Comic Books Posts

How Superheroes Have Stayed Popular After 80 Years

Whether you fancy yourself a fan of Marvel or DC, superheroes are as old as our grandparents and more popular than ever. Ever wonder how superheroes have stayed popular?

more superheroesIt’s surreal to think that the first Superman comic in 1938 would spark the comic-based empire we have today. Seven superhero movies are planned for release in 2016, and The Avengers remains the 4th top-grossing movie of all time. It’s not just movies either; comics books and graphic novels reached $870 million in sales in 2013, compared to $265 million in 2000. What is it about these stories and characters that have remained so timeless? Moreover, how has the industry maintained such rapid growth in spite of its age?

While there are numerous theories explaining how this is, below are the fundamental reasons why superheroes have stayed super after all these years.

flash mural1: We relate to the stories

No one gains super strength and stamina after a radioactive spider bite in real life, but that doesn’t mean superhero stories can’t resonate with the audience.

Putting the supernatural elements aside, many superhero stories follow a familiar formula: a person’s life is changed by destiny, and they use their newfound power to combat adversity. For characters such as Batman, this destiny can also be the result of trauma that inspires the hero to want to be better. In either case, stories of overcoming impossible odds have appealed to the masses for ages. It doesn’t matter if it’s a mountain of bad guys or a mountain of homework; we want the strength to defeat anything that crosses our paths.

According to Smithsonian Magazine, “superhero origin stories inspire us and provide models of coping with adversity, finding meaning in loss and trauma, discovering our strengths and using them for good purpose.” In other words, we can look up to superheroes as ideal versions of ourselves.

hulk figure2: Superheroes span all forms of media

Superheroes started out as comic book characters, but nowadays they are so much more. Films such as Adventures of Captain Marvel date back as early as 1941, and the industry has only ballooned from there. Video game fans have the critically acclaimed Batman: Arkham series, moviegoers have multiple films every year to look forward to, and collectors have over 40 years of action figures to chase. This is not even mentioning the likes of HeroClix, trading cards, and other superhero crossovers like the Avengers fighting titans from Attack on Titan. The span of the superhero multimedia empire is staggering, and it makes it easy to see how these characters can stay popular among so many fans.

By carrying these stories into so many different mediums, superheroes cast a wide net of appeal and mix fanbases in a way that would be otherwise impossible. A movie buff today could easily become a comic book reader tomorrow.

iron man figure3: The industry changes with the times

Adam West’s comic portrayal of Batman in the 1960s Batman series seems so inconceivable compared to Christopher Nolan’s gritty Dark Knight trilogy nearly 40 years later.

Yet in retrospect, both of these “Batmen” spoke to their audiences as best as they could. The 1960s Batman was inspired by other contemporary shows such as The Man from U.N.C.L.E, and it would become one of the most popular shows on TV in its time. Conversely, the Dark Knight trilogy appealed to an older generation who had grown up with Batman, and it wound up grossing more than a billion dollars worldwide. Superhero fans of one generation become the industry’s artists and creators for the next, and this new blood fosters ideas that grow their respective franchises while remaining faithful to the source material.

4: Superheroes are both new and nostalgic

Arguably more than any other franchise or character, superheroes can bring all generations together.

superman costumeAs fans of The Incredible Hulk and Iron Man grow older, they may find themselves leaving comic books behind to keep up with college studies or other adult responsibilities. However, once these same fans start families of their own, they are able to relive their fond childhood memories through their children. Kids can play with the action figures their parents collected so many years ago, and parents can enjoy building on their old collections with their sons and daughters. It’s a continuous loop that unites the young and old, regardless of age differences.

Superheroes are timeless characters that have become pop culture staples. As long as the industry continues to evolve these characters, we won’t soon forget those heroes who are faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, and able to leap tall buildings at a single bound.

Amazing Fantasy #15: The Million Dollar Spider-Man Comic Book

In 1962, Issue #15 of the monthly comic book anthology Amazing Fantasy introduced the world to Spider-Man, an awkward teenager who struggled as much with adolescence as he did with fighting crime. It sold for 12¢.

amazing fantasy 15In 2011, a copy of Spider-Man’s premiere comic sold for $1.1 million.

Since Amazing Fantasy #15 would be the final issue of the series, the editors decided to take a risk by featuring such an unconventional hero on their cover, unaware that Spider-Man’s success would legendarily add to a revival of Amazing Fantasy years later. However, even if Amazing Fantasy’s editors were unsure of how Spider-Man would resonate with audiences, no one can deny how legendary this comic is today.

So, what is it about Spider-Man’s first comic that makes it such a holy grail for collectors? If collectibles are only worth what collectors are willing to pay, what is it about Amazing Fantasy #15 that has continually driven its price to hundreds of thousands of dollars in decent condition? The answer is surprisingly simple: Spidey is one of the most beloved superheroes of all time, and the crazy prices for Amazing Fantasy #15 are a direct representation of just how much he means to all of us.

In the so-called “Silver Age of Comic Books” (roughly 1956 to 1970), Spider-Man was a breath of fresh air for the superhero genre. While most heroes of this time tended to be impossibly strong crime fighters with an unwavering sense of justice, Spider-Man was something of an antithesis of the established superhero tropes. Peter Parker, the boy under the suit, was awkward, insecure, and didn’t necessarily carry a solid moral compass. In fact, in his inaugural appearance in Amazing Fantasy #15, he in no way sees his power as a call to justice, and instead decides to “only look out for number one.” This leads him to search for fame and fortune by showcasing his powers in wrestling matches and photoshoots, and at one point he actually refuses to stop a petty criminal at an officer’s behest. It is only after his Uncle Ben – one of the few people he genuinely cares about – is shot and killed by that same criminal that Spider-Man transforms into a crime-fighting hero. Spider-Man’s story does not end happily in Amazing Fantasy #15, but instead lingers on a forlorn Parker, and the narrator introduces the moral lesson that would define the story of Spider-Man for years to come: “With great power there must also come — great responsibility!”

spider man comic booksblack spider man costumeSpider-Man’s origin is replete with a karmic irony that would be expected of a villain of the “Silver Age,” or possibly a sidekick. Additionally, Parker’s reaction to his powers remains so utterly and undoubtedly human that audiences can’t help but relate. You don’t have to be a “nerd” to know what it’s like to get blown off by the person you liked in High School, and who wouldn’t want to keep living a comfortable life after being blessed with superpowers? Spider-Man was willing to tap into these topics, allowing us all to see a little bit of ourselves in the boy under the spider costume. The decision to make Parker search for atonement rather than follow the conventional heroic stereotype of only “doing what’s right” was a risky, yet bold editorial choice that ultimately paid off in spades for the Amazing Fantasy creators.

Needless to say, the complexity of the story was not lost on readers at the time. Spider-Man quickly found favor with comic book readers, and only a few years later did Spider-Man become one of Marvel’s most commercially successful heroes. In many ways, Spider-Man’s uniquely successful narrative paved the way for other trendsetting comics to shake up the superhero genre years later. More than anything else, he felt like a superhero for the everyman, and his success was a direct reflection of that. Both hardcore comic book fanatics and casual comic book readers can look at Parker and say “he’s one of us.”

The_Amazing_Spider-Man 1Moreover, it doesn’t hurt that Spider-Man was created by an all-star cast of writers and artists. Amazing Fantasy boasts the talents of Jack Kirby, Don Heck, and Steve Ditko, and Spider-Man was written by none other than the legendary Stan Lee. In fact, Amazing Fantasy acted as the catalyst for the “Marvel Method” style of comic book creation: The writer (Lee in this case) would hand the artists (Kirby, Heck, or Ditko) a plot synopsis from which to create the entire comic, and then the book was given back to the writer to add dialog. The historical significance of the entire series makes Amazing Fantasy #15 an incredible collectible, even without regard to Spider-Man’s popularity.

As time progressed, Spider-Man continued to be rebooted and reinvented for newer audiences. The 1960s Spider-Man cartoon popularized a campier version of the iconic hero with a wisecrack ready for every situation, which would persist in numerous future iterations of the hero. In fact, with all the different ways that Spider-Man has been reimagined – comics reboots, or any of the major movie adaptations – anyone can find some element in this iconic hero to which they can relate. This perhaps explains why Spider-Man is the most collected comic book hero of all time (yes, even more than Batman and Superman).

Regardless of the amount Spider-Man has impacted each individual, it impossible to deny how much he’s impacted the world. Spider-Man’s face has been plastered onto lunch boxes, action figures, and even bed sheets for over 50 years now, and still, somehow, we’re not sick of the web-slinger yet! Both older comic book collectors and young kids alike continue to be enthralled with Spider-Man as a character. As long as we continue to hold Peter Parker’s story close to our hearts, we anticipate he’ll keep doing whatever a spider can for many years to come.

How Do Common Items Become Rare Collectibles?

We all know the story of Action Comics #1. Superman’s debut comic has become one of the most sought after rare collectibles of all time, selling for millions whenever it’s available for auction. If you want to have any chance of affording one, you have to basically be Nicholas Cage. Do you know how much Action Comics #1 went for when it came out in 1938? Ten cents. One Dime. Approximately the price of two candy bars. Many holy grail collectibles were once incredibly common items, but how exactly do these now rare collectibles become so insanely valuable? Well, it really boils down to basic economics, but there’s a little more to it than that.

demand-vs-supply11: Diminished Supply

It’s the first thing you learn in Economics 101, but it’s oftentimes easy to forget. The primary reason collectibles become rare is because there’s a ton of demand for an item and not enough of it to go around.

Many vintage collectibles – such as comic books, trading cards, etc. – were originally made to be disposable. After all, these were generally made for kids, so the goal was to get out as many copies as possible for as cheap as possible. So, sure, in 1939, you’d have no trouble finding Batman’s first appearance in Detective Comics #27. Nowadays, however, with so many copies of the comic lost or destroyed through time, you’d only be able to “easily” find one if you had unlimited money.

super mario bros

This isn’t an issue that plagues modern collectibles quite as much, since, you know, they’re usually a little sturdier because they’re made to collect (what a novel concept, right?). Still, the more disposable a beloved pop culture item is, the higher likelihood that it might be worth more as the supply dwindles decades later.

2: Condition and packaging

Earlier this year, we talked about a sealed copy of Super Mario Bros. selling for over $30,000 on eBay. To put this into perspective for non-gamers, Super Mario Bros. is one of the best selling and most easily obtainable video games ever made. You can get it digitally on Nintendo consoles for $5, and even a loose copy for the original Nintendo Entertainment System doesn’t run for more than $10 or $20. In other words, this is not a valuable cartridge by any means. That said, a sealed, mint condition box? Even if the cartridge isn’t valuable, a completely sealed box absolutely is. While we all know an item is more valuable the better condition it’s in, sometimes an item’s condition is the value.

3: Nostalgia and cultural importance

surgeIn 2014, people were spending anywhere from $50 to $100 on cans of Surge. Yes, as in the carbonated sugary beverage from the 90’s. In terms of collectibility, cans of soda usually rank pretty low on the list. I mean, you can’t exactly preserve the liquid in perfect condition, and it’s not as though it ages like fine wine.

Yet despite Surge technically being a lousy collectible, it has one very important thing going for it: nostalgia. From its packaging to its name, Surge is practically the embodiment of 90’s culture. Now, if there’s one thing we know to be true, it’s that people love nostalgia. And one of the best ways to retain those nostalgic memories is through collecting. If something happens to be super rare and in mint condition, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to be super valuable. It’s us, the collectors, who make these items valuable through our desire for them. The hysteria over Surge goes to show how far people are willing to go to recapture a piece of their past lost in time, even if it is just a can of soda.

Consider Hot Wheels… the nostalgia of playing with those cars is incredibly strong with collectors. Compare that to Beanie Babies, who were at the center of an often hostile collecting universe. They were cute, nicely designed toys, but not a lot of great memories attached to those stuffies, unfortunately. Even the rare, pristine copies are not as valuable as people wish.

The 10 Most Expensive Comic Books Are Worth A Bit More Than Their Cover Price

If you’re looking for a way to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars, then perhaps you could afford one vintage comic book at an auction. Yes, the most expensive comic books start there and can climb well north of $1,000,000! Spoilers: expect to see a lot of superhero debuts on this list.

flash comics 110: Flash Comics #1

Flash Comics, at a glance, is sort of confusing. Though it does introduce and prominently feature its respective superhero, the Flash, it’s also an anthology series that includes the stories of heroes such as the Whip and Black Canary. That said, if you saw an original copy of this comic at your local comic book shop, it’d probably be gone in the blink of an eye. After all, Flash Comics #1 has an estimated value of $289,000.

captain america 19: Captain America #1

To say Captain America made a bold appearance by punching out the Nazi regime on the cover of his first comic is an understatement. If you’re inclined to disagree, consider the year it was published: 1941.

If you have a copy of this historically relevant comic, you could find yourself $343,000 richer.

detective comics 18: Detective Comics #1

Detective Comics, while perhaps not as influential as a certain other comics anthology, is still one of the granddaddies of modern comic books. As a result, its inaugural issue is particularly sought after by collectors. While Detective Comics #1 has “only” sold for as much as $45,000, its end price was held back by its condition: a relatively low grade of 6.5. Were the comic to be sold in a more perfect state, it could be worth around $405,000. (Don’t worry Detective Comics, we’re not done with you just yet.)

all-amercian comics 167: All American Comics # 16

All American Comics #16 introduced the world to The Green Lantern, who, you know, is kind of a big deal nowadays. While other issues of All American Comics can be fairly valuable, none come close to this one. With a grade of 8.0, All American Comics # 16 managed to sell for $200,000. At a higher grade, the price would be hovering closer to $430,000!

x-men 16: X-Men #1

What’s there to even say about this one? It’s X-Men, for crying out loud! Of course a comic that spawned a whole league of memorable characters would be valuable! If you’re interested in having your own copy of X-Men #1, you’d find yourself out of $492,937.

batman 15: Batman #1

No more joking around, ’cause we’re getting to some big name heroes here. While Batman did not technically debut in this first issue of his own comic series, he has become so prevalent in pop culture that any historic Batman comic could make you as wealthy as Bruce Wayne. If you were to sell Batman #1 at its highest recorded price, you’d be robbin’ your buyer out of $567,625.

superman 14: Superman #1

Rarer than a buried treasure box, more valuable than a brand new car, it’s Superman #1! We’re not going to pretend there isn’t a certain other Superman comic more notable than this – particularly because we’ve already alluded to it on the list – but let’s give credit where credit’s due for the Man of Steel’s first official series. If you offered Superman #1 at an auction, you may find $747,000 fly into your pockets.

amazing fantasy 153: Amazing Fantasy #1

Depending on how you look at it, the first issue of Amazing Fantasy is also technically its 15th, as it’s actually a rebranding of an existing anthology titled Amazing Adult Fantasy. But hey, who cares about semantics, that’s Spider-Man on the cover! Yes, Amazing Fantasy #1 / #15 was Peter Parker’s comic book debut, and it has auctioned for as much as $1,1000,000!

detective comics 272: Detective Comics #27

Here’s the issue of Detective Comics you need to know about! This comic is the world’s first look at Batman, who would become increasingly prominent in Detective Comics until he wound up starring in his own franchise. It’s a comic that would spawn a legacy that’s still going strong over 7 decades later, but of course, you didn’t need us to tell you that. Detective Comics #27 routinely sells for over $1,000,000, with its record high value being $1,380,000!

action comics 11: Action Comics #1

Okay, we weren’t exactly coy about our number 1 pick, but why should we be? Action Comics #1 is the indisputable holy grail of collectible comic books by a long shot; even the super expensive comics on this list can’t compete. Not only did the first issue of Action Comics introduce Superman, but it also laid the foundation for the superhero genre and the entire comic book industry. This is a topic we’ve discussed before, but it’s impossible to understand the value of Action Comics #1 without acknowledging how much it single-handedly did for pop culture. If you’ve as much as read a comic book or enjoyed a movie featuring a protagonist with superpowers, then you owe some thanks to Action Comics. This king of comics has been sold for a record-breaking $3,207,852!

Celebrating 30 Years of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

If you grew up in the ’80s or ’90s, chances are you know all about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Brace yourself, millennials: the Ninja Turtles turn 30 this month. Does that make you feel old or what? The idea of TMNT came to life when the two men were taking a break from brainstorming in 1984,yearand the rest was history.

Teenage Mutant Ninja TurtlesTeenage Mutant Ninja TurtlesIn honor of surviving in the comics world for three decades now, we decided to blast into the past, when the concept of the TMNT was only a mind baby of the two original creators, Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird. If you work as a creator of any kind, you know how it feels for your creative gears to take a sudden halt- usually at the worst time possible. Well, that wasn’t necessarily the case for Eastman and Laird.

The First Sketch

The original sketch of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was created in 1984 when Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird were doodling during a brainstorming session, only to find that they had created something pretty catchy. The two started a small comic series on their own, which they later brought to Mirage Studios up until 1995- selling 75 issues alone. The series was also used as a mini-series in a handful of other comics companies.

The Evolution Into Cartoons and Action Figures

Teenage Mutant Ninja TurtlesAs popularity continued to rise, the target group for TMNT and Playmate Toys began to shift from teenagers to 4-8-year-olds. At this point in time, Eastman and Laird made the tough decision to “soften” the image of the 4 ninja turtles, which stirred up a variety of discussion and feedback from the original TMNT fans. Not everyone was happy with the shift, but we love it when a comic we care about gets in front of more people. It means that there can be more fans to talk to. For testing purposes, the comics company aired a mini-series of 5 cartoon episodes, later leading into a larger order of episodes that aired from 1988-1996. This ended up producing a bodacious 188 Ninja Turtles episodes.

Teenage Mutant Ninja TurtlesThe plastic action figures grew extremely popular, especially with toddlers- but Playmate wanted to head in a direction that would lead them to more lucrative collectibles. So they turned their attention back to the teenagers they had turned away from. In 1996, the movie Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles came to theaters and raked in over 200 million at box offices across the country. This movie became an instant classic and people still talk about it today. The reboot spawned amazing lines of toys from bigger name companies including popular collector brands like NECA and Sideshow Collectibles.

Teenage Mutant Ninja TurtlesSo, Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, we would like to thank you for “slacking off” (as some would say) that one day back in 1984, or better yet, creating the universally-known series of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. What would the comics world have done without you?