Give to me your variants, take from me my lace.

§ August 23rd, 2021 § Filed under variant covers § 7 Comments

So y’all remember my last variant cover-age post? You know, the one way back when? Well, in response to that, Sam T Goostree noted

“Deadworld used to have tame and gory covers if I recall.”

Sam T Goostree, that “T” must stand for “Truth” because you just dropped some on us. Deadworld was sort of The Walking Dead of its day, an extended humans vs. zombies narrative in funnybook form that began at Arrow Comics in 1986 during the black and white boom, continued on at Caliber Comics, and is still being reprinted today in new paperback volumes.

It was during the Arrow run that the split covers began to be offered. From what I can see on the Grand Comic Database, #5 in 1987 was the first, with the “tame” cover appearing as so:

…and the graphic cover, if you want to see it, linked here. (WARNING: image features blood, guts, and veins in teeth.)

This continued through the end of the Caliber run in 1993. Caliber relaunched Deadworld with a new #1 that same year, and more series, including some IDW minis, would continue to pop up through the 2000s. However, while there were variants here and there, it doesn’t appear the “graphic” and “tame” distinctions carried on. Most of the later covers appear to lean more “tame” than “graphic,” at least as far as I saw.

Anyway, if you want to see more of the “grahic vs. tame” imagery that appeared on these comics, the Grand Comic Database has cover galleries for the Arrow and the Caliber portions of that series.

I’m trying to dredge up any recollections of the series and its sales, given that the initial run mostly overlapped with my beginnings in comics retail. My presumption is that the “graphic” cover sold better, or at least was ordered in higher quantities, than the “tame” cover, and I don’t recall taking any special precautions to make sure the “graphic” cover wasn’t displayed in a way to offend those of a delicate demeanor. Honestly, I don’t think we had to, as the racks we had at the time would overlap the covers and thus obscure most of the horror. My only specific memory was a coworker pointing out this cover:

…and being somewhat disdainful of it for some reason. Not sure why she didn’t like it…I thought it was a funny image, though to this day I have no idea how it ties into what I presume is the serious and violent story it’s telling. I’ve not read a single page of this comic…not a moral or critical judgement, I just can’t read everything…but that cover sure came close to getting me to pick it up solely to figure out “what’s going on here, exactly?” Which, of course, is the goal of any cover.

The option of letting the reader decide if s/he wanted a full on gory image or a relatively innocuous one on the cover that s/he took home was an interesting gimmick (and one that likely encouraged some double-dipping by at least a handful of completists who bought both), which reminded me of something else.

Aircel’s Leather and Lace by the late Barry Blair was an “adult” comic book, which meant sex scenes interspersed among what was presumably something resembling a story. Howard Chaykin’s Black Kiss, another dirty filthy dirty comic, had a great deal of success the year before Leather and Lace‘s debut in 1989, and that each issue came out sealed in a polybag was an attention grabber. As such, Leather and Lace was also factory sealed in polybags, a little larger and looser than the comparatively tight-fitting ones on Black Kiss, to help get even more attention on the rack (on purpose or not).

The deal with this series was that, to accommodate Blair’s “younger fans” (as the reasoning went, if I’m recalling correctly), this Adults Only comic would also come in an General Audiences version:

…with all the naughty bits excised out. I believe there were some replacement story pages or such…I mean, there would have had to be, right? At any rate, we’re not only getting variant covers on each issue, but the dreaded variant interiors as well. It brings to mind a Robert Smigel skit for TV Funhouse, the name of which I’d rather not repeat here for search engine reasons, in which a pornographic film is reedited for an all-ages audience, and it becomes just two people briefly speaking in a room before the credits roll.

Presumably the younger fans didn’t show up in droves for the version of Leather and Lace made especially for them, as the General Audiences editions were dropped after eight issues. And to be frank…the covers on the “general” versions weren’t much less adult than the “adult” versions, sometimes, and neither were the interiors. Even with the sex scenes excised, there was still a…salaciousness about it that made us not want to sell that version to non-adults. Not that we had to worry, because I don’t think anyone who wasn’t an adult expressed any interest in it.

Okay, the comparison between Deadworld and Leather and Lace is slight (and possibly never made before), but each series giving you an option of either an extreme visual or a supposedly more staid one was the tiniest thread that connected the two in my mind. Certainly not that I was writing to each company asking for a crossover of the two. Nope, certainly not, never did it.

7 Responses to “Give to me your variants, take from me my lace.”

  • Robcat says:

    Didn’t want you to think I didn’t appreciate the Stevie Nicks/Don Henley reference, although you missed a chance with the graphic covers to tell us to Stand Back. Until next time… I Can’t Wait!

  • Turan, Emissary of the Fly World says:

    I bought a lot of Eternity Comics back in the day, mostly its reprints of old newspaper comic strips, and thus I saw numerous advertisements for Barry Blair’s work (Eternity/Aircel/Malibu must have published a dozen different series from him). I am thus amazed by those “Leather and Lace” covers in your post–I do not think I ever before saw a Blair drawing of a woman with noticeable breasts. His usual style was to make all his women look like pre-pubescent boys. That had a creepy subtext which I presumed became plain text when he started doing overtly erotic work, and so I determined to avoid his stuff.

    I am trusting that you are correct about him being “the late Barry Blair” now, and so there should be no legal trouble if you allow this comment.

  • Snark Shark says:

    Before there was Rob Liefield to make fun of for lack of talent, there was BARRY BLAIR!

  • Turan, Emissary of the Fly World says:

    Anyone else remember when Blair publicly campaigned to have Marvel make him the writer and illustrator of “Power Pack”? You know, the series about a bunch of pre-pubescent super-heroes?

    There was probably never a chance that this would have actually happened, but merely thinking about it is stomach-churning.

  • LondonKdS says:

    Reminds me of the “torture variant” covers on Crossed.

  • […] I asked Ralph about his orders on Deadworld, as in my post discussing that title I presumed we probably ordered more of the “gory” cover versus the “tame” […]

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