BOTH COMIC COLLECTORS AND SPECULATORS LOVE FIRST APPEARANCES.
EVERYONE WANTS THEM – WHICH IS WHY THEY CAN BE SO EXPENSIVE.
The art and skill in collecting these gems is acquiring the first appearances before the comic skyrockets in value. (Finding great deals helps too – check out my post on finding hidden gems on eBay!) I mean, if you have a couple million lying around to pick up an Action Comics #1 or Detective Comics #27…well, you’re probably not reading this blog. But if you’re just starting out or collecting on a budget, I recommend you keep an eye out for these 15 first appearances under $25. At the end of the list I also provide a list of 10 Runner-Ups.
Here is my list of TOP 15 First Appearances Under $25.
1. First Appearance of Hope Summers (X-Men #205)
At the top of the list is Hope Summers. She is the adopted daughter of Cable and an heir to the Phoenix Force. But even without that cosmic entity, she’s one of the more powerful mutants around. With no real cap on her abilities it’s a safe bet that any future large comic event, especially one that includes mutants, is going to include Hope. In one of Marvel’s most successful crossover events ever, Avengers v. X-Men, Hope was at the center of the entire conflict (getting tutored by Spider-Man no less). Previous X-Men storylines have hinted that she might be the future savior of human-mutant relations or the one to kick-off a final all out war. Either way, it’s safe to say this character is going to be around for a while and at the center of some serious Marvel conflict.
Why I like this book: I would love to see an Avengers v. X-Men movie and I don’t think I’m the only one. Disney’s bid to acquire Fox makes this a real possibility. And if Avengers v. X-Men ever hits the silver screen, her first appearance has the potential to skyrocket in price. But even if that never happens Hope is likely to continue to be an important part of the Marvel Universe – this bodes well for those picking up inexpensive copies of X-Men 205.
(Extra Bonus Super Collector Tip! Creases on comics are more visible on black than other colors. Since X-Men #205 has all black borders, it means that grades in 9.8 and 9.6 are going to be much rarer than other comics of the same time and print run.)
2. First Appearance of Professor Hulk (Incredible Hulk #377)
The Hulk has had a ton of incarnations. Grey Hulk and Green Hulk and back to Grey Hulk (Joe Fixit) and World Breaker and on and on… enough already, you get the idea. What makes Professor Hulk so special? Professor Hulk is the mental/physical merger of Bruce Banner, the Grey Hulk and Savage (Green) Hulk identities. Which means this Hulk has Banner’s intelligence and Hulk strength.
Why I like this book: There are a lot of rumors that Avengers 4 will feature Professor Hulk. This makes sense given the mental conflict that was showcased in Infinity War between Banner and the Hulk. Also Avengers 4 concept art certainly shows a Hulk that looks a lot more self aware and, you know, clothed, which suggests that this may be the merged Banner/Hulk that first appeared in Incredible Hulk #377. Also helping this comic’s prospects is that the cover by Dale Keown has became a modern classic.
(Extra Bonus Super Collector Tip! This comic has four different editions: A first printing direct edition, a first printing newsstand edition, a second printing, and a rare (expensive) third printing. The second and third printings are shown below. Check out my video on the differences between newsstand and direct editions.)
3. First Appearance of Phage, Lasher, Riot, and Agony (Venom: Lethal Protector #5)
Since the release of Amazing Spider-Man #300 decades ago, comicdom has been obsessed with alien symbiotes. While Venom is certainly the most well known and popular, he is certainly not the only one. Venom: Lethal Protector introduced four new symbiotes that spawned from Venom via the Life Foundation. Although they don’t have the notoriety of Venom, these four symbiotes – Phage, Lasher, Riot, and Agony – are still out there waiting to take on Carnage, team-up with Deadpool, or perhaps wreak a little havoc on the Marvel Universe.
Why I like this book: So after Venom the movie this book had a bit of a jump in value. But the movie was not attached to any cinematic universe, which is good for those that hold this book. If Venom gets introduced again, its possible that these symbiotes will see more screen time, perhaps even in their merged form as Hybrid. If they do get brought into the MCU, I think another, even greater, price jump is a possibility. In any case, I think one comic that introduces FOUR alien symbiotes is a pretty good book to have in any collection.
4. First Appearance of Nebula (Avengers #257)
So if you’ve seen the Guardians of the Galaxy movies and Infinity War, then you are probably familiar with Nebula. What you may not know is that in the original Infinity Gauntlet series, Nebula is actually the one that ends up taking the gauntlet from Thanos. Who knows if this will happen in Infinity War, but it’s a safe bet that Nebula will be in the middle of the mix.
Why I like this book: What’s not to like? This book introduces a key character of a classic storyline that is breaking blockbuster records in Hollywood. With a tragic backstory and generally disagreeable disposition, Nebula still has a pretty large fan base. This may be due to her strong character arc in the comics and movies. This is important because one dimensional characters rarely go very far and the fact that writers have developed her character over decades suggest that she probably is going to be around for a while. Yet, somehow her first appearance can still be gotten for less than $25? As an aside, this is much less than the cost of Gamora’s first appearance. At this price it’s a steal to me.
5. First Appearance of Neena Thurman – Domino (X-Force #11)
Neena Thurman, also known as Domino, is a mutant with the ability to manipulate probability. Basically, she can gives herself really good luck. And lately Domino’s luck has been paying off in a big way. The character was a hit on Deadpool 2 and with her increased popularity, Marvel has responded to Domino’s growing fan base with several new series with her as the leading lady.
Why I like this book: Domino’s growing popularity and connection to the ever popular Deadpool, Cable, and X-Force is going to keep this character in the limelight for the foreseeable future. Domino’s character in Deadpool 2 received rave reviews. This is good news. She’s a fun character with cool powers at a time when the comic industry is focusing on leading ladies. Who knows, maybe Domino will become the Harley Quinn of the Marvel Universe? If her success is anything even close, well, just look at what Harley Quinn’s first appearance is going for these days.
6. First Appearance of Kate Kane/Batwoman (52 Weeks #7 / 52 Weeks #11)
Ok, so I’m cheating a little by picking two first appearances for number six. Even though Batwoman has been around for decades, Kate Kane has donned the cowl since 2006. It’s only been relatively recently, however, that DC has done a huge push for this character with Batman: Bad Blood (2016) and the recent Else Worlds crossover event with Flash and Green Arrow on the CW. A Batwoman television series is also currently under development.
Why I like these books: The Batwoman character has been around since 1956 in Detective Comics #233. After being retconned out of existence in Crisis on Infinite Earths (1985), Batwoman only made it back to readers in 2006. Now that she is back, DC seems intent on making her one of the company’s premiere characters. I don’t think collectors can really go wrong collecting the first appearance of any staple “Bat” character, especially one with an upcoming television show.
7. First Appearance of Beyonder (Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars #1)
Despite his goofy disco-styled appearance in this series, the Beyonder is one of the most powerful entities in the Marvel Universe. He can basically do whatever he wants and in this series he pits the heroes of Earth against the villains on a planet called Battleworld. So what if the story is wildly concocted? It’s still one of the first great cross-over events in comic book history and the storyline where Spider-Man gets his black costume that would later become Venom.
Why I like this book: I am a fan of collecting the cosmic entities of the Marvel Universe. They rarely ever really disappear which means its almost a matter of time until they are used in a meaningful way which will invariably make their first appearance increase in value. The Beyonder is no exception. In fact he has already been involved in one of the greatest (in scope) Marvel stories ever told. As a result, some have rumored that the Beyonder might make an appearance in Avengers 4 to introduce a Secret Wars storyline.
(Extra Bonus Super Collector Tip! Secret Wars #1 has a relatively rare second printing that has the same cover except the UPC box shows Spider-Man in his black costume. Another oddity about Secret Wars #1 is that the first printing also has a common “Blue Galactus” error – Recalled Comics has a great explanation of the cause. For what it’s worth, my personal experience is that the printing error is actually more common than the correct version, but as far as printing errors go, this is a pretty cool one.)
8. First Appearance of Monica Rambeau (Amazing Spider-Man Annual #16)
Monica Rambeau started out as Captain Marvel (no connection to her namesake Mar-Vell), but changed names to Photon, Pulsar, and currently Spectrum. She led the Avengers for a while and more recently Nextwave and a team comprised of Luke Cage, Black Panther, Blade, and Brother Voodoo.
Why I like this book: While Monica Rambeau is a cool character, the reason she is on this list is because her mother, Maria Rambeau is making an appearance in Avengers 4. According to Lashana Lynch, the British actress playing Maria Rambeau, her character is a smart, resilient, and tough single mom. “Mom” is important because this movie is taking place in the 1990’s. This means that a young Monica in Captain Marvel could be a grown superhero twenty-something years later in Avengers 4. Of course, since it became known that a Rambeau was in Captain Marvel, this comic started climbing in price. However, it’s still possible to find mid-grade copies for less than $25, but not for very long…
9. First Appearance of Justice League Dark (Swamp Thing #50)
The first appearance of Justice League Dark is not entirely clear. The team itself seems to have first appeared in 1986 with Swamp Thing #50 (some argue its really Swamp Thing #49). However, it wasn’t until 2011 that a comic series bore the name of the occultist group. The Justice League Dark may be a bit to far off the beaten path for some, but it’s this quality that makes the series quite popular with tons of others. Whatever your tastes, it’s hard to argue that the cast isn’t loaded with some interesting characters: John Constantine, Zatanna, and Deadman at the top of the list.
Why I like this book: A collector can’t go wrong with either (or both) of these books. There have been multiple movies, live and animated, over the years with characters of Justice League Dark. Most recently, of course, is the 2017 animated movie that co-starred Batman. I don’t think it will be the last as DC has a live action version of Justice League Dark on the calendar for 2020. Also, resurgence in popularity of both Constantine and Zatanna certainly help make this book a good choice for speculation as well.
10. First Appearance of The Celestials (Eternals #2)
Most of Marvel’s powerful cosmic beings rarely involve themselves in human events. The Celestials are not like most powerful cosmic beings. For whatever reason the Celestials keep finding ways to impact the good people of Earth. It was recently revealed that the race of alien symbiotes from which Venom originates was created as the result of a war with the Celestials.
But Celestials aren’t just disrupting humanity in the comics, their interference has hit the MCU as well. The Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 revealed that Peter “Starlord” Quill’s father, Ego, was a Celestial. While this represents a break from Starlord’s origin in the comics, it shows that Marvel’s affinity for using the Celestials to impact human events has carried over to the big screen.
Why I like this book: The Celestials have been around for a while, but Marvel seems to have recently taken a likening to them again. There are even rumors that the Celestials will be the new villains in Avengers 4. However, even if these cosmic powerhouses don’t make an appearance in this next movie, there have been enough hints that their cinematic debut is likely only a matter of time.
11. First Appearance of Tim Drake (Batman #436) and as Robin (Batman #457)
Tim Drake assumed the mantle of Robin after Justin Todd was murdered by the Joker. His exact origin as the third Robin has been re-written several times through the New 52 and Rebirth storylines. His origin in the New 52 resulted in Tim Drake becoming Red Robin in Teen Titans #1. The Red Robin mantle continued on into Rebirth though his origin was tweaked again.
Why I like this book: The first appearance of any Robin is always going to be a collectible. So far, Robins have become heroes in their own right even apart from Batman. Dick Grayson became Nightwing. Jason Todd became Red Hood. Even Stephanie Brown became Batgirl. And DC continued the trend by making Tim Drake the Red Robin. Given the important role that “Robin” plays in the DC universe generally, and the Batman family specifically, acquiring Robin’s first appearance seems like a good decision.
UPDATE: I received questions about Batman #442 as being the first appearance of Tim Drake as Robin – after all it has Tim Drake in a Robin costume right on the cover. The DC database lists this issue as the first unofficial appearance of Tim Drake as Robin and CGC notes it as the “First appearance of Tim Drake in a Robin costume.” But both the DC database and CGC list Batman #457 as Tim Drake’s first appearance as Robin. So what’s the deal? The answer is that while Tim Drake first dressed as Robin in #442, he didn’t actually BECOME Robin until Batman #457.
(Extra Bonus Super Collector Tip! Batman #457 has SIX different versions ranging from common to astoundingly rare. These versions are based on first and second printings, a printing error (which numbers the comic 000 instead of 457), and direct edition and newsstand editions. For a more in-depth explanation of these versions checkout this article at comicbookinvest.com.)
12. First Appearance of Blackheart (Daredevil #270)
Blackheart is the powerful and ambitious son of Mephisto. Though not as well known in the mainstream public as other super villains, he did get some exposure in 2007’s Ghost Rider movie. In the comics, he has taken on his father several times as well as many of Earth’s heroes including the Avengers, Dr. Strange, Spider-Man, Deadpool, X-Force, Red Hulk, Ghost Rider, Punisher, Wolverine, and Anti-Venom. This is quite a list and it’s not even the complete one. Blackheart’s motivation remains fairly constant through all these encounters: trying to supplant his father’s rule and take over the Earth. In the comics he has also crossed paths with Dormmamu, Hela, and Eternity.
Why I like this book: As the Marvel Cinematic Universe expands into cosmic beings and the supernatural with characters like Dr. Strange, it stands to reason that they will also be looking for some bad guys to use in this new growth. Given that Blackheart has a history with many of Marvel’s stars in the comics, he seems like a natural to fill that role.
13. First Appearance of Harley Quinn in Suicide Squad (Suicide Squad #1 – 2011)
Alright, so maybe Harley joining a team isn’t technically a first appearance, but any “first” with Harley Quinn is a good comic to own. Her well known first appearances include Batman Adventures #12 (her true first appearance) and Batman: Harley Quinn (her first appearance in the DC continuity universe) – both of which cost much more than $25. Less recognized as a “first appearance” but a true one nonetheless is Suicide Squad #1 (2011), which was Harley Quinn’s first appearance on the Suicide Squad.
Why I like this book: Harley Quinn’s roll in Suicide Squad made this team from the 1980’s relevant again. It’s also one of the lone bright-spots in the DC cinematic universe (along with another leading lady). This alone provides some long term upside potential to this comic book. Also, this is one of the coolest Harley covers ever – she is too often reduced to a cartoon which belies the serious intellect behind the craziness. It seems likely that this book may get another boost when Suicide Squad 2 comes out in 2020.
14. First Appearance of X-Force (New Mutants #100)
X-Force has basically had its cinematic debut in Deadpool 2. Now all the team needs is a movie under its own name – and that is reportedly coming soon. The X-Force series did not always boast the most popular line up, other than Domino, but frequently hosted the always popular Deadpool and Cable. The mutant team was also involved in some of the biggest comic cross-over events.
Why I like this book: The success of X-Men and Deadpool has created the beginning of another movie franchise in X-Force. It may be including the best of its predecessors with Ryan Reynolds enthusiastically reprising his roll as Deadpool and Hugh Jackman reluctantly growing his side-chops and claws again as Wolverine. If this happens, New Mutants #100 is well situated to jump in value.
(Extra Bonus Super Collector Tip! New Mutants #100 has a gold second printing and silver third printing. These do not typically command a higher price but there is sometime confusion on the part of (eBay) sellers about whether these are multiple printings or first printing cover variants.)
15. First Appearance of Speedball (Amazing Spider-Man Annual #22)
Speedball first gained prominence as a member of the New Warriors and then infamy for his role in the Stamford incident that kicked off the Super-Human Registration Act and the iconic Civil War story-line. Afterward, he became the disturbed and masochistic Penance where he faced off against the likes of Dr. Doom. His ability to manipulate kinetic energy is constantly changing and growing.
Why I like this book: As a New Warriors animated movie continues to gain momentum the upside potential for this comic continues to grow as well. Speedball also has connections with the Thunderbolts and the increasingly popular Squirrel Girl which bodes well for his future in comicdom. Additionally, his character’s maturing story arc, increasing powers, and tragic connections to previous blockbuster story-lines make him a prime candidate for further use by Marvel. Despite all this, his first appearance can still be acquired for less than $25.
Top 10 Runner-Ups
BEFORE YOU GET ANGRY ABOUT WHAT WASN’T ON THIS LIST, CHECK OUT THE NOTABLES THAT ALMOST MADE THE CUT.
16. First Appearance of Moon Girl (Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur #1)
17. First Appearance of Renee Montoya (Batman #475)
18. First Appearance of Anarchy (Detective Comics #608)
19. First Appearance of Amanda Waller (Legends #1)
20. First Appearance of New Warriors (Thor #411 & Thor #412)
21. First Appearance of Typhoid Mary (Daredevil #254)
22. First Appearance of Puma (Amazing Spider-Man #256)
23. First Appearance of Jubilee (X-Men #244)
24. First Appearance of Tombstone (Web of Spider-Man #36)
25. First Appearance of Bishop (X-Men #282)
This was a fun challenge because there are a TON of characters to choose from under $25. I stuck with mainstream Marvel and DC picks for these, but that’s not to say that there aren’t great comics for reading and speculation with other publishers, it’s just that the market for those books are smaller so they didn’t make this list. But I tried to add a little variety too, maybe even a character or two that might take you by surprise. So what picks did I get right? Which did I miss? Let me know in the comments below!
Disclaimer: Obviously none of this is investment advice, just good ole’ fashion rantings of a collector that occasionally buys low and sells high…or buys high and puts it in a box instead of selling low. Let me hear your rantings below.
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