The Silver Age of comics was a strange time. On the one hand, you had a revival of the superhero and a rise in the popularity of science fiction; along with straightforward narratives aimed mainly at kids. While this was going on, there were also some clever and even absurdist influenced comics hitting the market. Falling squarely into the latter camp are the Herbie stories from Richard E. Hughes (writing under the pen name of Shane O’Shea) and Ogden Whitney.
First appearing in Forbidden Worlds #73 from December 1958, Herbie Popnecker is the lollipop eating ultra-hero (or, according to his father, the “little fat nothing”) of the later self-titled Herbie comic. In terms of imagination, narrative cleverness and sheer fun, this comic is a hidden gem from the Silver Age.
Published by American Comics Group, Herbie’s adventures begin in this title. Richard E. Hughes, Herbie’s primary creator, was actually the editor of American Comics Group. Under his pen name of Shane O’Shea (one of his many pseudonyms), Hughes conceived of a comic featuring an overweight boy with a bowl haircut who can fly, time travel and even gain extra, more exotic, powers whenever he sucks on his magic-lollipops that he gets from “the Unknown”. The original try-out stories in Forbidden Worlds get better over time, but the absurdity of the concept of Herbie is immediately evident from the outset. Other than issue #73, Herbie also appeared in issues #94, #110, #114, and #116. The first appearance of Herbie in Forbidden Worlds #73, in higher grade, has sold for as high as $896.25 (Heritage Auction of a 9.0 on 08/26/2012) and as low as $81.00 (Heritage Auction of a 4.5 certified copy on 08/02/2009). The latest (49th) edition of Overstreet has prices at $352.00 in 8.0; $601.00 in 9.0 and $850.00 in 9.2 grade. There are only 21 copies of Forbidden Worlds #73 on the CGC census and while you will occasionally see them out in the wild, these are actually fairly hard to find in high grade.
In the early sixties, Herbie’s popularity grew. Eventually, it reached the point that he began to be featured on the covers of the later issues of Forbidden Worlds whenever he made an appearance. Obviously, the time was right for Herbie to get his own comic. This happened in 1964 with the launch of his self-titled book. The 23 issues of this series (ending in 1967) constitute the original Herbie Adventures. Issue number 1 can still command high prices at auctions. Once again, there aren’t many of these listed on the CGC census. Still, higher graded copies can sell for as high as $388.38 (Heritage Auction of an 8.5 certified copy back on 11/06/2011). According to Overstreet an 8.0 has a $124.00 value and that jumps to $425.00 in 9.2. Since there have been no sales of 9.2 or higher, we can’t really say what the FMV is, but I’m willing to bet they would fetch far higher than what Overstreet suggests.
In 1990, A-Plus Comics reprinted some of the original Herbie adventures (in Black and White). Two years later, Darkhorse Comics relaunched the Herbie comic and even featured a brand new Herbie story by John Byrne. These latter-day Herbie comics are not as valuable. That’s an understatement: these are dollar bin fodder, but if there’s ever a Herbie revival Byrne’s Darkhorse Herbie might gain in value.
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