DC Villain Books on the Rise

by Blaise Tassone

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The rise in prices for select key Batman/Joker comics after the huge success of the Joker film shows that the comic book movie connection is alive and well. In the case of DC comics, this connection was a double-edged sword until recently.

Many of the earlier DC comic related films (i.e. especially the Zack Snyder-led DCEU films) had less than glowing receptions, a fact which acted as a catalyst softening prices on key DC books.

Lately, the direction of DC films has changed and, especially after the success of Aquaman, Shazam! and now Joker, many DC villain books are seeing spikes.

Expect this to continue.

With an Aquaman, Wonder Woman and Black Adam/Shazam sequel in the pipe, it is highly likely that select DC villain books will almost certainly continue to see future bumps in value.

In this post I’m not focusing on whether or not these books will retain those higher prices (this is always a big gamble when dealing with villain-centered books), instead I will set out to explore which DC books may see the biggest bumps in 2020 and forward, and then ask whether these are worth seeking out at present.

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Aquaman #35 (September 1967) – First Appearance of Black Manta

James Wan’s 2018 Aquaman was a visually pleasing fun-filled romp and a crowd-pleaser. It was like an Indiana Jones-style superhero adventure with a James Bond-esque antagonist in the character of Black Manta. The success of Aquaman managed to lift prices on Aquaman #35 (the first appearance of Black Manta). However, although Manta was the fan favorite villain of the film, the actual bad guy was Orm/ Ocean Master. That said, it’s Manta who seems relegated to re-appear in the sequel. If the sequel is a hit (which is possible), what will happen to prices on Aquaman #35?

Since the December 21, 2018 release of the film, prices on Aquaman #35 have been mixed and leaning mostly negative. The biggest boost has been on 6.5 grades where returns are up +51.4% after 7 sales, but go up to 7.0 sales and, after 4 sales, returns are down by almost as much (negative -44.8%). Currently, 6.5 grades have an FMV of $500.00 and 7.0 is trending at $525.00. Looking at short-term performance, over the last 3 months, there have been very few sales and only negative returns where enough data is available (as in the last three 5.5 sales). The sole 7.0 sold went for a dismal $278.69. Realistically speaking, this book is a gamble, but right now there are deals on mid-grade copies. If the next Aquaman gives us a great Black Manta, I would expect prices to lift. Verdict: worth seeking out in mid-grade.

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Wonder Woman #7 (August 1987) – First appearance of Barbara Ann Minerva (New Earth Cheetah)

The blurb for the upcoming Wonder Woman sequel reads simply: “Wonder Woman squares off against the Cheetah, a villainess who possesses superhuman strength and agility.” Notice anything conspicuous about that promo blurb? Well, it mentions “the Cheetah”. We all know the version of Cheetah that will appear is the so-called New Earth (post-Crisis) modern iteration, created by George Perez and also known as Barbara Ann Minerva (who will be played by Kristen Wiig).

That news has kept copies of Wonder Woman #7 selling at strong prices over the last few months. As the release date for Wonder Woman 1984 gets closer, I expect this book to really take off. Currently, there are only 390 copies of this comic on the CGC registry and most of them are in the 9.8 and 9.6 range. The difference in price between a 9.8 and a 9.6 today is $130.00 [with 9.6 selling at $100.00 on average and 9.8 at $230.00]. Three-month short term data shows both of those grades are currently soft, with 9.6 down negative -10.6% after 12 sales and 9.8 showing negative -13.6% returns after 14 sales. The questions to ask are: [1] will the above trend reverse (yes, once a trailer drops) and- if so- [2] how high can a 9.8 go? Make no mistake you do want to secure a 9.6 or higher of this modern comic. To put this in perspective, long-term returns have been very positive for every grade above 9.0. The second WW film is due in the summer of 2020 (June 5), pre-screening has begun already and so a trailer should drop around January. When that happens, keep your eye on higher grades, which should pop. Verdict: worth seeking out in higher grade.

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Shazam #28 (March 1977) – Second ever appearance of Black Adam; First Black Adam in DC Comics

We can end with this comic. Although the Shazam! film was the weakest performing at the box-office it was nonetheless a fan-pleaser and an all-around enjoyable film. The Black Adam movie will either be something like a prequel or a standalone film featuring Captain Marvel’s evil doppelganger. What that really means is that the Shazam! film franchise may be around for a while, and that bodes well for related comics including Shazam #28. Long-term returns on this Bronze Age comic have been mostly positive. Short-term data shows that this book is retaining its value for now. Gains should happen once a Black Adam trailer drops (Black Adam is still in pre-production, so no firm release date exists).

Shazam #28 is the comic to find regarding Black Adam since his Golden Age debut is out of the price range of most collectors. Although this book is not that hard to find, with 560 copies on the CGC census, look at how many 9.8’s exist. A mere 33! In other words, this is a tough book to find in higher grades, which accounts for its high prices in those grades. In 9.4 certified condition, this comic is currently valued at $425.00 and that jumps up to $600.00 and $2,2000.00 as we move from 9.6 to 9.8. If you’re looking for a book that will sell in the present and appreciate in the future, this is one to consider. If you’re a fan of the Black Adam character, try to grab a higher grade copy (8.09.6 range) now, while they’re still affordable. Verdict: worth seeking out, especially in higher grades.


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