Comic De-SPEC-tive v1.7

Prep is half the battle when it comes to cashing in on your comic investment. You don’t want to spend valuable time digging when the news breaks that the book that you bought multiple copies of just got optioned.  That’s the first knock of opportunity and the one where you need to have a quick trigger finger before the inevitable flood of copies from the undercutters kills your profit margin.

While you’re likely to get a nice return on your investment in this initial wave, if you find yourself left in the wake, don’t panic! There are multiple windows of which you can take advantage but to paraphrase the Boy Scout motto, ‘you need to have your sh*t together!’ if you want to take advantage (says the guy still sitting on all his Thanos stock but hey I figure he’ll be in the next Avengers too, so…)

The caveat here is after that property is optioned, there’s a chance it may languish in Developmental Hell and never see the light of day, literally leaving you holding the bag (and board!).

Assuming that the comic is adapted for the screen, the trailer usually creates the next wave of speculative activity.  The quality of said trailer will indicate just how much demand there is but any attention is good attention when you’re a seller.

Following this, track the early word-of-mouth and hype on a project between the trailer and release date to determine exactly how much of a buyer you want to be during the lull in between.

Black Panther, which became a cultural phenomenon, is one of the rare examples of keys and scarce variant values continuing to rise both into and following the release of a film. (I touched on the ‘television effect’ a couple columns back but just know that it’s even more of an anomaly there.)



Where prep work really pays off is in watching what happens in those lulls and following the corresponding trends.  Are books being bought or sold?

Don’t be fooled by outliers; one book going for a big dollar amount with NO OTHER COPIES AVAILABLE(!) does not mean that this is a comic you should be searching for- it merely means that one person has been searching for that issue and jumped on it when it became available.

I often see too small a sample size mistakenly thought to be indicative of a trend. Effective searching of ‘sold listings’; monitoring which books are disappearing in big numbers in a short period of time; looking at availability at online retailers- these are all ways in which you can proactively speculate, ensuring that you’re a step ahead of those lurking in the G+ groups.

While there will always be crossover amongst speculators, educating yourself will allow you to be the one listing auctions with NM+ issues in hand rather than running to grab the last cheap copies in questionable condition.


SPEC-ial Feature: In the Queue


In order to give a more concrete image of what I’m talking about above, I thought it might be interesting to take a closer look at my ‘In the Queue” long box, which basically serves as my on deck circle for spec.

Using my patented blend of entertainment and comic site monitoring, comic creator social network stalking, and an unexplainable penchant for nostalgia-driven subpar 80’s properties, I offer you a rare glimpse into how the sausage is made.  (While these are all actual books that I am stashing, stock covers are shown below for resolution purposes.)

I’ve also omitted a lot of the higher profile books which are currently saturating the boards, like Captain Marvel, but have instead chosen to focus on post-hype books and conversely, books that aren’t being sought out…yet.


New Mutants



These books had a nice spike but prices have since leveled off so it may be time to buy back in. Both the Marvel Graphic Novel 4 (many printings, check inside for first printing) and New Mutants 18, which features both the first appearance of Warlock (rumored to have been added in reshoots) and the introduction of the Demon Bear storyline will pick up interest when the trailer for the pushed back film hits so if you sold already, you may be able to double down!  Perpetual fave Magik has an inordinate number of really nice solo and team variant covers. I’ve always been partial to this one.


Secret Wars Inferno 1 Granov variant



Additionally for fans of the phenomenal Bill Sienkiewicz, IDW will be publishing another of their amazing Artifact Editions this August.  While the MSRP is $125 for this 160 page hardcover, Mutants and Moon Knights can be found for pre-order at a significant discount.  (I found one for 30% off without too much searching.) I’ve not yet seen the print run on this so I’m not sure how limited it will be but previous volumes have doubled in price.



Mouse Guard


I think this is flying under radars as it is a potential franchise with some talent attached.  Gary Whitta (Rogue One) is writing the script for David Petersen’s unique warrior title and here’s what director Wes Ball had to say about his plans for the film:


“The trick with this one is we have to thread that needle with tone. I’m not interested in doing a DreamWorks or Pixar-type movie, I’m interested in doing something closer to Planet of the Apes where you’re really gonna nail characters and show the harsh reality of what they live in. It’s gonna be a little bit of both, probably, but at the same time because of the cost I need as big an audience as possible. So I want 10-year olds to see this as much as 40 and 50-year olds, you know? That’s the needle we have to thread, but for me personally… the way Star Wars appealed to me as a kid growing up hit that tone in a weird way. It appealed to the kid in everybody but still took itself seriously. That’s really exciting to me, that kind of film, that kind of target, but obviously set in this really harsh world of mice and swords.”


When I see that type of passion (and money) attached to a property rife with marketing potential, I’m all in.



Currently a $1000 plus book due to its rarity; this self-published first issue is distinguished by the $3.00 price tag.  Subsequent publishings by Archaia have no price. As this book is a true ghost, look for the Archaia 1st printing. (As an added bonus, you can usually find copies with Petersen’s doodlings on them.)



Dark Phoenix


So, you may have heard recently that the posters for the new X-Men: Dark Phoenix film (another victim of its release date being pushed far back) have heavily focused on the subtitle over the X-Men tag.

Early speculation on this movie has widely been driven over who exactly Jessica Chastain’s character will be– I waver between Lady Mastermind (as the original Mastermind featured heavily in the original Dark Phoenix saga/ 1st app. X-treme X-men 6) and Lady Sinister who first appeared on the scene in X-Men: Legacy 214.



A cheap toss-up to be sure- check those longboxes as they’re more likely to be waiting there than the scoured over auction sites where you may pay double.

Knowing that the storyline will be faithfully adhered to- here’s what director Simon Kinberg recently said in an interview- again keys me into what books to target:

“It’s much more loyal to the original comic than X-Men 3, which told the Dark Phoenix story.  It’s a movie that involves extraterrestrial characters, which is not something that we’ve done in the X-Men franchise before, and is something that is a huge part of the Dark Phoenix saga in the comics.”

So besides the obvious (the storyline can be split into Jean’s presumptive acquisition of the Phoenix force detailed in issues 101-107 and also the Dark Phoenix saga from 129-138; key issues are Uncanny X-men 134, and the iconic 135 cover below), what else am I looking for here?



Well, ‘loyal to the original’ and ‘extraterrestrial’, I take a closer look at issue 107 and the introduction of the Shi’ar Imperial Guard.  And then I think, is it possible Chastain (even though it has previously been refuted) might be Deathbird? So, I also grab a copy of Ms. Marvel 9.



There are also a lot of undervalued Phoenix variant covers.  Most recently, we saw some beautiful Phoenix: Resurrection covers by the likes of Jenny Frison, Stephanie Hans and Mukesh Singh for issue 4 below.

There were also a series of “Death of X” (Uncanny Inhumans 12) and “Phoenix” (Thanos 14) variants (part of Marvel’s once refreshingly different but now depressingly overused character-themed variant months- one month, Deadpool; one month, Mary Jane, and seemingly every other month, Venom!)

I also included two other books that I grab whenever I find them- the X-Men Legacy 223 (70th Anniversary variant), and as recently brought up on the CBSI board, Avengers 13, part of the very cool X-Men Evolutions month which showed those characters’ many looks over the years.



Keeping our eyes toward the X-Men, I am keeping an eye on Storm, Goddess of Thunder.

Status quo is always an iffy thing in comics but Marvel loves to keep going back to this particular well.  As seen in X-Men Gold 25, Ororo has once again become the Goddess of Thunder as Stormcaster returns to her grasp.

While, we first saw this happen in the classic Asgardian Wars which ran through the New Mutants Special Edition 1 and which then saw Storm wield the weapon in X-Men Annual 9.



This hammer may, however, originate from a different realm, opening up the possibility for yet another Secret Wars variant to make our list, the cover for Secret Wars Thors 3 by Dale Keown.



The Incredibles


The Incredibles 1 1:25 Mignola


I’ll just give a callback to Steve Horn’s terrific piece here as the highly anticipated film sequel is less than a month away.


I am also actively buying up:

Astro City


(Optioned, dirt cheap issues, lots of first appearances throughout series, Busiek will be actively involved).


Astro City 1 (1995)


Afterlife With Archie


(Based on the success of Riverdale, the upcoming Netflix adaptation of the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and the quality- if not timeliness- of the brand, most recently with the Smallwood’s excellent Vampironica.)


Life with Archie 23 Variant


Darkwing Duck


(Teaser on Ducktales that is promised to be more than just an Easter Egg; I’m beginning to think that we just may have a Disney Afternoon Renaissance)

There have been many Boom! covers that have turned collectors’ heads including some of the better known homages below.



In addition to those, the con sketch variants  for issues 5 and 8 are also consistent sellers.  And then, there are my two favorites below for 4c and 3c respectively.  Note that the book was published under Kaboom! for vol. 2 which started with issue 11 and those variants are easier to find and consequently less desirable than the earlier issues.



Black Hammer


(Jeff Lemire has so many plates spinning, one is bound to get snatched up soon and this one has the greatest world-building potential.)


Black Hammer SDCC 2016 Variant Issue 1


Secret Invasion/Annihilation/ Avengers Disassembled/Illuminati/Ronin books


(‘cuz at least one of these HAS to be the basis of the next film right?  Push comes to shove, I like the theory of Captain Marvel encountering Skrulls in the past, the Skrulls infiltrating our society, with the next phase kicking off in a ‘Secret Invasion’ reveal… the sketch covers are nice grabs and can currently be found with minimal effort.)





Mike Mignola recently shared:


“The first film was based on one of the comics, but Del Toro was looking to reinvent everything. I think the difference is here, the bulk of the [Duncan] Fegredo arc takes place in the real world. So instead of making up a whole fantasy world, it was, ‘Let’s find locations that feel like these real-world locales that Duncan drew in the comic.’ I think the bulk of the characters in the film are established in the comic. It was insane for me to walk in there and see that someone did a really nice rendering of a creature I created or Duncan created. It’s got a whole different feel from the older movies. Duncan’s not working on it, but I did see stuff in the movie that was so close to what Duncan drew, more so than what was in the previous movies. It was pretty exciting.”


With this in mind, looking at their collaborations together, Mignola worked alongside Duncan Fegredo (who most recently gave us that stellar Death or Glory 1 ‘B’ cover) on Darkness Calls, The Wild Hunt and The Storm and the Fury.


Hellboy: The Wild Hunt 1


So, that’s just a peek at a few of the books that I continue to stockpile.  Most of them tend to come with pretty good creative pedigrees; again, this is a good indicator that a book will at the very least retain its value if the status quo continues and more than likely, jump significantly in price when the ‘wave’ hits.

As always, continue to collect what you like first; never buy more copies of a title than you are prepared to have sit in a ‘dead’ spec pile indefinitely; and most importantly,  try not to follow the lemmings off of the cliff by making your own informed decisions instead of blindly buying up what the ‘experts’ advise. (Except for the Comic De-SPEC-tive, of course!


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