Undervalued Spotlight #431

Amazing Spider-Man #42, Marvel Comics, November 1966.

We have not had a Guest Spotlight in a while so I’m thankful for this submission from my pal Carey. I like this pick and Carey is informative and passionate in his arguments. Do you have a good candidate? Take Carey’s lead and start writing! Anyway, time to turn things over to Carey:

In this day and age of comic book collecting / investing everyone always goes after first appearances; the first appearance of the hero and the first appearance of the villain. But in just about every story there’s often a third character that also has a big role in the story, one that is seemingly ignored when it comes to collecting strains, the love interest. Almost every hero has one. Superman has Lois Lane, Wonder Woman has Steve Trevor, Iron Man has Pepper Potts, Thor has Jane Foster, and the list goes on and on. If you’re a playboy like Batman, you have many. I’ve always felt that most first appearances of the love interests are undervalued especially when you consider how important the love interest often is to the story. Whether they are being captured by the villain and need to be saved or are providing that critical assistance to the hero in order to overcome the villain, they are often a significant part of the overall narrative and mythology of the hero.

This brings me to this week’s Undervalued Spotlight pick, Amazing Spider-Man #42, the first full appearance of Mary Jane Watson. Mary Jane is essentially Marvel’s version of Lois Lane and one of the most significant supporting characters / love interest in the entire Marvel Universe. To illustrate how significant she is to the Spider-Man mythology, according to Comic Vine, Mary Jane Watson has appeared in 3,087 issues. By comparison, Mysterio has appeared in 567 issues, Kraven has appeared in 694 issues, Vulture has appeared in 776 issues and Electro has appeared in 776 issues. In other words, Mary Jane has appeared in more comics than four of Spider-Man’s biggest villains combined!

Now going back to Spider-Man #42, I call it the first full appearance as it is the first time you actually see her face and trademark red hair. She appears in Spider-Man #25 and #38 in one panel cameos but her face is not shown. Stan was playing the long game with Mary Jane with a two year tease culminating with the Spider-Man #42 reveal where Mary Jane utters her famous line “Face it tiger, you just hit the jackpot”. This is arguably the second most memorable line in the entire Spider-Man mythology right after “With great power comes great responsibility”. Yet Amazing Spider-Man #42 is listed in Overstreet at a mere $550 in 9.2, a meager $125 more than the surrounding run Spideys in the 40s. Hell even the first appearance of the Shocker at issue #46 is listed at $650. Who the hell is the Shocker compared to Mary Jane! Mary Jane had a great line and I think I have one too. “Just because you don’t have a costume, doesn’t mean that you’re not important”. Spider-Man #42 is this week’s Undervalued Spotlight pick.

The 48th Overstreet price breaks for this book are $161/$356/$550 in the 8.0/9.0/9.2 grade splits.

Strengths that make this comic a good long-term investment are:

  • First full appearance of Mary Jane Watson
  • Embedded in the ever collectible early Amazing Spider-Man run
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

As I am not and have never been a Spider-Man fan, I am not well-qualified to comment on this pick, but that’s never stopped me before. I like the reasoning but I am skeptical about how it will play out in the real world.

First, the verdict on “first appearance” vs. “other” remains hung up in the courts, and my comment from last week holds here as well. Stan was a showman, and a businessman, and stringing readers along with a slow reveal was the way to get them to part with more of their cash, but not good for a definitive first appearance call. “First full appearance” has a lot of the sound of “almost pregnant” to me. As the status of this issue is well known, that people will finally wake up to “first full appearance” seems that much less likely than their waking up to a true “first appearance”.

The second big problem is Mary Jane’s role in the Marvel Universe. No matter how integral she has been to many story lines, she remains a muggle. Almost to a man (or woman), muggles are not valued in superhero continuities. There are exceptions (and of course if you are a costume-wearing muggle e.g. Batman you are exempted), but I think the calculus is “the closer to reality, the less interesting”. First appearances of muggles in other sub-genres (e.g. the Archie universe) can be big money, but I think only a handful rate in superhero comics.

(To the last point there is one hook to this pick that has not been raised, which is the possibility of the possibly heretical decision to de-mugglize MJ. This might be too much for the community, but on the other hand if pulled off successfully would clearly drive this book up in value.)

Two more correlated factors work against this book. The cover is sub-par and probably didn’t draw that much attention when it was on the newsstand, and similarly won’t draw as much attention when it is on the wall today. After The Rhino of #41, I’m sure a lot of readers were disappointed, and this probably resulted in more high grade copies, as completists bought it, had a quick read, and filed it away. Hence there are many more copies in 9.4 and above than for #41 or for your example of #46. For both #42 and #46 the CGC populations peak at 8.5, which says there are many more copies out there at 8.5 and below (and probably into the 9’s as well). The law of supply and demand is working against this pick.

Overall this is another book where the relevance to the history of comics can’t be denied, yet this relevance is out of line with valuation, and I expect it to stay that way.