Graphic Fantasy

Graphic Fantasy #1: First Appearance of the “Original” Savage Dragon (1982)

By Benjamin Nobel, October 12, 2015

Savage Dragon surged in popularity back in 1992 at the time Image Comics was formed. Image co-founder Erik Larsen took a character he had created as a youngster, and in 1992 with Savage Dragon Limited Series #1 kicked off a phenomenon that would grow to become the comic series now credited as the longest running American full-color comic book to feature a single artist/writer.

But the “Savage Dragon” incarnation of the character at Image Comics was not the first. For years, most of the industry has credited Megaton #3 (classic “Vanguard vs. The Dragon” cover) as the true first appearance of the original incarnation of the character. But in fact, The Dragon’s “original” appearance in a published comic book was actually in 1982, in Graphic Fantasy #1, a comic so rare that it has practically eluded the industry and collectors. But in 2015, a CGC graded copy of Graphic Fantasy #1 hit eBay at auction; it was this one:

Graphic Fantasy #1 CGC 9.6 Certification Information

Above is the CGC certification information for the CGC 9.6 graded copy of Graphic Fantasy #1 that was auctioned on eBay in 2015.

As you can see above in the “Key Comments” field, once CGC actually saw and graded a copy of Graphic Fantasy #1, it then credited the book with The Dragon’s first appearance (and “demoted” Megaton #3 which I will get to later). By studying this example copy and others that have surfaced over the years, two things have become abundantly clear to me; and by the end of this blog post I intend to have proven these two things:

(1) Graphic Fantasy #1 is the single lowest print run first appearance of any major modern comic book superhero (and not by a little, by a lot).

(2) Few collectors actually seem to know of this comic’s existence, which, owing to its extreme rarity, is probably because not much information is actually documented online about this book. In fact, there is a lot of incomplete, conflicting, and outright misinformation out there about it.

Lowest Print Run of Any Major Modern Superhero First Appearance

Let’s start with claim #1. To begin, we need to assess the print run for Graphic Fantasy #1. Fortunately, creators Erik Larsen, Al Harris, and Kevin Keyes make that relatively easy for us (so long as we can lay eyes on an actual copy), because they signed and numbered every copy produced. Below is what an example copy of Graphic Fantasy #1 looks like, front and back.
Graphic Fantasy #1 - First Appearance of the original Savage Dragon

The front cover of Graphic Fantasy #1 (6/1982 by Erik Larsen, Al Harris, and Kevin Keyes). Prism, Iron Hawk, and The Dragon (the “original” Savage Dragon) are featured.

Graphic Fantasy #1 back cover #200/200

Erik Larsen, Al Harris, and Kevin Keyes signed and numbered each copy of Graphic Fantasy #1 on the back cover. This example copy is numbered #200 out of 200

Note that the back cover of the copy shown above is numbered #200 out of 200 (top left corner). This numbering — and the numbering on the CGC copy (#20 / 200) — would suggest that the print run for Graphic Fantasy #1 was 200 copies. ComicBookDB.com indicates a print run of 300, not 200, copies. Might the trio have gotten to 200 and decided to produce another hundred? That would have made for 100 each… This was a self-published “fanzine” so the production run was of their own choosing. As a point of reference, copies of Graphic Fantasy #2 are numbered to 450 and Graphic Fantasy #3 are numbered to 500. This upward sloping trend would argue that fewer copies of #1 would have been produced than copies of #2.

But whether it is 200, 300 — even if it was issue #3 at 500 copies that we were discussing — at these kinds of numbers in the hundreds we’re talking about print run rarity that is orders of magnitude more scarce than any other major modern comic book superhero, comparing against the print run of their first appearances.

This may sound like a bold claim, but I plan to back it up: for my list of “major” modern comic book characters, I turn to the IGN Top 100 (where Savage Dragon is #95). From these 100 judged to be “major” characters by IGN, I extract the “modern” superheroes from the list. When submitting a comic to CGC, their “modern” tier starts at 1975; but I’ll include 1972 and onward just to get a few more names into the mix and give us a really good set of 45 superheroes who first appeared in modern comic books, as our peer group.

For each superhero, there are a number of ways we can approach a print run comparison. One source of information I relied upon heavily is the CGC census, showing how many copies they have graded to date of any given issue. Only a fraction of total copies produced will later be sent in by collectors to CGC to be graded, but in many cases I found a thousand or more CGC graded copies on census — already multiples of Graphic Fantasy #1’s print run, before even considering all the other non-graded copies that exist. Hoknes Comics was a useful source for print run information and estimates (although interestingly as I’ll discuss later, Hoknes mistakenly cites issue #2 of Graphic Fantasy, not issue #1, as containing the key first appearance of The Dragon). Another source of information I have heavily relied upon is Comichron and their excellent sales data information.

The table below presents my findings. The first column is IGN’s rank for the character, the second column is the superhero in question, the third column is the year of their first appearance, and the final column presents evidence of a print run greater than that of Graphic Fantasy #1. As you can see, there are several characters on this list with low print run first appearances, such as Cerebus (print run of 2000), Usagi Yojimbo (2000), Fone Bone (1000), The Tick (5000), and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (3000); even the lowest of these comps in the “5,000 and under club” is still 5x the print run of Graphic Fantasy #1.

Rank Character First Appearance Print Run Data
100 Groo 1982 25,000 print run estimate, seemingly endless supply of copies of Destroyer Duck #1 at the big comic shops and on eBay, including a recent lot of 41 copies which sold for less than $2/ea.
98 Nova 1976 CGC Census shows 1,636 graded copies
95 Savage Dragon 1982 Just 200-300 copies of Graphic Fantasy #1 were printed
92 Usagi Yojimbo 1984 Print run of 2,000 copies indicated inside cover
91 Cerebus 1977 Overstreet indicates “2,000 print run” for Cerebus #1
90 Ghost Rider 1972 CGC Census shows 1,585 graded copies of Marvel Spotlight #5
89 Moon Night 1975 CGC Census shows 1,058 graded copies of Werewolf By Night #32
88 She-Hulk 1980 CGC Census shows 2,092 graded copies of Savage She-Hulk #1
87 Renee Montoya 1992 Most likely well over 100,000 of copies were printed.  According to Comichron’s Batman page, circulation data from postal records was no longer published after 1987, but for that year issues of Batman did an average of 193,000 copies.  We can only assume that in 1992, close to the peak of the 1990’s boom, that monthly sales of Batman were even stronger.  In later years Comichron has monthly preorders figures, for example for issue #575 of Batman preorders were in excess of 50,000 copies.  Among members of comicbookdb.com, Batman #575 is owned by 317 members, while Batman #475 is owned by 410 members.
86 Michonne 2005 Comichron shows 17,222 copies for Walking Dead #19 on its June 2005 sales page
85 Black Lightning 1977 150,000 print run estimate for Black Lightning #1
80 Nightcrawler 1975 CGC Census shows 5,455 graded copies of Giant Size X-Men #1
79 Captain Britain 1976 200,000 print run estimate for Captain Britain Weekly #1
76 Rocketeer 1982 25,000 print run estimate for Starslayer #2, prevalent everywhere (in stock at all major comic stores in the range of $5-10, over 100 eBay results found)
75 Marv 2005 Dark Horse Presents Fifth Anniversary Special was released in 1991, within a couple of years of the 1990’s comic book boom.  In its earliest monthly page of sales data (September 1996), Comichron shows the Dark Horse Presents title at preorders of 6,457, ranking at #258, for issue #113.  There are roughly double the eBay listings for the Fifth Anniversary Special as compared to #133, and among the members of comicbookdb.com, the number of members reporting Fifth Anniversary Special in their collection is also roughly double the number reporting #113 in their collection.  This suggests doubling the number of copies sold in preorder as an estimate for Fifth Anniversary Special, would come in somewhere north of 12,000.
73 Jonah Hex 1972 125,000 print run estimate for All Star Western #10
72 Luke Cage 1972 200,000 print run estimate for Hero For Hire #1, CGC Census shows 993 graded copies
69 Scott Pilgrim 2004 This appears to be a hardcover book; there is also a trade paperback edition.  Therefore, while it may be collectible as a hardcover book, it isn’t really applicable to this comparison of comic book appearances, but since it is in the IGN top 100 and modern, I have still listed it out.  Judging by the hundreds upon hundreds of available copies on Amazon, eBay, and elsewhere, this is clearly not a low print run item anyway.
68 Iron Fist 1974 CGC Census shows 1,405 graded copies of Marvel Premiere #15
65 Gambit 1990 CGC Census shows 6,368 graded copies of Uncanny X-Men #266
63 Blade 1973 CGC Census shows 1,025 graded copies of Tomb of Dracula #10
62 Dashiell Bad Horse 2007 Comichron shows 13,644 copies for Scalped #1 on its January 2007 sales page
60 Fone Bone 1983 1,000 copies of Thorn: Tales From The Lantern were printed, according to Wikipedia.
59 Booster Gold 1986 70,000 print run for Booster Gold #1
57 The Tick 1988 Print run of 5,000 copies of Tick Special Edition #1, with each copy numbered
54 Elijah Snow 1999 Comichron shows 37,650 copies for Planetary #1 on its February 1992 sales page
48 Mitchell Hundred 2004 Comichron shows 28,550 copies for Ex Machina #1 on its June 2004 sales page.
47 Kitty Pryde 1980 CGC Census shows 1,628 graded copies of X-Men #129
45 Spider Jerusalem 1997 Comichron shows 18,151 copies for Transmetropolitan #1 on its July 1997 sales page
42 Storm 1975 CGC Census shows 5,455 graded copies of Giant Size X-Men #1
37 The Crow 1989 25,000 print run estimate for Caliber Presents #1, CGC Census shows 284 graded copies
36 Spawn 1992 Comichron indicates direct edition copies of Spawn #1 are widely believed to have crossed the 1 million copy mark, although information from industry veteran Chuck Rozanski about a 1% newsstand distribution ratio for Image Comics would put newsstand copies (UPC code on cover) at a few as 10,000.
35 Judge Dredd 1975 25,000 estimated print run for 2000 AD #2, appears not to be a comic-sized publication and possibly outside of regular magazine size as well (could not find any from this title on CGC census, so like with Scott Pilgrim this collectible may be outside of the comic book universe as far as CGC is concerned)
34 Jesse Custer 1995 90,000 print run for Preacher #1
32 Tim Drake 1989 Most likely well over 100,000 of copies were printed.  According to Comichron’s Batman page, circulation data from postal records was no longer published after 1987, but for that year issues of Batman did an average of 193,000 copies.  Among members of comicbookdb.com, Batman #436 is owned by 673 members.
31 Deadpool 1991 CGC Census shows 8,155 graded copies of New Mutants #98
29 John Constantine 1985 48,000 print run, CGC Census shows 912 graded copies of Saga of Swamp Thing #37
27 Punisher 1974 CGC Census shows 6,487 graded copies of Amazing Spider-Man #129
26 Rick Grimes 2003 Comichron shows 7,266 copies for Walking Dead #1 on its October 2013 sales page
25 Hellboy 1993 CGC Census shows 1,167 graded copies of John Byrne’s Next Men #21
24 Yorick Brown 2002 Comichron shows 15,287 copies for Y The Last Man #1 on its July 2002 sales page
23 Raphael 1984 As published in Turtlemania, the first printing of TMNT #1 in 1984 was a print run of 3,000 copies
16 Rorschach 1986 CGC Census shows 1,785 graded copies of Watchmen #1
15 Morpheus 1989 CGC Census shows 1,308 graded copies of Sandman #1
4 Wolverine 1974 CGC Census shows 7,807 graded copies of Incredible Hulk #181

These results demonstrate that other key first appearances had print run numbers many multiples that of Graphic Fantasy #1. But even this may understate the rarity of surviving copies, because Graphic Fantasy #1 also differed in being a fanzine. When I try and picture who would be reading a self-published fanzine, I have to imagine the three friends who created it divided up the copies produced and each tried to interest friends and family in reading it. One has to imagine that the vast majority of those who originally received a copy would have sat down and read it. Like the copy shown earlier with the liquid stain on the back, perhaps many of those readers enjoyed reading the comic book while enjoying a beverage. Point being: with a fanzine such as this, produced to be read and enjoyed, how many copies were treated as a collector’s item and carefully stored away to preserve condition? The CGC Census gives us a hint: at the time of this writing 33 years have passed since Graphic Fantasy #1 was produced… and only 3 copies have ever been graded by CGC. That’s a ratio of 1 CGC graded copy for every 11 years since publication.

Graphic Fantasy #1 CGC Census result

As of October 2015, the CGC census shows a grand total of 3 graded copies of Graphic Fantasy #1. Because every copy produced was signed and numbered, any copy sent in to CGC receives its “Qualified” grade (denoting that names and numbers were written on the comic). Because all copies are known to have been signed and numbered by Larsen, Harris, and Keyes, these signatures are “self-authenticating” (we know there are “supposed” to be three, so unless there is mysteriously a 4th signature one knows the signatures are all supposed to be there).

Proven by the data: Graphic Fantasy #1 is the single lowest print run first appearance of any major modern comic book superhero (and not by a little, by a lot).

Having shown just how incredibly rare this comic book is, one can start to understand how comic shops, CGC, Overstreet, other comic book authorities, as well as collectors, simply don’t seem to know of this comic’s existence. Which brings me to the second claim I will now attempt to prove:

Few Collectors Know Graphic Fantasy #1 Exists, Probably Because Most Shops and Comic Authorities Have Never Laid Hands On One

It is hard to blame anyone for being unaware of the Graphic Fantasy fanzines. For one thing, Erik Larsen’s “first professional work” credit appears in Megaton #1, in November of 1983.
Megaton #1 (1983) is credited with Erik Larsen's first professional work.

Megaton #1 (1983) is credited with Erik Larsen’s first professional work.

Implied by the phrase “first professional work” is that no published works exist that are chronologically earlier. That’s obviously a false assumption to make in this case — Graphic Fantasy was a “self-published” fanzine pre-dating Larsen’s “professional” work. Interestingly, according to the FAQ page at SavageDragon.com, it was the Graphic Fantasy fanzine that led to Larsen being hired to work on Megaton. If you think about it, self-publishing an actual professional-looking comic book to demonstrate your skill is a brilliant way to send a “resume” to potential employers. But by drawing the line at Megaton #1 for “professional work,” the industry set itself up to overlook the earlier fanzine.

Looking for the first appearance, a collector looking at Overstreet's 2010 guide would read "See Megaton #3" (not see Graphic Fantasy #1!)

Looking for the first appearance, a collector looking at Overstreet’s 2010 guide would read “See Megaton #3” (not see Graphic Fantasy #1!)

I first learned of Savage Dragon’s first appearance being in Megaton #3 from Overstreet; no mention of Graphic Fantasy was included in the guide. If an authority like Overstreet overlooked this book, it is no wonder it stayed completely under the radar for so long. Like the old saying, “out of sight, out of mind,” Graphic Fantasy was overlooked initially and then stayed out of the sight of the comic authorities simply on account of being so incredibly rare. For years, as far as CGC was concerned Megaton #3 contained that key first appearance, with CGC graded copies labeled with “First full appearance of Savage Dragon.”

Megaton #3 CGC label (back then)

As late as 2012, CGC recognized Megaton #3 as containing the first full appearance of Savage Dragon… but that changed.

As you can see above, as late as 2012 CGC recognized Megaton #3 as containing the first full appearance of Savage Dragon — but as you may have guessed, that changed. When did it change, and why? Sometime between 2012 and present — which likely coincides with when CGC graded its very first copy of Graphic Fantasy #1. In other words, I am suggesting that once CGC had laid eyes on an actual copy of Graphic Fantasy #1 and determined that it did in fact contain the first appearance of The Dragon, they then may have reconsidered the implications for their treatment of the Megaton appearances. And if we take the serial number from that 2012 copy above and plug it into today’s CGC verification tool, we can see that the key comments as of 2015 no longer says “First full appearance of Savage Dragon” but now reads “Dragon Appearance” instead.

At some point between 2012 and 2015, CGC’s key comments for Megaton #3 changed: instead of “first full appearance of Savage Dragon” the comment now instead reads “Dragon Appearance.”

You can see the “Key Comments” change in the screenshot above, indicating that CGC’s master database now pulls up “Dragon Appearance” for Megaton #3.  And below is an example label for a copy of Megaton #3 graded by CGC in 2015 — as you can see, the key comment on the label is now indeed “Dragon Appearance.” This realization by CGC that Graphic Fantasy #1, not Megaton #3, should be credited with the first appearance of The Dragon, therefore must have happened sometime between 2012 and 2015.

CGC Key Comment for Megaton #3 Now: "Dragon Appearance"

The CGC label for recently graded copies of Megaton #3 now says “Dragon Appearance” instead.

It took the industry thirty years to finally give Graphic Fantasy #1 its due credit. Why the long delay? As I suggested earlier, “out of sight, out of mind” — Graphic Fantasy comics are so scarce that it apparently took this long for CGC to get their hands on a copy submitted to them for grading.  If it took CGC this long to see a copy, that begs the question:  Who else has never seen a copy of Graphic Fantasy? Overstreet, apparently; and I’ll give some additional examples. First example: Comicvine, which lists Graphic Fantasy #2 (not #1) as containing Savage Dragon’s first appearance (oops!).

Comicvine incorrectly cites Graphic Fantasy #2

As of this writing, Comicvine incorrectly cites Graphic Fantasy #2 (instead of #1) as Savage Dragon’s first appearance.

As shown in the above screenshot, Comicvine cites Graphic Fantasy #2 as Savage Dragon’s first appearance. They are not alone in making this mistake; Hoknes Comics also cites issue #2 as containing the first appearance. What’s more, having quite obviously never seen an actual copy of issue #2 — every copy of which is signed and numbered out of 450 copies — Hoknes resorted to a “wild guess” as to the print run. With each copy numbered to 450, it would only take actually seeing a copy to know the true print run … so anyone making a “wild guess” is admitting they have not seen one.  In this case, Hoknes made a wild guess that was 22x too high.  But we’ll forgive them — not only were they a great source of print run information for the other modern superheroes out of the IGN top 100, but, can we really blame anyone in comics for not having personally seen a copy of a comic that had a print run of 450 copies back in 1982? Of course not!  And as I showed in the table of modern superheroes, only a handful had print runs of 10,000 or under — so if you were going to make a wild guess, are you really going to guess 200?  Not a chance — that would seem ridiculous… unless you knew the facts (which as I hope I am conveying to you with these examples, nobody knew, not even the go-to authorities).

Mistaken Reference to Graphic Fantasy #2

Another mistaken reference to Graphic Fantasy #2 (instead of #1) as containing Savage Dragon’s first appearance. Having obviously never seen an actual copy of Graphic Fantasy #2 (each of which are signed and numbered to 450 copies), they resorted to a “wild guess” that was 22x too high.

One of the other useful resources I cited in the table of other modern superheroes, was ComicBookDB.com.  Their website has an interesting feature — it tells you how many of their members reported owning any given comic, in their collection.  And for each of the Graphic Fantasy issues, that number is zero.  These examples all go to show just how little first-hand knowledge there is out there about Graphic Fantasy, with the types of basic facts typically known once you have held a copy in your hands seemingly missing out there (because who has ever actually held a copy in their hands?).  As I’ll show you in a minute, one prominent comic price guide website couldn’t even figure out the publication date and gave up trying — of course, if someone there had a copy they could open it up and check inside for the date.  If anyone had a copy they could open it up and check inside for the date — maybe even post that information online for other collectors, as I have done with this post.  Problem is, so few people have ever gotten their hands on one, that even the most basic information has been essentially missing from the Internet!

Here is another example: MyComicShop.com is one of the largest — if not the largest — online comic shops. Their database has almost any comic imaginable, and more often than not if you’re looking for something you’ll find they have that issue in stock. In fact, their home page proudly boasts: “If you’re looking for a hard to find back issue, we probably have it.” You can’t get much harder to find than Graphic Fantasy #1. But here’s the interesting thing I noticed, when looking it up on their website — aside from the fact that they do not, in fact, have it in stock.  Although it is in their database, they have no picture of it. Is that because they’ve never actually had a copy in stock to scan into their system??

Missing Graphic Fantasy #1

MyComicShop has no picture of Graphic Fantasy #1, which may be an indication that they have never actually had one in stock to scan into their system.

Other than noticing that MyComicShop has no picture (which could mean they’ve never had a copy in stock to actually scan into their system), notice too in the screenshot above that 48 of their users have the issue on their “want list.” For such a hard-to-find issue that carries a key first appearance, doesn’t this strike you as a low number? This number is consistent with my claim, that awareness of Graphic Fantasy #1 is low. To drive the point home, let’s now compare how many users of MyComicShop have Megaton #3 on their want list.

Megaton #3 wantlist comparison

Amazingly, 47.9% more users of MyComicShop have Megaton #3 on their want list, as compared to Graphic Fantasy #1!!

Keep in mind: Megaton #3 is not difficult to find, while Graphic Fantasy #1 is next to impossible to find. Logic should dictate that someone would only add an issue to their want list if they can’t find it. So based on scarcity, many more collectors should have Graphic Fantasy #1 on their want list as a book they cannot find, and yet, as of the date of this writing 71 users of MyComicShop have Megaton #3 on their want list, compared to the 48 wanting Graphic Fantasy #1. That’s a +47.9% difference in favor of Megaton #3! It “should” be the other way around with Graphic Fantasy the higher number… but it is not. Why? It all comes back to lack of awareness of Graphic Fantasy #1. Remember, up until 2012, CGC was informing collectors that Megaton #3 contained that first key appearance… as was Overstreet, and as was, in another example, IGN, right in their top 100 list in fact (see first appearance credit in the screenshot below):

IGN Savage Dragon 1st App.

IGN also credits Megaton #3 with Savage Dragon’s first appearance, with no mention of Graphic Fantasy.

So if absolutely everybody — until recently with CGC’s change — for all these years has mistakenly thought Megaton #3 contained that key first appearance, and meanwhile Graphic Fantasy due to its extreme rarity and the principle of “out of sight, out of mind” was not on anybody’s radar screen, how has Graphic Fantasy #1 been valued, when few have ever even seen it let alone know any facts about it (like its print run)? The answer is: the value estimates you’ll find out there online are a joke. Take for instance Comicspriceguide.com, the popular online price guide:

Comicspriceguide fail

In a total cop out, Comicspriceguide doesn’t even bother to learn the publication date let alone any print run information, then slaps a NM price of $12 with the hilarious caveat: “prices could vary widley.”

As you can see in the screenshot above of their guide value for Graphic Fantasy #1, in a true failure to even gather the most basic information, they haven’t even researched the publication date. Instead, they show “19??” (with the two question marks after 19) — and then, to completely cop out and throw in the towel, they slap on a NM price of $12 with the caveat: prices could vary “widley”. Did they mean wildly, or widely? (Never mind, it hardly matters). At $12/each, that would imply we could buy the entire print run with a budget of under $2,400 which for the first appearance of a major comic book superhero is so low a valuation number as to be patently absurd. This example just goes to prove my point, because clearly, this book was far too rare for Comicspriceguide to get a handle on the value — they couldn’t even figure out the publication date!  If they gave up at determining the publication date (instead putting those question marks), there’s no chance much thought or effort went into valuing the comic.  If they don’t know when it was published, how would they know if it came before or after Megaton #3 for example?  By not bothering to care about the publication date, they tip their hand that they haven’t the first clue as to this book’s importance.  I wonder if they even witnessed a single sale if/when they looked?  Sales of Graphic Fantasy #1 are so few and far between that they may have looked on eBay at one point in time and saw no results.  So they appear to have just given up trying and instead put up nonsense numbers… with the $12 NM value and with that silly caveat.  But can you blame them?  Sales of Graphic Fantasy #1 happen so incredibly infrequently that even if they had devoted time to looking, after awhile it is understandable they would have just thrown their hands up in the air and given up.

These examples all support my argument that sources throughout the industry have been working with little to no information about Graphic Fantasy on account of it being too rare for anyone to actually get their hands on a copy, leading to a situation where published information online to date has been incomplete and inaccurate, and where collectors simply don’t seem to know of this comic’s existence.

Graphic Fantasy #1 Value — What’s It Worth?

Graphic Fantasy #1 Value

A 2015 eBay auction for a CGC 9.6 copy of Graphic Fantasy #1 received 21 bids and a value of $1,225.14.

In 2015, a CGC 9.6 copy of Graphic Fantasy #1 was auctioned off on eBay; as shown in the screenshot above, the winning bid was $1,225.14, with 21 bids. While this is just a single sale example, with the book being as rare as it is we’ll take what single sale information we can get. Clearly, with 21 bids contributing to the final sale price as an indication of what people are willing to pay, one thing this sale result shows is that Comicspriceguide.com’s $12 value — even with their attached caveat — is truly a “wild pitch” that landed far, far from home plate. But although their value estimate for Graphic Fantasy #1 is completely useless, their guide can still be of use to us in thinking about what this single sale would translate to as far as a price matrix, by borrowing a price matrix from another comic valued in a similar range. In other words, if we can find a comic where Comicspriceguide lists a CGC 9.6 value in the neighborhood of $1,225, we can then “back out” the matrix of values in different condition grades. I was able to find one right in our ballpark (with CGC 9.6 grade valued at $1,200), and the implied price matrix looks like this:

Graphic Fantasy #1 Implied 2015 Values

Value matrix implied by the recent sale of a CGC 9.6 copy of Graphic Fantasy #1. Implied 2015 NM value is $400.

And now I’ll give my own “caveat” — but I promise it will be more useful than the one given by Comicspriceguide. Looking back at that eBay screenshot, notice the listing’s title: “Graphic Fantasy #1 CGC 9.6 Signed By Larsen Keyes Harris 1st Savage Dragon Rare.” One of the main points I have tried to make with this blog entry is that for thirty years the industry has led collectors to believe that Megaton #3 held the key first appearance of Savage Dragon, with no mention of Graphic Fantasy #1. Thirty years of neglect doesn’t change quickly. Think back to those MyComicShop wantlists — 47.9% more people are out there looking for Megaton #3, than for Graphic Fantasy #1 at the time of this writing. And the set of collectors who do not even know to look for Graphic Fantasy #1 may only be out there searching for Megaton #3 if they are in the market for The Dragon’s first appearance. So read that eBay listing title again and see if you agree with me that a very important keyword is missing that would seriously limit the universe of bidders who would find the listing: “Graphic Fantasy #1 CGC 9.6 Signed By Larsen Keyes Harris 1st Savage Dragon Rare.” What’s missing is “Megaton #3.” Could the seller have increased the number of bidders by including, for example, “pre-dates Megaton #3” in the title? What would the book have gone for if all the collectors searching for Graphic Fantasy #1 plus all the collectors searching for Megaton #3 found the listing in their search results? We will never know. But I contend that the seller left a lot of money on the table and therefore my caveat is that the price matrix above may be on the low side (in other words, I would expect the need to budget more money than the above price matrix indicates; $400 for a NM copy may not be enough).

Collecting Or Selling Graphic Fantasy #1

I hope by this point that I have convinced you with data and examples, of these two facts: (1) that Graphic Fantasy #1 is the single lowest print run first appearance of any major modern comic book superhero, and (2) that on account of its extreme rarity and equally scarce accurate online information about it, few collectors actually seem to know of this comic’s existence.

Given this knowledge, what do we do with it? If you have read this far, then I assume you fall into one or more of the following categories:

(1) You came across this post looking for information about Graphic Fantasy #1 because you have a copy you want to sell;

(2) You are a collector interested in Graphic Fantasy because you want to buy a copy;

(3) You just like reading about rare comics and I managed to hold your attention through to the end of my post about Graphic Fantasy #1.

If you are in category #3, thanks for reading my blog! If you are in either category #1 or category #2, I have some advice about conclusions that can be drawn, and some tips about what to do from here.

First, sellers: if you own a copy of Graphic Fantasy #1 and came across my blog searching for information about your comic’s value, first off congratulations on owning a copy of the lowest print run first appearance of any major modern comic book superhero! Given the thirty years of neglect of Graphic Fantasy #1 by the industry and collectors, it may be a number of years before everyone is caught up. CGC’s changeover to recently “demote” Megaton #3 to merely “Dragon Appearance” will help drive awareness of Graphic Fantasy #1 as collectors ask the question “which comic book contains The Dragon’s first appearance if not Megaton #3?” — and invariably learn the answer… but it will be a slow education process. Remember, as late as 2012 — thirty years after Graphic Fantasy was published — CGC still credited Megaton #3 with Savage Dragon’s first appearance. Overstreet, IGN, everybody else is still stuck in that old thinking.

What you should definitely consider is sending your copy to CGC to be graded. Be aware that because every copy of Graphic Fantasy #1 was signed and numbered, those signatures and numbers will result in CGC’s “Qualified” label — but this is not a negative, because every copy was signed and numbered, so collectors will know there is no such thing as a Universal Grade copy of this issue. When selling a comic like this, third party grading and certification can add a lot of value, by ensuring the comic hasn’t been restored, that it is not a counterfeit, by placing a professional grade assessment on the comic, and by showing that key comment “First Appearance of The Dragon” on the label. For those collectors who are in the dark about Graphic Fantasy, seeing those words on the label should get their attention. But how will you reach those collectors who are in the dark, with your listing? If they are in the dark, they won’t be searching for Graphic Fantasy in the first place.

Remember back to that MyComicShop wantlist comparison which showed 47.9% more users are out there looking for Megaton #3 as of this writing, than are looking for Graphic Fantasy #1. So the very best way to realize the most value out of your comic may be to wait until future years when awareness has increased. But if waiting is not an option, here is a tip: If you list your copy on eBay or elsewhere, you will want to reach both wantlist audiences… so consider putting the phrase “Pre-Dates Megaton #3” in your title (e.g. “Graphic Fantasy #1 (Pre-Dates Megaton #3) Savage Dragon Erik Larsen”), to also reach collectors getting eBay alerts for the Megaton #3 keyword. Those who are unaware of Graphic Fantasy #1’s existence may then still find your listing. Include as much information about the book in your listing as you can, and then those in the dark about the book will realize that your book is exactly what they should want in their collection.

As for buyers: if you have the patience of a saint and several hundred dollars of disposable income, set up an eBay alert for “Graphic Fantasy #1 Dragon” (just “Graphic Fantasy #1” will give you a lot of irrelevant results; including Dragon cuts that down to just six irrelevant results as of this writing) and patiently wait for a copy to show up. For a long time only “false positives” will come up for sale and you may think it is futile… but with patience, one day a copy will appear. Chances are it will not be in the best shape — remember though, this was a “fanzine” that was supposed to be read and enjoyed. So that bent up corner and that stain from the beverage the reader was drinking, are part of the unique history of what this comic was all about. Consider going for that lower grade copy instead of shunning it — plus, it will cost less in lesser condition. If you insist on waiting for a high grade CGC copy, bear in mind that you cannot wait for a Universal Grade copy because none can exist — every copy was signed and numbered, so the Qualified label is going to be applied every time a copy is sent in for grading. That’s not a negative in this case, because the signatures are self-authenticating: three of them are supposed to be there, with every copy known to have been signed and numbered. But with only 3 CGC graded copies in existence 33 years after publication — a ratio of 11 years per copy — it should not come as a shock to you if it takes years before the next CGC graded copy comes up for sale.  So going for an ungraded copy may be necessary if you want this comic book in your collection this decade (and if CGC certification is important to you, you can always send in the copy you win to CGC to be graded).

Thanks for reading!  I will profile more rare Savage Dragon comics in the future, so stay tuned!

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4 thoughts on “Graphic Fantasy #1: First Appearance of the “Original” Savage Dragon (1982)

  1. Pingback: Comic Book Newsstand Editions: Understanding The Difference | Rare Comics

  2. norv1408 says:

    Great article!! Even though I could never afford GF 1 the closest I’ll get is when Larsen reprints Dragon’s story (if not the full comic) from GF 1 for the first time ever in COLOR in the upcoming Savage Dragon 225…..that will awesome. This year marks 45 years since Larsen created The Dragon as a kid, 35 years since GF 1, and 25 years of Dragon’s continued Image run…💯

    Like

  3. Jack V says:

    Old disabled guy here who has #110 of 300 Graphic Fantasy #1 nm….would really like to put it up for sale but no experience here…As I understand it is best to get it rated by CGC but after that I”m at a loss as to my next move as far as getting a good/fair price…..Any suggestions would be appreciated.
    Thank you

    Like

    • Hi Jack, getting the book graded by CGC would definitely be a good idea; from there, you could either sell it yourself (for example listing it for sale on eBay at auction, or, at a buy-it-now price that you set, or as a best-offer listing where you can see what offers come in). You could also use a consignment service — look into MyComicShop and ComicLink as two prominent example services. Below are recent eBay sales to give you an idea of 2018 prices/values:

      Good luck! 🙂

      Best,
      – Ben

      Like

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