BY MATT TUCK
Rumor has it that Marvel Studios has big plans for 2023 beginning with the long-awaited Thunderbolts movie.
There has been gossip and scuttlebutt for a Thunderbolts movie or live-action series for years. The idea intensified when Daniel Bruhl was announced as Baron Zemo for The Falcon and the Winter Solider, and that show delivered even more cause for speculation. By the end of the series, Zemo had been redeemed and was no longer cast in a villainous light. The last time audiences saw him, he was imprisoned on the Raft, but we all know that he won’t stay there for long.
Apparently, he could be released (or escape) in 2023. Earlier today, the rumor mill was churning out the Marvel news. Along with a Thunderbolts movie, there are whispers of a Shang-Chi sequel (as if we didn’t see that one coming a mile away) and a possible Nova starring role. As we break down the key issues and market impact for the rumors, let’s start today with the Thunderbolts.
There have been several incarnations of the Thunderbolts over the years, and they often come across as Marvel’s answer to DC’s Suicide Squad.
In the comics, the Thunderbolts were originally a government-funded superhero team that was sent after the Hulk in their first group appearance. While they appeared to be a standard squad of do-gooders on the surface, it was later revealed that they were classic villains masquerading as heroes. The mastermind behind it all: Baron Zemo.
Over the years, the Thunderbolts took on different looks. One of the more famous came during Secret Invasion when the newly-resurrected Norman Osborn led the team. They would be anti-heroes, helping in the fight against the Skrulls. In the aftermath, Norman raised the stakes and transitioned them from the Thunderbolts to the Dark Avengers for Dark Reign and Siege of Asgard. This could be the direction Marvel is headed.
FATWS clearly was working to establish either the Thunderbolts or the Dark Avengers as the Contessa Valentina Allegra De Fontaine began her recruiting operation with John Walker who had embraced his new role as U.S. Agent. This past summer, audiences saw Val adding to the lineup, this time working her magic on Yelena Belova, who is presumably the next Black Widow.
Since a Disney+ Secret Invasion series is in the works, Val could leverage the Thunderbolts to help her gain more power, a la Norman Osborn. By positioning the Thunderbolts as heroes in the fight against the Skrulls, she could fill in for Norman and orchestrate her own version of the Dark Avengers. Don’t forget that a few years ago, there was gossip that Marvel had commissioned a Dark Avengers screenplay, though that was never substantiated.
With so much gradually coming together, it would seem Marvel is investing heavily in the Thunderbolts. Likewise, collectors and investors are following suit. Let’s take a closer look at the current fair market values for these Thunderbolt keys.
INCREDIBLE HULK #449
This has been a hot key for years now, and we can expect it to get that much hotter now that the word is spreading about the potential Thunderbolts movie. Here we have the debut of the original team, consisting of the disguised Zemo, Moonstone, Songbird, Goliath, Beetle, and Fixer.
Hulk #449 has had a rocket strapped to it this year. While it was quietly moving up since 2019, it has been nothing compared to 2020. Two years ago, the 9.8 averaged $284 with a high of $400. Last year, the average was bumped by just $4 with no records broken. Then came 2021, and the fair market values have ballooned in epic fashion. From April to June, that same 9.8 was routinely selling in the $900-$1k range with a record-breaking $1,150 on May 6.
In recent months, the FMVs have fallen into the $650-$800 range with a 90-day average of $716. The most recent sale was for $650 on Monday, though that is likely to be surpassed now that the movie gossip is in full swing.
THUNDERBOLTS #1 (1997)
While not nearly on the same level as Hulk #449, this is a great companion piece for those early Thunderbolts keys. The bottom line for getting this one is that no matter what version of the team we see in the MCU, their first self-titled series began here.
Like all the other Thunderbolts keys, this one has been moving up in 2021. Just last year, the 9.8 averaged $87 and saw a record high of $208. Over the past 90 days, that FMV has risen to $182. Since April, it has twice reached $300 and more with a record $320 sale on April 20. The last time a 9.8 traded hands online was on October 22, and that copy sold for $113.
There is also a second print that you will want to watch for. Last year, there were no sales of any grades, and only two 9.8s swapped owners in 2019. One of those brought $69 while the other sold for $55. So far in 2021, there has been just one sale, and that was a January transaction for $179. Likewise, there has been one 9.6 to trade hands, and that was for $100 in March.
THUNDERBOLTS PRELUDE #1
Here is the copy that diehard fans will want to own. There weren’t many of these printed in 1997, so it is relatively hard to find. Up until recently, it wasn’t appreciated, either. That makes it a prime collectible in the Thunderbolts market that is rapidly heating up. In January, a 9.8 sold for an eye-popping $250. Before that, the last one to sell went for $46 in 2019.
THUNDERBOLTS #110 VARIANT EDITION
The more famous version of the Thunderbolts that would eventually become the Dark Avengers debuted in Thunderbolts #110 in 2007. This round saw the team consist of Norman Osborn, Mac Gargan’s Venom, Bullseye, Penance, Radioactive Man, Swordsman, and Songbird. The ‘07 lineup was stacked with personalities that helped make Dark Reign a success.
The Leinil Francis Yu variant edition has been the cover to own. The 9.8 last sold for $200 in June, and it has sold for as much as $275 in May. If you are looking for a cheaper investment, the standard cover brought $45 in February.
PUTTING THE PIECES TOGETHER
Since potential members for the MCU Thunderbolts are already being planted, today’s rumor of a movie beginning filming in 2023 sounds believable. Of course, we should always adhere to the Feige rule, which states that nothing means anything until Kevin Feige confirms it. Still, this rumor appears to hold water, and that at least gives us something interesting to talk about.
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, or on Instagram at matt.tuck.9933.