Hello and welcome to the very first issue of Arcs and Runs. My name is Mike Huddleston and I am a long-time Marvel Zombie and enthusiast of all things comic. I’ve written a few pieces for Walter Durajlija’s Undervalued Spotlight, and am a big fan of all of the folks who write and contribute here on Comic Book Daily.

As a life-long collector of Marvel comics, I had the opportunity to be a “completist” when I was younger. Collecting books back then was still relatively cheap.  It’s a much more difficult and expensive task to be a Silver or Bronze Age completist today.  Now I mostly collect single issues, arcs, some reprints, and the odd run from my favourite titles, and I skip a lot of other “run” books.  You can still make a very satisfying and interesting collection of comics this way; how much you invest in it depends on your financial circumstances.

The focus of this column will be story arcs and comic runs from different titles in the Silver, Bronze, and early Copper Ages of comics.  The focus will be very Marvel-centric at first, however I will eventually get to some of the distinguished competition’s books as well (gag, choke, cough – I can’t believe I’m going to do that!).  It should be a lot of fun for new and seasoned collectors alike.

Before we go any further though, I thought it would be a good idea to define the loose parameters I will be using to write about an arc or a run:

Arcs

In today’s comic world, stories are often written in four to six issue “arcs” and are reprinted as trades. This was not common in the early 60’s, as most books were one-shots with the occasional two part story. Three to four issue stories were rare until the late 60’s and the early Bronze Age of comics, when longer storylines became more commonplace. For our purposes I am going to focus on story arcs three issues or longer.

Runs

Comic runs come in many forms. There are “classic artist” runs on books, like Gene Colons Tomb of Dracula (1-70) Jack Kirby’s Fantastic Four, John Romita’s Spider-Man, etc. There are also “classic title” runs, like X-Men 94-143, Spider-Man 1-50 etc. Some define a run by Golden, Silver, Bronze, Copper or Modern age. Then there are content runs like Tales to Astonish 1-34 (monster) Ant-Man 35-48, Giant Man-Man 49-69 etc. My favourite runs are “custom runs”. These are runs of comics you make up yourself, covering a time and place of your interest. For our purposes we will focus on all of the above, with an emphasis on custom runs.

And awaaayyy we go!

Arc# 1 Tales of Suspense # 97-99, Iron Man/Submariner #1, Captain America #100, & Iron Man #1

We will start with an arc from my second favourite title: Tales of Suspense. I thought it was only fair that this title get the chance to be number one, as it has always been runner-up to my all-time favourite; Amazing Spider-Man. Our featured arc covers the last story ever told in the title. It doesn’t end in Tales of Suspense, but spills over and concludes in a ‘bridge book” Iron Man/Sub-Mariner #1, and the two new titles Captain America #100 and Iron Man #1. All of the books feature Jack Kirby (Cap) and Gene Colan (Iron Man) artwork.

These arcs for me capture the essence of what the title Tales of Suspense had been delivering for the previous 38 issues, and of what Iron Man and Captain America were all about in terms of being superheroes. It is a perfect springboard for their new individual titles, both of which ran successfully for 330 + issues until 1996 in their first volume.

This six issue arc delivers a lot in terms of “key” books, and is therefore not as cheap as other arcs we may cover in future. Here is a brief synopsis of each arc by book, and current Overstreet values of these books.

Tales Of Suspense issue 97 coverTales of Suspense #97

Our Iron Man story begins with our hero down for the count from his previous battle with the Grey Gargoyle. Jasper Sitwell is desperately trying to revive Iron Man or remove his helmet with no success. We break away to a gambling ship run by the Maggia. Morgan Stark a no count cousin of Tony Stark has run up a gambling debt and the Maggia. To pay off his debt he tells the Maggia he can deliver the helpless Iron Man to them and he does.  Upon arrival the slightly recharged Iron Man (cigarette lighter) surprises the Maggia, however he quickly loses steam and is trapped in a cell with the deadly executioner for hire Whiplash (in his first appearance) as the episode ends.

Our Cap story begins with a bang as a booby-trapped roof explodes underneath him. A couple of baddies are out bump to him off. The “mauler” and his sidekick are quickly dispatched by Captain America. We cut away to Wakanda and the Black Panther in his first appearance outside the Fantastic 4. He is investigating a destroyed outpost and is ambushed by six “assassins” who take him down. Back to Cap who is working with the police identifying his latest attackers as members of the “syndicate”. He meets with a doctor and then heads home. Alone with his thoughts, they drift to Agent 13. Agent 13 who at that very moment is preparing for a dangerous mission as Irma Krhul, replacing the deadly female spy for some yet unknown mission. Back to Captain America and a drone aircraft lands on his roof, he is contacted by the Black Panther. After quick introductions, the chief of the Wakandas warns of a dangerous threat to not only his country but the world. In addition there is a mysterious connection to Captain America himself. The episode ends with Cap taking off to Wakanda in the drone aircraft. They crammed a lot into these 10 pages!

Overstreet                               6.0 $24 8.0 $54 9.0 $102 9.2 $150

Tales of Suspense #98            

A cool Cap vs. the Panther cover is followed by a short “test battle” between the two. This allows the Black Panther to confirm Caps identity.  I love those little test battles between Marvel super heroes! A Death Ray is the danger that must be stopped and great reveal on the last panel of the stories villain Baron Zemo!

Iron Man is on low batteries (again) and is trapped in a cell with Whiplash. A deadly game of cat and mouse ensues with Iron Man at Whiplash’s mercy as the episode concludes.  There is also the first appearance of Whitney Frost, who later turns into a long time adversary of Iron Man as the nefarious Madam Masque.

Overstreet                               6.0 $18 8.0 $40 9.0 $73   9.2 $105

Tales Of Suspense issue 99 coverTales of Suspense #99             Last issue in this title.

Iron Man congers up just enough power to zap Whiplash, and passes out. Meanwhile Jasper Sitwell has been doggedly trying to find and rescue Iron Man since he had been kidnapped on his watch, and has tracked him to the Maggia ship where he is being held. Iron man is taken by the revived Whiplash to a Maggia lab where Iron Man is fastened to a table. The Maggia want to learn the “secret” of IM’s armour and proceed to start lasering his helmet.  Enter A.I.M. another baddie who attack the Maggia ship (at just the right time) and it begins to sink. This episode ends with Iron Man stuck on the table with no power and water rising.

Baron Zemo is alive and still as mad as a hatter!  He has captured the Black Panther and Captain America and told them of his plans for world conquest. The Panther and Cap escape and battle Zemos henchman only to be re-captured and taken to Zemos stronghold. Zemo toys with our heroes, slaps them around a bit and then gives them details of his diabolical “Death Ray” and how he intends to use it on the USA. They try to resist and are knocked out once more. Enter Irma Kruhl (Sharon Carter – Agent 13) who is greeted by Zemo and then handed a gun with orders to kill Captain America. The last panel has the distraught Agent 13 raising the gun to shoot her beloved Captain America.

And Tales of Suspense ends its 99 issue run with two cliff hangers.

Overstreet                               6.0 $21 8.0 $49 9.0 $92 9.2 $135

Iron Man / Sub-Mariner#1      One-shot “bridge issue”

A unique one of a kind comic that contains  two bridge stories that lead to number #1 issues for the Sub-Mariner and Iron Man. We won’t cover the Sub-Mariner from Tales to Astonish today. The second is our Iron Man story continued from Tales of Suspense #99.

Iron Man finds a power source that re-loads his batteries and lets him escape the table he was fastened to and he begins to work his way to the top of the ship.  The Maggia, Big M, and Whiplash continue their battle with the A.I.M. ship. The A.I.M. ship wins out just as Iron reaches the main floor to find Jasper Sitwell in the grasp of Whiplash. A quick repulsor ray by Iron Man puts Whiplash out of commission. At that moment Iron Man is caught in a A.I.M. vortex beam and pulled into their ship. The story concludes in IM#1.

Overstreet                               6.0 $45 8.0 $100 9.0 $220 9.2 $340

Captain America issue 100 coverCaptain America #100            Key 1968 Re-launch book

Our story continues right after a 3 page origin re-telling of Captain America from Avengers #4.  Captain America and the Black Panther are slowly regaining their senses with a gun pointed at them and Zemo demanding Irma Kruhl to shoot. She hesitates and then shoots just above Cap’s head. Cap knows she did it intentionally but doesn’t recognize her as Agent 13 yet. Instead of killing them Zemo decides to kill Cap and the Panther later (as bad guys always do), and re-directs his focus on his death ray and the info Irma Kruhl has brought. As Zemo prepares to fire the ray Agent 13 produces a mini-flame thrower from her brief case and destroys the Death Ray’s control panel rendering it useless. A protracted battle ensues between Captain America, Agent 13 (who Cap finally recognises) and the Black Panther vs. Zemo, his Destructon android, and cast of 100 henchmen. The battle ends with the unmasking of Zemo, who it turns out to be the pilot of the original and still dead Baron Zemo. Feeling betrayed his own henchmen shoot him and surrender to the Black Panther as T’Challa Chief of Wakanda. Nick Fury and Shield destroy the now defenceless death ray. Cap and Agent 13 lament that their devotion to duty trumps any personal life they may have together. Cap has asked the Black Panther if he is interested in joining the Avengers, and this leads directly to the Black Panthers next appearance in Avengers #52 and his subsequent Avengers membership.

Overstreet                               6.0 $84 8.0 $202 9.0 $451 9.2 $700

Iron Man #1                            Key 1968 Re-launch book

Iron Man has been captured my AIM and a guy wants to lead them named Mordius. He has created a machine that will duplicate Iron Mans armour and create an army of A.I.M. Iron Men. Iron Man busts free and proceeds to mop the floor the copies, Mordius, and the rest of A.I.M.  Meanwhile back on the sinking ship Jasper Sitwell and Nick Fury (busy guy) save Whitney Frost from drowning. They don’t know that right now she is in fact the Big M – leader of the Maggia. Whiplash appears to drown on the ship, we know now that he did not. Back in Iron Man #1 the book closes with a condensed 3 page re-telling of Iron Man’s origin from Tales of Suspense #39.

Overstreet                               6.0 $150 8.0 $285 9.0 $641 9.2 $1000

These six books work together very well and make a great addition to any comic collection in whatever grade you can afford. Check them out if you get a chance!