The Usual Suspects #38

Welcome back for another edition of The Usual Suspects. Once a month I like to focus one of my articles on a specific variant theme or an individual artist. This week I wanted to look at one of my favorite underrated artists, Adi Granov. I love his work, and yes he does get a bit of attention so you may not think he’s underrated, but he doesn’t get nearly the level of love his work deserves. The below was shared on his Instagram on Wednesday. Check out his upcoming incentive variant for Savage Sword of Conan #4. I don’t know about you, but I’m gonna grab one of these beauties if I can.

You can check out the Adi Granov Checklist here on CBSI to see plenty of awesome covers. Some of these are just classic, iconic images. His redesign of the Iron Man Armor during the Extremis storyline with Warren Ellis has really influenced the character we all now think of today.

Prior to this he was still rocking that Pat Lee manga style he had since Heroes Reborn redesign with those things sticking out of his back.

Going back to the art on Extremis, that storyline which was partially adapted for Iron Man 3. As we all know, that movie was not received well by most fans. I don’t know if it was just the Mandarin twist or if Shane Black just wasn’t the right fit for an installment movie in the MCU.

Anyway, following a great run of Iron Man comics and cover work, Granov also gave us a pretty sweet run of Nova covers in 2007. I believe he did the first 10 issues of that volume of Nova following Annihilation. That was a really good run from Abnett and Lanning. These covers were just icing on an already pretty tasty cake.

 

But Granov also worked on designing the Iron Man armor that was used in the 1st Iron Man movie in 2008. Jon Favreau personally selected him to design the suit for the 1st MCU movie. The one that started it all, most likely chosen based on those great Iron Man covers. His art has a sort of stylistic realism. There’s a practical, textural feel to the art where you can see things like the armor actually existing in real life when looking at his work.

 

It’s this realistic feel to his art that makes him such a good concept artist. This has to be a real plus for a movie executive as you can look at the art and see it on set or on the big screen. This talent allowed him to also work as a concept artist on The Avengers and The Amazing Spider-Man 2. In addition, Sideshow used his art as the basis for a series of high end statues.

Mostly a cover artist. He did a few interiors, but his painted-like art style is time consuming and doesn’t lend itself to the rigors of a monthly schedule. But that’s fine by me. Keep these sweet covers coming I say.

What I find surprising is that Granov has been in the comic scene since 2004, and after 15 years he still hasn’t done any work for DC. Nothing official at least. Best I could find were some sketches and commissioned art.

 

These at least give a sense of what he could do with these other characters. Granted it’s not quite a finished cover, but it’s still pretty impressive if you ask me. I’d love to see him work on some DC characters one day, or perhaps some other non-big 2 characters as well.

His work has been almost exclusively Marvel. I browsed the interwebs for a bit poking around and I could only come up with a couple of oddball covers that weren’t Marvel.  I only found three actually. And those were the first 3 issues of G.I. Joe Reloaded from Devil’s Due back in 2004.

So outside of those 3 covers, the rest of Granov’s work has been for Marvel. Granted in that Marvel exclusive run he has managed some odd ball covers. He’s done a bunch of Star Wars books, a Dark Tower Incentive variant, and even a LeBron James insert comic for ESPN the magazine.

And for the sake of balance, I do feel the need to point out that not all of Granov’s work is perfect. I am a big fan, but I am not a blind fan boy. He can miss the mark occasionally just like anyone else. Sometimes the art can look a bit stiff. But that’s not exclusive to Granov. I feel that is a common issue for a lot of painted-type art. I’m not sure why that happens, but sometimes it just looks flat. Perhaps it’s a product of the colors palette used. Many painted-like works don’t have high contrast layered in the image. I feel at least that the monotone color scheme is the culprit in my below examples. Just a lot of blue-grey blah, like a Snyder DC movie.

And despite my criticisms, I still own both of those covers including that X-Men Gold 1:25 Incentive. But that’s pretty much where I want to go from here. I want to show some of my favorite covers and hard to find Incentive Adi Granov variants. I think you’ve had enough of the book report.

So with that said…let’s get into it.

Incredible Hulks #635

 (Oct 2011)

1:25 Incentive Variant

 

Well, right out of the gate, I feel this is one of the very best Hulk covers out there. It’s just perfect to me. Just a clean and striking image that conveys the rage within The Hulk. It’s not a secret book. Everyone knows this cover. It’s Incredible Hulk #635.

But with Hulk’s popularity near fever pitch at the moment with the success of his Immortal Hulk run, I’m surprised that hasn’t spilled over to more Hulk keys. Sure everyone is chasing those 1st Immortal Hulk appearances, whichever book you choose as there is some debate. But let me tell you a little secret…

…It’s The Incredible Hulk #1. He’s the same character. Nothing changed. He’s still the Hulk. Sure the title changed, but he doesn’t go around introducing himself as the Immortal Hulk.

But we’ll save that discussion for another time. The point is that The Immortal Hulk is great. And this cover is great. And this is gonna keep rising over the long term as it is a super tough book to find. And it doesn’t trade hands very often.

But if you want a cheaper Granov Hulk cover, then you can look at his 1:50 Incentive variant for Immortal Hulk Defenders #1 from a few months ago. It’s not as iconic as 635, but it’s pretty darn good.

Active Listings:  Only half a dozen copies available of this one on the market. Surprisingly, most copies available are raw. I would be a bit wary purchasing a raw copy of this book expecting it to be a high grade.

Call me a pessimist, but I would be wary as to why the seller didn’t grade it already themselves given the premium to be had for a big book like this. This is a book that is where it is because of the cover, so access to the interiors isn’t an argument as to why it hasn’t already been graded. Sure I know there are some collectors who don’t believe in grading, and that’s all well and good. I’m just saying, I would be cautious.

Anyway, big dog on the block is a very nice raw copy that is seeking $1,800. They aren’t messing around. Coming in after that is another raw that is looking for half that amount at about $900, which coincidentally is pretty close to the last sold CGC 9.8 and the average 9.8 sales over the last year.

Lastly we have some auctions for a couple of raws or a CGC 9.4 that all start bids around the $400 range. Or if you don’t want the stress of bidding you can outright buy a CGC 8.5 from the UK for about $450 after shipping.

Market Analysis:  Overall sales are down for this one over the lifetime average of the book. With those 3 CGC 9.8 sales since March 2018 all in the $800-$870 range, that’s a bit down from the 3 $1k plus sales in 2017. Plus the all-time high sale of about $1,700 was from June 2017, so a drop of nearly half that price in less than 2 years is worth noting.

Outside of the 9.8, it looks like anything in the 9.4-9.6 range is a solid $400-$450 price tag, based on recent history. What I find very surprising is that I couldn’t find a raw sale completed over the last 3 months.

Moon Knight V7 #1

(May 2014)

1:50 Incentive Variant

 

Now this book is just great. I realize the color palette is the same as the “flat” examples I noted previously, but they work here. Awesome lighting and a powerful pose. That image is just iconic Moon Knight, but it unfortunately gets overshadowed by its higher ratio big brother. This 1:50 should be the tippy top variant Moon Knight cover to have, but it is almost ignored because of the 1:75 Bill Sienkiewicz.

Now, we will look at that book some other time, but I felt it at least deserved a quick mention since it shares the same guts as our Granov. But honestly, ratios and current market price notwithstanding, if all things were equal I would pick the Granov every time here. Don’t get me wrong, the Sienkiewicz is cool, but that Granov is just awesome. Plus it’s a perfect template for a Batman cover. Maybe we’ll get one eventually.

But Granov had another interesting Moon Knight variant. And that was his cover for Vengeance of Moon Knight #7. It’s just an interesting Iron Man mash-up image. It’s straight up just cool. And it won’t break the bank.

Active Listings:  Only about 6 copies available for this 1:50 Incentive variant. Top listing is a CGC SS signed by Stan Lee for $1,300. Outside of that oddity, a CGC 9.8 is up for $600. If you want a bargain you can grab a CBCS 9.8 for only $475. This further supports my assessment that CBCS is moving at a 20% discount to CGC prices.

Other than those, you are looking at around $400 for a 9.4 or 9.6 or the lone raw that is listed for $250.

Market Analysis:  Not a lot of sales as this is a high ratio and tough book to obtain. CGC 9.8 high sale of $477 was completed last August. Prior to that, this was a $300 book in 9.8 for a while. You’d have to go back to 2015 when it was a $150 book to find it cheaper. But don’t look back to far or you will find 3 sub $50 sales all the way back in 2014 that will really make you see how different the market is these days.

3 sales of a High Ratio Incentive variant by a popular artist on a character with a strong cult following, all for under ratio? My times have changed. This would be presold CGC 9.8 guaranteed for $200+ easy today with raws probably selling for double ration by the end of the day of release.

Uncanny X-Men V2 #20

(Jun 2014)

1:50 Incentive Variant

Granov has had a decent run on X-Books for a while there, but this one stands out for me. Sure Cyclops looks like he’s in a rubber gimp suit, but that was his uniform. Something about this cover makes me imagine the X-men as directed by Ridley Scott. But when it comes down to it, I guess I’m just a sucker for Magik. I mean, who isn’t a fan of a hot girl holding a gigantic anime style heavy blade mega sword? She’s like a female version of Cloud from Final Fantasy 7.

 

But Magik was all the rage back in 2014. She found herself the subject of a lot of covers a few years ago. This Granov book was in the middle of a nice little incentive variant run. Bookended by J Scott Campbell and Terry Dodson, that isn’t bad company.

 

More recently, Granov did a couple of pretty decent Variants on the Astonishing X-Men title. The Psylocke was a store variant, and seriously had me questioning my resolve with my no store variant rule. So I didn’t buy one, though I do really want one. And I did manage to pick up the 1:10 Gambit since it was pretty cheap as far as Incentive Variants go.

 

Active Listings:  So I’m noticing an odd pattern forming here as there are only 6 copies of this one up right now too. Half a dozen is the magic Granov Incentive number.

Top listings right now are a pair of CGVC 9.8’s looking for $450 and $500 respectively. Just like the #9.8, then you can get a PGX signed by Granov 9.8 for only $400. A CGC 9.6 is only looking for a $40 premium over the 2 raws up for $200 each.

Just like the art, then you can score a Panini French Euro copy for only $40. In case you were curious you could also find Panini versions of some of the other hard to find variants in case you want a cheap alternative for the art and cover. For me, that doesn’t quite scratch the itch as collecting foreigns is a completely different side of the market that I just haven’t dipped a toe in yet. Right now buying a cheap foreign is like watching a bootleg on my jailbroken Amazon Fire Stick. Sure I get to see the move but it’s just not the same. Plus the foreign language subtitles are distracting.

 

Market Analysis:  Very little movement on this book. Even after the many Uncanny X-Men relaunches around that time, this was still a highly printed series. And not being a first or early issue, but issue #20, one would think orders would be down a tad. But with estimates showing there could be over 1k copies of this out there, I would imagine we would have seen more sales.

Only 10 graded sales in 5 years? But this is still a 350 CGC 9.8. And no raw sales the last 3 months.

Inferno #1

(Jul 2015)

1:25 Incentive Variant

So here we have another Magik cover. I don’t know what to tell you, I like it. This came out a year after the last one and Magik was still selling books. I’m telling you, hot girl with heavy blade sells. Thanks again for your influence Cloud.

And this was still before we had word that they’d be making a New Mutants movie. When that news hit all things Magik spiked. Especially once we had casting news that Anya Taylor Joy would be playing her. I was psyched.

A horror themed superhero movie? You have my attention. I was looking forward to this. Something different. I didn’t want yet another misunderstood students movie with mutants. ATJ was really good in Split, and the rest of the cast was interesting as well. Jonathan Byers and Arya Stark, too? I’m in.

But alas, who knows if we will ever see this movie. Sure it’s on the schedule for Fox later this year, but come next week, Disney will own Fox. So who knows what’s gonna happen with this? Perhaps it ends up on a streaming service somewhere. I’m fine with that. It could be a dumpster fire after all, so I’d be much more comfortable checking it out in the confines of my own home and not have to pay to see it.

Active Listings:  Okay so we have 9 listings up right now and the sellers aren’t shy. Top ask right now is $600 for a raw, followed by a PGX 9.8 for $350. There are a few CGC 9.8’s up with the highest looking for $295, while the cheapest is up for only $180. Mix in another raw at $250 a GCG SS signed by Granov for $180, and one random CGC 9.4 from MCS and there’s your pool of choices.

If I were in the market, I’d make a best offer on that Blue label up for $180 and see if I couldn’t snatch it up for $175 shipped and be happy.

Market Analysis:  CGC 9.8’s average is right in that $175 range with the last purchase exceeding it at $187. Lot of movement on this book with 56 CGC sales the last couple years. I gotta think a lot of the volume was driven by spec on the New Mutants movie when it was announced a couple years back. That is supported by some of the higher sales in the $200+ range back in 2017.

Raws on the other hand are much more affordable. Sub $40 isn’t bad.

Amazing Spider-Man #569

(Oct 2008)

1:10 Incentive Variant

So this book is interesting because unlike my other picks, there is actually something in this book that makes it worth looking at. It’s not just because of the cover, which is sick. Look at that Venom. His head looks slick and glossy. He almost looks like a Xenomorph.

But as I was saying, inside this book features the first appearance of Anti-Venom. With the success of the Venom movie, we already know we are getting Carnage in the next one, but who’s to say what follows that? Could we see Anti-Venom eventually? But regardless of a film appearance, this book has become a key on its own. It feels weird to call Anti-Venom’s 1st appearance a key, but if a 1st appearance can command a few hundred bucks without any media tie in, then the market has qualified it as a key.

What I find interesting that despite the awesome cover art on this Incentive variant, this is still not the book to own. That honor seems to go to the 2nd print which feature Anti-Venom on the cover. Lower print, cover appearance, I get it. But once again, all things equal, I’m taking the Granov every day of the week and twice on Sunday.

One more note about the Granov cover. It was reused for a virgin variant for Venom #1 just last year. I’m not a fan of reusing art for a different book. Reprint of the same issue or a collected edition, fine. But just slapping a great Venom cover on another Venom books seems untoward. I don’t know, I have gotten comfortable with the reuse of old interior art as new variant covers. Also shameless grab at our pockets by leveraging on our nostalgia, but at least it was never a cover. I don’t know, perhaps I’m just being a crotchety old man about the whole reused art thing.

Active Listings:  Lot of options out there for you on this one with 50+ active listings at the moment. These range from an auction with only about a day left that’s only at $5.50 right now, all the way up to a CGC SS 9.8 signed by Stan Lee for about $2k.

With the 2nd Print Anti-Venom Cover stealing a lot of the big dollars, this is a CGC 9.8 that can be had in the $220 – $400 range depending who you want to buy it from. Lots of copies in high grade, and raws being in between $65 – $150. The bulk of the raws are in that $80 range.

Market Analysis:  With over 804 graded in the CGC Census, there have been about 250 sales that were tracked so there is a lot of action on this book. Great cover and a 1st appearance so it’s not that big a surprise. But history has shown that is about a $200 CGC 9.8.

There were some highs in 2018 with a $350 sale back in June, but the last dozen or so sales have been closer to that $180 range. It appears that 2017 into the 1s half of 2018, this was trending as a $250-$350 9.8, but those days have passed for now. Perhaps it creeps back up, but I would think there would need to be some form of announcement to spark a jump. Otherwise it will be a slow and steady climb.

Ok that’s it for this week. I spent a bit of time on Adi Granov’s art in general, but really when looking at books based on the covers there is only so much to say. You can see them for yourself and make your own decisions on what you think. I’m just sharing my thoughts.

Anyway in a completely unrelated topic and to wrap this up on a positive note, I just wanted to mention the awesome Galactus on ASM 12. That cover was just stunning. One of the best Galactus covers out there. Only problem is that it’s on a completely unrelated Spider-man book. I really dislike these Marvel theme variants for this very reason.

What’s super cool is that if you check out Adi Granov’s Instagram, you can go back and see some short video of him actually working on this cover. I am amazed watching these masters at work. I am hypnotized by comic artists doing their thing.

I’m not trying to convince you to act on any of these books. Selfishly I’d rather you didn’t so I can still buy them for cheaper. I could do without the competition. Just kidding. But I promise to always be open and  honest with you dear readers, so do what you will with the info I provide.

Now it’s time for another double shot for Last Call.

Elektra V4 #2
(Jul 2017)

I actually scored this book on the old CBSI Razz page. Older members will remember those days. But anyway, I scored a CGC 9.8 with it and flipped it a while back for like $150 or $175. Good thing to given the current market.

I’ve considered picking it up again at these prices. That’s the beauty of collecting. Even if you sell a book you like, you can always find another. But depending on when you move, you may have to pay a premium to replace. I’ve done that before.

**cough** NYX #3 **cough**

Typical Sales Data:

CGC Census 9.8 – 43
CGC 9.8 – $107.50 on 12/13/18
Raw – $28.00 on 12/29/18

Buy, Buy

Silver Surfer V7 #3
(Aug 2014)

You give me a great artist rendition of one of my favorite characters, and you know I will find a way to work that sucker in. You saw how I shoehorned in Galactus earlier.

And the Surfer looks great here. I love the matte finish look as opposed to the super glossy. Seems more natural to me.

But I don’t have this one yet, but it’s a super cheap buy in, so I may put this one on my to-do list. See if I can’t find myself a decent copy.

Typical Sales Data:

CGC Census 9.8 – 6
CGC 9.8 – $79.95 on 5/3/15
Raw – $11.91 on 3/10/19

Buy, Buy

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