Introduction to Showcase
Showcase #1 lets the reader know right on the first page what they hold in their hands, a comic based on the many requests by the readers of National Comics. Firemen were the most requested stories they wanted to see (or so the 1-page explanation reads). Readers are encouraged to write in for the types of stories they want to see. Showcase did just that with try-outs for dozens of different characters and story types for nearly 25 years.
Brief History of Showcase
The first three issues did not provide much evidence of the greatness the magazine would achieve. Fireman Farrell, Kings of the Wild and Frogmen never caught on. But with Showcase #4 that all changed.
Showcase #4 was published by DC Comics with an October/November 1956 cover date.
That issue is known for a few things: it features the first appearance of the Silver Age Flash, DC’s scarlet speedster who currently enjoys a popular primetime TV series on the CW network and is scheduled to appear in his own movie in 2022. It’s also generally regarded as the beginning of the Silver Age of Comics, which lasted until roughly 1970. This makes it a highly collectible comic book in a variety of grades.
After another routine detective comic called Manhunters, Showcase #6 launched the first Silver Age team book with Challengers of the Unknown. This intrepid group of four men survives a fateful plane crash. So of course, the only thing they should do is investigate mysterious and dangerous occurrences around the world since they are living on borrowed time.
The next ‘new’ feature is Lois Lane appearing in Showcase #9 and 10. Although appearing since Action Comics #1 in 1938, DC waited twenty years to test the waters to give her a solo book. It is also notable that Lois Lane was the first Showcase feature to receive her own title.
The second biggest feature to emerge from Showcase was Green Lantern. Like the Flash, Julius Schwartz wanted his reinvention to be a little more science-based than a ‘magic’ lantern. Sputnik was still on everybody’s mind and test pilots were about the coolest thing a kid would want to be. Showcase #22 through 24 was an instant success.
From the outset with its first issue in 1956 until 1970, Showcase was a try-out book for new characters to gauge public interest and eventually launch new titles or starring roles in existing titles. The Flash, Challengers of the Unknown, Lois Lane, Space Ranger, Adam Strange, Rip Hunter, Green Lantern, Sea Devils, Aquaman, The Atom, Metal Men, the Spectre, Inferior Five, the Creeper, Hawk and the Dove, Bat Lash, Angel, and the Ape, and Phantom Stranger are all examples of characters launched in issues of Showcase. A book this eclectic was naturally produced by nearly everybody in the DC stable. Along with Infantino, Kubert, Kanigher, and Broome, other noted creators include Gardner Fox, Denny O’Neil, Mort Meskin, Gil Kane, Russ Heath, Ross Andru, Ramona Fradon, Nick Cardy, Joe Orlando, Steve Ditko, Berni Wrightson and others. Because there were so many “first appearances” and “origin” issues in the series, the title has always been a favorite among collectors.
How much is Showcase #4 worth?
Showcase #4 is currently ranked #4 on the 2019 Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide’s Top 50 Silver Age Comics list at $160,000. Even well-worn copies (GD 2.0 grade) fetch over $7,000.
What is the most expensive Showcase #4 sold at auction?
$179,250 was paid for a copy of Showcase #4 in 9.6 in 2009.
What Showcase comics are valuable?
Green Lantern’s 1st appearance is the only other Showcase to top the 6-figure mark when a CGC 9.2 copy sold for $149,375 in 2017.
A CGC 9.2 featuring the second appearance of the Flash and the first appearance of Captain Cold sold for $26,290 in 2009.
Aquaman’s first series try-out issue in CGC 9.4 sold in 2018 for $24,000. Aquaman had first appeared in More Fun Comics #73, over 20 years earlier.
Another super-hero making his debut appearance was the Silver Age Atom in a CGC 9.4 copy that sold in 2011 for $24,000.
They may not have been the first Showcase team but the Metal Men are tops with $22,500 for a CGC 9.4 comic selling in 2018.
Showcase #4 Cover Art
Carmine Infantino and Joe Kubert provide the art on a cover design by writer Robert Kanigher. The art has never surfaced.
Other original art to Showcase
The Murphy Anderson Estate provides a lot of high prices when his art began selling in story chapters. Leading the way is the first chapter in Showcase #60 featuring the Spectre’s first appearance. The 8-page chapter sold for $90,000 in 2019. Mr. Anderson also tops the list for a single page with his full-page battle splash between Solomon Grundy and JSAers Dr. Fate and Hourman from Showcase #55. It garnered $22,107.50 is 2017. Russ Heath’s splash page from Showcase #29 is the highest price paid for a non-Anderson piece of Showcase art. It sold 2016 for $15,535. The highest piece of cover art sold by Heritage Auctions belongs to Joe Kubert with his 2020 sale of the cover to Showcase #84 selling for $14,400.
Characters from Showcase #4
Not known for having a large supporting cast, Showcase #4 is no different. Barry Allen (the Flash) and Iris West are the only people we get to know during this debut issue. Villains for the two stories are the Turtle, also revived from the Golden Age, and Mazdan, a thief from the future.
Plot Summaries of Showcase #4
Showcase #4 features two stories. One concerns the origin of Flash - the alter ego of Barry Allen - and a nod to the original Golden Age Flash - real name: Jay Garrick. Barry, chuckling as he reads an old Flash Comic while a thunderstorm rages outside, wonders aloud what it would be like to have that kind of speed. Returning to his lab, the young police scientist marvels at his shelf of chemicals, containing every chemical he could ever need. Suddenly lightning shoots through the window knocking Barry to the floor where he is covered in a chemical bath. Dazed, Barry decides its best to go home. On the way, he has a couple of super-speed moments that further shake him up. The next morning, he decides he must have been dreaming but later as he approaches Iris West for their dinner date, a stray bullet seems almost frozen in space, and Barry’s senses race to understand the situation. Lunging forward, he presses against Iris, backing her out of the path of the bullet. Iris chides Barry for the lucky way he stumbled into her but Barry knows differently. When the policeman on the scene explains that the bullet came from a round fired by the Turtle, the Flash is born.
The second story pits Flash against a villain named Mazdan, sentenced from the future to a more distant future to serve as his penalty. As fate would have it, he is accidentally sent back to the 20th century. Using his advanced science, Mazdan commits several mysterious crimes to acquire the things he needs to repair his time capsule to return to his time and get revenge. But when the Flash finally catches up to Mazdan as he’s about to leave, Flash discovers the time capsule would leave a crater of 10 miles in circumference killing thousands of people. Having none of that, the Flash picks up Mazdan and races at incredible speed, breaking the time barrier and returning Mazdan to the justice system there to receive his proper sentence.
Both stories in #4 share the artistic team of pencil artist Carmine Infantino and inker-finisher Joe Kubert. Robert Kanigher wrote the origin and John Broome wrote the follow-up story. Legendary editor and creative in-putter Julius Schwartz was onboard as well. Carmine Infantino and Joe Kubert are among the most beloved and influential artists of the Silver and Bronze Ages of comics. Although primarily associated with their works in the ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s, both began their prolific careers during the Golden Age, and both continued drawing comics into ‘90s, with Kubert continuing into the 21st century. And while both worked on an astonishing number of projects, Infantino is best known for his long association with the Flash, while Kubert is perhaps best known for his work on DC’s war titles in general, and on Sgt. Rock and Easy Company in particular.
How rare is Showcase #4?
Showcase #4 is a little tough to get for a Silver Age book. A little over 500 copies have been certified or about 1/6th the number of Amazing Fantasy #15s.
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