Humor in a variant vein.

§ November 23rd, 2021 § Filed under variant covers § 6 Comments

So I think I said at the time, in 2013 when DC Comics was producing MAD Magazine variants for their New 52 line in celebration of April Fool’s Day, that this cover bothered me. I mean, it should have delighted me…it is technically a great drawing, as one would expect from the legendary (and then in his 90s!) Al Jaffee. It’s nicely colored, it certainly stands out on the shelf….

…But what really bugged me is that this wonderful opportunity is marred by burdening Mr. Jaffee with that awful, awful design for Superman’s costume. I know, I know, I’ve gone on about it before, but it baffled man and God as to who actually thought this was a good idea. (As a wise man, me, once said, “if even George Perez can’t make it work….”)

Anyway, Mr. Jaffee did his best, but the costume still looks awkward, unless of course Jaffee himself thought “this costume’s terrible” and played up how terrible the costume was. Thought, I have to admit, when I first saw it, I wondered if he’d been given the instruction “draw a funny Superman cover” and drew Classic Superman, only adding the New 52 outfit’s details later an editor got a look and returned it for regrooving. I mean, I have no idea…the fact that Superman was drawn with obvious trunks, or that the collar seemed a little…off, like it was added after the fact. Or that the body of the costume and even the boots look more like the traditional togs versus the inexplicable armor Supes was saddled with:

That cover just above, by the way, is the “standard” cover for this issue. However, not satisfied with a MAD variant, DC was running gimmick covers as the “non-variant” edition. In this case, it was the thing DC had branded as their “WTF Certified” covers, a gatefold cover where the front would pose some situation, and then you’d fold out the cover and presumably shout “WHAT THE F–” as you saw the amazing surprise that was revealed. Anyway, more on that when I start my “Gimmick Cover” series, after I’m done (if ever) with Variant Cover-age.

Similarly, poor Sergio Aragones had to do his best with that costume for the Justice League variant:

This actually turned out to be the MAD variant for which we had the most requests, and it’s a good thing this was the MAD variant for which we were able to get the most copies, if I recall correctly. A spot check on a number of the MAD variants released that month showed that the majority of them were offered as ratio variants…for every ten copies of the regular cover ordered, a retailer could order one of the special covers.

This always seemed so short-sighted to me. Given that the Justice League variant was offered to retailers…hmm, lemme see how to put this. Retailers were able to order as many copies of that Justice League variant up to their numbers on the lowest ordered New 52 comic for that week. As such, shops ordered as many of that Aragones variant as they did of Sword of Sorcery #7, maybe even raised their orders on the latter to get more of the former, and got a variant that, at least in our case, sold great, even despite that Superman costume. If they’d made the same deal with all the MAD variants, we could have had lots of these to sell:

…and believe me, we would have sold plenty.

Now, these MAD variants must have done well, as DC Comics did it again the following year. Alas, not so much since, though when I was tracking down some images on the eBays I noticed that several of these variants have been going for premium prices. Whether that’s a usual thing or just another example of the current collectible-inventing market boosting prices, I don’t know. I did see someone call that Justice League variant a “1 in 10” cover, which is of course wrong. What, on eBay, what a shock.

I do wish something like this was attempted earlier, with some of the MAD artists that I remember from my early days of reading the mag. Not that there was anything wrong with what we got, but imagine a Don Martin Swamp Thing cover, or a Dave Berg Harley Quinn. I tear up just a little thinking of those wonderful possibilities.

(Here’s a gallery of the 2013 MAD variants, and here are 2014’s offerings.)

6 Responses to “Humor in a variant vein.”

  • Thom H. says:

    It definitely looks like a lot of that (unnecessary) detail on Superman’s costume was added after the fact by Mr. Jaffee. Good call.

    Also, all of those new costumes had so many extra lines on them. Why? Wasn’t the whole point of superhero costumes that they were basically easy to draw?

    If I were an artist, I would much rather spend time drawing some crazy villain or technology or cityscape than the same stupid lines on Flash’s costume over and over again.

  • John Lancaster says:

    Having had access to basically all of these MAD variants at the shop I worked at, the only one I purchased was the Green Lantern one. I really wanted to get that Sergio one, but I couldn’t get passed the stupid outfit. Since I didn’t purchase that Green Lantern issue as a “collectible”, it currently resides in a frame on my office wall about a foot from where my head is right now.

  • Cassandra Miller says:

    Thom H.–Extra lines = Jim Lee. It’s what he does! (Sometimes I feel like the only person who doesn’t really care for his work all that much…)

  • Chris G says:

    It really is astonishing, a decade later, just how ugly and busy the Nu52 designs were across the board. The Superman one is appalling, but then there’s stuff like Green Lantern where the brief was to just find places to put lines for no reason.

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