Key Comic Books From 1981

March 1, 2021

1981

Key comics from 1981

There are two main ways I’ve seen online lists of key comic books presented by year: (1) personalized lists based upon judgment calls of what is “key” (thereby omitting any comic books the particular writer doesn’t happen to consider key — or doesn’t know about), and (2) lists based upon high sales price data (also a flawed method because high prices can just as easily be caused by a non-key book happening to grade a 10 at CGC)

The top 100 key comic books from 1981 list you’re about to see is neither of those other types.

Instead, to briefly repeat the introduction I gave on the main 1980’s page, the list I’m about to present is essentially “crowd-sourced”… by the crowd of collectors sending comics to CGC. All I’ve done here is to rank the universe of comic books published in 1981, according to how many copies of each issue have passed through CGC’s doors to date (as of 1/19/2021) to reveal the comic books with the highest census counts — that’s it!

This exercise should “tease out” a very interesting list of important and/or key comic books from 1981, but this will not necessarily be an all-encompassing list (if very few copies were created for a given key, for example, that restricted supply could keep the count of CGC submissions low even though the comic is very important — this exercise will unfortunately see such comics sort themselves off of the bottom through no fault of their own). So essentially, you should think of this list as just one more tool in your tool-belt of researching key comic books from 1981.

Key Comic Books From 1981:

(Top 100 list based on census data as of January 19, 2021)
Rank CGC Count Issue Publisher/
Date
1. 5,690 Avengers Annual #10 Marvel
1981
  1st appearance of Rogue & Madelyn Pryor. Spider-Woman, X-Men, Carol Danvers & New Brotherhood of Evil Mutants appearance.
2. 5,415 X-Men #141 Marvel
1/81
  1st app. Rachel (Phoenix II), Avalanche, Destiny, Pyro & alternate future X-Men. Mystique, Blob & Robert Kelly app.
CGC variant confirmed Rare CGC-recognized pence price variant is confirmed to exist
3. 5,002 Daredevil #168 Marvel
1/81
  Origin & 1st appearance of Elektra.
CGC variant confirmed Rare CGC-recognized pence price variant is confirmed to exist
4. 4,617 Uncanny X-Men #142 Marvel
2/81
  “Deaths” of alternate future Wolverine, Storm & Colossus. Sentinels, Robert Kelly & Brotherhood of Evil Mutants app.
5. 1,704 Uncanny X-Men #143 Marvel
3/81
  Kitty Pryde solo story. N’Garai appearance. Christmas cover.
6. 1,505 Uncanny X-Men #150 Marvel
10/81
  Magneto appearance.
CGC variant confirmed Rare CGC-recognized pence price variant is confirmed to exist
7. 1,348 Amazing Spider-Man #212 Marvel
1/81
  Origin & 1st appearance of Hydro-Man (Morrie Bench).
8. 910 Dazzler #1 Marvel
3/81
  1st Direct Distribution Comic by Marvel. Spider-Man, Avengers, X-Men & Enchantress appearance.
9. 901 Uncanny X-Men #145 Marvel
5/81
  Doctor Doom, Arcade & Miss Locke appearance.
CGC variant confirmed Rare CGC-recognized pence price variant is confirmed to exist
10. 835 Uncanny X-Men #148 Marvel
8/81
  1st appearance of Caliban. Spider-Woman & Dazzler appearance. Magneto cameo on last page.
CGC variant confirmed Rare CGC-recognized pence price variant is confirmed to exist
11. 777 Uncanny X-Men #149 Marvel
9/81
  Garokk appearance. Magneto cameo on last page.
CGC variant confirmed Rare CGC-recognized pence price variant is confirmed to exist
12. 761 Uncanny X-Men #146 Marvel
6/81
  Doctor Doom, Arcade & Miss Locke appearance.
CGC variant confirmed Rare CGC-recognized pence price variant is confirmed to exist
13. 747 Uncanny X-Men #147 Marvel
7/81
  Doctor Doom & Arcade appearance.
CGC variant confirmed Rare CGC-recognized pence price variant is confirmed to exist
14. 666 Daredevil #174 Marvel
9/81
  1st appearance of the Hand. Elektra, Kingpin & Gladiator appearance.
CGC variant confirmed Rare CGC-recognized pence price variant is confirmed to exist
15. 644 Uncanny X-Men #151 Marvel
11/81
  Emma Frost, Sebastian Shaw & Sentinels appearance.
CGC variant confirmed Rare CGC-recognized pence price variant is confirmed to exist
16. 632 Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends #1 Marvel
12/81
  1st appearance of Firestar in comics (out of Marvel continuity). Adapted from the NBC cartoon.
17. 598 Daredevil #175 Marvel
10/81
  Elektra appearance. Kingpin cameo.
CGC variant confirmed Rare CGC-recognized pence price variant is confirmed to exist
18. 591 Uncanny X-Men #144 Marvel
4/81
  Cyclops solo story. Man-Thing & D’Spayre appearance.
CGC variant confirmed Rare CGC-recognized pence price variant is confirmed to exist
19. 468 Daredevil #169 Marvel
3/81
  Elektra & Bullseye appearance.
20. 426 Amazing Spider-Man Annual #15 Marvel
1981
  Punisher & Doctor Octopus appearance.
21. 422 Uncanny X-Men #152 Marvel
12/81
  Emma Frost, Sebastian Shaw & Harry Leland appearance.
CGC variant confirmed Rare CGC-recognized pence price variant is confirmed to exist
22. 402 Daredevil #176 Marvel
11/81
  1st appearance of Stick. Elektra appearance.
CGC variant confirmed Rare CGC-recognized pence price variant is confirmed to exist
23. 375 Amazing Spider-Man #217 Marvel
6/81
  Sandman & Hydro-Man combine to become Mud-Thing.
CGC variant confirmed Rare CGC-recognized pence price variant is confirmed to exist
24. 365 Star Wars #43 Marvel
1/81
  Part 5 of “The Empire Strikes Back” movie adaptation. Pin-ups by Miller, Severin, Austin, Golden & Byrne.
25. 360 Daredevil #170 Marvel
5/81
  Bullseye, Kingpin & Vanessa Fisk appearance.
CGC variant confirmed Rare CGC-recognized pence price variant is confirmed to exist
26. 351 Amazing Spider-Man #220 Marvel
9/81
  Moon Knight appearance. Aunt May backup story written by Mike Barr with art by Win Mortimer.
CGC variant confirmed Rare CGC-recognized pence price variant is confirmed to exist
27. 349 Amazing Spider-Man #214 Marvel
3/81
  Sub-Mariner & Frightful Four (Wizard, Trapster, Sandman & Llyra) appearance.
28. 345 Daredevil #173 Marvel
8/81
  Gladiator appearance.
CGC variant confirmed Rare CGC-recognized pence price variant is confirmed to exist
29. 334 Daredevil #177 Marvel
12/81
  Stick, Kingpin & J. Jonah Jameson appearance. Origin of Daredevil retold.
CGC variant confirmed Rare CGC-recognized pence price variant is confirmed to exist
30. 330 Amazing Spider-Man #215 Marvel
4/81
  Sub-Mariner, Fantastic Four & Frightful Four (Wizard, Trapster, Sandman & Llyra) appearance.
CGC variant confirmed Rare CGC-recognized pence price variant is confirmed to exist
31. 330 Star Wars #44 Marvel
2/81
  Part 6 of “The Empire Strikes Back” movie adaptation. Pin-ups by Simonson, Jusko, Hembeck, Layton & Rogers.
32. 329 Fantastic Four #232 Marvel
7/81
  1st full John Byrne issue. Diablo appearance. Doctor Strange cameo.
CGC variant confirmed Rare CGC-recognized pence price variant is confirmed to exist
33. 329 Dazzler 1 Printing Error Marvel
3/81
  Pages 24 & 25 (ad pages) printed without color. 1st Direct Distribution Comic by Marvel.
34. 313 Raiders of the Lost Ark #1 Marvel
9/81
  Movie adaptation, part one of three.
35. 305 Iron Man #150 Marvel
9/81
  Doctor Doom & Morgan Le Fey appearance.
CGC variant confirmed Rare CGC-recognized pence price variant is confirmed to exist
36. 298 Amazing Spider-Man #213 Marvel
2/81
  Wizard & Llyra appearance.
37. 291 Daredevil #172 Marvel
7/81
  Bullseye & Kingpin appearance.
CGC variant confirmed Rare CGC-recognized pence price variant is confirmed to exist
38. 286 Star Wars #49 Marvel
7/81
  “Death” of Jedidiah.
39. 283 Star Wars #50 Marvel
8/81
  Darth Vader, Yoda, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Klysk, Domina Tagge, Dengar, Bossk & Zuckuss appearance.
40. 280 Amazing Spider-Man #218 Marvel
7/81
  “Death” of the Mud-Thing (Sandman/Hydro-Man). Matt Murdock & Foggy Nelson cameo.
CGC variant confirmed Rare CGC-recognized pence price variant is confirmed to exist
41. 272 Detective Comics #500 D.C.
3/81
  Anniversary issue. Batman and Deadman team-up. Wraparound cover.
42. 268 Amazing Spider-Man #222 Marvel
11/81
  1st James Sanders as Speed Demon (formerly the Whizzer).
CGC variant confirmed Rare CGC-recognized pence price variant is confirmed to exist
43. 267 Amazing Spider-Man #216 Marvel
5/81
  Madame Web appearance.
CGC variant confirmed Rare CGC-recognized pence price variant is confirmed to exist
44. 261 All-Star Squadron #1 D.C.
9/81
  Origin of All-Star Squadron.
CGC variant confirmed Rare CGC-recognized pence price variant is confirmed to exist
45. 260 X-Men Annual #5 Marvel
1981
  Fantastic Four, Arkon & Franklin Richards appearance.
46. 257 Daredevil #171 Marvel
6/81
  Bullseye & Kingpin appearance.
CGC variant confirmed Rare CGC-recognized pence price variant is confirmed to exist
47. 248 Action Comics #521 D.C.
7/81
  1st app. of Vixen (Mari Jiwe McCabe). Atom/Aquaman backup story by Bob Rozakis, Alex Saviuk & Vince Colletta.
CGC variant confirmed Rare CGC-recognized pence price variant is confirmed to exist
48. 240 Moon Knight #14 Marvel
12/81
  Doug Moench story. Bill Sienkiewicz cover & art.
CGC variant confirmed Rare CGC-recognized pence price variant is confirmed to exist
49. 236 Green Lantern #141 D.C.
6/81
  1st appearance of Omega Men. Adam Strange backup story by Laurie Sutton, Rodin Rodriguez, Larry Mahlstedt
CGC variant confirmed Rare CGC-recognized pence price variant is confirmed to exist
50. 230 Fantastic Four #236 Marvel
11/81
  20th anniversary issue. Doctor Doom & Puppet Master appearance. Backup story by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby.
CGC variant confirmed Rare CGC-recognized pence price variant is confirmed to exist
51. 221 Amazing Spider-Man #223 Marvel
12/81
  Red Ghost & Super-Apes appearance.
CGC variant confirmed Rare CGC-recognized pence price variant is confirmed to exist
52. 221 Amazing Spider-Man #219 Marvel
8/81
  Grey Gargoyle & Matt Murdock appearance.
CGC variant confirmed Rare CGC-recognized pence price variant is confirmed to exist
53. 221 Amazing Spider-Man #221 Marvel
10/81
  Ramrod appearance.
CGC variant confirmed Rare CGC-recognized pence price variant is confirmed to exist
54. 204 New Teen Titans #10 D.C.
8/81
  Deathstroke appearance.
CGC variant confirmed Rare CGC-recognized pence price variant is confirmed to exist
55. 197 Rom #18 Marvel
5/81
  X-Men (Nightcrawler, Storm, Colossus, Wolverine & Sprite) & Hybrid appearance.
56. 187 Spider-Woman #38 Marvel
6/81
  X-Men (Angel, Storm & Colossus), Siryn, Black Tom Cassidy & Juggernaut appearance.
CGC variant confirmed Rare CGC-recognized pence price variant is confirmed to exist
57. 180 What If? #27 Marvel
7/81
  X-Men appearance.
58. 180 Ka-Zar the Savage #1 Marvel
4/81
  Shanna appearance.
CGC variant confirmed Rare CGC-recognized pence price variant is confirmed to exist
59. 167 Machine Man #19 Marvel
2/81
  1st appearance of Jack O’Lantern (Jason Macendale). Last issue. Superman & Batman appearance on cover.
60. 164 Captain America #255 Marvel
3/81
  Anniversary issue.
61. 161 Star Wars #52 Marvel
10/81
  “Death” of Colonel Nord. Darth Vader appearance.
62. 157 Captain America #254 Marvel
2/81
  “Death” of Baron Blood. Union Jack appearance.
63. 156 Spider-Woman #37 Marvel
4/81
  1st app. of Siryn (Theresa Cassidy). Nick Fury, X-Men, Juggernaut & Black Tom Cassidy appearance.
CGC variant confirmed Rare CGC-recognized pence price variant is confirmed to exist
64. 153 Moon Knight #3 Marvel
1/81
  1st appearance of Midnight Man.
CGC variant confirmed Rare CGC-recognized pence price variant is confirmed to exist
65. 148 Fantastic Four #233 Marvel
8/81
  Hammerhead appearance.
CGC variant confirmed Rare CGC-recognized pence price variant is confirmed to exist
66. 148 Incredible Hulk #258 Marvel
4/81
  Captain America, Presence, Red Guardian & Soviet Super-Soldiers appearance.
CGC variant confirmed Rare CGC-recognized pence price variant is confirmed to exist
67. 144 Fantastic Four #235 Marvel
10/81
  Ego appearance.
CGC variant confirmed Rare CGC-recognized pence price variant is confirmed to exist
68. 139 Star Wars #48 Marvel
6/81
  Princess Leia Organa vs. Darth Vader.
69. 139 New Teen Titans #3 D.C.
1/81
  1st appearance of the Fearsome Five. 1st appearance of Gizmo, Mammoth, Shimmer & Psimon.
CGC variant confirmed Rare CGC-recognized pence price variant is confirmed to exist
70. 131 Star Wars #47 Marvel
5/81
  1st appearance of Captain Kligson.
71. 129 Star Wars #53 Marvel
11/81
  1st appearance of Aron, Lady Alisande, Keral Longknife, Jain Havero, Delois & Sk’Ar.
72. 123 New Teen Titans #4 D.C.
2/81
  Origin & 1st full appearance of Trigon. Justice League of America appearance.
CGC variant confirmed Rare CGC-recognized pence price variant is confirmed to exist
73. 122 Rom #17 Marvel
4/81
  1st appearance of Hybrid (Jimmy Marks). X-Men (Professor X, Nightcrawler, Storm, Colossus, Wolverine, Sprite) appearance.
74. 119 Justice League of America #193 D.C.
8/81
  All-Star Squadron preview by Roy Thomas & Rich Buckler.
CGC variant confirmed Rare CGC-recognized pence price variant is confirmed to exist
75. 114 Moon Knight #12 Marvel
10/81
  Doug Moench story. Bill Sienkiewicz art. Frank Miller & Al Milgrom cover.
CGC variant confirmed Rare CGC-recognized pence price variant is confirmed to exist
76. 113 Dragonslayer #1 Marvel
10/81
  Movie adaptation.
77. 113 Star Wars #46 Marvel
4/81
  “Death” of Cody Sunn-Childe & Ansible Beelyard. Lando Calrissian & Chewbacca team-up.
78. 113 Batman #332 D.C.
2/81
  1st Catwoman solo story. Talia appearance.
CGC variant confirmed Rare CGC-recognized pence price variant is confirmed to exist
79. 112 New Teen Titans #9 D.C.
7/81
  Marv Wolfman story. George Perez & Romeo Tanghal art. George Perez cover.
CGC variant confirmed Rare CGC-recognized pence price variant is confirmed to exist
80. 109 Star Wars #45 Marvel
3/81
  “Death” of Admiral Damon Krell. Luke Skywalker & R2-D2 team-up.
81. 108 Iron Man #151 Marvel
10/81
  Ant-Man appearance.
CGC variant confirmed Rare CGC-recognized pence price variant is confirmed to exist
82. 108 Moon Knight #8 Marvel
6/81
  Doug Moench story. Bill Sienkiewicz & Frank Giacoia art. Bill Sienkiewicz cover.
CGC variant confirmed Rare CGC-recognized pence price variant is confirmed to exist
83. 104 Avengers #211 Marvel
9/81
  Tigra joins the Avengers. Moon Knight, Iceman, Dazzler, Angel & Moondragon appearance.
CGC variant confirmed Rare CGC-recognized pence price variant is confirmed to exist
84. 104 Marvel Premiere #61 Marvel
8/81
  Star-Lord. Last issue.
CGC variant confirmed Rare CGC-recognized pence price variant is confirmed to exist
85. 102 Marvel Team-Up #103 Marvel
3/81
  Ant-Man (Scott Lang). Taskmaster appearance.
86. 102 New Teen Titans #13 D.C.
11/81
  Revival of Robotman. Sequel to “death” issue of Doom Patrol from 1968. Return of Mento, Madame Rouge & Captain Zahl.
87. 100 Tales of the Green Lantern Corps #1 D.C.
5/81
  1st appearance of Arisia.
CGC variant confirmed Rare CGC-recognized pence price variant is confirmed to exist
88. 100 Iron Man #152 Marvel
11/81
  Living Laser cameo on last page. Partial photo cover.
CGC variant confirmed Rare CGC-recognized pence price variant is confirmed to exist
89. 100 Incredible Hulk #255 Marvel
1/81
  Thor appearance.
90. 99 Love and Rockets #1 A Hernandez Production
1981
  First appearance of Izzy, Maggie, Hopey, Rand, Duke, Penny, Bang & Inez. Luba protoype.
91. 98 Madame Xanadu #1 D.C.
7/81
  Madame Xanadu poster by Michael Wm. Kaluta. 1st Direct Distribution comic by DC.
92. 98 Captain America #253 Marvel
1/81
  1st appearance of Union Jack III (Joey Chapman). Baron Blood appearance.
CGC variant confirmed Rare CGC-recognized pence price variant is confirmed to exist
93. 98 Star Wars #54 Marvel
12/81
  Aron, Sk’Ar, Lady Alisande, Keral Longknife, Jain Havero & Delois appearance.
94. 98 Bizarre Adventures #27 Marvel
7/81
  X-Men solo stories featuring Phoenix, Iceman & Nightcrawler.
95. 95 New Teen Titans #7 D.C.
5/81
  Fearsome Five & Doctor Light appearance. Origin of Cyborg.
CGC variant confirmed Rare CGC-recognized pence price variant is confirmed to exist
96. 93 Star Wars #51 Marvel
9/81
  Darth Vader, General Rieekan, Major Kuhru, Captain Maraba Tev & Captain Voal appearance.
97. 93 Defenders #100 Marvel
10/81
  J.M. DeMatteis story. Don Perlin & Joe Sinnott art. Al Milgrom cover.
CGC variant confirmed Rare CGC-recognized pence price variant is confirmed to exist
98. 91 Moon Knight #13 Marvel
11/81
  Daredevil appearance.
CGC variant confirmed Rare CGC-recognized pence price variant is confirmed to exist
99. 90 James Bond For Your Eyes Only #1 Marvel
10/81
  Movie adaptation.
100. 90 Iron Man #148 Marvel
7/81
  Captain America cameo.
CGC variant confirmed Rare CGC-recognized pence price variant is confirmed to exist
 « 1980  1982 »