03rd Jan2019

eBuying Comics: Week 10

by Ian Wells

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In 1866 David Livingston set out to find the source of The Nile. In 1924 George Mallory set out to conquer Everest. In 1936 Professor Jones fought of Nazis in a mission to find the Arc of The Covenant. Now in 2019 maybe, just maybe I’ll get my hands on my own Holy Grail. I am of course talking about Incredible Hulk #181. The debut issue of Wolverine! The best there is at what he does. Before I get into prices and all that stuff I want to talk a bit about how Wolverine came to be.

In 1974 Incredible Hulk writer Len Wein was looking to pit the green goliath against a new foe. Upon creating this new character he knew two things. Firstly he wanted him to be Canadian to increase sales north of the border. Secondly he wanted him to be a mutant, so potentially he could be used in future X-Men books. Ironically Wein was the writer who got to use Wolverine again when he wrote the X-Men relaunch for Giant Size X-Men #1. Isn’t it rotten luck when your favourite character is in two of the most expensive books of the Bronze Age? During his creation a talented group worked on Wolverine. After Wein fleshed out a basic backstory and personality traits, John Romita designed the original costume and then Herb Trimpe pencilled his debut appearance. Now there is always some debate over what is the true key Wolverine issue. He makes a last page, last panel cameo appearance in Incredible Hulk #180 but the following issue steals the limelight as his first full appearance. I have to go with the latter. A full appearance is more important than a cameo. Imagine if there was some editorial hullabaloo between issues Wolverine may never have existed. I have heard people say Werewolf By Night #32 (first Moon Knight) is the most highly sought after comic of the Bronze Age. My research just doesn’t support this. Incredible Hulk #181 is the glamour issue, it has a brilliant cover. The action pops on the red background and little Wolverine manages to stand out despite the presence of Hulk and Wendigo. A few years back I came across an artist on eBay (You can find him @DGCstudios on Twitter). For £20 he would reproduce any cover or interior page. I was between a few ideas but ultimately had to settle for the cover of Wolverines first full appearance and it does look fantastic.

Lets talk business now. It seems no matter what state Wolverine is in on the comics or on the big screen Incredible Hulk #181 goes up in value all the time. Obviously with each passing day it is getting older. It is a behemoth of a comic where nothing on the comics landscape can affect its value. So the dream for die hard Wolverine fans like myself is to buy a random box of comics online and hope its in there by mistake or to discover it at a car boot sale because somebody doesn’t know what they have! Oh we can dream can’t we? There are a plethora of reprints which I will get to later. So my research on eBay kicked back a CGC 9.2 for just over £6000. Next up a CGC 8.5 with white pages for the princely sum of £4500. If you want to go down the none graded route you are still looking at between £1500 and £2000. I have found prices for Incredible Hulk #180 to be more spread out, but it is still a hefty price for a last page, last panel appearance. Low grade you are looking around the £250 mark, high grade £500 upwards. Ungraded copies can vary anywhere between these two price points depending on the seller and the condition. While #180 may seem a better investment I don’t believe it will ever hit the heights of #181. Like I said it is the glamour issue.

At a convention many moons ago I was lucky enough to pick up the 1992 comic Wolverine Battles The Incredible Hulk. This collects The Incredible Hulk #180-#181. If you shop around you can get this for a good price and it is a well presented collection of the two stories. Probably the best reprint out there. Of course with eBay being what it is and the original being out of most comic fans price range this reprint is getting up to £20 and more. Graded copies are going for £50. One route I may be tempted to go down this year is the UK reprints from Mighty World of Marvel. You want #197 for the last page, last panel cameo and #198 for the full first appearance. Being UK reprints you will get two stories for your money. The first issue reprints a old Daredevil/Gladiator conflict and the second comes with the origin of Iceman. Also they are in black and white and in magazine format. Of course of the two #198 is the harder to find and following suit with its American counterpart is the more expensive. Between £20-£30 for #197 is reasonable. Upon my most recent search I didn’t find a #198 but I have previously seen it for £80.

The last reprint I am going to look at is the most recent… It is Incredible Hulk #181 True Believers Edition. The True Believers line of comics is an initiative to reprint older comics for a newer audience. They usually come out in batches related to a movie release or a comic event and they retail for £1. Like I said great for new readers to discover older more expensive comics. It gives kids a chance to read first appearances and other key issues without forking out or buying trades. If like me you are unfortunate and miss their release then welcome to the eBay minefield! For a comic that originally sold for £1 you will be lucky to find on now for the regular retail price of an average monthly comic. Because they were a £1 to start with you find lots of bulk listings. I don’t want five copies, one will be fine! There should be a law against getting True Believers copies graded by CGC. People ae buying these for a £1 taking them straight home whilst guarding them like the Pope and getting them graded 9.8 and making a £40 profit! Do me a favour! This is how the comic market crashed in the 90′s!

Okay breath, breath. I have been collecting comics for nearly twenty years I have nearly every Wolverine comic ever published but The Incredible Hulk #181 still evades and probably always will. That is part of collecting comics. I am at peace with it, I get a joy of looking at it in hope and maybe one day finding it and owning it. It is a comic I have been able to get a one thousand word blog out of! In March Marvel are reprinting it again as it was original printed in 1974. I may have to settle for that and only that.

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