The Usual Suspects 57
Welcome back for another edition of The Usual Suspects. Not sure if it’s the cooler weather, or the leaves changing color, or just the Fall season in general taking hold; but I am fully into the Halloween spirit. And to celebrate that, I thought it would be a good time to look into Marvel’s Horror properties.
I actually just picked up a lower grade copy of this Marvel Premiere #28. I’ve been looking for one for a while now and I just happened to win this auction for a relatively cheap amount last week. And coincidentally, the book arrived today just as I was wrapping up this article.
Granted some may think of that original Legion of Monsters team instead of the Marvel-centric one…
But that Original Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, and Creature from the Black Lagoon team is more Monster Squad to me than anything else.
Anyway, I will spotlight nearly all of the classic Marvel Supernatural characters in the coverage below. I say nearly because I am not going to get into Morbius. He’s got his own movie coming from Sony and he feels miles away from what is stirring over at Marvel right now. So, before we get to the books, I wanted to get into the recent Marvel news that really started moving the needle on these properties.
First let’s rewind it back a couple week’s to when we learned that Hulu is not moving forward with a Robbie Reyes Ghost Rider series.
This was slightly disappointing, but I was also excited by the possibilities. Sure, I enjoyed the new Terminator Gabriel Luna giving us a solid performance as the Spirit of Vengeance on Marvel’s Agents of Shield, but it still wasn’t what I really wanted. I never felt like the Ghost Driver was really the same Spirit of Vengeance. It was coffee shop clams casino.
Again, I’m not saying he’s a bad character. Just different. Kinda like watching the edited for TV version of Die Hard 2. It has plenty of good, but ultimately just isn’t the same.
That said, here’s to hoping we get some form of the Spirit of Vengeance either on a Steaming service like Hulu, or on the big screen in the MCU. But more on that later.
Following that Ghost Rider announcement, we also got some positive with this week’s Helstrom casting announcements. Granted I don’t know much about Tom Austen, Sydney Lemmon, or Elizabeth Marvel; but I will hold out hope that this will work. Now that Kevin Feige is in charge of everything, I am optimistic the right decisions will be made.
Honestly, I don’t know much about the property, so I am going in with an open mind and a blank slate. In fact, I always thought it was Hellstorm and got upset that Marvel was softening the property by calling it Helstrom. It wasn’t until I did some research that I found out that he was originally Hellstrom. Granted they did remove an “L” but basically it’s in the spirit of the original name, and that it was just a 90’s rebranding that made him Hellstorm with that series trying to build off the success of the Midnight Sons.
So, having come up through collecting in the 90’s, Hellstorm is the name that I know. It’s like even though “Killing Me Softly” was recorded by Lori Lieberman and Roberta Flack in the 70’s, I only think of Lauren Hill and the Fugees in the 90’s.
Same goes for “I Will Always Love You” By Whitney Houston or “Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon” by Urge Overkill. I’m sorry, Dolly Parton and Neil Diamond, but I knows what I knows.
Well enough with the preamble as this is gonna be another near 5k word article, so let’s just get into it.
First appearance of Ghost Rider
Now, I already covered this book well over a year ago in the Usual Suspects #3 way back in July 2018, but a lot has happened the last year. So, let’s see where this stands today.
As you are already aware, this is Johnny Blaze’s 1st appearance. And this is still a tough book in high grade. Johnny Blaze also has a brand-new series that just started last week, and a couple of NYCC variants that dropped that have been moving pretty steady in the $30-$60 range.
I really dig that glow-in-the dark king of hell cover. It harkens back to the classic Mark Texeira Cover for #15 from back in the 90’s that I mentioned in yesterday’s Dollar Bin Digging. Again, that book also had a 2nd print that also had a pretty high print run; so both can be found rather easily in dollar bins. And I grab them whenever I see them. They are just too cool not to.
Market Analysis: Still no CGC 9.8 sales to report, but there was a CGC 9.6 Sale in 9.6 for over $13k. Last summer I was noting, “Best copy on eBay at the moment is a CBCS 9.4 priced at a 40% increase over the last recorded 9.4 sale back in March. That sale was for $4,300 and the asking price is now about $6k. Who knows, maybe they get it.” And it looks like that’s exactly what one sold for this past March.
Prices across the board are up from last year’s look in. CGC 8.0’s are now over $1200 where they were averaging under $800 last summer. Up and down the grading scale, prices are on the rise.
Raw sales are also pretty consistent with 255 sales the last year. Given the wide range subjectivity in raw grades this is easily a few hundred dollar purchase even for a low/mid-grade. This had a high raw sale of $3,250 to put it in perspective.
1st appearance Dan Ketch as Ghost Rider
While Johnny Blaze was a bit before my time in the comics, this is the version of Ghost Rider that I think of first. That’s due to Danny Ketch being introduced as the new Ghost Rider in 1990 when my comic collecting really took root. I loved this series, and Mark Texeira’s art is the version my mind goes to.
I used to love mimicking Texeira’s work on this book when I used to doodle back in the day. I mean, come on, what 13-year-old wouldn’t love drawing skulls on fire? This was pre-internet days, back when imagination used to mean something.
But anyway, while it’s possible we may see Danny Ketch pop up in the MCU at some point, I’m not sure which direction they will go. He’s like the middle child and could be forgotten about. Personally, I think they should go with the whole Danny Ketch introduction and possibly even bring back Nic Cage as Johnny Blaze at some point for a cameo.
While I didn’t love, or even particularly “like” those original movies, I can admit that it would be a fun thing to do. Especially if the plan is to skip over Johnny Blaze in the G.R. mythos anyway.
Market Analysis: Black cover makes high grade very tough. You’ll hear that a lot about many Ghost Rider books. But with so many copies of this one from the 90’s, there are plenty to be found if you’re patient.
This is easily a $200+ CGC 9.8 and one of those 9.8 or bust type books. I mean grades 9.4 and lower sell basically for grading fees or less. Raws are also pretty much in the same boat. Nice high-grade copies can fetch $20-$30, while most go for under $10.
If you are lucky you can sometimes score one of these in a dollar or $2 box. I have a couple extras found on the cheap. Again, high print run from the 90’s finds its way into bins.
1:25 Lozzi & 1:50 Neal Adams
A popular theory these days is that Marvel will go for more diversity and run with a female Ghost Rider in Alejandra Jones. Now whether this were to happen or not in the MCU, these 2 variants are already extremely tough to come across. If she did find her way to a screen near you, that might spike these books even higher, but I think we are past the point of them lowering in price.
As I said, these books are ghosts and I haven’t seen either in person that I can recall. I did manage to find the regular version in a dollar bin recently, as you will with many of these Fear Itself tie in books. But that is like getting excited about finding a penny in a parking lot when compared to these big boy books floating around out there…somewhere.
But again, scoop these up if you see them because both books only have about 10 a piece in the census. That said, let’s not forget that Alejandra Jones had a sneak peak in Ghost Rider 0.1
Market Analysis: Only 1 graded sale between them back in the spring and that was for $400 for the Adams in CGC 9.8. Even raw there aren’t many sales with only 15 sales between both books over the last year.
1st appearance of the Son of Satan, (Daimon Hellstrom) in cameo.
Now I’m sure you’re already tired of reading about Ghost Rider at this point but fear not; this is not about the Spirit of Vengeance. No, even though this is the first solo title for Johnny Blaze’s Ghost Rider, the reason I put this one on my list is due to it being the first appearance of Daimon Hellstrom.
Yes, he only appears in shadow, but he speaks and says his name, so I decided to show this book. Cameo? Maybe. But whatever.
Editors note: Thanks to reader octoberland for pointing out that this isn’t the only appearance of Hellstrom in the issue. He also appears early on pages 9 and 11, including a superman-like shot revealing his chest.
If you prefer Issue #2 and want to call it a first full, you go right ahead. I’m not up for another 1st appearance debate. I believe we have all had about enough of that lately. But if you want my two cents on it, go back and check out Usual Suspects #52. But here’s issue #2 and a tease for our next book.
As mentioned above, Daimon Hellstrom is coming to Hulu and he’s been cast. I’m interested in checking it out to see what they do. Like I said, I personally don’t have a lot of knowledge about the character, so I don’t have a preconceived notion on what I expect to see. So as long as they tell a good story, I’ll be on board.
Market Analysis: Since its Ghost Rider #1 2011 it’s already sought after by many collectors despite the Daimon Hellstrom appearance. And since it’s a Ghost Rider book, it also gets that black cover tough to find in high grade qualification as well. To be honest, it’s easy to confuse this book with MS #5 if you look at it.
Only 1 CGC 9.8 sales the last year and it was for $5k. And it looks like a lot of folks are chasing that 9.8 because some raws sales are selling in the $1,200 range which is the same as the last CGC 9.6 sale.
Crazy gambles in my opinion and not one I would personally take. I mean, I want a G.R. #1, but if push comes to shove, I’d rather put my money into Marvel Spotlight #5 which is his 1st appearance over his first solo title. And even from the Daimon Hellstrom angle, I think there is a strong enough argument that #2 is the better option since you actually get to see him outside of in shadow. But I still would prefer the next book.
Story continued from Ghost Rider #2, Origin of Son of Satan.
So, sticking with our boy, Daimon Hellstrom, this issue of Marvel Spotlight features his origin. Who knows how closely a Hulu series may follow, but this book is work a gander. Also note that it isn’t until this book that Daimon Hellstrom comes to be known by his more popular moniker, The Son of Satan.
This is also where he is first seen in his chariot and with his Trident. Now is a good of a time as any to point out that trying to make sense of all of the retcons and changes over marvel’s history is a sure-fire way to give yourself an aneurism. That’s said, trying to do so with a character like Satan is even worse.
If you go back to Marvel Spotlight #5, Johnny Blaze made a pact with Satan.
Ok cool, so he made a pact with Daimon Hellstrom’s father. But even though that Satan was intended to be Daimon Hellstrom’s father, it was eventually retconned in Ghost Rider #68 that it was actually the Demon Mephisto.
Then later in Ghost Rider #5 in 2006, it was again retconned into being the original Satan, Lucifer. And they really made Lucifer look like Tim Curry’s character in Legend.
But if you read Chaos War: Chaos King #1, Hellstrom’s father, Satan, and Lucifer, might be the same entity.
But then all of that doesn’t matter as Warren Ellis came aboard Hellstorm #12 and retconned it again, and Hellstrom’s father is now revealed to be the demon Marduk Kurios, who is also sometimes known as Lucifer. Whew.
Yeah, me neither. It’s all confusing AF. But it’s comics, right?
Market Analysis: Now this book is super boom or bust on the grade as a CGC 9.8 sold for a whopping $4k back in August while 9.6’s are only a 10th of that at just over $400 with the last sale. Even the average 9.6 sale is around $500 which is a far cry from that $4k 9.8 sale.
Raws can move pretty cheap, but they are mostly mid grades at best. And you can see that reflected in the price. Unless your copy is really clean, don’t bother submitting to CGC. You’d have a better chance moving a High Grade raw that someone else might want to gamble on a press and clean than you would moving a CGC 9.0.
First appearance of Satana
So now that we have the lineage cleared up, let’s now look at Daimon’s sister Satana. So even though they are brother and sister, these 2 siblings aren’t close. While both Satana and her brother were groomed by their father to be evil, Daimon rejected these teachings, while Satana embraced them. So Daimon was placed in an orphanage, and Satana was taken to “Hell” to be trained in the use of her demonic powers.
Now I doubt the Hulu show will take this route, as it will most definitely be more grounded than the fantastical elements we go from the books. I mean Satana was at a time possessed by the demon Basilisk, who would later kill her when she saves a werewolf Doctor Strange from his influence with the help of Spider-man. Yeah, exactly what I said. Check it out in Marvel Team-Up #81.
But obviously outside of it just being comics, she is supernatural, so she was eventually resurrected and found herself in a few titles over the years including Marvel’s Witches, Thunderbolts, and again in Doctor Strange.
But all of this craziness is a far cry from the original 4-page introduction as a short story inside Vampire Tales #2 that could be read as a one-off tale, if not for the teaser at the bottom.
Market Analysis: This Magazine sized book isn’t easy to track down in the wild. Even online there aren’t that many copies up to buy. While a CGC 9.8 might run you around $1500, a raw will still cost you at least $100-$200. That kind of spread makes me think there is some room to grow in those higher grades.
Only thing holding this book back from jumping in price is the limited # of graded copies. That said, all it takes is one sale of a 9.8 for a crazy high price and this book will set itself a new plateau in pricing.
Origin & 1st appearance Man-Thing.
Another magazine sized book to keep an eye out for is this little beauty that has a gorgeous Conan cover already. I feel bad for Man-Thing that he isn’t featured on the cover of his 1st appearance, but this is still a pretty sweet image. In fact, it’s been homaged a few times over the years.
That Hack Vampirella is really nice. You can still find that one pretty cheap if you want one for the PC. That said, you could point out that Man-Thing appearance 2 months before House of Secrets #92 and thus DC ripped off Marvel.
But really both of them just ripped off the Heap from Air Fighters Comics #3 in 1942.
No not the great Trash heap from Fraggle Rock. The character that had a run in Airboy comics that started in the 50’s, and just kept popping up.
Regardless, of who came 1st, Man-Thing would make a lot of sense to appear in this rumored Adventure Into Fear universe they could be building on Hulu. I liked Swamp Thing on the DC Streaming service, but it’s easy to see how costly a character like this would be for a streaming service. So, used more sparingly in a larger universe could be the ticket.
But regardless of media appearances, this is a classic key and a book worth owning if you can find it for a good price. I suppose I should also mention that Man Thing did already have his own movie, but how many people have seen it?
Market Analysis: No CGC 9.8 sales the last year that I could find, but there’s one listed for nearly $7k. A 9.6 also sold for $2k over the summer. This is not a cheap book, so expect a raw to run you at least $200 these days.
Origin and 1st appearance of, Werewolf by Night (Jack Russell).
While we are in the subject of Adventure Into Fear, another character ripe for use in such a series would be Werewolf By Night. While neither might not be able to sustain a solo series for long, characters like Man Thing and WWBN would be perfect for more of an anthology series that may lead to something bigger down the line.
While most people only think of Werewolf By Night because that series featured the first appearance of Moon Knight in #32, I would have to credit Shaun Leggit talking about his werewolf book fanaticism on UD for triggering me to pay more attention to this series over the last couple years. I’ve grabbed a few lower grade copies for cheap, but I have yet to find this 1st appearance. I do have the 2nd appearance in #3 though.
Also, I would like to point out how many classic characters either premiered or started solo tales in Marvel Spotlight. You had Red Wolf in #1, WWBN in issue #2-4, Ghost Rider in #5, Son of Satan in #12-24, Moon Knight in #28-29, and Spider Woman in #32.
I had a chance to grab a cheap copy of MS2 at the Flea Market last year and I hesitated. I’m used to only grabbing dollar books out there, so I balked at first at $30. When I went back for it, it was gone. So, you win some and you lose some. This was a loss.
Market Analysis: There are no 9.8’s in the census, so mid-grade is still pretty good for a book like this. That is evidenced by the rise in prices in all grades over the last 12 months. Anyway, the top Blue label on the market right now is a CGC 8.0 up for $1500. So, you can see asking prices are rising on this one.
Even raw the last couple decent copies sold for about $250 while a low grade moved at about $60. That could end up being a decent grab as these horror titles are on the rise, even in lower grades. So, if the price is right, don’t be scared off by a worn copy.
1st appearance of Elsa Bloodstone.
Getting out of the 70’s horror for a minute, let’s jump to a newer creation in Elsa Bloodstone. Is she just a Buffy the Vampire Slayer knockoff? Maybe, but that doesn’t change the fact that her profile in the Marvel universe is on the rise again.
This original mini featured 4 great covers. And while issue #1 is the only one that has jumped in price, I would sleep on issue #2-4. Perhaps they’ll spike themselves soon. You can still score these in dollar bins.
But Elsa was member of Nextwave, a criminally underappreciated series by Warren Ellis and Stuart Immonen. Seriously, these are also in dollar bins and well worth grabbing even just to read. I already pointed this out in Dollar Bin Digging #44, but if you haven’t gotten this run yet, then what are you waiting for?
But then Elsa bounced around through The Initiative, Thunderbolts, Marvel Zombies, and Monsters Unleashed with Kid Kaiju. But she would be a perfect character to find herself in an episodic show since she is kinda close to a Buffy. Or maybe she’ll be a character in my imaginary Adventure into Fear anthology. Or maybe she’ll be a supporting character in Blade. Or maybe she won’t appear on any screen and will get a new solo title. Or maybe we never see her again. Who knows?
Market Analysis: Somehow, while no one was really paying attention this became a $300 CGC 9.8 and a $40-$50 raw book. I hope some of you took my advice and looked for this when I mentioned it back in Dollar Bin Digging #7 last year. Even then it was a $200 CGC 9.8 and a $15 raw book.
1st appearance of “Frank”
So, this issue of Strange Tales features the 1st appearance of Frank. Who is Frank you ask? No, it isn’t that Michael Fassbender movie where he wears that giant Paper Mache mask.
No, this Frank was an adventurer that crossed paths with some giant insect calling himself Grottu. This was a one-off story that wasn’t meant to continue, but Marvel later decided to recon Frank to actually have been Ulysses Bloodstone. Yes, that Bloodstone, who is Elsa’s father.
Origin & 1st appearance of Bloodstone.
Ulysses first appeared in Marvel Presents #1 which is another fun book to keep an eye out for. But this issue also features the introduction to the Bloodgem. This is just the sort of artifact that could show up in the MCU or on a streaming service show. Tie those cosmic realms to the more mystical side of the Marvel Universe, so everything can comingle down the line.
Market Analysis: More copies available than I would have thought on the Strange Tales #73. Not a lot of sales, but if you want to buy one, you have a few options. Midgrade slabs and decent raw copies could cost you over $400, but if you are more of a low-grade bargain hunter, than you can still score a solid lower grade copy for around $100.
Now the Marvel Presents is a much cheaper buy in. Tons of copies available in all types of grades. Prices are wildly inconsistent as higher grade raws can sell for as low as like $15 and up over $60.
I personally found a Marvel National Bookstore edition in a dollar bin a while back. These are interesting foreign variants if you’re into this kinda thing. From what I gather these books were released in English in the Philippines and are quite hard to find in the states. There isn’t even a price on it, which is what drew me to grab this one when I saw it. But if you look at the back it tells you what it is along with a list of some other available titles.
So, in this next section I will offer a few other first appearances from the darker side of the Marvel Universe, but with a definitively villainous slant. All of these are options for some Big Bad’s for either films or series. I also wouldn’t rule out more prominent roles on the publishing side coming up as well. Please enjoy.
Well, I think it’s been confirmed that Nightmare will be the big bad in the Doctor Strange Sequel. A gender swap casting has been rumored and I would be opposed to that. But would an Eva Green Nightmare look too close to what they did with Cate Blanchette’s Hela?
Either way this is already a big book because it’s also the first appearance of Wong… Oh and of course Doctor Strange had his 1st appearance as well if that sort of thing interests you.
Typical Sales Data:
CGC Census 9.6 – 6
Mephisto has been rumored for some time now and he would be a perfect big bad for a darker corner of the MCU. I’ve brought him up before in Usual Suspects #45 and this book has skyrocketed in value the last couple years.
Unfortunately, I have yet to secure one, so my Fantasy masterpiece reprint will just have to do.
Typical Sales Data:
CGC Census 9.8 – 6
And while we are talking Mephisto, we might as well revisit his son Blackheart as well. I also covered him in that same US #45 article as a good villain possibility. He might be perfectly suited to take the lead villain status on the Streaming services while his pops heads it up on the cinema side.
Either way, this is still a pretty cheap buy in and it’s a book I always look for in Dollar Bins. They are out there.
Typical Sales Data:
CGC Census 9.8 – 42
I know you all probably remember when this book jumped thanks to Donny Cates speculation. Then it turned out to just be silly old Juggerduck. The book has since tanked in value.
That said, the demon Cyttorak could be an interesting character to introduce given his ties to the X-men and the Mystic side of the Marvel Universe. I should also mention that this may be the 1st appearance of Cyttorak, but the name was 1st mentioned in Strange Tales #124.
Typical Sales Data:
CGC Census 9.6 – 3
Another repeat offender that I had on Dollar Bin Digging a few weeks ago, this book is gaining interest this week as it is the 1st appearance of Caretaker, who has been cast in the Hellstrom series on Hulu.
But we can’t forget this is also the first appearance of Lilith, the mother of Demons. She has ties to Satan as well as vampires and all things evil. She also has potential in the comics, TV, or movies as well.
Also helps the potential on a book like this given that has multiple things going for it; tying in Midnight Sons as well as these 1st appearances.
Note: Thanks to Pete Cast for pointing out that there was another version of Lilith from the 70’s that was the daughter of Dracula that first appeared in Giant-Size Chillers Featuring The Curse of Dracula #1.
Typical Sales Data:
CGC Census 9.8 – 8
…Ok that’s enough from me this week. See you all next time….
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