Modern Classics: John Byrne’s Fantastic Four Run

by Blaise Tassone

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Although we still don’t know the exact date, eventually the Fantastic Four, Marvel’s flagship superhero first family, will make an MCU appearance.

All evidence points to the fact that comic collectors are well aware of this upcoming event. The result has been a gradual rise in value on Silver Age Fantastic Four comics.

I’ve posted many times about the value of the original Lee-Kirby FF run. In this post, I want to look at long-term prospects on currently undervalued books featuring Marvel’s first family. More precisely, I will explore the currently super-affordable late-Bronze/early Copper Age period when John Byrne takes over scripts and art.

The Byrne years on the FF can be considered a renaissance in the book’s run. The original issues, written by Stan Lee with art by Jack Kirby, are the cornerstone of what would become the Marvel Universe.

Lee and Kirby, however, ended their collaboration on the title after issue #108. While post-Lee/Kirby Bronze Age issues had the occasionally solid issue or run, the quality was inconsistent. Not that this fact has stopped high-grade Bronze Age FF from selling for very high prices at auctions in recent years. In fact, the Bronze Age was also the period when Byrne began to contribute to the FF. Initially, he added only artwork to the book. In collaboration with Keith Pollard and Joe Sinnott, for example, Byrne illustrated Marv Wolfman’s “In search of Galactus” storyline starting with issue #209 (August 1979) – which is also, FF fans take note, the first appearance of H.E.R.B.I.E. the robot.

Byrne contributed periodically to art duties in subsequent months but didn’t contribute any scripts until issues #220 (June 1980) and #221 (July 1980). Issue 220 is titled, “…And the Lights Went Out All Over the World!”. With its announcement of ‘Reach for the Stars’ on its cover, this is actually one of my favorite FF stories. Here we get a back to basics sci-fi take loaded with adventure that already feels like a return to form.

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Fantastic Four #232 (July 1981) – First Issue in the John Byrne Reset of the Title

However, for the most part, and to the benefit of Marvel, during the Bronze Age Byrne focused his creative energies on the Uncanny X-Men. It wasn’t until Fantastic Four issue #232 (July 1981), after leaving the Marvel Mutants, that Byrne takes complete control of the FF title. The consecutive output of his run would last until issue #295. This period is considered a second Golden Age, but truth be told it is an uneven run. The earliest issues, such as issue #232, are the better stories and these really are a return to form for Reed, Sue, Johnny, and Ben.

As a consequence, high-grade copies of this issue have sold for as high as $399.99 (9.8 sale on eBay/02/05/2019). That’s a very strong price and far above what Overstreet values this issue at. Long-term returns are even more impressive in 9.6 (positive +108.3%) and 9.4 (positive + 80.9%) graded copies over the last ten years.

 

 

 

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Fantastic Four #236 (November 1981) – 20th-anniversary issue

This is the anniversary issue of the title and Byrne was in peak form when he wrote and scripted it. The cover could be an homage to the Fantastic Four Annual #3, but although the story also features Dr. Doom and the Puppet Master, there’s no wedding – only sci-fi action. With a total of 189 copies on the CGC census, the last high grade (9.8) sale was for $160.00 (eBay, 06/12/2019). That sale gives the comic a robust +55.2% return on investment after 27 sales between then and 2003.

 

 

 

 

 

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Fantastic Four #244 (July 1982) – Frankie Raye becomes Nova; First appearance of Nova

When you think of the Fantastic Four, it’s hard to forget about the powerhouse who is their most cosmic antagonist. Galactus, or the Devourer of worlds, has been a fan favorite since Lee and Kirby introduced him in issue #48. Unfortunately, Galactus’ run-in with the FF cost him his Herald, the noble Silver Surfer. During the Byrne run, Galactus found a new Herald and it was no less an FF regular than Johnny Storm’s ex-beau Frankie Raye.

FF #244 is my pick for most under-valued Byrne issue. With only 132 copies on the CGC census, currently, the highest sale has been a 9.8 for $250.00 (eBay/04/04/2016). 9.2 copies can sell for as high as $55.00, in other words much higher than the Overstreet listed price of $15.00. If Nova makes an MCU appearance, all bets are off on this comic.

Finally, Honorable Mentions: include, Fantastic Four #265 (April 1984), the issue where She-Hulk joins the team; and Fantastic Four #282 (Sept. 1985) a Secret Wars crossover that features appearances by Psycho-Man, the Beyonder, Vinnie Corbo, and others. Plus a great Byrne cover.

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