First appearances are the gold standard in comic collecting and speculation. Sure, other events can cause comic values to spike. The death of a character is important (Superman #75), but they usually come back – heck, Superman came back 4 times! Joining or forming a team can cause a comic to rise in value – like Harley Quinn in Suicide Squad #1. But nothing increases the value of a comic like the first appearance of character.
But what qualifies as a first appearance? It’s not as clear as many think and definitely more confusing then any of us want. And I’m not even talking about the whole “cameo” debate (Is Hulk 180 or 181 the real first appearance of Wolverine?).
Many comic first appearances take place outside of comic continuity. Say what? I’m talking about previews of future comics that often include first appearances. Marvel Age had many of these and people are beginning to figure this out. Comic prices are slowly and steadily rising. Never heard of Marvel Age? Don’t worry, many haven’t (which is why you can still spec on these for cheap!)
Marvel Age is Speculation Gold
Marvel Age was essentially a comic about comics. There were 140 issues that ran from 1983 to 1994. It gave readers a snapshot about what was on the Marvel comic horizon. Think of it like an early Marvel previews. It provided insight and a “behind the scenes” look into the comic industry. Sometimes it even gave a sneak peak at actual comic content – including first appearances.
In this post, I’m sharing the Marvel Age comics that have first appearances that you want to be on the look out for. Many of these can be found in dollar bins because even life long collectors don’t always realize their value.
1. Marvel Age #6 – First Appearance of Beta Ray Bill
Conventional wisdom holds that Beta Ray Bill’s first appearance is Thor #337. But that’s only half right. The first time he graces the page of a comic is Marvel Age #6. And this comic has some serious growth potential. That’s because we know Beta Ray Bill exists in the MCU universe, we just haven’t met him yet.
However, he was clearly visible as one of the former champions on the planet Sakar in Thor: Ragnarok. Rumors abound that he is expected to appear in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. If and when Beta Ray Bill finally appears in person (in horse?), expect Marvel Age #6 to get a lot pricier.
If you are looking for Beta Ray Bill’s first appearance in a comic story, that can be found in Thor #337.
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2. Marvel Age #7 – First Appearance of Spider-Ham
Wait a minute… Is Spider-Ham even a real character? Who cares about his first appearance? Well, it turns out this portly crime fighting porker has quite a few fans of his own. After a leading (sort of?) role in Spider Man: Into the Spider Verse he’s more popular than ever. And this makes sense. I mean if Marvel is letting him share screen time with Peter Parker, Miles Morales, and Gwen Stacy, then he’s probably someone speculators are aware of.
If you are looking at his first appearance in a comic story, that can be found in Marvel Tails #1.
3. Marvel Age #12 – First Appearance of Black Suit Spider-Man
This issue of Marvel Age is probably my favorite of all the ones on this list. Not only is it the first appearance of the infamous black suit that would later become Venom, but it is also the preview for Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars – the cosmic comic crossover that started them all.
The black suit in Marvel Age #12 predates both Marvel Team-Up #141 and Amazing Spider-Man #252 to be the undisputed first appearance. However, I’ve always wondered if this comic should have an asterisk, because as you can see the black suit in Marvel Age #12 is black and red, not black and white. Technically, that makes this early appearance a prototype, not a true first appearance in the same way that some consider Journey Into Mystery #62 a prototype for the Incredible Hulk.
But even so, so much comic history is tied up in that black suit that came from the Secret Wars storyline and this is the first time it can be seen in comic book form. The fact that it appears in comic previewing Secret Wars #1 on the cover makes it that much better. And for those of you keeping track of dates, Marvel Super Heroes: Secret Wars #1 has a cover date of May 1984, while Marvel Ages #12 has a cover date two months earlier in March 1984. Is this a cool comic or what?
If you are looking for the first comic story with the black suit it is either in Amazing Spider-Man #252, Marvel Team-Up #141, or Spectacular Spider-Man #90 depending on which side of that debate you fall on.
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4. Marvel Age #29 – First Appearance of Longshot
“So you think you’ve seen every possible different type of super hero, every possible super-power?”
Now that’s an attention grabbing introduction – especially when it’s coming from Marvel! And what new hero was being introduced? Well you know from the headline that it was how readers first met Longshot!
Longshot may not be known by many new to comics. This is understandable because even though he’s a former X-Men, he never made the big screen when Fox was making mutant movies. That said he is an intriguing character who is connected to some fantastic storylines in the 80’s and 90’s. Longshot’s first appearance is in Longshot #1.
But who cares about Longshot now? Well, speculators are definitely paying attention, because there are more than a few clues that he may be coming to the MCU. First, many think the new character in Ant Man #3 will be Dazzler. And Dazzler and Longshot end up getting married. Second, Longshot’s origin story is rooted in an alternate universe – the Mojoverse, which is run by Mojo – one of the creepiest villains in comics IMO. And who knows what realities the upcoming Doctor Strange: Multiverse of Madness will introduce? FYI, Mojo’s first appearance is in Longshot #3.
Of course this is all speculation, but Marvel has recently been bringing Longshot and Mojo back into mainline stories. They have a habit of reintroducing old characters in the comics before bringing them to the screen. So while there is no guarantee that Longshot or Mojo are coming to the MCU, don’t say you weren’t warned!
5. Marvel Age #38 – First Appearance of He-Man in Marvel
Right now 80’s nostalgia is driving a lot of the comic market. You can see this in huge value spikes by cultural icons such as Transformers #1 and G.I. Joe #1. Even Darkwing Duck is shooting through the roof! (“Let’s get dangerous!”). Given the prices that these books are commanding it shouldn’t be any surprise that He-Man is beginning to follow in this climb.
Of course everyone from this era remembers the cartoon. But that did spin-off an ongoing title under the Marvel imprint, Star Comics, called Masters of the Universe. Before that, though, was Marvel Age #38. It is a huge piece of the He-Man Marvel mythos and if nostalgia continues to be a driving force of comic value, this issue may be next on the hot lists. If you’re looking for the first He-Man in a Marvel comic storyline that is Masters of the Universe #1.
6. Marvel Age #82 – First Appearance of Cable and Stryfe
Cable was a hit as soon as he came off of Rob Liefeld’s drawing table. Although he was quickly overshadowed by Deadpool, Cable is an anti-hero that’s never really gone out of style. Not only is he an intriguing character, but he regularly runs with some of the X-Men’s deadliest and coolest. And of course, since he’s on this list, you know his first appearance in comics isn’t the cover of New Mutants 87. Nope, it’s the interior page of Marvel Age #82 along with Stryfe.
While Cable’s spec value took a hit after rising to new heights after Deadpool 2, he is poised to make a strong come back. Marvel recently relaunched the X-Men with a younger Cable – something you can do when the character is a time traveler. Plus, I am a firm believer that we will eventually see Avengers v. X-Men on the big screen. Sure, it will take a while, but if it happens that means Hope Summers, and that means Cable is coming back. A lot of people will be happy when he does, especially everyone who owns this issue of Marvel Age.
If you are looking for Cable’s first appearance in Marvel continuity, it is New Mutants #87.
7. Marvel Age #87 – First Appearance of Danny Ketch
A lot of industry insiders expect Ghost Rider to be joining the MCU in phase 4. Many people even go further predicting (hoping and pleading) that the role will played by Keanu Reeves. But the question is, which Ghost Rider will appear?
Because Johnny Blaze has already been on the big screen (played by Nicholas Cage) and because MCU doesn’t like to rehash well known storylines, it’s a safe bet that fans will see a new character. Enter Danny Ketch. (If you want to know more reasons why, check out my article on 1990s spec!) And while, many think the first time Danny Ketch made a comic appearance was Ghost Rider #1, many would be mistaken.
If you are looking for Danny Ketch’s first appearance in a comic story then that would be Ghost Rider #1 (vol. 2). It’s hard to find in high grade because of the black cover, especially the newsstand and second printings. The second printing is the one with Ghost Rider, not Spider-Man, in the UPC box.
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8. Marvel Age #88 – First Appearance of Future Guardians of the Galaxy
Guardians of the Galaxy are an incredibly successful franchise. In a universe of conventional superheroes somehow a talking raccoon, a sort of talking tree, and a rag tag group of misfits have done very well for themselves. Of course, the group that we know bears little resemblance to the Guardians of the Galaxy in the year 3017.
But who cares if this group of future galaxy guardians made their first appearance here? Well, this may be some long odds spec, but the next big MCU bad guy is heavily rumored to be Kang. You know, the time traveler from the future. How cool would it be if future Guardians of the Galaxy also came back to help fight him? Like I said, long odds here. But on the plus side, this is the group that gave us the first appearance of Taserface, so it’s got that going for it. If you want this group’s first appearance in a comic story, it’s in Guardians of the Galaxy #1.
9. Marvel Age #91 and #99 – First Appearance of Thanos Quest and The Infinity Gauntlet
The Thanos Quest and Infinity Gauntlet crossover series is some of the best storytelling in any medium. And Thanos is one of the most compelling characters to grace page or screen. It is no accident that the MCU chose this story to tie all its heroes together. Needless to say, there will always be a market for these books. That also means that there will always be a market for their actual first appearances.
These comics will likely never be a substitute for the conventional first appearances, but many collectors, completionists, and speculators will be hunting these down for a long time to come. Thanos is never going away and that means there is always going to be a market for these books. If you do want the first appearances of Thanos and these storylines, they can be found in Iron Man #55 (Thanos), Thanos Quest #1, and Infinity Gauntlet #1.
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10. Marvel Age #97 – First Appearance of Darkhawk
Darkhawk is making hot lists and top ten lists and every other list right now. And it’s not just 90’s nostalgia driving this interest. Marvel reportedly trademarked the character so they can sell Darkhawk related products – a move that often happens before they appear in the MCU. If that ever happens a lot of people are going to be looking to pick up his first appearance in Darkhawk #1. Only that’s not his first appearance…
Another really cool first of Marvel Age #97, completely unrelated to Darkhawk, is that it carries an ad for the first series of Marvel trading cards. I don’t think this will drive the price of this issue, but it is a cool piece of comic history.
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11. Marvel Age #98 – First Appearance of Toxic Avenger
While the Toxic Avenger is not as much of a household name as, say, Captain America, don’t let that fool you – he still has a strong cult following. And like any cultural icon with a strong fan base, Toxic Avenger properties can command a premium. The cool thing about this comic is that not only is it his first appearance, it’s also his first cover appearance – something that collectors have demonstrated they care about more and more. If you’re interested in Toxic Avengers first appearance in a comic series, you can find him in Toxic Avenger #1.
12. Marvel Age #100 – First Appearance of Sleepwalker
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Sleepwalker #1 has recently hit some of the most popular comic top 10 lists across the internet. (I called this comic would be a hit too, just earlier, just saying.) Many think this is because of Sleepwalker’s close association in the comics with Darkhawk and since Darkhawk may be coming to the MCU then Sleepwalker cant be far behind. My reasoning is a little different. Sleepwalker is a nemesis of Nightmare – who is coming to the big screen in the Doctor Strange sequel. And they fight in the dream dimension – where some of the Doctor Strange sequel is set to take place. You see where this is going…
But whatever the reason for Sleepwalker’s rising fame, its reasonable to expect the first appearance in Marvel Age #100 to mirror the rising value of Darkhawk’s first appearance in Marvel Age #97. And while Darkhawk’s first appearance is a bit limited, Sleepwalker’s first appearance is several pages of story.
If you want to see how the rest of this story unfolds, check out Sleepwalker #1. But you should probably do it quickly, because this comic is getting expensive fast.
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