This month saw the release of Guardians of the Galaxy #21, a much-anticipated story set in the home planet of the Venom symbiote. This story inspired me to think back on the first appearance of Venom’s home planet, which appears to have been The Amazing Spider-Man Super Special #1 (1995). This comic is dirt cheap as its guide value is $4 for a near mint minus (9.2) copy. As I thought about this comic, I noticed that we often overlook the first appearances of important comic places. The key issues that grab all the attention and dollars are first appearance of characters (hello, Amazing Fantasy #15!), number one issues, origin issues, death issues, and the first issues of major storylines. I feel that this is a mistake because there are many undervalued gems among issues featuring the first appearance of places. Here are three comic places that are undervalued and overlooked by collectors.
1. Batman #258
This issue features the first appearance of Arkham Asylum (well, it was originally called “Arkham Hospital” in this issue). A near mint minus (9.2) copy has a value of $120 in the Overstreet Guide, which is cheap for such a significant comic. In this issue, we first encounter “Arkham Hospital” as the location where Two Face is released during a jail break. In the years since this issue’s publication, Arkham Asylum has become famous for being a dark and twisted place, filled with tormented supervillain inmates. It is such a famous landmark in the D.C. Universe and its images can be seen in many places in popular culture, including the popular video games, and as a backdrop for some of the most famous Batman stories. It is also an important part of the story in the current season of the tv series, Gotham. If collectors catch on to this comic, this issue can be worth significantly more.
2. New Gods #1
This issue is well-known because it, along with Forever People #1 and Mister Miracle #1, helped launch Jack Kirby’s Fourth World, which greatly expanded the characters and worlds in the D.C. universe. This issue has a lot of similarities with Journey Into Mystery (J.I.M.) #85, which featured first appearances of Loki, Odin, Heimdall, Asgard, and Bifrost. Journey #85 firmly established the Asgardian world within the Marvel Universe, and like New Gods #1, J.I.M. #85 is a Kirby masterpiece that created new worlds and characters. Kirby intended the New Gods as a continuation of the “old gods” of Asgard, after they died in their fiery Ragnarok. However, unlike J.I.M. #85, New Gods #1 doesn’t have a major character’s first appearance to boost its value. The current guide value of a near mint minus copy of New Gods #1 is only $160, but I believe the value will increase substantially in the coming years. I feel that this will be a hot issue because New Gods #1 features the first appearances of Apokolips and New Genesis, which are worlds that I believe will appear in one of DC’s upcoming films. These two worlds could appear along with Darkseid, in either one of the upcoming Justice League movies, or it could be in Superman v. Batman: Dawn of Justice, or in the third Superman movie. Like J.I.M. #85, Kirby has also created new and important characters in New Gods #1, namely Orion, who’s the estranged son of Darkseid, and characters such as Metron, Highfather (DC’s own version of Odin), and the villain Kalibak also mark their debuts. Oh, and this issue also features the fourth appearance of Darkseid.
3. Fantastic Four #47
Marvel Studios recently announced an Inhumans movie, set to hit movie screens in 2018. If you’re mad that you missed out on the first appearance issues of the Inhumans and Black Bolt (Fantastic Four #45 and #46, respectively) because they’re now selling for triple the Overstreet Guide price, why not buy the next best thing, F.F. #47? This issue features the first appearance of Attilan (“the hidden land”), which is the Inhumans’ homeland, and it will probably appear in the movie in one form or another. I love how Stan Lee and Jack Kirby show the Inhumans as another superhero group that are outcasts in society, similar to the mutant X-Men, but the Inhumans have their own homeland as a refuge, which is even more poignant. It looks like Attilan will also play an important role in the current season of the tv series, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. The current Overstreet Guide value for a 9.2 copy of Fantastic Four #47 is $325 but mid-grade and lower grade copies can be purchased on eBay for less than guide price. As a bonus, this comic also features the first appearance of the villain, Maximus, who might also appear in the movie.
The new crop of movies announced by Marvel and DC will make speculators and collectors scrambling for comics in anticipation of future movie projects. If you like to place bets on which places will appear in future movies, you may want to roll the dice on two more Marvel books: Marvel Superheroes: Secret Wars #1 and Sub-Mariner (1968) # 9. Both of these books are cheap: a 9.2 copy of Secret Wars #1 stands at $20 but could go much higher with a movie announcement and Sub-Mariner #9 has a 9.2 guide value of $80. Secret Wars #1 features the debut of Battleworld, which could make it into a movie in Phase 3 or an unannounced Phase 4 movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I think it would be cool if the upcoming Dr. Strange movie showed Battleworld as part of some magical realm. Sub-Mariner #9 marks the first appearance of Lemuria, the undersea kingdom that has been at odds with Namor, the Sub-Mariner, and Namor himself could show up in some sort of supporting or antagonistic role against Avengers’ characters, say in the third Captain America movie. I am just speculating on these two comics, of course, but it’s safe to say that Disney wants to maximize the use of its Marvel assets so it will keep digging into the back catalogue of stories to crank out more movies.