It’s time again for the Oddball of the Week, and this round’s award goes to the Alice in Wonderland holdover, the Jack of Hearts.
WHO IS HE?
Fans of 1970s Marvel Comics will know the name. While he earned a modest fan base in the Bronze Age, his popularity petered out by the mid-to-late 1980s. Looking like the playing card that bears his name, Jack of Hearts has an origin story that sounds like it walked straight out of a ‘70s B-movie. First of all, he is the son of a scientist and an alien from the planet Contraxia, which was featured in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Playing the part of the mad scientist, Jack’s father created a substance called Zero Fluid. As you may have guessed, Jack had a run-in with the experimental fluid, thus giving him powers.
The trouble was that he couldn’t control his new abilities, so Jack designed his own containment suit, which looked like the Jack of Hearts playing card for some reason. Maybe he was a big fan of solitaire.
In the ‘70s and ‘80s, Jack of Hearts would be a recurring character in different titles, and he had close ties to the Avengers. He would star in his own four-issue limited series in the early ‘80s, Eventually, his unstable powers became too much for him, and he flew into space to explode rather than staying on Earth and risking countless lives. He would later return in undead form during Avengers: Disassembled and later returned for Marvel Zombies.
With irreverent and goofy characters getting the red carpet treatment from Marvel fans these days, the time is right for Jack of Hearts to be introduced into the MCU. In that event, here are five issues you will want to scout.
Jonathan “Jack” Hart made his debut in the pages of 1976’s The Deadly Hands of Kung Fu #21. Clearly, this title was aiming to bank on the Bruce Lee and martial arts craze of the 1970s. Around this same time, Marvel introduced its share of fighting masters, most famously Iron Fist and Shang-Chi. Having Jack of Hearts premiere in these pages, then, is a bit surprising, considering he is known as more of a cosmic character. The bigger picture is that his ties to Kung Fu could connect him to either of the aforementioned characters in the MCU.
As with most of our Oddball Award winners, the sales for those key issues are few and far between. There hasn’t been a 9.8 Deadly Hands of Kung Fu #21 sold since 2017 when a copy brought $149. The most recent slab to trade hands online was a 9.2 that went for $60 in February 2021.
In the following issue, fans were treated to Jack of Hearts’ first full appearance.
In the grand scheme, it may technically be his second appearance, but this issue tends to bring the most money for Jack’s keys.
Like Kung Fu #21, there haven’t been many sales for graded copies of Kung Fu #22.
This year, there have been just three grades to move online. First was the 9.0 that sold for $320 in January. The following month, an 8.5 went for $334 and a 9.4 brought $935.
Following his early appearances in Deadly Hands of Kung Fu, Marvel decided to let Jack Hart venture into full-fledged superhero territory.
His first appearance in a color comic was in grand fashion as he squared off with the strongest character in the Marvel-616, the Hulk.
A month ago, a 9.0 sold for $67, which is down from the 2021 average of $90.
There are 133 books listed in the CGC census. Of those, 127 are Universal labels and 6 are yellow Signature labels. 27 are graded CGC 9.8.
During the Bronze Age, Marvel Comics used titles like Marvel Premiere, Marvel Spotlight, and Special Marvel Edition as an experiment with new characters and stories. It gave the editors a chance to gauge fan interest before committing to a full run for a new series.
In this case, their success was measurably different than Jack’s. He starred in his first solo adventure in Marvel Premiere #44, but he didn’t achieve near the fame as the others. Need a copy to call your own? The 9.8 has averaged $273 for the past year.
There’s a bit of confusion with Jack’s first self-titled comic. The printed publication date was listed as January 1984. However, the issue actually reached comic shops in October 1983. A small point, but it is worth mentioning.
For that handful of Jack of Hearts fans, you can get a raw copy from eBay for less than $5.
WHAT IF… JACK OF HEARTS STARRED IN MARVEL ZOMBIES
As the story goes, when Jack returned for Marvel Zombies, he would be the catalyst that stopped the undead superhero horde thanks to his Zero Fluid. With him playing an integral role in that tale, it could mean we’ll see a version of him in the upcoming Marvel Zombies animated series.