Part 2 of the Hunt for #21 2nd Printing.
By Josh Eggebeen and Roger Taft
So a 36 year mystery has been solved. The theory of the #21 2nd Printing has been proven. And not just once but twice.
As with any mystery often new information brings in new theories and the Hunt for #21 2nd Printing now takes a new direction…
This article has three parts: the 1st is the major reveal of two #21 2nd Printings found, the 2nd part a new version and theory of the Hunt for #21 2nd Printing and the 3rd is the stories of the collectors hunting the mysterious #21 2nd Printing.
Two #21 2nd Printings have been found in the month since the first reveal of the article.
Nearly 100 people over several different threads across the internet reported back after hunting through their long boxes they had 1st or 3rd Printings and often they were surprised at what was in their own collection. Out of all of those out there hunting only 3 #21 2nd Printing were reported in with finding a copy.
The 1st find is from Joe collector John Neville, who got lucky shopping in a comic shop in Florida. This is an officially certified Joe Declassified G.I. Joe A Real American Hero #21 2nd Printing that has been verified in hand by Joe Declassified member Roger Taft. (You can read Part 3 of his story of the Hunt for #21 below in the Collector’s Stories: #21 2nd Printing – John Neville.)
The 2nd find was slabbed by PGX Professional Grading Experts; a comic grading company similar to CGC. This graded copy of a #21 2nd Printing has a compelling story to back up the labeling. But of course, it’s encased, and as such, cannot be visually verified by Joe Declassified. Never-the-less it is considered valid by Joe Declassified. (You can read in Part 3 of the Collector’s Stories: #21 2nd Printing – Joe Collector and the process to get it certified by PGX).
A 3rd 2nd Printing that was reported in with only a blurry video and no follow up proof from the sender. This copy cannot be confirmed by Joe Declassified at this time without clearer footage.
Roger Taft comments regarding the certification of the John Neville #21 2nd Printing:
“Now that I’ve seen the book in person, I’m of 2 minds on the subject. John Neville’s copy certainly falls between #21’s 1st and 3rd printing. It has all the markers of a reprint. The advertisements are different from the 1st printing throughout the book. The cross-sell check list advertises G.I. Joe #37. Most importantly the cover has all the indicators of a reprint. And finally, it is NOT marked as a 3rd printing. Since it’s not a 1st printing, and It’s not marked as a 3rd printing, then it must be a 2nd printing . . . right? It could be? That is certainly a likely explanation.”
But there is a 2nd option that fits all those indicators. It could simply be a variant of the 3rd printing. It is not marked as a 2nd printing, and everything else matches a 3rd. After all this time it’s not likely that another version of #21 will surface, but this un-marked copy simply does not fit the established norms of a reprint. Most comics that have 3 printings will have 3 distinct differences. 1) The 1st printing should be un-marked as such, while the 2nd and 3rd printings should be clearly marked, or otherwise indicated. 2) All 3 printings should have different advertisements that match the other Marvel comics that were printed in the same month of their release. 3) The cross sell should list the issue of G.I. Joe that matches the ad’s from that month. So, a 2nd printing, should have 3 distinct differences from the 3rd printing. But this one only has 1 difference, and it’s the 1 difference that’s most likely to be a printing mistake or a variant. That leaves the door open for it to be something other than a 2nd printing. It is likely that it is indeed a 2nd printing, but there will always be that little bit of doubt.”
So out of the hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of #21 that have been printed, only 2 have been seen and confirmed to date. And the Hunt of #21 has been accomplished. YoJoe!!!
Now that the original theory has been proven correct and verified versions have been found. A new theory has come about after inspection.
But before describing the new Hunt for #21 2nd Printing criteria additional information came in to help clarify rumors of this Hunt.
A previous theory was that a print run error happen that caused the 2nd Printing to disappear. This had never been a rumor, but needed to be investigated. Jim Shooter, the Editor in Chief at Marvel at the time, responded to questions about the Hunt in regard to potential printing errors with “Not Familiar. Sorry” If anyone at Marvel would have knowledge on the subject it would likely be Jim Shooter. This proves there was no print run error and proves correct another part of the theory.
The 2nd and 3rd Printings of G.I. Joe A Real American Hero are known to have come from the sealed Marvel Comics Multi-Pack. At the time of the release of the article for The Hunt, no confirmed sealed Marvel Comics Multi Pack had been found containing a #21. A Joe Collector (name withheld per request of Discoverer) submitted a photo of a sealed Marvel Comics Multi Pack that contained #21 inside. The collector was able to verify without opening the sealed pack that the #21 inside the Marvel Comics Multi Pack was labeled with 3rd Printing wording and has a Black Spidey Head. So, we now have official confirmation that #21 3rd Printing was released in the Marvel Comics Multi Pack. This proves correct another part of the theory.
In connection with the Marvel Comics Multi Pack theory. A new option has been discovered. And we are now hunting for a different version of this Marvel Comics Multi Pack with #21 inside it. Notice it has white Spidey Head not a Black one. This image was found on the Mycomicshop.com website. No additional information can be found on this pack. Mycomicshop.com did not respond to emails inquires. Basically, if one of these packs could be found this could be an actual 2nd Printing with different advertisements. There is a precedent for Marvel Comics Multi Packs to contain G.I. Joe unlabeled 2nd Printings with different advertisements. This is new information to be added to the theory.
New information regarding the comic grading process. Comic grading companies CGC and CSBS do not recognize an unlabeled #21 Black Spidey Cover as a valid 2nd Printing, there policy is to only certify them as they are labeled. And would not put the label 2nd Printing on the heading. It is possible that a CGC/CSBS graded issue of #21 that IS NOT labeled or blank on the printing identification could possibly be a 2nd Printing. This is new information to be added to the theory.
So now we have a new challenge to the Joe Collecting community for #21 2nd Printing which needs to be tested:
What Declassified is looking for is any #21 G.I. Joe A Real American Hero with different advertisements then either 1st or 3rd Printing.
Marvel each month rotated its advertisements (the advertisements inside the Direct Market, Newsstand and Canadian Priced are the exact same). Advertisement matched the month they were released not the advertisements of the original print run. In additional printings all across the various Marvel titles the advertisements vary per printing.
What Declassified is asking is for all to pull out your #21 and check the advertisements. We want to try a find a #21 that has different advertisements. Either the 1st Printing White Spidey or the 3rd Printing Black Spidey could have different ads, so check both. And check your variants of Direct Market, Newsstand and Canadian Priced.
The list of Advertisements in #21:
#21 1st Printing (Direct Market, Newsstand and Canadian Priced) Advertisements:
Inside Front Cover: He-Man Masters of the Universe toys
Interior ads in order from front to back: Magic Glo Racers, Bubble Yum, Zorcom Spaceship, Double page Atarisoft, Gotta Get a Grit/ Comics Conventions, a multiple comic shop ad including Marvel Super Mart, Mile High Comics,”Make Big Money”.
Final Page: Marvel subscription service with Inhumans
Inside Back Cover: He-Man and Masters of the Universe video game
Back Cover: Frogger – Parker Brothers video game
#21 3rd Printing Advertisements:
Inside Front Cover: Reeces Pieces “Shadamedasfas” character
Interior ads in order from front to back: Oreo, Tootsie Roll, a multiple comic shop ad including Self Defense, Marvel Comics Price List, Mile High Comics, a double page Starsational Charter subscription offer/Marvel subscription offer with Spider-Man, Power Pack/Spider-Man prevent sexual abuse, a multiple comic shop ad including Marvel Super Mart, Krazy Label stick ons.
Final Page: Secret Wars II
Inside Back Cover: Huffy Stu Thomsen
Back Cover: Reach for the Stars with Captain America
If a #21 is found with different ads it could completely refine the definition of a G.I. Joe #21 2nd Printing.
For those who want to hear the story of hunting for G.I. Joe’s rarest comic read below.
The best part of collecting anything is the hunt and Joe Collector’s love the Hunt.
Hunt for #21 2nd Printing – John Neville
G.I. Joe was the first book I started to read, my mom got me a Marvel subscription when I was 5-6 years old. I remember issue #2 in comic shops as a kid as the most expensive book in the run and hard to find. I have always been a collector and was aware of the #21 2nd Printing mystery. I was always searching on eBay and would ask sellers to send me pictures of the indict of the issue listed and never had any success. I had seen CGC G.I. Joe #21 copies with a Black Spidey Head and no notation on 1st or 3rd Printing. I thought they mislabeled it and had passed on purchasing them.
I love getting comic books in the mail. I am working on a full set of newsstand, direct market editions, 2nd printing and Canadian Priced variants of the Marvel A Real American Hero line. So I was always on the hunt for GI Joe comics.
One day when I was visiting family in Panama City, Florida, I walked into a comic shop, Comic Emporium, and saw a #21 sitting behind the counter on the wall. I asked the shop owner if I could take a look at it by taking it out of the bag and board. And when I opened the book up I could not believe it at first. But I had found it a #21 2nd Printing. And this was in September of 2019. I bought it for $45.
At the time, I didn’t ask the comic shop any details about where it came from, I just knew I had found the rarest GI Joe comic.
Hunt for #21 2nd Printing – Joe Collector (Name withheld per request of Discoverer)
I am happy to shed some light on this amazing find and bring it to the community. I was reluctant to share this info previously because I did not think others were spending years looking for this book the same way I had, and even then, didn’t think anyone would believe me. But I couldn’t remain silent any longer once I saw the Joe Declassified Hunt for #21 2nd Printing article on Surveillance Port about this search.
I was on the hunt for this book and several other Joe rarities for a very, very long time starting in the 1990s, I was laser-focused on searching everywhere I could–which means frequenting shows and cons asking sellers if I could look inside copies of #21 they had for sale when I saw one, and contacting literally hundreds of eBay sellers over the years, looking at individual and whole lots of books for sale, asking the same question over and over again: wanting to know what the fine print was on the first page if I could tell that they had a copy of #21 in their lot based on the pictures they listed. It was after years of searching this way that I found the Tom DeFalco lots for sale. (Editor’s Note: Tom DeFalco was instrumental in helping create the backstory and dossiers of the characters of G.I. Joe in 1982 along with Larry Hama at Marvel, he was the original editor for the first six issues as well as later issues. Jim Shooter was the credited editor of #21.)
As I recall, the seller had random lots of good quality, mid/late 1980s books, and there were a handful of books & titles in each lot, only 1 or 2 signed in each one by Tom DeFalco, supposedly owned by or acquired from DeFalco directly. It is impossible for me to go back and find out who this person was that I bought from years ago online. I found the lot by doing a deep search for issue #21, and looking at the photos closely to see what was included. I was not searching for DeFalco specifically in any way, but when I inquired about the issue #21 I could see from their listing, I couldn’t believe that the photo I received in return had the black Spider-Man head without any printing information listed inside. I remember asking for further clarification regarding what I was looking at to be certain what I saw was real, and it indeed was. I’m positive the seller (and plenty of others over the years) must have thought I was crazy because of these specific questions. At the time, issue #21 wasn’t commanding a large value, and I recall that the price for the lot was very fair possibly because there were no certificates or proof of authenticity trying to validate the autographs, and no super-rare books that drew any attention other than the one or two autographs in each lot.
Since the book could have been acquired by the seller 2nd- or 3rd-hand from DeFalco, I cannot say with absolute certainty that it was ever part of DeFalco’s collection even though they claimed it was. I didn’t know the seller and built no rapport with them, just took him/her at their word. Quite honestly, I was so excited to have a chance to own the book, that I didn’t focus that much on the provenance of it and did not demand any such proof before making the purchase–just wanted to secure the transaction to be able to get the comic in my hand, that was my main concern.
I purchased the book ungraded from a seller years ago in lot of raw Marvel books. Personally I’m not a fan of graded books, because it robs a comic of almost everything it has to offer, but this one was an exception for me because I fully realize how important this particular book is, and I wanted a way to preserve it.
PGX was not my first choice. Initially I tried CGC since I believed them to be the industry standard, and requested that the label display the title as a 2nd printing. The labeling was rejected by them because it didn’t have a printing identified on the first page in the fine print stating that information. I tried to explain the potential differences between the printings with the research I had done over the years, but it made little difference and they did not change their position. Next I tried CBCS, and I ran into the exact same problem—they would not list it as a 2nd printing without the book saying so in the fine print. I don’t know if either of these companies have since changed their policies, it was several years ago at the time I was unaware of such a policy. My guess is no one tried sending them a 2nd printing of #21 previously…? I don’t know. Finally, after almost a year sorting this out as a side-project, it was suggested that I try PGX Comics – Professional Grading Experts as my final grading attempt. I contacted them and explained this ordeal BEFORE sending the book off, because I didn’t want to pay again only to be denied a third time without a refund. They agreed to take a look at it. So, the book was submitted to PGX along with a 1st print and a 3rd print of issue #21 at the same time in the same box so there was no question that this book was different than the others. They made good on their word, and the book was correctly labeled and graded as a 2nd printing. That’s the history of it.
I just cannot provide any provable additional info other then the word of the seller to help determine whether or not this print came from a comic shop, directly from the publisher’s hands, or from one of the multi-packs. But I noticed after I had it in-hand, that the 2nd Printing was a *bit* different then the 3rd Printing with its color tones. 3rd Printings tend to have darker covers that most 1st Printings seem to have. My 2nd printing is very similar to the coloring on the cover found on most of the 1st printings of #21, perhaps arguably a tiny bit darker, but not nearly to the extent of darkening seen on the inks used for most of the 3rd printings of issue #21. Again, not an exact science at all, not even close, but something else to add to the confusing equation. (Editor’s Note: Cover color differences are not considered variations, and the printing process of the 1980s left comics run at the front of the print run often brighter then the ones toward the end of the print run. Additionally, sun damage can fade a cover.)
This is an exciting hunt and it is great to see so much attention being paid to this book.