One area of focus in comic collecting that has been overlooked since other forms of media began to have such a great influence on the hobby is that of hunting down key comics by top creators. Never fear. We’re here to help you sort through the top books by individual creators, both in terms of investing and reading. First up is Jim Starlin.
First Key Book
Best known for his most famous creation, Thanos, Jim Starlin has been a beloved writer and artist for decades. After leaving the U.S. Navy in 1972, Starlin began his career as a comic book illustrator. After a few issues inking and penciling various issues for Marvel, he landed his first writing gig with Iron Man #55.
Thinking that Marvel would never let him write again after that one issue, he poured all his ideas into the pages. Thus was born Thanos, Drax the Destroyer, Eros/Starfox, Mentor, and Kronos. Not too shabby at all for a first writing assignment.
With 5,567 graded copies in the CGC census, Iron Man #55 is well-known to most collectors due primarily to Thanos. Values in all grades have waxed and waned over the years as the character was first introduced in the MCU, and then became the primary villain.
Based on recent sales, we’re beginning to see some slight upward movement once again in prices paid for this key Bronze Age comic. The most recent sale was a 9.0 going for $1,850 in a February 6 eBay sale, higher than the previous six sales in this grade going back to August 2022. If you’re a Starlin collector, this is the one book you absolutely have to own.
Impressing editor Roy Thomas with his abilities, Starlin next took over first the penciling on Captain Marvel beginning with Captain Marvel #25, and then the writing as well beginning with Captain Marvel #26. Thanos, his brother Eros, his father Mentor, Moondragon, the Thing, Rick Jones, and the Avengers would all become prominent players in his ten issues on the series. Starlin would, in turn, prove himself to be not just Marvel’s go-to guy for space opera, but one of the publisher’s leading creatives.
Any of the books in this run is a worthwhile investment. They’re all really good books worth having in your collection. However, if you want to focus on just one, it should be Captain Marvel #26. It’s the second appearance of Thanos and his first cover appearance. Sales volume is down for this comic in 2023, as are prices.
Just compare the 9.0 averages: 90-day average of $192, 30-day average of $144. With Thanos no longer in the MCU, if you can’t get Thanos’ first appearance, then his first cover appearance is definitely a worthy alternative.
It’s easy to forget that in the midst of Starlin’s cosmic epics, he was also the co-creator, along with Steve Englehart, of Shang-Chi. And just because Marvel Studios is missing opportunities to utilize the character more fully doesn’t mean you should miss the opportunity to purchase his first appearance.
If you’ve been following Special Marvel Edition #15, you should know that this is a comic that has tumbled drastically in value. My advice would be to get it while it’s cold and before Marvel realizes the error of their ways.
While Starlin may not have created Adam Warlock, he was the first to showcase the true potential of the character and make him his own. His entire run on the character, from Strange Tales #178 through Strange Tales #181 and Warlock #9 through Warlock #15 represent, arguably, his greatest work at Marvel.
I can’t recommend these comics highly enough; they’re a tour de force of Starlin’s storytelling and artistic abilities.
If you had to pick one, however, I highly recommend Strange Tales #179, the first appearance of Pip the Troll. While he may not have the overall popularity of other Starlin creations from the series, Pip provides the comic relief that’s needed in a high-brow epic. He would also go on to become one of Starlin’s most enduring characters, often proving a worthy companion for Warlock and a fitting foil for Thanos.
Sales volume is down for this comic and prices have dropped since the hype wore off from his appearance in Eternals. Prices have plummeted for 9.4 graded copies – the most plentiful grade – from averages above $650 at its peak in October 2021 to recent sales below $200.
Starlin’s 1977 Marvel Annuals
Jim Starlin concluded his first run at Marvel with the one-two punch of Avengers Annual #7 and Marvel Two-in-One Annual #2. The continued story between the two books would serve as a capstone for his career to that point and end the careers (for the time being) of Warlock, Thanos, Gamora, and Pip. You can’t just pick one of these for your collection – you need to get both. They are awesome in a way that goes beyond that overused adjective.
Best of all, they’ve come down in price considerably. You should be able to find a copy of Avengers Annual #7 in the 9.4 grade for roughly $100, while 9.2 copies of Marvel Two-In-One Annual #2 are currently around the same price, although someone recently overpaid for a 9.4 graded copy, skewing values somewhat.
Starlin’s creation most overlooked by collectors is Dreadstar. The Metamorphosis Odyssey, in which Dreadstar made his first appearance, ran in the first issues of Epic Illustrated, specifically Epic Illustrated #1 through Epic Illustrated #9. Dreadstar first shows up in Epic Illustrated #3, along with the sword that was his constant companion.
However, the story didn’t end there. Two graphic novels, first The Price, published by Eclipse in 1981, and then Marvel Graphic Novel #3, serve as bridges to the ongoing Dreadstar series that began with Dreadstar #1 from 1982, the first comic published under Marvel’s Epic imprint.
If you’re budget conscious and want to pick up some great Starlin works, this is where you want to look. All are very affordable. You should be able to find even the most rare and expensive copies in high grades for $100 or less. If you’re on the hunt for reading copies, most issues of Dreadstar can be found in comic shop back issue stock for $3 or less.
Death of Captain Marvel
While working on the Metamorphosis Odyssey and Dreadstar, Starlin also found the time to create one of his most emotional works – The Death of Captain Marvel in Marvel Graphic Novel #1. A classic beloved by many, it tells the story of Mar-Vell’s losing battle with cancer.
He’s one of the few deceased Marvel characters who has never been resurrected, and, on a personal note, I hope he never is. It would rob this excellent work of its power and poignancy. A copy in the 9.6 to 9.4 grades currently runs in the neighborhood of $225 to $175. 9.2 graded copies can be found for around $100.
Work at DC
Starlin worked at DC for a while, both before and after completing his time on Dreadstar. His best-known works at DC include the creation of Mongul in DC Comics Presents #27 and the death of Jason Todd in Batman #428. While DC Comics Presents #27 is relatively cheap right now, a recent 9.0 did sell for a top price of $100 in a January 19 eBay auction.
There is some conjecture that Gunn and Safran could use Mongul as a primary villain in the new DCU, putting some distance between the new and the old by saving Darkseid for later. If that ends up being the case, prices will definitely rise. So, you might want to buy now before they do. The often-maligned Batman #428 has seen a bit of a resurgence of late, as can be seen by the 30-day average sales price at or above the 90-day average.
There are plenty of copies out there – 2,762 in the CGC census – and with Damian Wayne the announced Robin in the DCU, prices shouldn’t suddenly skyrocket any time soon.
Return to Marvel
In 1990, Starlin returned to Marvel, beginning a writing tenure with Silver Surfer #34 that would eventually encompass the well-known Infinity Gauntlet storyline. Of course, this also meant the return of Thanos for the first time in thirteen years.
There’s so much to choose from here. There’s Thanos Quest #1 and Thanos Quest #2, written by Starlin and drawn by Ron Lim, which details how Thanos acquired the Infinity Gems. There’s also Silver Surfer #44, also by Starlin and Lim. This is the first appearance of the Infinity Gauntlet.
I think the best of this phase of Starlin’s career, however, is Infinity Gauntlet #1 with an amazing story by Starlin and superlative artwork by George Perez.
There are a ton of graded copies of Infinity Gauntlet #1 in the CGC census – 11,747 to be precise. Now that the Thanos story in the MCU has finished and is a few years old at this point, prices have come down considerably.
At its peak in 2022, this was a $500 book. Now, both the 30-day and 90-day averages are below $200. It’s a fair price to pay for one of the great comics of the Copper Age.
One blog isn’t enough to do justice to the entire career of a great like Jim Starlin. There are so many fantastic works that I haven’t had the space to mention here. I strongly encourage all comic fans, especially those who enjoy grand cosmic epics, to seek out more from his illustrious career.
Do you collect Jim Starlin’s works? What are some of your favorites? Let us know below.
*Any perceived investment advice is that of the freelance blogger and does not represent advice on behalf of GoCollect.
Great tribute and story Douglas. Always one of my favorite artists. I always pick up these books any time I can. I must have at least 3 short boxes of the issues above. Thing is even though I have these books the excitement in picking up another copy is always as if it were my first purchase.
Thanks for the kind words, Mike. Starlin’s a favorite of mine as well. I also try to pick up Starlin books any time I can. Despite the fact that Marvel has clearly utilized a great deal of his work for their films, I think he’s still somewhat underrated by collectors, particularly anything other than Thanos.
How about Jim Starlin’s work on the cover of Iron Man #100? In my opinion, that is a truly classic cover, and greatly underappreciated.
Definitely agree, Jeff. Starlin drew some amazing covers that I didn’t have the space to cover in this blog. I’ve always liked his cover on JLA #183.