5 Comic Books Outperforming Gold And the S&P

Editors' pick: Originally published August 18.

Every time a comic book movie makes hundreds of million of dollars, a comic-book owner's collection gets a little more valuable.

Warner Brothers' take on DC Comics' "Suicide Squad" made more than $200 million in its first two weeks of U.S. release despite absolutely putrid reviews. That's on top of the more than $330 million Warner made on the equally miserably reviewed "Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice" earlier this year. Yet that's only good enough to rank them third and fourth, respectively, among comic-book movies released this year, with Disney and Marvel's "Captain America: Civil War" ($407 million) and Fox and Marvel's R-rated "Deadpool" ($363 million) coming out ahead in the U.S.

With Disney and Marvel's "Doctor Strange" yet to come in November and both the DC and Marvel universe movies plotted out until at least 2020, established comic properties are going to continue to be steady moneymakers for Warner, Fox and Disney. But will they produce dividends for comic book collectors as well.

The answer is yes, as long as you know what you're looking for. As Marvel and DC bring more characters including Doctor Strange, Captain Marvel, Wonder Woman and Black Panther into the mix, the comics in which they made their first appearances and the books that featured key storylines from their films tend to appreciate in value.

The folks at finance site GoCompare checked in with comic book expert Duncan McAlpine of the U.K.-based Comic Book Price Guide to assess the value of more than 100 comic book titles. Among them, 80 fared better from the beginning of the economic downturn in 2008 to the start of 2016 than the S&P 500. The S&P managed a 39.1% return, while the highest-ranking comic book saw its value skyrocket by 26,567%.

Just to give you some idea of just how well the price of comics can fare under the right circumstances, GoCompare looked at the five top-performing comics from among McAlpine's recommendations and saw significant gains against not only the S&P, but the price of gold as well. Tomorrow's blockbuster film is today's low-cost investment in an acid-free envelope with a backing board:

5. Tales To Astonish, No. 13 (1960)
5. Tales To Astonish, No. 13 (1960)

Value: $4,000

Price gain: 648%

Don't doubt the value of a talking tree.

Before Groot was riding with Star Lord and the other Guardians of the Galaxy, he was saving us from aliens from the Planet X in Atlas Comics -- a precursor to Marvel. Behind artist Jack Kirby's stark imagery and writer Stan Lee's imagination, Atlas laid the foundation for one of the greatest comic empires of all time by simply churning out sci-fi titles like Strange Tales, Amazing Adventures and World of Fantasy.

At a time when the label's superheroes were limited to holdovers like Captain America, The Sub-Mariner, Marvel Boy and the original Human Torch, other genres brought in the cash. Groot wasn't meant to be a superhero but, as the years progressed, the job just found him.

Meanwhile, if you invested the $535 the book was worth in 2008 into the S&P instead, you'd have just $1,200. Bet it on gold, and you'd get just $1,100.

4. Pep Comics, No. 22 (1941)
4. Pep Comics, No. 22 (1941)

Value: $280,000

Price gain: 748%

What is MLJ Magazines, the company that first produced this title? Well, you know it now as Archie Comics.

A comic book doesn't go from a 10-cent cover price to six figures without something fairly significant happening within its pages. In this particular comic, we get our first look at Archie Andrews and his gang in Riverdale. Jughead Jones, Betty Cooper, Veronica Lodge, Reggie Mantle, Sabrina "The Teenage Witch" Spellman and Josie and the Pussycats would follow, as would an entire reboot of the series last year that likely did wonders for this book's value.

This book was already worth $33,000 in 2008, but after Archie struck a new deal with Random House in 2010 to increase production, the value of this original soared. By comparison, investing that $33,000 in gold yielded $67,200 during the same span. The S&P fared slightly better, boosting it to $71,300.

3. Marvel Super-Heroes, No. 18 (1969)
3. Marvel Super-Heroes, No. 18 (1969)

Marvel Super-Heroes, No. 18 (1969)

Value: $1,000

Price gain: 1,058%

The Guardians of the Galaxy were an obscure Marvel team even in their best years.

While the value of this book rose from 25 cents when it was published to $95 by 2008, that's still a fairly low bar by superhero origin standards. That price didn't really budge until 2010, when Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige name-checked Guardians of the Galaxy as a potential film at the 2010 San Diego Comic-Con. The price started to soar when Marvel confirmed that it was in development at the 2012 Comic Con. After landing Chris Pratt as a lead, a perfect '70s AM Gold mixtape as its soundtrack and $333 million at the U.S. box office alone in 2014, the Guardians of the Galaxy became full on rock stars.

The return on their debut book basically maintained parity with gold and the S&P until 2012. But by this year, the $95 it was worth in 2008 translated to just $205 on the S&P and $193 in gold.

2. New Mutants, No. 98 (1991)
2. New Mutants, No. 98 (1991)

Value: $250

Price gain: 4,900%

No, Deadpool wasn't always the wisecracking, fourth-wall breaking, R-rated mercenary that Ryan Reynolds used to steal moviegoers' dark little hearts. He wasn't even that the last time Reynolds played him in "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" back in 2009.

Nope, in fact, it isn't until about five years after his first appearance that he takes on the Marvel comics jester role and starts mugging for the readers. When he's first introduced in this New Mutants storyline, it's as a supervillain that's loosely based on Deathstroke from DC's Teen Titans. But, by the late '90s, Marvel's antihero streak that gave rise to Wolverine, The Punisher and Ghost Rider earlier that decade was starting to wear a bit thin. Deadpool retained some of the less-moral elements of those three, but grew more self-aware and pop-culture savvy. He didn't want to be the joke; he wanted to be in on it.

Remarkably, it took almost 20 years for someone to get the character right on screen, but the fact that notoriously dour Fox held the rights to his character didn't inspire confidence. Neither did the weird power-sucking version of him from "Wolverine." In fact, this book was only up to $5 in 2008 and hovered at $11 three years after Deadpool's first big-screen appearance. Even when production began on "Deadpool" in 2010, the needle didn't move at all. It wasn't until footage began surfacing in 2014 that this book's value began to soar.

While its returns were on par with the S&P and gold in 2012, that $5 from 2008 will get you just $11 from the S&P today and only $10 in gold.

1. Batman Adventures, No. 12 (1993)
1. Batman Adventures, No. 12 (1993)

Value: $800

Price gain: 26,567%

So, this is awkward.

"Suicide Squad" is a big reason for this book's recent surge in value, but for the wrong reason. Yes, this is the first time that "Suicide Squad" member and Joker paramour Harley Quinn appears in a comic, but this isn't her first appearance in general. Harley Quinn originally debuted as the Joker's sidekick in an episode of Batman: The Animated Series that first aired on September 11, 1992.

However, Quinn didn't start appearing in comic books until 1993, when she was basically ported over from the television series. Also, the form of Quinn that audiences saw portrayed by Margot Robbie in the film didn't appear until DC rebooted its whole line of comics in 2011. But who are we to argue with success? This book cost $1.25 when it was released and was fetching all of $3 back in 2008.

Once "Suicide Squad" was announced in 2009, the value of the book started climbing -- first to $75 in 2012 and then more than tenfold to present day. Considering that $3 investment in 2008 gets you $6 today from either the S&P or gold, maybe it's O.K. to let folks overvalue a questionable "origin" issue of a comic book. We're sure even die-hard fans don't mind the payday.

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This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.

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