Undervalued Spotlight #443

Hot Rod Comics #1, Fawcett Publications, November 1951.

This week’s Undervalued Spotlight came to me as I noticed myself checking out comics from a long forgotten genre while I was looking for worthy covers for my Covered 365 project. I kept taking second glances at all the comics devoted to hot rods and racing cars. There was a good 20 plus year run where these comics were a thing, heck I even have a copy of Hot Wheels #1 in my PC.

Anyway, I got a little curious and explored a bit. I was looking for a relate-able, bankable, durable character that built up a large body of work and that could stand ready if ever called back into action (perhaps his grandson or granddaughter at least).

First off some of these car comic covers are fantastic, beyond fun and full of drama and intrigue, it would be easy for me to add this genre to my collecting habits. Move over Linda Lark and make some room in that box for Clint Curtis, star of this week’s Undervalued Spotlight pick Hot Rod Comics #1.

Fawcett Comics and Charlton Comics both launch a race car comic title in November 1951. With the companies being so close to each other physically (Connecticut, USA) I’m wondering if the writers or artists or managers knew each other because in November 1951 Fawcett launched our Hot Rod Comics #1 featuring Clint Curtis, Charlton meanwhile launches Hot Rods and Racing Cars #1 the same month.

By 1953 Fawcett was in trouble and started to farm out some of its properties to its close neighbour Charlton. Because Charlton already had a similar title they did not pick up Hot Rod Comics as one of the properties they were using from Fawcett. In 1954 though they did reprint a Clint Curtis story in Hot Rods and Racing Cars #16 and oddly they shelve the character until October 1959 wherein Hot Rods and Racing Cars #42 Clint returns as the headliner of the title.

Clint Curtis goes on to headline Hot Rods and Racing Cars for almost 16 years making 79 appearances with his last being the titles last issue #120 (June 1974).

Clint Curtis had a 16 year run at Charlton, not bad for a thrown away character that Charlton had no room for as they were taking on Fawcett properties. Curtis had a longer run than the Fawcett Publishing company had (with comics at least).

I always preach on this site that the number one driver of comic book value is the first appearance of a character. The more important the character the better the prospects for the book value wise. I know, nobody knows who Clint Curtis is but had he been a flash in the pan character I don’t think I would have picked the book. I like the miles Clint has logged, he’s done a lot of laps and that is something important he brings to the table in this crazy world of nostalgia/canon/pedigree.

I’m also high on the Hot Rod genre like I said, great fun covers, good continuity, easily accessible collecting strain and bargain prices. There’s a lot to like.

You won’t find one of these at auction, the CGC 9.6 Crowley copy of Hot Rod Comics sold in 2012 for $896. The place to find this comic is on eBay or at a con rummaging through some old timers dusty hot rod bins. I can’t recommend a grade here just snag a copy and you’ll be way ahead of the rest of us.

The 48th Overstreet price breaks for this book are $177/$289/$400 in the 8.0/9.0/9.2 grade splits.

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

  • First appearance of Clint Curtis
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Walter Durajlija
Walter Durajlija is an Overstreet Advisor and Shuster Award winner. He owns Big B Comics in Hamilton Ontario.
Articles: 1589

5 Comments

  1. I like this pick as well. I’m guessing that thousands of hot rod/car enthusiasts around the world do not even know these comics exist? How cool would that comic and many others like it look on your garage wall framed!

  2. I generally support the premise although I think we can all agree that this is a long shot. This is another one to be on the lookout for at a con, and if you get a nice copy at a good price, you have a collectible that might see some appreciation.

    (I am pretty sour at this point on the eBay approach after the recent Tomahawk episode. I bought a fairly reasonably-priced copy of that one on eBay because it looked pretty nice to me, but the photos didn’t show the spine wear. Not a disaster given the price and given that that particular Tomahawk is pretty uncommon anyway, but it would take a miracle for me to break even on the purchase. Buying raw from one of the large established dealers might be okay, but for something like this I would only take a chance at an ultra-bargain price.)

    I think the proximity issue for Fawcett and Charlton makes sense. They were about an hour’s drive apart (I live about midway between). The Charlton corporate office choice was strangely out of the way, so I’m guessing that many artists for both firms lived nearer to NYC given their crossover business with the advertising agencies, and probably crossed paths. And of course it was traditional to steal/borrow/copy, particularly for these firms.

    I am down on this genre for a very basic reason. “The number one driver of comic book value is the first appearance of a character.” This genre is not about characters, but about race cars. Similar to books about airplanes (e.g. the no-human Wings comics that generate near-zero collector interest), rockets, other vehicles, faceless humans in diving suits or spacesuits, there is no immediately identifiable character. Popular interest is driven by the story of identifiable sentient characters. This ties back to the discussion about the previous Undervalued pick. The Sentinels are presented as violating alliteration by not being sentient, and hence having no personal stories to follow.

    In this case we have the Clint Curtis argument, but he is entombed behind this cover that provides no representation of living beings save the (assumed) presence of two tiny heads within crash helmets. Compare to the picture frame Hot Wheels #1 that you mention. Similar to the results of many studies, I think you would find that viewers’ eyes linger on the floating heads on the left far longer than on the somewhat visually confusing main panel. AND – I just saw this – in nearly the center of that main panel is an agitated human eye staring directly at the viewer. As usual Charlton dropped the ball and started Clint off with this generic and uninteresting cover.

    Regardless – IF Clint were the property of DC , I would be on board with making it a priority to track one of these down and salt it away. However, my research leads me to believe that Clint is now further entombed in Montreal’s Charlton Media Group, with recovery as unlikely as if he had been frozen in a block of ice and set adrift in the arctic ocean. Even if revived, it seems likely based on previous licensing by CMG that he would show up in some completely overlooked Dark Horse book. If you have other info on Clint’s master, do tell.

    Final verdict: stalled.

  3. Oops I realized that this was Fawcett so “Fawcett dropped the ball”. We can argue over whether “as usual” continues to apply, but given the number of clunker Captain Marvel-related covers I think it would be fair to keep this.

  4. Doesn’t DC own the Charlton stable? Walt is prescient! When this guy Clint Curtis shows up as the getaway driver in Suicide Squad, bam! You’ve got the next Fightin’ Five #40!

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