Most collectors know that many recent first issues from Image Comics have been strong sellers, and that it’s not unusual for these issues to command multiples of cover price in the back issue market. There are probably three key issues driving these price spikes:
- Speculation – Since the huge back-market success of titles like Walking Dead and Chew – and more recent titles like Thief of Thieves and Peter Panzerfaust – there’s no question that some collectors are driving sales in a quest to find “the next big thing”.
- Scarcity – Even though Image print runs have been rising, the overall print run for many Image comics – including first issues – is relatively small, meaning that if demand rises, supply is not always adequate to cover that demand.
- Quality – This is, of course, a matter of personal perception… But if the 1990’s market was driven by hot artists, the current market is driven by hot writers, and a solid and compelling story with good word of mouth will pull in new readers, trying to chase down issues of the series.
When all three of these factors come together, it’s a recipe for a price increase: a small print run, with much of it snapped up by speculators, followed by rising reader-driven demand, and suddenly people will pay a premium to jump onto the hot new series… Then we get the bandwagon effect, in which the hype itself draws more readers to the book, in a self-propelled feedback loop.
The most recent beneficiary of this cycle has been Revival, a noir-ish thriller from writer Tim Seeley and artist Mike Norton. In the series, small town drama gets turned on its head as the recently deceased begin to return from the dead. There’s no question that Walking Dead is a stylistic influence here, with the story focused on recognizably human characters and conflict, rather than the frenetic gore of traditional horror. But Revival differentiates itself with compelling psychological themes, undercurrents of religious fervour, and a slick medical detective veneer that helps propel the story along.
Revival #1 was released in July, with a print run of about 18,000 copies… the reception was positive, but this is a relatively large print run for an Image comic. Initially price varied widely, with copies still available in some shops at cover price, and sales through ebay all over the map. When the second issue hit in August (with a much smaller print run) it was an almost instant sell-out. This seems to have cemented the perception of the book as a “must have” for many collectors, and both issue #1 and #2 now routinely sell in the $8 to $12 range. A preview of Revival ran in Image’s Free Comic Book Day giveaway, which now also commands about $5 a copy. Another preview ran in Walking Dead #99, though the large print run on this issue appears to be sufficient to meet current demand, with copies easily available at cover price.
The long-term prognosis for the value of Revival #1 and #2 is an open question. Certainly past Image books (like 27 or Infinite Vacation) have seen an initial spike and then cooled off. But Revival #3 ships next week, and it’s certainly possible that the print run will not be sufficient to meet the current demand – which may just be enough to drive prices up once again.