Madame Hydra? When Julia Louis-Dreyfus first appeared on Episode 5 of Falcon and the Winter Soldier, no less than three long-forgotten key issues started to spike. And while this reminds us that 80+ years of Marvel Comics has given us hundreds of characters. What can we learn from this one casting? What will help us spec on the investment potential of MCU characters we’ve already seen on screen?
Tales of Suspense, literally…
Much of what has made the MCU an exciting and successful franchise is the mix of old and new material that keeps fans guessing. The title of the third Captain America film was announced as Civil War. Readers of the comics were expecting an adaptation of the 2006 Mark Millar penned series of the same name with some kind of twist. Would they really kill Captain America? Would they kill Iron Man instead to recoup the sizable budget eaten-up by Robert Downey Jr’s salary?
What fans got instead was a well-written, if morally complex, introduction to Baron Zemo. (That’s in place of the Red Skull-driven plot.) This has already proven to be a catalyst of great storytelling. The potential remains for elements from Ed Brubaker’s parallel run on Captain America to be woven into the recent reveal of (spoiler alert!) Sharon Carter (aka Agent 13) as The Power Broker. That unmasking pretty much torpedoed the investment spec on Machine Man #7, since that Power Broker is a completely different character (named Curtis Jackson). But expect high-grade copies of Tales of Suspense #75, the first appearance of Sharon Carter and Batroc (as well as the first cameo appearance of Peggy Carter) to go supernova, as it has been almost a decade since the last registered sale of a 9.8.
Agent 13 Revealed
While it would have been a good idea to go looking for Sharon Carter key issues as soon as the first teaser trailers revealed her to be a part of the Falcon and the Winter Soldier Disney+ series, there is still a lot of room for her first appearance to continue to appreciate –mostly because pandemic pricing has propelled comic values faster than it has been possible to establish fair market value and because Silver Age keys have been mostly rising without dropping as the census struggles to keep up with the backlog of submissions and the overwhelming demand for graded collectibles.
One of the frequently overlooked Sharon Carter keys is Captain America #103, in which Agent 13 reveals her name is “Sharon Carter.” Six months ago a CGC 9.8 sold for just over $1000, which is what you can expect to pay for a non-key in that condition from that era these days. But if you scale down to an 8.0 there are sales this year for under $100. Considering that this is a classic Red Skull cover by Jack Kirby featuring a great title card (“Weakest Link”) and a rare Sharon Carter cover appearance (her first cover was Tales of Suspense #94, making this her fourth overall), Cap #103 is a perfect candidate for investment and maybe even better for acquiring raw to get a signature from actress Emily VanCamp (since the issue’s creative team is no longer with us).
The Contessa’s True Colors
Lest I be accused of burying the lead, let’s get back to Contessa Valentina Allegra de la Fontaine. As mentioned in the opening paragraph, Emmy Award-winning actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus has been cast in the role. For those unfamiliar with Val’s comic book history, there are many opportunities for investment spec. The Contessa was initially introduced in Strange Tales #159 as a love interest for S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Nick Fury. It was just three days after the airing of Episode 5 of Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Prices on this otherwise obscure key went bananas.
Heritage auctioned a 9.6 for $4,560 (plus buyer premium). Bear in mind that just one week earlier there was an eBay sale of a 9.6 for only $565. That is an increase of almost a full decimal point. I don’t know that there is much room to grow on that, but Valentina’s first cover appearance on Strange Tales #167 is available in VG raw for about $30 as I write this (4/27/21). It’s a classic Jim Steranko S.H.I.E.L.D. cover. Since slabbed comics completely hide interior events, great cover art has become a major factor in value appreciation throughout the hobby for comics of all eras.
And that brings us to the next incredibly over-looked Valentina key: Captain America #110. It wouldn’t be revealed until later that Madame Hydra was none other than our fair Contessa. This issue has a lot going for it, nonetheless. It introduces us to Madame Hydra (soon to become Viper). It’s also the debut of former Hulk sidekick Rick Jones as the new Bucky. The stunning Steranko cover art of a true-to-scale rampaging Hulk. This makes this a highly sought issue for the cover art alone.
With Hydra’s fate in the MCU uncertain, it is possible that Valentina never takes on the alias of Madame Hydra. But it is inevitable that she be revealed as a villain. The roots of that lead back here. The listed FMV on this ($270 in 9.0) is a little more than half of what the actual going rate is ($449 as of April 1st). By the time that gets corrected the market will be up again. I’d recommend picking this up soon but set your own personal price and condition range and stick to it. I could see this doubling again, but any price hikes after that will likely be due to rising values of Silver Age books overall more than the components that make this a key issue.
Is Kevin Feige’s plan to use Sharon Carter and Contessa Valentina as a means of regrouping and reintroducing Hydra? Then Cap #110 becomes a vastly more important key. We could see high-grade copies stretch well beyond the low four digits that we’re seeing now.