Saturday, August 2, 2014

Market Spotlight Report:  Sunfire & Big Hero 6

Sunfire & Big Hero 6 have been speculator darlings for some time now, for lots of reasons.  Tops on that list being the fact that the property has an animated feature from Disney coming out in late fall.  Disney is a powerful horse to be hitched to, and the creative team is helmed by the Man of Action folks.  In the comics community, we know them as crazy bastards like Joe Casey, Joe Kelly, Duncan Rouleau, and Steve Seagle.

Man of Action is responsible for stuff like Ben 10, the Ultimate Spider-Man Cartoon, and Avengers Assemble.  They know how to transition comic book material into other quality media.  So Big Hero 6 seems like a pretty strong play on paper, and the returns have already been solid.  Alpha Flight (2007) # 17 is the first appearance, and that trades for around $40-$50 in nice raw condition.  The first issue of the initial mini-series sells for similar figures.

Those books do not have particularly large print runs.  These were niche books, and hitting right smack in the "we don't overprint any more" era of Marvel.  Again, on paper this has all the makings of a long-term speculator bonanza.

Having just watched the trailer for the upcoming movie...I feel like The Move is to cut bait on everything before the 2008 series and sell for whatever you can, as soon as possible.  Judging from the trailer, your POV character is Hiro, with his trusty balloon robot companion Baymax.  They're both great, but they bear little resemblance to those early Marvel issues.

In the Sunfire mini-series, Hiro wears glasses, appears a little older, and cobbles together guns to fight off secret agents.  Baymax is absolutely unrecognizeable as the same character.  In the trailer he's a dopey, harmless looking balloon blob.  In the comic, he looks like a giant angry lizard.

If you squint really hard, you can trace the lineage back.  Both Hiros are smart kids that program an artificial sidekick to take care of them.  I'm not suggesting that these early Big Hero 6 books have no future value.  I'm saying that when a kid comes out of that Big Hero 6 movie, the best case scenario is that they are very excited about what they saw.  When that kid gets to the early Big Hero 6 comics, he or she won't recognize the Hiro and Baymax on the covers, and they won't give a flying fig about no damn Honey Lemon or Sunfire.

So why would anybody pay big money for characters they can't emotionally connect to the thing they actually like?  Answer: I don't think they will.  I think the earliest issues of Big Hero 6 are not good long-term plays, and I would get out toot sweet.

Things get a little more interesting when you get to the 2008 mini-series by Chris Claremont and David Nakayama.  The Hiro and Baymax from that series visually "feel" much closer to what's going on in the trailer.  I think the movie audience might find some resonance in that series.  These books also do quite well in the current secondary market.  No single issue from that series approaches the $50 mark like Alpha Flight # 17, not even the first issue.  I have seen complete sets of the five issue series go for $100, though.

Should you sell those right now and avoid getting burned?  Hmmmm....I don't know for sure.  I'm fairly risk averse, and this feels like risk.  If I had one set of the 2008 Big Hero 6 series, I would get out now and make sure I'm in the black.  If I had multiple sets, I absolutely positively would sell at least one set now, and if you really believe the audience will feel that emotional connection between comic/movie, you can hold on to the rest for greater gains.  It's definitely something you should be thinking about now if you're holding this material for profit.

Other Books That Have Recently "Popped"

Hellblazer:  Phantom Pains

John Constantine has been a big earner for me in my history as a book scout, and I expect the upcoming TV series to increase those earning opportunities as demand outpaces the already limited supply.  Hellblazer is a perfect secondary market machine. It maintains a fervent, dedicated fan base, but that base is never large enough to entice DC into quick reprints.  Eventually DC does go back to press, they always do.  But there are often extended windows on huge chunks of the Constantine library.

Right now Phantom Pains is sitting directly in Crazy Town.  I recently posted a copy on Amazon for $80...the next in line for the "new" category is $225.  Now, I'm not suggesting that you're likely to ever sell that book for $200+, but I will say that listings don't get to that level unless the supply is severely stripped.  If you see this in your LCS, it's an insta-buy.  There are lots of Hellblazer titles that can make you money right now, (India, Laughing Magician, Roots of Coincidence) but that's the one I'd be most interested in.

Batman & The Monster Men

I've been waiting for this to pop for ages and eventually I'm always right.  This is not a tough thesis to crack - Batman is the most powerful force in out-of-print trades, and Matt Wagner writes a helluva Batman story.  Wagner handles the art chores on this one as well, so...double bonus!

This is an easy sell at $40 in nice condition, and as recently as last week your Amazon min for a "new" copy was over $100.  It would not surprise me to see a book like this trading at that level.  Wagner is a strong name, and Batman is the strongest brand.

Let me clarify that a bit.  Any volume of the Walking Dead is going to sell more copies than Batman & The Monster Men.  The difference is that Walking Dead is also going to stay in print, precisely for that reason.  If DC ever allowed Watchmen to go out of print, that would be a $100 book inside of a month.  Nosebleed prices happen at a magical little sweet spot between Some People Really Like This and We Don't Want To Print 5,000 Copies Because It Will Take Us Three Years To Sell Them. 

Scarlet Spider Volume 2: Lone Star

You've got a window right now on this book, and it just might be sitting at your LCS collecting dust.  This series had a decently sized cult following.  People liked the Yost concept ("All the power, none of the responsibility) and they really liked the Ryan Stegman art.

There are four collected volumes of the series, but the second has gone out of print.  Amazon mins for nice copies are trading for $40+, and there's a possibility this could go higher.  The bad news is that the Scarlet Spider series is cancelled, which makes it less likely that current readers want to go back for old volumes.  The good news is that Dan Slott is about to roll forward with "Spider-Verse", which will feature nearly every spider-character in some fashion or another.  It's going to be big, and if Kaine gets the right kind of spotlight, it could definitely drive more people toward this book.

The problem these days is that the newer material carries a pretty hefty SRP.  A copy of Lone Star at cover price is going to run you $19.99, which is a fairly steep investment if you conservatively figure a sale at $40.  If your shop is running a sale or you have a nice discount, there is room for some good profit on that book right now.

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