Undervalued Spotlight #382

Iron Man and Sub-Mariner #1, Marvel Comics, April 1968.

I was at a small local comic show this past weekend and a sequence of events pointed me towards this week’s Spotlight pick.

First off there was this lower grade Tales of Suspense #39 that a guy I knew bought off a dealer, it was a low grade copy but it was a TOS #39 so he went for it. My pal then went over and sold it to another dealer and made himself a nice chunk of change. After he sold it he came over and complained that he didn’t have the book any more – don’t you love guys like that. Hope the cake was good chum.

Later on at my booth a young man came by with some nice books including a CBCS 9.2 Iron Man #1, the book looked tight but I tried to play the “it’s not CGC” card anyway. I never got the book, my offer was too low, apparently the Iron Man #1 fetches $1,500 USD in 9.2.

Maybe an hour later a guy offers up a stack of raw books that I did end up buying. Not much there but the price was right. The best of the bunch included a Marvel Spotlight #32 and a solid VF looking copy of this week’s Undervalued Spotlight pick Iron Man and Sub-Mariner #1.

Iron Man and Sub-Mariner #1 is a very unique comic containing two bridge stories that lead to Iron Man #1 and Sub-Mariner #1. The Subby story continued from Tales to Astonish #101 and the Iron Man story continued from Tales of Suspense #99 and as I mentioned above both stories continued on to their respective #1s. Mike Huddleston covers this whole sequence back in an early Arcs and Runs.

I know what you guys are thinking.

Well it has always kind of languished as a collectible playing 3rd fiddle to the two 1st issues. But I want to argue that this is a very unique comic. I can’t think of another comic quite like this where it acts as a bridge for characters leaving an anthology series heading towards their own series.

Wouldn’t it have been cool if there was a second bridge issue, wouldn’t a Captain America and Hulk #1 in April 1968 been a super cool book? Which of the 2 would be more sought after I wonder?

What lead me to seriously consider this book and then to actually pick it is the insane prices Iron Man #1 is getting. I mean Iron Man #1 has a nice dark cover of Iron Man but my book here has a fantastic Gene Colan cover of Iron Man and Sub-Mariner. Both stories are penciled by Mr. Colan.

I don’t see why the Iron Man #1 should be fetching 5 times more money than this week’s pick at the 9.2, 9.4 and 9.6 grades. Who collects the Iron Man run? Folks want #1, #47, #54, #55, #66 and maybe a few more. I can’t remember the last time someone asked me if I had an Iron Man #5 or #7.

Collecting these days is all about the one offs, the unique issues that collectively make up a real dynamic and interesting collection. Iron Man and Sub-Mariner #1 fits that bill and it’s actually a very important book. I once knew a guy who had two copies, he ended up buying a second so he could have a separate copy in front of each of his Iron Man and Sub-Mariner runs – you meet all kinds in comics.

Back to Iron Man #1, if Iron Man #1 is able to carry and sustain this much value in the collecting community then, in an aware market, Iron Man and Sub-Mariner #1 should see some major appreciation in value.

It would be remiss not to include Sub-Mariner in the argument. Subby is one of the most speculated characters right now, his 1st Silver Age appearance in Fantastic Four #4 is hot, hot, hot and issues like this week’s Spotlight pick will only benefit from Subby’s newfound fame.

Of the 3 books in question it’s the Iron Man and Sub-Mariner #1 that is the scarcest on the CGC census. There are 215 copies graded CGC 9.4 or better compared to 270 for Iron Man #1 and 391 for Sub-Mariner #1. On the market CGC 9.2 copies could be had for $325, a CGC 9.4 will set you back $500 (the last CGC 9.4 Iron Man #1 fetched $2850).

The 47th Overstreet price break for this book is $117/$259/$400 in the 8.0/9.0/9.2 grade splits.

Reasons to buy this comic book as an investment:

  • Beautiful Gene Colan cover
  • Unique bridge issue that predates Iron Man #1 and Sub-Mariner #1

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

Walt, this is a very interesting pick. I don’t have strong feelings about it but I have a few thoughts about what you wrote.

Your story about ToS #39 is one of the reasons this hobby is so interesting – every book is unique. This is true of course for, say, coin collecting, but for many hobbies like that one, the differences are only apparent to true experts. Even my generally disinterested kids can see the difference between good and bad centering, grease pencil versus mouse chews, etc. Presumably some flaws from the perspective of the ToS seller were beauty marks to the ToS buyer. Assessing these for yourself and versus the market is one thing that keeps the hobby interesting.

I think the hierarchy is Hulk > Captain America > Iron Man > Sub-Mariner, so I think the alternate universe Captain America and The Incredible Huk #1 is worth more.

I don’t really buy that you “don’t see why” IM #1 is fetching 5x. I think you mean “it’s unjust that…” The reasons are clear:
– Most importantly, there was an IM movie, not a “IM & S-M” movie. People want to impress their non-nerd friends who have seen the IM movies. If you show them IM #1, they will say “cool!” If you show them this book, they will say “What’s this? Who’s S-M?”
– IM #1 is the first issue of a long-running series (it says “Big Premiere Issue!”). This is a one-shot – lots of things are “Once In A Lifetime!”, like today’s newspaper – so what? Even worse than an Annual, and these are already behind the eight-ball.
– I disagree to some extent that “collecting these days is all about the one offs.” While unique works for gory or spooky covers, it doesn’t work for superheroes. “Key” goes with “run” like yin and yang. Think about even something like Special Edition Comics, and how it has to be explained every time it is marketed.
– The concept is confusing – I’m ashamed to say that until I read your article, I didn’t know what was in the book, and I have been looking at this book for decades.

I think you hit on the real argument for this book, which is Sub-Mariner. The comic collecting community is clearly hot on him in the Golden Age, in FF #4, and S-M #1, but I think it will take big screen exposure to move his influence to this book. Similar to the Atom vs. Ant-Man, Aquaman is the first mover here, so it seems like a long shot for Disney to put a bet on another Man From Atlantis. But if word ever came of such a move, even a cameo, I think this book would go crazy. (Keep an eye out for a rummy lying in the gutter in any urban scene in Infinity War etc.)

So probably comparing to Sub-Mariner #1 is more relevant. While this strips out the movie factor, the other factors continue to apply, and would still expect IM & S-M to be worth somewhat less. Sure enough this is the situation – about $775 for a CGC 9.4 Sub-Mariner #1.

So while I don’t have strong feelings about whether this is undervalued, my advice would be to pick up a comparable Sub-Mariner #1 if you are getting this one.

6 years ago

Can’t agree here, Walt. Absence from the census just means no one is submitting it. Plenty of nice copies to go around. This was one of the books that was in unopened distributor case quantities in the Robert Bell collection, IIRC.