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.

Amazing Spider-Man #1 (2014) Speculation

So, Superior Spider-Man ended today with issue #31.

(Is your Spoiler-Sense tingling? If not, you should get that checked out, because stuff is about to get spoilt.)

I mentioned before that this is a series worth having in your collection. The story is strong, and it has been very popular with fans. The issue you want is obviously, Superior Spider-Man #1. I’m not sure if there’s another key issue in the run that is going to see significant increases any time soon.

However, long-term, this a series people are going to remember and want to collect.

The question facing the Spectacular Speculator at the moment, however, is whether or not one should invest in Amazing Spider-Man #1, due out next month.

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My gut says “no.” While Superior Spider-Man #1 represents the beginning of something new and unusual, Amazing Spider-Man #1 represents a return to the status quo. Peter Parker is back, Sider-Ock is no more. Ho-hum. There’s a good chance that Dan Slott’s story will be worth reading, but I wouldn’t go out and buy multiple copies of  the new ASM.

As a point of reference, witness the last time Marvel rebooted Amazing Spider-Man in 1998. Back then Marvel used John Byrne to relaunch the character Man of Steel-style. According to Comichron.com, Amazing Spider-Man #1 (Vol. 2) sold about 124,000 copies, which was good enough to finish just behind Uncanny X-Men and just ahead of Spawn and Fathom (Wowzer.).

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According to The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide (43rd Ed.), ASM #1 (Vol. 2) is now worth $6.00 NM… after 15 years. I would anticipate similar gains for Amazing Spider-Man #1 (Vol. 3).

 

 

Update: Another Marvel Character to Watch

Last week I wrote about a few Marvel characters that might be worth watching from a collecting and speculating standpoint. Since then I’ve thought of one more I should have included.

Marvel has committed itself to another X-Men movie after Days of Future Past. It’s also announced another Wolverine movie is in the works. We’ve already seen many of our favourite second-tier and second-generation mutants on the big screen: Gambit, Emma Frost, Kitty Pryde. We haven’t yet seen Jubilee.

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Jubilee is an appealing character for Marvel for a few reasons. As I mentioned in my discussion of Silver Sable. Marvel is obviously looking to add diversity to its films (Witness Michael B. Jordan as the Human Torch). Jubilee is both a minority character and another female hero Marvel can add to the mix.

Jubilee’s connection to Wolverine is also promising. Logan has always had little sister characters in the comic books. Kitty Pryde and Jubilee are the two characters who’ve occupied that role. Rogue played that part in Bryan Singer’s first X-Men films. With more X-Men and more Wolverine movies on the way, there are multiple opportunities for Jubilee to show up on screen.

Jubilee first appeared in The Uncanny X-Men #244. That comic can be had for peanuts on eBay right now. Some people are selling it for $30 and $40, but others are putting it up for auction and it’s fetching $1-$5. I picked up a F/VF copy out of a back-issue bin for $4.00 about a month ago. See what you can find.

Copper and Chrome

Pretty Deadly & Ten Grand: Occult Comics Done Right and Wrong

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For awhile there, back in the summer of 2013, Ten Grand was one of my favourite comic books. The first offering from J. Michael Straczynski’s Joe’s Comics label over at Image, Ten Grand was a film noir story with a supernatural twist.

Now, from the get-go, Ten Grand was derivative. Joe Fitzgerald is a mob enforcer. When he and his girlfriend, Laura, are brutally murdered, she goes to heaven and he goes to hell. Except that an angel intervenes and offers Joe a deal: work for the forces of good and every time he dies in a righteous cause he’ll get to see his beloved again for five minutes. The five minute thing is weirdly specific, but whatever.

So, mix together Hellblazer, The Crow, and Spawn and you kind of get Ten Grand. But early on, the mixture worked.

It worked in part because of imaginative little details. Joe had a variety of talismans and gimmicks he used to ward off and take down demons. There were a few clever and creepy confrontations with otherworldly creatures. And there was a cool hardboiled vibe to the comic; Joe was trying to solve the mystery and that gave the series a natural narrative drive.

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Ben Templesmith’s art on those early issues was also something to behold. Templesmith created a compelling urban landscape, it was sooty and greasy. It had a really distinctive style, something really special. Templesmith left the book after issue #5. It was a weird situation. Apparently, Templesmith was having trouble getting the work done, and Straczynski decided to make a change… or maybe it was Templesmith’s decision. It’s all a little murky.

I appreciate the desire to get books out on time, but looking back, Stracynski should have done whatever he had to do to keep Templesmith. No offence to C. P. Smith, Templesmith’s replacement, but the book hasn’t been the same since he took over.

However, the decline of Ten Grand isn’t all about the art. In the second half of the series, the main character, Joe goes on an adventure in the afterlife. The whole trajectory of the series changes. Instead of a cool supernatural crime story we get watered-down, warmed-over Milton. The whole series is heading towards a climactic battle between heaven and hell that really doesn’t feel very climatic. Ten Grand is the story of a once promising comic that went terribly wrong.

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Image’s supernatural western series, Pretty Deadly, has followed a different path. I was a little skeptical of Pretty Deadly at first, a little worried it was more hype than substance, but the series is starting to come together.

There isn’t anything else like Pretty Deadly out there. For that reason, the first few issues were actually a little disorienting. The main character of Kelly Sue DeConnick’s comic is Death’s daughter. Her name is Ginny and her story is narrated by a butterfly and a rabbit skeleton. (Yes, that is a thing you just read). Ginny’s world is populated by half a dozen other wanders and gunslingers all of whom seem to have mysterious, shadowy pasts.

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It wasn’t until issue #4 that the relationships between some of the characters were clarified and things started to come together. That’s a long time to wait for a new series to pay off, but Pretty Deadly has something – an it factor. It’s been compared to Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, and those comparisons aren’t too far off the mark. Obviously Pretty Deadly has a long way to go before it matches one of the greatest comic book series of all time, but the magic and the mood and the kooky narrative framework do remind one of Gaiman’s work.

Emma Rios’ art is mostly gorgeous. There are some moments where it’s hard to tell what’s happening. The violent fight scenes can be hard to follow, and characters are occasionally hard to distinguish from one another. That said, there’s a vivid and eerie visual atmosphere to this book. It doesn’t look like anything else on the shelves.

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I’m not a TPB reader, but those who are might appreciate reading Pretty Deadly in trade form. The first arc will come off best if read all at once. And I’d recommend you do check out Pretty Deadly; it’s fresh and different. I used to feel the same way about Ten Grand, but sadly, that series has failed to deliver on its initial promise.

Speculation: Marvel Characters to Watch

Just recently Deathlok popped back into the popular consciousness thanks to an appearance on Marvel Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Before that, Marvel and Netflix announced that they would be producing series featuring characters like Iron Fist and Luke Cage.

Marvel has had so much success on the big and small screens of late, that they’ve started pulling characters from their benches. Each of those media announcements have then created a rush for key issues featuring the first appearances of these characters. I’ve put together a list of other characters who could at some point show up in one of Marvel’s mass market media endeavours.

The thinking here is that the first appearances of these characters can be had for reasonable prices at the moment. If any of these characters appear in a movie or on TV, prices will go up. None of these are sure things, but that’s what makes speculation speculation, am I right?

1. Silver Sable (First Appearance Amazing Spider-Man #265)

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Silver Sable has never been a major player – she’s a Deathlok type -but she is a permanent fixture of the Marvel universe. Sable is a sort of mercenary super-spy, kind of like a female Nick Fury. Here’s why her first appearance might be worth owning: Marvel is smartly trying to diversify its universe in order to broaden its appeal. Too many of their characters are white men. (Thus, Nick Fury gets Samuel L. Jacksoned). They want more minority heroes and more female protagonists.

Silver Sable is another female character that Marvel could use to diversify a future Avengers film or Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. She might also appeal to the company’s baser impulses, because Silver Sable has sex appeal. Think Scarlett Johanson’s Black Widow, except in white. What I really like is that Silver Sable’s first appearance is dirt cheap. You can have one for about $5.00. Sable was also a recurring character in Spider-Man comics, so there are a variety of possible routes for her character to achieve greater notoriety.

2. Black Cat (First Appearance Amazing Spider-Man #194)

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It’s kind of a wonder that Black Cat hasn’t yet been featured in a Spider-Man movie. Perhaps Marvel worries that they’ll be charged with copy-cating DC’s Catwoman. And, in fairness, Black Cat is basically just Spider-Man’s Catwoman. However, she’s been a fixture of the Spider-Man universe since the late 70s, and she’s a very popular character. It’s only a matter of time before she shows up somewhere. Love triangles have always been one of the key components of the best Spider-Man comics. I’m betting that dynamic will eventually make itself into the films, though perhaps not the current Andrew Garfield franchise, given that they seem to be intent on letting the whole death of Gwen Stacy thing play out. (Speaking of which, it’s probably worth splurging on key Gwen Stacy issues before the speculation population puts the pieces together, see ASM #31 and ASM #121).

Because she’s a popular supporting character who first appeared almost 40 years ago, you can’t get the first appearance of Black Cat for pennies. However, a recent survey of eBay shows issues of ASM #194 are all over the place. Some people are selling NM copies for $200-$500, but others putting VF/NM copies up for auction are getting $30-$50. Pick your moment with this book. If you’re persistent and patient, you might be able to get a good deal on a key ASM issue that is likely to increase in value with or without a TV/movie announcement.

3. Carnage (First Appearance Amazing Spider-Man #361)

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I like Carnage to pick up steam in the mid- to long-term. I picked up ASM 361 a few months ago when Fox announced that it was planning spin-offs of its Spider-Man franchise. I thought for sure the plan was going to be a Spider-Man vs. Venom movie, followed by a Venom stand-alone. I also figured that Carnage would be the obvious choice for a Venom movie villain. But, alas! It looks like the plan is to develop the Sinister Six and see where that goes. Still, odds are good that Venom will have his day in the sun before long.

Think of Transformers, for example, or, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Both of these properties were popular in the 80s. They’ve come back, now that the boys who grew up with those characters are adults with young children of their own. That’s not a coincidence. It’s very strategic marketing. Movie studios and toy manufacturers are betting hundreds of millions that 30-something dads will want to share with their kids the characters and toys that they grew up with. The same principle, I think, can be applied to Venom and Carnage, who were hugely popular in the early 90s. Marvel and Fox will soon realize that the teenagers who thought Venom was supercool are now adults with decent salaries and whiny kids who want stuff.

The first appearance of Venom can’t be had for much less than $300. Carnage’s first appearance is much more affordable. I got a NM copy a few months back for less than $30.00.

Mephisto (First Appearance Silver Surfer #3) 

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Okay, so last, but not least, a character who didn’t first appear in the pages of Amazing Spider-Man.

Marvel struck gold with Tom Hiddleston’s Loki. His performance has breathed cool into a once-lame character and restored Loki to a place of prominence within the Marvel Universe. Marvel now seems to be committed to getting all their most famous bad guys on the screen.

The course of the Avengers movies seems pretty straightforward from here. Thanos is the big bad in Avengers 2. The Ant-Man film will introduce Ultron, who will then be the big bad in Avengers 3, and there we go.

If you’re going to do another Avengers movie after that, well… Mephisto might be your guy. More likely though, Marvel will get a Doctor Strange movie off the ground, and if you’re going to do a movie with an occult superhero, Mephisto is likely to make an appearance. Mephisto, like Silver Sable, is also a “general” Marvel universe villain. So, it wouldn’t be unthinkable that he could show up in, say, a Fantastic Four movie, a Silver Surfer movie, or on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

The bad news is, Silver Surfer #3 came out in 1968. It’s a Silver Age book featuring the first appearance of a major Marvel villain. Like the first appearance of Black Cat, however, it’s value is all over the place on eBay. We’re talking $50 to $500, depending on grade. Still, a Silver Age key is a sound investment, as comic books go, and I’m thinking Marvel will be inclined to mobilize Mephisto before too long.