Undervalued Spotlight #371

Tales to Astonish #48, Marvel Comics, October 1963.

I seem to be on a bit of a Tales to Astonish kick having visited #59 in a recent Spotlight. Can you blame me? The title is rife with great issues worthy of some extra attention.

Tales to Astonish #48 has always been one of my favorite covers of the run, probably for its sheer audacity and lameness and this week it’s my Undervalued Spotlight pick.

There is such a thing as being so bad that it’s good and that’s the way I’ve always looked at the cover to TTA #48. I mean that Porcupine costume is one of the most hideous things I’ve seen in villain costumes yet this book is one that makes my office/man den wall. They couldn’t even figure out a way to work him into the art of the cover, Ant Man is in trouble and through a little window showing Porcupine in full frontal we are informed it is the doings of said Porcupine.

The Porcupine concept is a great one in my mind. Alec Gentry is a scientist who devises the coolest military outfit ever, it’s able to shoot quills, dispense gases, bullets, chemicals of all kinds and flames from the outfits quill like tubes. Ever the capitalist Gentry figures he can get more out of the costume using it for crime than he can selling it to the military. Porcupine, nemesis of Ant Man is born!

Let’s not forget that the Porcupine debuted in October 1963 making him a very early Marvel costumed villain. And again I’ll defend the concept. I blame his lack of success on Marvel’s not figuring out how to draw him – great concept – terrible visuals. Marvel has fixed costumes before, perhaps most famously on Iron Man, they didn’t on Porcupine.

We lose sight of Porcupine for a while, the next I notice him is years later as part of Bartoc’s Brigade in Captain America #130 (Oct/70). Notice how they hide him on the cover, seven years later and they were still afraid to draw him.

In 2006 in Daughters of the Dragon # #3 Marvel resurrected the character with Roger Gocking as the new alter ego.

During Civil War Porcupine, Eel are caught in San Francisco and the two later go on to form Thunderbolts Team A.

There was another Porcupine, Billy Bates, through him Marvel tried to give the character Mutant abilities and shed the war suit approach.

I of course remain a fan of the old Porcupine and his too cool for school costume. Porcupine is an early Marvel villain and his concept is actually pretty cool. This book has some upside in my eyes.

Tales to Astonish #48 is flat on the markets, a CGC 9.2 did get $800 back in April while a CGC 7.0 got a dismal $118 that same month. For me a CGC 9.2 or better is the way to go, I checked the sites and the best I saw was a CGC 8.5 available as of this posting.

The 47th Overstreet price break for this book is $216/$483/$750 in the 8.0/9.0/9.2 grade splits.

Reasons to buy this comic book as an investment:

  • 1st Appearance of the Porcupine
  • Very early costumed Marvel villain

Walter Durajlija
Walter Durajlija

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

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Chris Meli
6 years ago

Hrmmm. To continue to beat my drum, the question is aesthetic “value” vs. monetary value. Walt, I don’t believe that anyone could do a better job of extolling the aesthetic value of TTA #48 and the dreaded Porcupine as you have above. You can almost smell the late-night coffee aroma and cigarette smoke in the bullpen as the deadline looms but nobody is sure why Ant-Man is drowning in a sink. A National Geographic sits on a table, open to the article on Pacific islanders (very educational to understand that their traditional dress is to go topless), which includes a photo of a ceremonial spirit costume – aha! The Porcupine is born. After thirty sketches that seem to show a big pile of sticks on the side of the sink, the King resorts to the full frontal approach (if only National Geographic would be so kind). Deadline met! Excelsior! And sure enough, we never forgot. (Story recounted by Abe Shoenstein, who ran a snack shop in that building as well as in another Manhattan landmark at the time.)

However, we cannot serve both Stan and Mammon (although it is clear that Stan serves Mammon), and from the monetary value perspective I don’t have high hopes, particularly with respect to the realized numbers that you quote. My very simple reason is looking at the issue’s successor, #49, first Giant-Man. While in some sense this “first” Giant-Man is similar to “first” pointy-masked Iron Man, I think it has to be that the rabble will treat that issue as a much bigger key than first Porcupine. It turns out that ComicLink sold three #49s and one #48 in the past two months: #49 9.4 $3.1k (Fantucchio = premium), #49 9.2 $1.62k (below 2016 GPA sale), #49 7.5 $307, and #48 8.0 $175 (Fantucchio = premium?). So comparing that to your quoted #48 9.2 price, I think it is a hard argument that one should pay more than half the #49 price for #48. There are innumerable goofy covers and goofy villain first appearances, but Giant-Man is a movie star. This of course is the value judgment, but I don’t think that there is enough reason to believe that the rabble are going to grasp the deep cultural significance of the Porcupine and rocket his first appearance upward. So my call is: aesthetically undervalued no contest, monetarily undervalued no way.

Based on that #48 8.0 price, I’d say the 9.2 price that you quoted as paid in April was too high, and the “dismal” 7.0 price about right, as is Overstreet. (I’d say about $250 for the 8.5 – some bidder on ComicLink is clearly more enthusiastic, although the seller is asking $450.) I think you are right that if you do want to go for it, you should aim for 9.2 or above.

6 years ago

If there is a such thing as a classic Undervalued Spotlight comment, I think Chris just posted it!

Jack Alberti
Jack Alberti
6 years ago

The issue that seems to be roiling this site is a lack of understanding of what undervalued signifies.