,
Batman, Green Lantern and more returned to the limelight.
Inspired by DC's success, Marvel Comics soon began inventing
and reintroducing characters of its own. The Renaissance
now known as the Silver Age all began with this one
Vincent Zurzolo, COO of Metropolis added, "While there
are almost a dozen 1962 Amazing Fantasy #15s circulating
in Near Mint, this single copy of 1956 Showcase #4 makes
it quite possibly the most valuable Silver Age comic
book in the world."
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