Undervalued Spotlight #459

Justice League Of America #21, DC Comics, 1963.

We were talking big comic book events at the shop recently, as a shopkeep I like the high profile, well-executed ones as they tend to bring good business. Anytime we have discussions like this my mind seems to drift towards the genesis, the origin, the first time. I don’t know what the first-ever big comic crossover event was

We were talking big comic book events at the shop recently, as a shopkeep I like the high profile, well-executed ones as they tend to bring good business. Anytime we have discussions like this my mind seems to drift towards the genesis, the origin, the first time. I don’t know what the first-ever big comic crossover event was, the first ones that I remember were the Marvel Superheroes Secret Wars and DC’s Crisis on Infinite Earths both of the mid-1980s. As soon as I had Crisis in my head I knew this week’s Undervalued Spotlight had to be Justice League of America #21.

Justice League of America (JLA) #21 features the first Silver Age appearance of Hourman, Doctor Fate, Icicle and Wizard, the issue re-introduces the Justice Society of America into the Justice League title. The “Crisis on Earth One” story is a prelude to the Crisis on Infinite Earths saga and it is the issue that starts the tradition of the annual JLA/JSA “Crisis” crossovers.

Yes, Flash #123 (September 1961) is the first comic that introduced the idea of the Multiverse but as you’ll see below it has priced itself up quite nicely. JLA #21 is as stale as yesterday’s bagel right now but the book is a big piece of the whole History of DC puzzle and I see interest and demand in the book eventually increasing. JLA #22 had the follow-up story “Crisis on Earth Two”, in August 1964 JLA #29 had the next story “Crisis on Earth Three”, JLA #38 “Crisis on Earth A”, etc. Members of the two teams would meet once each year until the epic Crisis on Infinite Earths in 1985.

You can snag a CGC 9.2 for $1,250 while a very solid CGC 8.0 can be had for $465. A CGC 9.2 copy of Flash #123 will run you well over $12,000, even a CGC 8.0 will set you back about $4,600. The point here is that JLA #21 is cheap at the moment, it’s not as big a book as Flash #123 but it doesn’t have to be, there is lots of room for growth at today’s prices. When you snag a copy of JLA #21 you are getting a summer of 1963 comic, one of the big titles, with first Silver Age appearances, that launched a story thread that led to one of the biggest and farthest-reaching events in the history of the publisher all at bargain prices.

Mike Sekowsky’s cover pays homage to All-Star Comics #3, the issue that featured the first appearance of the Justice Society of America (JSA).

JLA #21 is a big DC book that should be revered more and it’s because I think it will be revered more that I’m advising you pick up a copy. The play here is a CGC 8.0, don’t go lower. There are less than 100 CGC graded copies at 8.0 or better which gives you some real scarcity of grade. As always look for a crisp, tight to the corners copy with lots of colour gloss.

The 48th Overstreet price breaks for this book are $340/$770/$1200 in the 8.0/9.0/9.2 grade splits.

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

  • First Silver Age appearance of Hourman, Doctor Fate, Icicle and Wizard
  • Starts the “Crisis” story thread and a big piece of DC history
  • Cheap on today’s markets
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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Ivan Kocmarek
4 years ago

You picked the right picture here, Walt. Boy does that pup look like you scrutinizing a raw Matt Baker cover to decide whether it should be pressed before slabbing.

4 years ago

With the big 5 show CW crossover this Christmas, this issue should move upward. I’m glad I bought mine when I did.

Chris Meli
4 years ago

As a crazy coincidence, because this selection showed up a day later than normal, the only two covers that grace the wall of my office-turned-storeroom showed up on CBD on the same day. My Superman #233 poster is bigger, but my JLA #21 is closer to my computer monitor, as it is closer to my heart.

I don’t think that I can possibly respond objectively on this one. When my collecting interest was reinvigorated about five years ago, this book was one of the first to hit my radar. In my old collecting days, which pretty much fell off in the 1990s, the only way you were going to see most old books was on the wall at a shop or a show, and I don’t recall having seen this one – I’m sure it would have made an impression. The first time I saw this cover, I knew I had to have a copy – this is the ur-book for all I loved about DC in my childhood. I loved team-up books, I especially loved JLA, and I loved loved the JSA crossovers. This first crossover, and the off-the-chart cover make this one a keeper of keepers for me.

I can’t think of a good comp for this book. As you point out, Flash #123 is close, but as that is “origin of infinite earths” it of course is a much bigger key. The “first silver age xxx” Batmans could be argued as comps, but because these are Batmans with classic villains, they have a much higher profile.

I will then argue only vaguely. This book is related to various books from high end (All Star #3) to low end (Crisis on Infinite Earths #1). In between are books like Brave and the Bold #28 and JLA #1. My broad perception is that anything JLA was tainted by the movie, but there seems to be at least support at current levels, and some signs of life here and there. Aside from this JLA-specific problem, other related books have done well, doubling since the 2012-2013 period. This book seems to be following the JLA model and has mostly done nothing since that period. So I think the overall argument for “undervalued” is strong – at worst it is moribund (there it is again…) like a “just JLA” book, but with its broader DC universe connection I think there is a strong argument for it riding on the coattails of related non-JLA books.

I totally agree with your point about 8.0 or higher. The distribution of graded copies makes it clear that there are probably a lot of ungraded copies out there below this grade. On the other hand, the purple cover is tough and that combined with the vintage makes it likely that there aren’t a lot more high grade copies coming.

I pulled the trigger on a high grade copy awhile back, so I hope that “you can snag a CGC 9.2 for $1,250” is not true at this point. That was a fairly low price on simply a comp basis with recent lower grade sales. I think the rough market level for grades 8.0/8.5/9.0/9.2 is $460/$635/$975/$1500. The last 9.4 sale looks totally out of whack as there are about as many 9.4s as 9.2s, so naively I would scale up the 9.2 estimate to $3k for 9.4, plus apply some discount as there generally seems to be a falloff in price vs. scarcity as prices go above $2k.

For some attempt at objectivity, I would not strongly argue for this book from a pure investment status. This one is a hybrid, and you should derive some consumption value from having a nice copy if you are going to get involved. Nevertheless total agreement on the undervalued call.

Verdict: Justice-licious!

Gerald Eddy
Gerald Eddy
4 years ago

I agree with all the comments above! A great book to have. As for earliest crossover comics events… was there any before the iconic Human Torch vs Submariner from Marvel Mystery?