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Making a…some kind of leap in collecting, not quite sure, it’ll come to me.

§ January 30th, 2023 § Filed under from the vast Mikester comic archives, indies § 2 Comments

So anyway, I was bugging pal Nat about finding a copy of Quantum Creep #1 from Parody Press, featuring an early script job by him, and having him autograph it for me. Then Sunday he surprises me with a fresh copy from his own stock personalized just for me! Sometimes I’m luckier than I deserve.

In case this isn’t obvious, Quantum Creep is a parody of the sci-fi TV show Quantum Leap (which has a currently-running reboot/relaunch which is quite enjoyable, by the way). Hopefully this isn’t telling tales out of school, but Nat told me that he and his partner on the book, Ted Slampyak, were presented with that cover (painted by Thad Rhodes III) and tasked with writing a spoof of the show around it.

I haven’t yet had a chance to properly read it yet, but a quick glance through the book show it’s appealingly cartooned, and I’ve spotted a few good gags…it’s written by Nat, after all, and I know he’s funny and clever. And now that I have this comic, I’ll need to complete my collection of Nat’s Parody Press books, of which there seem to be quite a few listed in this book’s editorial page. And some of those I’ve never even heard of before, surprisingly, so this will be quite the education!

And don’t get me started on Flaming Carrot.

§ October 10th, 2022 § Filed under indies § 10 Comments

With the impending return/continuation of Miracleman by Neil Gaiman and Mark Buckingham, which, you know, I’ll see that when I believe it*, I was thinking back to some other old favorites that I haven’t seen in a while, or at least wonder if they will continue and/or conclude in some fashion prior to the creators’ — um, inability to do more, shall we say.

The first series that comes to mind is grimjack:

…and shown above is the last issue released featuring the character, shipped to stores on January 6th, 2010. This…is kind of a convoluted situation, which I discussed on this site before. In essence, the original Grimjack series ended with a particular situation/circumstance/milieu change, but further mini-series (of which the above pictured comic was one) went backwards into the title’s history to essentially tell new stories of Classic Grimjack.

Which I guess is fine an’ all, since Classic Grimjack doesn’t take much explanation and Going-Past-Where-We-Left-Off Grimjack…um, would. And unfortunately it’s been so long that continuing the story now would, while not impossible, probably would find difficulty gaining much traction since the general perception of Grimjack, as much as it exists in today’s comics marketplace, is pretty much the version you see on the cover above. It’s disappointing, especially since future events for the character were teased and sounded intriguing, but seem unlikely to happen now (outside perhaps Kickstarter-type intervention). Supposedly an animated series is being developed, but whether that would be enough to get comics that pick up the story threads from where they ended…man, I don’t know. But it’d be nice.

So pictured above is the final issue of the most recent Concrete mini-series, released June 1st, 2005. Now, that’s not the most recent new stories with Concrete, as this comic, released July 18th, 2012, does feature three new stories from the Dark Horse Presents anthology. However, the forward motion of the character’s continuity has been on hold since 2005. This 2010 article announces a follow-up mini Stars Over Sand, which is as yet unreleased. Chadwick mentions this project again in a 2017 blog post on his site. Plus, here’s a 2018 Twitter post where you can actually see (from a distance) pages from the story!

I adore the Concrete comics, and miss the days when we seemed to have new material on a relatively regular basis. It’s a different, and more difficult, market now. And I know Chadwick has other stuff on his plate, so I’m being patient, but I can’t wait to read it.

Released on July 5th, 2017, this original graphic novel (released in the same format as that publisher’s hardcover reprints of the entirety of Beanworld) isn’t that long ago, so the idea that more will come out doesn’t seem like that distant a hope. The problem is that it feels like there is a lot of story yet to tell, so many more questions that need to be answered, and at this rate…well, I don’t know just how many more original graphic novels in the series we can realistically expect. I don’t know, maybe there’s a Giant Final Book being worked on even as I type this. I sincerely hope this ends up a completed masterpiece and not a tragically unfinished curiosity. It would seem there is a planned ending to this decades-long saga, and I hope we get to see it.

I’m sure there are more, but that’s enough for now. All beloved comics, all gone too long from the racks. Like I said above, it’s a more difficult marketplace in which to publish, so I’ll appreciate what I can get, when I can get it.

• • •

Don’t worry, I’m gettin’ back to Multiverse Talk shortly. Thank you for all your comments and, most importantly, keeping it civil!

* Phrased like that on purpose, because I know someone would say something otherwise. Quoting something, but I can’t recall what.

Now if those actually are by Williams and Griffin, well, no wonder they remind me of them.

§ September 19th, 2022 § Filed under indies, undergrounds § 4 Comments

So some oddball things I picked up in a collection late last week: six issues of Thrasher Comics, a short-lived series that ran from 1988 through 1990 and publishing in conjunction with the still-extant skateboarding publication Thrasher Magazine:

It’s a black and white anthology with color covers, with mostly weird and “edgy” contents that never really cross over into “adult” material, though the cover to issue 5 is, um, something else:

It has a real underground comix feel, like it should have been published sometime in the 1970s instead of, like, 19-freaking-90. Helping that feeling along is the fact that comix legend Spain Rodriguez was a regular contributor with the “Granny McGurk” feature:

And while some of the contents were…amateurish, there’s certainly an energetic weirdness at work, such as this bit from L.E. Coleman’s “Alley Gator,” another recurring strip:

And I think there’s some disturbing joy to be had in this attempt to out-Wolverton Basil Wolverton, taken from “Betties from Hell” by Johnny Childish:

This uncredited piece, taken from the inside fron cover of issue #9, reminds me a smidgen of some of Robert Williams’ underground work:

I’m pretty sure that is in fact not Williams, but this page from #5 is the Spain-est drawing that’s ever been Spained:

The covers are fun, especially with the Rick Griffin vibe I get off this one:

And dig the Heavy Metal-esque sci-fi cover for #8, which…doesn’t seem to have much to do with skating, does it?

EDIT: um, actually, it’s a wraparound cover with sci-fi skaters on the back…look, no one said I was bright:

Anyway, the Thrasher comics experiment didn’t last long, with #9 and its slightly more straightforward cover being the end of the series:

This is one strange comic, and apparently in short supply, judging by some of the prices I’ve seen online for these. The copies I received were…well-loved, mostly in Fair to…well, Fair Plus condition. Quite the range. Had no trouble already finding a buyer for them, so save those emails asking to get these from me, as they’re already gone! Sorry!

However, if you like undergrounds, and wild artwork (sometimes more enthusiastic than professional, which is fine!) keep an eye out for these. Thrasher Comics is something of a forgotten…well, “classic” seems like too strong a word, but it’s certainly worth checking out.


My favorite Megaton Man thingies.

§ July 20th, 2022 § Filed under indies, scans Comments Off on My favorite Megaton Man thingies.

So the Megaton Man comic was a superhero parody/satire by Don Simpson, originally published by Kitchen Sink Press in the mid-1980s. It ran for ten issues, and was followed by multiple publications from KSP, Image Comics, and Simpson’s own company Fiasco. There was even a webcomic that was reprinted, at least in part, in Megaton Man Hardcopy from Image.

I was a big fan of the Megatoniverse from almost the very beginning…the first issue I bought was #2, pictured above, and shortly had a first issue in my hands thanks to my local retailer-and-eventual-boss. One of these days I need to do a deep re-dive into all that jazz and write it up, assuming I ever catch up enough on my backlog of new comics to be able to devote that sort of time. However, I did want to take this opportunity to present two of my favorite bits from the original run.

The first is from issue #5 (August 1985), featuring one of the all-time greatest gags to ever appear in a superhero comic:

Next is from #9 (April 1986), in which Megaton Man, after an equally wonderful two-page spread where he’s finally had enough with everyone and everything, lays down one of the most fantastic punches ever delivered on paper. Eat your heart out, Gil Kane:

My apologies if I’ve presented these pics before on my site…I can’t seem to find them if they’re here. But, now, I have a place on my site I can point people to when they ask, “Mike, what are your two favorite bits from Megaton Man?” You would not believe how often that comes up.

I have held in my hands every comic mentioned in this post.

§ April 8th, 2022 § Filed under indies § 9 Comments

Born in that post-Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles black and white comics boom, of the 1980s, Solson Comics was a company that was…not especially highly regarded by fans or critics. I mean, there were worse comics out there, but something about Solson struck some folks as one of the more cynical attempts at cashing in on this latest comics fad.

That said, I do sort of admire the sort of wild variety of books that were just kinda thrown out there into the marketplace, with the hopes that one of them would stick. I mean, this one, as I vaguely recall, was okay:

…and this one clearly had one of the all-time great comic book titles:

Plus, there’s this “Christmas” comic that achieved some notoriety when it was discovered that the inking was credited to a “Jim Lee.” It does appear to be the same Jim Lee we all know and love for putting a collar and cuffs on Superman’s costume, but I recall there being some debate for a brief time as to whether or not it was the same Jim Lee.

Anyway, nothing really “stuck” like they were hoping for, I think…nobody wanted to make toys or cartoons based on Rock Heads:

…or maybe they did want to and they just never came to fruition. You never know.

But two things did have some staying power from this company, aside from speculators and their slabbed copies of Samurai Santa. First, amusingly enough, in their pursuit for Turtles money, Solson actually produced licensed Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics:

…some martial arts training comics, as well as a “how to draw” comic. Instead of trying to make money off a Turtles rip-off, just make money off the Turtles themselves. Well played, Solson, well played indeed.

The other comic with lasting cultural impact, at least within the realm of comic book fandom, is the one, the only…

Reagan’s Raiders. Long before there were a million Trump and Obama comics, Reagan was just all over the place in funnybooks during the ’80s. Yeah, sure, people liked putting Nixon into comics…but pop culture really cottoned to Reagan for a bit. And no appearance shines in a comic fan’s memory more than…well, okay, that issue of Captain America where Reagan turned into a snake monster, but Reagan’s Raiders is a darn close second.

In that picture above is the only copy I had in stock at my shop (already sold, sorry!). But this thingie here is an item I found in one of the many boxes of ancient promo stuff I took in from the previous place of employment:

Not sure you need any commentary on this particular document, as it pretty well speaks for itself. Though I do like that “color cover” is offered as a selling point. And having military ranks on the creative team (“Sgt. Dick Ayers”) is a wild touch.

The only thing I’m wondering now is — does the Reagan Library have a set of these Reagan’s Raiders comics? Y’know, that Library isn’t all that far away from me, so maybe I can go and ask. If you never hear from me again, at least you’ll know what happened.

Trying to scratch that itch.

§ February 16th, 2022 § Filed under indies, publishing § 1 Comment

So I was processing a stack of Tick comics acquired from my previous place of employment — stack pictured here:

…and boy, there sure were a lot of Tick comics released in the 1999-2002 period. (Of course, the one on top of that stack is from a few years earlier, but I assure you, those are mostly 1999-2001 Tick books.)

I mean, there was Tick: Heroes of the City and Tick Color and Tick and Arthur and Tick & Artie (not to be confused with Tick and Arthur) and The Tick’s Big Cruise Vacation Special and multiple Big Yule Log Specials and The Tick: Circus Maximus and The Tick’s Golden Age Comic and The Tick: The Pseudo Edition (supposedly #13 of creator Ben Edlund’s original Tick series, but not by Edlund) and The Tick’s Incredible Internet Comic and a couple Big Halloween Specials, one of which is inexplicably pricey in the secondary market, and well you get the idea. Perhaps not a patch on the number of Batman books published during the same period, but certainly a lot for a black and white indie title being published during one of the comic industry’s leaner periods.

Now I suppose the popularity of the mid-1990s Tick cartoon spurred the release of all these Tick funnybooks, as well as the then-impending, and then almost immediately cancelled, 2011 live-action TV show. And yes, Tick comics were still relatively popular with readers during this period, so a market definitely existed for all these different publications.

Currently, there are no Tick comics currently being released. Aside from giveaways for Free Comic Book Day and Halloweenfest events, the most recent Tick comic is Tick 2017, released specifically to capitalize on then-new now-defunct Amazon Prime series. I mean, I went back and looked at the original order solicitations, and they specifically cite that TV show, so I’m reasonably sure that was the impetus for this iteration of the comic.

I was a big fan of Ben Edlund’s original 12 issue Tick series. A college buddy of mine had talked about the first issue and it sounded funny, and given I’d just started work at a comic book store, I was in the perfect position to check it out for myself. And I happily stuck with the series through its very erratically-published run.

As it turned out, while I really liked the Tick, I think I only really specifically liked Ben Edlund‘s Tick. I tried other Tick comics, especially after it became obvious Edlund wasn’t going to be producing very many on his own and I wanted more of the character. I sampled many of the spin-offs (I think that Karma Tornado was one of the first) and…they didn’t really do anything for me. They didn’t feel right…like the balance of jokes was off, or the tone wasn’t right, or something.

It’s like reading Plastic Man comics not by Jack Cole, or Peanuts comics not by Charles Schulz, or Howard the Duck stories not written by Steve Gerber. There’s an ineffable quality imparted upon these creations by their creators that other writers/artists can’t really duplicate, and the Tick, at least for me, is no exception. (At least in comic book form, as all the different TV shows are great.)

This is not me being down on all these comics. They have fans, people love ’em, that’s great. They just Weren’t For Me, and not every comic has to be. But I really would like a new, ongoing Tick series of some kind, even if Edlund isn’t around to do it. The Tick is still a popular character people have a lot of affection for, and its absence from the stands is felt. Something new, with a strong creative team, published on a regular basis — that’s what I’d like. Of course, in this weird marketplace we find ourselves in, even building it is no guarantee they’ll come, if I may paraphrase that one movie.

Welcome to the house of sketches.

§ July 23rd, 2021 § Filed under indies, original art § 2 Comments

So Wednesday I mentioned I obtained a Pirate Corp$ sketch by Evan Dorkin about thirty years ago from…still can’t remember the guy’s name! Tad? Scott? Chickie? Chasley? No idea.

But I still have the sketch, and I realized it wasn’t fair to tell you about the sketch without showing it to you. As such, let me rectify the situation by presenting it now:

Nice pic of Blue and Charlie, I think! I adjusted the scan shown above to make the lines more visible. However, if you click on the pic you’ll get a very large image of the original unadjusted scan.

Pirate Corp$ (and later, Hectic Planet) was a fun comedy/adventure comic that well demonstrated Evan Dorkin’s penchant for being able to mix actual emotional drama with wild comedy. It’s another indie of yesteryear that I miss…unlikely to ever return, but at least I still have all the original issues to continue enjoying. And, of course, that wonderful original drawing.

It cost me two dollars in American loot (two-sixty Canadian).

§ July 21st, 2021 § Filed under indies, original art § 4 Comments

At some point in the early 1990s, someone decided to hold a comic convention in our area, specifically in a large building at the Ventura Fairgrounds. It was also the same day as the usual giant swap meet that generally occupied the entire venue, so there were enormous crowds not there for the comic show that we had to navigate in order to set up our shop’s presence there.

Thirty years on I can’t recall much about the event beyond the inconvenience of trying to get in an’ out of there (especially during the middle of the day when one of us had to run back to the shop for something we needed). I do however recall three specific things (and one “maybe” thing):

1. Ol’ Forrest J. Ackerman speaking to a small but rapt group of fans, all of whom (Forry included) sitting on a bunch of folding chairs just kinda in the middle of the floor of the show, no separate room, nothin’ roped off. Just everyone kinda sittin’ there. They seemed to be enjoying themselves, especially Mr. Ackerman, a person I understand totally enjoying talking about stuff.

2. I bought a copy of volume one of the Action Comics Archive Edition for ten bucks in an auction.

3. The “maybe” thing: I believe it was at this show I picked up a group sketch by Evan Dorkin of the Pirate Corp$ cast for another ten bucks, from a fella who’d been active in the local comics retail scene at the time and was just trying to unload a bunch of his stock. Boy, I haven’t seen him in decades…I can’t even remember his name at this point. (Was it “Greg?” I can’t recall.) But I still have the sketch, framed and on display in the house! Anyway, if it wasn’t at this specific show, it was certainly around this time.

Remind me to scan and post that Pirate Corp$ sketch at some point.

And for 4) we’re back to a specific memory of this show, where cartoonist Mike Kazaleh was a guest, signing comics and drawing sketches for the folks who came to his table. Now, Mr. Kazaleh had then just started drawing for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics published by Archie, and that was the big selling point for his appearance at the show. As such, it appeared to be all TMNT all the time for him as he interacted with guests, drawing pics of Michelangelo and the other not-as-good Turtles, signing TMNT comics, and so on.

Now I was (and still am!) a fan of Kazaleh’s work, particularly of his creator-owned sci-fi anthropomorphic comic book series Adventures of Captain Jack. So, between waves of children hitting his table, I made my way over there, told him I was a fan, and asked if I could buy a sketch of Captain Jack.

Well, clearly he was surprised that there was actually someone there asking about something that wasn’t teenage or mutated or reptilian. He drew a quick but nice drawing in his sketchbook, ripped out the page, and handed it to me.

I said “Great! How much do I owe you?”

He replied “oh man, I’m just happy someone asked me about Jack. You can have it for free.”

Me: “Ah geez, I gotta pay you something.”

MK: “…Okay, how ’bout a dollar?”

Me: “Only a dollar? That’s not enough! …Look, I’ve got two dollars.”

MK: “Okay, sure!”

We had a pretty good laugh, and though I don’t remember the details of the other conversation we had, I do recall that I enjoyed talking to him. And yes, I should have at least given him $10, since that seemed to be the amount I was handing out at that show. If Mr. Kazaleh would like the additional eight dollars, I’ll happily send it his way.

Over the years, the sketch got stored away between some move or two over the last decade or so, where it stayed until I recently started digging through some boxes and pulling out some of my own old artwork. Now I have it out, and I need to find a frame for it.

And of course I’ve also finally scanned scanned it so I can show it off to you folks. I had to do a little brightness/contrast adjusting to maximize its visibility, as the art’s lines are pretty light. The actual paper is white, not this dingy color, I promise:

Isn’t that nice? I miss Captain Jack comics. I miss a lot of those ’80s/early ’90s indies.

The Department of Variants.

§ June 21st, 2021 § Filed under indies, variant covers § 3 Comments

So back in 2014, when I was still at the previous place of employment, our prep for what would turn out to be the final Free Comic Book Day I worked at that store, we took advantage of a special deal Valiant Comics offered. If we ordered a minimum of 500 copies of that year’s FCBD offering from the publisher, Armor Hunters Special #1, we would be able to receive custom-printed copies with our logo on the cover. Now 500 copies at a quarter a pop our cost, for a total of $125, was just a drop in the bucket in the overall expenditures for our Free Comic Book Day event, so we went for it, resulting in this:

One, they actually ran two logos, one for Seth’s store and one for Ralph’s, though I suppose the restriction wasn’t “number of store logos” but rather “what will fit in that space, and hopefully isn’t straight-up pornography.” Two, you can probably tell which logo was actually by A Real Artist and which was by The Overworked Comic Shop Manager Who Knew How to Color In Letters in an Art Program. As to that URL, pretty sure I told ’em “just put it in there somewhere” and somewhere is indeed where they put it.

Anyway, aesthetics aside, one of the unintended but probably-should-have-expected-because-comics consequences was phone calls from collectors trying to obtain copies of our customized version of this freebie. Lots of calls. Valiant press-released a list of stores what went for these branded Armor Hunters, which sent folks our way. (Honestly, I’m surprised so few stores took part in this.) And I believe we did mail out quite a few, but true to the spirit of FCBD we didn’t charge for them (just asked for shipping costs…and waited to send ’em out after the event).

That was the one time I did the whole retailer-variant thing, which I’d been thinking about over the last couple of days in relation to a collection of comics I just took in. Specifically, I acquired a bunch of Department of Truth variants, several for each issue released so far. There were a handful of the regular variants available through Diamond, but the vast majority of them were covers specifically produced for retailers, like this cover for #1 by Peach Momoko:

Now, to get that Valiant variant, it was relatively easy…just hit that minimum and provide the artwork. For these kinds of variants, featuring specific artwork by actual professional artists, it’s a whole different scale of business there. I don’t know the specifics of what had to be done with these Department of Truth variants, but I do know with other retailer variants I’ve looked into, it required ordering a certain minimum number of the regular covers, then committing to a certain amount of the retailer variant, sometimes at a higher-than-normal wholesale cost. Regardless of the details, it costs a lot and you end up with a boatload of comic books. Huge numbers of books, more than my current rinky-dink operation can deal with.

Every time I crunched the numbers on these, it always looked like the end result would be me having to dump all those extra copies of the regular cover (above what I’d normally sell) for pennies on the dollar, or just plain recycle them, and hope sales on the retailer-variant cover the cost. But the larger stores with the more efficient (i.e. more than one dude running the shop) mail-order department probably is in a lot better position dealing with these. And that must be the case given the number of retailer variants that exist for comics. I mean, Department of Truth alone…

Anyway, speaking of that comic, I already knew there were a number of variants for issue #1, but I just wasn’t aware how many. The main cover of the first issue looked like this:

…but interspersed with this cover during its initial distribution was this cover (about 1 in every, what, 6 copies?) replacing Kennedy’s image with Lee Harvey Oswald:

And of course there were the usual “ratio” variants, where you could get 1 copy for every X copies of the regular you were ordering. These existed at the 1-in-10 and 1-in-50 levels (which you can refer to on this page, as I won’t be putting every cover up here). There was also a 1-in-100 variant, which I am putting up here:

…due to its “homage” to the writer’s other weirdly popular comic Something Is Killing the Children. It is noted as “Cover F” on the back cover…a letter designation is assigned to most, but not all, of these Department of Truth variants. (If you’re also wondering if this particular variant has staples, you know where to look.)

This series turned out to be in very high demand, and after the quick sellout of the first issue, reprints were quickly produced. Five printings of #1 as of this posting, with the 2nd print pictured here:

These reprints, at least on the first issue, were simply coloring variations on the initial release. But also wildly in high demand, often from collectors and investors looking toward resale. Like many reprints, which are seen by some as “rare” collectibles, their relative scarcity in comparison to the comic it’s reprinting, drive their demand to occasionally outrageous levels.

But nearly all the rest of the #1s are retailer comics, which you could buy at conventions, or, more likely since there weren’t conventions for a while, obtained via mail order. Often they had small print runs (like about 500 or so) and a quick scan of several of these retailers’ storefronts show them long out of stock. However, this version of that first Momoko cover I posted, but sans logo:

…was used for a foil variant that apparently was sold directly by the writer himself, if I understand correctly? This only had a print run of 100 copies, so the premium prices on the secondary market for this edition can run quite dear. (And yes, before you ask, I had one of those in this collection…it was one of the first to sell!)

As you scan down that catalog of variants, you see the process not slowing down much. A lot of the “altered color” reprints, along with a bunch of retailer exclusives, are listed for every issue. Issue 9 isn’t listed there yet, but I can assure you the same goes for that one as well.

As I go through this collection of Department of Truth variants, it has me thinking again about looking into getting a retailer variant of my own. Given the response we had far and wide from folks trying to get that Armor Hunters variant, I imagine I could probably move enough copies of my own store-exclusive edition of…something. Just a matter of me deciding to put my dime (well, lots of dimes) down on something that I’d want representing my shop. I don’t know if I can top this Archie Vs. Predator exclusive, but I’d love to have a House of Secrets #92 homage on some comic for my store to sell. Too bad Herbie is off the stands…an HOS92-type cover with a lollipop sitting in the foreground with a shadowed Herbie lurking behind, with a giant “Sterling Silver Comics” logo adorning the image. It’s too beautiful to imagine.

Okay, I don’t know how educational all that was, and it was a little off-model from the rest of my variant cover-age posts. I know I said I’d do the Marvel 35-cent variants this time ’round, but that was turning into more of a thing than I was really up for at the moment. There’s a lot to unpack there, along with varying distributor marks, and the larger direct sales vs. newsstand editions secondary marketplace…I’ll get to it all eventually.

The harder the variant, the more glorious the triumph.

§ June 7th, 2021 § Filed under indies, market crash, variant covers § 12 Comments

So back in 1968, Mad Magazine pulled this cover gag on issue #123:

…part of the joke being there were only (as far as anyone knows) four different serial numbers printed on the covers. In essence, that makes this one of the first “variant” covers in the modern sense (predating that darn Man of Steel #1).

Now, I don’t think anyone expected fans to actually collect all four variants, despite what it says there on the cover. Clearly the multiple printed numbers were only there to add a bit of verisimilitude to the gag. Now of course Mad would eventually, actually, once the technology existed, put genuine serialized numbering on some covers, like this issue from 1995:

This reminds me of ack in ye olden tymes of the 1980s, I was, I don’t know, 12 or 13 or something like that, when I first saw a printed personlized message in one of the magazines to which I subscribed. (It was either Games or Omni — yes I know that’s a little weird.) Not just my address being printed directly onto the cover instead of being printed first on a mailing label that was glued to the mag. But an actual message to me, using my name, printed (and memory fails me here, as I haven’t thought about this in decades) on the cover, or inside the magazine itself. Look, I don’t know when this sort of thing became available, if it’d been happening elsewhere before it showed up in the mags I read, but all I know is that I thought that was pretty cool. My copy of the magazine was personalized to me, and totally different from everyone else’s copy, which technically was true before anyway just given the mailing label, but you know what I mean. But it was only a short leap from this to putting a sequence of “limited edition” serial numbers on a cover.

For the purposes of my ongoing discussion, this type of “variant” cover I’ve been discussing only just barely counts. Well, Mad #123 does, obviously, but the others…when we think of variant covers on comics, we’re likely thinking of comics marketed with two or more covers, often with differing art or enhancements or even just coloring.

Also, there’s intent…the typical variant covers are there to either get a customer to buy more than one cover, or to provide enough variations that a customer otherwise possibly not interested in the publication might spot a cover he likes and is enticed to buy.

Serial numbers printed on a comic’s cover are a sales enticement as well, but not in the same way. Different numbers on different copies do make them variants, when you get down to it, but, like no one’s literally “collecting them all.” Or, come to think of it, maybe someone’s trying…I’ve been in comics retail for nearly three and a half decades, I know what kind of stuff you weirdos get up to. That said, a serial number implies “limited edition” — “there’s only so many of these in existence!” — so that part of it does (or hopefully does) get a customer’s attention and with it, a purchase.

One publisher that took it to an extreme, and made serial numbering part of their trade dress, was Triumphant Comics:

A closer look:

I’m trying to remember how these specifically sold for us at the shop at the time, and alas that data was expunged from my brain at some point over the years. I do remember not having much, if any, back issue movement on them, either at the time or well after the fact, a combination of general market malaise in the 1990s crash times, along with the fact the company itself was only around a year or so.

The print runs probably looked impossibly small at the time, after the huge successes of X-Men #1 and X-Force #1 and all that nonsense moving millions of copies into shops, a portion of those then even selling to customers. Having a comic with a 12,500 print run and being serially numbered probably looked like a collectibility and-therefore-sales-slam-dunk:

Just kinda randomly picking through the comics, stated print runs of between about 15,000 to 30,000 were the most common. The outlier was this freebie comic which, being free, naturally had the largest number that I saw:

Not much else to say here really…their publishing strategy was to make their comics look more collectible, and, well, you can get copies for a buck a pop on eBay (one listing for a single issue for $5.99 including free shipping…which basically makes that a buck as well). Anyway, it was an interesting try at a gimmick building off a market with multiple price guides and an expanded emphasis on “limited editions” and “collectibles,” done in, it seems, by that market suddenly going away.

These is one more thing I’d like to point out, and that was this letter of encouragement from another comics personality of note that was printed on a back cover:

Which reminds me…I hope none of my comments here are taken as disparaging of the actual contents of these books. I’ve…never actually read a Triumphant comic. Big Jim liked what he saw, anyway. But this year’s worth of Triumphant books represented someone’s hard work and effort and dream to get their stories into print, and good for them. They had an interesting hook with the serial numbers to stand out on the shelves, but unfortunately things just didn’t work out. That’s just how it goes sometimes, and that’s especially how it went in comics during the mid-1990s.

Okay, next up in the variant cover-age…maybe some actual variant-ish type variant comics! Hey, did Defiant Comics have variants? I don’t remember.

Also, thanks to Customer Dave for lending me some of the Triumphant Comics from his collection for the production of this post. Hmmm, so long as I have ’em on hand, I’ll give one a read.

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