Journey Into Mystery Comic Book Price Guide
by Christopher Tanis and Ashley Cotter-Cairns
JIM started off, in 1952, as a horror and fantasy anthology comic.
Atlas Comics was the successor to Timely, and the precursor to Marvel, and they launched JIM during the later Golden Age, during the pre-Code glory years of horror comics. EC was thriving at that time, and JIM was a success right out of the gate.
JIM #1 appeared in June, 1952, with a gruesome cover by Russ Heath that neatly embodies the time period.
JIM, it is safe to say, rode the coattails of its EC inspirations to success. And while JIM never rivaled EC's horror titles in quality or popularity, Atlas never ran afoul of the Comics Code Authority like EC did, and Stan Lee certainly wasn't subjected to the same harassment as William Gaines.
Journey Into Mystery #1 was rather similar to EC Comics of the period
So, JIM was a stepping stone for Atlas to morph into Marvel as the Golden Age ended and the Silver Age began, and survived for years so that a certain long-haired Norse Thunder God could occupy its pages for 40-odd issues, spring boarding The Mighty Thor to comic stardom.
Yes, starting with JIM #83, the title was basically a vehicle for Odin's favorite son, and after a while, all things Asgardian.
Stan Lee by then (1962) had sussed out that superheroes were the way to go. The Silver Age may have started a little later at Marvel than it had at DC, but when it did start, it started with a vengeance.
Thor would eventually prove so popular that JIM was turned into The Mighty Thor with #126. The rest, as they say, is history.
Almost all of the earliest issues of JIM are valuable, in the way that all Golden Age comics are to a certain extent valuable in good condition. But it is the Thor issues that have the most interest for collectors, even if they don't fetch as much as Journey Into Mystery #1. Thor was a key part of Marvel's rise to the top as the sixties got rolling, and JIM is where that all starts.
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JIM #1 hit the newsstands at a time when Atlas Comics' fortunes were up. Publisher Martin Goodman had done well for himself, mostly because the comic book division of his labyrinthine publishing empire was not where the bulk of the money came from. Goodman could afford to keep it running as long as it was in the black, even if it were just barely so.
With iconic cover artwork by Russ Heath, JIM #1 was filled with stories written mostly by Stan Lee, and illustrated by Dick Ayers, Tony DiPreta, Cal Massey, and Vic Carrabotta.
The issue sure promised horrifying things in the EC mode, but didn't really deliver the down and dirty horror in the same way. JIM also lacked a sarcastic host, like the Crypt Keeper, so the element of grisly humor is not present to the same degree as it would be in an EC comic like Tales From the Crypt.
Either way, JIM #1 is quite good, and stands on its own merits, and was the comic that saw Atlas through its transition into Marvel, and is worth quite a few thousand dollars in good condition. The first ten or so issues are, almost by default, also quite valuable. It may be unfair to compare JIM to the EC titles that inspired it, but it is inevitable.
Record sale: $6,300
Minimum value (poor but complete): $100
JIM #23 was the first issue in the series, and the first Atlas Comic to bear the imprint of the Comics Code Authority. The logo, which anyone who grew up reading comics in between the mid-'50s and the mid-'80s will remember, is in the shape of a postage stamp, although of course it is not affixed with glue.
It is, of course, printed into the cover art, and reads, "Approved by the Comics Code Authority."
From this point, all comics by Atlas (and then Marvel), DC, Charlton, Harvey, and any other company still producing comic books would include this logo, until Swamp Thing #29 changed everything in 1984.
JIM #23 features stories written by Stan Lee and art by Gene Colan, John Forte and Dick Ayers, and the usual subject matter: ghosts, death, hauntings, and nature gone rogue.
Record sale: $1,500
Minimum value (poor but complete): $20
By the time of JIM #62, things are looking a little more Marvel-esque at Atlas. While no issues of any comic would bear the imprint "Marvel Comics" for some time yet, the artists and writers with credits in this issue of JIM are those whose names are forever associated with the "Mighty Marvel" of the 1960s, and who helped define the Silver Age of comics.
All stories were written by Stan Lee. Jack Kirby drew the cover (he'd left Timely in 1941, and returned to his old boss, Martin Goodman, under financial duress, in 1958), and the art inside was handled by Dick Ayers, Don Heck, and Steve Ditko.
Journey Into Mystery #62 is also notable as the debut of Xemnu, here billed as "Xemnu, the Living Hulk," in the tabloid-style-titled cover story, "I Was a Slave of the Living Hulk!"
Xemnu was an alien cyborg from an exile planet who had escaped and crash-landed on earth. He is found by an electrician named Joe Harper, who tries to help revive him. Xemnu revives, and uses his hypnotic power to enthrall Harper. He plans to enthrall the entire human race in order to compel them to build a ship powerful enough to fly him home, at the same time condemning them to death, since the force of such a launch will kill everyone on the planet.
He plans to keep Harper alive, mostly to have someone to brag to about his cleverness. Harper sabotages the spaceship so that bad wiring would shock Xemnu into unconsciousness when he started the launch sequence. Once Xemnu is unconscious, Harper sets the ship to a different power level and course, so that it will be locked in orbit around the Sun, and Xemnu will be trapped.
Xemnu would later be known as Xemnu the Titan, owing to the creation of a certain green-skinned fellow a few years later who took over the name "Hulk." Xemnu would appear again in JIM, and later in The Hulk, the Defenders, and many other Marvel Comics.
This, his first appearance, makes this issue of JIM worth more than any other pre-Thor issue aside from the first ten or so.
Record sale: $770
Minimum value (poor but complete): $25
Atlas gradually became Marvel, in a convoluted process that involved a distribution problem and the complete cessation of all Atlas titles for over a year, along with Martin Goodman's attempts to keep things in the black while keeping Stan Lee from getting too big for his britches, among many other things, of which there are too many to detail here.
In any case, the company previously known as Atlas began putting an "MC" logo in a little box on the cover, and using the name Marvel Comics in an effort to distance itself from the type of content that Atlas was known for.
The dawning Silver Age had finally caught up to Atlas, and DC's tremendous success with its new superhero titles was not lost on Martin Goodman or Stan Lee. So, although JIM #69 is not a superhero comic, its June 1961 cover date is only six months earlier than Fantastic Four #1. The groundwork had been laid for the change right here, in Journey Into Mystery #69.
JIM #69 features the usual high-quality writing by Stan Lee, and art by Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, and Dick Ayers, along with a classic Kirby cover.
Record sale: $540
Minimum value (poor but complete): $5
As The Mighty Thor debuts, Journey Into Mystery effectively ends. The long-haired Thunder God of Norse legend proved immediately popular almost immediately, and ended the anthology nature of JIM in one fell swoop.
Martin Goodman and Stan Lee had seen the writing on the wall, and turned all of their anthology titles (including Tales of Suspense, Astonishing Tales, Strange Tales, and Tales to Astonish) into superhero titles or else into "tryout" anthologies for superheroes, a la DC's immensely influential Showcase.
So, you know the story. Pre-multiple-retcon, Dr. Don Blake, an American physician with a lame leg, embarks on a vacation tour of Norway. He surprises some Saturnians planning to conquer the earth, and runs from them into a cave, which caves in, trapping him.
He finds a secret chamber in the cave, which contains an old walking stick. His cane having been destroyed in the cave in, he picks it up. In frustration, Don Blake hits the largest boulder blocking the entrance with the stick. Well, you see, the stick was Thor's Uru hammer, Mjolnir, in disguise, and Don Blake is transformed into the Mighty Thunder God of Norse legend, Thor. As in the son of Odin. Yes, the very same.
So, to make a long story short, Thor gets out of the cave and makes short work of the Saturnians. After all, he is a god. When he taps his hammer on the ground, he becomes Don Blake again. Notably, at this point, Thor's language is not the rich and purple stew that Lee would later make it, full of archaic Middle English-isms like "thee" and "thou" and "doth" and so on.
Also, the actual logistics of the change from Blake to Thor would be dealt with later, and then revised, and then retconned about seven times, to the point where your head hurts thinking about it.
Needless to say, Journey Into Mystery #83 is quite valuable, no doubt the most valuable of any issue of this title. Most collectors begin classifying the title as "Thor" with this issue, due to his dominance.
By issue 86, the title would become "Journey Into Mystery Starring The Mighty Thor," and later, "Journey Into Mystery With Thor," before becoming simply "The Mighty Thor" with issue #126.
Record sale: $185,000
Minimum value (poor but complete): $300
JIM #85 marks the first appearance of Thor's half-brother and nemesis, the Norse trickster-god, Loki.
It also marks the first appearance of Asgard, the homeland of all the gods of the North, and introduces readers (briefly and partially) to the concept of Asgard and Midgard, the realms of the gods and men, separated by the Rainbow Bridge, guarded by Heimdal.
Loki had been imprisoned in a tree many years before by Odin, and would not be freed until someone shed a tear for him, which of course, no one would. Loki manages to get enough control of the tree to make a leaf fall in Heimdal's eye as he walks past, and when Heimdal's eye tears up, Loki is freed. He immediately decides to find Thor and seek revenge on him for past offenses, and traces him to Midgard.
Once there, Loki turns the people of NYC into negative images to flush Thor out. The plan works, and Thor manages to turn the people back to normal, but when Loki confronts him, he is easily able to hypnotize his older half-brother, and once he has managed (by trickery) to separate Thor from his hammer, he tells the Thunder God to go to the zoo and let all the animals loose.
Of course, when Thor is separated from his hammer for more than 60 seconds, he reverts back to Don Blake, who is not hypnotized by Loki, and retrieves Thor's hammer, once again becoming Thor, and foiling Loki's plans. He sends Loki back to Asgard for punishment at his father's hands.
JIM #85 is typically well-done early Marvel, written by Stan Lee and Larry Leiber, and penciled by Jack Kirby with inks by Dick Ayers, with a Kirby/Ayers cover, and is quite highly valued by collectors.
Record sale: $30,000
Minimum value (poor but complete): $50
The creative team of Stan Lee, Larry Leiber, Jack Kirby, and Dick Ayers once again brings a lovely early Marvel touch of class to the proceedings in Journey Into Mystery #86.
In this issue, Thor fights a mad scientist named Zarrko, who has traveled back in time from the future (three centuries hence) to try and steal all the atomic weapons of 1962, so he can bring them back to his future and conquer his time. Confused?
The important thing about this issue, other than that Thor, of course, defeats Zarrko, is that for the first time, Thor speaks directly to his father, Odin.
Over the years, he would do this regularly, using his godly powers to communicate directly with the All Father, bridging the gap between Midgard and Asgard. Scarce and valuable.
Record sale: $13,500
Minimum value (poor but complete): $10
In JIM #109, Thor encounters the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants and their leader, Magneto, who are trying to find the X-Men's secret base. After Magneto uses a device to amplify his power to make all metal objects in New York City float up into the air, Thor notices, and confronts the evil mutants.
Magneto assumes that Thor, too, is a mutant, and offers him membership in the Brotherhood. The Thunder God refuses, of course, but is separated from his hammer by Magneto, and turns back into Don Blake. Magneto attempts to finish Blake off, but while lame, Don Blake is not without resource. He evades Magneto until he can take advantage of Magneto's temporary distraction to get his walking stick back.
Once Don "Thors up," well, you know how things go when the Thunder God gets angry. He dispatches Magneto easily, but Magneto escapes, and just as he is about to detonate a "Proton Bomb" that even the God of Thunder might not have withstood, the X-Men arrive, chasing Magneto and the rest of the Brotherhood off.
Journey Into Mystery #109 features, as usual, a Stan Lee script and Jack Kirby pencils, and a Kirby cover.
Record sale: $5,600
Minimum value (poor but complete): $10
JIM #112 is an odd issue, told mostly in flashback. Thor encounters two groups of children arguing about who is stronger, The Hulk or The Mighty Thor. He cannot help but stop and speak to them, and tells them a story about how, during the brief period when the Hulk and Thor were both Avengers, they tested their strengths against each other.
When Hulk and Thor were separated from the other Avengers in their battle with the Sub-Mariner, the two decide to see who is the stronger. Thor asks Odin to grant him a longer time without his hammer so that the "60-second rule" will not end the fight. Odin does so, and Thor and Hulk have at it.
They battle in a cavern, which collapses on top of the Hulk. Thor searches for Hulk, but cannot find him, ending the battle inconclusively. (Spider-Man would also fight the Hulk in a cavern in the classic Amazing Spider-Man #14, first Green Goblin.)
Thor tells the children that there is, therefore, no way to decide who is stronger between the two heroes, and flies off on his business, ending an oddly wonderful Stan Lee and Jack Kirby classic. Kirby's cover is especially great, full of energy and somehow making the slimmer Thor look like a match for the hugely brawny Hulk.
Kirby's Hulk has never gotten its due, really. Although other artists are more associated with Ol' Greenskin (Herb Trimpe and Sal Buscema come to mind), none gave him a more brutal, animalistic quality than Kirby.
Record sale: $5,600
Minimum value (poor but complete): $10
Very little would change when Journey Into Mystery became The Mighty Thor in March of 1966. The numbering of JIM would continue, so the first Thor is #126.
The creative team would continue, with Stan Lee and Jack Kirby providing the same kind of pulse-pounding excitement they always had. Indeed, as the '60s wore on, The Mighty Thor would be a marvelous and largely overlooked showcase for the sheer greatness of Jack Kirby.
Everyone thinks of The Fantastic Four when they think of Kirby in the '60s, but his Thor is something special. The later years of his first tenure at Marvel are staggeringly innovative and unique, and merit a book-length analysis. Thor's frequent trips to Asgard and bizarre parts of space and other dimensions were Kirby's bread and butter.
In this issue, Thor has to compete with Hercules, from the Greek pantheon of gods, for the affections of Jane Foster, his longtime love interest. A battle begins that will continue in the pages of Thor #126, but this particular story arc isn't what's important here.
What's important is that this is the last issue of Journey Into Mystery until Marvel's Roy Thomas started a new JIM series in 1972, as a horror and sci-fi anthology. That series is known a Volume 2 of JIM, and has no bearing on this discussion.
Record sale: $4,800
Minimum value (poor but complete): $1
From issue #126 onwards, you can check the value of later Thor comic books here.
Journey Into Mystery and Other Marvel Comic Superheroes
Avengers Comic Book Price Guide
First Appearance of Thor in Marvel Comics
Fantastic Four Comic Book Price Guide