The variants, they are a-changin’.

§ December 6th, 2021 § Filed under variant covers § 6 Comments

[REMINDER: yesterday was this site’s 18th anniversary post, in which I included an index to all the variant cover-age posts so far]

The cover above wasn’t part of DC’s first wave of lenticular covers in 2013, but rather the second in 2014. It does give you an idea of what the lenticular covers looked like (though the second wave looked better than the first). And it wasn’t just lenticular images on these covers (making them strictly a “gimmick” cover and not a variant cover) as regular editions were issued as well with static fronts.

I’ve gone on about DC’s lenticular covers in the past…in real time, in fact, As It Was Happening and YOU Were There! As you may recall, DC announced this great month-long gimmick of producing a bunch of villain-centric one shots for most of their titles, all of which would feature fancy lenticular motion with advanced technology that I seem to remember from children’s books I had in the early ’70s. Long story short, even with extra advanced solicitation times, orders were such that the printers could not produce enough of the covers in time, resulting in allocations.

Interestingly, what I’d forgotten was that there were only lenticular covers initially planned for all these comics. It wasn’t until DC announced “Oops, Not Enough Lenticulars” that the “regular” static-imaged covers were offered to “fill out” any orders on the fancy covers that may have been cut short by the allocations. As I recall, you could just order however many you wanted of those.

Here’s a sample of a lenticular cover from this initial 2013 wave (non-animated, sorry):

And here’s the standard edition:

If you want more detail on what was happening at the time, here are my original posts on the matter: 1 2. As I recall, I had enough of the fancy covers to fill pulls, and some people preferred the standard buck-cheaper perhaps-not-as-gimmicky-and-distracting standard ones. I just hoped they wouldn’t pull something like this again.

Then suddenly out of nowhere DC did it again the next year, with the printing kinks worked out, apparently, and with standard cover editions offered from the get-go. You can refer back to my posts on the 2014 wave (1 2) for a more in-depth look, or perhaps “look at it from different angles.” I don’t know, there’s a joke there somewhere. But again, in short…sold fine, no panicked rush on the covers because they were in short supply like that first time.

Now, years later…well, when I ordered those, I was working for my previous place of employment. In fact, that second wave of lenticulars was one of the last Big Things I ordered for that store before opening up my own shop. As such, I don’t have any leftovers from those initial orders in my backstock, and I never ordered them for my own place. I’ve been dependent on acquiring them in collections, and, yes, sure, I have picked up a few over the years.

Oddly enough, I seem to see more from the first “limited in supply” wave than I do from the second “order as many as you want, we’ve got plenty!” wave. My recollection was that both waves sold well…we did have some leftovers on the second wave, but it’s not like we didn’t sell plenty of copies of those, too.

And speaking of the aftermarket…some of those initial lenticular releases, unsurprisingly, got targeted by eBay flippers and were quickly thrown online. In particular, the “Joker’s Daughter” issue (remember her?) of Batman: The Dark Knight (#23.4) was The Hot One, though a quick look at eBay shows you can buy ’em for around $10. That Joker one I pictured above was is another one that acquired a premium price for a bit, though I think that was one of the higher-ordered (and not-as-allocated) issues. On eBay now, about $10 – $15, which is still pretty good.

Most other issues, of both waves, at least in my experience, sell about about $4 to $5. It’s one of those deals, like with many of the ’90s gimmick covers, where people fish ’em out of the back issue bins, say “ooh neat!” and buy it. Not fast sellers, not “in demand” items (no one comes in asking for them) but more often than not they’ll buy ’em when they see ’em.

In 2017, Marvel gave lenticular covers the ol’ college try as part of one of their ongoing series of relaunches of various titles, and, um, well

In my opinion they were biting off a little more than they could chew, there, by trying to switch between two entirely different complicated cover images which 1) weren’t kept distinct enough from each other, making a blurry mess, and 2) would confused customers as to what comic they were actually looking at. “Is that…Giant-Size X-Men? What’s going on?”

They weren’t all that bad, but good gravy, they weren’t all that good, either. These I did end up ordering at my own store, and I’m pretty sure I rid myself of any excess in the dollar bins. Ah well. Oh, and keeping with the variant theme…it’s Marvel, of course there were variants. Here’s the main cover:

…and if you go to this page, you can see the rest of the variants this issue had. I recommend the “How to Draw Ghost Rider” one, which is pretty good.

The only company regularly flying the lenticular banner nowadays is Absolute Comics, and you can see a sample of one here. Looking back through Diamond Comics’ database, I see other publishers tried out lenticulars in recently years, on such titles as Zombie Tramp and Ninjas and Robots.

But DC and Marvel haven’t repeated the line-wide fancy movin’ cover thing since those initial attempts (though DC did spring for one on Doomsday Clock #1 in the true spirit of Watchmen). I wouldn’t mind seeing more in the future…I like them, they look neat on the rack, and the customers seem to like them too. Just…make sure they work, and maybe don’t unload dozens of them on us simultaneously.

6 Responses to “The variants, they are a-changin’.”

  • Daniel T says:

    For half a second I thought this was going to be a COVID post based on the title.

  • Nicholas says:

    I know you’ve talked about the Image newsstand “variants” but can you shed any light on the mid-90’s Marvel newsstand issues? I’m doing a deep dive on the JRJR run of Spider-Man (which had been renamed to “Peter Parker Spider-Man” at that point) and have come across two versions of many of them (they seem to be during the Clone Saga and the run of issues immediately following the end of that storyline). From what I can see, the newsstand versions were printed on newsprint, and cost $1.50, and the direct market versions were on glossy paper, but priced at $1.95? The weird thing is that at a certain point, it looks like the direct market versions stay at $1.95, and the newsstand versions jump to $1.99 BUT were still printed on newsprint? Then eventually, they all go to $1.99 and are printed on newsprint. I’m very confused, and can kind of remember this happening with some other series (specifically Generation X). It seems ridiculous, and I can’t find anything on the internet about it.

  • Allan Hoffman says:

    Around my neck of the woods it was hard to find Justice League #23.3 presumably because it was really an issue of the Dial H series that had ended the month before and maybe retailers didn’t want to order a lot of them.

    I’m guessing it really was supposed to be an issue of Dial H, China Miéville wrote it, but by the time it was supposed to come out they had already decided to cancel the series and just made the issue part of Justice League so at least they could still make some profit on it.

  • Cassandra Miller says:

    I remember specifically asking for the normal covers. Those lenticular things just felt weird to me (sensory issues, I guess), and I appreciated not having to pay for them!

  • Matthew Murray says:

    Huh, the teeth and gun in Joker’s hand seem to swap around between the lenticular and non-lenticular covers.