By Benjamin Nobel, January 24, 2016
The second of the Graphic Fantasy Fanzines (Ajax Comics), Graphic Fantasy #2 was self-published by Erik Larsen back in 1982 and featured the original incarnation of Savage Dragon (as The Dragon). Despite being issue #2, there is no publication month specified, just the year of 1982; and without a month, certain computer databases may default the month to January, making it look like Graphic Fantasy #2 was published before Graphic Fantasy #1 (which has a publication month of June 1982). This phenomenon may have resulted in several online sources erroneously crediting this issue with the first appearance of The Dragon (or first appearance of Savage Dragon). However, in reality that credit belongs to issue #1 which is obviously the earlier of the two.
As of this writing in 2016, a grand total of 4 copies of Graphic Fantasy #2 have been graded by CGC. Their census data is shown below; note the “Issue Date” field showing only the year of 1982 and not a month:
Sitting here today in 2016, this comic is 34 years old. Yet, only the 4 copies above have ever been graded by CGC, a ratio of one copy for every eight and a half years since publication. And notice how all four copies show up in the “Qualified” column — this is because Erik Larsen signed and numbered every copy produced, on the back cover (out of 450 total). This means a Universal Grade copy cannot actually exist, because there is no such thing as an unsigned copy of this issue (and the writing on the back cover therefore causes CGC to use the Qualified label in every instance — so if you are collecting this issue and patiently waiting all these years for a Universal Grade copy to appear, stop waiting, because there can be no such thing as a Universal Grade copy of this issue!). Collectors should therefore not be put off by the Qualified label, because the signature is supposed to be there, and it is therefore by definition self-authenticating. Below is what an example copy of Graphic Fantasy #2 looks like, front and back.
Note that the back cover of the copy shown above is numbered #397 out of 450 (while the next issue, Graphic Fantasy #3, would be numbered to 500). At numbers in the hundreds of copies produced, we’re looking at an extremely low print run. But this may understate the rarity of surviving copies, because Graphic Fantasy #2 also differed from your typical comic book in being a self-published fanzine. Who would be reading a self-published fanzine, one has to wonder? When I ponder this question, I conjure up an image of Larsen trying to interest his friends and family in reading it. One therefore has to imagine that the vast majority of those who originally received a copy would have sat down and read and enjoyed it (wouldn’t it even be an insult to not read it?). How many then carefully stored it away to preserve the condition? The fact that there are only 4 CGC graded copies on census all these decades later, gives us a hint that the answer is likely very few.
With the comic so rare, over the years since publication few people in the industry have ever actually seen a copy. Ahead of posting about it myself, I searched online for photos of the front and back covers, and although I found some pictures of the front cover, I couldn’t locate a single picture online of the back cover. This extreme level of rarity and lack of online documentation and photographs, combined with the odd publication date phenomenon (i.e. where no month is specified so therefore some computer databases might default the month to January, making it appear to a computer as if Graphic Fantasy #2 came before Graphic Fantasy #1 by publication date), has led some sources to mistakenly credit Graphic Fantasy #2 as containing Savage Dragon’s first appearance (oops!!). For example Comicvine makes this mistake:
As you can see in the screenshot above, Comicvine mistakenly cites Graphic Fantasy #2 as Savage Dragon’s first appearance. They are not alone in making this error; Hoknes Comics also cites issue #2 as containing the first appearance. What’s more, Hoknes resorted to a “wild guess” as to the print run. By the fact that they made this “wild guess” we know they have never actually seen the back cover of a copy, because if they had, they would have noticed they are numbered to 450. No print run guesswork needed, if one actually lays eyes on the back cover of a copy! These erroneous online references illustrate just how difficult it has been for the industry (and collectors) to lay eyes on an actual Graphic Fantasy fanzine. [By posting pictures of both the front and back covers in this blog entry, hopefully I am helping get the accurate information out there to the Internet!]
Above, a screenshot shows yet another mistaken reference to Graphic Fantasy #2 (instead of #1) as containing Savage Dragon’s first appearance. Having quite obviously never seen an actual copy of Graphic Fantasy #2 or a scan of a back cover to see they are numbered to 450, Hoknes resorted to a “wild guess” that, as it turns out, was 22x too high.
In another example of how comic book collectors and the industry has poor information about Graphic Fantasy #2 on account of its extreme scarcity, we can see that ComicBookDB.com reports zero members owning the comic in their collection… not a single member owns it! Another example is MyComicShop.com, which is such a large online comic shop that their database has almost any comic imaginable listed. Their home page proudly proclaims: “If you’re looking for a hard to find back issue, we probably have it.” You can’t get much harder to find than the Graphic Fantasy fanzines. But not only do they not have it in stock (of course not, I’ve searched high and low; nobody does), they do not have a picture of it in their system. Is that because they’ve never actually had a copy in stock to scan into their system?? Based on the scarcity, I think that’s a plausible explanation for the lack of a picture!
Sales of Graphic Fantasy #2 are so few and far between that the value is somewhat difficult to assess. One problem in pinpointing an individual value is that the few times over the years that copies have come up for sale, they came up either paired with Graphic Fantasy #1, or in a set of #1, #2, and #3. One such set of three sold for $1999 in 2015. How much of that total value is attributable to issue #2 it is hard to say, but, an individual copy of Graphic Fantasy #1 sold in 2015 for $1225. This is a really rough calculation because that copy was in a higher grade (and also a no reserve auction instead of a fixed price) but if we subtract $1225 from $1999 we’re left with about $774 that could be attributable to issues #2 and #3 out of that set. Perhaps we then ascribe $200 to issue #3, and $574 to issue #2? I think the $500 “neighborhood” for a CGC graded copy is definitely in the realm of reasonable for a comic book this rare and collectible. However, I’d issue the same value caveat I gave in my post about Graphic Fantasy #1, that collector awareness of the Graphic Fantasy fanzines is unbelievably low due to the extreme rarity and lack of industry awareness (as discussed in my other post about Graphic Fantasy #1, for decades Overstreet and CGC both credited Megaton #3 with the first appearance of Savage Dragon and Graphic Fantasy #1 was completely overlooked). This lack of awareness is on account of decades of the industry crediting Megaton #2/#3 with the key first appearance credit (Overstreet, for example, in their 2010 edition of their famous price guide, says “See Megaton #3” in the entry for Savage Dragon, with no mention of Graphic Fantasy; and CGC, for example, up until recently credited Megaton #2 as the first cameo appearance and Megaton #3 with the first full Savage Dragon appearance, but that recently changed). In fact, as I mentioned in my other post, over at MyComicShop, the “wantlist” feature showed 47.9% more users are out there looking for Megaton #3 than are looking for Graphic Fantasy #1, which is insane given that Megaton #3 is not only less desirable than Graphic Fantasy #1 but also extremely easy to find out there, whereas Graphic Fantasy #1 is impossible to find; meaning the only logical explanation for the wantlist disparity is that collectors simply do not know about the Graphic Fantasy fanzines. However, I believe this will inevitably change in the years to come, now that CGC has “demoted” Megaton #3 — because newly graded copies no longer credit the book with the first appearance of Savage Dragon (nowadays just saying “Dragon appearance” on the label), which is bound to leave collectors asking the question: “But, if Megaton #3 isn’t the considered the first appearance anymore, what book is?” and inevitably learning the answer.
What does this all mean for the discussion of the value of Graphic Fantasy #2? Look please at the title of the listing for that Graphic Fantasy #1-3 set that sold for $1999:
GRAPHIC FANTASY 1,2,3 – SAVAGE DRAGON! AJAX COMICS! CGC 9.2/9.4 ERIK LARSEN!!
Do you see what is absent from the title? The set of collectors who do not even know to look for Graphic Fantasy comics may only be out there searching for “Megaton” if they are in the market for The Dragon’s first appearances. So maybe you will agree with me that a very important keyword is missing that would seriously limit the universe of bidders who would even find the listing in the first place: What’s missing is “Megaton.” What would the set have gone for if all the collectors searching for Graphic Fantasy plus all the collectors searching for Megaton found the listing in their search results? We will never know. But that’s my caveat: that when collectors ultimately become more aware of the Graphic Fantasy fanzines and are actually out there looking for them in the same numbers as are presently looking for the Megaton comics (with Megaton still widely credited out there as containing the key first appearance), the value collectors of tomorrow may be willing to place on the Graphic Fantasy fanzines — especially issues #1 and #2 — may be much, much higher.