Do you own a Hobbit comic? Or are you surprised to hear that such a thing exists? Could they ever turn into moneymakers? Tell us what you think!
J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and subsequent sequel trilogy the Lord of the Rings are cultural powerhouses. During the recent Marvel tv show, Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Bucky (the Winter Soldier) mentions reading The Hobbit when it first came out in 1939. It’s a small joke, but it raises a question? How many books written eighty years ago are name-dropped on one of the most popular tv shows today?
I was thinking about Jeff Smith’s Bone and how its nearest comparison was probably the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. That got me thinking about The Hobbit. I knew that there was a trade paperback of the Hobbit, but figured it was a standalone trade. It turns out that I was wrong. The trade collected three issues put out by the now-defunct Eclipse Comics. The three-issue Hobbit comic series was a faithful adaptation of Tolkien’s written word. His words were accompanied by fantastic illustrations by David Wenzel.
With people going crazy about the latest minor character showing up in t.v. or movies, how come no one has mentioned that Gandalf the Grey has a relatively affordable first appearance? Everyone is so caught up in chasing books like Special Marvel Edition #15 or Invincible #1 that no one is paying any attention to one of the greatest and most popular characters of all time.
Tolkien books have always commanded a premium. First editions of the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings go for astronomical sums. These are well-regarded jewels in the book world. In the comic book world, these three issues took a page right out of the story and put on a magic ring so that no one could see them. These comics were released in 1989, and the Hobbit #1 has- wait for it- eighty copies in any condition on the CGC census.
Compare that to the previously mentioned Invincible #1, which has over twelve hundred copies (and climbing) on the census and came out fifteen years later. Of course, a lot of collecting is about what’s hot today and speculation about what will be hot tomorrow. This has led to the big numbers for Invincible and similar books like Jupiter’s Legacy. Somehow lost in all this speculation was the news that Amazon would be producing a live-action Tolkien show.
J.R.R. Tolkien is synonymous with the works he created, but most people are unfamiliar with his son, Christopher. Christopher finished his father’s epic, The Simarillion, and worked tirelessly to see other works get published, including his own exhaustive history of his father’s work on the Lord of the Rings. In much the same way as Gandalf, Christopher was the unseen steward of Middle-Earth. He was overly protective of anything having to do with his father’s legacy, and hated the liberties Peter Jackson took with the source material in making his two movie trilogies set in Middle-Earth.
The movie rights were something that Christopher had no control over, though- they were sold way back in the 1960s. Everything else fell under his protection. In 2017, Amazon announced the Tolkien t.v. show; it was the same year Christopher Tolkien announced he was stepping down from running the Tolkien Estate. Coincidence?
When George Lucas turned Star Wars over to Disney, the floodgates opened wide. All kinds of media and merchandise came pouring through. There has been speculation that Christopher’s exodus could lead to a similar result when it comes to Middle-Earth. A new comic book series could easily accompany the upcoming show. And if there are new comics, watch out. If comic readers get re-introduced to Tolkien and realize that these issues are out there, these books will skyrocket in value.
As it stands now, you can get most of the Hobbit comic issues raw for $15 to $25 apiece. At the time of this writing, there are only 2 listings for these books in graded condition- a CBCS 9.6 of issue 3 for $135 and a signed set of issue one in a CGC 9.4 and issues two and three in 9.6 for $549. These books are hard to price, currently, because of how few copies exist in graded condition. There just haven’t been a lot of them available for sale, even during this recent comic boom.
A Look to the Future
Middle-Earth has long been a favorite place for millions of people to escape into. Whether it’s been through books or movies, Tolkien’s work continues to resonate eighty years after it first appeared. For whatever reason, these three comics have stayed under the radar since they first came out in 1989. It seems doubtful that this will continue to be the case.