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Variation is the soul of Whit, man.

§ July 19th, 2021 § Filed under variant covers § 8 Comments

So Sunday morning I was checking my email and noticed a message caught in the spam filter from someone asking about selling his stacks of 1960s comics. “NICE TRY, SPAM FILTER” I declare as I rescue the message and quickly respond with a “yes please, I would like to take a look at your ’60s comics.”

Now whenever someone says “I have old comics for sale” or “I have some original 1940s books I’m lookin’ to let go” a good portion of the time they turn up with, I don’t know, Marvel Team-Ups from 1983 or something. In general, I don’t hold my hopes up too high until I can actually see the comics in my hands. And even then I still don’t get my hopes up too high because there’s no telling if the seller “researched” prices online and decided that anything less than the $200 price some lunatic on Amazon put on this actually-valued-at-$4 comic would kill the deal.

As it turned out, the fella did have actually honest-to-Granny-Goodness 1960s comics, which were all actually his and purchased off the stands during his youth. Apparently he was cleaning out his mother’s house and discovered that she’d kept all these boxed away in the garage. So, you know, good on Mom for not throwing these away.

And I was able to make an offer that he was agreeable to, so I wrote him a check, and he walked out happy and I now have a new batch of funnybooks into which to dive. I did a small Twitter thread about it if you’d like to see some photographs, eh, he asked you knowingly.

“What’s all this got to do with variant covers?” I hear you asking, somehow, from all the way over here while you’re standing over there. As it turned out, this gentleman’s collection contained a lot of Dell and Gold Key comics, as a collection from this period is wont to have. He noticed, as he was making a list of his books, that there were several titles that carried over from Dell to Gold Key, and he wondered what exactly the deal was between the two companies, if one bought the other out or something similar.

Now luckily for me I’d read Mark Evanier’s explanation of the relationship between the two companies/imprints. Granted it was a while back, so I double-checked this evening to make sure I was at least partially correct and I was close enough for horseshoes. (Very shortly, a company, Western Printing, generated content that Dell published and distributed, until eventually Dell and Western split and Western started publishing the content themselves under the name “Gold Key” — seriously, read Evanier’s article).

“Still not anything about variants,” you sez. While some Dell and Gold Key had variant covers (differing back covers, price variants, etc.) my focus here is going to be on Whitman.

“Oh, now what’s Whitman?” you ask, and frankly you’re asking too many questions. But here, Whitman was an imprint used by Western for, among other things, comics distributed, usually in three-packs, to toy stores, department stores, that sort of thing…in general, non-newsstand distribution. While the “Gold Key” log would appear on copies distributed as normal periodicals:

…the copies appearing in 3-packs would have the Whitman logo

I presume at least one of the reasons was to prevent unscrupulous retailers attempting to get stripped cover returns using non-newsstand copies, though I’m not sure if the timeliness of the 3-pack releases would have allowed for getting copies back in the alloted return window for each issue anyway.

This dual-distribution resulted in several of Western’s releases having Whitman and Gold Key variants. And not just Western’s books…they also redistributed DC Comics into similar 3-packs, all with Whitman logo rebranding. For example, here’s a comic I remember having in a Whitman edition as a kid, Superman #327. Here’s the regular cover:

…and here’s the one with “Whitman” just slathered all over it:

And of course there were Marvel Whitman variants, such as the Star Wars issues distributed in 3-packs:

…but not with the Whitman logo. This was how I got the first six issues of Star Wars, via the 3-packs in Toys ‘R’ Us. (I think I got at least one pack of three later issues of the series from there as well.) Not sure why there was no Whitman logo on these.

Outside the 3-packs, there were Whitman variants of some of Marvel and DC’s oversized treasury editions, such as Marvel Special Edition #1:

…and of course All-New Collectors’ Edition #C-56:

…presumably produced again for outside-newsstand distribution. (I can tell you my Whitman Superman Vs. Muhammad Ali copy came new distributed through direct-to-schools book sales.)

Now I may be a little fuzzy on the details regarding production and distribution of these books, but ultimately these variant editions do exist. And, for a long time I noticed during my early years in comics retail resistance to purchasing Whitman editions when there were regular editions of the comics to be had. (It should be noted that not every Whitman comic, especially with properties controlled by Western, had a “regular logo” cover, particularly in the late ’70s/early ’80s. And some issues were only distributed in 3-packs with Whitman logos.)

That resistance has gone away, unsurprisingly, but it predates the current panic over “nouveau hot” comics of lat. Granted, the recent speculation market has only aggravated things (a search online for “Whitman variants” sure brings up a lot of people happy to tell you how rare and hot they are). However, I do have to admit they are much harder to find now, and they are alternate editions, so I must reluctantly accept that not everything in the comics market now is not absolutely 100% the same as it was when I started over three decades ago. [Insert clip of Garth from Wayne’s World declaring “we fear change” here.]

I am reminded of a two-or-three pack of Heavy Metal and a Warren mag or two that I bought when I was far too young to be buying it. Was this another Whitman repackaging, or some other company trying to unload excess copies? Perhaps an investigation for another time.

Double your variants, double your fun.

§ July 12th, 2021 § Filed under Uncategorized, variant covers § 11 Comments

So when I was a kid, there were only two comics (that I recall anyway) that I purchased off the stands and were “double-covered” — in other words, an error in the manufacturing process attached a second cover attached over the first. One was this issue of Star Trek:

…and the other, this Batman Special:

And being a Comic Book Collector, I of course removed those second covers and used them as decoration in my bedroom.

Now double-covers are sort of pushing the line a bit in my ongoing variant cover-age, as these aren’t usually created by publishers on purpose as sales incentives (titles like Lobo’s Back and Comic Book Guy: The Comic Book excepted, of course).

However, they are cover-related alterations to your standard comic book that can attract buyer attention. Technically an “error,” but not one that affects the intended usage of a comic (like missing or misordered pages). It’s a value add, in a way, and for collectors of older books it creates the possibility of finding a cover in good shape beneath the extra outer cover that protected it all these years.

I’ve heard tell of comics with three or four covers accidentally affixed to a standard comic book, but I would guess that too many extra covers slipping through to a single book would gum up the printing works. And speaking of which, as time has gone on, this type of error was decreased as technology improved. The modern double-cover is a rarity.

But on older comics…well, they’re still rare, but they’re out there. Amazingly, over the thousands upon thousands upon thousands of older comics I’ve processed for sale at the previous place of employment and at my own store, I can’t honestly remember the last time I found a double-cover. Which may be why it was such a surprise when a couple of days ago I came across an example on this copy of Daisy and Donald #2 from 1973:

Well, that was pretty neat, thought I. Then, on Sunday, my former boss Ralph (who was at the shop helping me get more old comics processed) found this Flash #345 from 1985:

Now hopefully you can see why I had double-covers on the brain of late.

These comics 1) aren’t necessarily valuable or in huge demand in the first place, and 2) aren’t anywhere close to pristine condition and the difference in the shapes of the covers is relatively negligible, so I don’t know if the premium these comics will carry will be of any significance. However, given this crazy comics secondary market we’re existing in right now, I hesitate to say for sure what items such as these will go ultimately go for. Research is necessary, but again, the highly-mercurial nature of demand for collectibles in the presumably-latter-pandemic days may keep me from nailing down any price beyond “somewhat educated guess.”

Also, the double-covered Flash contains a Mark Jewelers ad bound inside:

…which is yet a whole ‘nother thing. As Ralph said about this comic, “you probably have the only double-covered Flash #345 with a Mark Jewelers ad in existence!”

A quick Googling to kick off my research turned up a page on identifying fake double-covered comics, which is not a thing I’d ever considered. But I suppose it’s the sort of thing that probably seems like an easy thing to do (along with reinserting inserts like Mark Jewelers ads or trading cards into comics where they were removed, or never these in the first place). Plus, once again, we’re in a marketplace right now where people are desperate for collectible comics, so this sort of activity has probably only increased.

And yes, I’ve looked at eBay too, and prices for double-covered books don’t seem to be too far out of range with what I’d expect for many of the featured comics. Lots of other variables are involved (whether it’s slabbed and graded, is a “key” issue, is Golden Age or not), so further investigation is needed as to whether or not I’m charging $1,000 for that Daisy and Donald. (That Flash, however, is at least $2,000, easy.)

Something old, something new, something variant, something blue.

§ July 5th, 2021 § Filed under variant covers § 11 Comments

In 1987, Marvel Comics finally married off its most arachnoid of bachelors: Peter Parker, the Amazing Spider-Man, was going to tie the knotted webbing with that jackpot of a redhead, Mary Jane Watson, in a vast multimedia event. The marriage was going to take place more or less concurrently in the shockingly long-running Spider-Man comic strip; in an actual live event, with actors and everything, and Stan Lee himself officiating, at New York’s Shea Stadium in front of a possibly perplexed audience waiting for the baseball game to start; and of course in the actual medium of funnybooks, in Amazing Spider-Man Annual #21.

Given its presence here in our ongoing series on variant covers, you’d be correct in guessing that variants were indeed offered for this momentous event. It may seem underwhelming by today’s standards, where the equivalent event would require a dozen or more different covers of varying availability based on retailer orders (“1 in 10,000 ratio variant, featuring Steve Ditko’s blood in the ink — DON’T ASK HOW WE GOT IT”) but two covers were provided.

Harking back to the then-recent Man of Steel #1’s strategy, the image on the front of the version provided to your regular newsstand outlets, like your Stop ‘n’ Elevens and such, featured Spider-Man in his fightin’ togs, a be-wedding-dressed Mary Jane by his side, while super-powered mayhem was about to ensue in the background:

Meanwhile, direct market copies, sold through comic book stores and other specialized markets, provided a more subdued portrait, with Peter Parker in his tuxedoed civvies as the supporting cast looks on:

The different covers were, of course, aimed at attracting different audiences. The superhero-y newsstand version was more likely to grab the eye of the casual browsers, whereas the dedicated Spider-Man reader patronizing the comic shops would 1) buy their Spidey comics anyway, regardless of cover, and 2) would be more likely to recognize the characters. And naturally, there’s reason 3, discussed before, in which retailers were able to order copies of the newsstand version as well, meaning they had both versions side by side on the rack. And, as we know from, oh, the three and half decades of the comics market, if you offer multiple covers, a non-zero percentage of customers will buy more than one of them.

In researching the matter over at the invaluable Comichron, their year-end review for 1987 singles out the Amazing Spider-Man Annual for special attention, noting that the comic was in fact delayed in release by the decision to go with a variant cover. And that Diamond Comic Distributor orders for the direct sales version were close to double its orders for the newsstand edition. In addition, newsstand orders were actually very high for Amazing at the time, and even throwing in orders from the other comics market distributor Capital…it looks like significantly more copies of the newsstand version with Spidey on the cover were printed than the Peter cover for comic shops.

Now as far as I can tell, after checking eBay listings and various online retailers, the newsstand cover sold through comic shops retained the standard UPC code, and wasn’t replaced with a promo message, or Spider-Man’s head, or something similar. Not even the black crossbar across the UPC’s face. Thus, it looks like the newsstand cover available on actual newsstands and in comic shops were identical? Printing two covers delayed things already, so printing additional variants with different UPC boxes was a problem with which they didn’t bother?

I don’t know…my own entry into working comics retail came a year after this, so I don’t have direct experience with it aside from buying a copy (the Peter Parker cover, natch, from the store I’d eventually work at). Any additional information is welcome and I will update this post accordingly.

About twenty years later, DC followed suit by marrying the most iconic romantic couple in superhero comics history, aside from Popeye and Olive: Superman (or rather, Clark Kent) and Lois Lane were to be wed! Which came as bit of a surprise, as in the comics the characters were on the outs, in a storyline intended to last a while, until the Lois and Clark TV show opted to have the characters wed in their storyline, goosing DC a bit to alter their own plans.

Whatever their motivation, DC ended up publishing Superman: The Wedding Album in 1996, featuring the official union of the two characters. And, you guessed it, with variant covers. There was the deluxe “Collector’s Edition,” a stiff embossed cover available exclusively in comic shops that’s just going to show up as all white here:

And there was the “standard edition,” which was the version available on newsstands:

Unlike Amazing Spider-Man #21 (again, far as I know), the “newsstand” edition available in comic shops did have an altered UPC code, reading “direct sales” in the box:

And there was an edition printed with this “DC Universe” logo:

…which you can read about on this site. In short, a reprinted version of the original that was apparently sold on a cable shopping network…I’m guessing probably for way too much.

Anyway, back to ye old Comichron for the month of November 1996, and it’s probably no surprise that the Wedding Album deluxe edition outsold the direct market version of the standard edition by about 4 to 1. (Not sure what sales were on the actual newsstand version, but I’m guessing comic book sales through non-comic shop venues in the mid-1990s were not great.)

Now for this wedding I was behind the counter, slingin’ those comical books, so I have a little more direct experience with this release. I don’t recall the exact numbers we ordered (though I do have possession of the old store’s mid-1990s invoices that my former boss passed along to me for research purposes…I should actually start researching those someday) but I’m reasonably certain our orders were along the lines of Comichron’s sales charts: a lot more of the deluxe edition, not so much of the standard one.

In general I noticed, that when given the option, most customers would spring for a fancier edition of a comic book. Yes, it cost a little more, but the perceived value sometimes outweighs the price difference. Sure, you can get the regular version for a buck less, but for only a buck more you can get all the bells and whistles. You don’t want to miss out on anything, after all.

But what’s interesting in this specific case, the “Collector’s Edition” and the “Standard” editions of Superman: The Wedding Album both retailed for the same cover price of $4.95. I imagine in some cases that made the decision easier…you gotta drop a fin to read the story anyway, might as well get more for your money: i.e. that fancy cover.

Personally, I went with the standard version. I mean, that white cover was neat an’ all, but I wanted an actual image I could see on the comic I bought. I mean, sure, okay, that John Byrne cover is a tad bland-ish, but it suffices. Plus, I just have an easier time reading a comic when I’m not fighting that thicker, stiffer cardboard cover. Your basic floppier paper cover is fine by me, and certainly easier to handle.

Most of our customers did not agree with me, however, and ’twas the deluxe edition that moved out the door. Though I should note that we did sell out of the standard version…our orders were lower, sure, but still enough demand to wipe us out of them. And we had plenty of the deluxe version left over…we sold a lot of them, absolutely, but the remnants stuck around a bit. I do wonder, if we had more of the standard edition initially, if there would have been more parity between the two? Later acquisitions of the standard edition in collections would sell quickly as a back issue, while the deluxe copy’s sales were moribund. So…who knows?

The dichotomy of newsstand versus direct sales variations is still fairly cut and dried at this point, with the actual cover image (or other specific qualities) being the main driver in demand. It had long been conventional wisdom that all other things being equal, a comic where the only difference whether or not a UPC code was present made no difference in pricing. But now it is no longer necessary to have an entirely different cover; just being a newsstand version of a comic, with a regular ol’ UPC code, is enough to send prices skyrocketing, in this new back issue market desperate for new things to be collectible to replace the scarcer old things that don’t seem to show up quite as often anymore.

But perhaps that’s something we can talk about next time.

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.

There’s no “variant” in “team.”

§ June 14th, 2021 § Filed under teen titans, variant covers § 20 Comments

So in the mid-to-late 1940s, and just barely into the 1950s, the comic publisher Fox would put out this big ol’ funnybooks, running well over 100 pages in length:

Back at the previous place of employment, we had a few of these come through, and they were impressively thick packages. And sometimes they had pretty great covers (like the one pictured above, which I’m pretty sure was one of the copies we had).

There were three or four dozen different Fox Giants released, with titles like Almanac of Crime, Romantic Thrills, Crimes Incorporated, and, yes, really, Throbbing Love, among other parent-pleasers. Each was comprised of four previously-published Fox comics, the covers stripped, and rebound under one cover. (Were the stapled together or glue-bound? I don’t recall, but watch this space!) As noted in Overstreet and in the various GCD entries, the first story in most Fox comics began on the inside from cover, which means, with the stripped covers, some of the stories would be incomplete.

And for the purposes of today’s discussion, the contents weren’t consistent. One copy of a Revealing Love Stories giant would not necessarily have the same issues bound within as another copy of that same giant. Overstreet also notes that if a giant were to have lucked into more desirable content (like a Phantom Lady story), that Fox Giant may be priced higher than the pricing given in the guide.

That, my friends, is Variant Interiors. I can’t say as to whether it was deliberately marketed that way at the time, to encourage kids to buy multiple copies of, say, All Real Confession Magazine so they can get lots of different stories while Fox unloads a bunch of remaindered/returned coverless comics that didn’t sell the first time.

A long time ago on this very online magazine weblog, I wrote about my copy of Adventures of Patoruzu, a weird book that featured the title character, a cartoonish Native American on the cover, while containing completely unrelated funny animal content inside. According to the GCD entry, copies of this comic have been found with contents other than what I discussed and what the GCD has indexed. They say that the covers were likely printed separately back in the ’40s, then repurposed in the ’50s for other coverless comics. Mostly, perhaps, a previously unpublished issue of Animal Comics, but a couple of others apparently got the Patoruzu treatment as well.

Now let’s jump to the ’90s, where instead of taking unsold stock and putting them into new packaging to clear them out, publishers were taking brand new comics and turning them into unsold stock! But I’m getting ahead of myself.

1992’s Team Titans was a spin-off series from the New (Teen) Titans, where Marv Wolfman was finding his second, or third…or whatever, he’d found a new wind that was creating excitement and buzz around the Titans that it hadn’t really had since George Perez left the book.

Between the exciting “Titans Hunt” storyline and the new and popular Deathstroke the Terminator ongoing series, there was seemingly plenty of demand for more Titans content. And in the true excessive style of ’90s comics, a wild gimmick was devised for the first issue.

There would be five different #1s each with a different cover…that’s pretty standard. But each variant cover would also contain a different story, five stories, each focused on one member of the team.

It has been a long time since I’ve actually looked at a copy of the first issue, beyond dumping ’em in the bargain bins. I do remember buying one (just one!) for myself at the time (I pretty sure I picked the Terra issue because I wanted to know what her deal was) but man, it’s been a while. Refreshing my memory at ye olde GCD yet again, I see that the “variant” story was the lead, running 18 pages, while the back-up story was the “main” story, part 3 of the “Total Chaos” crossover, the same across all three variants, and running 22 pages.

If all that sounds pretty wasteful and ridiculous…yeah, you’re right. I mean, I suppose it’s better than just a variant cover, in that you’re receiving actual new content, but…I don’t know, I’m trying to think of ways they could have done this without basically giving someone who bought all five half a book that’s the same? Maybe a five part Team Titans prologue series, half the size of the released #1s and at lower cost? One extra-sized issue with everything, including the “Total Chaos” “main” story?

Those alternate stories were actually longer than I remembered, as I though the “Total Chaos” chapter was the first “main” story, and the different content was restricted to just a few pages. But given the significant length of the stories, this sort of variant is a little more…unfair, I guess, than just offering different covers. With variant covers, you can just pick up the copy with the image you like the most. Perhaps you like all the covers but can only pick up one…while you don’t get all the images, you are at least getting the entire story.

Whereas with Team Titans #1, if you want the whole story, you’re compelled to buy all the variants so you don’t miss anything. Granted, these are for all intents and porpoises five different comics with a shared back-up story. However, they were marketed as “the first issue” of Team Titans, it was presented as the debut of this new series, it was sold as “five different versions of #1, with alternate covers and interiors!” It says right on the cover “COLLECT ALL FIVE EDITIONS!” It was seen, psychologically, as the same comic.

Anyway, as it was the ’90s, we ordered high and it sold well-ish, though I recall have plenty left over afterwards. That was okay, we thought, as back issue sales were strong and we were sure to sell plenty of these as the years went on, presumably five at a time. But, as luck would have it, the push ‘n’ pull between what the creative team wanted to do and what DC wanted to do didn’t do the series any favors, and it came to a somewhat ignoble end just a couple of years later. Oh, and with the revelation that they were all just pawns of a bad guy anyway. You can read about the book’s travails here.

When it was new, we put together packages of the five number ones and sold them in a bundle for a small discount, though we needn’t had bothered. Most people weren’t weirdos like me and my one copy of the Terra issue and bought all five. As time went on and Team Titans went from “going concern” to “Teen Titans footnote,” back issue movement slowed down to nothing, thus beginning its migration from a slot in the bins under “T” to the purgatory of the quarter/50-cent/dollar boxes. And there they mostly remain, a forgotten artifact of that third or fourth time the New Teen Titans were red hot.

As I was putting together this post, I realized that if you’d asked me yesterday “who were the members of Team Titans,” there’s no way I would have gotten much past “Terra.” Maaaaaybe Redwing, if I dug deep. But, like, I couldn’t have come up with the hilariously-named Killowat if my life had depended on it. Even as I am typing this very sentence right now I can’t remember the names of the other two members, and I just looked a second ago to get “Killowat.”

Team Titans wasn’t the only modern comic to try the “variant interiors” thing, 1998’s Fathom did so, in its first issue:

…which had three main variants available on the stands, not counting the “Wizard variant” or whatever. But each of the three variants had alternate story pages…not nearly to the extent of Team Titans, as I think it was only a couple at pages at most. I tried looking once, a long time ago, and alas Fathom makes zero impression on me, and whatever I was looking at just went in the eyes and out the ears and I retaining nothing of what I saw. Thus I’m just going on what I remember reading about it and hope that’s right.

Now these aren’t nearly all the “variant interior” comics that were marketed as such. There’s 1996’s Savage Dragon #31, where you can get a version with a dirty word in big letters on one page, and a version (with a variant cover featuring “God Is Good” printed in the Image logo) without said naughty word.

There was also Barry Blair’s Leather and Lace, which, at least for part of the series, was offered in “Adults Only” and “General Audiences” editions “for his younger fans” with all the Tab-A-Fitting-Into-Slot-B content removed. Frankly, the “General Audiences” edition wasn’t really fit for children anyway, as I recall.

All this leaves out the “printing error” variants, as those were accidents and not intentionally marketed as differing editions available to consumers. Like, I don’t imagine Marvel intentionally wanted a copy of Wolverine with an in-dialogue slur as an alternative version side by side with the one without on the shelf. But I will say I’m still looking for a copy of the All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder #10 with the semi-visible dirty words that was recalled and reissued. Anyway, there are lots of examples of errors with corrected printings.

I’m sure I’m missing some other examples of intentional variant interiors. (And before anyone brings up 1990’s Exquisite Corpse, that’s a whole weird thing that’s sorta related to this, but not really. I’ll try to explain that eventually.) If you can think of any of the intentional variety that I didn’t mention, just drop ’em in the ol’ comments section.

Up next in the variant cover-age: maybe the 35-cent test market Marvel books? I’ll see what I can dig up on those. As always, thanks for reading, pals.

• • •

EDIT: Reader BobH has added some valuable information, including reminding me that the Team Titans first issues were all priced at a normal-sized comic’s price for the time. As he said, it still felt like a rip given the repeated content of the “main” story.

BobH also mentions Outsiders Alpha and Outsiders Omega from ’93, with separate mostly-different stories, with a handful of shared pages. I’d honestly forgotten about that. Reminds me a bit of this Fantastic Four Annual and the Avengers Annual from 1985 and their shared pages (though with different inkers).

Matthew also brings up Marvel’s Slingers, where there were four variants of the first issue, where part of the story would focus on a different one of the four main characters. Dating from 1998, clearly my long decades toiling in the comic field drove this from my memory. Not to mention the fact I can’t even remember the last time I handled a copy of Slingers.

As far as repurposed coverless comics rebound for newsstand sale, Andrew remembers this being fairly common in the UK during his childhood. And ArghSims notes that the old EC Annuals did the same thing.

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.

Too Much Variants Man.

§ June 2nd, 2021 § Filed under indies, variant covers § 12 Comments

So BrianF said in the comments to my last post

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

I’m glad you’re enjoying this series, BrianF…I’ve been having a lot of fun writing it! But as to the “shot with a bullet” “variant,” I am presuming you mean Jab #3, published by Adhesive Comics in 1993 (featuring a Too Much Coffee Man story by Shannon Wheeler, hence the title of this post).

I’ve actually posted about this comic here on the site a long time ago, back in 2005, and you can see that entry right here. However, I went ahead and pulled my copy of the comic out of the What’s Left of the Vast Mikester Comics Archive to rescan for today’s post:

Here’s a close up of the bullet hole (I laid the cover out on the counter of my shop and pushed the paper aside a little so that you could see, yes indeedy, there is a hole there):

And as I noted last time, the bullet hole itself was incorporated into several of the story pages in this anthology:

(An aside: the example I used last time for an interior shot was by a cartoonist named Tom King…presumably not the same Tom King writing today about how superheroes are sad and/or possibly up to something.)

To BrianF’s point, I was going to respond “this isn’t really a ‘variant’ cover as such, but a ‘gimmick’ cover, in that the only available version you could get was the one with the gimmick, much like the only version of Shadowhawk II #3 you could buy was the one with the perforated fold-out cover. Not to say there can’t be overlap between a gimmick and a variant, such as having a standard cover and a deluxe fancy cover, like WildC.A.T.s #2. But in this case Jab #3 were all distributed with bullet holes, and didn’t have variants as such.”

That’s what I was going to say. But hold onto your shorts, BrianF, as I was wrong!

Let me repeat that, in larger, redder letters, given my being wrong is such an infrequent occurrence:


Okay, before you wags say anything, yes, every bullet hole is going to be different and thus every copy is technically a variant. But c’mon, that’s not what I’m talking about here. I decided to check if perhaps this book was offered in an “un-bulleted” edition, given as I haven’t looked inside it probably since I last posted about it in 2005.

And lo, feast your eyes upon this order page from the inside back cover (click the image to increase the caliber):

Holy crow. Okay, before I get to the obvious stuff, let’s look at the part where the publisher sez:

“…The normal edition of JAB was shot in stacks of 10 copies so that only the tenth copy became a Special Collectors Edition with powder burns on the cover.”

There was a 1-in-10 variant of the regular in-store edition that had powder burns. BrianF, I acknowledge your initial assertion…the “shot with a bullet” comic was indeed released with variants.

But as you all can see for yourselves in the ad, that wasn’t all! Four other editions, with holes caused by increasingly larger and more destructive ammunition, were offerred via mail order only:

I’ll go ahead and post the relevant text from the ad here:

In addition to that 1/10 powder burn variant, there were supposedly 20 copies apiece of each of these other variants. And in case you couldn’t tell from the image:

Powder burns and the shell for the used ammo included! All signed and numbered! And I salute the fact that the more money you get charged, the apparently less comic book you receive.

I looked…I didn’t see any copies of the larger-caliber versions up for sale or even display anywhere, but it’s a large internet and I’m sure I missed it. But apparently they do exist, as per these comments from Jab contributor Shannon Wheeler his own self (via Brian Cronin’s article on this very topic from 10 years ago!).

Therefore, BrianF, if I may reiterate: the Bullet-Shot Comic is a variant comic, with multiple versions once available. Um, good luck finding those now, I guess, but look out for counterfeiters making “fake” Jab #3 variants by reshooting the regular edition with their own shotguns. Surely the most rampant of funnybook crimes.

NOTE: found at least one online retailer that had a placeholder listing for this issue, with theoretical prices in grades running from “Fair” all the way to “Near Mint.” Um, yeah, hey, let me know wnen you get a near mint copy of this, I’d like to see it.

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.

Able to leap tall variants in a single bound.

§ May 24th, 2021 § Filed under variant covers § 10 Comments

So I bought that Fury of Firestorm series all the way through, beginning with #1 in 1982, and then every month (more or less…there was a bit of an extra gap between 18 and 19) ’til the end at #100 in 1990. But one day in March 1987, right around my birthday in fact, I went into the local newsstand in Oxnard where I’d buy my comics when I couldn’t make it up to the shop in Ventura (said shop becoming my place of employment the following year) and saw this on the spinner rack:

“Huh, that looks different,” thinks I, and I picked it up along with whatever else I was buying at the time and didn’t think much of it…

…until sometime later in the month I spotted this on a shelf:

I almost picked it up to buy, as I didn’t recognize the cover, but a quick glance within revealed I had already read this comic.

At that point I was aware that variant covers could be a thing, since we just went through the whole Man of Steel event and its different covers the previous year. Plus I was familiar with DC’s “hardcover/softcover” plan, which isn’t quite the same as the idea of “variants,” but it did represent the strategy of differing editions for the direct comic shop market and the regular newsstand market.

But this was different. We heard all about the different covers for Man of Steel, but I don’t recall any hype at all for this different Firestorm cover. Maybe there was a blurb somewhere, possibly a news item in Amazing Heroes or The Comics Journal that I missed, but variants like this were still unusual enough that one would have expected some major advance warning that these were happening. In addition, I never saw these on the shelves at the comic shop. Given that the store carried both the direct and newsstand versions of Man of Steel #1, I figured the same would have occurred for this Firestorm issue.

As I would eventually find out (and how I found out I’m not sure…a notation in the price guide, maybe, or an inquiry at the comic shop, or just general knowledge I picked up off the mean comic streets) that this weird Firestorm cover was part of some test marketing on DC’s part. Some simplified imagery, a company logo emphasizing Superman (I mean, literally “Superman Comics”), and the use of word balloons (even then becoming increasingly scarce on your standard superhero funnybook), all designed hopefully to appeal to younger readers who might encounter the comic in their local Stop ‘n’ Eleven convenience store, or wherever.

And by “test marketing,” I mean just released to certain areas. Not every newsstand outlet received copies of these, making them somewhat rare-ish and, naturally, acquiring bit of a premium price in the secondary back issue market. (And a quick glance at the eBays shows this to still be the case.)

Some time later, after getting my job at the Ventura comic shop, I would learn a little something more about the Firestorm variant, and the similar variant for Justice League #3.

Oh, did I not mention that Justice League #3 variant? The one that looks like this?

And here’s the regular version for comparison:

Now, this far removed I don’t remember if I learned about this other instance while working at the shop, or sometime prior. But I did learn that of the two, the Justice League #3 was far more common in our area. I personally never saw it in the wild, though in ’87 I was no longer making the rounds of all the various outlets that carried comics and just buying mainly from the two mentioned sources, and thus could easily have missed it. Anyway, we would eventually acquire quite the stack of Justice League #3s in our back issue bins, as they slowly accumulated from multiple collections.

On the other hand, Firestorm #61 we never saw. Maybe one or two would creep in here and there, but we never had it in any sort of quantity. I even sold my copy to the store and picked up a regular copy for cheap, since I neither cared which cover I had nor realized that 30 years on I’d wish I still had it for blogging material. At any rate, via purely anecdotal evidence, I concluded that the Firestorm 61 variant had very limited circulation in my area, versus the more readily-available Justice League #3 variant.

The reason is obvious…Justice League was the better seller of the two, so of course more copies would be out there for the taking. Meanwhile, poor Firestorm was getting a bit long in the tooth, still some months away from some creative rejiggering to boost sales, and was probably only still being read by the diehard weirdo fans like me. Plus, which was more likely to be picked up off a newsstand rack by a casual reader? Something with Batman on the cover, or that comic where the guy’s head is on fire? …Well, actually, that might be too close to call when I put it like that.

Looking at Comichron‘s June 1987 sales through Diamond (no March sales info, but close enough for horseshoes), Justice League clocks in a #6, while Firestorm is at #83. That’s probably explanation enough for why we were swimming in the Justice League variant and didn’t even have enough Firestorm variants to get our tootsies wet.

In the end, however, I think the test results were ultimately “this didn’t help sales,” given that no more of these ever turned up, and we didn’t see that “Superman Comics” logo at the beginning of the Zack Snyder Justice League cut. They are kind of neat covers, looking back on them now. A little…plain, maybe (Firestorm and Typhoon apparently fighting in that one all-white “Duck Amuck” background) but at least you can tell what’s going on quickly and easily and they actually represent what’s happening in the comic. (That regular Firestorm cover requires a tiny bit of concentration, frankly.) Oh, if only some comics did that today. Plus, I loves me a good word balloon on a cover. C’MON BABY GIVE ME MORE OF THESE:

If you want to Read More About It, here’s an informative and much more concise article on the topic over at CBR. And if you have more information, or if you have to take issue with any of my drawn conclusions (as someone almost inevitably does) just leave it in the comments and I’ll run a later update/correction as necessary.

What’s up next in the variant cover-age? I don’t know, I haven’t decided! You’ll find out when I do next week! Thanks for reading, pals! Exclamation point!

P.S. Oh hey, I just noticed they used “Captain Marvel” on the cover of that Justice League! I don’t think it was explicitly verboten on DC’s covers (so long as it wasn’t, you know, the actual name of the magazine) but it’s still weird to see it there.


§ May 17th, 2021 § Filed under variant covers § 8 Comments

So Gen 13, when it made its debut in 1994, seemed like a younger, hipper take on the teen superteam formula that did so well for Marvel and DC. But Gen 13 was Young Comics by Young People for Young People, as compared to the relatively staid X-Men and New Teen Titans. That’s basically Image as a whole: “here are comics by the hep and with-it and not by those squares at the Big Two.”

Anyway, that first mini did well, and so in 1995 an ongoing Gen 13 series was launched, and lo, if you thought the whole Robin II thing was too much, look out because here come thirteen variant covers!

Okay, it’s closer to, like, 14 different images (once you include the chromium cover, more on that in a second) and 15 different variants (when you count in the chromium cover and the “main” cover, pictured above, had a newsstand edition with a UPC code). I’m not putting every cover in this post, but you can see them all here.

I like how this cover references the Spider-Man #1 (which in turn referenced the Legends of the Dark Knight #1…it’s variants all the way down).

The one thing I’m wondering about, and just can’t remember for the life of me, was how the variants were ordered. Looking at this sales chart which just has “Gen 13 #1″ all lumped together as the #5 top seller. That implies to me that the comic was simply ordered as a single line item and the variants were distributed (more or less) equally. That is my vague recollection, and as I’ve said before, had I known I’d be writing a blog post about this a quarter of a century later, I’d have kept better notes. Also, I would have wondered what a “blog” was.

I also would have kept better notes as to which one sold better, though my gut instinct is that the “sexier” ones were preferred by the consumer. Like this take-off on the Janet Jackson Rolling Stone cover.

Many of the variants did quite well in the secondary back issue market for a time…the ones that were pop culture parodies attracted the most accrued value, and I recall having several of these in our glass cases. The main two covers (the one pictured above and a second one, both just featuring the team posing an’ such) were in somewhat lesser demand, and did not command as large a price. But, y’know, still sold fine.

Looking now, just peeking on the eBays, that there haven’t been a lot of sales of this issue in any variation over the last few months. Plus, the ones that do sell are for comparatively slighter prices. The Heavy Metal parody, pictured above, had sold for a significant amount (about $30), which have more to do with the Simon Bisley art and the cover’s Heavy Metal-ish subject matter. And I did find at least one copy of the Janet Jackson cover sold for $40 a couple of days ago.

Of course, the reason is that Gen 13 is currently a moribund property. Even during the run of this first ongoing the series took some hits, particularly after the popular artist J. Scott Campbell left the book early on. There were some attempted relaunches, but ultimately the last issue of a comic called Gen 13 came out a little over a decade ago. The characters themselves have popped up here and there since, including a cameo appearance of the team in the New 52’s Supergirl #33. And apparently some reissuing of old material is planned eventually.

This cover, inspired by the film Pulp Fiction, was another of the more popular variants. Don’t have a lot to say about it, aside from that it’s the one cover to not feature hand-drawn artwork, but instead, a photo. I seem to remember that one not staying in stock long whenever we got it back in.

And I had several folks on the Twitters single out this comic as a precursor to the “blank sketch variants” that are so prevalent today. The big difference is that this is a standard slick cover, and not the “art board” covers of the later blanks that would seem to me be easier to draw on. I wonder if anyone actually did take a pen or pencil to this cover. Surely fans brought up copies of this to Campbell (or whoever) to draw upon at some convention.

Oh, and here’s that chromium cover. Not part of the regular distribution, but rather only found in a boxed set of all the variants, featuring a signature of one of the creative team. As you might imagine, it sold quite well when we could get our hand son one. Was it…$100, maybe? Again, too long ago, no notes, but that feels like the right price point.

So Gen 13…paving the way for Marvel to put out too many variant covers on too many of their books. (Hello like 30+ covers on Eternals #1)

Oh, and did I mention all the variants had cute names (like “GEN-et Jackson” and “Picto-Fiction”) Don’t recall anyone using these “official” names in the wild…but then, I heard someone ask for “copper age X-Men” the other day, so I guess anything’s possible.

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