Defenders #8, Marvel Comics, September 1973.
It’s been over a year since the last early Bronze Age Marvel has been featured on the Spotlight. I’m not sure how something like that happens but one is long overdue an I think Defenders #8 is more than worthy enough to end the drought and be this week’s… Undervalued Spotlight.
Nothing reeks the Bronze Age quite like a 20 cent Marvel from 1972/1973, something about the aesthetics and paper stock of this era makes you just want to hold them, read them but thankfully not clip ’em and collect ’em (that came at the very tail end of 20 centers).
Defenders #8 is not just some random 1973 Marvel though. I’ve chosen Defenders #8 because it launches one of the epic and classic cross-overs in Marvel lore – the Avengers/Defenders War.
The Avengers/Defenders War jumps back and forth between Defenders #8 through #11 and Avengers #116 to #118 (I actually featured Avengers #118 in a Spotlight years ago). I’d say the most collected book in the set has to be Defenders #10 with its iconic cover. I’d also say the most neglected book of the cross-over is this week’s Defenders #8.
Sometimes collectibles achieve a certain gravity, this gravity tends to keep growing, and when you mix this gravity in with time you set in motion something that leads to ever-increasing demand (did I just write that?). I think Marvel’s first big cross-over arc has the gravity, I think the principle teams/characters are big league properties and I think the 1st book in the arc deserves much more attention than it has been getting.
Sal Buscema gives us a great cover with a heavy focus on the Silver Surfer, the dark topmast of the book makes high grade that much harder.
The Avengers/Defenders War arc is celebrated as comics’ first great crossover battle royale.
The market is pretty inactive on Defenders #8 as of this post though one recent CGC 9.6 did really well. I think you can still find quality raw copies of this book. Look for tight, crisp, clean copies with good centering and good register
The 48th Overstreet price break for this book is $25/$40/$55 in the 8.0/9.0/9.2 grade splits.
Reasons to buy this comic book as an investment:
- Start of the epic Avengers/Defenders War
- Cheap, cheap, cheap
- Great Sal Buscema Silver Surfer cover
I am vacationing in Bethany Beach, Delaware this week, and this pick set off a degrees of separation cascade. Surprisingly this beach town has had its own comic shop for the past four years now, Comics and Gaming. Reminded by Mike Huddleston’s post that the new Guide was out and wanting to give the shop some business, I stopped in to buy a copy and check out Walt’s entry. That evening this pick was posted, and I immediately thought about the first conversation that I had with the shop’s owner, Thomas Chillemi, a couple of years back. His main store is in Gainesville, Virginia, and he lives nearby. While his wife is involved with the business, apparently she is not an aficionado, so she wasn’t too attuned to names, even of legendary creators. One day his wife happens to say offhand something like, “that reminds me of something I heard from the Buscemas….”. It turns out she had known Sal and his wife for some time, but never made the connection and never mentioned them to her husband. He quickly got himself introduced and told me that Sal was incredibly friendly and down-to-earth, and he subsequently made an appearance at their main store in honor of Herb Trimpe’s passing.
I wasn’t a big Sal fan growing up – I always liked detailed work (e.g Geof Darrow), and Sal’s work was mainly about the characters’ actions and expressions, otherwise pretty spare. Similar to comments that I made about Ditko and Kirby elsewhere, in many ways Sal’s work was wasted on me at that point. But I appreciate it a lot more now, and I have to agree that this is an absolutely dynamite cover: key characters (including one everyone is looking for in upcoming movies), classic composition, explosions, bondage, chrome headlights. If this was a Golden Age book and the Red Ghost was the Red Skull, we would be talking very big money for this book.
So as usual there is no trouble convincing me that this is undervalued – but underpriced at current market? I’d say it depends on what you take the market to be. There is a very easy comp: Defenders #7. That book has an easier white cover and so more high grade copies on the census, but the imbalance is far larger for 9.8s than 9.6s. It looks like #7 is fairly stable around $100 for a graded 9.6, so just given scarcity, I would say $125-$150 would be fair for a #8 in 9.6. Throw in the cover and the Avengers War argument (which we should agree doesn’t count for much at present), and I think $150-$175 is supportable. So it seems to me that the last sale price is about right. And I would certainly prefer a #8 at $175 than a #7 at $100, all else equal. A negative is the long term performance of #10, which weakened into 2012 and then has been flat. I think it is a stretch to believe #8 will start moving without similar movement by #10.
Your comment “the dark top mast of the book makes high grade that much harder” is right on the money, and that’s why I wouldn’t recommend killing yourself looking for 9.6 or 9.8 raw copies of this book. Unless you have an in with CGC, my bet is you are going to end up with a lot of 9.2s in your quest, and when you factor in time and money spent, if you really like this book you should pay market price for a graded copy (white pages, good centering as you say). Of course if you come across a likely candidate for $20 or so, that might be worth salting away for possible appreciation/later grading.
Overall a solid pick with a fantastic cover, but I can’t give strong agreement on the undervalued call if the current market for 9.6 really is $175.
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