BY MATT TUCK
What If…? introduced the MCU to zombies in spectacular fashion. While their first appearances are getting the attention, the real winners in the undead scramble are the different printings of Marvel Zombies #1 as well as two prospects to keep an eye on.
They have arrived - the superpowered zombies of Earth-2149.
By far, the Marvel Zombies were the most anticipated piece of the What If…? puzzle before the initial episode. When Marvel released the teaser art, the squeals of joy from the comics community were 90% for the zombies. (I counted each and every one and made a pie chart; technically it was 89.876%, but what’s a little rounding between friends?)
The episode itself was entertaining, but it was not on the level of the previous entry with Doctor Strange Supreme. Still, Episode Five did its job, showcasing Earth-2149 and giving non-comic fans a glimpse of the Marvel Zombies. With the story itself confined to 32 minutes, there simply wasn’t time to fit an entire character-driven, emotional epic along with establishing the zombie-infested Marvel Universe. Let’s face it, the vast majority of fans just want to see zombies (I totally counted all of them, too), and Marvel Studios delivered.
For what it was, the episode was exciting and teased viewers with the zombie versions of the famous superheroes that MCU fans wanted. Even within the PG-13 constraints, What If…? managed to push the envelope into horror territory with more gore and blood (though black instead of red to avoid the censors, I imagine) than I was expecting after the first two very Disney episodes. As a whole, the zombies’ introduction was a rousing success.
I have no doubt that there is more to come, especially with the cliff-hanger ending the episode left us with. As I wrote in “What If...Marvel Zombies Invade the MCU?,” the Marvel Zombies have a future in the MCU, and I am certain they will resurface when the time is right. With the Marvel Halloween Special coming next year, that would be the perfect time to bring them back.
With Marvel Zombies hype at its peak, it is no wonder prices are going up for those MZ keys. Take a look.
MARVEL ZOMBIES #1
The most logical assumption is that the zombies’ first appearances in Ultimate Fantastic Four #21-22 would be the first keys to hit record numbers. While they are getting the benefit of the What If…? zombie exposure, it’s been the 2006 Marvel Zombies #1 that has been hitting the high marks.
When the issue first launched, it was popular enough to get four total printings, each with a classic Marvel cover with a zombie flare. Cover collectors have flocked to those particular issues for 15 years now, but with the superpowered undead in the alternate MCU, the audience will expand exponentially. Here’s your market report on each printing.
This one reached a record high just this week. The image of zombie Spider-Man in a warped version of Steve Ditko’s Amazing Fantasy #15 has become something of an icon for the superpowered undead, and cover hunters seek it out just for that reason.
Whether graded or not, the first print prices are picking up steam. Up to September 4, raw copies generally stayed in the $50 range. Since Monday there have been sales from $75-$100. On the graded side of things, that same first print has fetched as much as a record-breaking $515.
SECOND PRINT/VARIANT EDITION
For the second print of MZ #1, the publisher went with what they knew would be a sure-fire hit: a Todd McFarlane homage. In this case, it was a zombie take on the ever-popular Spider-Man #1 from 1990.
Anytime there is a Spider-Man #1 tribute cover, it sells, and this Marvel Zombies version is no exception. This month, raw copies have earned anywhere from $40-$60. As for the graded variety, there has not been a 9.8 sold online since July when one brought $155.
Another classic cover given the zombie treatment, this issue is an homage to John Romita, Sr.’s Amazing Spider-Man #50. Last month, a graded 9.8 brought a record $125. While there have not been any other slabs to swap hands online since then, the raw copies have enjoyed the popularity of What If…?. Values have increased by $10 on average since August, and they are generally selling for $30 this month.
Not to be forgotten, the fourth print has been on the rise as well, though not at the same rate as its predecessors. On July 29, a graded 9.4 sold for $74. As for the raw copies, this tribute to Jack Kirby’s Incredible Hulk #1 has been selling for close to $20. That may not sound like much, but consider that they were $5 comics in June.
There’s more than just Marvel Zombies #1 to whet your appetite for Marvel’s walking dead. Here’s three comics that will be worth your time to keep on your watch lists going forward.
MARVEL ZOMBIES #2
I expect this could become a favorite among Marvel Zombies cover hunters in short order. With the What If…? episodes focusing on the earlier phases of the MCU, newly indoctrinated fans will gravitate toward anything with the Avengers. The zombie Avengers were the centerpiece of the latest episode, not to mention Zombie Captain America is so heavily featured that he already has a Marvel Legends action figure. That will add even more value to the second print, the nightmarish tribute to Avengers #4.
At the moment, MZ #2 is dirt cheap. A raw copy sold for just $9 on September 6. The last time a graded 9.8 traded hands online was in 2020, and it went for $47 in November. However, a 9.2 brought $80 this past April, which could be a hint that values are about to go up.
MARVEL ZOMBIES RESURRECTION #2 GREG LAND VARIANT
Here is a great cover that could easily fly under the radar. During the newest What If…? episode, the most fearsome zombie of all turns out to be the Scarlet Witch. Since she retained her reality-bending powers, the undead Wanda Maximoff was the scariest Zombie Avenger of all. That should create a fan following for Zombie Scarlet Witch, and the fanfare could boost the value of her cover appearance on the variant art of Marvel Zombies Resurrection #2.
The last time a graded 9.8 exchanged hands online, it went for just $40 a month ago. Just yesterday, a raw copy brought $10, which is about half the price it was bringing in July.
AGE OF ULTRON VS MARVEL ZOMBIES #1
This issue has spec written all over it (not really because that would lower the grade). Anything Marvel Zombies is hot right now, and the indication is that there is more to come. Since What If…? is a direct spinoff from the MCU, specifically the Avengers movies, then it would stand to reason that we could see other zombie-fied moments from the films. What would be more fitting than seeing James Spader return to voice Ultron and his minions at war with the Zombie Avengers?
If that were to happen, this issue spun out of the 2015 Secret Wars storyline would get an immediate bump. At the moment, raw copies are almost being given away on eBay. Some listings for the standard cover are as low as $0.99. You can probably find these in the $1 bin at your local comic shop.
AN UNDEAD FUTURE
Granted, there is not much we haven’t seen with zombies over the past decade. Still, seeing the Marvel superheroes in zombie form is fun to see, and there is no question more is in store for them in the MCU. It will keep these issues in the spotlight while the world waits for more from Marvel’s undead nightmare.
Matt Tuck is the author of the novel, Lost Bones of the Dead. He is a professional writer, avid comic collector, former teacher, and an international man of mystery. You can follow him on his Facebook page, The Comic Blog.