04th Feb2021

eBuying Comics: Week 51

by Ian Wells

Comics may be more accessible than ever right now (as I state everyweek) with TPB’s being the biggest seller. As well as your LCS you can walk into places like Waterstones and HMV and be greeted with a healthy selection of the latest paperback collections. This change in the market has no doubt brought a change in story telling too. We have been in this pattern of decompressed story telling, writing for the collected edition for a long time now. The problem is so few writers can do it well and sustain a story arc for 5/6 issues. We very rarely nowadays get a single issue that is heralded for its unique story telling or its outstanding approach to art. Especially from the big two. It is fair to say floppies (single issues) are only for die hard fans now. It seems every year is going to be the year floppies finally die. I have seen it argued that reviewers should stop reviewing single issues and only review complete arcs. Personally I don’t buy this argument. If a writer/artist can not get my attention in one issue why should I come back five more times when I could buy something else? If it turns out I’m wrong then I can get the trade.

There have been some recent attempts to take on the floppies vs trades debate. TKO have a unique release platform. Appealing to the binge generation and comic readers of every generation. All of their titles get released as floppies, trades and digitally on the same day. With the single issues you get all the issues at once in a lovely box. It is an approach that is working for them and each format has its backers. The best thing is all first issues are free on the TKO website so you know before committing if your hooked or not. Image Comics have taken a fresh approach to capturing new readers early, whilst appealing to mass market trade paperback consumers at the same time. The first trade for a new series usually consists of 4 issues instead of 6 and therefore comes in at a cheaper price point. Having less issues in the collection means they are coming out quicker and being more new reader friendly. I myself have discovered Southern Bastards, C.O.W.L and Analog through this stratergy.

The mentality of writing for the trade isn’t going to go away over night. But a single issue should still stand on its own, even if part of a larger story. Take Frank Miller’s seminal run on Daredevil as an example. Yes the twenty four issues center around the tragic love story of Daredevil and Elektra but at the same time each issues holds its own ground. Leaving you both satisfied at the end and waiting for next month. Even the epicenter of the run #181 holds up on its own. It is the culmination of events between Daredevil, Elektra, Kingpin and Bullseye but it still reads from front to back as one story. So what makes a memorable single issue? Obviously everyones imagination is captured in different ways. For some it could be the artist breaking from the ‘norm.’ For others it will be a creative take on the narrative. We have seen eras of artists being the driving force behind sales and we have seen writers do the same. While that is a debate for another day you can have a memeorable comic from either era with either of the components being what makes it memorable. Do creators have to abandon Jim Shooters theory of ‘every comic is someones first comic’ to have a standout single issue?

Here is a list of 8 of the best single issues. I will briefly outline why they standout among others and then reveal which is the most expensive.

Amazing Spider-Man #33 Writer: Stan Lee | Pencils/Inks: Steve Ditko | Letters: Artie Simek

This issue perhaps goes against the grain as a strong single issue as it concludes the events of #32. But the Ditko visuals see this make top 1o lists time and time again. The old Parker luck is pushed to the limits as is Spidey’s strength and will power. I think the fact that it’s not one of his top rogues providing this memorable moment makes it stand out and how many time have the visuals been homaged?

Animal Man #5 Writer: Grant Morrison | Pencils: Charles Truog | Inks: Doug Hazlewood | Colours: Tatjana Wood | Letters: John Costanza

Confession time. This is the first of two issues on this list I haven’t actually read. Morrison’s run on Animal Man is long overdue me checking out I know! I know the series is held in high regard for its blend of breaking the fourth wall, real world metaphor, pushing the envelope of comic story telling and dark humour. So I am going to correct my mistakes soon.

Daredevil #191 Writer/Pencils: Frank Miller | Inks: Terry Austin | Colours: Lynn Varley | Letters: Joe Rosen

This issue marks the end of Miller’s time of Daredevil. To call it an understated affair isn’t a negative. He had done all the epic stiff this was time to do something different. While it does touch briefly on the events of #181 it is its own beast. Simple but effective. As Daredevil pays a visit to the paralysed Bullseye to tell him a story and play a game of Russian Roulette. The issue also marks a change on style for Miller going forward.

GI Joe #21 Writer/Pencils: Larry Hama | Inks: Steve Leialoha | Colours: George Roussos | Letters: Rick Parker

Silent issue, wordless issue. Call it what you like the fact is when you first hear the idea you immediately assume it won’t work. It was probably a big help that Hama was both writer and penciller on this story. He wasn’t passing his script off to someone else and hoping for the best. Without having much artistic understanding I would say the trick in this story reading so well without words is in the pacing and panel layouts. Plus lets face facts it made Snake Eyes even more of a badass.

New Gods #7 Writer/Pencils: Jack Kirby | Inks: Mike Royer | Letters: Ben Oda

New Gods had been non stop in its first six issues. Introducing the readers to great characters like Orion, Black Racer, and Metron. As well as allowing them to feast on the greatness of Kirby tech, Kirby monsters and Kirby landscapes. With the 7th issue Kirby takes a break to do some world building. Going back years before the events of #1 to explain the history between New Genesis and Apokolips. The story works both as great comics and as a metaphor for Vietnam.

Superman Annual #1 Writer: Alan Moore | Pencils/Inks/Letters: Dave Gibbons | Colours: Tom Ziuko

The second issue on the list I haven’t read. I have just never been a fan of Superman. I think I have trouble connecting with someone who is great at everything. Again I hear all the good reasons why this issue is spoken about so highly. Only Alan Moore could take something as simple as Superman’s birthday and turn it into a comic people still praise today.

Saga of The Swamp Thing #21 Writer: Alan Moore | Pencils: Steve Bissette | Inks: Jon Totleben | Colours: Tatjana Wood | Letters: John Costanza

This issue is proof a great plot twist isn’t confined to an issues cliffhanger. The issue is titled ‘Anatomy Lesson’ and it delivers exactly as advertised. Simplicity is often the best approach in producing brilliance. This issue changed everything the readers knew about Alec Holland up till this point and it completely changed the course of the series going forward. Also its amazing how Swamp Thing is almost a secondary character in this issue before the big reveal.

Watchmen #4 Writer: Alan Moore | Pencils/Inks/Letters: Dave Gibbons | Colours: John Higgins

Picking a favourite issue of Watchmen is like choosing your favourite child! First time I read it I didn’t care much for this chapter but it has grown on me. The story adds flesh to the unhuman Dr Manhattan and the horror I feel reading his moment of origin gets me every time. Throughout the issue it hits upon points we have seen in the previous three issues but with new perspectives both narratively and visually. The first meeting of Jon and Laurie is a great example of this, with Gibbons delivering visual story telling seperate from the words.

If anything perhaps I have inadvertantly knighted Alan Moore the king of the single issue. In all honesty when I plucked these issues from my mind (with some assistance from the internet) I wasn’t considering creative teams. It wasn’t until I was typing up those last three that it hit me. So now below are those 8 issues ranked in reverse order by valuation. As always I am using the valuations provided by comicspriceguide.com for 9.8 NM/M raw comics.

8. Daredevil #191 – £5.85

7. Superman Annual #11 – £7.30

5. Watchmen #4 – £8.20

5. Animal Man #5 – £8.20

4. Saga of The Swamp Thing #21 – £30

3. New Gods #7 – £57

2. GI Joe #21 – £318.15

1 Amazing Spider-Man #33 – £1097

As a little bonus I thought I would wrap things up by tying these 8 issues into last weeks rant about a new age of speculators. comicspriceguide.com also provides valuations for graded books. So what I dis, was search for the highest grade slabbed copy I could find on eBay and compare the price of the lisiting with that on the website. Worringly it seems my rate may not have been so ill judged. All the issues come in greatly wide of the mark. Animal Man was the only one to come out with any grace as I couldn’t find a slabbed lisitng for it. The biggest offenders were Amazing Spider-Man with a a value of £380 online compared to £900 one seller is asking for a 9.6 slab. In second place and obviously trying to cash in on the legacy of Jack Kirby is the listing for a 9.6 slab of New Gods #7 for £837.50. Greatly different to its online valuation of £169. Maybe I have misunderstood the term ‘graded’ on the comicspricguide website. I understand a comic can be given a grade by a trained professional but not slabbed. But is the plastic casing adding more value? Or is that what sellers are thinking at least? Third for the biggest discrepancy is another heavy hitter in Superman. There is one listing for a 9.8 slab for £364.10. Which is a staggering £349.50 difference to its online valuation. Ending on a positive closer to matching but still with some difference is Watchmen #4. An eBay listing for a 9.6 slab is at £65.50 compared to its online value of £21.05.


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