“Word up: I’m Super Saiyan.” - RZA


Outside of North America, the history and culture of comic books also runs very deep in many foreign countries; none more so than perhaps Japan. While the most accessible exposure to Japanese superheroes is through cartoons known as anime or through video games, their origins are in comics. Of the various titles that exist, several have gained noticeable value comparable to that of US comic books. Of these, what key Japanese comic books are worth collecting?



Arguably the most popular fiction title imported from Japan is Dragonball. From morning cartoons to video games, it’s been embraced by an entire generation of fans. We’ll pretend the live action movie Dragonball Evolution (2009) doesn’t exist. Interestingly with Fox’s recent sale to Disney, under their guidance we could possibly get to see the first decent live action adaptation.

The first appearance of Goku and the universe of Dragon Ball was in a weekly manga anthology named Weekly Sh?nen Jump; specifically it was in issue #51 released on December 3, 1984. It was created by Akira Toriyama and featured the great adventures of Son Goku and Bulma. An English version would later be published in North America by Viz Media in 1995. This book is possibly, hands down, the epitome of Japanese comic collecting. Maybe even the Japanese comic equivalent of Action Comics #1? It’s hard to pin down the current fair market value, but a copy of the book sold in April 2019 for $900 on eBay.



For the last few years, supplanting Dragon Ball as the most popular Japanese comic might be none other than Naruto. Interestingly, Snoop Dogg seems to be a fan. The first appearance of Naruto occurred also in the same manga anthology as Dragon Ball about a decade later; specifically Weekly Shonen Jump #43 (1993). There we begin the long journey of how young Naruto becomes Hokage, the greatest ninja of all. Like the above book, a fair market value is nebulous, but it does seem to carry a high selling price. A copy of this book sold in June 2019 on eBay for $188.



Another book to help start a Japanese comic collection is Astro Boy. Astro Boy’s first appearance was in 1951's Ambassador Atom, written by Osamu Tensuka and published in Shonen Magazine by Kobunsha Publishers; not to be confused with Nationwide Publications’s Captain Atom. Information on this book’s availability and pricing is extremely difficult to find. Super rare.

Interestingly, in 1965 Gold Key published their own unlicensed Astro Boy #1 comic, which the creator Tezuka strongly denounced. The last sale on eBay for this book in CGC 9.4 grade was $895 in June 2019. The questionable circumstances surrounded this book seem to have added to its value.

The unlicensed usage of Astro Boy continued through the next few years by Goldkey, Now Comics, and even in Argentina. It wasn’t until 2002 that the first legitimate English translation was published by Dark Horse Comics.




Besides the above mentioned Japanese comics, the list of other titles worth collecting is endless, but here’s a few worth looking into:

  • Ghost In the Shell - The original first appearance of Ghost in the Shell was in April 1990 in a manga anthology called Weekly Young Magazine, published by Kodansha. Dark Horse published the first English adaptation in 1995. The current fair market value of CGC 9.8 for the Dark Horse book is $150.
  • One Piece – The first chapter appeared in Shonen Jump 1997 Vol.34. This book seems to sell for around $200.
  • Sailor moon – The first appearance was in 1991 in Codename: Sailor V. This book is probably the most affordable of all the ones mentioned so far. It can sell for around $15.
  • Akira – More on this in a future article.