Undervalued Spotlight #430

Tales to Astonish #63, Marvel Comics, January 1965.

Someone pointed out that I have not visited the Silver Age in a while. That same someone just picked up a CGC 8.5 Tales to Astonish #62 and was adamant that he got it for a steal, that the book was way undervalued. I gave him the time of day because I like talking comics and said I’d look into it.

Well, I looked into it and can now announce that this week’s Undervalued Spotlight shines on Tales to Astonish #63.

Tales to Astonish #63 features the first full appearance of the Leader. My pal Christian’s nice tight Tales To Astonish #62 has the first appearance of the Leader but it is literally one panel at the beginning, where the Leader instructs the issue’s main villain the Chameleon, on what to do. The Leader also appears on the last panel as a set up to the next issue, in both panels, his face is concealed.

Luckily I had a copy of each book lying around and I must say that Tales to Astonish #63 is THE book to have here, you get a fantastic splash page of the leader and the full story including origin.

One thing Christian and I both agreed on is that the Leader is one of the main Hulk villains, we both pegged him at Hulk’s second main villain behind the Abomination. I jumped on Ranker and they had Red Hulk ahead of the Leader but I disagree, the Leader has been a thorn in Hulk’s side for almost 55 years, the villain has made over 450 comic book appearances. The Leader is the real deal.

So why the lack of love for the Leader? I mean you take Spidey’s second-best villain or Batman’s second-best villain or a whole slew of other second-best villains and they overperform compared to our fearless leader. All I can think of is that everybody is wrong! I’m thinking the market will react Warren Buffet style and slowly come around to realizing the weight and importance of the comic book that contains the first full appearance of the Leader (special shout out to all my Belit fans who were so right when they pointed to Conan #58 is the big Belit book vis a vis the Giant-Sized Conan).

Do you know what else Tales to Astonish #63 brings us? An amazing Kirby cover, have a good look at this thing, talk about motion!

I noticed in the Ant-Man story that there is a character villain called the Wrecker, now this is not the same Wrecker as was introduced in Thor #148 but we can call it the first appearance of the first Wrecker.

The attention still goes to Tales to Astonish #62 but #63 has started to heat up. Don’t look for it on auctions, head out to a con and dive into the Silver Age bins of good Vintage dealers, you’ll be able to find nice tight, clean copies of Tales to Astonish #63 at very reasonable prices, just make sure she’s full of gloss with a good register.

The 48th Overstreet price break for this book is $100/$220/$340 in the 8.0/9.0/9.2 grade splits.

Reasons to buy this comic book as an investment:

  • First full appearance the Leader
  • Stan Lee, Steve Ditko creative team
  • First appearance the Wrecker
  • Fantastic Kirby cover
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
5 years ago

I gotta start off by crying foul on Belit. Walt, you got me to shell out my hard earned $$$ (and those are real $$$, not ones with pictures of royalty on them), and then you won’t stand with me on the “original blonde Belit” claim? Shame, shame. Nevertheless CGC has enshrined the claim for eternity, so there.

The Leader. No question that he is the second main villain, but. I’m going do a Sesame Street “one of these things is not like the other”: Abomination, Red Hulk, Iron Man Hulkbuster, Wendigo, Rhino (hearkening back to another $$$ on your account for Hulk #171), and finally The Leader. I think you see the issue. The concept of The Leader was interesting – basically “the reverse Hulk” – a schlub named Hector Hammond who was exposed to gamma radiation and basically became the evil Dr. Jekyll as opposed to the out-of-control Mr. Hyde. Oh wait – that wasn’t his name – I can’t imagine why I used that random name, I’m sure that any resemblance to any person with such name would be pure coincidence, especially since someone with the that name probably would have arrived on the scene a full four years prior and it is extremely unlikely (not to mention unethical) that our esteemed creative team would use the whole cloth pattern for their character. But beyond the concept, the problem is that The Leader has to use some kind of appliance (The Chameleon, The Indescribable Humanoid) to fight the Hulk. (Another coincidence: “The Indescribable Humanoid” is also what my family calls me.) This is well beyond practicing “safe fighting” by wearing just a costume or some kind of armor plating, and is especially out of place in the pages of The Incredible Hulk, where along the lines of “not like the other”, the title is basically a PG-rated Tom of Finland book where hero and villain clothing is nearly completely optional. Imagine the Leader shirtless wearing an open leather vest – no, don’t, you will get queasy. I think you are getting it.

Beyond just the Hulk, it seems like we could even try to plot villain thiqness against book value to arrive at a positive slope. Juggernaut (another good undervalued call which I have backed by some non-royal portraits), Bane, etc. & etc. The Leader is on the far left of this curve, so not promising.

Even if we agree that the first appearance of The Leader is important, our next problem is the pending case before the Supreme Court that will determine the dividing line between “first appearance” and “other” (“cameo”, “cameo in the shadows”, “out of panel cameo”, “first appearance but with bucket on head”, “actual real first appearance except with blonde hair”). What is needed here is the first ever appearance to be either the cover or title page splash with a giant forehead and “THE LEADER!!!” for all to see. This “here’s a glimpse of the new menace to keep you coming back” was of course good marketing at the time, but bad for our current first appearance-obsessed culture. I am not familiar with the action around #62 and #63, but this confusion isn’t helping our scrawny villain’s cause.

Now let’s turn to the cover. To me the Mario Kart format was and remains a real bummer. From the perspective of initiates you have my compete agreement that this is one of the best – if you could find a real book that has the brightness of the image posted above, that would really be something. But to the unfamiliar it seems that Giant Man and The Wasp are fighting The Hooded Ozone Destroyer in the hardware store while below The Incredible Hulk and The Shameless Creative Cop-Out Generic Golem-Type Guy are fighting in the subway directly below. Of course the images actually have no relationship. Add to this 10% of the surface area covered by yellow arrows, and my interest is waning. The 3D Giant Man is impressive, but if my next thought is “The TrueValue man is going to be angry about having to rearrange that display,” there’s something wrong.

I could go on: run book, not even a single character/team run book, not scarce, no convincing price movement (however I’m going to get GPA to correct the erroneous “last” 9.4 sale). So: not undervalued, but a nice addition if you have the funds to spare and you can get a good deal on a high grade copy with really bright colors and a really white background.

5 years ago

A great choice and one of my all-time favorite comics! To me these early TTAs are up there with 1 to 6 as definitive Hulk books, and I agree the Leader is among the Hulk’s greatest foes – the Ditko rendering is genius and I also loved the way McFarlane reimagined him later on. i think the reason the Leader’s quiet now is because the promise of him appearing in the MCU never materialized, and if he did appear in MCU, then Leader issues would hot up fast. Also, since Hulk got ‘brains’ the contrast of brute and evil genius doesn’t work so well. But I’ve no doubt the Leader will be back and his early appearances will get their dues!