When we think of comics to invest in, most people think of the big two: DC and Marvel. But historically there were more than just two companies producing comics. Even today, companies like Dark Horse, IDW and Image publish their fair share of decent books. In the 1940s and 50s there was Charlton Publications. While today everybody seems to vaguely know something about Charlton’s classic line of superhero titles: Nature Boy, Captain Atom, Son of Vulcan, The Blue Beetle, The Phantom, and The Question (probably because many of these characters were bought and then published by DC from the mid-1980s onward). During its heyday, Charlton was not known for super-heroes instead publishing widely in many diverse genres.
In this post, I want to look at these other Charlton comics, the non-superhero titles some of which are highly sought after by collectors.
The T.W.O Charles Company, founded by John Santangelo, Sr. and Ed Levy in 1940 in Derby, Connecticut, housed the original Charlton Publications. Starting out in 1945 as a subsidiary of T.W.O Charles, Charlton originally focused on the publication of hard-bound books, song lyric magazines and puzzle books. The Charlton publishing division then turned their attention to comics in 1946.
The very first comic books from Charlton Publications were titles like: Merry Comics, Pictorial Love Stories, Cowboy Western, and the gunslinger title Tim McCoy.
It wasn’t until 1951, with the hiring of an editor called Dick Giordano (later the head of DC), that Charlton started to branch out and assemble creative teams to tackle an even larger variety of comic book genres.
By the early 1960s, Charlton (now called Charlton Press) was known for horror, crime, war, science fiction, super-hero and funny animal comics. If you want to know more about Charlton and especially its early history and development, I strongly suggest you check out the detailed notes that can be found on the web pages of the the First Comic News website, written by comic historian Phil Latter.
The most valuable older Charlton comics are probably the following:
The Thing #1 (February 1952) a 7.5 sold in 2015 for $657.25 and a 4.0 recently sold at Heritage for $262.90 (in February of 2018). Space Adventures #12 (August 1954) a 9.2 sold on heritage in April of this year for $6,572.50. And finally, Young Lovers #18 (1957), a 7.5 of which sold on Heritage auction for $1,314.50 in August of 2011.
The above are all great Charlton titles, if you can find them and pick them up in a decent grade that is. They are scarce and very hard to find in good condition. I want to end by listing three rather valuable and not as hard to find Charlton titles. You might even find some of these at garage sales or on Ebay, and they can fetch strong prices at auctions:
I’ll start with this one. Yup: Underdog. Based on the animated TV series which ran on NBC from 1964-1967, the Charlton comic based on the show is actually quite valuable. With only 19 showing up on the CGC census, it seems to be quite scarce in graded condition. But to give you an idea of what high grade copies can fetch: the last two 9.6 sales were for: $896.25 (Heritage sale in 2015) and $1, 501.00 (Ebay Sale from 2014). There’s no need to fear, Underdog is here!
Charlton published the Six Million Dollar Man, based on the TV show, from June 1976 – June 1978. Altogether there were only 9 issues published in total it is the first, featuring a partial photo cover with actor Lee Majors in character, that is the most valuable. Overstreet also lists the value of this comic at far below what it fetches on the market. From data at GoCollect.com, we find that a 9.8 currently has a fair market value of $550.00. With 167 certified copies, best returns have been on 9.6 certified at positive +200.1% roi over the last 25 sales since 2007.
Not content to only publish the Six Million Dollar Man, Charlton also published his love interest the Bionic Woman. Once again based on the popular 1970s tv series, this comic is also not difficult to find. In 2013 a 9.6 CGC graded copy of it sold for $125.48 on Heritage, and a 9.2 CGC certified copy sold in January of 2016 for $115.00. There are only 53 of these on the CGC census and best returns are on 9.2 which are currently seeing a positive + 268.3% return on investment with three sales since 2013.