Variant Comics! (You know, like “Valiant Comics,” only with “Variant” — okay, fine.)

§ May 31st, 2021 § Filed under valiant, variant covers § 6 Comments

So I contacted old, old customer Sean (not the Sean who’s been giving me Golden Age content lately, but another Sean, who by the way is actually still quite young, frustratingly enough) to verify a particular memory I had regarding him.

Specifically, I asked if he, along with pal Victor, were the ones who, in the early 1990s, dressed up as Valiant Comics characters Archer and Armstrong, sent in a photo of themselves to Valiant, and received a Gold variant of an issue of Archer and Armstrong as a special prize from the publisher? Or, you know, have I dropped too many boxes of Ultraverse backstock on my head over the years and I just made the whole thing up?

Thankfully, Sean verified that I was not in fact suffering from brain misfires and that the events transpired as I recalled. He was even kind enough to dig out the materials from the collection and take a photo of them to send my way, and he graciously allowed me to share it here:

You can click on the pic to Armstrong-size it. That’s Sean on the left there in the photo, beneath all that padding.

What brought this on was, well, my series here about variant comics combined with a recent acquisition of a Gold Unity #1 in one of what feels like a dozen collections of comics I’ve purchased in the last week or so. Here’s my slightly askew photo of it:

Currently priced at the shop for $12, if anyone’s interested! Anyway, that also reminded me that not long ago I had written a bit about the Gold Valiant books, and by “not long ago” I mean “9 years ago,” which you can read here (BONUS: includes a link to a Fake AP Stylebook gag I wrote). (EXTRA BONUS: the very Customer Sean I was talking about here shows up in the comments…he’s like the one guy to actually comment about the post instead of going on about Swamp Thing.) Before you ask, no, I didn’t keep the Gold Turok and I can’t remember what we sold it for.

Anyway, to repeat some of what I’d said then, I can’t recall the exact circumstances of distribution of these, though I know at least some were just straight up sent to shops in the mail directly by Valiant as promos or “thank-yous” or stuff like that.

I first planned this post to emphasize the fact that, as comic publishers in the 1990s went, Valiant didn’t do a whole lot of variants, focusing mostly on gimmick covers (like chromium covers or this dumb thing). In fact, aside from the Gold variants, the only ones that immediately came to mind were the Harbinger trade paperbacks, with most having the black bird logo:

…and some (apparently exclusive to Diamond) with the blue logo:

And the other one I remembered was the Harbinger #0, the comic you got when you mailed in all the coupons from the early issues of the series:

But you could get this blue-ish variant packaged with the self-same Harbinger trade:

Save your cards and letters, Valiant Fans, because I know I was wrong! This list here includes the variants Valiant had put out over its lifespan, as well as noting prints runs. (This is an archived page, and you can visit the current site.) I’m especially embarrassed that I’d forgotten about the pink-logoed variant for X-O Manowar #15:

…because those came packaged with a certain brand of comic supplies which we sold a ton of as singles, which meant opening box upon box of these things and we were swimming in copies. They were so common that even the hardcore Valiant collectors were like “nah, I’m good.” And of course I haven’t seen a copy of this particular variant show up in a collection in…well, forever. Another example of a once-common thing becoming harder to track down now that a lot of the stores that originally carried them are gone? Could be.

Another variant listed there was the Predator Vs. Magnus Robot Fighter Platinum Edition #1, which meant they used a silver-ish ink on parts of the cover instead of whatever the regular colors were. This was another one I recall floating around the previous place of employment for quite some time. I think we had one early one when the series was new that sold right away, and then received a copy in a collection long after the 1990s market crash when Valiant was no longer in collectable favor.

While I do recall some of the other variants listed on the site, the only other one about which I have a specific memory is the Deathmate Yellow Gold variant. Which, for the life of me, I couldn’t tell apart from the regular Yellow cover. I mean, sure, looking at the scans at that link they seem like they look different enough, but honestly, looking at them in real life I kept having trouble. Look, Deathmate Black Gold Edition was pretty easy to pick out. I just kept getting fouled up on this one.

And that’s what I gots to say about variant Valiant comics. Even since the 1990s market crash there’s been this quiet background demand for Valiant comics, particularly the rare-ish ones like these variants and the latter issues of some of the ongoing with the smaller print runs. Some of the pricing I see there on the site doesn’t surprise me. I know I’ve made a pretty penny off the oddball Valiant book over the years.

Now later iterations of the Valiant Comics publishing concern have had variants of their own, especially the current company which issues probably three or four variant covers for every comic they produce. But then, many companies do that nowadays to help drive up initial orders from retailers, so I guess I can’t really single them out for that. However, they did release this “talking” X-O Manowar variant:

…which I’m pretty sure was produced by Satan, so there you go.

Okay, the variant cover-age continues next week, with…gah, I haven’t decided yet. Wait, hold on, something just occurred to me as I typed that, a publisher I was just reminded about by one of my customers a couple of days ago, but it may be too horrible. We’ll see if I’m brave enough to tackle it next Monday. As always, thanks for reading, pals.

6 Responses to “Variant Comics! (You know, like “Valiant Comics,” only with “Variant” — okay, fine.)”

  • BrianF says:

    Love what yer doing but I’m surprised there’s been no mention of the “comics shot by a bullet” variant yet.

  • Sean Neprud says:

    Thirty years later I could now probably dress up like Armstrong *without* the extra padding added. I am still a huge fan of Valiant. I’ve managed to collect all of these gold, platinum, red, pink, etc variants over the years now. This original Archer & Armstrong #0 gold variant is still my most prized out of all of them.

  • Allan Hoffman says:

    “It may be too horrible.”
    Those of us who lived through everything the ’90s comics scene threw at us can handle anything.

  • Snark Shark says:

    “but it may be too horrible”

    Youngblood comics with actual BLOOD on them?

  • Eric says:

    Hey, Mike, could you maybe talk a bit about Whitman variants and pricing variants (like Star Wars #1)? They alepways seemed kind of silly to me, not unlike the current newsstand vs direct market hoohar, but I’d be curious what your experience has been with them as a retailer.

  • […] BrianF said in the comments to my last […]