Undervalued Spotlight #129

Machine Man #18, Marvel Comics, December 1980

“Canada’s Premier super hero group protect their country against all enemies, foreign and domestic. They are strong. They are on guard. They are Alpha Flight“. So goes the Marvel website’s description of Alpha Flight!

The team’s 1st appearance was back in April of 1979 in X-Men #120, the introduction continued into #121 and both books are highly collectible today.  Our Canadian heroes reappeared in X-Men #139 and #140 (well at least half of them). Again both these comics are highly collectible and realize strong prices on the market.

Not known to many though is the fact that while Alpha Flight members Vindicator, Shaman and Snowbird were busy helping the X-Men beat Wendigo in X-Men #140 the other half of the team (Sasquatch, Aurora and Northstar) was busy taking on the much more formidable Madame Menace in Machine Man #18. This fact ties these 2 books together nicely and no true Alpha Flight fan should own an X-Men #140 without a Machine Man #18!

Machine Man #18 is an obscure little gem, it’s print run was a fraction of the massive X-Men print runs of the time. Looking at the CGC Census we can see just how neglected this book is;

  •  X-Men #120, 725 universally graded, 287 at 9.4 or better
  • X-Men #140, 1295 universally graded, 883 at 9.4 or better
  • Machine Man #18, only 37 universally graded, 29 at 9.4 or better
  • Alpha Flight #1, 422 universally graded, 376 at 9.4 or better
Note that Alpha Flight #1, published late in 1983 and with only a $5 price guide value has almost 12 times the amount of copies graded compared to Machine Man #18. Notice also that the X-Men #140, the tie-in issue has almost 40 times as many copies graded.
Now consider the market performance for the above issues. CGC 9.6 copies on the market are getting the following;
  • X-Men #120, CGC 9.6 gets $225 (9.2 guide price $125)
  • X-Men #140, CGC 9.6 gets $70 (9.2 guide price $75)
  • Alpha Flight #1, CGC 9.6 gets $25 (9.2 guide price $5)
  • Machine Man #18, the last CGC 9.6 got $10 (9.2 guide price $30)

Wow, Alpha Flight #1 is performing well and it’s performance should be an argument against those that would say it is the X-Men title that lends the value to the early Alpha Flight appearances. Clearly there are Alpha Flight fans out there. I think the issue here is awareness.

Machine Man (who 1st appeared in 2001: A Space Oddessy #8) is in itself a great little Copper Age run, it lasted 19 issues running from April 1978 to February 1981 and boasts Jack Kirby contributions for #1-9 and Steve Ditko contributions from #10-19. Issue #19 introduces the Jack o’Lantern who later became the 2nd Hobgoblin.

Machine Man #18 has a Rich Buckler cover featuring Aurora, Northstar and Sasquatch, “Alone Against Alpha Flight!” the 19 page Tom DeFalco story is inked and pencilled by comic book legend Steve Ditko.

The 42nd edition of the Overstreet Price Guide shows $16/$23/$30 as the 8.0/9.0/9.2 price splits.

Strengths that make this comic book a good long-term investment are:

  • Early Alpha Flight appearance
  • Ties in to a highly collected X-Men issue
  • It’s obscurity and relative scarcity should make it more sought after
Walter Durajlija Written by:

Walter Durajlija is an Overstreet Advisor and Shuster Award winner. He owns Big B Comics in Hamilton Ontario.

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3 Comments

  1. Doug K
    August 7, 2012

    I agree… same to say about early Deadpool appearance in Silver Sable and uhm, Heroes for hire

  2. Charlie
    August 8, 2012

    Hmmm, unexpected but an interesting pick. Alpha Flight was a super hot team when they were first introduced but over the years, they seem to have fizzled. Byrne himself wrote that the characters lacked depth and was cited as one of the reasons he decided to leave the Alpha Flight series. But I found this to be an odd comment since he was both writer and artist on the book. As a co-plotter on the X-Men, his disagreements with Chris Claremont are infamous but here he had full reign. Couldn’t he have added “depth” to the characters?

    The problem here is, if we were to look at the complete picture… we’d see that the surrounding X books (ie; #130-139 and #141-143) are on par with X#140 which seems to suggest that it’s value is not based on the second appearance of Alpha Flight. And if this is the case, should Machine Man #18 be an undervalue contender?

    So then, why is X#140 worth so much more than MM#18… because it’s an X book? Yes! … and no. Note how the value of X books drop after #143. X#140 is a Byrne X book, which is part of a key run of books, considered to be Byrnes (and possibly Claremont’s) best work. Despite being at odds with each other, Byrne and Claremont had the right chemistry that took the X-Men from being a good book to being the top book. To this date, the only run of books that matches their success is the DD FM run. These two runs upped the ante in terms of art, story telling and has had great influence over current creators.

    Alpha Fight #1 was also a Byrne book and it’s a double sized number 1 so there’s some value here but as an 80’s by product, only at the high grades. Alpha Flight books as a whole suffers from the fact that they never really reach their potential.

    So where does this leave MM#18? Well… I hate to say it, but probably with other great second appearances that Walter has duly noted…

  3. August 8, 2012

    Good arguments Charlie but I still think there is an awareness issue here as well. Early appearances of popular characters don’t really need to lean on great writers, those can and often do come later.

    I think that MM #18 is a neglected book and I also think the fact that it’s a Canadian team creates opportunities for the future! Perhaps if Captain Canuck were to join…

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