BY MATT TUCK
Hourman is getting a movie, and no one cares. If he were a Marvel property, his keys would be on fire, but that may not be a bad thing.
Let’s face it, if Hourman were a Marvel property, it would be the hottest comic on the market right now. The prices would be going through the roof and setting new records by the day. But Hourman is not Marvel; he’ll be part of the DCEU. And in the eyes of the secondary market, it’s just not the same thing.
On the plus side, that creates a DC secondary market that has become a viable option to those overpriced Marvel key issues.
IT’S MARVEL’S WORLD
There is no question that movie news rules the market. WandaVision is a prime example. Week after week, every Easter eggs caused prices to inflate beyond belief, culminating with White Vision and West Coast Avengers #45. By the end of February, the 9.8 of this issue flew from averaging $170 a year ago to as much as $1,500. Here we are at the tail end of the March, and it is still bringing $1,200.
To a much lesser extent, the same happens with DC keys. True, when a character is featured prominently, collectors make a dash for their keys. Of course, the trouble with DC is that their characters are so old that the first appearances are usually from the Golden Age, and the age alone brings a high price. Instead, collectors aim for the first Silver and Bronze Age appearances. Look at the original Captain Marvel. After the success of Shazam! in 2019, his first Bronze Age appearance didn’t exactly break the market, topping out at $775 for even a 9.8.
But it’s just not the same as when Marvel even hints at something new on the horizon. For that matter, it doesn’t even have to be a character; it can be an object.
In the final episodes of WandaVision, we were first teased with a glance at what was assumed to be the Darkhold. In the finale, it was confirmed. Now the first appearance of a book is taking off, and Marvel Spotlight #4 at a 9.8 is approaching $1k. For the matter, the first mention of the Darkhold in Marvel Spotlight #3 has reached $999 and is still climbing.
That, my friends, tells the whole story of the MCU’s reign over the secondary market, and that will be the case for a long time.
WandaVision can troll fans all they want, but there is a reason that we comb through the details and try to predict every aspect of the MCU’s future. If you wait until things are official, then it is too late, and those prices inflate to the point of being unaffordable overnight. As we are seeing with Phase Four, the MCU effect is even more prominent these days. Being in front of what the MCU is doing can mean the difference between getting that key you’ve always wanted and it being unattainable. Troll us, criticize us, but the secondary market is all about being the first to get to those keys while prices are low. Once the MCU alludes to a character, or even an object, then it is already too late in most cases.
THE DC KEYS
When it comes to the DCEU, however, there is a significant difference. It isn’t that DCEU news does not raise awareness for a key issue or impact prices, but it is nothing like what we see with the MCU.
Take the Hourman. It was only days ago that Time-Warner announced that a feature film was in the works. That will make for a mad dash for his key issues, right? Not so much. Granted, the first appearance of the original Hourman in Adventure Comics #48 from 1940. Of course a comic that is 81 years old will be expensive. What about his first appearance in the Silver Age? Shouldn’t that comic automatically be elevated to the upper echelon? This is where we truly see the difference between the MCU and the DCEU, at least when it comes to key issues.
The Justice League of America #21 from 1963 marked the first Silver Age appearance of both the Hourman and Doctor Fate, whom we know will be featured in Black Adam. You would think that a key issue featuring two characters bound for the DCEU would be making leaps and bounds in the market. While the 9.8 and 9.6 have shown impressive figures, the rest of the grades have seen only a minimum of sales volume and none have shown any outstanding numbers. Even a 9.0, which is nearer a 9.8 in a Bronze or Modern Age, it has only sold once in 2021, and the price has risen by less than $70 in the past two years with only 23 universal grades on the CGC census.
On the other hand, look what happens to keys when Marvel mentions even a minor character. For all intents and purposes, Agatha Harkness had her one-and-only starring role in WandaVision. Yet, her first appearance in Fantastic Four #94 has skyrocketed. Take that same 9.0 grade I mentioned earlier. Whereas JLA #21 has only gained $70 in two years, FF #94 at the same grade has jumped from $125 last year to $737 this month.
Imagine if characters like Doctor Fate or Hourman were part of the MCU? I can guarantee that JLA #21 would have far exceeded the confines of a $1,000 fair market value.
What about other DC characters? What heights would their key issues have soared to if they were under the Marvel banner?
One of the more surprising boosts has been Calvin Ellis’ first appearance in Final Crisis #7. That issue has reached as much as $700 on March 1 with the potential for more if the Superman reboot does in fact take place on Earth-23. Since we are still awaiting more information on the next Man of Steel, the issue has cooled, and it is now selling for $410. But imagine what heights would already have been reached if Calvin was a Marvel property? His case is similar to Miles Morales - a modern African-American character taking up an iconic mantle. In Miles’ case, all it took was a Playstation video game to put his first appearance into its own gravitational pull. Had Calvin Ellis and Superman been part of Marvel, it is not hyperbole to say that Final Crisis #7 would be putting up similar numbers to Ultimate Fallout #4’s 2020 FMVs.
All that being said, the limited inflation for DCEU keys has a silver lining, at least with everything outside the Golden Age.
The state of the secondary market is one of unprecedented growth. Comics are booming thanks to the MCU and, since last year, Star Wars. Practically any key issues, even minor ones, have become too expensive for the casual fan, and the FMVs are growing every day. At this rate, there won’t be many first appearances left that haven’t gotten out of reach for the average collector, and that will make those minor appearances that much more valuable as a side effect.
That is why collecting DC keys is a viable solution for many collectors. Thanks to the success of Zack Snyder’s Justice League, mainstream and hardcore comic fans alike have fallen in love with the DCEU. It took four years, but Snyder grew the DC fanbase, and it will inevitably affect the secondary market. For the time being, those DC keys are affordable compared to the Marvel keys. That is a gift all in itself. If chasing the latest MCU key is too rich for you, the DCEU creates viable options. It is a parity the market desperately needs with all those Marvel keys getting so expensive by the day.
As you watch the comic market tick off overwhelming prices for practically everything Marvel, don’t forget that there are plenty of DC keys waiting to be added to your collection.
Matt Tuck is the author of the novel, Lost Bones of the Dead. He is also a teacher, freelance writer, comic collector, and an international man of mystery. You can follow him on his Facebook page, The Comic Blog.