Better & Best: Most Desirable Standard/Better/Nedor Comics, at Auction
What are the rarest and most important hero comic books of the Standard/Better/Nedor comic book line? We ask the experts.
The Ned Pines Standard/Better/Nedor empire is full of mysteries and obscurities. The rarity of the handful of pulp material that Ned and Robert Pines produced in the first few years after their 1927 incorporation of Better Publications. The little-known origins of the formation of Syndicated Features Corp in 1936 by Benjamin Sangor and former New York World comic editor Thomas A. Johnstone, to be joined by Richard E. Hughes the next year. Pines' own experience with college humor magazines beginning in 1925. These and other elements all came together with the comic line we've come to refer to as Standard/Better/Nedor with the launch of Best Comics in 1939. While plenty of obscurities exist in the comic book publishing history of the Golden Age, the comic book line Ned Pines published 1939-1959 under various corporate names and imprints is probably less studied than most. That's likely to change, as there's quite a bit more to see here than meets the eye, and that extends to the rarity and collectability of the comics that Pines published.
What Does the Census Say about Standard/Better/Nedor?
Ned Pines' Standard/Better/Nedor published over 1200 comic books across 117 series from 1939-1959, while the hero and WWII-era to pre-1950 title issues that the 2023 February 23 The Thrillingly Exciting Heroes of Nedor Comics Showcase Auction #40219 focuses on account for roughly 1/4 of those. Of those roughly 300 individual issues, 15 comic books have Universal census populations of six entries or less. While any experienced collector knows that census data is certainly not the last word on rarity, numbers this low are still worth mentioning:
- Best Comics 3 — 2
- Best Comics 2 — 3
- Thrilling Comics 25 — 4
- Best Comics 4 — 5
- Fighting Yank 3 — 5
- Thrilling Comics 24 — 5
- Exciting Comics 11 — 6
- Exciting Comics 24 — 6
- Exciting Comics 7 — 6
- Fighting Yank 5 — 6
- Startling Comics 13 — 6
- Startling Comics 15 — 6
- Startling Comics 17 — 6
- Thrilling Comics 26 — 6
- Thrilling Comics 30 — 6
What Do Collectors Say about the Rare & Desirable Standard/Better/Nedor?
Of course, the reason that census data is not the last word in rarity is because relative importance matters here as well. All things being equal, an issue of a series with an Alex Schomburg bondage cover is going to have greater census numbers than the previous issue of that same series which does not have a Schomburg bondage cover. So to help give us some guidance on what's tough and/or important in this auction, we've gotten some commentary from some serious Standard/Better/Nedor collectors:
- America's Best Comics #1 – An inexpensive first issue for an important run.
- America's Best Comics #3 – The overlooked first appearance of Pyroman, and a tougher early issue.
- Best Comics #4 – This is such a tough early series. Any copies are worth getting when you can.
- Black Terror #1 – This trades hands far less often than you would think (just 3 graded copies in ANY grade sold in the past 2 years on GPA). With as popular as WW2 covers are these days, it feels like a book with plenty of room to grow.
- Black Terror #2 – A wildly undervalued issue with an epic Schomburg bondage cover. Far more rare than people realize (only 12 in census in total, only 5 above 4.0!). This one is shockingly cheap for all it has going for it.
- Black Terror #20, 21, 22, 24 – These are all in the period where Schomburg ilustrated some of his most lovely ladies. They're very nice mid grade copies that just aren't very costly.
- Exciting Comics #1 – An early first issue that is woefully undervalued.
- Exciting Comics #3, 4, 5, 6 – Cool run of early sci-fi covers that often gets overlooked as the title jumped around with cover features before the Black Terror arrived.
- Exciting Comics #7, 8 – Cool early Schomburg.
- Exciting Comics #9 – The biggest Standard/Better/Nedor key. Great cover on a great first appearance. Just starting to get the respect it deserves in the past few years.
- Exciting Comics #17 – A cool war cover from a challenging part of the run. Very nice copy.
- Exciting Comics #23, 24 – Very tough issues with nice action covers.
- Exciting Comics #25 – This issue checks off so many collectors wish list boxes, I have no idea why this isn't a bigger book. Bondage cover with a sultry red dress-wearing woman being attacked by a robot.
- Exciting Comics #28 – Well known rare issue with an astounding underwater war cover by the master Schomburg.
- Exciting Comics #53 – Classic Miss Masque Schomburg cover.
- Fighting Yank #3 – Underwater shark punching bondage cover with a Nazi threat!? It's everything cool all at once.
- Fighting Yank #23 – As classic as it gets. Often called the poor-man's Suspense Comics #3, it's really one of those books that every collector wants in nice condition.
- Startling Comics #1 – The other #1 that just hasn't broken out yet. This is a fun 1940 cover that launched a key run, and it should probably be much more expensive on the current marketplace.
- Startling Comics #10 – The other major hero key first appearance that is just starting to get some love. Great war action cover for the debut of Fighting Yank. Very challenging to find decent copies, only one other blue label has sold in the past two years.
- Startling Comics #16 – A very cool underwater bondage cover.
- Startling Comics #20 – This book really has yet to break out, and that has to change. Much like Fighting Yank #23, it checks all the Suspense Comics #3 boxes, yet much more challenging to get. Besides this copy, only one CGC-graded copy has sold in the past three years, according to GPA.
- Thrilling Comics #1 – Another of the Standard/Better/Nedor major first issues, and probably the one with the most potential. The skull villain (The Faceless Phantom) makes this catnip for PCH collectors who have not discovered it yet.
- Thrilling Comics #2 – This is a huge first appearance with Woman in Red and very overlooked as well.
- Thrilling Comics #26 – One of the very toughest issues in the run. Quite rare.
- Thrilling Comics #35 – An awesome skull villain cover. Tough to get with just 11 total in census.
While this is a pretty good roundup of available data combined with expert opinion, remember that this is still only part of the Standard/Better/Nedor picture. These lists focus on what's available in the 2023 February 23 The Thrillingly Exciting Heroes of Nedor Comics Showcase Auction #40219, which primarily focuses on the pre-1950 hero era. And even beyond this, given the continued inspiration provided by characters such as the Black Terror, Fighting Yank, Doc Strange and even Captain Future on the comics & pop culture landscape, not to mention a number of stand-out Alex Schomburg covers, there is plenty here that's worth your time.