This week, people of all faiths were saddened by the images of fire ravaging the beautiful structure of Notre Dame. Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris is one of the most iconic European Medieval churches. In this post, I want to explore significant comic book appearances of Our Lady of Paris and her mythical bell-tower guardian, the Hunchback Quasimodo.
Notre Dame is more than a building: it is a symbol of what the human spirit can achieve. Having had songs written about it, its form portrayed regularly in all kinds of artwork (see here) and described prominently in literature (most significantly in Victor Hugo’s classic 1831 novel), it was only a matter of time before the Cathedral of Notre Dame came to be featured in comic books.
Originally built between 1160 and 1260, the Cathedral of Notre Dame was one of the most visited monuments in Paris before the fire. With its haunting Gothic architecture and beautiful stained-glass windows, its first comic book appearance is in 1944 when Victor Hugo’s famous novel is adapted.
Victor Hugo’s novel was originally set in Medieval France. When a gypsy girl called Esmeralda is framed for murder by the Chief Justice, only the diminutive, deformed, half-deaf and half-blind bell-ringer of Notre Dame Cathedral can save her. This Golden Age comic has 15 copies on the CGC census. The last recorded sale of a graded copy (according to GoCollect.com) was on Feb 08, 2018 in an eBay auction where an 8.5 graded copy sold for $460.00. Highest grade on the census is in 9.0 and that copy sold in a Heritage Auction in 2017 for $1, 673.00. Best returns since 2000 however have been on 4.5 grades.
The Classics Illustrated Reprint version of this story is very popular and much more common, but worth less money. It’s also very hard to know with the reprint if you have a first edition or not. The key is to look in the Indicia and see if the code HRN 60 appears. If so, you’re looking at a Gilberton first printing. No CGC census copies seem to exist and sales on GoCollect are also not enough to determine value on the reprints.
To my knowledge the first Marvel Comics appearance of Notre Dame and Quasimodo are in Werewolf by Night #16. After Jack Russell and his companion, the mysterious Topaz, get stopped in France, they end up in the Cathedral of Notre Dame and the Werewolf goes at it with the Hunchback. 82 copies of this book are listed on the CGC census. Current FMV in 9.8 is $220.00. The last three sales were of: an August 27th, 2018 9.8, which sold for $295.00 on eBay. A 9.2 which sold on eBay on September 18th, 2018 for $32.00; and the last recorded sale was another 9.8 which sold for $150.00 (eBay). That puts current Fair Market Values for 9.8 at $220.00, 9.6 at $90.00 and 9.4 at $70.00. Beware however, as this comic is trending down in all grades over the last year.
The original story of Quasimodo has been reprinted in comics regularly over the years. It wasn’t long before Marvel took a crack at it, and having already introduced Quasimodo into their universe, why not? With a cover by Gil Kane, this is the ‘Marvel Classics’ adaptation of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” based on a script by Naunerle Farr and with interior art by Jon Lo Famia. There are only two recorded sales of this comic. A 9.4 certified copy sold on February 8, 2014 for $37.40 (on eBay). And on December 18, 2016 a 9.2 sold for $8.50 [!] on eBay.
Pitting everybody’s favorite Gamma-ray created rage monster against poor Quasimodo doesn’t seem quite fair. Apparently this comic was based on an episode of the ‘Incredible Hulk’ animated cartoon from the 1980s. I don’t remember the episode, but the comic does feature Quasimodo and his dwellings in Notre Dame. It also oddly features Betty Ross acting as a secret agent. There are 43 of these on the CGC census. A 9.8 certified copy can fetch a fair market value of around $50.00. You can get a raw copy on eBay in high-grade for ten to twenty dollars.
Notre Dame Cathedral manages to make more appearances in titles like Spider-man, the X-Men, Fantastic Four and other Marvel comics. While it’s always nice to see it on the printed page, let’s hope the French Government can eventually restore the original structure so new generations can see it in person.