About this journal
This journal by @StephenWA provides a review of iconic The Walking Dead issues, starting with #1 from October 2003, #100 from 2012, and an identification and analysis of the TWD rarities. In its first section, it includes analysis of the original two covers plus 261 other reprint and variant covers (which are all listed below) over seventeen years and its prowess in the CGC Registry and in the re-sale market. It also highlights the all time "Top 10" comics by number of variant covers. With 263 different covers on its English language editions, where will TWD #1 feature on this list?
The photograph shows the first The Walking Dead (TWD) comic, issue #1, from October 2003. This is the comic that spawned the complete franchise of TV shows, theme park rides, collector cards and so on. There are also said to be three big screen movies pending production. The comic provides the first character appearances of:
• Rick Grimes
• Shane Walsh
• Morgan Jones
• Morgan's son, Duane Jones (first and last appearance)
Robert Kirkman - creator, writer
Tony Moore - co-creator, cover and interior art
Cover price $2.95.
Rick and Shane are cops. Rick gets shot while on duty. He wakes up in an abandoned hospital not knowing anything of the zombie apocalypse. As he makes his way back to his house to check on his family, he runs into Morgan Jones and his son Duane. Duane whacks Rick in the face with a shovel thinking that he's a zombie. When Rick comes around, Morgan explains "the dead" (called "Walkers" in the TV show). He equips himself at his old police station to continue his search for his wife, Lori and his son, Carl. He arrives in Atlanta on horse, before being surrounded by the dead. In the TV show which follows (2010), he is surrounded while hiding inside a tank.
CGC census 5/2020 = 3203 copies, including 1061 in 9.8 and 24 in 9.9. There are 2650 Universal and 470 in Signature series.
The print run on this comic was small. Of the 7,266 copies of the comic said to have been printed, by 5/2020, 3203 had been graded by CGC. This represents a surprising 44.1% of the whole run (though there may be some counted twice i.e. slabs cracked and re-submitted after pressing or being signed). Most of those graded are in grade 9.0 or higher. The lowest graded copy is graded 0.5 (1 of). The highest graded copies on the census are 9.9 (24 of). There are no Gem/10 copies.
This comic was published (and republished) in five broad periods:
- First issues 2003-2008 (3 cover variants)
- Image Firsts 2010-2017 (7 cover variants)
- TWD Weekly 2011 (2 cover variants)
- Anniversary and Convention editions 2013-2019 (2013 = 16, 2014 = 10, 2015 = 49, 2016 = 1, 2017 = 2, 2018 = 162, 2019 = 1 / TOTAL = 241 cover variants)
- Walking Dead Deluxe 2020 (10 cover variants)
There were two (slightly) different covers on the original 2003 first printing, though these are not shown separately in the CGC Registry. The first has 'MATURE READERS' in black ink in a block on the cover (under the price box), and the second has this same text presented in white - shown in the header and in the photograph above. There are many rumours as to why these are different. The most-common is that the black ones were a printing error (black printed over white), noted and corrected to white over black later in the print run. The black is widely-thought to be the rarer of the two. I have examples of both in my collection.
The original comic has been re-issued a staggering 258 different covers in the English language*:
- Special Edition #1 (May 2008)
- Image Firsts (7 dated editions: 3/2010, 9/2010, 4/2011, 12/2012, 4/2014, 11/2015 and 3/2017)
- Walking Dead Weekly #1, and Arizona Comic Convention variant (2011)
- Wizard World editions - 64 versions comprising 34 with colour covers and 30 with sketch covers (2013 = 14, 2014 = 4, 2015 = 46)
- 10th Anniversary Edition, and Convention Edition (2013)
- Image Expo, and Image Expo Sketch Editions (Nick Dragota cover, January 2014)
- Escape, and Escape Sketch Editions (April 2014)
- Special Anniversary / Black Friday Edition (April 2014)
- Hyundai Edition (April 2014)
- Skybound 5th Anniversary Editions (Colour, Sketch and Blue Sketch, July 2015)
- Cynthiana Edition (June 2016)
- Diamond Previews / SDCC (2017)
- go! Calendar Club Edition (2017)
- 15th Anniversary Blind Bag Editions - Colour 1A, Colour Virgin 1B, Sketch 1C and Sketch Virgin 1D** (October 2018)
- 15th Anniversary Retailer cover, and 157 Store Variant Covers*** (October 2018)
- The Last Wine Variant (2019, with Chris Burnham cover) - these seem to be very rare. According to my contact at publisher Skybound "[These] were promo items for the company that we did the TWD wine with. They gave them out to shops that carried the wine.... the wine company sent the promo copies out to local wine distributors in CA, CO, GA, KY, OH, IL, LA, OK, TX, SC and WA. I believe the distributors would then send the books to their accounts that would carry the wine".
- Walking Dead Deluxe - 1A Finch and McCaig, 1B Moore and McCaig, 1C Adlard, 1D Tedesco, 1E Adams, 1F Blank, Finch Gold Foil, Finch Red Foil, Finch Black Foil and Finch Sketch Cover / Comics Vault Live exclusive (October 2020)
* = There are also numerous foreign language editions of this comic, re-prints and variants, including those published in Argentina (Ovni Press), France (Delcourt Comics), Italy (Salda Press), Mexico (Kamite), Peru (Editora Vuk), Serbia (Lavirinu) and Sweden (Apart Forlag). NB: I am working with CGC to have these international sets added to the Registry.
** = There were no 1:100 "Hidden" editions of comic 1. The hidden editions were 19, 48, 98, 100 and 108
*** = I was instrumental in validating and correcting the CGC Registry to show the correct listing of the store variants through my communications with former Registry administrator Mollie Davies.
Other comics with multiple covers:
As at August 2019, according to my research, the Top 10 comics - in the traditional reverse order - with multiple numbers of different/variant covers is shown below.
10th = US Avengers #1 (2017), 64 different covers
9th = Harley Quinn #1 (2016), 79 different covers
8th = Star Wars #1 (2015), 85 different covers
7th = Detective Comics #1000, 86 different covers
6th = Vampirella #1 (2019), 89 different covers
5th = Dark Knight III, The Master Race #1 (2016), 91 different covers
=3rd = Godzilla: Kingdon of Monsters #1 (2011), 104 different covers
=3rd = Batman #50 (2016), 104 different covers
2nd = Amazing Spider-Man #666, 145 different covers (including 141 comic shop variants)
And the winner, 1st position = The Walking Dead #1 (2003) with a total of 263 reprint and variant covers as described.
As noted, you could have bought the comic from a news stand in October 2003 for $2.95. The comic has climbed steadily in value, particularly since 2010 when the TV show debuted. The highest recorded price for a 9.8 is thought to be $3250.00 (of course, the value of private sales is just that - private). According to sellmycomicbooks.com, the 2015 average price for a 9.8 was $2075. The 2016 average price for a 9.8 was $2467. In 2017, a copy sold for $3051 in 9.8 The highest recent sales were $2300 for a 9.8 and $1450 for a 9.6 in December 2018.
In March 2016, a CGC 9.9 copy of the 2003 original comic sold on eBay for a staggering $22,825. Two copies sold in autumn 2020 for $12,000 and $15,000.
As at the end of May 2020, sales this year of #1 Universal 9.8 (from GPA, in order) have been $2000, $1920, $1800, $1900, $1820, $1698 and $1750.
Back in 2014, the single copy graded at 0.5 sold on eBay for $756.