Is There Value in Comic Characters’ Death Issues?

by Mike W

072821A-300x157 Is There Value in Comic Characters' Death Issues?The valuable details of a comic, such as a character’s first or cover appearance, provide outstanding financial gain. But what about comic characters’ death issues? Do we believe they can provide financial value for the future? Or is the issue just a good read? There is a saying that “all good things must come to an end”. In the comic world, the phrase is a reference to how long a character lives until he or she meets their demise. Pretty much every major character has met their fate at least once in the comic storyline. Whether they come back or not is up to the individuals who write the stories. But what about the collectibility factor of these books?

The Death of Gwen Stacy

gwern-198x300 Is There Value in Comic Characters' Death Issues?The original Amazing Spider-Man series is wonderful to read. It explores Spider-Man and his encounters with many of the villains you see today. In addition, it introduces many of the friends and family members that help make him into the great hero he is today. Unfortunately, this particular issue, Amazing Spider-Man #121, bears sad news about a particular key character.

This issue contains the death of Gwen Stacy, as her neck unintentionally snapped when Spider-Man attempted to rescue her. (Thanks, Green Goblin.) Stacy was a very prominent character during the series and debuted as early as Amazing Spider-Man #31. In a way, it was said her death paved the way for another character to become the love interest of Peter Parker. Of course, that character was Mary Jane Watson.

Is it Worth Collecting?

dead-197x300 Is There Value in Comic Characters' Death Issues?Financially, this issue has been steadily increasing in all grades over the last couple of years. Though, in this current year, prices have spiked higher than the usual course. It is tough to say if the issue itself is “key enough” that investors and collectors keep obtaining copies. I would say it is, attributing my thoughts to the Amazing Spider-Man series as a whole. This series is a big collector series. People will pay good money to obtain the key issues they want.

An average sale of a 9.8 graded copy in 2020 was $6,094. The latest 12-month average is currently at $7,349. That is a $1,255 increase from year to year! All graded copies of this issue are seeing a positive trend. The increase in price is clearly correlated to how high the grade is. “The biggest the risk, the bigger the reward” is a good phrase that sums up bumps in prices for this book.  This is an example of a “death” issue that brings big financial gains because of Stacy’s ties to Spider-Man. Spider-Man and his popularity are humongous and anything related to him produces big returns.

Barry Allen – The Flash

show-204x300 Is There Value in Comic Characters' Death Issues?Barry Allen is a very iconic superhero in the DC Comic mythos. He is known as the silver-age Flash. In fact, his first appearance in Showcase #4 is considered the issue that ushered us into the Silver Age.

Movies and television shows have been made about this character and spin-offs of similar characters have been made, due to his popularity. Unfortunately, however, even this character cannot delay his impending doom.

During the big “Crisis on Infinite Earths” storyline from DC Comics, the Flash makes the ultimate sacrifice while saving the world.  Crisis on Infinite Earths #8 is noted as the death of the Flash, Barry Allen. He gave up his life to save the world by running so fast that his skin started to peel off. He was aware of the repercussions and his actions saved the world, but his life was lost.

Sales Data

flash-197x300 Is There Value in Comic Characters' Death Issues?The sales and numbers for this issue are quite different from the last book I discussed. Due to the age of the book and the lack of sales, the increase in value is not there. The only grade that is seeing a bump in value is 9.8. The value of this book was pretty stagnant in 2019 and 2020, with average values of $106 and $93, respectively. The increase in the value of the book has occurred in the last 90 days. The current value during this 90-day timeframe is $148.

Other graded copies are not seeing any movement.  This would an example of a “death” issue where collectors and investors do not believe the overall stock of the character is on the rise. In addition, these individuals only feel that the first appearance of The Flash and the villains he fights are worth collecting. To sum up, this issue is not worth collecting to sell, but just for personal uses. At least, for the moment.

Conclusion

All in all, I do believe there is some value in obtaining issues with character deaths. However, it cannot be just any death of a key character. If the key character, i.e. The Flash, is someone collectors and investors do not believe will gain enough traction going forward, then the issue will bear no increase in price. The character itself has history and exposure, but not enough to increase the value of this issue.

On the other hand, with Gwen Stacy, since the character is part of a more popular comic series and her exposure and popularity have been gaining lately, collectors and investors are buying into her key issues. Obviously, collectors out there believe her death issue is worth holding onto.

Do you have any comic characters’ death issues in your collection?
Tell us about them in the comments!

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2 comments

dave stevens July 29, 2021 - 2:33 pm

ASM 121 is the comic that introduced Marvel to the Bronze Age and is key for too many reasons to list. The death of Barry Allen? Nothing much to see there and certainly not the “cross-town” comparable issue. Spider-Man >>>>>>> The Flash. Not to mention, Gwen is really dead, in the universe. Her clone may have come around and she may be Spider-Man in other universes, but the Gwen whose neck snapped is gone. Does anyone stay dead in DC? Maybe the Waynes?

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Matt Kennedy July 29, 2021 - 5:01 pm

Gwen Stacy’s death is historically significant since it was the first death of a major character in a Marvel comic since the retrospective Death of Bucky when Captain America returned in Avengers #4. And Gwen was killed in real-time after having appeared almost monthly from November 1965 through June 1973. For most readers this was a character close to their own age, whose growth mirrored their own. It’s hard to overstate the cultural impact of Gwen’s death within the comics medium at the time. Readers in the letter column compared it to the death of a classmate. Prior to this (and for a long time after) most characters who were killed had been introduced in the same story (like Uncle Ben), and so they served only as ex-machina. Gwen was a vividly written, relatable and beloved character. The Death of Gwen Stacy had long lasting impact on the Spiderman Comics for decades, making it a moment more consequential than most.
The second very significant death in comics was that of Elektra. And because her resurrection was as well written as her death –and certainly a highlight from Frank Miller’s legendary run on Daredevil, it has retained an elevated value among the other comics in that run. The dozens of characters killed in DC’s Crisis on Infinite Earths actually diminish the impact of the two really key deaths (that of Barry Allen and Supergirl), and the series as a whole was really just a means to an end. Those comics are as collectible for their gorgeous George Perez covers as for their content. Marv Wolfman was probably the only writer fit to tackle a project of that magnitude, but both the Death of Barry Allen and the Death of Supergirl issues would probably be far less collectible nowadays if not for those events pictured on their covers – especially in the age of slabs. This is something they share in common with the Death of Elektra, since her garroting by Bullseye is featured on the cover and helped to propel Bullseye’s cache ever after, also.
To a lesser extent the Death of Johnny Bates aka Kid Miracleman in Miracleman #15 (November 1988) is considered the pinnacle of 1980s cynicism which epitomized the Dark Age of comics and supersedes its own plot to take on a cultural significance also. But since nobody stays dead, most comic book deaths are little more than gimmicks.

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