Let's Talk Comics


Comics with TV and movie characters in demand

Let's Talk Comics
With Rob Lamberti
The comics went to the movies and television in the past decade or so.

The Avengers wrecked New York and Thor caused havoc in London on the big screen, while on the “little screen”, there's the Flash and the Arrow from DC Comics, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Agent Carter from Marvel.

But between the 1940s and the ‘70s, it was pretty much the other way around with comics as marketing tie-ins to hit films or serials, or films the studios wanted to be hits. When television arrived in the 1950s, the hot shows were given comic books.

Movie and television stars, and their films and shows, graced the comics, including Walt Disney’s characters, Lucille Ball, Tom Mix, Mr. Kotter, John Wayne, Peter Gunn, Star Wars and Star Trek, the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine and even the FBI.

Many of the stars in films, radio and shows from those eras are now almost lost in the mists of time for many, but to a narrow band of comic collectors, they are golden treasures.

While almost all of the comic printers dabbled in the film arts, Dell and Gold Key were the major imprints in bringing television and film to comics, from the popular to the obscure.

Dell’s Four Color series brought many of the films and cartoons to comics. The series had 1,354 titles in Series 2 and another 25 in Series 1, including The Three Stooges, the Danny Thomas Show, the Lennon Sisters, Ricky Nelson, Leave It To Beaver and among the most coveted, Donald Duck drawn by artist Carl Barks.

Prices vary widely among the Four Color books so it's highly recommended to have a price guide with you if you come across any.

The market for these comics is, at best, tough. Only a few titles will move briskly, among them the first Star Wars series by Marvel. In particular, there are six issues highly coveted by collectors, Numbers 1 and 107 (the last issue with a small print run) and the alternate Numbers 1 to 4 with a 35-cent cover price. (We'll go into depth about these Marvel alternate price covers in an upcoming column. They had smaller print runs and they are hard to find in higher grade).
A significant portion of the titles has fallen into obscurity and finding buyers can be difficult, even with the web. Not many, except for the serious Four Color-Dell collector, will want copies of Tappan’s Burro (#449), Double Trouble with Goober (#471), or A Dog of Flanders (#1088). Collectors are however, seeking titles with Disney characters, or art by Walt Kelly, who would create Pogo Possum (the swamp creature who stated, “We have met the enemy and he is us”).
Comics that seem to command a good price are those that star John Wayne. Why? Dunno, but the tough guy actor with a soft touch seems to be a prize among movie comic collectors, especially in high grade. DC’s Movie Comics from 1939 only published six issues, but they are hard to find and are, in there own market bubble, commanding prices that go beyond interest in the content.
Disney’s cartoons and animated movies in comics always command a share of the market, in particular, the Aristocats, Snow White, Bambi and the early Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck issues. Expect them in lower grades, as higher grades are hard to find.
Gold Key/Whitman published Movie Comics and, again, some are highly coveted, such as the Disney titles, but none more so than The Beatles’ Yellow Submarine drawn by artist Paul S. Newman and released in 1968. For full market value, about $350 to $500 in near mint to mint, the attached poster should be intact inside the book. Without it, values drop to a fourth of the mint price. But no matter the condition, it won't stay idle long if up for sale.
Other hot titles in the Gold Key stable include The Munsters, Astro Boy, Jonny Quest, The Green Hornet and Dark Shadows. Other titles of interest include the original Twilight Zone, Dark Shadows and the original Star Trek series, especially with photo covers, Scooby Doo and Hanna-Barbera cartoon characters. Markets and interest vary widely on these titles. It seems, for example, that I am the only one interested in the original series Gold Key Star Trek issues in the Greater Toronto Area. I had not sold one copy in any Toronto area show when I was in the circuit.
Comics also graced its covers with movie stars, such as Movie Love, published by Famous Funnies between 1950 and 1953. Stars, including Myrna Loy, Dick Powell, Mickey Rooney, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis and Ronald Reagan, were highlighted on the covers. But the hottest issues are Number 8, with art by Frank Frazetta and Al Williamson, and Number 10, with art by Frazetta.
The demand for particular comic book genres and titles is cyclical. Movie-related comics are in one of the most fickle markets so invest with care.
1 - John Wayne on cover of Conqueror, Four Color #690
2 - Two of the three Star Wars #1 covers. The missing one has 35 cents and a UPC bar code in the white box.
3 - Beatles poster from Yellow Submarine.
Next column: 75th birthdays for comic characters
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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