It’s funny how Comic Con season can disrupt a relaxing summer day. It was a nice summer day back in July, 2013, and I was reading a book and enjoying the summer breeze blowing in from the window. Then, my tranquility was shattered because I went to the computer and read the news from the San Diego Comic Con, which also took place on the same day. Joss Whedon had just announced that Ultron would appear as the main villain in the Avengers movie sequel. Like some frantic stock trader with insider information, I swung into action. I desperately phoned a few comic dealers in an effort to snag some copies of Avengers # 55 (the first full appearance of Ultron) for cheap. It took about a day to hear a back from them about the comics, and when they did call me back, the ink had already dried on the new price tags that they had slapped on the polybags. I think one dealer wanted $300 for a very fine copy of #55 so I passed on it.
In thinking back on this moment, I’m writing today to advise you not to hastily buy a supervillain’s comic just because the said villain will be appearing in the next Hollywood blockbuster. Not every villain’s comic book value increases just because that villain will be appearing in the next Marvel or DC movie. And not every upswing in a movie villain’s comic book value is permanent. For every Ultron or Thanos, there are also duds–duds such as Arnim Zola. Here are 3 movie supervillains whose comic book values did not increase very much nor remain very valuable after they appeared in the movies.
1. Arnim Zola
He first appeared in Captain America #208, during Jack Kirby’s second run on this title, and he was creating creepy artificial beings in the jungles of South America. Moreover, his face is encased inside a tv screen that makes up his chest, so his overall appearance is not very appealing. In the movies, he looks like Toby Jones trying to play an evil scientist. He appeared in the first Captain America movie and will be appearing again in the next movie, Captain America: The Winter Soldier. He has never been the main villain in the movies, having played the henchman to the Red Skull, and will probably play some sort of henchman/lackey in the Captain America sequel, so I can see how collectors don’t take him seriously. The current guide value for a near mint copy of Captain America #208 is $14.
2. The Abomination
I haven’t read many comics that featured the Abomination, but to my knowledge, the Abomination has never harboured grandiose plans to conquer the world or universe. To be a villain that is worthy in the minds of comic book fans, one has to pose a grave threat to the world, if not the universe. All the Abomination ever wanted to do was to beat the crap out of the Hulk. The Abomination appeared in the second Hulk movie, featuring Ed Norton as Bruce Banner, and again, he only wanted to kick some Hulk-butt. I actually liked the second Hulk movie, especially the whole anger management/meditation angle, and the Abomination was an okay villain in this movie. The Abomination first appeared in Tales to Astonish #90, currently worth $130 for a near mint minus copy, which is chump change for a Silver Age Marvel comic book.
3. Obadiah Stane/Iron Monger
He was played by Jeff Bridges in the first Iron Man movie. In the comics, the Iron Monger has become Green Goblinesque in the way that new characters keep taking on the Iron Monger’s role, but collectors don’t seem too impressed. I think the message here is that if you’re a businessperson and a corporate raider who wants to take over Tony Stark’s empire, you’re BORING in the eyes of comic book collectors. Obadiah Stane first appeared as himself in the Invincible Iron Man #163, which is worth $6 for a near mint copy. The Iron Monger’s first appearance was in the Invincible Iron Man # 200, which goes for $8 for a near mint copy in the Overstreet Price Guide.
Some Final Thoughts:
I thought I had the recipe down for identifying a movie supervillain whose comic book value will increase. In addition to the obligatory movie appearance, I always thought that the character should be dark in appearance, must be super powerful, and must pose an existential threat to the universe, or at least to planet earth. Maybe this character should look like Thanos, Darkseid, or Apocalypse, but not necessarily a requirement. So when Thor: The Dark World came out last year, I was certain that Malekith’s comics would jump in value. This comic did have an initial surge in value but the value has fallen dramatically because my recent checks on eBay show The Mighty Thor #344 (Malekith’s first appearance) to be selling for less than $10. Thor #344 came out in 1984, about two years before X-Factor #6 (Apocalypse’s first full appearance), but it seems that X-Factor #6 will have more staying power in terms of comic book value. Current checks on eBay show this Apocalypse comic selling for well over $100 and the next Overstreet Guide should show an increase in value as well.
In retrospect, there is no rhyme or reason, no algorithm, no secret formula to discern whether a villain’s movie appearance will ensure that the villain’s comic will remain valuable. It really is 50:50 as to whether that comic will remain valuable after the movie has run its course. The Mighty Thor #344 saw a big deflation in value after Thor: the Dark World left the theatres. It’ll be interesting to see whether the Collector can continue to maintain its lofty value. Certainly speculation plays a role, and I get it that the Guardians of the Galaxy movie is imminent, but I still scratch my head that the Collector’s debut issue (Avengers #28) is fetching more than $500 on eBay. First of all, the Collector is not always evil, and he’s not evil evil the way Darkseid is evil. So this guy is a collector? And it is comic collectors who are clamouring for copies of a character who collects? I still have to figure that one out.