BY MATT TUCK
Robert Kirkman has yet another creation getting the live-action treatment, and that should have you running for copies of Hardcore #1.
Just yesterday, Universal Studios announced that not only is a live-action Hardcore in the works, but the project already has a director. Godzilla vs. Kong and future Thundercats movie director Adam Windgard will head up the film, and that should have you asking, what is Hardcore? Trust me, this is a cool concept.
Co-created by the legendary Marc Silvestri, this is such an intriguing premise that I am surprised that it took this long to come to life. The idea for the story revolves around a military operation, the Hardcore Program, that uses such advanced technology that an agent could use virtual reality to hijack anyone’s mind and body at any point. This could lead to all sorts of moral dilemmas and interesting scenarios.
After all this time, why would this idea suddenly get the Hollywood treatment? Thanks to Kirkman’s successes with The Walking Dead and, most recently, Invincible, he is a major force in the world of film and television. Naturally, studios will be farming his ideas for new projects for years to come, which makes investing in Kirkman a no-brainer.
Speaking of investing, which Hardcore comics should you be watching? I’m glad I asked.
PILOT SEASON: DECLASSIFIED #1
This was used as more or less a preview comic for upcoming projects. Among those were Stellar and Hardcore. Inevitably, many collectors will take aim at this obscure title since it technically contains the main character’s first appearance, though it is in a preview. Between the two, I would lean more toward those 2012 Top Cow issues from the self-titled series, but it will be good to have it on your wishlist, too.
This one is so obscure that there is no graded sales data to report. In fact, CGC doesn’t even have a single listing for Pilot Season: Declassified #1. Now that the news has broken, I feel sure CGC will have plenty of copies to grade very soon.
As it were, you can head over to eBay and find raw copies without much trouble. You’d better hurry if you want a near-mint grade as prices are already moving into the $50 range.
HARDCORE #1 (Top Cow, 2012)
Since Hardcore made his first in-story premiere as well as this being his first cover appearance, I believe this will be the comic to have in the long run. For the past decade, we have seen the market shift more toward those key cover appearances, and that could be tied to grading and slabbing. After all, the first cover appearance will display better than a first appearance without the character’s face on the front.
What should be even more appealing is the fact that it comes from Top Cow. The smaller, independent publisher does not have the printing resources compared to Marvel or DC. That is good for collectors because it means a low print run, and that will fuel the speculation market.
The raw copies of the standard edition have surged into the $30 range overnight, and both a graded 9.8 and a 9.6 sold on eBay for $59.99 each just hours after the live-action news hit the wire. Before that, there had not been any grades sold online this year.
There’s also a sketch variant floating around the auction sites, so keep your eyes peeled for that one as well. A higher-grade raw copy recently sold for $21 while an ungraded copy signed by Silvestri brought $79.99.
HARDCORE #1 SECOND PRINT (Top Cow, 2012)
While both the standard and sketch variants for Hardcore #1 are well worth such a modest investment, I recommend putting the second print at the top of your agenda. When it comes to a small print run, this would be lower than either of the first prints. That sets it up to become collector’s gold when the hype for the new movie officially takes hold.
When it comes to all these Hardcore firsts, they have all flown under the radar, but the second print has taken that to the extreme. The last time any graded second print traded hands online, it was in 2019 when a 9.6 sold for $6. Before that, two 9.8s were bought and sold in 2017 for a miniscule $16 and $5. Back in 2013, one brought a record-high $33. It won’t be long before we’re talking about those numbers as the “good ol’ days.” Already, raw copies of the second print have begun creeping into $20 territory.
HARDCORE #1 (Image, 2018)
After the success of TWD, Robert Kirkman quickly became a household name among comic book fans. Now he’s on the Image Comics board of directors, and that helps explain why Hardcore suddenly transitioned from the Image subsidiary, Top Cow, to the house that Spawn built.
Unless the 2018 volume has major new characters that will be the focus of the live-action movie, I can’t see Image’s Hardcore #1 outshining those old issues from Top Cow. However, that doesn’t mean you should ignore it. At the current prices, it’s worth adding it to the full set just to complete the quadfecta of Hardcore #1s.
Things are already beginning to pick up for the 2018 issue, and the 9.8 has been slowly increasing its FMV since it was first published. Back in 2019, this was a $10 comic, selling only twice that year; once for $19 and once for $2. Last year, there was just one sale, and it was for only $20, which is not even enough to cover the grading costs.
So far this year, there have been another pair of sales. Not surprisingly, they both happened to be yesterday, May 24, coinciding with the movie news. The first of those brought just $25 while the second jumped to $50.
When we’re talking about Kirkman’s creative properties, the sky's the limit. TWD may have fallen from grace, but Invincible’s popularity has put him back on the map of stars. That means that speculators will be pushing the prices of Hardcore #1s well past their current values in a short time.
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.