I started 2021 with a column focusing on Barry Blair and Aircel. Partway through that column, I briefly mentioned the self-published comics that Blair released under the “Nightwynd” name (and which predate Aircel). These rare comics had print runs of between 200 and 500 copies each and rarely come to market. I suggested to readers to expect to pay hundreds of dollars per issue, “if you can find them.”
At the beginning of February, a small, but significant cache of these comics has come to market, all on eBay. The reason why this is a significant cache is that for the first time since I started tracking these books, we can finally start to gauge the level of collector interest in these scarce titles. Additionally, copies of any of these books coming to market is so infrequent that collectors may wait years to see examples of a specific issue surface again. Indeed, there are several original Nightwynd comics that I still have not even seen pictures of despite years of searching.
This all started when a Canadian eBay seller (eBay user ID: roblus) listed high-grade raw copies of Samurai # 1 and 2 for sale on February 4. The seller’s asking price was high: $1,500 CAD for # 1 and $1,200 CAD. I thought to myself that, surely, these comics would not sell for such prices, bookmarked them, and forgot about them for a month.
In the meantime, an American seller (eBay user ID: thecuriousgoodsvault) listed a copy of Elflord # 4 as an eBay auction on February 19. The comic was not in the best shape but was the first copy of the comic to come to market in a couple of years and sold for an impressive $291 USD on February 28.
The same seller has listed hundreds of pieces of original art by Blair since the beginning of the year and promised in this initial listing that they, “just stumbled upon a few extremely rare original Elflord comics…These rare issues will be going up one at a time, weekly, for the next few weeks.” Sure enough, they listed a copy of Elflord # 5 a couple of days later with a starting bid of $100 USD. Surprisingly, the auction ended on March 7, 2021, without a bid. One of only two original Nightwynd comics that I own, I was disappointed to see this one end unsold at auction (especially after issue # 4 had such an impressive showing). Ultimately, the seller would go on to sell issue # 5 for $150 USD a few weeks later as a Buy It Now.
Your guess is as good as mine as to what led Elflord # 5 to slip through the cracks at that time, especially considering that a few days earlier, someone had pulled the trigger on the Samurai # 1 and 2 listed by roblus. The seller accepted a Best Offer for the two Samurai comics, so we can only guess what these comics sold for. It is possible that they are both now among the most valuable of all Canadian Silver Age comics. However, they could have sold for significantly less than asking price. Again, we can only speculate.
The American seller who had listed copies of Elflord # 4 and 5 continued to list a new issue every week or so until the middle of April. The seller’s Elflord # 6 came and went with little notice, with a buyer winning the comic for its $100 USD starting bid on March 14. A very fair price, in my opinion.
Like clockwork, the American seller listed a copy of Elflord # 7, which is one of two issues that are spiralbound. Then, on March 16, the Canadian seller listed different copies of Samurai # 1 and 2, which is evident because of the wear on each issue (the first two specimens that this seller brought to market, frankly, were in better condition). This time the seller was asking $1,400 CAD for Samurai # 1, while their asking price for Samurai # 2 remained $1,200 CAD.
As a researcher, one of the things that is exciting about seeing rare comics like this come to market is that it may provide an opportunity to see in the interiors or back covers for the first time (depending on what the seller takes pictures of). To my delight and surprise, Jacques Boivin contributes a Fluffhead comic to issue # 7 of Elflord. Readers of Forgotten Silver may recall my overview of Boivin’s early comics from July 2019.
Then, a third seller (eBay user ID: waaboing!) entered the fray with yet another copy of Samurai # 1 on March 18. I had never seen any issue of the original Nightwynd Samurai series come to market and in less than two months this year, five examples have been made available, albeit for prices that are unprecedented for Nightwynd comics. At the time of writing, only the Samurai # 1 listed for $899 CAD is still available for sale. The second batch of Samurais # 1 and 2 sold on April 7. Again, a Best Offer was accepted for both issues, so we can only speculate what they actually sold for. Seeing the strength of these books, however, I suspect that if the example currently available for $899 CAD was in better shape, someone would have purchased it by now. It seems that I was incorrect in thinking that the sellers were overvaluing these copies of Samurai # 1 and 2 when they first came to market in February.
The seller with all of the Elflord comics subsequently listed a copy of issue # 8 on March 28. The only other spiralbound issue in the series, the comic sold for an impressive $416 USD on April 4. After issues # 5 and 6 seemed to be auction duds and the other spiralbound issue (# 7) sold for under $200 USD, issue # 8 seemed to catch the attention of quite a few different bidders.
The Elflord seller also listed what is perhaps the most common of Blair’s early Nightwynd comics as a Buy It Now at the beginning of April: Windblade # 1. The comic sold for a very reasonable $100 USD. I was sorry to have missed this one, as I would have loved to have added this particular comic to my collection for this price. When I say that Windblade # 1 is perhaps the most common of Blair’s early books, this is only anecdotally, as I have witnessed several specimens come to market over the past five years and sell in the $100 to $200 USD range. In reality, Elflord # 1 likely is the most common book from this era of Blair’s output because of its 500 copy print run (though, it is arguably the most desirable).
One final Elflord comic was listed as part of this cache on April 8: another copy of issue # 4 in much better shape than the one sold on February 28. The seller noted that this would be the final comic listed in their auction and this one ran for 10 days. When the auction ended, we couldn’t believe the final price: $527 USD. This is the highest price that I have seen a single issue of the original Elflord sell for since I began tracking these books in 2016, even outselling a high-grade copy of issue # 1 that I once saw sell for around $500 USD. Unbelievable. How did this happen considering that Dan and I had a discussion a couple of years back about how we felt a different seller who had a few specimens for sale for $150 USD each had overpriced their books? These appear to be record prices!
Anyone who has been paying close to the comic market since the end of the first wave of the pandemic has likely noticed that speculators, as well as collectors concerned with “fear of missing out” (FOMO), have been pushing keys and potential keys through the roof with greater frequency than at any time in recent memory. Walter Duralija’s columns here at Comic Book Daily have demonstrated the frequency of new “keys” that are experiencing growth. It has become so frequent that it is hard to keep up.
Already this year, I have gone through some of our show inventory and repriced comics several times. All of a sudden, over 100 comics that we previously considered “drek” six months ago are now major or minor keys. This is significant, considering that Tania and I tend to reprice our show inventory once or twice a year. Just last week we pulled three copies of Jeff Lemire’s Sweet Tooth # 1 and a copy of Master of Kung-Fu # 115 from our regular inventory and added them to our premium boxes. Both books experienced rapid increases almost immediately after the Sweet Tooth and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings trailers dropped at the end of April. Today, I pulled a copy of New Avengers # 40 out of a box of drek that is hot all of a sudden because of the possibility that Skrull Queen Veranke may appear in the MCU. No confirmation from Disney; just pure speculation! I would also caution readers to avoid getting caught up in unnecessary hype and the dreaded “pump and dump” that some speculators tend to engage in.
Dan, Victor, and I have also noticed that comics featuring African American superheroes have experienced major bumps since last summer. This is not limited to A-list Marvel heroes like Black Panther or Sam Wilson. Much of this is explained by speculation (such as the first appearance of Brother Voodoo) or surprises in MCU properties (key issues featuring Isaiah and Elijah Bradley have increased dramatically due to The Falcon and the Winter Soldier for example).
At the opposite end of comic fandom, Larry Fuller’s Ebon # 1, as well as Tom Floyd and Eric O’Kelly’s Blackman # 1 have recently sold for over $1000 USD each (when a year ago these books were selling for a fraction of the price). In a world where DC keys remain stagnant, the first appearance of John Stewart in Green Lantern # 87 has also seen steady increases. This is just the tip of the iceberg, but strangely comics featuring real-life, historical African Americans have not seen price bumps (including the excellent Silver Age series Golden Legacy). My best explanation is that this is the result of comic speculation and the importance of the Black Lives Matter movement for this segment of the collectors market.
None of this, however, helps to explain why early Barry Blair comics under the Nightwynd name are now selling for significantly more than they were a few years ago. Prior to now, I had never seen an original issue of Samurai come to market. On the other hand, I have handled various issues of Elflord and know that in the past (with the exception of the first issue), these comics tended to sell in the $100 to $200 CAD range. Indeed, some of the specimens that recently sold stayed in this range. At the same time, other specimens in this cache appear to have achieved record prices. FOMO may be at play, but I think that the best explanation is what Walt and Ivan Kocmarek have previously referred to as “the utility of ownership.” This is the phrase they have used to explain the incredible price bumps in WECA books over the past decade.
FOMO tends to be thrown around by collectors of various products in terms of buying something at MSRP before it sells out and scalpers raise the price. It also tends to be used to explain people buying something at a higher price than expected out of fear that the cost will be even greater down the road. It has numerous other applications and, certainly, the utility of ownership idea is essentially the ultimate type of FOMO. As I explained several years ago (paraphrasing Ivan and Walt) the idea is that “collectors will pay higher than expected prices to procure a rare book because said collector may not know when another example will come available.” Hence, this is a type of FOMO.
These Nightwynd books are extremely rare. They had print runs of between 200 and 500 copies. Unlike many of the comics published during the Canadian Silver Age, Blair and David Cooper’s early work would lead into Aircel and leave a significant mark on the history of Canadian comics. There are many people who still collect Blair’s work, but his mass-produced comics are quite common and remain inexpensive. Perhaps the only analogs to these early Nightwynd books are the first few issues of Cerebus the Aardvark (which have also experienced a price bump of late) or John Byrne’s 1971 student comic from the Alberta College of Art, ACA Comix # 1 (aka “The Death’s-Head Knight”). Blair’s Nightwynd comics are so rare and of such significance for the history of Canadian comics that is surprising that they have slipped under the radar before now. I doubt that we will see prices drop on these books moving forward. Collectors should not underestimate the power of FOMO or the utility of ownership.