The Walking Dead Comic Series: A Collectors Guide
In October 2003, the first issue of the monthly Comic book “The Walking Dead” was issued by Image Comics. Created by Robert Kirkman and initially illustrated by Tony Moore and then by Charlie Adlard from issue #7 onwards. The comic book series has become one of comic history’s biggest sellers, received critical acclaimed and has won industry awards, however it was the production of AMC’s TV Series, based on the comic, starting in October 2010 and now into it’s third series, that has added a whole new fanbase to the monthly comic series, which is now into the low 100’s and along with it, a large number of collectors who are willing to pay significant sums for early editions that has made the series now very collectible. Here I will attempt to highlight the more collectible editions and the ones to look out for, these are often editions that feature the first appearance of an important character or a major plot change. The joy of comic collecting is pleasure of owning something that has awesome artwork, amazing covers and gripping storylines and if you’re lucky, something that can become very valuable. So you never know, maybe lurking in a garage/car boot sale or even procured at a reasonable price on eBay, you could find yourself in possession of something that is a pretty good investment! It’s worth noting that Image Comics issued a reprint of the Series from #1 to #52 starting January 2011 on the back of the popularity of the TV Series, in most cases, it is the first print edition’s that are referred to here (On the cover, top left below the Image Comics logo, there will be “Second Printing” to indicate so, the first print just have the logo). However, to be fair, the second print editions should also appreciate in value and some honourable mentions of this are given below. Hard to say whether the comics will hold their value over time, but I would imagine they will stay pretty firm but as with all commodities, there may be some fluctuation with new TV Season etc.
Hardly surprising, but the first print edition of “The Walking Dead” from October 2003 is very sought after. Ideally in mint or near mint condition, often collectors will have them graded by one of the commercial grading organisations (such as CGC) to assess the condition and they will then have a grading certificate and this, in most cases, will increase the commercial value. Further adding to the value will be if the comic has been signed by Robert Kirkman and/or the artists Tony Moore or Charlie Adlard. At present (October/November 2012) such copies are selling on eBay for around the US$1000/UK£625 (Note* A CGC 9.8 Version of issue #1 attracted 20+ bids on eBay in September 2013 and sold for $1590/£1000, with the 10th Anniversary of issues #1 arriving in October 2013, there are no signs of interest in the early editions declining) with some on the “Buy it Now” option, up to $1500/£935. If you are in the market for a copy and have the cash, again would advise some caution and make absolutely sure you are bidding on a First Print rather than a second print 2010 edition. The“Image First” reprint edition of the First Issue produced in 2010 as a $1.50/£1 special, these are still available for $12-14. The Second print edition from 2010 would be in the region of $30.
Issue two from the first print run is also highly sought after, some dealers citing that it had a lower print run than the first (although I’ve not been able to find confirmation of that) and as such is commanding prices in the $600/£375 region (as of October/November 2012).
All very collectible due to the age and formation of the early storyline. Each edition is likely to fetch around $100/£60. If looking to purchase, with some perseverance and good-timing, you may be able to purchase for less, if you’re lucky.
Issue 19 with it’s iconic cover, saw the first appearance of Michonne and she has firmly become a fans’ favourite. Her enigmatic appearance in the closing episode of the Second TV Series has only helped to fuel the value of this edition and as such, issue #19 has become very sought after with current prices ranging from $200- $300/£125-£187 on eBay, although a lot of “Buy it now” options are in the $500/£310 range. Such is the popularity of this character, that event the reprinted edition from 2011 getting quite hard to find, Amazon.com currently have a marketplace copy for $69, so if you can find one cheaper, may be worth getting hold of.
Issue 27 saw the first appearance of “The Governor”, again a pivotal character in the series, whose appearance makes a massive impact on the story (who will be appearing in TV series 3), as per #19, buzz from the TV series has probably increased the popularity of this edition and is thus commanding premium values in the $150/£100, although the “Buy I Now” on eBay are anything up to $1500/£930 for this edition.
This one is a bit of a “rocket firing boba fett”!, The first print run of 22000 copies in February 2007 had a print error, in that the second to last page was printed twice and the last page was missing. The whole run had to be reprinted correctly and the faulty batch was pulped, however it is thought there may have been a few sent out in the distributors early bird program and as such this would probably make this edition one of the rarest available, although there is no current gauge of it’s value.
Issues #36-87 range
These mid-range issues, first print editions are likely to be retailing on eBay or Comic Shops at around the £5-£12, maybe a bit cheaper if you’re lucky and you can hunt them out. However there are cover variations, often issued as exclusives at regional Comic Conventions, which can be more valuable and there are the retailer appreciation versions (for a certain number that a comic shop buys from the distributor, they will often send an additional edition with an exclusive cover variant) and these are well worth searching out and invariably on sources such as eBay, they will normally be a few $/£ more than the regular cover.
As a “milestone” issue, #50 has been issued with some awesome cover variants, in particular, the Eric Larson wraparound is very desirable, with current copies on eBay typically retailing at around $120/£75
There are number if variations of cover for this issue including a 2010 San Diego CC variant by Charlie Adlard, although my particular favourite is the reproduction of the first issue background with a new Rick Grimes illustration. Issue #75 is particularly sought as it includes the first Colour Ryan Ottley back-up story, value of the SDCC would be around $50/£30 (more if signed by Kirkman/Adlard).
To mark milestone issue #75, Image comics issued some blank sketch variants by cover artists such as Ashley Nicole and Shelby Robertson. These issues were very limited (1000 each) and unsurprisingly highly sought after. Copies can still be obtained on sites such as eBay but you should expect to pay anywhere from $300/£187 to $400/£250, dependant on the artist and cover.
Issues #78 & #87
In a break from tradition, Special Comic Con (Long Beach & Arizona) Exclusive cover versions had Photo covers rather than the traditional artwork, nonetheless the Arizona #87 is pretty spectacular.
Following on from the theme of Variant’s, a special edition cover variant by Charlie from the 2011 Canada Fan Expo is very collectable, currently reaching value’s in the $100/£60 region.
In June 2012, when the Comic Series reached the 100th edition, to mark the occasion, a number of artists were commissioned to produce cover variants and the 100th edition was issued with 8 different standard covers, plus a number of retailer/special variants with wraparound covers. The artist/cover identities are classified as follows; 101a – Charlie Adlard, 101b – Marc Silvestri, 101c – Frank Quitely, 101d Todd McFarlane, 101e – Philips – 101f – Hitch, 101g – Ryan Ottley . whilst the regular editions are not particularly valuable at present ( $25/£15 for the whole set, from some retailers, pretty much the cover price), I would be very surprised if they didn’t gain in value over time, so these would well be worth picking up now if you can. A limited edition box set of #100 covers (along with various goodies, t-shirts, autographs, ltd edition silk prints etc) was issued in July 2012 directly from Skybound (Robert Kirkman’s publishing company). As this release was limited 250 copies and retailed at $250/£154, which seemed a lot of money, a couple were available on eBay recently, one for $300/£187 (pretty good value!) & one for $800/£500!
A very nice special Michonne Retro style “Ghost Variant” was issued in August 2012, whereby a small print run was made and distributed to various dealers. These are very collectable and although only issued fairly recently, are already attracting bids of $48/£30.
February 2013's Issue #106 was Charlie Adlard's 100th Edition (after taking over from Tony Moore) as well as two standard cover variants, to celebrate this anniversary, an exclusive Charlie Adlard cover was produced, limited to 2000 copies and available from UK Comic Shop - "Infinity and Beyond" in Shrewsbury UK (which is Charlie Adlard's local). The cover is a reworking of Tony Moore's original #1 cover featuring Charlie Adlard (in place of Rick Grimes) in front of the Comic Shop and with hints of his favourite items - drums, lego and a car. As of February 2013, copies were still available from eBay and directly at a reasonable £14.99 and Signed by Charlie Adlard or £12.99 unsigned, both of which might prove to be a pretty good investment!
The Walking Dead #115 10th Anniversary Covers
To celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the series, Issues #115, due out in October 2013 will have 10 separate cover variants which will all "interconnect" to show a montage of the most significant events from the past ten years (one for each year) of the series. The Issue will also have a "standard cover" For collectors, it would definitely be worthwhile try to obtain each version, although some maybe harder to source than others. but hopefully that won't be the case.. There are retailers also putting together some exclusive packages together to celebrate the event, Infinity & Beyond in Shrewsbury, UK for example are putting to together a collectors box set with 14 covers, exclusive art print signed by Charlie Adlard and with a comp to win original WD artwork, all for a very reasonable £65/$103. There is also a 10th anniversary reprint of #1 being issued on 2nd October 2013 to look out for.
Occasionally, special editions are issued, such as the Michonne Special #19 reprint (to coincide with the star of TV season 3) with new cover, the Michonne origin story that was first published in Playboy,. This issue is already increasing in value, but if you hunt around some of the excellent online Comic stores, you should still (as of late October 2012) still be able to source one at it’s original cover price ($2.99/£2.20), although I would suggest sooner rather than later, as they are quickly disappearing.Image Comics have also produced collated versions of the comic books, so that if you’re on a budget and just want to get into the story, these are a great way to go.
#150 - Mid Series Milestone
Robert Kirkman has previously quoted that he would like the Comic Series to run for 300 issues, so #150 due for release on 13th January 2015 will be the mid series milestone and will feature a major storyline and the likely killing off on one or more of the major characters. The standard cover image has been released by Skybound/Image for some time and there is certainly a blank variant scheduled, but there has been little mention of any other variants, although would be surprised if there were not any issued, given the issue number, these would certainly be worth looking out for.
If you feel you’re a bit late to the party, either getting into the story or as an investment, don’t worry, it is still a great saga to get into, the TV Series 2/early 3 hasn't really got much past the early 20’s in the comic series, so there are lot’s of storylines to catch up on. Digital versions of the whole back catalogue are available for iPad/Kindle etc via Comixology and also the collected printed editions are great for catch-up’s and can be obtained reasonably cheaply. It is still possible to pick up back issue’s and first prints via eBay or your local friendly comic shop are also a great source, also worth checking out garage sales/car boot sales or 2nd hand websites.
As should be abundantly clear by now, Image Comics are very keen on the cover variants, there will always be rarer versions of the current issue to be had again support your local Comic Shop, if you’re lucky to have one, and I am sure they will help you here, if they can! Also worthy of a mention, if you are keen on dipping into the speculative side of comic collecting, is Image Comics/Skybound's comic stable mate, also created by Robert Kirkman – “Thief of Thieves.” Although a different genre, has just been optioned by AMC (the TV production company who make The Walking Dead), so if that gets made it will significantly increase the value of any back issues. Already first print editions of issue #1 that was only started in February 2012 are starting to make a very large premium, so well worth checking out!