What Does the Fox Say About Some Very Rare Early Fox Comics?

Rarity is a surprisingly difficult concept to pin down when it comes to comic books, or really any area of collecting.  Our notion of what comic books are rare has evolved considerably since the days of Overstreet Price Guide scarce and rare designations and the Gerber Scarcity Index.  There are also different ways to think about rarity: rare in high grade, rare as unrestored, rare on the marketplace, and low CGC census numbers among other ways to look at it. Demand is also inextricably linked to rarity, in practice.  A desirable comic book that becomes widely known as rare tends to become less rare over time — usually.  With all this said, 20+ years into the era during which we have CGC census and public sales data available, Fox Feature Syndicate as a line is certainly deserving of more attention for the number of rare and desirable issues the company published during the early Golden Age.

When I started researching my coverage of this  2022 December 1 Fox Comics Showcase Auction #40214, I noticed that as of this writing, there are about 90 pre-1944 Fox superhero comics which have single-digit universal (unrestored) census numbers out of the less than 200 issues published over that period.  Fox collectors are used to rare as a baseline, so what might experienced collectors in this area consider truly rare?  Let's take a closer look at that issue through the lens of what's available at this auction.

Wonderworld Comics #33 (Fox, 1942)
Wonderworld Comics #33 (Fox, 1942)

When a Fox is Not Really a Fox, is it Actually a Unicorn?

On March 6, 1942, the notorious Golden Age publisher of Blue Beetle and much more, Victor Fox was forced into bankruptcy by creditors.  Fascinatingly, one of those creditors, printer Holyoke Press took over the title, and with Fox's Blue Beetle and other titles the publisher acquired under similar circumstances from Frank Z. Temerson, Holyoke decided to get into the comic book publishing business.  Holyoke published the series from Blue Beetle #12-30, and after a one-issue transition, Temerson's staff led by Charles Quinlan, best known for his work on Cat-Man Comics took over Blue Beetle for Holyoke.

Victor Fox regained control of the title in 1944 and resumed publishing the series with Blue Beetle #31.  For the purposes of this auction and in the minds of many Blue Beetle and Fox collectors, the Holyoke issues are simply grouped in with Fox.  While not available in this auction, Blue Beetle #16 has only a single copy on the CGC census, and I'm told there are not a lot of raw copies sitting in collections.  Generally speaking, this range of the run is considered tough by collectors, and Blue Beetle #17 with its war cover is a combination of both tough and desirable.  In combination with that, it may be worth noting that the Holyoke stretch of the run is wildly underappreciated by collectors, featuring some bonkers stuff by Quinlan among others.

Fox Comics Group Audit Bureau of Circulation data 1940-1941.
Fox Comics Group Audit Bureau of Circulation data 1940-1941.

Fox's Tough 1941/1942 Stretch

The end of the Wonderworld Comics series is considered legendarily tough by collectors, but there are many tough Fox issues from the late 1941 / early 1942 period, which is the period leading up to Fox Publications, Inc's 1942 bankruptcy.  The publisher chased higher circulation via increasing the number of titles in his line over this time frame, and it simply didn't work — in fact, in an increasingly competitive marketplace of the time, it seems to have backfired. As Fox's audited circulation data shows, Fantastic Comics, Mystery Men Comics, Wonderworld Comics, and Science Comics were averaging 345,713 copies sold each at their early 1940 peak.  By the last month of 1941, the line was averaging under 115,000 copies sold per title — a drop of 66%.  It's likely that the early months of 1942 were that bad or even worse.  While this is not the complete picture of any rarity equation, it is certainly a factor.

What Does the Census Say?

There are some surprisingly low CGC census numbers among early Fox.  Here are the lowest CGC Census numbers for Fox comics in this auction, along with notes on the availability of unrestored high grade where that is particularly noteworthy:

Mystery Men Comics #7 (Fox, 1940)
Mystery Men Comics #7 (Fox, 1940)

What Do Collectors Say About Rare and Desirable Fox Comics?

But even the CGC Census and historical circulation data are not the be-all and end-all of the rarity picture.  Here's what longtime serious Fox collectors think about the rare and desirable issues from early Fox:

  • Blue Beetle #10, 11, 12 – The mini-bondage cover run.  Probably the most desirable part of the series.
  • Blue Beetle #17 – Part of the very tough section of the run, and cool war cover.
  • Eagle #2,3,4 – The Spider Queen issues.  None are common.
  • Fantastic Comics  #17, 18, 23 – Probably the most difficult issues of this run.
  • Flame #7,8 – These are the toughest in this run.
  • Green Mask #7, 8 – These issues are very challenging in any grade.
  • Mystery Men Comics #7,8 – Probably the toughest issues in the first half of the run.  Of course, Mystery Men Comics #7 as the first Blue Beetle cover is particularly important.
  • Mystery Men Comics #10 – An often overlooked and awesome cover.
  • Mystery Men Comics #30 – This issue is very tough in any grade, and this one is tied for 2nd highest. One of the 10 most desirable Fox books, and we've taken a look a closer look at this issue here.
  • Samson #5 – This is an often overlooked run, and this issue is a cool and challenging war cover.
  • Weird Comics #11 – This issue is tough, and much of this run is not common.  Also worth checking out is the cool issue #18 spider-apes cover and issue #19 with a great war cover that is very tough in decent grade.
  • Wonder Comics #2 – Another of the top 10 most desired Fox books, and this one might be the most affordable copy you'll ever see.  We've taken a deep dive into this one.
  • Wonderworld Comics #22 – A contender for the toughest issue in this run.
  • Wonderworld Comics #33 – Don't let the census fool you, this is legendarily one of the rarest Fox books.  At least two major Fox collectors were stymied by this book and never found a copy.  A very high percentage of all copies that exist are likely in the census at this time.

While this is a pretty good roundup of available data combined with expert opinion, keep in mind that this is still only part of the Fox rarity picture.  These lists focus on what's available in the 2022 December 1 Fox Comics Showcase Auction #40214, which itself largely has a focus on the early Fox era.  And even beyond this, with an incredible 45% or so of early Fox issues in the single digit (unrestored) CGC census range, if you're a comic book rarity fan, this material is worth your time.

Blue Beetle #10 (Fox Features Syndicate, 1941)
Blue Beetle #10 (Fox Features Syndicate, 1941)
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Mark SeifertAbout Mark Seifert

Co-founder and Creative director of Bleeding Cool parent company Avatar Press. Bleeding Cool Managing Editor, tech and data wrangler. Machine Learning hobbyist. Vintage paper addict.
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