Rob Lamberti
 
Archived
columns
 
2015
 
Super-sized
comics/118
 
Comic art legends/117
 
Comic condition/116
 
2014
 
Record comic prices/115
 
Antique show prices/114
 
Marvel Comics/113
 
War comics/112
 
Promotional comics/111
 
Cowboy comics/110
 
2013
 
Classic Illustrated/109
 
Romance comics/108
 
Katzenjammers/107
 
Tales to Astonish/106
 
A prized collection/105
 
Deaths of heroes/104
 
2012
 
Caring for comics/103
 
Grading comics/102
 
Crime comics/101
 
Collecting comics/100
 
Green Goblin/99
 
2011
 
How I got started/94
 
Let's Talk Comics

 
 
 
Cover of Detective 38, the first appearance of Robin 75 years ago
 
 
Both the Joker and Catwoman first appeared in Batman 1 in 1940
 
 
 
The covers of Fantastic Four 45 & 46, the first two appearances of the Inhumans
 
 
The first Spirit strip released June 2, 1940
 
 
The first Captain Marvel appearance was in Whiz 1 in 1940
 
 
Nick Fury first appeared in Strange Tales 135, sharing the comic with Dr. Strange
 

75th birthday greetings for classic comic characters

Let's Talk Comics
With Rob Lamberti
Happy birthday, Spirit. You too, Robin. Hey, Joker, have a great 75th birthday. Oh, Catwoman, you are not older, you are getting better.
 
The Great Big Cheese known as Captain Marvel isn't getting moldy as he ages. As Gomer Pyle would say, "Shazam!"
 
This year marks the anniversary of a slew of famous comic creations. Beyond the three mentioned above, Jack Kirby introduced Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., and the Inhumans 50 years ago. The world knows Nick Fury, sort of, and the Inhumans are expected to become another piece of the Marvel movie puzzle in the near future.
 
Comic artist master Will Eisner introduced the crime fighting Spirit on June 2, 1940, as a newspaper strip. The Spirit was the lead character in a tabloid-sized Sunday insert first distributed in 20 newspapers. It ran for 645 issues until 1952. Some of the artists that worked on the syndicated supplement included writer Jules Feiffer (yes, the Pulitzer Prize winning Jules Feiffer) and artists Jack Cole and Wally Wood. The character has since moved to comic books and a movie.
 
While there have been a couple or three Robins, the first one, the Dick Grayson we all know and love - especially when he appeared on the campy television show - debuted in Detective 38 in 1940. The sidekick was originally designed to attract younger readers, and it worked, apparently doubling Batman related comic sales. He appeared in solo adventures in Star Spangled Comics and the character lasted until the 1980s when the Grayson character transformed into Nightwing and left Wayne Manor.
 
Various incarnations of Robin came after Grayson, including Jason Todd who appeared in Batman 357 and lasted five years until the Joker killed him in the Death in the Family storyline. Then it gets comic-book weird where Todd is reincarnated and becomes Red Hood, and a third Robin, Tim Drake, takes on the costume. There have since been female Robins, including a daughter Wayne had with Catwoman, and a Damian Wayne, Bruce Wayne's son.
 
For collectors and investors, the aim is to find those older editions of these characters from the 1940s to the 1970s. The Golden Age books are an obvious investment: They are getting harder to find, especially in higher grades. Detective 38, for example, markets at around $84,000 in Near Mint. The challenge is to find one. A Good is valued at around $5,000 retail. Be aware that prices can fluctuate greatly in Golden Age market, especially for key books.
 
While Silver Age books can be easier to find in general, they can be very pricey in the higher grades. The first Inhumans in Fantastic Four 45, published in 1965, sells for about $1,800 in Near Mint, about $125 in Good. The group then appeared in other comics during the Silver Age. It's suggested the Inhumans - a group of genetically enhanced people developed by an alien race - will appear in a movie in July 2019.
 
While it may not be worth an investor's time to find the more modern versions of the Inhumans, the original issues will probably pick up value as the release of the movie nears and especially if it's a hit.
 
Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., a cigar chomping, eye-patched super spy, first appeared in Strange Tales 135. Kirby created him but it's his rendition by Jim Steranko that shook the comics business. Despite some of the most innovative artwork of the era, Fury's own book lasted only 15 issues. Fury was a recurring character throughout the Marvel universe and he has since been repackaged, redesigned and remade into the image of actor Samuel L. Jackson.
 
The original Captain Marvel became part of the DC Universe when the company licensed Fawcett characters in 1972. DC had forced the cancellation of Captain Marvel - the largest selling comic in the 1940s - when it sued Fawcett and Republic Pictures in 1941 for copyright infringement. The character mimicked Superman too closely, the suit claimed. In 1951, the courts sided with Fawcett squashing Superman, but on appeal, the courts ruled Fawcett had indeed infringed on DC's copyright.
 
But in an ironic twist of fate, because Marvel legally snagged the name in the 1970s - an alien warrior named Captain Marvel - DC was forced to title the original Captain Marvel's comic Shazam! It was a modest success, running for 35 issues, although the character would continue in the DC Universe.
 
There is some keen interest in particular issues of that initial DC series, including the first issue (about $80 in Near Mint and $5 in Good) and Number 28, the first modern version of Black Adam, a villain who first appeared in Marvel Family 1 in 1945, retailing for about $250 in Near Mint and about $18 in Good.
 
Next column: Super-sized comics
 
Let's Talk Comics with Rob Lamberti, who started collecting comics when the going price was 12 cents an issue and Peter Parker really was a teenager. He dabbled in the comic convention circuit in the Toronto area for a while, but stopped to concentrate on his career as a not-so-mild- mannered crime reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper, where he hoped he managed to record a little bit of history the past three decades.
 
You can reach Rob at lamberti@cogeco.ca
 
 
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