Variant-active.

§ May 17th, 2021 § Filed under variant covers § 8 Comments

So Gen 13, when it made its debut in 1994, seemed like a younger, hipper take on the teen superteam formula that did so well for Marvel and DC. But Gen 13 was Young Comics by Young People for Young People, as compared to the relatively staid X-Men and New Teen Titans. That’s basically Image as a whole: “here are comics by the hep and with-it and not by those squares at the Big Two.”

Anyway, that first mini did well, and so in 1995 an ongoing Gen 13 series was launched, and lo, if you thought the whole Robin II thing was too much, look out because here come thirteen variant covers!


Okay, it’s closer to, like, 14 different images (once you include the chromium cover, more on that in a second) and 15 different variants (when you count in the chromium cover and the “main” cover, pictured above, had a newsstand edition with a UPC code). I’m not putting every cover in this post, but you can see them all here.


I like how this cover references the Spider-Man #1 (which in turn referenced the Legends of the Dark Knight #1…it’s variants all the way down).

The one thing I’m wondering about, and just can’t remember for the life of me, was how the variants were ordered. Looking at this sales chart which just has “Gen 13 #1″ all lumped together as the #5 top seller. That implies to me that the comic was simply ordered as a single line item and the variants were distributed (more or less) equally. That is my vague recollection, and as I’ve said before, had I known I’d be writing a blog post about this a quarter of a century later, I’d have kept better notes. Also, I would have wondered what a “blog” was.


I also would have kept better notes as to which one sold better, though my gut instinct is that the “sexier” ones were preferred by the consumer. Like this take-off on the Janet Jackson Rolling Stone cover.

Many of the variants did quite well in the secondary back issue market for a time…the ones that were pop culture parodies attracted the most accrued value, and I recall having several of these in our glass cases. The main two covers (the one pictured above and a second one, both just featuring the team posing an’ such) were in somewhat lesser demand, and did not command as large a price. But, y’know, still sold fine.


Looking now, just peeking on the eBays, that there haven’t been a lot of sales of this issue in any variation over the last few months. Plus, the ones that do sell are for comparatively slighter prices. The Heavy Metal parody, pictured above, had sold for a significant amount (about $30), which have more to do with the Simon Bisley art and the cover’s Heavy Metal-ish subject matter. And I did find at least one copy of the Janet Jackson cover sold for $40 a couple of days ago.

Of course, the reason is that Gen 13 is currently a moribund property. Even during the run of this first ongoing the series took some hits, particularly after the popular artist J. Scott Campbell left the book early on. There were some attempted relaunches, but ultimately the last issue of a comic called Gen 13 came out a little over a decade ago. The characters themselves have popped up here and there since, including a cameo appearance of the team in the New 52’s Supergirl #33. And apparently some reissuing of old material is planned eventually.


This cover, inspired by the film Pulp Fiction, was another of the more popular variants. Don’t have a lot to say about it, aside from that it’s the one cover to not feature hand-drawn artwork, but instead, a photo. I seem to remember that one not staying in stock long whenever we got it back in.


And I had several folks on the Twitters single out this comic as a precursor to the “blank sketch variants” that are so prevalent today. The big difference is that this is a standard slick cover, and not the “art board” covers of the later blanks that would seem to me be easier to draw on. I wonder if anyone actually did take a pen or pencil to this cover. Surely fans brought up copies of this to Campbell (or whoever) to draw upon at some convention.


Oh, and here’s that chromium cover. Not part of the regular distribution, but rather only found in a boxed set of all the variants, featuring a signature of one of the creative team. As you might imagine, it sold quite well when we could get our hand son one. Was it…$100, maybe? Again, too long ago, no notes, but that feels like the right price point.

So Gen 13…paving the way for Marvel to put out too many variant covers on too many of their books. (Hello like 30+ covers on Eternals #1)

Oh, and did I mention all the variants had cute names (like “GEN-et Jackson” and “Picto-Fiction”) Don’t recall anyone using these “official” names in the wild…but then, I heard someone ask for “copper age X-Men” the other day, so I guess anything’s possible.

8 Responses to “Variant-active.”

  • Thom H. says:

    I see that Grunge was suffering from Liefeld Foot Disease. So brave. Rest his soul.

    Also, I just learned that Grunge’s power was like the Absorbing Man’s over at Marvel, which is pretty cool. I like him more now.

  • Matthew says:

    A Google image search showed up a number of the blank variant with sketches on them, this is probably the funniest: https://www.worthpoint.com/worthopedia/gen-13-yourself-blank-variant-1m-1748576565

    Also, this one was drawn on only two years ago! https://twitter.com/ColletteCTurner/status/1178141559684042752

    Maybe a post on photo-covers (variant or not) in the future? I always found them kind of hilarious. New Warriors #44 is one I kept because it just seemed so ridiculous (and featured behind the scenes photos of the making of it that don’t appear to be online).

  • Turan, Emissary of the Fly World says:

    If you do a post on photo covers, you have to acknowledge what is probably the first representation of a superhero in a photo cover, Marvel’s MISS AMERICA #2 in 1944.

    https://www.comics.org/issue/3970/cover/4/

    This raises the question, what was the second? If one disallows Gold Key’s CAPTAIN NICE (based on a TV show), then the next to come to my mind are #2 and #6 of SHAZAM!, in 1973. However, these have drawings of Captain Marvel interacting with real children, which is not quite the same thing.

    And one must make some mention of Fawcett’s Western series BOB COLT, which used photos of Steve Holland (star of the 1950s Flash Gordon TV series, and model for James Bama’s Doc Savage covers) to make readers think the comic was based on a movie series, like the same company’s Hopalong Cassidy comics, and Dell’s Roy Rogers and Gene Autry comics.

  • Erik says:

    This went from like a top five comic to “gen who?” overnight. I was so there for Campbell and later on Adam Warren and then…

    I have the Sandman parody cover and I think the Brady bunch cover, never could score the pulp fiction or Janet

  • Thelonious_Nick says:

    I have a bunch of the 50s Dell Tarzan comics, and many of those have photo covers of Lex Barker, who had played Tarzan in movies in the 1940s. They tend to look kind of ridiculous, and I love them for that.

    As a kid, I remember the confusion I felt at seeing photo covers on the occasional issue–Amazing Spider-Man #262 (I think), and an issue of Marvel Team-Up where Captain America and Spidey appear in a photo.

    Does Kirby’s collage cover for Fantastic Four #33 count? How about Sub-Mariner #7, where a drawn Namor appears over a photo background of a NYC avenue?

  • Thelonious_Nick says:

    I almost forgot Daredevil #45 (an issue I have!) in which Daredevil and Jester are drawn, but superimposed over a photo over the Statue of Liberty.

  • Joseph Gualtieri says:

    I really miss Gen 13. The two 2000s relaunches seemed to miss what made the books special and were way too dour.

    And that “Make your own” variant is defintely the earliest intentional “blank sketch” cover I’m aware of. People used Zero Hour #0 that way, but that’s not why the cover was blank.

  • […] in the comments section for my Gen 13 post, folks started talking about photo covers on comics. I don’t have anything […]

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