Tales of Suspense
Introduction to Tales of Suspense
Tales of Suspense was a science-fiction/supernatural/mystery comic anthology that began in 1959. In content, it was essentially indistinguishable from many other Atlas/Marvel titles of the late-1950s and early 1960s, until Marvel re-invented itself as a superhero-driven powerhouse. Becoming a hybrid title with Tales of Suspense #39 and Iron Man, the title switched over to a 100% super-hero title when Captain America began sharing the book with Tales of Suspense #59. The two shared the book until ToS #99 after which both went on to star in their own titles.
Brief History of Tales of Suspense #39
The March 1963 issue of Tales of Suspense #39, introduced Iron-Man, an integral character of The Marvel Age, following closely on the heels of the introduction of the Fantastic Four, the Hulk, Spider-Man, Ant-Man, and Thor. The story is well-known by comic collectors. Movie aficionados know the story as well: genius industrialist Tony Stark is captured by foreign fighters who demand that he assist in producing weapons of mass destruction. In the process, Stark suffers a severe chest injury. To overcome his life-threatening injuries and to escape his captors, Stark invents a practically indestructible armored suit and artificial heart - Iron Man is born!
This issue was written by Stan Lee and Larry Lieber (Lee’s brother), and had cover art done by Jack Kirby, with story art by Don Heck. The cover art features the original design of Iron Man’s armor, which was iron gray and rather blocky-looking, over the years evolving to the sleek red and gold design of more modern times. Iron Man’s armor was changed by the next issue, so Tales of Suspense #39 is the only one to feature the bulky gray armor with its skull-like mask.
How much is Tales of Suspense #39 worth?
As a key issue from the Marvel Age, and aided greatly by the success of Marvel’s more recent movie franchises, the collector demand and value of Tales of Suspense #39 continues to increase. It ranks #9 on the 2019-20 Overstreet’s Top 50 Silver Age Comics list with a 9.2 value of $54,000 and is likely to climb higher. It currently rests just below X-Men #1. The pale green background of the cover is unforgiving of even slight blemishes, so high-grade copies are highly prized. An “average” copy (Very Good or 4.0) currently brings approximately $6,000 at auction.
What is the most expensive Tales of Suspense #39 sold at auction?
In 2012 and 2013, two different NM+ 9.6 copies both brought an astonishing $262,900 each! In any grade, it’s on every serious comic book collector’s wish list.
Other expensive Tales of Suspense comics
Tales of Suspense #57
Hawkeyes debut issue shot up to $47,800 for a CGC 9.8 copy in 2016.
Tales of Suspense #40
Iron Man’s second appearance and his first in the golden armor grabbed $26,290 for the Western Penn CGC 9.6 copy in 2012.
Tales of Suspense #41
A beautiful Pacific Coast Pedigree CGC 9.8 issue of Iron Man’s 3rd appearance sold for $21,510 in 2012.
Tales of Suspense #1
The first issue of this sci-fi anthology title captured $17,925 for a CGC 9.0 copy in 2016.
Tales of Suspense #44, 49 & 50
$16,730 was paid for each of these Pacific Coast Pedigree CGC 9.8 issues in the same July 2012 Heritage Auction.
Tales of Suspense #52
One Black Widow fan shelled out $15,000 for her debut in Pacific Coast Pedigree CGC 9.6 issue back in 2014.
Tales of Suspense #39 Cover Art
Marvel workhorse Jack Kirby is responsible for the first cover to feature ol’ shellhead.
Other Tales of Suspense original art
Marvel Silver Age covers are difficult at best to find, little lone afford. Tales of Suspense #84 cover featuring co-creator Jack Kirby’s art, inked by Frank Giacoia went for $167,300 in a Heritage auction in 2014. Cap’s second appearance in his own strip from Tales of Suspense #60 saw the splash page by Jack Kirby and Chic Stone sell for $96,000 in 2018. Kirby and fan-favorite inker Joe Sinnott provide the art to the splash page to Tales of Suspense #97. It sold for $68,712.50 back in 2012. Iron Man’s top price is for the cover to Tales of Suspense #95 by Gene Colan and Frank Giacoia when it sold for $63,000 in 2020.
Characters from Tales of Suspense #39
Tony Stark is featured throughout and the only on-going character to emerge from the story. Other prominent characters in the tale are communist Vietnamese guerrilla Wong-Chu and his prisoner (and Tony’s ally), Professor Yinsen.
Plot Summary of Tales of Suspense #39
In the story that first reveals Iron Man, Tony Stark, military industrialist, goes to Vietnam with military officials to test his latest weapons. Tony’s heart is endangered by shrapnel in an explosive trap and is imprisoned by a communist tyrant, Wong-Chu. Stark agrees to create a weapon for Wong-Chu in exchange for a life-saving operation. Fellow prisoner Professor Yinsen is given to Tony to help out. But he knows Wong-Chu will not fulfill his end of the bargain. In order to escape, he must create his signature suit of armor and fight the communists. In addition to being the first appearance of Iron Man, Tales of Suspense #39 is actually the first Marvel comic to have a story that takes place in Vietnam. The other two stories within the issue are standalone tales - typical Atlas/Marvel pre-superhero stories of the day.
How rare is Tales of Suspense #39?
Tales of Suspense #39 has had about 2/3rds the number of books certified by CGC as Amazing Fantasy #15. The books may be more difficult to find than a DC from the same time period but it is not impossible to find. The popularity of the Marvel Universe is responsible for making the book a little out of the price range of many casual collectors.
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