Undervalued Spotlight #284

Caliber Presents 1Caliber Presents #1, Caliber Press, January 1989

Long-time Spotlight fan and past guest Spotlight writer Darren Graham sent me this fantastic pick recently and I’ve been waiting for a natural moment to post it. By natural moment I mean one where Comic Book Daily editor Scott won’t yell at me for not putting up one of my own. Having spent the past weekend in the trenches of the Toronto Comic Con I figured I’d get some help this week. Though I will say even if I spent the weekend in a hammock sipping some Mount Gay I’d have been hard pressed to come up with anything better than what Darren has produced. Let’s throw things over to Mr. Graham…

There one book that’s been boggling me with its finite value… Caliber Presents #1, which has the 1st appearance of the Crow.  By comparison, The Crow #1 (2nd appearance) goes for almost double that book. What gives? I’d like to remove the shroud from Caliber Presents #1 and feature it as a pick for Undervalued Spotlight.

The Crow miniseries began in an 8-page story in Caliber Presents #1 in 1989, and then continued in The Crow #1-4. Creator James O’Barr made one of the great black and white indie comics of the copper age. It’s gritty, raw, gothic, and dare I say it, beautiful. And he can draw the hell out of Eric. He’s an iconic character and the story is moving and effective.

The Crow (1994) movie captured the essence of O’Barr’s creation: The gothic visuals, the amazing alternative/industrial soundtrack, the unintentional camp, the life-imitating-art tragedy around Lee’s death. This is a 90’s classic. A reboot has been in the works for years, and O’Barr wants a movie that is closer to his original story. In many people’s minds, (like director Alex Proyas’) Brandon Lee IS Eric, the movie is his epitaph and that character should be allowed to Rest in Peace.

Personally, I hope a reboot never gets made. It’s going to be impossible to top the original. But you know, these studios are looking for “mature” comic book properties right now. WB wants an R-rated director’s cut of Batman V Superman on Blu-ray (all because of the financial success of the R-rated Deadpool. I don’t see how that correlates to BvS, but I digress…). WB is planning on making movies from DC’s Vertigo line. Daredevil is enjoying a broader fan base thanks to the gritty Netflix series. Instead of a Crow reboot movie, how about a TV series that features new Crow stories and characters each season, something akin to HBO’s True Detective? I’m not fully versed on many of The Crow comics that came after the original, but I see the appeal of the concept. Love, revenge and redemption all come full circle.

Even if The Crow reboot remains in pre-production purgatory, I still feel Caliber Presents #1 will continue to rise in value. It’s a true Copper Age blue chip. The Crow graphic novel that reprints the CP #1 and The Crow 1-4 has sold around 750,000 copies. By comparison, the print run for Caliber Presents #1 and Crow #1 is estimated to be only 10,000 each. The book is undeniably popular.

A raw Crow #1 in NM condition goes for about $275, whereas a Caliber Presents 1 NM fetches around $150. I think what is causing this is fans of the Brandon Lee movie (who don’t know much about comic book collecting) buying The Crow #1-4… not realizing that they didn’t snag that ever-so-important first appearance… After all, The Crow isn’t on the cover of Caliber Presents #1, and the first appearance is hiding in an anthology title. I believe this trend will correct itself soon and the first appearance will be in more demand.

Completists will also be snatching up Deadworld #10, which has a low print run and the first cameo of The Crow as an ad drawn by O’Barr on the back cover. This guides for $4 NM-. You’d be lucky to get it for $20…  word has gotten out. Scour those dollar bins! I also noticed there’s a quite a few raw Crow books signed by O’Barr, and the price is the same or less than the unsigned. These signed books might be a winning choice.

The 45th Overstreet price breaks for this book is $37/$66/$95 in the 8.0/9.0/9.2 grade splits.

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

  • First appearance of The Crow (Eric) and strangely less expensive than 2nd appearance
  • Low print run
  • Huge fan base
  • Potential for movie reboot

Walter Durajlija
Walter Durajlija

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

Articles: 1688


  1. I wondered when someone would touch on Caliber. When you think of the talent represented by this company it is mind-boggling. Caliber published the likes of O’Barr as well as Tim Vigil, Vince Locke, Guy Davis, David Mack, Michael Lark, Ed Brubaker, Brian Michael Bendis, Michael Allred…and me. : )

    Caliber essentially became the farm team for the big boys. Caliber Presents and Negative Burn introduced some of the great up and coming talent of the next generation, and for that reason alone, deserves a very important place in comic history.

  2. Me, lucky bastard. I have them all as you mentioned above, in each in multiply copies, included those from Thundra Publishing, Ltd., 1992.

    What about Caliber Christmas, A (Caliber Press, 1989) #1 and 2?

  3. Mel, I agreed with you. They were in a class along with First Comics, Comico, etc.

  4. Mel, it’s great to hear from somebody who contributed to this title and indie comics in general. A huge omission for me to not comment on all the talent and stories that Caliber offered other than the Crow. Thanks for adding this!

  5. It’s amazing to look at that list and consider the work those people later went on to do for Marvel and DC. The most remarkable thing about the title is that so many creators were very much testing the waters. I remember back then, when I first laid eyes on the work of Michael Lark, it looked like a poor-man’s Ted McKeever, a very long way from the realism he is known for today. I also think that Caliber Presents, along with Negative Burn (both runs), were among the very few anthology titles available for new creators to get their feet wet. Those anthology titles went a long way toward kick-starting any number of comic careers. It’s a real shame there is nothing really like them today.

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