Arcs & Runs | #48: The Case For Issue #4

We are going to take Arcs & Runs in a slightly different direction this week and look at a Silver Age run of issue #4’s. Yes #4. I have listened to all the love and support for issue #2’s and their value relative to #1’s. I think many of them overvalued. I have always believed that issue #4’s only bent the knee to issue #1 in overall popularity. They bow the knee to no issue number in terms of content. There are many other issue numbers that make a pretty cool grouping such as issue #3, 5, 28, 50, and 100. There are even some cool #2’s.

I have not included any horror, westerns, or romance books here, trying to stay with the super-hero genre for the most part. Iron Man, Sub-Mariner, Captain Marvel, Not Brand Echh, reprints, and others didn’t make the cut on my list, but might on your own list.

Todays top ten list of books is a countdown of my own personal favorite silver age Marvel issue #4’s. It is not a list by value although it is does follow the money pretty closely. We will also feature a couple of important #4’s from the distinguished competition. And awaaayyy we go!

#10 Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos #4

This a war comic of course, although one might argue Nick Fury was a super-hero of World War 2. This story ends up being famous for the death of Junior Juniper the youngest member of the Howling Commandos, and the only member to ever be killed off permanently. The Junior Juniper character came straight out of a Hollywood stereotype, although in the war there were plenty of soldiers like him. A young, brash, sometimes underage farm boy or high school kid who would be taken under the wing of the older and more experienced members of the squad. In the movie’s this character would usually be bumped off in a gruesome or unfair manner by the enemy, and was used in a propaganda type way to in-site outrage and rally support for the war effort at home. In this comic young Junior Juniper dies heroically in a battle in Germany. A traitorous propaganda minister Lord Ha Ha is at the forefront of the story. I was only twelve when I first read this book and comic heroes did not die back then like they do now. It had quite an impact on me and that is why it is on this list.

#9 Amazing Spider-Man Annual #4

One of my favourite Spider-Man annuals. A great black fire-web cover by John Romita. It would have looked even better without all the word balloons. Spider-Man and the Human Torch team-up (after the customary battle with each other first) to battle Mysterio and the Wizard. This is a fun, semi-serious romp that reminded me of stories from Amazing Spider-Man #8 and #62. These stories had more humour and less of the day-to-day emphasis on Peter Parker’s problematic life. A nice change of pace. I couldn’t recommend a book more for a first-time reader of Spider-Man.

#8 Incredible Hulk #4

Well it is pretty plain to see I am not a big fan of the Hulk and it is true I am not. These early Hulk’s are tough to come by and coveted by fans of the big green guy. I do like this two-story book This book , along with issue #6 have been on a maybe/want list of mine for some time but they are behind so many others I don’t know if I will ever get to them. A lottery win would speed things up. In the meantime I still have story in the cheaper Marvel Collector’s Item Classic form.

#7 Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. #4

It is not too often I can say that a comic cover is the primary reason that I have purchased a comic book but that is the case with Nick Fury #4 (and #5). A top-notch Jim Steranko cover is the main feature of the book. A retelling of the origin from Shield doesn’t hurt either. The interior art is capably done by artist Frank Springer and not Steranko who reportedly missed the deadline. I have read Steranko had a new origin planned for the book. I would have liked to have seen and read that book. I was smitten by this cover the moment I laid eyes on in a spinner rack at my local grocery store and it has aged very well.

#6 Daredevil #4

First appearance of the seldom used character – The Purple Man. I believe this is his only appearance in the Silver age of comics, and is next seen in Daredevil #88. That changed going forward and he has become much more of a force in the Marvel universe than the other yellow costumed Daredevil’s early villains. I really like this book and would let my skin turn purple to have that Purple Man’s power! This book even seems to be getting a little more love from the marketplace now as well. It is a far superior book to issue #2 which is worth considerably more.

#5 Amazing Spider-Man #4

Another terrific villain for Spider-Man – The Sandman! I shouldn’t say just Spider-Man as the Fantastic Four, Human Torch, and the Hulk also become regular foes. Who would’ve thought that a character made out of sand, and could be beaten by a vacuum cleaner, would become so powerful and learn to use the sand in so many ways. It was always creepy the way he could hide himself around you. This story contains Spider-Man’s first battles with the Sandman and the Sandman’s origin. Needless to say, it is worth a long dollar, but cheap compared to our next book…

#4 Fantastic Four #4

This book features the return of the long forgotten Sub-Mariner. The Sub-Mariner is the second character of the golden age Timely/Atlas big three to return to Marvel’s new silver age. The Torch was the first although the new Torch is human (Johnny Storm) and a member of the Fantastic Four. I do think when the Fantastic Four do return a new android Torch, invented by Reed Richards will be the ticket. I digress. The new Human Torch discovers the trance like Sub-Mariner in civvies and fly’s him out to water. The Sub-Mariner revives and goes on to terrorize the Fantastic Four and the rest of the Marvel universe and human race for the next ten years, sometimes dabbling as a good guy. I didn’t say Johnny Storm was a bright kid. The Sub-Mariner for me has always been an “excellent B character” best served in smaller does. Having said that he did more than hold his own in his own series for a period of time. A very important return of a character in the early days of Marvels renaissance.

#3 Silver Surfer #4

One of my first Arcs & Runs posts was a critical look at the first Silver Surfer series in 1968. It was cancelled after eighteen issues because of poor sales. It did fail commercially but did produce one of the finest books of the sixties in my opinion in Silver Surfer #4. This book, for me has it all. A dynamite cover, terrific John Buscema art inside and out, an inspired story from Stan Lee, the scheming Loki, and a battle issue featuring two true cosmic heavy weights in the Silver Surfer and Thor. An added bonus is it’s a 25 cent giant size book – my favourite comic format of the sixties. If this isn’t enough for you I’ll call on Dennis De Pues to join in a sing the praises of this book as well. No I’m not going actually to sing.

#2 X-Men #4

Awesome book. Great cover. First appearances of Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch, Toad, and the Brotherhood of Evil. A watershed book for the early X-Men.

#1 Avengers #4

The return of Captain America. Nuff Said!

As it turns out I have just recently covered these two books in Arcs & Runs and won’t be rehashing all the merits of these two books. Suffice to say they are number 1 & 2 on my list that contains many great books. Both of these books were published in March 1964 – a very good month.

And listed below are two stalwarts from the Distinguished Competition that had an impact/influence on Marvels early days.

#2 Justice League of America #4

The Justice League of America was first introduced in The Brave and the Bold (#28-30) before moving on to their own title. In this issue #4 they are adding a new member from days gone by – The Green Arrow. The Avengers are clearly made up in the same manner as the Justice League of America. The Fantastic Four was also influenced by the JLA and Kirby’s Challengers of the Unknown. Stan Lee made up the Avengers almost as soon as he had the requisite number of characters established in the Marvel universe to do so.

#1 Showcase #4

And finally, the granddaddy of all #4 issues – Showcase #4. There is no definitive beginning to the silver age of comics, but I would hazard a guess that at least 95% of comic collectors have anointed this book as the beginning of the silver age. The comic marketplace certainly thinks so. The book features an awesome cover and the return of The Flash. I personally think the price for the book is a bit overdone for a B+ character like the Flash. The influence on the age though is undeniable. Many other golden age DC characters return and Marvel certainly followed suit as a couple of the books on my list including my #1 can attest to. Nice having a trump card like this on your list of #4 issues versus other numbers 😊.

Making lists like this is a lot of fun. I will endeavour to make a few more in the future. Listed below is the 46th Overstreet Price guide prices for the books listed here today. Good Luck with the books on your own “lists”.

6.0 8.0 9.0 9.2
Sgt Fury 4 $90 $216 $483 $750
Amazing Spider-Man Annual 4 $39 $69 $140 $300
Incredible Hulk 4 $498 $1370 $3085 $4800
Nick Fury 4 $24 $51 $96 $140
Daredevil 4 $108 $259 $580 $900
Amazing Spider-Man 4 $837 $2302 $5201 $8100
Fantastic Four 4 $1080 $3300 $8400 $13500
Silver Surfer 4 $129 $318 $722 $1125
X-Men 4 $516 $1419 $3210 $5000
Avengers 4 $705 $1939 $3210 $5000
Justice League of America 4 $204 $544 $1222 $1900
Showcase 4 $16000 $36000 $68000 $100000
Mike Huddleston
Mike Huddleston

Mike was born and raised in Cambridge, Ontario. He has read and collected comics for over 40 years. A Marvel Zombie specializing in the Silver, bronze and early copper age of comics.

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Dennis De Pues
7 years ago

Mike, great post!and you are right about me singing the praises of SS#4.I’m singing right now!
I think one of the reasons for the strength of issue #4’s overall is that the creators by this time, get a feel for the characters and the reader also has stuck with them this far and are loving the depth that the storylines have begun to get to.Just a thought!

Steve V.
Steve V.
7 years ago

In issues #1, the objective was two-fold, – to give an origin, – and to integrate the hero into the multi-verse. Amazing Spider-man #1 has Spider-man meet the Fantasic Four, under the pretext of trying to join-up for profit, and recaps his Origin. Marvel heros always had neurotic personality, self-weaknesses, and nagging self-doubt. At DC, heros were blinded by raw vengence. Batman and Deadman and Specre all were self avenging crusaders to punish bad guys. DC charactors were out for revenge with a lazer-beam like focus. Get the bad guy! At Marvel, issue #1 introduced the charactor’s big personality flaw. Spider-man had great powers but felt no responsibility to stop uncle Ben’s killer. There was nothing in-it for him. Always remember, number 1 issues are where the money is! Any number 1 issue is 50% undervalued as a key, or the whole hobby could not hold-up. If you see a number 1 at guide, do not hesitate : buy it!

In a typical Issue #2, someone from outerspace or the 5th dimension or a new one novelty villain was encountered. Issue #2 usually stands on its own. A secong issue is just keeping the ball rolling, without much more. I feel #2’s are just the title moving a little forward. Think of Daredevil #2 with Electro or Avengers #2 with the Space Phantom. X-men #2 contains the lame one-time-only charactor named the vanisher. Toad men in Incredible Hulk #2 were an odd group of aliens who were never intended to reappear. The 2nd Ironman (#40) introduced an alien hypnotizing robat named gigantus. Fantastic Four #2 introduced skrulls from outspace, who were turned to cows grazing in pastures at the end, so were designed as a wacky one-shot villain. Who then, in 1961, envisioned the super- skrull or future kree-skrull war introducing Captain Marvel? Second issues are best forgotton relics and best collected primarily for their covers. Read a reprint. Do not crack-slab on a #2 !

Issue #3 are IMO the absolute “creme” of any title. The writer played all-his-cards in the 3rd book of any series. Avengers #3 is 24 pages long from Hulk to Submariner to the rock of Gibralter. Spider-man #3 introduces the number one adversary Dr. Octopus who later marries Aunt May.. Daredevil #3 introduces the primary villain the Owl. Usually the art in any 3rd issue is outstanding and never disappoints. Journey into mystery #85 (3rd Thor) introduces Loki in an ultimate battle from Asgard and Midgard! Third issues develop charactorizations. Incredible Hulk #3 from 1962 tells the origin again and shows Hulk can fly. Third issues IMO are best art-wise and best story and charactor development. They are my favorite to read. 3rd issues IMO are best value and most undervalued!

So whats so big about 4th issues? They tend to be creative. Showcase #4 and Avengers #4 took their series into new directions with new charactors with introductions of Flash and Captain America. These were big events! Over time, Showcase #4 has become the new #1 of the series, if not the entire silver-age!

The fourth of any title is often much sought after. X-men #4 has an awsome cover introducing a brotherhood of evil mutants for the first time starting the hidden world of mutants among us!

Fantastic Four #4 introduced Submariner taking marvel in a new renewed timely direction. The 4th issues “rock the boat” and “shake up” any title. Maybe, that is why 4th issues tend to have values that are proportionately high. Number 4’s in my opinion are over-priced across the board! I am satisfied with reader copies of any #4, because I believe a #1 will, over time, have the higher enduring value. Number fours can be poison to resell. Buyers always are held back by a mind-set that the book is not a #1! I always have felt that issues #4’s are cursed with bad luck, and collectors as investors can loose their shirts on an issue #4.

Issues number #5 are hardly worth a mention.! They lack any historical importance. They generally add nothing to a series. Think about Amazing Spider-man # 5, where there is the doomed let-down of Dr.Doom simply does not work as a Spider-man villain. He is too powerful! Avengers #5 with lava men is a disappointment with crumby Reinman inks and Avengers who are drawn crawling around rocks like little Ants. In Daredevil #5, the matador is just odd! The only exception is Fantastic Four #5 which Joe Sinnott made into marvels greated comic-book IMO!

In Fantasic Four #5 Joe Sinnott took a stupid time-travel plot over the phone from Stan Lee and made it into the greatest comic book of all time! Joe Sinnot took Kirby pencils to an entirely new level that had never previously been acieved before, and has never been achieved since! Sinnott created Dr.Dooms mask and the Reed Richards rivelry where ruler of Latveria has a kingdom supporting his evilness. Dr.Doom was evil minded- yes! But, aspiring to rule the world “is not a crime”. Dr.Doom broke no laws! He was just filled with greed! Dr.Doom by Sinnot as roughed out by Jack Kirby in Fantasic Four #5. was an evil guy who technically did nothing against any laws! Dr. Doom by Joe Sinnott did not need diplomatic immunity. He was the first bad-guy who was not a criminal, but could never do a good deed!

I strongly suspect Dick Ayers was given the Submariner issue to ink, after Joe Sinott was given the Dr.Doom issue to ink and Dick Ayers completed his inking first. Dick was quick!

Joe Sinnot was so slow inking the Dr.Doom (intended as the villain in FF issue #4), that it was not published until FF issue #5! Anyway Sinnott could not make a living for $8 a page which was Stan Lee’s set page-rate. He put too much effort and time to make the greatest comic magazine ever. Sinnott quit Marvel after inking just that one issue. Sinott refused to do rush work! Fortunately, Joe Sinnot returned to the title at issue #44 when the inking page rate was increased, with Marvels ballooning increased sales!

If you look for profit, buy every #1 you can find. Number ones are going up more than any non-key! Minor first appearances in mid-run are fools-gold! Number ones in any title are the true-keys issues that drive-the-market.

But, if i want the best quality book to actually read, any #3 is the best choice!

Stevie V.

Steve V.
Steve V.
7 years ago

I do not wish to tarnish the aluminum foil, tin-foil plating, on Siver Surfer #4.

Silver Surfer #4 (1968) has good enough superhero Characters: Silver Surfer; Thor; Odin; Balder; Sif; Heimdall; Warriors Three [Hogun; Fandral; Volstagg]; Loki (villain); CAMEOS: Hulk; The Thing; Tomazooma The Living Totem; Hercules; Zeus: Shalla Bal; Mephisto; and even Galactus!

Also, it has a super “shiney” battle plot synopsis ! First, Loki is plotting to kill his brother Thor, when he comes across the Silver Surfer while in his astral form.

In Silver Surfer #4 (1968), the evil Loki allows Thor to learn of his plot to kill him. Then he travels to Earth and attacks the Surfer to test Surfer’s power. Loki soon learns the Surfer’s true power and tells Surfer that he has passed Loki’s test, and Surfer must help defend Asgard from Thor, because -Thor plans to take over Asgard!

Loki also promises to let Surfee free of Earth if he helps. The Surfer agrees. Loki leaves Surfer at Asgard. Loki has then succeeded in deceiving the Surfer into helping Loki to take down his brother, Thor,

In Silver Surfer #4 (1968), the Surfer reaches the dining hall where Thor is located and challenges him. Thor tells him they will talk over dinner and a gladiatorial contest. Thor and Surfer are natural buddies seeing the world in the same perspective. Both Thor and Surfer think that they should not be enemies but, Loki manipulates the situation. Loki controls one of the gladiators into attacking the Surfer in the name of Thor!

The Surfer and Thor begin their battle. Both have incredible power that continues to surprise the other. The Surfer gains the upper hand in the battle but soon realizes that his power has been augmented somehow by Loki and some of his actions may have been partially controlled. Surfer seems to be the winner over Thor, but only with the aid of Loki’s power fortifying the Surfer throughout the battle!

In Silver Surfer #4 (1968), Loki leaves his astral form so he is no longer able to manipulate them and they talk it through. The Surfer realizes Thor was not using his full power because Thor suspected all along of Loki’s schemes.

So the defeat of Thor by Surfer in issue #4 was like an immaginary story because Surfer was super-charged by Loki temporarily, and Thor was also intentionally holding-back. A false Surfer victory!

In Silver Surfer #4 (1968), once again, Loki transports the Surfer back to Earth and Surfer remains once again trapped on the planet earth.

I prefer the 1982 Silver Surfer volume 2, 52 page, one-shot as the greatest Silver Sufer book, written by Stan Lee, drawn by a 31 year old John Byrne and inked by the great Tom Palmer! What an intergalactic epic! Byrne was already famous for X-men from 1976 so his selection as artist was to support Stan Lee’s return as special guest writer on this series revival.

In the 1982 Silver Surfer volume 2, one-shot, the FF help Surfer break the barrier of Galactus, ending his exile on Earth & granting him the freedom to roam the spaceways once again.

In Silver Surfer vol. 2, the Surfer returns to Zenn-La to reunite with his love Shalla-Bal but finds that after he betrayed Galactus on Earth, the world-eater devastated his home world in retaliation. Informed by the survivors that Shalla-Bal was captured by the demon Mephisto, the Surfer flies back to Earth & battles the monster in his own realm for her freedom.

In Silver Surfer vol. 2, Silver Surfer somehow bests mephisto. Mephisto then returns Shalla-Bal to her home world, but ironically the Surfer still is again trapped on Earth.

But volume 3 of Silver Surfer in 1987 is better, if not much better. I simply love Marshall Rogers and Terry Austin inked Silver Surfer 1987 series art, particularly issues 1 to 10! They are the most underrated Marvel comics IMO and the absolute best to read. Take a look at awsome art! Perhaps the best IMO is Silver Surfer issues l #10 from 1988, Galactus sends Surfer and Nova his side-kick after the Contemplator (the 6th elder of the universe)(and brethern of the Watcher), and Surfer witnesses an awsome inspiring, but chilling meeting between Galactus and Eternity!

For investment $$$, I suppose that you think that you need to buy Silver Surfer volume 1 by Buscema, but by 1968 those books are not scare.

I do feel the 1968 Silver Surfer vol.1 #4 by John Buscema has the feel and charm of an early Stan Lee marvel story so no knocks about it from me ! But the only reason its worth as much as issue #1 was its low 1968 original distribution. Wharehouse copies of Silver Surfer #4 now fill the collectables market!

But for pure art enjoyment, i cannot more highly recommend Silver Surfer(1982) vo.2 one-shot by Stan Lee, John Byrne, Tom Palmer.

And for pure reading enjoyment, i cannot more highly recommend Silver Surfer (1988) vol.3 issues 1 to 10, 12, 19 and 21 by the Marshall Rogers/ Terry Austin team.(particularly issue 10) !

Steve V.
Steve V.
7 years ago

So your vacation 5 star Cruise Ship hit an iceberg! Abandon ship immediately! Think fast! There is only enough room in the lifeboat for you and 10 comic books. If you take an 11th comic book, the lifeboat will be over-weight and will flip over and capsize and all passangers in it will have a shark infested fatal swim. You simply cannot bring an 11th book or its certain death.

Would you bring your 3’s or 4’s with you? No time to pick and sort!

Remember there is no certainty you will be rescued and you may be stuck on a deserted Gilligans island for years, like Robinson Crusoe.

No! You cannot take your #1 keys. This is my hypothetical and I say they are in the ship safe, and impossible to access.

Your answer 100% would be the #4s. But why?

One answer might be that for advanced re-readers like us, an issue become more interesting when a title has a pop of fireworks! . Issue #4 usually is a big-bang! Death of Jr.Juniper. Reintro of Submariner with a long beard on skid row. New Flash revived. Evil Mutants. Thor verses Surfer. Captain America found on ice!

But I still feel issues #3’s are the more fascinating missing link when it comes to setting up plot lines for allowing critical charactorization to develop. In FF #3, Sue sows costumes for the four. Thing rips up his!

You can always use the books for lighting a fire on the island if you bring the wrong ones!

Steve V.
Steve V.
7 years ago

No time to sort ! Yikes ! Maybe Dennis and Mike would both bring 10 copies each of Silver Surfer # 4 in various grades. Thats enough to share with the Professor and Maryanne and Gilligan too. The millionare may end up buying all the books for huge profit by time of rescue. I hope they are slow readers. Could they build a pontoon boat out of the plastic bags and a raft out of backing boards? Thats about as likely as Silver Surfer comming to their rescue for real. ( I think somehow i got “off topic”.)

Chris M
Chris M
7 years ago

Good list. My only addition would be Hawkman #4.

7 years ago

Marvel Team-Up #4 is possibly the best issue of that title, featuring the X-Men during the reprint period on their own title, when the new blue-fur beast was appearing in Amazing Adventures. (Also the first MTU to not feature the Human Torch, who had apparently been slotted as Spidey’s permanent co-star.) Great “picture frame” black cover and art by Gil Kane, and great Gerry Conway story with a Morbius tie-in from ASM 100-102. Really a classic and worthy of honorable mention with the list of #4’s.

6 years ago

Ah, yeah, umm, I probably should consider the topic before posting. Ha! Anyway, thanks for the kind response Mike! Really enjoyed this list. Keep ’em coming.