As a comic book reader, collector, investor, and lifelong fan, no comic book publisher has done more to impact my relationship with the medium than Image Comics. Founded in 1994 when the most popular creators on Marvel’s roster left all at once to form the imprint. They wanted to be in a position to truly own the IP they were creating. Image as a company takes no ownership over the IP it publishes, leaving the spoils to the creative. This freedom and opportunity have made way for some of the greatest stories ever told in comics. So much so that narrowing down the amazing stories to just 10 for this feature was a task! Image has something for everybody, but you can’t go wrong choosing a series from this list. Here are the 10 best Image Comic Series of all time to collect now!
Creators: Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie
Debut Year: 2014
Key Issues to Collect: #1
Before Gillen would really become a household name with comic readers upon the release of his recent hits Once and Future and Die, he burst onto the creator-owned scene with the critically acclaimed Wicked and the Divine. This series was about 12 mythological Gods who reincarnate as humans every 90 years. The series ran 45 issues and has been proclaimed a modern classic by many critics. Unlike a lot of books on this list, this one has really yet to explode. Universal seems to have stalled out some stop-start movement on a live-action series, leaving this one at about $100 for a 9.8 slabbed copy. Great series like this are evergreen IP, and I imagine it’s only a matter of time before we see this one on a streaming network. There could be a real ROI opportunity by grabbing this one now. I especially think that the heat on Gillen’s other two series he is currently working on and his work as a writer in Marvel’s Star Wars universe could see him as a hot property for Hollywood productions sooner rather than later.
Creators: Mark Millar and Frank Quitely
Debut Year: 2013
Key Issues to Collect: #1
This recently released Netflix hit series comes from the minds of Frank Quitely and Mark Millar, the latter known as the scribe behind Kick-Ass, Wanted, Secret Service, The Kingsman as well as major Marvel stories like Old Man Logan and Civil War. This series focused on the generational divide between a superhero team and their children as the younger heroes look to take their place in the world. One thing that makes this book so likable and relatable is the themes of living up to your parents’ legacy vs carving out your own path. These are universal struggles that seem to just so happen to be set in a superhero story. This series has long been a hit with readers but as of May, 7th it has become a hit with Netflix viewers ranking at #1 on the streamer the week of its release. If you have had the chance to check out Jupiter’s Legacy, you know that they set up the future of the series in the Finale leading most to believe we will see more of this story play out on the streamer. While copies have risen in value and seen 300% gains in the last several weeks, the book is still affordable at $25 raw and $200 in a 9.8 slab. With more of the shoe on the way, the comic seems like a solid investment at the moment.
Creators: Rick Remender, Wes Craig, and Lee Loughridge
Debut Year: 2014
Key Issues to Collect: #1
Set in the late 80s, Deadly Class is about an extremely unique high school where students take classes like ” Poison” and ” Dismemberment 101″. Deadly Class follows Marcus, a kid with a past who never fits in who is brought to an elite academy that teaches and trains some of the world’s most dangerous criminals, villains, and murderers. This can make for a particularly dangerous high school experience. The series was optioned and developed for a SYFY Network series debuting in 2018. The series didn’t last long though being canceled after just one season even though it was a critical hit. Recent years have seen the show develop a cult fanbase with rumors of a return popping up from time to time. The show canceling really hurt the secondary market value of #1 leaving it at a $10-15 raw purchase and an under $100 9.8.
Creators: Sana Takeda and Marjorie Liu
Debut Year: 2015
Key Issues: #1, #1 2nd Print
This fantasy epic is known just as much for its breathtaking art as it is its amazing story. Monstress is part steampunk, part kaiju story following a young girl whose connection to monsters puts her right in the middle of a battle between humans and otherworldly creatures. This series’s popularity only grew as it went along, seeing 9.8 copies of #1 hit above $300 6 years since its release. Even more sought after and extremely scarce is the 2nd print to issue #1, which can trade for $700-$1000 in a 9.8. There have been persistent rumors over the last couple of years of this IP heading to HBO and the HBO Max streaming service. With Godzilla and Kong getting a lot of shine on the service, a new kaiju property could be a big hit. This one hits the trifecta with great art, a compelling story, and investment potential.
Creators: John Layman and Rob Guillroy
Debut Year: 2009
Key Issues: #1
The 2009 debuting series Chew followed an FBA agent Tony Chu who solves crimes by using psychic impressions made by food, including humans. This series received critical acclaim winning numerous awards and spinning off two different series one a crossover with one of Layman’s other IP’s Outer Darkness and another one simple titled Chu. The series has been given the Hollywood run-around for the last several years after being optioned by Showtime for a feature film in 2011 only to see that go away by 2015. Then we got the word in 2014 of an animated comedy feature that also was gone by 2017. The Creators have stated that there is movement on the live-action front but long-time Chew fans like myself have learned to take that info with a grain of salt. Stop-start pushes from Hollywood have not stopped this series from being popular with readers or #1 from being popular with collectors with 9.8 slabs trading hands for $550 in recent weeks.
Creators: Brian K Vaughn and Cliff Chiang
Debut Year: 2015
Key Issues: #1
This 2015 series from Brian K Vaughn is one of two series included on this list from the man simply known as BKV. Paper Girls is currently one of the hottest Image Comics titles for speculators and collectors on the market right now. The series just wrapped up their final issue, and news of Amazon developing a series with the creators’ for their Amazon Prime streamer has the market excited. 9.8 copies are selling for $200-250. While this book has certainly accrued value already, it still has a ton of room to go. This time-traveling group of girls gives off serious Stranger Things vibes that make this book both a hit with readers and a real potential investment.
Creators: Robert Kirkman and Ryan Ottley
Debut Year: 2003
Key Issues: #1-11, 16, 18, 19, 26, 33, 44, 51 2nd Print, 61, 68, 115, 144
Invincible is one property on the list. If you hadn’t heard of the ones we have named so far, it might be the first one you are familiar with. This series was the inspiration for the Invincible Animated Series that has been a smash hit at Amazon. The series is Robert Kirkman’s no holds barred take on the superhero genre. The animated series is only the start as a Seth Rogen-produced live-action film is on the way as well. Invincible has long been one of comics sleeping giants; its recent secondary market success is no surprise to long-time supporters, but the animated series has introduced a whole new audience to the Graysons. The show has even reportedly spurned on collected edition sales, with comic shops being bombarded with requests to read the series. With Marvel and DC having large corporate parent companies, Skybound and Image are in a prime place to take these IPs to places no superhero franchise has gone.
Creators: Brian K Vaughn and Fiona Staples
Debut Year: 2012
Key Issues: #1, 2, 53, 54
Quite possibly the purest reader buzz on this list, SAGA is an example of all that comics are and all they can be. Once dubbed “Star Wars meets Game of Thrones,” this series has been compared to some of the most epic tales from the aforementioned to Lord of The Rings. This series has gotten so many new fans and readers on board as their entryway to comics. This series 54 Issues was an unwavering critical success with fans even waiting patiently between long gaps in Issues in the latter part of the run. This series has seen a passionate fan base who continues to buy and stash #1 issues despite years of the creative team saying no option announcement was coming to the high cost an adaptation would bring. But years have softened that stance from BKV, and rumors circulated in the comic community of a SAGA live-action series or feature film. Issue #1 trades hands for over $600 in a 9.8, and the tragic final issue trades for just over 100 in the same grade. Hardcore believers of the series know that the true Grail is a 9.8 of the #1 RRP variant, which sells for around $3,000. All of this with no solid option talk, just simply an amazing comic.
Creators: Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard
Debut Year: 2003
Key Issues: #1,2, 3, 6, 10, 19, 27, 53, 61, 92, 100, 18, 132, 192, 193
You would have to be living under a rock not to be aware to at least some extent of the massive imprint The Walking Dead has had on pop culture. The popular zombie TV show from AMC really revolutionized indie comics by showing Creators the power they hold with creator-owned comics and the IP’s value to Hollywood. It feels like ever since TWD exploded on the scene, we have been on the hunt for its successor, dubbing any popular indie title as a possible “Next The Walking Dead.” This series spanned 193 Issues and saw shocking events, heartbreaking deaths, and an out of nowhere ending that wrapped up the series in 2019. While about zombies on the surface, this series has been much more about the human condition and what people will do to survive. Almost every product on the market has been made with TWD licensing, and the following continues to be strong to this day as we enter the final season of the AMC show. More is planned for this franchise as more spin-offs are in the works, as well as a couple already off the ground. My feeling is that this series will be eternal, and the IP will live on for future generations. The series has been a shining example of the potential of the creator-owned model.
Creators: Todd McFarlane
Debut Year: 1994
Key Issues: #1, 2, 171, 174, 175, 179, 185, 249, 300, 301
What makes Image so great isn’t just the great characters and stories, but also its Creators who take a chance and bet on themselves above all else. No one epitomizes that more than Image Founder “The Toddfather” Todd McFarlane. Todd was at the top of his game with Marvel when he organized a mass exit and the founding of Image and more that. 25 years later Todd is still at it with his original character from 94 Spawn. Spawn, while having seen feature film and animated TV success to some degree in the 90s is due for a big Renaissance in 2021 and beyond with Todd at the helm as director for an upcoming Blumhouse horror feature starring Jeremy Renner and Jaime Foxx as Spawn. This movie has been in the works for a couple of years but McFarlane has been nothing if not diligent in his updates to his fans on progress. On top of that, Todd announced recently an expansion of the Spawn line from one series to 4 adding 3 new series featuring popular side characters from the Spawn Universe. This will bring a new Spawn Universe book to your LCS every single week by year’s end. This is exciting news for Spawn faithful. All of that comes after the series broke records by becoming the longest-running comic series as it passed 300 consecutive Issues and counting. While Todd himself has said to avoid investing in issue #1 and its 1 million issue print run but collectors can’t help themselves as this iconic first issue has consistently risen over the past several years with issue #1 selling for $250 in a 9.8.
Image Comics has been so transformative for the comic book industry by giving fans eclectic stories from diverse voices for almost 30 years as well as a home to those Creators to tell their stories without losing the bulk of the reward to a giant corporation. The history of Image is filled with amazing stories that truly showcase what comics can be as an art form. What’s quite possibly more exciting is the bright future Image has as they continue to be a home for creatives and entrepreneurs. New hits like Crossover, Department of Truth, Ice Cream Man, Radiant Black, Stillwater, Ultramega, Shadecraft and more continue to push the needle in the world of creator owned comics and level the playing field between the indies and the “Big 2”.