It’s time once more for Undervalued and Overlooked Comics! This time we’ll be looking at some Marvel comics that strayed from their superhero formula in the Bronze Age. Take a look and see what comics you just might be missing out on.
Shang-Chi in the Bronze Age
Beginning with Master of Kung Fu #45, writer Doug Moench and artist Paul Gulacy crafted a masterful six-part storyline that culminated in the epic Master of Kung Fu #50. Mixing martial arts, spy escapades, and a healthy dose of sci-fi, the story contained the ultimate showdown between Shang-Chi and his father (at least in the comics), Fu Manchu.
The issue would also be the swan song for Gulacy on the series. Despite Moench and Gulacy’s incredible run on Master of Kung Fu, this issue has been utterly ignored by collectors.
There are a paltry 24 graded copies of Master of Kung Fu #50 in the CGC census. Of those 24, only two have come up for sale this year, an 8.5 selling in a January 11 Heritage auction for just $34, and a 9.8 Winnipeg pedigree copy selling in a May 3 Heritage auction for $312. This was only the second time a 9.8 has come up for sale.
The Moench/Gulacy run on Master of Kung Fu is among the best Bronze age offerings from Marvel, combining great storytelling and artwork. You owe it to yourself to pick up a copy of Master of Kung Fu #50.
Originally created by Roy Thomas to answer the question, “What would have happened if the Martians won?” in H.G. Wells’s famous novel, the War of the Worlds storyline was one of the weirdest, most adventurous strips of Marvel’s 1970s output. Starring a warrior by the name of Killraven, the series brought the reader through a post-apocalyptic America dominated by Martian overlords.
Roy Thomas had quickly turned the writing reigns on the series to a young Don McGregor. He was six issues into his run when he was teamed with new artist P. Craig Russell.
This first issue of their long run together – Amazing Adventures #27 – would show how bizarre the book could get with a story about pregnant humans forced to give up their newborns as tasty tidbits for the Martian elite.
Despite an amazing cover by Jim Starlin and the first artistic work on the title by Russell, this is another overlooked Bronze Age Marvel comic book. With a census count of just 24, only one copy has sold this year: a 9.2 graded copy selling in an eBay auction on October 24 for just $26. You’re missing out on some overlooked Marvel weirdness if you don’t have this comic.
Doom and Ka-Zar?
Considering the popularity of Dr. Doom as Marvel’s premier villain, it’s surprising that the first issue of a series featuring Dr. Doom in his own strip tends to be somewhat overlooked and undervalued. Perhaps it’s the nature of Marvel’s split comics, those featuring two half-issue features. We saw this for many years – prices far less for series like Strange Tales or Tales to Astonish than comics with full-length features.
While prices may have jumped quite a bit in the 2021 boom, they were among the first books to begin decreasing in value and have seen some of the steepest drops. We’re seeing this even more so in Marvel’s split Bronze Age comics, ones like Astonishing Tales #1.
Featuring two stories – one starring Ka-Zar and the other starring Dr. Doom – Astonishing Tales #1 contains a fantastic Ka-Zar versus Kraven story by none other than Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, and a Dr. Doom story by Roy Thomas and Wally Wood. There are 432 graded copies in the CGC census, a number far lower than other Bronze Age Marvel first issues. While 9.8 graded copies (of which there are only eight) sell for a high price – $4,800 in each of two Heritage auctions in which it sold this year – in grades below that it’s a very affordable comic.
A 9.2 sold on December 7 for a slashed $150 and two 7.5 graded copies sold in late November for $66 and $77. Considering Dr. Doom will clearly be playing a key role in future MCU offerings, these are low prices to pay for the first Dr. Doom #1 issue.
Well, that’s all we have time for this week. Join us next week as we take a look at some undervalued and overlooked Silver Age comics.