Welcome back to Hammer Drops, where we use examples from recent auctions to illustrate lessons from our thirty years in the collectibles game. Today’s we’re looking at two lots, both key issues for the same character, from our November 28th and December 2nd sessions – first appearances of the Luke Fox Batwing.
Batwing #19 & #20 are both super modern issues, appearing on racks back in 2013. They represented a massive shift in the New 52 Bat-Title’s direction, dropping Congolese police officer David Zavimbe as the eponymous Bat-Family member and replacing him with the brand new creation Luke Fox. Luke debuted on the last page of #19 (a “1st Cameo Appearance”, in technical terms) and actually put on the Batwing armor in #20 (a “1st Full Appearance”).
While he was a new character, Fox had strong ties to the existing world of Gotham City: he’s the son of longtime Batman supporting character Lucius Fox. While the title only hung on another fifteen or so issues with Luke in the lead, his existing relationship to the Batman Family has kept him appearing over the years.
He has even moved beyond comic books, appearing as Batwing in the animated feature Batman: Bad Blood and the novel Catwoman: Soulstealer and as plain-old Luke Fox on The CW’s Batwoman. Clearly, the character is around to stay.
The Teachable Moment: “Key” and “Semi-Key” is a Fine Line
At our recent auctions, #19 sold for $170 while #20 went for $35. Thirty-five bucks for a seven year old comic is notably nothing to sneeze at, but it is still considerably less than the cameo appearance sold for. Why is that?
Well, the exact reasons are unknowable. Condition likely played a role (#19 was listed as NM while #20 was listed as VF/VF+), but the two issues were so close in condition that it shouldn’t have that dramatic an effect. Scott and I offer two additional theories, both relating to the razor-thin line of demarcation between key and semi-key:
- Mine is that the character is best known, thanks to TV’s Batwoman, as Luke Fox. Ergo, it is the 1st appearance of Luke Fox – not Batwing II – that people care more about. If the show gets to the point of Luke taking up the costumed identity, we can expect that demand for Luke-As-Batwing’s debut will rise.
- Scott’s is that #19 would be just a little bit rarer than #20. Batwing clearly wasn’t selling all that well to be so massively overhauled and #19 was solicited with a focus on the old Batwing quitting. Conversely, #20 was solicited as the debut of the new Batwing, whose costume design (including a new, face covering armor) enhanced the mystery of who it would be. As such, retailers savvy to the key-hunting tendencies of the modern collector would have been more likely to order more heavily #20 than #19, meaning the last page cameo may well have had a smaller first printing and be that much rarer as a result.
It could be neither of those, it could be a mix of both, but what is absolutely certain is that this wasn’t a fluke – #19 regularly sells for up to double the price of #20. The real lesson here is that “Key” walks a fine line. Incredible Hulk #180, first cameo of Wolverine, is worth considerably less than his first full appearance in #181, but that pattern didn’t hold here. It takes research and a keen eye to pick up on these trends and that’s where you friends at Back to the Past can help you out a lot if you’re inclined to sell your collection. And if you prefer our help to remain more passive, come back here in two weeks for a new installment of Hammer Drops!