DC Speculation, Pt. 1: Gotham

Like it or not, the current speculation market is tied to television shows and big budget movies. Rumours of an Age of Apocalypse movie send the first appearance of Apocalypse through the roof. Rumours that Doomsday is coming to a theatre near you send the prices of Man of Steel #17 and #18 skyrocketing.

After a few years of false starts, DC is finally getting its multimedia act together. I’ve decided to do a bit of speculation based on the DC’s upcoming big and small-screen offerings.

Part One: Gotham 

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Is Gotham going to make anyone any money? The short answer, I think, is no. The longer answer is more complicated, and more… well… speculative.

Here’s the initial problem. Gotham looks like it’s going to feature characters who are well known and very old. Take Catwoman, for instance. It looks like Selena Kyle is going to feature in the new Gotham series. Doesn’t matter. Catwoman first appeared in 1940 in Batman #1. A Gotham series, hell, a whole 6-chapter Catwoman movie franchise isn’t moving the needle on Batman #1 because that comic is already worth thousands and thousands of dollars.

Catwoman is already a household name. She can’t get more famous, and her first appearance can’t get more valuable.

The Penguin first appeared in 1941, Two-Face in 1942 and The Riddler first appeared in 1948. See where I’m going with this? The Penguin isn’t Deathlok or Luke Cage. Those characters haven’t faded into obscurity and those comics aren’t sitting in a back issue bin somewhere for $3.50.

One possible lead is the character Crispus Allen; he’s listed on the cast of Gotham on imdb. Allen first appeared in Detective Comics #742, which can be had for a few bucks. Now, whether or not Crispus Allen’s first appearance ends up being worth anything depends not just on the popularity of Gotham but on whether or not Allen is a major character or a bit player. Still, the risk is fairly minimal.

Any other money to made from Gotham will involve some seriously long-range speculation. For example, one gets the vibe from the Gotham promo material that we’re going to get more of a film noir Gotham than a comic book Gotham, by which I mean, I don’t think we’re going to see many superpowers.

So, are there other non-superpowered Bat villains that might show up in a second or third season that have more affordable first appearances than Two-Face or Riddler?

Again, not much to see here. A villain like Hugo Strange seems like he might be a good bet to show up on a show like Gotham, but Strange first appeared in Detective Comics #36 (VF, 8.0 $8,000).

Maybe Calendar Man? Probably you could get a good episode of TV out of him. First appeared in Detective Comics #259 (VF, 8.0 $265).

Two possibilities do present themselves, and again we’re talking total shot-in-the-dark speculation here.

First, Carmine Falcone, first appeared in Batman #404, the beginning of Miller’s Year One storyline. (VF, 8.0 $16) My guess is that Gotham will have to have an organized crime angle, and Carmine is a likely addition to the cast if that happens.

Second, Victor Zsasz, first appearance Batman: Shadow of the Bat #1. Available for an affordable price (9.2 NM $4.00). Zsasz is a crazy serial killer type, also a good fit for a dark crime show.

In sum, for the time being, I don’t see much potential for a Gotham series to affect the comic book collecting market, though there may be a couple long-shot books you could lays hands on for a decent price.

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Amazing Spider-Man #4, First Appearance of Silk

I seem to be writing a lot about Spider-Man lately. I guess that’s what happens when Dan Slott writes a mythology-changing story arc that defies all expectations and receives widespread critical acclaim.

Anyway, I said a short time ago that Amazing Spider-Man #1 is probably not a collectible book. At least, it’s not a book that’s going to significantly increase in value any time soon… or ever.

However, if you read ASM #1, you know there was a teaser in there for a new character. The concept is that for years we’ve all assumed that the radioactive spider that bit Peter Parker died immediately afterwards. Apparently, we thought wrong. Slott shows us the spider bite a young woman right after it bit Peter.

Apparently, this is the introduction of a new character named Silk who will make her first full appearance in Amazing Spider-Man #4.

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Now, who knows if Silk is going to be an interesting character, but the origin story alone is intriguing. If Silk turns out to be cool, then Amazing Spider-Man #4 might be the comic book worth money.

Where Will Wolverine Die?

Confirming the worst kept secret in comics, Marvel has released the teaser art for a new mini-series coming in September called The Death of Wolverine. The series will be written by Charles Soule with art by Steve McNiven.

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Comic Book Resources has a good interview with Charles Soule. Check it out.

Interestingly, Soule was asked how important Paul Cornell’s current run on Wolverine was to Wolverine’s September swan song. Soule replied:

Paul has been doing some killer work on the main series, particular in his development of the idea that Wolverine has lost his healing factor. That concept also plays a significant role in the “Death of Wolverine” story. That said, that is literally all you need to know in order to read this story. While I’m going to be weaving in a bunch of Wolverine’s history from the past 40 years of publishing (and 100+years or so that he’s been alive in fictional terms), I’m taking great pains to ensure that anything I bring up, whether it’s a character familiar from Logan’s history or a location that has some meaning to him, is explained within this story.

So… My take on this is that the guts of Cornell’s story, all the stupid Wolverine “finding” himself by teaming up with a team of forgettable C-List bad guys will not at all feature in Soule’s mini-series. The only common element is that, in both stories, Wolverine has no healing power.

But… what are we to make of the reports about Wolverine #12 used to hype Cornell’s series a few months ago.

Here’s a quote from a CBR story written back in December:

In an update released to retailers, Marvel announced an “exchangeability” program where unsold copies of the upcoming new “Wolverine” #1 could be exchanged for an exclusive “Mortal Variant” of “Wolverine” #12,” an issue scheduled to go on sale in September 2014. While that comic is still months down the road, Marvel described it as a “double-sized landmark issue” they expect to receive “national attention for its game-changing story.”

Cornell’s series wraps up right around the same time Soule’s mini-series does, in September. The end of Cornell’s series is a “double-sized landmark issue” that should receive “national [media?] attention,” but Soule’s series is called “The Death of Wolverine” and apparently has very little to do with Cornell’s series. So, where and when is Wolverine actually going to die?

Look, obviously, Marvel is going to try and milk Logan’s death for all it’s worth. Why tell a story in one issue when they can make you shell out money for five (one double-sized)? But the continuity disconnect is curious? I wonder if Cornell is actually going to be the one to kill Wolverine off, while Soule provides a kind of “narrative retrospective” on the career of Marvel’s most popular X-man.

As of right now, I’d guess that Wolverine #12 is going to be the equivalent of Superman #75 (which kind of kills me, because I hate this arc).

And before people go crazy, can we all just accept the fact that Wolverine is not really going to “die”? This is what happens in comic books people. Deal. Wolverine is one of Marvel’s most popular characters. Not only is he not going to stay dead. He’s not even going to stay off the shelves for a month, let alone two or three. Expect to see Logan’s adventures in the underworld in October.

Another thing to keep an eye on from a story perspective (and perhaps from a collector perspective) is that, come September, Wolverine, Professor X, and Jean Grey will all be dead. That’s three of the top five or six most popular X-Men right there. Is Marvel going to bring them back one at a time, or all at once? At the very least, I imagine the Phoenix will play a part in Wolverine’s resurrection. Maybe she and Chuck will hitch a ride.

Copper and Chrome

 

Buy Multiple Copies of Lumberjanes; Read One

I’m a 30-something guy who likes superheroes, sci-fi, and crime noir stuff. I am in the target demographic for most comic books being published today. I am not in the target demographic for BOOM! Studios’ Lumberjanes.

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I found it in the “All Ages” section of my local comic shop, not my usual corner of the lcs, but I was looking specifically for Lumberjanes. The book is about a group of girls at a supernatural summer camp. It’s funny and sweet. In the first issue our heroes break curfew to fight off a pack of three-eyed monster foxes. Lumberjanes is sort of Scooby-Doo meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer at summer camp.

Its aesthetic is something like Adventure Time, but it’s a little less second-wave emo, if you know what I mean. Lumberjanes is more earnest and little less weird – more My Little Ponies. It has the potential to be a great, ironic adventure series about monsters and mysteries. When I was reading it, I was thinking, this book has that kind of “cool” factor I wanted to find in Black Science or Dead Boy Detectives but just couldn’t. You could say that there’s an “it” factor here that’s just hard to replicate; you could also just say this is good writing. After one issue, I feel like I know the characters and I like them. I want to read more about them. If you enjoyed The Fox, or you enjoyed some of the other books I’ve mentioned here, I’d recommend you give Lumberjanes a try.

It’s a cool book, though it’s a little precious in places. There’s dialogue like “What in the Joan Jett…” and dialogue like “I like kittens!” There are moments when the book is needling you in the ribs with its girl-positive message, but it’s not overdone. The art and the story are strong enough that this doesn’t feel like an animated lecture about male privilege. It’s a comic book about friends who fight monsters and get in trouble and argue and tease each other. They happen to be girls – sort of awesome girls.

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Ultimately, the story is good, the characters are well drawn, and the art is stylish. I’m going to buy future issues of Lumberjanes. And if the series has hooked someone like me (way outside it’s target demo) I’m guessing it’s going to be a cult hit amongst the younger set. I’ve got a hunch about it, I think the first issue could be an in demand book before long. I’ll be picking up more copies on my next trip to the local comic shop.

 

Dr. Strange Movie “News”

I saw Captain America: The Winter Soldier over the weekend. (No spoilers here). Pretty good movie. Better than Thor: The Dark World, probably as good or a little better than Iron Man 3.

There was a little speculation nugget tucked into the film that I thought was worth mentioning.

At one point in the film some bad guys have occasion to list off some people who might one day get in the way of their evil agenda. One of the names on that list: Stephen Strange.

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Rumours of a Dr. Strange movie have been circulating online for about a year. The Master of the Mystic Arts makes good sense as a next move for Marvel.

The fact that Dr. Strange was referenced in the newest Marvel movie doesn’t mean a film is imminent. It does mean Marvel’s movie people are thinking and talking about it.

Dr. Strange’s first appearance is Strange Tales #110 (1963). It’s not affordable for your average collector. Even low grade copies will run you over $1,000. Unfortunately, that’s also the first appearance of Nightmare, one of Strange’s main nemeses.

However, as I said before, the first appearance of Mephisto is pretty widely available on eBay and it’s more reasonably priced. Mephisto is, to my mind, Marvel’s preeminent supernatural bad guy. If Marvel keeps making movies, he’s bound to show up sooner or later.

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As of right now there’s a 9.2 CGC graded copy of Silver Surfer #3 available on eBay for under $450. Raw, mid-grade copies are much cheaper. They’re not free, but $50-$150 will get the job done. It’s a bit of an investment, but I consider it a good bet to increase in value, particularly if a Dr. Strange movie trilogy becomes a reality.

Incidentally, The Winter Soldier has already earned more money than the first Captain America movie, meaning Marvel isn’t going to stop making films any time soon.

Copper and Chrome

Los Angeles Back Issue Porn

So I spent last week at a conference in L.A., and while I was there I did a little digging through the back issue bins.

I’ve never been to California before, so I had no frame of reference for California comic stores. If you ever find yourself in a similar situation, I found Yelp.com to be really useful. Not only can you read lots of customer reviews, but you can also see pictures of the shops, which is super helpful for getting a sense of a store’s back issue stock. That is, you can get a sense of the size of their stock. You obviously can’t tell if they’ve got a Bronze Age stuff, or Superman comics or whatever.

Now, I had my wife and my one-year-old with me, plus I was in L.A. for work, so I didn’t have hours upon hours to dedicate to comic stores. However, the time I did have to spend on comics, I owe to my saintly wife,  who selflessly sat with my sleeping son in a parked car while I got my hands dirty flipping through the stacks.

Anyway, I was able to fit in two comic shops on my trip: Comic Bug in Manhattan Beach, CA and Hi De Ho Comics in Santa Monica, CA. I had great experiences at both shops. If you’re in the L.A. area I can recommend both highly. Really good stock in both places, very friendly and helpful staff.

Comic Bug is a clean and well-organized shop with lots of new stock on the wall and a respectable number of back issues. As I said, I didn’t have time for an exhaustive look through the stacks, but I was able to snag some old Spider-Man and X-Men comics. I’ve got a decent run of ASM in my collection, almost every issue from 200-300 and a smattering of others here and there.

The three I picked up at Comic Bug, I picked up basically because I couldn’t resist the covers.

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I snagged a copy of ASM 52 for $5.00 – pretty low grade, there’s a significant tear on the bottom right of the cover. Still, I wanted that classic cover in my collection.

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That second cover is fantastic, isn’t it? The ghost of Hammerhead?! I mean, c’mon!

I decided last summer that I wanted to increase my X-Men holdings. I really like the X-Men, but I had virtually nothing. To start I’m targeting issues of Uncanny between about 143 and 300. Eventually I’d like to collect Claremont’s run, but that’ll be pricey. I’ll have to pick my moment. Right now those bronze age Uncanny X-Men issues are relatively affordable. I plugged a few holes at Comic Bug and also picked up quite a few issues at Hi De Ho.

Hi De Ho was really the store with the better stock, thousands of issues packed into wooden short boxes. Lots of Bronze and Copper Age stuff. The stock isn’t well organized though – issues out of order, all bagged, but not all boarded. Books are sorted alphabetically, but there are two separate collections, so that all Flash comics, for example, are in two separate locations.

Still, there’s lots of great stuff here. For example…

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#150, a milestone issue…

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#157, great Dark Phoenix cover,

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#171, in which Rogue joins the team. I also picked up this bad boy:

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Regular readers know why.

Caliban and The Field: First Issues and The Elevator Pitch

While driving in the car last week, I heard this great radio bit on elevator pitches. An Elevator Pitch is a concise, catchy synopsis of an idea. Imagine you’ve stepped onto an elevator with a movie producer or a bigwig from a publishing house. You’ve got about 30 seconds to pitch your best idea before the person who can give you your big break gets off the elevator.

The story reminded me of a couple of new comic book series: Image’s The Field and Avatar’s Caliban.

I picked up the first issues of both series about three weeks ago because the previews I found online were concise and catchy – great elevator pitches. Here are my synopses of the first issues:

The Field: An amnesiac wakes up in a field wearing only his underwear and holding a cell phone. A stranger arrives in a car and offers the amnesiac a ride. Just then, our protagonist starts receiving cryptic texts warning him of impending danger.

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Caliban: Garth Ennis, creator of Preacher, brings us a new sci-fi thriller about a spaceship that crashes into an alien vessel… while travelling in hyperdrive. The resulting accident fuses the two ships together, and the human crew of the Caliban comes face to face with another species.

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Both of these series have a “cinematic” feel to them. In both cases, the opening premise grabs you. I mentioned in a post about “binge watching” that this seems to be an increasingly common trope in comic book storytelling.

I’ll pick up the second issue of both of these series. Both The Field and Caliban made me wonder what was going to happen next. This is more than I can say for some other recent high profile releases like Undertow and Deadly Class.

From a speculation standpoint, both of these series are limited, not ongoing. So the ceiling is likely capped in terms of monetary value, unless one someday becomes a movie. Of the two, Caliban is a much more traditional sci-fi story. If you were betting on one of these being optioned for film or television it would be the Ennis book.

So, in conclusion: provocative storytelling, limited re-sale value.