Undervalued Spotlight #396

Six Million Dollar Man #1, Charlton Comics, June 1976.

I’ve always thought American popular culture transitioned in 1976, before – it was all denim, sunshine, split ends and 15 minute drum solos, after – it was all polyester, bad lighting, styling gels and drum machines. Comics made the transition too, just look at any book from say 1973 and then one from 1979 and you’ll see what I mean. For me the change in comics was both welcomed and un-welcomed, I much prefer the aesthetics and style of the early part of the 1970s but I much prefer the writing and storytelling that was starting to emerge in the late 1970s.

These thoughts came to me while I was sorting a box of 70s Charlton Comics. I hit on a big run that was destined for the Bargain Bins, thank goodness the run was broken up by this week’s Undervalued Spotlight pick – The Six Million Dollar Man #1.

The Six Million Dollar Man #1 features Steve Austin’s (the Six Million Dollar Man) 1st comic book appearance. The book definitely belongs in the pre-1976 pile if you were ever to start sorting that way. Joe Staton’s gorgeously painted warm sepia tone cover just screams sunshine and split ends. I’ve always liked Joe Staton as an artist, his pencils and inks inside the book are top notch.

The Six Million Dollar Man is a fantastic concept that is way more relevant today than it was back in 1976. Warner Brothers is updating the premise for the big screen with a major motion picture starring Mark Wahlberg. There are so many ways this movie can be done right and my read is that they will do it right. I think this couple be a movie franchise character.

Warner Brothers have pushed back the release date of the Six Billion Dollar Man movie to June 2020. Look on the delay as an opportunity to snag yourself some great vintage Six Million Dollar merch.

Recently a CGC 9.6 sold for $100 while a CGC 9.2 fetched just over $50 and prices seem to be trending down. I like the CGC 9.6 graded for this book, get yourself a White pager and you’ll have one of the top 30 around and at today’s prices you’ll get it for a steal!

The 47th Overstreet price break for this book is $17/$26/$35 in the 8.0/9.0/9.2 grade splits.

Reasons to buy this comic book as an investment:

  • 1st appearance of Steve Austin in comics
  • Great concept that is about to be updated with a major motion picture

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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6 years ago

It’s hard to see how a movie will bring back the glory days of Steve Austen. The original was an alchemical mix that worked great, but I’m not sure it’s a repeatable formula. The concept of a cyborg or man with robotic parts is so ubiquitous today that it’s mundane. Marvel chose not to make Deathlok a major character in the movies and that was probably a wise choice. They will have to sell Steve on some other basis, and the movie will rise or fall on that. I wish them luck because i’m a big fan. Having said all of that, SMDM #1 is definitely undervalued! In the UK there were three very popular Steve Austen annuals in 1977-79, also very undervalued right now.

Chris Meli
6 years ago

– I like the book. I tried to get one at a bargain price not too long ago, but I was outbid.
– I like it because of its cultural meaning along the lines of Walt’s commentary. This TV show was a big deal when it came out, and it clearly reverberates to this day given the movie proposal. It fits into an established category of comic adaptations, but has current cultural relevance, which is clearly a pillar of value.
– I don’t like it because it’s Charlton. I know it’s anachronistic to be down on Charlton these days, but the publisher was always low-end, and looking at it through nostalgic glasses doesn’t change that. The painted Staton cover is definitely a big plus. The only Charlton book that I had any interest in back in the day was E-Man. The only graded Charlton book I own is Doomsday+1, which in my extremely ignorant opinion was a high point for the publisher. There is clearly an argument for Ditko Charltons and others from the fifties and sixties, but I think that Charltons from the seventies are still a pretty hard sell.
– My bigger concern is number of pristine ungraded copies. There are already a lot of high grade graded copies for what I would naively think should be a pretty scarce book. My first thought would have been that this had been bought by young boys who in many cases weren’t comic collectors, and they would have mistreated it and mostly disposed of it. The number of 9.8s and 9.6s makes me think that either older pop cultural aficionados bought multiple copies of this at the time and salted them away, or (worse) distributor bundles showed up years later. (Also I would argue that “real” comic collectors probably only bought this as a “collector’s item”, and it stayed perfect because they judged that it was not worth reading.) That the market price for 9.6s has not been much above $100 forever is a bad sign, because most people are not going to bother to pay something like an all-in $50 (when you count time and effort, shipping, etc.) to get a book graded that will sell for $100. This says to me that there are many more near-perfect copies out there. And your stats are off – if you get a 9.6 at this point you will only be in the top 50 as there are 16 9.8s and 35 9.6s. As the peak of the census is at 9.6, this tells me there are a LOT of 9.4s and below out there.

So while I like the book as a cultural milestone, and as it has personal meaning to me I was willing to try to get one at a below market price, I think the undervalued call is a stretch. If you like it, I see two approaches:

– I agree for graded you should aim for 9.6. This will appreciate if the book ever moves, and paying up for a 9.8 leads to much bigger downside risk. If going this route I think you need to be cheap about it. There is one out there listed at $150 so that means the market price is still below this level. I would be patient and stay in the double digits for now.
– A more fun and perhaps more profitable approach is to again be cheap, but go raw,and try to pick up possible 9.6s at $20 or so a pop.. Given how many perfect copies that seem to be out there, the odds shouldn’t be too much against you in such a quest. (If you want much worse odds for such a quest at around the same price point and grade, try something like JLA #88 or #91. Talk about undervalued…) For the price of one graded 9.6 you can get maybe five possibles. Yes if your grading is off you will miss some upside, but do we really expect this book to move a lot given how common it is? (Maybe if Steve Austin makes a surprise cameo in the Spawn movie.) Otherwise you get the thrill of the hunt, some grading education, and multiple copies of a culturally important book that will probably hold most of their value.