Mark Millar is in the news today. In what might be a sign of things to come Millar’s new comic “The Magic Order” (first issue available June 13th) was directly commissioned by Netflix. Millar (who developed the Old Man Logan character, the Kick-Ass franchise, Kingsman: The Secret Service etc.) is writing the comic and it will be illustrated by Olivier Coipel. The Magic Order will be distributed both directly and digitally but, it’s been announced, will have only a single print run and is being created explicitly for simultaneous development as both a comic and a web-based TV series.
Hollywood and mainstream television (but also mainstream tech giants like: Amazon, Hulu and Netflix) have long been taking a great deal of their material and ideas from comic books. Perhaps it’s only natural that comic creators have begun to skip the middleman (the old established dinosaur publishers, i.e. DC and Marvel) and jump straight to the very lucrative movie and TV deals without having to first go through the established protocol of working up an idea for the print company and hoping a movie studio takes interest. Or, you can do what Millar did, he was lucky enough to have his independent comic publishing venture (‘Millarworld’) bought up by Netflix.
In comic book speculation terms, it’s hard to say whether or not Millar’s new work (or his old for that matter) will become highly sought after by collectors. The premise, summarized here, sounds appealing enough:
“We live in a world where we’ve never seen a monster and these people are the reason we sleep safely in our beds. Magic meets the mob in The Magic Order, as five families of magicians sworn to protect our world for generations must battle an enemy who’s picking them off one by one. By day they live among us as our neighbors, friends and co-workers, but by night they are the sorcerers, magicians and wizards that protect us from the forces of darkness….unless the darkness gets them first.”
So it sounds like Millar is giving us the Dresden Files meets the Godfather. The single print run may or may not help this comic’s viability as a collectable- I don’t know the exact size of the print run as I write this, but it’s been reported that pre-order sales are already above the 140, 000 mark, so a 250 – 500, 000 print run is not out of the question. However, as with so many transitions of comics to other media, for every successful adaptation, i.e. one that sends an established comics franchise up in value, there are just as many, or perhaps more, that lead to either a very momentary bump in price or nothing at all. Let’s face it, in the long run, outside of a very select few special keys (Amazing Fantasy #15, Actions Comics #1 and Detective Comics #27) not all comics can maintain their high prices.
True, we know what the Marvel movies did for the flagship Silver Age keys of the Marvel Universe, like Tales of Suspense #39 and Avengers #1, and we’ve also seen how the phenomenon of the Walking Dead, once adapted to television, made the first issue of that series a modern goldmine.
Nonetheless for every Avengers movie or Walking Dead tv series there are two or three movies or television series that either barely register with comic collectors or give only a momentary bump in terms of collectability appeal and price to the original source material.
As examples, and to take only a few, think: ‘Smallville’, which did very little for DC’s ‘Superboy’ comics. I-Zombie, the first issue of which is not exactly hot (even if her first appearance is actually not I-Zombie #1 but ‘House of Mystery Halloween Annual’ #1 cover date Dec. 2009 –sleeper key???). Also, recall how the Keanu Reeves Hollywood ‘Constantine’ movie and the later short-lived (albeit much more faithful to its source material) ‘Constantine TV series’ didn’t exactly send the price of the Vertigo Hellblazer comics to the moon. And, whatever else its virtues, the Arrow TV show that began the plethora of CW comic book inspired offerings we currently enjoy – with its reboot of the Green Arrow character as, basically, a Green hooded Batman – seems to have done very little to push old Green Arrow comics into a high profitability zone.
This all speaks to how much comic speculating as any other kind of speculation and the predicting of future trends, is a hit and miss art.
So when it comes to comics developed specifically for other media what should the speculator do? Some comics based originally based on toy lines (G. I. Joe #1) are currently valuable and sought after so there’s absolutely no reason why one commissioned by a movie rental business turned original producer of content should impact the collectability of a comic either pro or contra. In the case of a writer of the talent of Millar, given his established success in the comic book business, it won’t hurt to pick up a copy of The Magic Order at cover price. If, that is, you can find one…these are selling fast.
But while we’re on the topic, and assuming The Magic Order #1 sells out before you can find a copy, what are some of Millar’s existing work that might be worth picking up?
Here we are delving into the sphere of modern comics (and truth be told, I’m more of a Silver/Bronze age collector-investor, even if I do own a copy of Batman Adventures #12 that –true story – I found in a milk crate at a second hand Philadelphia bookshop for 3 dollars). However, if I had to pick only three Millar comics to own – I would choose the following:
3) The Ultimates #1 (Marvel) (March 2002)
The inspiration for the current Marvel Studios Avengers films and this comic got Samuel L. Jackson cast in the role of Nick Fury. Easy to find in a high grade for an affordable price (in fact you can easily pick up a CGC slabbed 9.8 of this for under 50 dollars).
2) Kick-Ass #1 (Marvel-Icon) (June 2008 Cover Date)
The John Romita Jr. Retailer Incentive Sketch Variant Cover of this book is the one to seek out and buy, especially if you can get a good deal on it. This famous anti-hero-superhero comic has already been turned into two films and rumors are, now that Millar has joined forces with Netflix, a new Hit Girl series (following on the heels of the Kick-Ass 3 comic, is on the way).
1) Fantastic Four #558 (Marvel) (August 2008)
This comic features the first appearance of Old Man Logan in cameo. So popular was this incarnation of Wolverine that it eventually made its way to the big screen in the critically well received Logan film that closed out the Wolverine film trilogy in 2017. Now that Marvel has reacquired the rights to the character, we might get another Wolverine movie franchise and maybe even the return of Old Man Logan on film. This is my number one pick of Millar’s work and I would try to find it in 9.8, this is a modern comic after all, don’t settle for a lower grade.