I never thought I would be writing one of the many Darkhawk #1 articles, but 2020 has been a strange year. Before I begin, let me say that I am a big Darkhawk fan. I am a sucker for anything from the Copper Age since these are the comics I grew up reading. Rumors of screen time for this fan-favorite have circulated for years and with recently renewed speculation, Darkhawk #1 sales have taken off. But let us not forget Darkhawk was the poster-child for comic speculation and the dumpster fire that was comic collecting in the early 90s. Let’s take a look and see if Darkhawk has doused himself and climbed from said dumpster.
Darkhawk and the 90s
In previous articles, I dove into the history of characters to explain their future relevance or current hype. I will not be doing that so much here as it is not particularly relevant for investment or speculation purposes. To make a long story short, Darkhawk’s alter-ego is Christopher Powell, a teenager who discovers an amulet that allows him to switch places with an android. Weird, right? If Iron Man and Wolverine had a space baby, it would be Darkhawk. Don’t get me wrong, Darkhawk is awesome. Awesome in the same way as Steven Seagal movies of the same era – terrible, but amazing if you are in on the joke. Is this a little harsh for a beloved 90’s icon? Maybe. Is it true? Definitely. Check out this column from now-defunct Wizard Magazine if you do not believe me.
What is more important than the character’s role in the canon is Darkhawk’s place in the comic crash of 1993. Darkhawk #1 arguably helped put comics on life support for a decade with its release in 1991. It was created by Tom Defalco when comic speculation and printing were at their peaks. Darkhawk was one of many gimmicky, cookie-cutter teenage heroes introduced at the time to cash in on what seemed to be never-ending sales. Darkhawk #1 and others saw print runs of hundreds of thousands if not millions. Every new comic was thought to be the next big thing that would eventually pay for a house and college. Everyone was opening up shops.
Buyers hoarded first issues and as much as 30% of the comics printed were surplus. Without going into too much history, the comic book industry eventually collapsed. Fortunes were lost and over 6,000 comic shops closed across America. Marvel declared bankruptcy in 1997. Darkhawk ended with issue #50 in 1995, never to really be seen again. Issue #1 was found in dollar bins across America for decades. I still have 5 from when I was a kid. You get the point.
Darkhawk and Now
Darkhawk fans have long hoped for a movie or show and their wishes seem to be getting traction with recent trademarks by Marvel. Plus, Darkhawk #1 is taking off with eBay sales of 9.8s for over $300 after sitting comfortably around $120 to $150 for years. GoCollect data show us that year to date returns for a 9.8 are +106%. Frankly, that is bonkers. If you have been holding on to copies of Darkhawk #1 since its release or randomly picked them up for cheap throughout the years, this is your dream situation.
Does Darkhawk #1’s recent activity make it a smart speculative purchase or investment? While I would say it is a perfect time to sell, I do not see much additional room for growth in this book and would not buy it at the current soaring prices. If a movie or show is officially announced, the fair market value may increase a bit more in spite of the literal hundreds of thousands of copies in existence, but not by much. However, with the recent Disney investor announcements excluding Darkhawk, chances are once again looking slim for a screen adaptation in the near future.
Darkhawk #1 is often in dollar bins for a reason. I actually came across a near-complete run at my local bookstore a month ago. The CGC population of 9.8s seems comparatively low at 651 because collectors only send off valuable books to get slabbed. Five years ago there were barely 100 on the CGC census. Now that Darkhawk #1 is spiking, expect everyone to send off their copies to get graded and for the market to be flooded. Thus, making prices drop precipitously. Also, consider that at the time of its release in 1991, comic collecting had already taken off. This caused store owners and collectors to handle books more carefully. They would leave them in pristine condition as opposed to comics of the Silver Age. There will soon be an inundation of 9.8s, the perfect time to jump in and grab one.
Are newsstand copies worth it?
With such a high print run, do not fall for the newsstand trap being laid for you. Darkhawk #1 newsstands in all grades are currently posted for absurd prices. An estimated 15% of the comics Marvel sent to market in 1991 were from newsstands. While this might seem low, with a possible print run of 300,000 plus, there are approximately 50,000 newsstand copies of Darkhawk #1. Because sellers in the know are hoarding them to manufacture scarcity and gradually releasing them into the wild does not make them rare. There is no fiduciary duty in comic collecting so be wary of the hype train. I believe Darkhawk is a victim of the rampant market manipulation we have seen during the pandemic.
If you want to pick up a graded copy of Darkhawk #1 because you love the book, rock on. But know that if you spend more than $300 on a Darkhawk #1, you WILL lose money if your purpose is to invest. Nostalgia is not enough to outpace a ridiculous surplus and history repeats itself. The rise of Darkhawk is making 2020 feel an awful lot like the 90s.
“Bulls get some, bears get some, pigs get none”