28th Feb2019

eBuying Comics: Week 13

by Ian Wells


This week I want to do a very condensed version of how the Comic Code came in affect, who the major players were, how it changed the industry and how the code evolved over time. Then I will look at the value of some Pre and Post Code comics and also look at some comics that went against the code or missed the code completely. So it began in 1954 when Fredric Wertham wrote a book titled ‘The Seduction of The Innocent.’ The punchline of the book was that comics were the cause of juvenile delinquency. The book started a crusade and soon Wertham wasn’t acting alone. There were comic book burnings, protests and eventually later in 1954 the United States Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency. The hearings came to such obscene conclusions lie Robins outfit gave boys homosexual tendencies. Wonder Woman was a work of fetishism and generally that violent and horror comics warped childrens minds. At the hearings fighting the comics corner was EC head William Gaines. His biggest argument was comics from his company only published comics that were in good taste. One comic famously brought up by the subcommittee was Crime Suspensestories #22. The cover depicts man holding a womans decapitated head in one hand and a bloody axe in the other. Part of the womans body is visible in the bottom corner. Gaines argued it was in good taste. If it was bad taste you would have seen blood pouring from the womans neck and the body. A near mint (9.4) copy of this comic today fetches near £1000. Double if its graded, at a Fine (6) grade its between £60-£80. I wasn’t able to find any on eBay over the weekend unfortunately. Long story short the subcommittee found comics to be to violent and came up with a way to police them more, which lead to the founding of the Comics Code Authority (CCA). Their job was the receive story submissions and then pass them by their strict guidelines before deciding if they were fit for publishing.

Subject matter like drug use, nudity and illicit sex acts were out. Good was always to triumph over evil, crime was not to be glamourized. Zombies, Vampires, Werewolves all out! Perhaps most damaging of all for William Gaines words like Horror and Terror were prohibited as titles. Gaines took this last one as a personal attack, in February 1955 we saw the last Pre Code issue of Tales from the Crypt with issue 46. I was surprised to find two of these for sale on eBay. One graded by the seller at 35. for £200. Another described as Fair + was going for just over £75.  Despite the issues place in history both of these seem a little high with what I found it valued at online. Just to touch on popular superhero comics from today that were affected by the code Detective Comics #216 was the last Pre Code issue. A near mint copy today is upwards of £1500. I found four on eBay ranging on grade from 2.5 to 4 and priced between £80 and £140. There was one which was pretty beat up and taped. The seller only wanted £34.46. Which for a piece of both Detective Comics and comic history is not a bad price just to say you own it. Interestingly there was a CGC 7.5 Detective Comics #217 which is the first Post Code issue. The seller wanted £800. This is four times the online valuation I researched! You can’t talk Detective without talking Action. This series saw its last Pre Code issue in #201. Action Comics generally seem to be more rare than Detectives in my searches anyway. This time the eBay seller and the online price guide pretty much matched give or take £6. A graded 3.5 is currently on eBay for £112. A graded 9.4 would be £2000. So again a code price for a piece of comics history. At the time of Werthams crusade and the hearings Marvel were still Atlas. The only comic at the time that still has some significance today was Journey into Mystery. Issue 22 was the last Pre Code issue. It was actually a joy to find pre Thor issues of Journey on eBay. Issues rated 3 and 6 by the sellers respectively were about £100 apart from the online prices. There was a nice looking 4 grade for only £150. Yeah it had some creasing and a torn spine but for a sixty plus year old book the colour on the cover was pretty amazing.

Every few years the CCA got updated and revised and by the 80’s DC and Marvel had switched to in house guidelines. This would eventually lead to lines like Vertigo from DC and Epic from Marvel and then all the way to the Marvel Max line in the 00’s. Perhaps the most famous case of fighting the code came just before this in 1971 when Marvel produced an issue of Amazing Spider-Man that saw the friendly neighbourhood spider tackle the issue of drugs. Stan Lee had actually been approached by the Department of Health, Education and Welfare to put a drug story in a popular comic. The story was not given approval by the code by Lee and publisher Martin Goodman felt confident enough in the message of the story to run the issue with out the CCA seal. I thought everyone who had heard of Spider-Man and the CCA knew about #96 so I was surprised to find some very affordable listings on eBay. Nothing to break the bank £40-£80 if you don’t mind not having top grade. Good reading copies if you will.

Selling Update

Again I have failed to sell anything between posts! What is wrong with people I have good stuff on offer! Last time I listed a few Tomb of Dracula comics and once again relisted the Western Adventure pulp. Between posts I had relisted the Tomb of Dracula comics three times. all of the comics and the pulp picked up plenty of viewers on the first listing. On the first relisting I decided to add my opinion on the grade into the title of the listing. Again all comics had reasonable amounts of interest. Tomb of Dracula #45 which I had graded as an 8 with a starting price of £10 or best offer received one watcher every time I listed it. Why not make an offer mate! Both times is was relisted, it was watched straight away. The final time the watcher withdrew on the morning the auction ended. Tomb of Dracula #18 (grade 5.5 starting price £3.00) picked up a watcher with an hour to go on the final auction. As quickly as they appeared they disappeared as well. Though I have still been unable to sell it Western Adventure #12 continues to pick up more viewers each time, so I will immediately relist this but give  Tomb of Dracula a break. This week I have turned my attention back to trade paperbacks. I wanted to run a few experiments with pricing.

For Sale

  • The Ultimates Vol. 1 MCU – Buy Now £8 (or best offer) + £2.50 P+P
  • Marvels TPB Marvel Comics – Buy Now £10 (or best offer) + £2.50 P+P
  • Marvel Comics Civil War MCU TPB – Buy Now £5 + £2.50 P+P
  • Ultimate Human Marvel Comics Hulk vs Iron Man – Starting Price £2.50 + £2.50 P+P
  • Ultimate Annual Vol. 1 Marvel Comics – Starting Price £2.50 + £2.50 P+P
  • Ultimate Requiem TPB Marvel Comics – Starting Price £2.50 + £2.50 P+P
  • Walking Dead TPB Vol. 2 Image Comics – Starting Price £5 + £2.50 P+P

Watch List

Over the last week I have been pricing up one of the comics from my more affordable wish list (see Week 11). The comic in question was Incredible Hulk #340. I’ve seen this comic reasonably priced and outrageously priced in recent months. I don’t collect Incredible Hulk but I a massive Wolverine fan and this issue has one of the most iconic covers of all time by the great Todd McFarlane. So really I have to weight up how much I am willing to spend on a comic I am essentially buying for the cover. I stumbled across an auction that started at 99 pence. It was already up to about £1.50 when I found it with P+P of £1.95. The morning before it ended it was still only around £3. So I set a limited including the P+P knowing I may stretch one or two pounds if push came to shove. The seller had it listed as Fine with the caveat of decide for yourself from the picture. Remember I am only buying this comic for the cover and from the picture I found the top edge to be a little dog eared. By the time I got home from work the bidding had increased greatly so I decided to pull  out without making a bid. The issue sold after nineteen bids for £28.86. Someone will be very happy with their purchase but I live to fight another day.


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