With great power…
Spider-Man. Is any fictional character in any genre more known or loved in the world? I’d argue there is not. Steve Ditko and Stan Lee were on an all-time creative high when Spidey appeared. They were the same team behind Dr. Strange. I was still in the percolating phase in June of 1962 when Spidey made his debut, so we were both new to the world at about the same time.
Circa 1980, I stopped into Jim Ivey’s Cartoon Museum on Semoran Blvd in Orlando, Fl. Jim always had cool original art from comics and comic strips, but he also had a treasure trove of back issue comics. On this particular occasion, he had on display in his photo-album style book of high-dollar comics, copies of Fantastic Four #1 and Amazing Fantasy #15, Spidey’s first appearance. He was asking $400 each but said he’d take $750 for the pair. As much as that sounds like an amazing deal today, it was a lot of money in 1980 when I was working for $5 an hour as a short-order cook. I looked at each carefully, noting the exceptional condition – probably 8.5 or better – and decided I could afford one if I made weekly payments of $100. Jim was fine with that. When the next Overstreet Price Guide came out, Amazing Fantasy jumped to an astonishing $800 and Fantastic Four #1 remained at the price of $400.
What luck and fortune… had I picked the Amazing Fantasy #15. But I picked the FF #1 as it was the older of the two titles, and I liked team books.
Years later I sold the FF #1 though I don’t recall the price, just that it was multiples of the $400 I originally paid. About 8 years ago, I ran across another AF #15. This one was in 7.5 condition, and it took all of a month to sell it for $38,000. Last year, a 7.0 sold for $191,000. Today, a 7.5 is valued at nearly a quarter million dollars!
I always seem to be on the other side of history with this book!
Either way, Spidey is one of the greatest to ever see print, and Peter Parker, the guy under the mask, is possibly the most relatable character to so many fans.
Fun fact: Today, Spawn #1 is further removed on history’s timeline from Coliseum of Comics’ opening than Amazing Fantasy was when I opened. Wow, time sure moves fast when you’re counting the months by issue number!
– Phil Boyle
The Sorcerer Supreme
I always felt he was a character of infinite depth yet often under-used as anything but a mysterious enigma. His first appearance in Strange Tales #110 was probably one of the most under-valued books in the Silver Age of comics but thanks to the movies, the good doctor seems to be getting his due in the “valued comics” category.
“The first story is nothing great, but perhaps we can make something of him,” wrote Stan Lee in a letter about the new character. Steve Ditko created the mystic in 1963, and Steve & Stan brought him to life over the following years. Ditko, also the co-creator of Spider-Man, got to add a more other-worldly art style that he’d later revisit in some of his Charlton comic work. As a testament to things that worked in their day but wouldn’t get the approval today, Dr. Strange was originally billed as the Master of Black Magic. Today he is the Sorcerer Supreme.
What got my attention were issues #48-53 of the then-current Dr. Strange series that came out the year before I opened the first Coliseum. Marshall Rogers, also of Batman fame (Joker Fish!), did the art and it was nothing short of remarkable! It got me reading Dr. Strange for the first time. I’ve had a soft spot for the character ever since, but whenever I run across those issues in a collection, I stop to look at the covers again.
– Phil Boyle
As we march toward Stan Lee’s 100th Birthday we’re celebrating some of the characters who he had a hand in co-creating along the way who are celebrating anniversaries. The not-so-good Doctor first appeared in April 1962, and is celebrating his 60th anniversary!
From his first appearance in Fantastic Four #5, which is a true Holy Grail of villain books, he’s been one of the kings of the bad guys. I’ve probably seen fewer copies of FF #5 than just about any issue of FF as no one who has one wants to even think about parting with it.
I got into comics about the same time as the FF were ramping up for a head-to-head battle with Doctor Doom in Fantastic Four #200 in 1979. Reed had lost his powers, the team was in shambles, and they were in the Baddest of the Bad’s castle duking it out. Great fun and a milestone as the first Marvel comic hit #200. Heady times to be reading and collecting comics!
I think the most interesting thing about Victor Von Doom is the ongoing debate about what’s under his mask. Is it a completely disfiguring visage, terrible to see; or is it a slight mark of imperfection that would further define Doom’s vanity and narcissism? The debate will continue and when it’s settled, a reboot will reboot the discussion as well.
Many heroes and villains have gone through a dozen costume changes and tweaks through their 60 years of appearances, but Dr. Doom has remained relatively unchanged. No matter where Dr. Doom appears today, I always have to stop and look at the cover. He’s as eye-catching in his design by Jack King Kirby as he is malevolent in his nature. Good creators create good heroes. Great creators create great villains, to test and strengthen their characters. This was one of those perfect moments when Lee & Kirby knocked it out of the park.
– Phil Boyle
60 years and he’s looking as… behemoth-y as ever.
I bought a Hulk #1 circa 1986 in a collection. It was the first copy I ever saw in person and, despite not having a cover, it was a grail of grails. To this day, it’s one of the most difficult Marvel #1s to find from that era. Not having a cover was not acceptable. I contacted a friend who had a copy locked away in a secret location and convinced him to let it see the light of day long enough for me to photocopy the cover. He complied and, with the color copies of the front and back covers in hand, I was able to construct a cover for the book. It was clearly a “counterfeit” cover, and I presented it as exactly that. I think I sold it for $50 or $100 back then, which was not a small amount of cash in 1986. Today, it would be going for many multiples of that – about $1500-$2000 — even with the faux cover. A 9.0 (on a 10-point scale) sold for $490,000 earlier this year. There are only 8 copies in better condition on the planet, so the sky is the limit!
I bought the original art to Hulk 248 in the mid-’90s. I paid $100 for all 30 art pages. I sold it some years later for $400. You can see the entire issue of original art here.
As far as Coliseum’s life-size statues go, Hulk is my favorite as evidenced by having 5 of them in the Coliseum collection, including 3 from the movie release. Love him or not-love him, Hulk has been a major part of the Marvel universe and a big part of some fond memories for me.
Luke Cage Power Man was one of those books that popped up now and then, but he wasn’t as popular as the X-Men or Spider-Man and the money was needed elsewhere. I was a DC guy then with most of my attention focused on building my collection of Legion of Super-Hero appearances. By the time I started collecting comics, Luke had run his course as a solo character and was teaming up with Iron Fist. I wasn’t a fan of Iron Fist other than when the X-Men appeared in Iron Fist 15 so the team-up didn’t grab me.
Then I started collecting first issues. And man, Luke Cage Power Man was one of the last ones I could find a nice condition. Every copy was dogeared or abused (over-read?) and the black spine on the book made it very susceptible to showing every crease and crinkle. I finally found a nice copy and held onto it until I opened my store in 1983, when it became part of the Coliseum back issue collection.
It’s still a very tough book to find in nice condition.
– Phil Boyle
Stan Lee would have celebrated his 99th birthday last week. Despite Stan no longer being with us, he left behind such a rich tapestry of characters in a universe of wonder unparalleled by anyone else in history. Will we fight you over that? Maybe? Anyway, Coliseum is celebrating a year of Stan’s creations (with acknowledgement to his co-creators!) as we march toward his 100th birthday in December 2022.
This month we’re taking a look at Ant Man, one of Stan’s earlier creations right after the Fantastic Four. Along with his brother Larry Leiber and visual creator of nearly the entire Marvel Universe, Jack Kirby. When I started collecting comics, everyone wanted Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, and the X-Men. Ant Man was never part of that conversation because he didn’t do much; he shrunk to the size of an ant and controlled ants. Okay. I guess that’s cool but not something I wanted to chase down. But when I was offered a copy of Tales to Astonish 27, the first appearance of Hank Pym, soon to be Ant Man, it was a Must-Have experience. I held onto that copy until I opened the first Coliseum of Comics in 1983, when it went into the general collection to support the store. As much as I enjoyed selling comics to people who loved them, seeing the gems go to new homes was always bittersweet.
Here’s to Stan and to Hank Pym, celebrating the 60th anniversary of his first appearance.