This is the second in my two part look at sleeper key comics. Given how fond collectors and speculators are of having the next big key issue, you’d think that all the notable keys are already known and out there selling for premium prices. That assumption, however, would be wrong.
For the longest time Hulk #271 was a dollar bin throwaway. Until, that is, a little bit of Marvel cinematic magic made it a highly desirable mega-key for featuring the first appearance of a certain Raccoon with the appellation of ‘Rocket’.
Here are my picks of three sleeper keys from DC that are still relatively affordable and may see good returns in the future.
When it comes to Superman keys, the Lois Lane comics are easy to miss. This was a particularly goofy title. How many alternate futures in which Superman marries Lois and has another Super-Baby can any sane person possibly read? But this comic will occasionally surprise you, as it does in the case of issue #17 which features the second appearance of the Silver Age Brainiac. Brainiac’s first appearance in Action Comics #242 is practically priced out of reach of the average collector. With only 36 copies on the CGC census, try to find a nice copy of this book instead. Over the last 10 years, 8.0 certified copies have seen the best returns. After 5 sales since 2013, the 8.0 grade has shown a positive +195.4% roi, but there hasn’t been a sale since 2015 when a copy sold on Heritage for $119.50 on August 16.
The first actual confrontation between Superman and Batman in World’s Finest, happens in issue #143 (from November 1964), but since (a) that fight (set on Kandor) is very speedily broken up, with the two quickly becoming friends again, and (b) it happens in the present time of the comic, I’m voting WF #153 as the first dystopian full-fledged future fight between Batman and Superman. Presented here in a ‘What if?’ fashion, as the cover blurb puts it, ‘What would have happened if Superman and Batman had become bitter enemies – on opposite sides of the law!’ Well, decades later, and thanks to Frank Miller, we know exactly what would have happened, i.e. nothing good. Even if the Zach Snyder movie may have somewhat ruined the appeal of a Batman/Superman confrontation- the ongoing fascination with the conflict has recently been brought up again on the DCEU animated series ‘Young Justice Season 3: Outsiders’. This shows how legendary a trope the showdown between Supes and Bats is. Of course, this comic is also memorable for the famous panel that has led to many an internet and social media meme. You know the one: Batman viciously slapping Robin (insert your funny dialogue into the cloud balloon at your convenience). Numbers on this book look very good considering that it mostly flies completely under the radar as a key (that’s why it’s a sleeper). With only 36 copies on the CGC census, over the last ten years returns have been best on 9.6 grades with a positive +10.5% roi after 5 sales. The last certified 9.6 to sell on Heritage auction went for $408.00 on August 26, 2018.
The first appearance of the Riddler in the Silver Age (Batman #171) is very expensive, as is the first appearance of Penguin (Batman #155) and Poison Ivy (Batman #181), but the first Two Face (Harvey Dent) in the Silver Age can be found in this comic. It is currently overlooked and has actually seen negative returns over the last year, but it is a hidden key and may pick up in value if Two Face is reintroduced in a future Batman movie. Currently, 9.8 certified copies can be found for around $700.00 and that drops to just over $200.00 on 9.2 certified copies.