The Big Twelve

Today we will once again be stretching the boundaries of an Arc or Run to the straining point. Actually, just to a collecting strain. The way some people collect #1 issues or circled $0.12 covers, today’s post is about big Marvel super-hero covers from the late 1960s. This is a personal list of twelve comics I coined the Big Twelve I originally collected right off the spinner-rack as a kid. These copies were read until destruction. I had re-purchased most of these books by the late seventies as part of runs of all Marvel titles. In 1980 I decided to buy extra copies of the “Big Twelve “and have them as a separate collection. This was not the very large financial undertaking it would be today as most of the books were available in pretty nice condition for five to ten dollars a piece, some of them mint. I feel a choking gagging sensation coming on. I’m definitely asking Santa for a time machine this year for Christmas.

The composition of this collection has basically stayed the same over the years except for one book. Nick Fury #4 started out as Iron Man & Sub-Mariner #1, changed to X-Men #39 and then finally settled at Nick Fury #4. I’ll elaborate a little more when we get to that book.

Most of the books we will be looking at here today have been covered in the Undervalued Spotlight, Overvalued Overstreet, Arcs & Runs or a combination of these three columns, so comments here will be brief on some books. Let’s get to those books.

Amazing Spider-Man #50
July 1967
Spider-Man No More

Pencils and cover art by John Romita. Inking by Mike Esposito. Story by Stan Lee.

When I am asked what is my favourite comic book of all-time, six out of ten times I answer Amazing Spider-Man #50 – it is my 1A comic. It is just a great all-around comic book. A fantastic cover by John Romita, a well told story by Stan Lee, and my favourite comic character Spider-Man. The whole book holds up as well today as it did fifty years ago. I always felt the “lack of time” element with family and friends that Peter Parker blamed on his Spider-Man activities held up well. How many of us have felt the same thing over our own job obligations? Peter finds out through the course of the book that his family and friends also have a life away from him and they manage quite well. More on Amazing Spider #50 in my next post. This book was previously covered in Walt’s Undervalued Spotlight #303.

John Romita’s cover was enormously popular when it came out and I believe it was used as the template for Marvels covers in the Marvel expansion which followed few moths later and began in the spring of 1968.

Captain America #100
April 1968
This Monster Unmasked

Pencils and cover art by Jack Kirby. Inking by Syd Shores. Story by Stan Lee.

Cap takes over Tales of Suspense numbering and the book itself with his solo book in issue #100. This book is actually the end of a storyline that began in issue #96 of Tales of Suspense. I covered this book in my first post in Arcs & Runs and there is a more detailed post on the many positive attributes of this book there. A standard great Kirby cover here.

Incredible Hulk #102
April 1968
This World Not His Own

Pencils and cover art by Marie Severin. Inking by George Tuska & Frank Giacola. Story by Gary Friedrich.

The Hulk takes over Tales to Astonish numbering and the book itself with his second solo series in the Silver age of comics. I have covered this book in Arcs & Runs and Walt in the heavily commented Undervalued Spotlight #121. I am a big fan of Marie Severin’s cover on this book, but I know people who think it is very ordinary.

Iron Man #1
May 1968
Alone Against A.I.M.

Pencils and cover art Gene Colan. Inking by Johnny Craig & Mike Esposito. Story by Stan Lee.

Iron Man begins his second solo run following an initial twenty issue stint in Tales of Suspense #39-58. This time he gets is own issue #1. I have already picked on this book enough in terms of content in an Overvalued Overstreet column. Today I can relay a story about my first encounter with this book at my local grocery store. Abby Loft’s general store on Mackay street on the east side of Galt Ontario (now Cambridge) was my go-to source for comics as a kid. I was thinking about Abby today as he was a World War II vet and I am writing this on Remembrance Day. One of the nicest gentlemen I ever met. I know running one of those general stores is a family affair and not always easy on everyone, but I thought the idea of having your own little store probably looked pretty good to Abby from a foxhole, or trench. Abby handed me my first copy of Iron Man #1 fresh out of a package from the distributer, even before it made it to the spinner-rack. It was so glossy it looked wet. People asked if ever owned a high- grade copy of Iron Man #1 and I can say yes, but not for very long! Abby eventually sold the store to a chain and I never saw after I was twenty or so. He survived until the ripe old age of 92 or 93 – good for him.

Needless to say, this book has an awesome Gene Colan cover.

Sub-Mariner #1
May 1968
Years of Glory – Days of Doom

Pencils and cover by John Buscema. Inking by Frank Giacola. Story by Roy Thomas

The Sub-Mariner leaves the pages of Tales to Astonish and gets his own book and #1 issue. I think this title lasted (72 issues plus 2 annuals) much longer than many thought it would when it was first released. I think you could have made some serious coin in a bet over subby and the Silver Surfer. This book is also covered I believe twice in Arcs & Runs.

A gorgeous cover by Big John Buscema.

Captain Marvel #1
May 1968
Out of the Holocaust – A Hero

Pencils and cover art Gene Colan. Inks Vince Colletta. Story by Roy Thomas.

The first issue of Captain Marvel and the culmination of a three-part story that began in the pages of Marvel Super-Heroes #12 & 13. I personally gave up on this series five issues in, and gave it no hope. It had a couple of stops and starts, gained big-time traction when Jim Starlin took over the reins in issue #25 and the series made it sixty-two issues. The character is now a woman Carol Danvers who has a highly anticipated movie for release in early 2019.

Another sterling cover by Gene Colan set- like Iron Man #1, both out in the same month.

Doctor Strange #169
June 1968
The Coming of Doctor Strange

Pencils, Inking, and cover art by Dan Adkins. Story by Stan Lee.

This book was just recently covered in Arcs & Runs. The value of this book has certainly gotten a boost from movie hype; it used to be a bit of a retailer’s nightmare. The same could be said for Captain Marvel #1. Doctor Strange #169 is a tour de force for long-time artist Dan Adkins.

Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. #1
June 1968
Who is Scorpio?

Pencils and cover art by Jim Steranko. Inking by Joe Sinnott. Story by Jim Steranko.

I had a hard time believing this book had not previously been covered by Walt or myself. Walt has done an Undervalued Spotlight on issue #2 (#389) and I did a UV spotlight (#164) that covered issues #4 & 5. Nick Fury #1 is the lowest valued book of all of the new eight comic book launches. It sports a terrific Jim Steranko cover; however, it is not a “big” cover at all. It features small Nick Fury and his gang and Scorpio as well, another no-no as there are no villains on any other comics in the Big Twelve. The only reason this book has always remained on the list was its significance as one of the eight relaunches.

The Silver Surfer #1
August 1968
Origin of the Silver Surfer

Pencils and cover art by John Buscema. Inking by. Story by Stan Lee.

The Silver Surfer is the last and most highly anticipated book of the new launch books. The series only lasts eighteen issues and is a bitter disappointment for Marvel and Stan Lee. I feel like I have beaten this to death. I have covered this book in Arcs & Runs and Overvalued Overstreet. It remains a hot book today holding the most value of the new eight book launches. I expect this to continue as Marvel now owns the rights to the character and speculation on the Silver Surfer and Fantastic Four remain high. Contrary to popular belief I still like the Silver Surfer.

Another wonderful cover by John Buscema.

Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. #4
September 1968
And Now It Begins

Cover art by Jim Steranko. Pencils by Frank Springer. Story by Roy Thomas.

Nick Fury #4 is what Nick Fury #1 should have been, an outstanding Nick Fury alone cover, and an origin story this one a re-telling of the S.H.I.E.L.D. origin from Strange Tales #135. I have read in fanzines years ago that the cover for #4 was originally slated for #1 and a new Steranko written of S.H.I.E.L.D. to accompany the book. Time constraints didn’t allow this to be done. Steranko never did write the new Shield origin and the cover was used on the retold origin for #4. Steranko only completed one more complete Nick Fury issue #5 and two cover works #6 & 7 before he left the book. I wish I could confirm that story. I tend to believe it given the time it has taken to get Steranko’s 2nd Artist Edition. I expect to receive it posthumously – it could be him or me😊.

Outstanding often copied cover by Jim Steranko.

The Mighty Thor #158
November 1968
The Way It Was

Cover art and pencils by Jack Kirby. Inking by Vince Colletta. Story by Stan Lee.

Late in the year, Thor gets another origin treatment along with his alter-ego Donald Blake. I had planned at one point to do a lengthy Arcs & Runs feature with this as the lead book. Thor #158-177 is an excellent twenty issue run with Kirby’s last work on the title (not including #179). This used to be a very cheap run but Thor #165 has added some cost. Still highly recommended.

The usual excellent cover by Jack Kirby.

Daredevil #53
June 1969
As It Was in The Beginning

Cover art and pencils by Gene Colan. Inking by George Klein. Story by Stan Lee & Roy Thomas

Last and value wise least, poor old Johnny come lately – Daredevil. This origin book seems like an afterthought. The last twelve cent issue barely makes the cut in the big twelve. It is an excellent origin retelling of Daredevil. I think it was supposed to be a jumping on point for new Daredevil readers, but for me, the title didn’t deliver much in the following couple of years and didn’t pick up until the Black Widow jumped on board the title. I did an Undervalued Spotlight #203 that hasn’t delivered much – yet.

Gene Colan gets the last word as the artist with a leading three covers in the Big Twelve.

The 48th Overstreet guide prices for the books covered in todays post are listed below.

6.0 8.0 9.0 9.2
Amazing Spider-Man #50 $279 $744 $1672 $2600
Captain America #100 $150 $350 $688 $925
Incredible Hulk #102 $72 $168 $372 $575
Iron Man #1 $360 $700 $1100 $1500
Sub-Mariner #1 $69 $164 $362 $560
Captain Marvel #1 $48 $111 $246 $380
Doctor Strange #169 $81 $189 $420 $650
Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. #1 $42 $76 $211 $325
Silver Surfer #1 $189 $504 $1127 $1750
Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. #4 $24 $51 $96 $140
The Mighty Thor #158 $27 $57 $111 $165
Daredevil #53 $15 $35 $63 $90


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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Bud Plant
Bud Plant
5 years ago

That was fun! I’d forgotten that all those great books came out so close together. My buddies and I “speculated” on those #1 issues of Cap #100, Iron Man, sub-Mariner. I bought ten copies of each off the newstand, then stored them away for a handful of years. At least I still have my collection copies, probably sold the others for $1 or $2 each. Great return at the time.

We opened our first comic shop, Seven Sons, March 1, 1968, so right after and during this Marvel expansion. I was just 16 and it was a great time, talking about the new books with my buddies. We still had no account with the local distributor, our store sold only back issues. So we haunted the newstands like everyone else.

When comics were 20 cents cover price, we’d drive down south of San Jose, where the Gilroy distributor put out the comics a week earlier than the distributor in San Jose. We’d buy extra copies of new issues, bring them back to the store, and sell them for 25 cents each to fans who couldn’t wait a few more days. Like us.

Bud Plant
Bud Plant
5 years ago

Thanks, Mike. With Stan passing away, it brought home how much of my love for comics and also my entire career I owe to Stan, Kirby, Ditko and the guys at Marvel. They reeled me in, like so many others. I was hooked in early 1964 with all the Marvel titles, haunting the spinner racks on my way home on my bike from little league practice and school. So I really owe Stan big, big time for my lifetime passion for comics, for my career in retailing, distribution and publishing, and especially for lifetime-long friends and collecting buddies…

I just wrote a 4000-word piece on our (the San Jose Boys) first trip east, in my van, to the Oklahoma City/OAF Comics Convention and Seulingcon in NY in 1970, for editor Hope Nicholson, for an upcoming book from Dark Horse called Pros and (Comic) Cons. Kind of fun. Even got paid for it! Those books you write about above were the nucleus for the direction of much of my life since then.