So A.J. …What’s Next? Plus FREE GIVEAWAY!

Here we are, another cool and crisp October night in the city that is Diesel. Recently at a comic con, a person approached me and asked “Hey A.J., what’s the next Walking Dead #1?” A fine question, and one that I wish I had an “expert” answer too. So before I answered I paused for about three seconds, but pondered for what felt like hours.



You see, TWD #1 is an absolute anomaly. I bought a CGC 8.0 in 2007 for $73. I sold it for $450 in 2012, and to this day it’s one of the few books that I regret selling. In its peak an 8.0 would have got me a G-note, but I digress. Everyone knows the story, Image published it in 2003 and 16 years later no “indy” issue in that time period has come even close to its desire and value. In this article we will take a look at some independent published issues that have increased and held value for whatever reason. I won’t be discussing any incentive books or ratio covers, strictly the books that could be purchased by the masses if they had liked. Also, when I discuss my idea of an “indy” it is a comic that wasn’t published by the big two (Marvel/DC), and was published after Cerebus #1, where I credit the genesis of the underground comic movement.



Some articles back, I was talking to my good friend Harry (Owner of Comic Masters) and he said “…we won’t see it coming” in regards to the next massive indy comic hit. The Walking Dead was a perfect storm, which found a niche, and then expanded outside of its niche and appealed to the masses. That is no easy feat, even for the books that still hold value today. The only book comparable and far beyond (from a desire and value standpoint) TWD would be the first printing of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1.




TMNT was published by Mirage Publishing in 1984. Obviously the rest is history. Cartoons, feature films, toy merchandise, TMNT caught fire and nobody has been able to put it out. Not to mention the first print was an extremely low print run and on lesser quality paper. That being said, prior to TMNT dropping, Gobbledygook #1 (you all can have that argument) was released and is still as coveted as any underground book around.

So when comparing just those two, it seems the recipe for success is all of the things you would expect; hyper fandom, merchandise, big/little screen adaptations, positive word of mouth, and unique appeal. Yet some books with only one or two of those things still find a way to have great value, just not their value.



Thoughts and Images released Albedo #2 (first appearance of Usagi Yojimbo) in 1984 as well. Yes, he did appear in TMNT cartoons and some comics, but I feel most fair-weather collectors would pass on that book if they saw it in a dollar bin. To be fair, nobody ever should find that book in a dollar box. This book is also a very low print comic, and one that I covet greatly.



Decreasing in value but a coveted book nonetheless is Primer #2 (first appearance of Grendel). Comico published this in 1983, and Grendel is another character that most people aren’t familiar with. Yet once again, this book raw is more expensive than 99% of indy books that have been published after it.




Then we move on to valuable books like Caliber Presents/The Crow (first appearance of the Crow/first issue) and Evil Ernie #1 (first appearance of Evil Ernie and Lady Death). These both cater more to the darker fan and horror genre. The Crow is an absolute cult classic that spawned an amazing film featuring the late Brandon Lee, as well as some ugh…not so amazing films. Evil Ernie on the other hand has none of that, although it does have the sex appeal of featuring Lady Death. All three of the comics mentioned here have low print runs. The Crow was published by Caliber and Evil Ernie by Eternity.



As we move later into the 1990s and the Image boys took over, indy titles were becoming more and more mainstream. Virtually none of the original Image stuff has any real value. Spawn is still doing his thing, and his #1 would be super valuable had millions of copies not been printed. That book still may run you a $15 bill though. Preacher dropped with DC/Vertigo in 1995 and has gone hot and cold and hot and cold over the last 25 years. In ’93 Dark Horse gave us Hellboy, but Next Men #21 isn’t too expensive.




Avatar Press dropped the very low print The Goon #1 in 1999. The Goon was picked up by Albatross Exploding Funny Books in 2002, and then by Dark Horse in 2003. All of these have solid value, but the Avatar is the one to hunt for. Also always keep your eyes open for Dreamwalker #0 (which is another argument you can all enjoy). Some sample footage of an animated Goon film was released years ago, and it looked absolutely stellar. If someone else options this, all of those books will skyrocket.






30 Days of Night was published by IDW in 2002, and it’s extremely difficult to find the first print in the wild, especially in good shape. This book saw a spike when the film came out, but has come back down to Earth and can be bought at a reasonable price online. Y: The Last Man also dropped in 2002 under DC/Vertigo label and has a sound following but has been stuck in development hell.




Then Image gave us great tiles like Invincible, Chew, and Saga and IDW gave us Locke and Key. All of these are exceptional books that kept great value but still don’t hold a candle to The Walking Dead. Image also fooled us with books that people think are hot, like Peter Panzerfaust, Manifest Destiny (awesome story), and Cowboy Ninja Viking, yet they don’t seem to move like people expect they should. I actually won a Peter Panzerfaust #1 on eBay for $18, and the seller refused to ship it to me because he said that it’s worth more. According to the millions and millions of customers on eBay…it isn’t.









Umbrella Academy and The Boys saw sky-rocketing prices thanks to their respective streaming series, but both have since cooled. Seven to Eternity was a $100 book out of the gate, and now you can buy a 9.8 for $100. God Country has been anywhere from a $90 book to $10.






That brings us to today. Something is Killing the Children has an interesting premise and some pretty cool covers. Could that be the next big indy? Maybe The October Faction? Or possibly…




I finally break my three second trance and answer the person’s question. “I couldn’t tell you” I replied with a laugh. I smirked and the person looked disappointed expecting a much more valuable piece of information. But that’s the truth. I can give insight and opinions, but I can’t justify saying any independent book can hit Walking Dead status at this current moment in time, in this current market. That doesn’t mean it won’t happen, I believe that it certainly could, I just don’t know when, or what it would be.

As for the free comic giveaway…That same person comes up to you and asks you the question “What is the next Walking Dead?” You give me a book that you feel has the chance to reach and sustain those heights. It could be new or could be old. Have fun and give me a great response. The winner will receive the limited edition and only printed 1.7 million times in America…SPAWN #1!




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    I think that in today’s market, we might be looking at this wrong in terms of comparing a book that will hold its value in the same way the walking dead #1 did. Today’s market revolves around first appearances and variants. I think the next walking dead 1 is the dell otto spidey 667. That book came out of nowhere and has gone to a new height unlike most variants that fluctuate. As for a title with a run of books that create value and crosses into the mainstream consciousness, I think chew could be that series if properly done. Low print first issue, off beat story that covers horror themes, cop serials, murder of the week types, comedy, action and drama all rolled into one…

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    It’s got to be Saga #1. If one of these streaming sites ever picks it up as a series, and its done well? Watch out…

  • bhavhandi

    I feel like horror comics will always be hot, with the shows like Creepshow, The Twilight Zone, Kingdom etc currently hot and showing it that this trend will continue…. if i were a betting man (and sometimes i am), i would bet that Harrow County could be picked up, it has all the elements that most of us like, horror, dark, mysterious, strange.

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    Building on Hickman’s POX/HOX success; The Manhattan Project.

    It covers many genres and has a stargate feel to it which was a TV mainstay for ~15 seasons. Its time is coming.

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    Great read! You mentioned it already, but invincible 1 still has a lot of room to grow, in my opinion. I never see that book at shops. Great story and characters and any new media might make people revisit it.

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    Depending on how the media adaptation does, I think Invincible could be a solid contender. When it comes to long-term value you have to look at print run and popularity. Invincible had a relatively small print run of around 10k and is already very sought after before it was optioned. Will it ever be as popular as TWD?…probably not. My other guess would be The Boys (The Crow would be a close tie.) Having a movie made based on a comic is one thing, because movies are popular when they first are released and then they are forgotten, but having an ongoing TV show that people can binge watch for multiple years is what will make a book have long-term popularity.

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    A question, I’m old enough to remember when TMNT came out (roughly). Around the same time there was also a book called Radioactive Black Belt Hamsters. The two seemed linked to me. What is the story with the book, were they linked, are they sought after books?
    I did have an early TMNT, around issue 10, 1st print and sold it for next to nothing a couple of years after getting it. Had no idea they’d get that big, and without the internet was unaware they were worth anything.
    An answer to the question, I think maybe Gideon Falls. It’s so good that if it does find a bigger audience it could really take off. Although honestly, whatever it is, we probably won’t see coming. It’s not what we as comic fans will like, it’s something that can find a wider audience outside of comics.

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    I’d go with Invincible or Saga… but really it’s going to be one we’ve never heard of.

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    Gillen & Hans’ Die. Maybe it’s just to my liking, but I would love to see this developed.

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    Saga #1 – Fourth print – so rare and so well done…like good steak.

  • Spector

    @Pilgrim Scott the Hamsters was a knock off around the same time, but after the turtles. There were also a few other titles along those lines, one I other I remember is Pre-teen Dirty Gene Kung Fu Kangaroos. Unfortunately the other books don’t hold their own in value to the Turtles books.

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    Excellence #1…seems like a book that is ripe for tv/movie option. Great story that would appeal to all ages. There’s magic, family drama, and little bit of everything. Plus, my LCBS manager has a knack for picking winners and he says he’s “very happy” to have a lot of #1’s stored away.

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    Cavewoman #1 after it is optioned!

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    🕺👍Tommy Gun Wizards, dark horse book that has flown under the radar but I definitely see potential for a whole television or cinema series down the line

  • Ben C

    Was just talking to some folks about Copper Age indies and how I felt like the ship had sailed, lol.

    Great perspective and lots of “options” in here AJ!

    I agree with those who said Saga and I would keep an eye on Primer 2 and EE #1.

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    I think walking dead was the success it was because they had a new issue every month along with good tv adaptation. Now if any of these Indy title can make 50-60 issues and still gaining readers with a tv option and that book would be the pick for walking dead type of hype. Die has everything needed to blow up, hot artist and writer doing a great story. Book can become a great tv show but they need to get to that benchmark 50 and still have plenty of story to be told. Everyone forgets walking dead issue 72 came out right as the First episode aired. So it wasn’t a wait a month for the book to hit $1000 it was 6-7 years of story telling and a hit show that made it all possible.

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    Thanks Spector. Like the Kangeroo book

  • JamesJJ

    I love Something is Killing the Children, and Once & Future. I honestly think any book can do it and its almost impossible to tell the future on these books as we all spec the books. I just really enjoy the community and CBSI for letting us all have fun while we all look for the next Walking Dead 🙂

  • Peter Renna

    Great stuff. This is an impossible question as I agree with your 1st impulse, that nothing will be the next WD. The world is a different place than it was just 10 years ago. All the stars would have to align with a low printed indie book becoming an absolute hit on television. But the chances of that get slimmer by the day as regular television gives way to the streaming platforms. Part of the reason things like The Boys and Umbrella Academy flame up and out, is due in large part to the binging nature of streaming shows. TWD built an audience and became a touchstone point for a lot of folks o discuss at he office or with friends. Just like GoT. But with everything going streaming, it’s more did you watch The Boys? they chat for a bit but they’ve gone through all the episodes and it will be forgotten about until the next season. That is what I will find interesting. Will these shows spike values again with season 2’s or will watchers simply move on to the next big thing?

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    I think the next big thing is not out yet, also I think it depends if it gets picked up by some media. I think a low print run which is harder now a days helps a lot also.

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    Invincible #1 is the most logical answer.. Same Creator/writer as TWD.. 140 odd issues to pull storylines and character archs from… and it’s a true indie comic superhero tale outside of the Big two… this could be a huge smash hit like the Boys but more mainstream like the TWD cause it’s follows a 60s Peter Paker Spider-Man type of character.. Super low print run, cool ass cover, hard to find = $$$

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    Die #1 or Paper Girls #1? These Savage Shores #1?

  • Dan Piercy

    RASL, BONE (already, arguably, a larger property than WD), The Goon, Monstress. Lastly, it’s criminal that Eric Powell’s Hillbilly isn’t more sought after and coveted. It’s one of the greatest comics ever published.

  • Spector

    I see a lot of great things coming by way of Vault. So many to choose from, but if I had to choose one as a sleeper book to make some waves in the future it would be These Savage Shores.

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    When it debuted in 2010, The Walking Dead TV show has three big factors that brought in a bigger audience.

    1) Money – AMC was putting everything it had behind the show. Each episode was budgeted at about $3.5 million and the show was pushed hard when it came to advertising. The production values were great from the make-up to the special effects to the locations. This was not the typical low budget horror everyone was used to seeing.

    2) Big Name Recognition – Hollywood heavyweight Frank Darabont was attached to the project from its earliest developmental stages not only as a Producer, but as the Showrunner (at least for Season 1). This brought in a massive amount of respect from both inside the industry and from Shawshank Redemption (and other films) fans. From the comic book side of things, with Robert Kirkman directly involved, this was a draw for both fans of the series and fans of comics in general. In later seasons, as the budgets dropped, creative tensions flared and the scripts deviated from the comics, the show saw a drop off in viewership.

    3) Plot/Themes – Walking Dead, while clearly a horror fantasy series, beyond the zombies, the story is very much grounded in the real world. The zombies aren’t even the main focus and many times are just relegated to background scenery. It’s a series/show about humanity and how we react during times of crisis and duress. It focuses on the uglier side of human nature and brings us back to basic survival in a more primal time set in the ruins of our modern world. Over time, characters develop or regress, survive and thrive or die and a legacy is created the series progresses and the only constant are the zombies (though I will argue that in the tv series, there is little consistency from episode to episode regarding how dangerous they are). These themes have a broad appeal that transcends the horror/fantasy world and brought in people who didn’t read comics or particularly like horror.

    I would argue that while these three factors are huge, for any new property they are not always a given. They were all present with Game of Thrones but there are plenty of shows/movies had similar qualities only to turn out as big bombs (Hello Justice League!). Obviously #1 is important and no one will take a low budget series seriously, especially on some rinky-dink channel. But today we have a very different market where content is being made available across all different type of platforms. It’s no longer just Network, Basic Cable and Premium Cable and it’s been proven that people will pay for a good show (HBO and Netflix). The question remains, how many times and for how much content will they pay?

    As for big name recognition, this doesn’t seem to be as necessary these days. With so many new platforms throwing money down on option deals and development of their pilot programs, there are a lot of prime candidates for the next big show but that doesn’t mean each property has some big heavy attached to it anymore. While it can bring in some viewers, it’s not such a factor these days.

    In my opinion, it’s #3 that is the most important factor. Game of Thrones would not have been such a massive hit without being able to draw in fans from outside of the genre. There are countless fans of the show who could care less about dragons or ravens or castles but were rabid in their viewership simply because of the stories and the characters. Hell, they even went out and purchased and read the whole library because of the tv show. Being able to relate to the characters and their struggles is key and transcends setting and that’s why it’s so hard to predict what will be the next hit. It could be set in space, it could be set in the future or the past, it could have dragons or aliens, but what it will definitely be is centered around the human condition despite the vessel and/or vehicle. Walking Dead also hit at just the right time to revitalize the “zombie” in popular culture. People left and right were talking about surviving a zombie apocalypse and there were a ton of other tv shows, movies, comics and books centered around zombies that emerged from the influence of the Walking Dead tv series.

    To throw out some comic speculation, I would contend that Image’s Die has great potential. You have the retro appeal for children of the 70s/80s, current appeal as Role Playing Games (especially Dungeons and Dragons) are back and more mainstream than ever, and future appeal as the comic keeps growing and the story progresses. Saga could also be a hit as it’s such an Epic story like no one has ever seen. However, being so complex with so many different otherworldly settings and reoccurring characters of all types of species could prove to be costly prohibitive for television. Y The Last Man would be great to see as it’s got everything going for it with regards to its universal relatability and appeal and the story has a set beginning, middle and end but it’s languished in development purgatory for who know how long and sometimes that causes a property to grow stale. I would also love to see Grendel get adapted but it seems a difficult taks. Different directors/writers could take on each season which in turn would focus on different incarnations of Grendel, but there could be an overlying theme to unite them all, however, it would be very complex and would have to expand the original story and characters far beyond the comic.

    From a comic speculation standpoint, one thing today that is different from the past is that many comics have existed prior to their mainstream releases as either webcomics, self-published editions or Kickstarter projects. I can tell you how many new series have been released in the past year or two that, after a little research, I found were first released in 2016 on Kickstarter, or self-published and sold at conventions. Yes, first issues of a hit title will always have an appeal, but the true value will come from obtaining these true first editions if any of those properties blow up in comic shops and/or on the screen.

    As has always been my guiding principle in collecting comics, buy what you like, whether it be for the writing, the art, the story or some combination of the three. If you’re buying out of pure speculation, then be prepared to have a whole collection full of $1.00 bin fodder. Just make sure you don’t bet the farm on it all. Hey, if one of those books hits big, you’ll not only make your money back but will have plenty to spare and perhaps buy more comics or these days, some streaming service subscriptions!

  • bolognasandwiches

    I’m guessing it’s Saga because of the relatively low print run. Or it has to be something out of nowhere so who knows.

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    I would have to say Saga 1 or Invincible 1

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    I would say Thief of Thieves, another book by Robert Kirkman. I know AMC was going to do a TV show but now Sony is going to do the show. This might be a book to pick up when it is still cheap now.

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    Jeff Smith’s BONE could be the next big series, as it’s a great adventure read, quite epic, and would make for a wonderful animated series or feature.

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    Image comics Postal. Don’t know how this hasn’t become a movie or tv series yet. A close 2nd would be Jeremy Haun The Beauty another perfect example of something that could on any network

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    I am going with East of West. In my opinion the writing and concept are phenomenal. It’s not just a story, but an alternate universe that has been created. I also think that the option with Hulu being killed is a good thing. It means the writers are going to hold the tv version to a high standard. The downside to this is, it may never get made.

    Whatever “it” is, it probably will need to be on cable tv that is readily available to the masses. AMC and FX prob being the best 2 networks. Subscription service shows are hot for a week then are forgotten about. Movies based on indy books are also a flash in the pan (ex The Kitchen).

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    So many great books that hit the ground running out of the gate, but then fall back due to the next big thing. Hard to spec on any long term anymore. But, that being said, I buy for long term on all my books; i don’t flip. I have seven to eternity – didn’t know it was a $100 book oops, and I have the Evil E. #1 no idea of its value. Look, out of my 12k PC its impossible to know what gem i’m setting on with my declining memory; but i do remember 75% of what I got. My theory is that if it hasn’t happened it the first few years it is probably not going to, but it is still valuable to me for whatever reason so I hold. So, the question of whats next to TWD, wow.??? Let’s just stay in the mainstream field; and from the trends I see today with the hot books for the first week then drop to cold the next month then say oh but its optioned.?? I thought Lazarus would be great, but umm most would say who?. Once and Future seems to be doing great on the secondary so far as far as holding steam but in a few months? Plus its a concept that has been done how many times?? So, lets adjust and look for a new concept but low run and ideal for the masses to find appealing; ugh. There are so many books I have in this category according to previews and solicitations; sorry I don’t read the books like i used to. I used to read every pull book but now have time for buy and storage, and this makes me feel very sad for the whole reason I started was the love of the read. Wow long winded today, its just that I can only answer this on the brief summary in previews and watching the BOLO show or these posts here. So many books are just for the quick flip, which scares the hell out of me for the book itself and the market. So, now we have to factor in the artist and writer to the equation. Is it worthy enough to appeal to all sides of the market? But then again, TWD was what people;?? a B&W issue. Do any of us really invest in B&W issues at a $4 price tag in bulk?? SIKTC may be hot now but in 3 weeks? That said it doesn’t mean that the book may or may not be the one. If I take all this mind numbing info into account and process all this it is still a crap shoot. Staying in the INDY realm I will have to say my big GUESS will be “?”. That’s right you read it here first it is “?” because I believe that ONE book has yet to be done by an indy co. If I was to go into the Big 2 realm I would say the new titles from Joe Hill have a great chance but what are those print runs going to be?; or any Marvel title for that matter. Now, choosing from the currently out but still fresh indy books, I would say Pandemica just for the movie ties it has, but I haven’t read it yet sorry, its in a box at the moment and lost forever. Now shifting to an indy book that’s been out for a while(no more than a year or two) and keeps getting mentioned I would go with Oblivion Song, again in a box but not read. The older indy book that is still doing okay but (unfortunately) is superhero and puts it in a certain genre is Invincible. BUT HERE IT IS PEOPLE…. the big reveal— MONEY SHOT!!
    How many of you can say I am wrong. Because none of us know yet, but look at the premise and how well The Deuce has done. I know different stories blah blah but the sex side of it sells itself, it is in the future, and could be a serious hit. Did I order heavy umm nope got 1 coming, because I can’t seem to budget the ones I want with the ones I think might be the ONE. This is also the problem in today’s market; too many cool sounding books and that money tree still hasn’t sprouted in my back yard.

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    Gotta go with Gideon Falls here. I think the tv adaptation will steer off from Lemire’s comic book storyline, but the basic premise and the core characters will remain the same. I can see multiple seasons worth of content and a wide audience panning out over the first season or two. Excited to see what Wan does with it.

  • Slanthook

    I doubt there will be another TWD, but it sure is a fun topic to discuss. TWD developed organically and hit at a time when people weren’t specing on every new indie book, the show aired when zombie culture was coming back into popularity, and the show was able to draw in a crowd outside comics. I head many say they didn’t know it was based on a comic.

    I think something that could be close would be Saga as it’s written well, it could be a serial TV show like TWD or GOT that can draw in people outside comics, and keep people hooked based on the characters and real life situations despite taking place in a fantasy, space universe. Additional, I think streaming services will revert back to a traditional release model with a new episode weekly to hold attention and build a fan base. Plus it makes more sense from a business model so people can’t binge a season or two in a weekend.

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    Faith? Oblivion Song? Maybe something from Dark Horse like Concrete? Can’t wait to find out.

  • dwilliams1975

    Saga or God Country

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    There are 2 books on my mind that would require perfect circumstances but that’s what made TWD#1 get to the top. Bitter Root #1 Akira homage and These Savage Shores #1 2nd print. Perfect circumstances would be a hit streaming show for Bitter Root and a hit movie franchise for These Savage Shores (which I could see being an awards darling). Also it has to be these particular variants as they have the lowest print runs and coolest art of either series which gives them the little more edge anything would require to touch the heights Walking Dead has now much less at its heights. Can see Saga getting there if the creators hold to there guns for another decade then finally let Hollywierd make a movie franchise but I didn’t wanna pick a book you already listed.

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    So many great responses here (especially posts on East of West, Lazarus, and Y, the Last Man), but I really do agree most with the potentiality for Saga. As a high run and ongoing series, it has lots of content that could give it a good and long run on television. My final two cents on Saga is that if Disney’s ‘The Mandalorian’ performs well, I wouldn’t be surprised to see other networks looking for comparables, and there are none better than Saga.

    As for something that may appeal to a broader audience, I think The Beauty has a great story angle, but I’m just not sure how long it’s concept would keep viewers engaged.

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    My picks to come close would be Invincible 1 & Saga 1. With dark horses being Goon 1 and Primer 2.

  • Shmacky

    I really like the potential of “Y: The Last Man”. There are a lot of “apocalyptic” stories out there, but Y still has a unique voice. I also like Dark Horse’s “Dept. H” from 2016, and Brian Ralph’s “Daybreak” from Bodega 2006.

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    This will be extremely hard to do again with everyone’s short attention span. Maybe Image’s Die will have a chance? The premise could go anywhere and produce 200 issues, and it’s only a matter of time before a tv deal.

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