Peacemaker is about to debut in the DCU via a James Gunn-directed film and then an HBO Max Series. With at least one other project in the works, what are the overlooked Charlton/DC keys you should buy now?

Bet on Blue

Charlton Comics began in 1944 as Frank Comunale Publications, with Ed Levy listed as publisher. The imprint would be re-christened as Charlton in 1946, continuing mostly as a freelancer imprint that specialized in Romance, Western, and Horror anthologies –some of which earned their notoriety in Fredric Wertham’s infamous Seduction of the Innocent.

In 1960 Steve Ditko teamed with prolific writer Joe Gill to create a new version of the obscure Nationwide Publications character, Captain Atom, in Space Adventures #33. In 1964 Gill would revive the old Fox Comics character, Blue Beetle, as a campy, comedic hero in Blue Beetle #1 (Vol. 2), and a year later Fightin Five #40 would introduce readers to Pat Boyette’s Peacemaker. When Ditko left Marvel in 1965, Charlton editor (and frequent DC freelancer) Dick Giordano lured him back into the fold to revive Captain Atom, leading to a redesign in 1967’s Captain Atom #84, and the creation of The Question as a backup feature in yet another launch of Blue Beetle #1 (Vol. 3). Thus, the four, tent-pole titles of the Charlton Universe were in place –even if their success would be short-lived.

Peace Sells

Most of these comics are impossible to find in high grades. Even mid-level specimens have climbed out of reach for most collectors. That said, they are never getting cheaper than they are now. Compared to 2nd tier Marvel or DC Silver Age keys, these are actually quite cheap. Still, not many collectors can spend $3500 on a CGC 9.0 of Fightin Five #40 without really feeling it in their bank account. Is there an affordable alternative key issue that offers that same potential for a price increase? But on a much more modest budget?

Yes. I speak of Captain Atom #83, the first appearance of Ted Kord as the 2nd Blue Beetle. But instead of seeking out the 1966 Charlton original, check out the pricing on the 1977 reprint from Modern Comics. A 7.0 of the Charlton comic will set you back $400 or more. But the second printing in the same condition is likely to peak under $90. There are only 321 total copies across all grades for each of these comics (which makes them both sound investments). But the embrace of second printings by contemporary comic collectors exemplifies a particular potential for growth in this specific reprint.

Another Modern Comics reprint worth picking up is the 1978 reissue of Peacemaker #1, which carries an FMV in 9.8 of $150 vs. the current FMV of $17K on the 1967 Charlton Peacemaker #1. Of course, these numbers are largely hypothetical because there are no 9.8s on the census for either.

Thanks, Alan Moore

It’s no secret that Alan Moore’s Watchmen was originally written around DC’s then-recently acquired Charlton characters. Unsurprisingly, DC’s top brass weren’t thrilled with the idea of killing off a bunch of characters they had just purchased.  Dave Gibbons was tasked with creating new characters modeled after The Question, Peacemaker, Captain Atom, Blue Beetle, Nightshade, and Thunderbolt. Those were, of course, Rorschach, The Comedian, Dr. Manhattan, Nite Owl, Silk Spectre, and Ozymandias. Watchmen #1 is the first in-continuity appearance of Moore & Gibbons’ heroes, but there is a single comic that connects them with their original Charlton inspirations: DC Spotlight #1.

It previews The Watchmen a full year before they would debut in their own comic. Also, it contains the first-ever glimpse of Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns. It also features a preview of Crisis on Infinite Earths, which would introduce all of the Charlton characters to the DC Universe in Crisis on Infinite Earths #6.

When The Question and Captain Atom were given their own DC series, they bore more resemblance to the Alan Moore characters they had inspired than with the original comic versions published by Charlton. There are only 159 copies of DC Spotlight #1 in all grades on the census. With a second confirmed season of The Watchmen coming to HBO soon, this is a great comic to have in your collection. Even if the Charlton connection is a bit tremulous.

Vigilance is Value

The earliest cast confirmations of James Gunn’s soon-arriving The Suicide Squad helped spike the value on all comic first appearances of the announced heroes and villains. Lagging somewhat inordinately behind are the first DC appearances of the Charlton characters in the movie. An established constant in value tracking within this hobby is the catalyzed potential of official continuity. In other words, key events and appearances deemed canonical appreciate at a higher rate than those perceived as being outside the official chain of events.

When films closely interpret comic events, the value of the issues that originated them rises well above the industry average. All future media adaptations of Charlton characters will be as part of the DCU. It’s a foregone conclusion that the DC Comics versions of their origins will inform the cinematic and streaming content. That makes Vigilante #36 a superb investment.

This first appearance of Peacemaker on a DC Comics cover was published a full year before Peacemaker #1 (Vol 2), and is a rare Copper Age key that has no sales history on the census. That makes this a great comic to seek raw in high grade.  Even the premiere issue of the first DC Peacemaker series is legitimately rare with only 18 copies on the census (14 of them 9.8). With so few in circulation, high-grade copies should maintain a higher value even as more copies are submitted.

Meet the Tiger

Peacemaker was reintroduced in the 3rd issue of DC’s 2nd Blue Beetle Series from 2006, and it’s been observed that the look of the character in the trailer closely mirrors the look here. While it is easy to predict a slight lift in pricing for Blue Beetle #3 (Vol.3), there is less potential for serious value appreciation since there is also an absence of noticeably unique attributes.

We know from a recent casting notice that Nhut Le has signed to play Judomaster in Peacemaker for HBO Max. Special War Series #4, the first appearance of Judomaster from 1965 is exceptionally rare. A CGC 9.4 sold in February for $379.99. There are only 3 individual comics in better condition and only 27 total copies across all grades on the census. This practically screams for a coming correction. It also indicates that James Gunn is greatly expanding the presence of Charlton characters via the Peacemaker HBO Max series.

While there’s no guarantee that more Charlton heroes are on the way, Tiger seems very likely. Tiger was Judomaster’s sidekick and also appeared in the Nightshade back-up stories in Captain Atom. Here, an adult version of Tiger is Nightshade’s martial arts instructor. Tiger’s first appearance is in Judomaster #93, which is even rarer than SWS #4. There are only 6 graded comics on the census. There is a Modern Comics reprint of this as well, for which there are no graded copies registered.

The Squad

Nightshade first appeared in Captain Atom #82, then entered the DC comics universe along with all the other Charlton Characters in Crisis on Infinite Earths #6. A more significant appearance followed as part of John Ostrander’s relaunch of the Suicide Squad, started in Legends #3. This is a somewhat underrated key. It’s common knowledge that Ostrander’s comics were the biggest inspiration for James Gunn’s team choices. There has been no announcement connecting Nightshade to Gunn’s The Suicide Squad. Still, the source material really does suggest a down-the-line debut in the DCU.

As a first team appearance available for under $150 in CGC 9.8, Legends #3 has some room to grow. Ditto for Legends #1, which is the first appearance of Amanda Waller and Brimstone as well as the first post-crisis appearance of Captain Marvel under a classic Darkseid cover. These both sell for about half the price of Suicide Squad #1, which went to print four months later. That said, there’s still a lot of long-term potential in the first issue of the first ongoing Suicide Squad title. But there may be another comic that promises a higher return on investment.

Do We Know the Plot?

Secret Origins #14 is a Legends tie-in that arrived mere weeks ahead of Suicide Squad #1, establishing the new origin of Task Force X in a jumbo 52=pager dedicated entirely to Amanda Waller’s revolving team of expendables. The “Trial By Fire” story that starts in this issue is heavily rumored to be the plot of Gunn’s movie. The latest trailers seem to support this. Maxing out under $100 for a CGC 9.8 seems very cheap. Especially considering that this was the first comic to feature the Suicide Squad logo on its cover since the Silver Age.

While the forthcoming Blue Beetle movie from director Angel Manuel Soto will be focused on the Jamie Reyes incarnation introduced into continuity with Infinite Crisis #3, #4, and #5, it will inevitably provide additional value to other Blue Beetle keys, most of which are Charlton comics. No matter what we see on the big or little screen in the near future, the stats showcase how Charlton key issues have been criminally undervalued for too long.

What do you think? What other Peacemaker-related comics are you buying? Let us know in the comments! As always, find what you enjoy collecting, do your research, and have fun!

This blog is written by freelance blogger Matt Kennedy: Matt Kennedy is owner of Gallery 30 South and author of Pop Sequentialism: The Art of Comics. The first comic he bought on the newsstand was Werewolf by Night #32 which he somehow managed to keep in good enough condition to get it graded 9.0 forty years later. Please follow him @popsequentialism on Instagram & Twitter and visit his website: