Unrelentingly Popular: The Terminator in Comic Book Adaptation

by Blaise Tassone

146047_8f6133dd912e6a38085bd44d544de0b1eb5bb309-195x300 Unrelentingly Popular: The Terminator in Comic Book Adaptation

Listen and Understand. That Terminator is out there. It can’t be reasoned with, it can’t be bargained with…it doesn’t feel pity or remorse or fear…and it absolutely will not stop. Ever. Until you are dead

-Kyle Reese to Sarah Conner in ‘The Terminator’ (1984).

Who would have thought a 1984 science fiction movie featuring a killer robot could lead to decades’ worth of sequel films, television shows and comics? Well, if that movie happens to have been James Cameron’s ‘The Terminator’, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, then the answer is: a lot of people.

The original Terminator movie is a case where the sum is greater than the parts. Featuring a kinetic plot with enough sci-fi/horror elements to make it quite watchable, once you suspend disbelief, this is a case where you can sit back and enjoy the thrill ride.

The film simply works on multiple levels and that’s probably why it’s considered a classic. In fact it was a bona fide hit in 1984; the resulting 38 million dollars it took in (that was a lot back then) making it the 20th most lucrative movie that year (and it was the third most successful sci-fi movie of 1984, just behind: ‘2010’ and ‘Star Trek III – The Search for Spock’).

Unfortunately, Hollywood just cannot leave well enough alone. If a movie makes money at the box office, even if it has a well written ending it MUST be revisited. So we got ‘Terminator 2’. And that was, to be honest….also quite good. It also had better special effects and again worked as a film standing out as the rare example of a very good sequel. So good, in fact, that ‘Terminator 2: Judgment Day’ is even considered by many to be better than the original.

The remaining sequels, on the other hand, range from ‘terrible’ to ‘not very good’. I don’t even want to talk about ‘Terminator: Salvation’ (which should have been called ‘Terminator: Purgatory,’ ‘cause that’s what it felt like watching that film in a small theater in New Jersey in 2009). I thought ‘Terminator: Genisys,’ which I only saw on video, was a tad better than Salvation, but that wasn’t hard, and nothing indicates that the next film they have planned (‘Terminator 6’) is either necessary or will be as good as the first two. Maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised, but I’m not optimistic.

So what about the comics? Terminator has a strange comic book history that, in a certain sense, mirrors its tortured film sequel history. And just as with the movies, there are some stand out and actually well-made Terminator comics. Let’s take a look at what they are.

The Terminator #1 [NOW Comics] (September 1988) – First Terminator in Comic Books

Since 1988 Terminator comics have been published continuously and by seven different publishers. This comic, however, is the one that starts it all and it is worth picking up. Now publishers Terminator series lasted 17 issues. The first issue has a script by Fred Schiller and Tony Caputo and pencils by Tony Akins. This is a colorful take on the Terminator mythos and when you read it remember that it was made before the sequel movie. Currently trending down in value (-30.7% in 9.8 over the last 3 years), it’s unlikely the new movie will do much for the value of this comic, but the last sale of a 9.8 CGC copy was for $150.00 on Ebay so it has already proven itself valuable. In any case, it will always be the first adaptation. Plus there are only 53 of these on the CGC census.

The Terminator #1 [Dark Horse] (August 1990) – Second Terminator Series

Dark Horse Took over the T-800 action when the NOW series was terminated. Scripts here are by John Arcudi and pencils by Chris Warner. This series is an improvement over the first and is more popular as a consequence. With a fair market value of $75.00 in 9.8 grade, it’s trending positive at +25% return on investment over the last seven years on 9.8 and + 49% on 9.6 grades over the same time period.

Terminator: the Burning Earth #1 [NOW Comics] (March 1990) – First Alex Ross Cover for Comics

Not only one of the best adaptations of the franchise to comics, but simply a good dystopian comic story. It picks up where the Now series ends, and the excellent Ron Fortier script is given a wonderfully beautiful look by Alex Ross. Probably the main reason to pick this up is that it is Alex Ross’s first cover art work in comics. The last 9.8 sold for $142.92 in April. I think people are catching on that this is a keeper. Best returns have been on 9.6 graded, positive (+ 41%) over the last four years.

******* Edit: 09/02/2018 ********

I did not mention, because I was unaware, that the Terminator’s very first appearance in comics was not Terminator #1 (Sept. 1988). A five-page preview in Rust #12 (Now comics, cover date: August 1988) is actually the very first appearance of the Terminator in comics. Sincere thanks to David Bundick for bringing this to my attention.

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