Undervalued Spotlight #324

Journey into Mystery Annual #1, Marvel Comics, 1965

Marvel Comics certainly had a “way” with adapting fictional characters and making those characters their own. I can’t think of a bigger or better example than the Mighty Thor, introduced in Journey into Mystery #83, August 1962. Marvel took a character from Germanic and Norse mythology and turned him into one of the most popular superheroes around.

This week’s Undervalued Spotlight shines on a book that in theory could have spawned another great “Marvel Way” success story, Journey into Mystery Annual #1 from 1965.

Journey into Mystery Annual #1 introduces Marvel’s adaptation of Hercules, a hero drawn from Greek mythology and a natural playmate for Thor in the world of Marvel comics.

Hercules had already been used by other comic publishers including DC Comics, check out the Action Comics #279 cover. I think Hercules actually 1st appeared (in a Flashback) in All Star Comics #8, the issue that introduced Wonder Woman.

Obviously DC Comics didn’t have any success with their Hercules forays, most likely because there was never an attempt to update or adapt the character in with the others in the DC stable (DC had also used Thor). The Thor and Hercules characters were borrowed as the classic characters from folklore and legend.

This lack of adaptation may be the same reason that Hercules never caught on at Marvel the same way that Thor did. Remember that Kirby and Lee made a conscious effort to modernize Thor. Dr. Donald Blake became Thor’s alter ego and the whole thing worked like a charm. Hercules would have benefited from a similar approach.

I believe Marvel/Disney still has a large window in which to make Hercules more a Marvel character, more a Marvel hero than he is. I won’t underestimate the ability of Marvel/Disney. I predict a Marvel Hercules more “unhooked” and independent of the classic Greek version much the same way Thor is. It may never get to the scale of Thor but I do see a potential differentiation that would most definitely help the collecting value of Journey into Mystery Annual #1.

Journey into Mystery Annual #1 buys you a cheap ticket into this Hercules adaptation project.

As it stands now the book is one of the cheapest Marvels through 1965 that introduced a major heroic character.  Comparing to other Marvel Annuals of 1965 Journey into Mystery Annual #1 is behind the Guide value of Amazing Spider-Man Annual #2 ($850) but ahead of Fantastic Four Annual 33 ($450).

Check out Mike Huddleston’s coverage of Journey into Mystery Annual #1 here.

The 46th Overstreet price break for this book is $202/$451/$700 in the 8.0/9.0/9.2 grade splits.

Reasons to buy this comic book as an investment.

  • 1st appearance of Marvel’s Hercules
  • Early Silver Age Marvel 1st appearance

Walter Durajlija
Walter Durajlija

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

Articles: 1712


  1. Walt, I once had a copy of this book that was in a VF/NM and it was a Printed in Canada copy. It was the same in every way except the inside front and back cover was just a white blank page where as the US print had on the inside cover anyway, a “contents page”.I sold it along with the rest of my collection back in 1990.I have never seen a Canadian copy of this book again.The rest of the book was in colour as per usual. Has anyone else ever come across this?

  2. I’ve seen such books, Dennis, but I don’t have any.

    Walt, I like this pick in specific and early Marvel annuals in general. While the adaptation theory is a shot in the dark, its a cheap bet. But its a cheaper, clearer bet than Namor at this point, and if his rights are still murky due to that old Universal deal (I don’t recall reading any news on that front), then Herc might also make a great proxy for an Avengers role that might otherwise call for Namor and his anti-hero persona in the script.
    Similarly, I like Hulk 141 as I think Doc Samson is made for Hollywood, and Hulk reboots need a different approach this time around.
    Happy New Year, all!

  3. Hey Dennis

    Those blank white pages without advertising are “Canadian Editions” and are noted as such by CGC when the books are graded. I have an Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1 and Fantastic Four Annual #2 with these blank pages. I have noticed that these Canadian Editions seem to fetch a little less than there US counter-parts at auction.

  4. Hey Dennis
    All of the Canadian editions of the Marvel annuals seem to have had blank inside front and inside and outside back covers. I once had an Amazing Spider-man Annual #2 like that. The only reason I can figure that they would do such a thing is because the annuals generally only had advertising on those pages, and it was easier to just take them out than replace them for Canadian audiences. Finding these babies in anything even close to mint is pretty damned hard because of those all-white back covers. Trust me, I’ve tried.

    And by the way, Walt, my friends Thor Odinsson and Herc Popadopoulos were not very happy that you called their favourite gods “fictional characters.”

  5. Dennis
    about 15 years ago I bought a SA run of Marvels from the original owner and he had all of the annuals , all were Canadians editions . none of the books graded above Fine , but , I got 1100 books for $2200 . I asked where he’d accumulated the collection , he told me at a corner store at 16 ave and heather in Vancouver . I always thought the blank pages were maybe a west coast issue , guess I was wrong , lol !


  6. Of note guys, this was a period of time in the 60’s that the sword and sandal/musclemen films were at their height, courtesy of Steve Reeves .The peplum film , also known as sword-and-sandal, is a genre of largely Italian-made historical or Biblical epics that dominated the Italian film industry from 1958 to 1965, eventually being replaced in 1965 by the spaghetti western .Steve Reeves appeared in 14 pepla made in Italy from 1957 to 1964, and most of his films are highly regarded examples of the sword and sandal genre.
    Stan and Jack even make note of their respect towards Steve Reeves as his name is mentioned in one of the JIM story lines.
    Hercules and Samson continued to make appearances in DC comics at the time and I believe that supports that they were popular with the readership of the day.
    And why not, you needed supermen who could compete with DC’s Superman.
    Circulation pre #279 Action comics was 458,000 copies and after 485,000 which continued for a year. Again the likely influence of Steve Reeves and American producer Joseph E. Levine.
    And yes, Ive seen lots of those editions with the white inside covers. I think I prefer the Index with the extra art.

  7. I see the First DC Action cover of Hercules that I can find is Action Comics # 267. Aug 1960. and seven cover appearances in total in Action comics . Superman 112 has appearances of Hercules Samson and Atlas ( March 1957).
    Hercules junior appears in adventure comics #223 (April 1956)
    Samson and Hercules in Adventure comics 257 (Feb 1959)
    It appears That Hercules was as popular a foil as Super Gorillas, Luther, Brainaic, Bizarro and other main stays of the time…circa late fifties to mid sixties.

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