This is a follow on article to the one that examines the history of Marvel’s direct vs newsstand editions. Specifically, I am looking for early Marvel direct editions to speculate on, given that they are less common and might command some premium over the newsstand editions.
For Avengers, the first direct edition was Avengers #156 in January 1977. I am not sure if there was any earlier direct editions of Avengers but my search turn up nothing.
Avengers #162: During the 1977-78 period, the most significant appearance would be Jocasta in this issue. Jocasta had made 170 comic appearances since then. Her most current appearance is in the Iron Man 2020 comic which means Jocasta is still being used in current comics.
Avengers #158: Another worthy issue to consider is #158. This is the first appearance of Graviton, a powerful villains that is always somehow under perform relative to this potential. Graviton has made 85 appearances in comics thus far and has not been used in MCU yet.
Avengers #167: This issue has no first appearance but is the start of the Korvac saga. Korvac himself has been rumored to appear in the MCU, although there was no confirmation. If he indeed is used, Korvac sage books are likely to be in demand, include this issue.
However, I was unable to find any direct editions on Ebay. It could be that none are listed or there is no direct edition for this issue. If any readers have any confirmation on this, please leave a comment to let me know.
Amazing Spider-Man series
The direct edition for ASM started with #164. Unfortunately, there isn’t many key issues within this late bronze age runs. There are some first appearances but I am not sure if they will ever become strong characters.
Amazing Spider-Man #167: This is the first appearance of Will O’ the Wisp, a very minor villain. He appeared 33 times since his introduction with the latest in the recent Ravencroft series as an inmate.
While Will O’ the Wisp is not a strong villain, we have seen similar class of villains getting some speculation heat after being announced for a movie. I have looked at what potential returns you can expect if that happens to villains like Will here.
Amazing Spider-Man #172: On paper, Rocket Racer should a character that no one cares. However, with the trend of black characters getting more spotlight, Robert Farrell might get lucky. He has appeared 51 times since #172, mostly as a a supporting character.
Amazing Spider-Man #184: Another minor villain called the White Dragon makes his first appearance in this issue. Besides fighting Spider-Man, White Dragon also squares off with Shang-Chi and might appear in his movie as one of the rumored tournament’s fighter.
The earliest direct edition issue I can find for Thor is #256, published in February 1977. Unfortunately, from #256 to #280, there isn’t really any key issues to focus on.
In case you forgot, there is a rumor saying that Thor Corps might be appearing in Thor #4, the movie. Among the Thor Corps members, Red is a possible candidate.
Red himself is a pretty low usage character, appearing only 29 times since he was introduced as Thor here. I wish there are better books for this run but in general it is pretty non eventful.
Fantastic Four series
The earliest direct edition I can find for Fantastic Four is #179, published in February 1977. There are nice minor keys within this late bronze age run, including introducing more of Salem, the city which Agatha Harkness is based in.
Fantastic Four #186: I introduced this book in my article on WandaVision speculation because it was part of Marvel’s essential reading list for the show. This issue introduces the Salem Seven, a group of magically mutated superhumans. The previous issue #185, also introduced the son of Agatha Harkness for the first time.
Fantastic Four #204: This issue has been seeing a little heat in recent years due to the Nova rumors. This issue features the first appearance of Queen Adora and Nova Prime. The latter evolved to a villain to Richard Rider. The next issue #205, also officially introduces the Nova Corps to the Marvel Universe so it is a minor key to look out for.
Fantastic Four #189: Quasimodo makes this first appearance in this issue. He was created by the Mad Thinker as a semi sentient computer to deal with the Fantastic Four. Since his introduction here, Quasimodo has made 40 appearances, which is pretty healthy for a minor villain.
Strangely enough, I can’t seem to find the direct editions for Fantastic Four #204 and #189 on Ebay. I assume they should existed but my assumptions can be wrong.
Direct edition Marvel comics from the 1976-78 era are an interesting niche to collect. The purpose of collecting them should be because of their scarcity rather than any significant content. Any first appearances within any of these issue is purely a bonus to add value to your collection.