Can the Immortal Hulk Die?

by Blaise Tassone

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Immortal Hulk is a hit for Marvel because it is a modern comic that does what too many modern comics have stopped doing, or at least stopped doing competently and/or well: it tells a great story.

Is this enough to maintain its value and keep returns on this modern book strong?

To clarify the topic of this post, I am not evaluating the artistic merit of the Immortal Hulk series. This title recaptures all the best elements of classic Hulk stories while still managing to organically develop the character of the Hulk/Bruce Banner. The result is something that may well outlive other modern Marvel titles and, dare I say it, end up an ‘immortal’ run.

I was late to appreciating this book. Having now read the first eleven issues, I can say that I’m hooked.

The central problem facing the old Hulk stories was always the same: how do you make a protagonist who is invincible and unstoppable interesting and still maintain suspense for the reader over a long run?

If you’re Al Ewing and Joe Bennet you do that by exploring the tragic side of the monster that is the Hulk. The return of Bruce Banner might have been handled very differently and never have seen the kind of enthusiasm it has.

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The secret to the success of the Immortal Hulk, in other words, is how it takes the element of the classic Hulk stories that made them potentially limited (the Green rage Monster always wins and cannot be beat) and makes it a source, not of heroism and thrills but, of horror. The frustration facing Banner as he realizes that the Hulk cannot be stopped is made palpable in this comic and so it hearkens directly back to the original 1960s roots of the character and Stan Lee’s evoking of a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, meets Frankenstein meets modern Atomic science gone mad, theme. As such, Immortal Hulk successfully taps into such universal themes and topics (conscious versus unconscious desires, the inner demons we all have) and connects with readers on multiple levels. We breathlessly witness the horror unfold as Banner nightly relinquishes control of his life. What will the Hulk do next?

For all these reasons, I’m not surprised that Immortal Hulk is Marvel’s most popular book right now. That brings us to the topic of this blogpost: After one year plus worth of stories, what will Immortal Hulk #1 do next?

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Immortal Hulk #1 (June 2018) – Alex Ross, standard cover

This is a comic that has been hot since its release. Will it maintain its value or end up on the chopping block? To start, IH was not exactly a low print run title, but as with so many modern books it was launched with a ton of alternate covers. Its popularity among comic readers is evident in its sales numbers. Every month the Hulk is now outselling Batman. Nothing similar occurred for the return of the Fantastic Four or Wolverine (both popular characters and launched with just as much fanfare and just as many variant covers). If Marvel had merely picked up the old Hulk numbering and said this was Incredible Hulk #718, without this same story-line, I doubt anyone would be as enthusiastic about this series.

Instead, the horror gimmick of the Hulk as reinventing itself while preserving its legacy has made all the difference. So much so, that, for a comic just over a year old, IH #1 has a sizable number of copies of the CGC census.

Currently there are 400 units of the standard cover represented. As expected, the fact that this is a brand new book means that the vast majority of certified copies are in 9.8 grade. Today a certified 9.8 has a FMV of $110.00. The returns over the last 12 weeks are as follows: after 51 sales, 9.8 copies are negative – 9.6%. The last three eBay sales were on June 18 and went for: $134.00; $94.49 and $93.00.

According to IH #1 originally shipped with at 84, 153 units. That means that there are a lot of these out there. What does that bode for the future? As with all modern comics, even when they feature a classic character, long term values are hard to predict (I’ve blogged about the reasons for this, here). As always too many of these can be found in high grade for demand to sustain these prices without an external catalyst (i.e. a movie). But as with Golden and Silver Age counterparts, there’s a subset of the modern comic that is less easy to find. The alternative cover variant.

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Immortal Hulk #1 (Waite Variant aka 16 Bit Variant Cover) – Matthew Waite cover, Incredible Hulk #181 homage

Alternate cover variants tend to attract the highest prices, at least if the comic is a popular one and this one is. In the case of Immortal Hulk, the most popular alternate covers are the following, the Crain Variant 1:25 (which means that retailers needed to order 25 regular covers to obtain one of these). This has a current FMV in 9.8 = $120.00. The Keown Variant 1:50 (FMV in 9.8 = $140.00), the Buscema Remastered Variant 1:500 (FMV c. $500.00 after 5 sales) and the Buscema B&W Remastered Variant 1: 1000 (FMV in 9.8 after 1 sale = $1, 050.00). But unless you can find one of the 81 or so Buscema B&W variants the most popular widely selling variant is by Matthew Waite. I’m not sure about the numbers on this one, since it was a creator variant. Usually those have numbers of anywhere between 300 and 800. Let’s assume the Waite variant had a 700 unit print run (as I’ve heard). When we look at the comparative CGC submissions we can see that where the standard cover is up to 400 submissions, the Waite variant has 163 total. After 33 sales the FMV for this comic in any grade is around $210.00. What do returns look like? Over the last 12 weeks, this variant has returned positive +36%, however after only 2 eBay sales: 04/18/2019 for $175.00; and a fixed price sale on 05/03/2019 that went for $238.00. That gives the comic a long term roi, over the last year, of positive +103.05%. Will it maintain these values or will the appreciation fall to pieces?….Only time and continuing demand for these books will tell. But remember, unlike comic book characters, the actual appreciation that can be seen on modern collectibles is never immortal.

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