Welcome back to the Blogger Dome! Here, bloggers will argue different topics involving the comic book market and industry. This will be a combination of the Big Bang Theory meets the WWE. Smack talk mixed with comic book debates. Bloggers going at each other to amuse and educate our readers. And we want to hear what YOU have to say about it. Today’s topic is Incredible Hulk #340 vs Amazing Spider-Man #316. So, tune in, get comfy, and let’s get… it… on!
Ding ding! Allow me to present your newest fighters in the Blogger Dome ring… RYAN and ALAN! Fight!
Ryan: I’ve been looking forward to this particular battle for some time. I’m glad to see GoCollect gave me a worthy opponent in Alan to debate two classic Todd McFarlane covers and issues. It’s ultimately going to be a losing battle for Alan, but I respect the effort he puts forward here. When you debate things like what is the best cover from the Godfather of comics the last 30 years (or Toddfather, if you prefer), it’s like debating which ice cream flavor is the best. There is a known and quantifiable winner (cookies ‘n cream), but you really can’t go wrong with anything you choose.
Such is the case here. ASM #316 is great! But Hulk #340 is so iconic, so recognizable, so synonymous with Copper Age comics. There really isn’t anything at Marvel that can top it. There are plenty of ways we can take this battle. Alan – and all of you – actually knows which is the real winner before we even get started.
Alan: The way you know that something is NOT a sure thing, is that someone is telling you it’s a sure thing. But let’s not be too hard on Ryan, he does a good job with what he has. The reason to own either of these books is Todd McFarlane. An artist who changed the industry and a man who has a lot of Steve Jobs in him. He held to his vision while delivering great art at the end of the 1980s. And how often do you get to say ‘great art’ and ‘1980s’ in the same sentence? There are two undeniable epic things about McFarlane’s time at Marvel – and neither of them has anything to do with the Incredible Hulk. He brought new life to Spider-Man, forever altering the character. He also delivered Venom, the most dominant force of character since Wolverine.
Round #1 First Blood!
RYAN: It’s Simply An Icon’s Most Iconic
There really is not much of a debate as to which are McFarlane’s most iconic Marvel covers. Choose which one you want to be first and which one you want to be second, but Hulk #340 and Spider-Man #300 without a doubt get the Gold and Silver medals. It’s really just about what comes in third, which is where the conversation for ASM #316 can begin. Poor Alan, he just got stuck with a Bronze medalist at best.
But for my money, Hulk #340 stands alone up top. I mean, even ASM #300 was replicated just one issue later in ASM #301, just with a different suit. At least ASM #316 only has one cover swipe that I am aware of. It does stand the test of originality. Still, we shouldn’t soon forget the impact of Hulk #340.
McFarlane’s run on the Hulk cover lasted for only eight issues, but they were so impactful – particularly #340 – that it is widely believed there would be no McFarlane Spider-Man without them. That’s right, no ASM #298, #300, #301, #311, #313, #316, or #328. No Spider-Man series #1-16. No spaghetti webs. Two months after Hulk #340 was released, McFarlane would start on Amazing Spider-Man #298. Coincidence? I think not.
This cover is what cemented McFarlane’s place in the upper echelon of Marvel’s artists and led him to the Marvel pantheon of Spider-Man art. It is so original, creative, artistic in its use of color, and imaginative that it has been replicated at least 10 times with various cover homages, including one by McFarlane himself on Spawn #226.
Do you know how many hits Road Crew, Joy, and the Quarrymen have combined, Ryan? That’s right, zero. Because there is always a time before an artist is great when their work is just ok. And sadly, Hulk #340 is just ok. Sure, it leads up to better things to come, but is that not a reason to buy this book rather than ASM #316; not even close.
Ryan did get right that Hulk 340 is an iconic cover, but only because it is all about Wolverine, the best Marvel character of all time (as I proved, winning the Blogger Dome about Hulk #181 versus ASM #129). ASM #316 is a dominant McFarlane cover because it is the first full cover of Venom and is in the run that creates McFarlane’s icon status, his run with The Amazing Spider-Man. Skip the warm-up session and buy the world tour.
Round #2 Second Swing!
RYAN: What Do You Prefer In Your Comic?
Have you had a chance to read each of these issues? I hope so, because this is where Hulk #340 is going to build its lead against the challenger. Let’s break this down into simple points in favor of the Hulk:
- Hulk #340 is 36 pages compared to 23 pages for ASM #316. Quantity AND quality.
- Spider-Man and Venom actually only appear together in about four pages in ASM #316. They meet, Venom throws some slabs of meat at Spidey, and it’s over. If you were looking for a story about Black Cat or Mary Jane Watson, ASM #316 is probably for you.
- Hulk and Wolverine have a showdown for no fewer than 12 pages in Hulk #340. Both sides drawing a significant amount of blood. Truthfully, the ASM #316 cover is quite misleading, as there is never a moment where the two are that close to one another. The Hulk #340 cover is just the teaser for the beginning of something special.
- It’s not a coincidence that the battle between Hulk and Wolverine takes place in a snowy forest area. It clearly harkens back to the first clash between the two in Incredible Hulk #181 and just adds another layer to the classic battles between the two anti-heroes.
While Hulk #340 clearly delivers a knockout blow just on the cover alone, comics are more than just great covers. If you’re looking for more meat on the bone in the interior of your comic book, ASM #316 just doesn’t hold a candle to Hulk #340.
ALAN: When Grey Is Not The New Green
I took Ryan up on this challenge and read both books on Marvel Unlimited, a great way to read old classics and test drive new books you may want to start collecting. In classic villain fashion, Venom does spend the entire issue chasing Spider-Man and wreaking havoc along the way. Sort of like a real story. Wolverine and the X-Men show up with the Hulk the way Scott Baio shows up on a sitcom that is about to get canceled, just a guest appearance to try and pump ratings.
ASM #316 shows McFarlane at peak creation – his spaghetti-style webs, oversized eyes, and dynamic flying yoga poses forever changed how we see Spider-Man. And we loved it. McFarlane was a bold artist when editors wanted things to march to the status quo. The McFarlane story only makes these books have more long-term value (check out this interview for more).
But the title character in Hulk #340 is a refreshment that barely moved the needle of interest at the time. McFarlane’s style of detailed muscles that made Arnold Schwarzenegger cry in envy, you would think would be perfect for the Hulk. Somehow, it just doesn’t work. I challenge Ryan to go out and ask any child on the street, is the Hulk green or deathly zombie grey? I think we know where McFarlane went too far. He brought a level of artist detail to Bruce Banner that some people loved and some didn’t. By the time he gets to ASM #316? He has his detailed drawings in full glorious form, even down to MJ’s giant 1980’s hair.
Round #3: Third Strike!
RYAN: The Investment Value is Exploding
The question with both of these comics is not are they rising in value, but is it sustainable? All comics in all genres are rising in value, but when we compare apples to apples with these two books, there really is no contest.
First, an image of what I like to see when I invest in a high-grade comic:
What you see here is the return on Hulk #340 from January 2020 to today in both CGC and CBCS labels, currently selling above $2,000 for a blue label 9.8. Even grades ranging from 8.5 to 7.0 matured between 69% and 156% in that same timeframe. Digging into the recently sold items, you will find that 9.8s in this book are selling right about $2,000, with Signature Series copies going well above that.
If you plug in the same parameters for ASM #316 – CGC and CBCS, January 2020 to today, last 10,000 copies sold – you will find recently sold prices for a 9.8 at just around $1,500 with appreciation in that timeframe at less than 50% what Hulk #340 has seen. Looking at these books as potential investment pieces for the future, it’s a simple numbers game. Looking for a book that has grown in value 315% in less than a year and a half? Hulk #340 is the one.
ALAN: Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics
So, what Ryan is saying is that you missed this rise in value, sorry fellas, too late. Fair enough. Now let’s ask the deeper question, which of these books will hold their value and continue to rise in the future?
When collecting on the basis of the artist (not the story, which is the case here), the best investments are usually the classic works, not the early iterations. McFarlane made his mark in redrawing Spider-Man, and that is where you want to be. Not every Jack Kirby book has staying investment power, not every Frank Miller book has been a good long-term investment. Stay with the classics once the run-up is over, as it clearly is over a book like Hulk #340.
RYAN: Often Imitated, Never Duplicated
As I mentioned above, the Hulk #340 cover has been swiped at least 10 times in the 33 years since it was released. Covers from Spawn to TMNT to Rick and Morty to Marvel Zombies to Power Rangers have all paid their respects to the master with their version of the image. If you Google “ASM #316 cover swipe,” you’re going to find that McFarlane swiped it himself in his run of Spawn homage covers in Spawn #222, but that is it.
But despite the respect that this Hulk issue is shown by the copycats, nothing will ever compare to this original cover. In fact, there is an argument to be made that there has not been a more attractive or attention-grabbing Marvel cover since Hulk #340 was released. Only the Toddfather could take a cover of a superhero comic book, have the title character only appear slightly in a reflection, and have it become one of the best images in all of comic history.
Find your copies of these books or pull up the covers online. Put them side by side. Now ask yourself, “Which one of these is special? Which one is historical? Which one is timeless?” The answer to all three will always be Hulk #340.
ALAN: Let’s Let Todd Decide
Ryan is correct in focusing on the cover art of Hulk #340 as iconic. In the days of graded books that sit on our walls, where we enjoy only the cover art, this makes sense. But, ask yourself which two characters are hotter and still building attention – the Hulk and Wolverine or Spider-Man and Venom? I think the latter pair is on the upswing. As a bonus, ASM #316 has a good dose of Black Cat, who, as I mentioned in my post on the King in Black series, is poised for some attention.
If we could meet up with Todd McFarlane, maybe he would tell us which book was better? Which character is the winner, as he brought new life to these characters. We don’t need to sneak across the Canadian border to meet him, he already gave us the answer in ASM #328. Talk about an amazing cover and a book that still presents good value (spring of 2021 sales for a graded 9.8 book are around $200 according to GoCollect). McFarlane brings together these two characters he evolved. Spider-Man comes out the winner, with Peter Parker shooting Bruce Banner literally out of this planet but then rescuing the Hulk before he drifts to a scorching death in the sun. Todd is telling us all who the winner is in his mind, and it has always been Spider-Man.
Ryan is fundamentally right; there is not a bad choice here. Owning something by McFarlane seems like an essential part of the comic industry story and a solid investment. It may just come down to choosing Wolverine or Venom as your cover character preference. Art is always hard to judge. The impact McFarlane made on comic sales has to speak to how drawn to the art we all are. In this case, it really wasn’t the storylines, it was the dynamic new visionary style of illustration. In the end, I (Alan) just can’t get behind the changes Todd brought to the Hulk (color, head shape, etc). But I loved the Spider-Man changes. So, as with all art, there is no wrong answers and buy what you love. I have to confess to owning and treasuring both! (Ryan: So do I!)