I recently wrote about Captain America #272 in another post which got me thinking about other timeless Mike Zeck covers. I am not the first person to write about Mike Zeck's epic run of 80s Marvel covers, but with the Covid boom for Copper and Modern Age comics (more on this later), I think it is time to check back in on these collection staples.

Mike Zeck 1,2 1,2

Considering that I am a fan of all of his work, picking my favorite Marvel covers by Mike Zeck is difficult. I cannot think of a Zeck cover I do not love. When I was a kid, Todd McFarlane's artwork on Spider-Man was the coolest, but before McFarlane, there was Zeck. While McFarlane will always represent the early 90s and the Modern Age to me, Zeck holds the crown for the 80s in my mind. In 2020, we saw comics from the Copper and Modern Ages, many of them illustrated by McFarlane, experience massive increases in value based on the cover art alone. Will Mike Zeck's work soon get the recognition it deserves as well? Let's take a look at a couple of Zeck comics that would not only look great slabbed and on display, but might provide good returns on investment too.

Punisher #1 (1986)

Frank Castle, aka the Punisher, is one of the most mainstream comic book characters there is. Chances are your mom knows who the Punisher is or at least recognizes his infamous skull symbol. Other than the Punisher's first appearance in Amazing Spider-Man #129, most comic fans would agree that Mike Zeck's cover for Punisher #1 is the most iconic depiction of the fan-favorite anti-hero. Punisher #1 not only gives us an all-time classic cover, but it is also Frank's first solo title. First solo titles are often not considered big keys unless they are from the Silver Age. This is despite first issues having widespread appeal, even with unseasoned collectors, as they are easily identifiable. With the corrections we have seen with many keys this year, I think collectors will start to acknowledge their importance. Punisher #1 is a prime candidate.

The popularity of Punisher and the significance of this title, along with a low CGC population, make it an excellent long term investment and speculative purchase. GoCollect data shows us there are only 467 9.8s and 729 9.6s on the CGC census. To put this in perspective, there are 3,622 9.8s and 4,203 9.6s for Wolverine #1. Here is why a GoCollect membership and the information it provides pays for itself. A 9.8 is currently priced at $450 and a 9.6 at $140.  GoCollect detailed sales data shows us that if you purchased a graded Punisher #1 9.8 or 9.6 in January of 2019, you have a 21.4% and 11.3% return on your investment at the time this was written, respectively. GoCollect data is an invaluable tool in evaluating an issue's performance.

These are solid numbers for a classic issue with plenty of room to grow if Frank Castle returns for a fourth movie or another television show. Amazing Spider-Man #129 has shown some upward movement this year after a cooling-off period, so I would not be surprised to see Punisher #1 soon follow suit. Between Punisher's universal recognition, recent sales trends, and the inevitability of more screen time for one of Marvel's most marketable characters, Punisher #1 is currently undervalued.  I would keep an eye out for newsstand copy 9.8s as such a low CGC population and the issue's double-size would make them genuinely rare. I give Punisher #1 a buy rating.

Secret Wars #8

Other than Punisher #1, Secret Wars #8 is arguably the most beloved and recognizable comic Mike Zeck has ever worked on.  Secret Wars gave us the origin of the black suit which dominated 80s Spider-Man titles and eventually bonded with Eddie Brock to form Venom. There have been countless homages to this cover since its release in 1984 showing us the enduring popularity of this issue.

Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars was the first crossover event in comic history. Mass production made sure issues were not in short supply and it has been a mainstay in collections since its release. Until recently, issues from the series were frequently found in dollar bins.  GoCollect data shows us there are a whopping 4,662 9.8s and 4,390 9.6s on the CGC census as opposed to Punisher #1. For years and with good cause, a 9.8 of this book hovered around $240 while a 9.6 was about $130. They are currently $425 and $220 respectively.

With a Venom 2 movie looming, this issue has understandably gotten a lot of attention this year. Secret Wars #8 has benefited from this movie news and the day trading atmosphere that sums up comic collecting in recent years and during the pandemic (more on this later). Fair market value has risen significantly across the board in all grades. If you bought a 9.8 in January of 2019, you have seen a 49.7% increase in value. A 9.6 has increased by 26.5% while a 9.4 has increased by 26.4%. Congrats, these are amazing returns in such a short amount of time.

Where does this leave us? With so many copies on the CGC census and drastic increases in fair market value, I personally would not buy this comic right now as the book is already soaring. Too often, I find social media echo chambers, blogs, and collecting applications feeding FOMO and encouraging buyers to run out and buy the next hot book when it has already taken off.  Newsstand 9.8s are absurdly priced (around $900) despite a high volume of copies due to, what I believe will be, a passing fad currently propagated by sellers to create the illusion of scarcity. Newsstands are not automatically rare. Also, Amazing Spider-Man #252 is now widely recognized as the first appearance of the Venom symbiote as it predates Secret Wars #8 by six months. I would suggest selling Secret Wars #8 to take some profit or possibly holding in the event the Secret Wars storyline is adapted in the next phase of the MCU. If you are heavily invested in Secret Wars #8, this is the ideal scenario for selling. If you don't have a copy of Secret Wars #8, don't fret, ignore your FOMO until it comes back down to Earth.

"Don't go chasing waterfalls" -TLC