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Clearly I held the camera with my third hand.

§ May 14th, 2021 § Filed under variant covers § 2 Comments

A little follow-up on the Robin discussion from Monday…turns out I did have a copy of #2 floating around the shop, still sealed in its original bag. Wasn’t the greatest shape, so I performed the not-quite-ultimate sacrifice by popping the bag to present all the goodies within right here! I’M OUT LIKE A BUCK FIFTY FOR THIS POST, PEOPLE.

You saw what the front of the bag looked like last time, so here’s the back with all the poop on properly operating your Special Technology Cover™:

What they don’t tell you is that the insert you’re supposed to be pulling through the cover is…a bit flimsy and can be tricky to push back in after pulling it through. It’s definitely a two-hand operation.

And once again, like last time, I made a GIF so you can get an idea of what’s going on here:

If it’s hard to tell, it’s a pic of Robin that changes into the Huntress, or vice versa.

This is what that insert looks like removed from the cover:

And here’s side two:

And BEHOLD, the jaggiest of Robins (with the Huntress Professor X-ing it out of his forehead):

And just for the sake of completeness, here’s the included poster featuring the image from the “regular” version of this issue:

And there you go, friends…the 1990s. You never knew what wild cover gimmick was coming next, and this one was definitely in the upper echelon of “…what?”

More variant cover discussion coming Monday! And remember, if you have any suggestions as to where this terrible path should lead us, feel free to let me know!

The Sensational Variant Find of the 1990s!

§ May 10th, 2021 § Filed under variant covers § 13 Comments

So, Robin #1. No, not the one that was released a week or so ago and had its speculation-fueled sell-out. I mean the now (urgh) 30+ year old mini-series that was absolutely red-hot. You know, this one:


I can still remember trying to smooth out the creases in the door-sized promo poster they sent out for this thing while trying to display it in the shop. But anyway, as I was saying, this was a big seller, and demand was so high it went into second and even third printings. And they way you can tell these printings? By the little Roman numerals in the corner box there:


…which, I guess, makes those reprintings variants, thus fitting into the topic at hand. I kind of preferred this to DC’s later practice of changing cover colors or images to identify new printings, frankly, though I can understand the logic behind it. What’s gonna convince someone to double or triple dip on a comic they already bought? A little “III” or a whole new design? [EDIT: pal Nat reminds me that the contemporaneous Killing Joke also used colors to distinguish printings.]

At any rate, this is really as close as the first Robin series came to having variant covers. But don’t worry, dear reader, as they made up for it with 1991’s Robin II series.

This four issue mini-series had a decreasing number of variants as the series went on, starting with five variants for the first issue (not counting the “newsstand variant” with the UPC code, because c’mon), then four for the second, three for the third, and two for the fourth. Got that? Good.

For each issue there was one cover that was “normal,” and then the variant(s) would each feature different cover images and a hologram slapped on there, thusly:


And look, here’s the hologram IN ACTION, as filmed-and-GIFfed by my own self:


Exciting, right? How could you not want a full set of all those variant covers for each issue? Well, hang onto to your little green shorts, friend, because DC’s got you covered (get it?):


Yes, DC also marketed complete sets of all variants issue-by-issue in this polybagged packages, Plus a hologram trading card!

If this seems…somewhat excessive, you’re not wrong. It’s like Robin II somehow managed to take the multiple covers of X-Men #1 and the polybagged editions of Spider-Man #1 and formed them into this unholy collectible amalgam. By the way, when DC says “newsstand,” they just mean the regular non-hologram cover (which was offered both in a UPC-less direct sales version and a UPC-ed version you’d find at 7-11 or whathaveyou.)

Now, as far as the variants themselves…while not the first comic to have a hologram affixed to the cover (that would be Boffo Laffs #1 from 1986, I believe), the holograms do feature nicely iconic images of Robin, Batman, the Joker, and the Bat-signal on each succeeding installment (and the same hologram appears on all the variants for that particular ish). They’re also usually well-incorporated into the covers, though I kinda wonder about this Matt Wagner one:


Is the Joker, like, thinking about Robin or something? Is that what that’s representing? Or did the asylum put up a framed hologram in his cell just to rub it in? Great drawing of the Joker, though.

Okay, in case DC wasn’t reaching into your pocket enough, they also had this $30 mega-collector’s slipcase set, for which I totally stole images from eBay auctions so I could illustrate it here:


And in case you didn’t have enough holographic technology from the comics themselves, get ready for this thing on the slipcase:


Now, it’s been a while since I handled one of these. I know at the previous place of employment we kind of had one kicking around the backroom for a while that I’d continually put on the eBays ’til it finally sold (I think). And the contents are…just what they say there on the label. I seem to remember the “two custom backing boards” being not really anything you’d want to use in your comic bags…kinda flimsy, and I’m pretty sure they had holographic stickers on those, too, because why not.

Speaking of holograms, since “hologram” was pretty much every other word in the last paragraph, if I recall correctly one of the promo items for this series was a little holographic sticker with Robin’s “R” printed on it. I can literally still see the small bundles of these we got from DC, unless of course I’m imagining these and they never existed. Which, you know, I wouldn’t put past my brain at this point.

So that series sells well, as you might have imagined, and you know what that means. That’s right, Robin III in 1993, which scaled back the variant-ism to just two covers per each issue of this six-issue run. You had your standard, regular, boring static image cover printed on regular paper that Grandma prefers, and then you had…SPECIAL MOTION COVERS:


Alas, I didn’t have any of these in the shop right right now, otherwise I would have made an awesome GIF of this too. But trust me, you pulled the little tab on that cover and you cold make that image change. And it was a two-sided thingie too, so you could pull that insert entirely out, flip it over, and have a brand new image moving back-and-forth on that cover. I’m pretty sure that’s what they mean by “reversible cover” on the polybag that each of these “special moving covers” came in:


The poster noted at the bottom, kinda obscured by the folding of the bag’s bottom, was a poster of the comic’s regular cover. I thought that was a good touch and a solid bonus for fans.

One of my favorite things about the Robin III mini-series was that a demonstration copy of the special cover was sent to retailers. It looked like just another copy of the comic, but the pages inside were all blank. Honestly, I wish publishers would offer “blank” versions of some of those more speculated comics coming out now…would save them some money and they’re just gonna end up unreadable in CGC slabs anyway so they might as well be blank. Anyway, we had a lot of fun showing that Advanced Cover Technology to the customers, and that certainly moved some copies for us.

Following that in 1993 was the first issue of the ongoing Robin series, which ran quite a while and, oh yes, had variant covers for the first issue. You had your standard flat cover, and then you had this embossed beauty:


…with the figure featuring raised “3-D” puffy bits so you could examine Robin’s contours with your fingertips to your heart’s content.

Now, that aftermarket for these is a little hard to judge personally, in that I have copies of the first mini, one or two of the second, and none of the third currently in stock. I know while that original Robin ongoing was, well, going, the back issue sales on the various minis were very strong…especially for that original #1. I know at the previous place of employment we had a couple of those Robin II polybagged bundles still kicking around, and I noted how hard it was for me to move that slipcased set. A look at eBay shows at least the slipcased books are doing well now, so I guess I was just a decade or so early in trying to list the thing.

In collections I’d take in at my own shop, the most common of the Robin #1s I’d find would be that embossed cover for the ongoing series. I suppose a lot of people wanted to feel their Robins.

What’s next? I don’t know! The thirteen Gen13 covers? The trend of retailer-exclusive “platinum” editions for certain Big Comics? Or something else entirely? If you have a preference, you know how to tell me!

To me, my variants!

§ May 3rd, 2021 § Filed under market crash, retailing, variant covers, x-men § 14 Comments

If you’re trying to decide “what’s the most famous example of variant comic covers of all time” — first, c’mon, what’re you doing with your life, and second, I think just through the sheer magnitude of copies that were unleashed upon an unsuspecting public, it’s gotta be 1991’s X-Men #1:

There were four different covers produced, the first three featuring a different mix of members of the team, with the final cover presenting their arch-nemesis Magneto. The four covers formed a single image when connected together, but if you didn’t trust your hand-eye coordination to assemble so complex a puzzle, Marvel had your back with the fifth variant: a gatefold cover that opened up to present the full image.

Unlike Spider-Man #1, the covers weren’t released all at once. Instead, Marvel decided to dominate comic sales for over a month by releasing each cover one per week, starting with the A, B, C and D covers (as they are usually referred to), culminating in the gatefold cover in the final week.

Orders were gargantuan. In total, over 8 million copies were produced, though as has been noted by multiple observers, and just through my own personal observation, a good chunk of those remained in retailers’ hands.

Speaking of personal observations, I’ve written in the past about how once impossibly-common comics from the ’90s marketplace are becoming slightly less easy to find in the wild, simply due to the attrition of stores that were active then having shut down in the intervening decades and taking their backstock with them. I’ve also written about how many of the people buying comics at the time either had no idea how to take care of their comics at the time (despite the wide variety of comic storage supplies being offered, and purchased, in sizeable amounts), or simply neglected their collections and let them fall to disuse and ruin over the years.

The point being…a comic that was once so commonplace and contemptuously familiar that copies were given away free with purchases is now, kinda sorta, becoming “collectible” again. Not to keep referring to things I’ve said in the past, but I’ve said in the past that even without actively buying copies of X-Men #1 in collections, I’m accumulating a backlog of it. And I’d say only abut a third of the copies I’ve seen have been in Near Mint or better, and when you actually have a copy in Near Mint (and not, say, VF- which you’re calling “Near Mint”) it can sell for a pretty good price nowadays.

Again, this all depends on local supply. There are probably still plenty of areas of High X-Men #1 Concentrations where they flow like water, and you merely need to dip your hand in a stream to retrieve a copy or three. And they’re all over eBay, natch. But, in areas populated primarily by newer stores, where even the bespectacled old men who have direct memories of those times and will gladly share them with you (ahem), they may not be as in deep a stock as they historically had been.

It was a large confluence of causes that resulting in this massive amount of orders:

  • The ’90s were a boom time for collectible comics, with a huge influx of new customers driven to comic shops primarily by the 1989 Batman movie, with earlier successes like Dark Knight, Watchmen and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles helping to push the expanding market as well.

  • It was the time of The Hot Artists, and Jim Lee may have been the hottest artist of the time. Launching an expansion of Marvel’s popular franchise with Lee on art chores couldn’t help but grab market attention.

  • The investors were out in force. The aforementioned Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arguably kicked off a new wave of folks looking to make their fortune trading in “rare” comic books, and what could be rarer than eight million copies of X-Men #1? Okay, nobody knew it was going to sell that many copies, but it was a pretty easy guess that it was going to move some large numbers. That didn’t stop people from buying boatloads of copies in the hopes that they’d be able to turn them into houses or kids’ college funds down the road.

  • This may be hard to imagine, but there was a time in comics publishing that when a new series was launched, the expectation was that the series would continue so long as sales held out, and maybe if sales dipped a little, the publisher would try things like “new directions” or “fresh creative teams” or more promotion to support the book. The idea that new #1s for titles would flash by like strobe lights was not one that was considered. As such, retailers would order plenty of first issues of titles, as that would likely be the most sought-after number in the back issue bins over the years, and hopefully decades, of the title’s life.

  • And yes, the multiple covers. Outside of investors, just plain ol’ folk who bought comics and weren’t necessarily looking to turn a buck. As I brought up early on this ongoing series of “variant covers” posts, having different cover images was a way to encourage the regular reader to pick up more than one copy of a particular item. Plus, having the additional twist of making all the covers connect into a larger picture…it’s a cunningly evil plan that, I can tell you at least from my memories of selling the things at the time, worked quite well indeed.

Some have pointed to this as being one of the causes of the ’90s market crash, and…I don’t know, I think there may be worse offenders (I won’t say any names, but the initials stand for Deathmate) since, all things considered, X-Men #1 actually sold (though again, not nearly as many as were ordered). There were bigger stinkers out there, at least to the point that X-Men wasn’t seen as a flop, whereas something like Turok: Dinosaur Hunter was. That said, I’m sure enough people got burned on their investments on ’90s comics, including X-Men #1, that they, and their money, fled the marketplace, reducing cash flow and feeding the crash.

So wither X-Men #1? It remains a popular seller, as do assorted issues from the 1991 series as a whole. There’s a whole new audience of comic book buyers and X-Men fans who weren’t around thirty years ago when this series launched. And there are plenty of customers who were around but misplaced, sold, or damaged their copies in the meantime and want replacements. And, of course, there’s the current wave of speculation mania driving sales on any “key” and/or first issues.

I don’t always have every cover in stock, but I usually have at least two or three different ones on hand. The cover I see the least? The gatefold cover. The one I see the most? Surprisingly, the fourth cover with Magneto, given that, according to this article, it was the poorest selling of the first four. And that gatefold cover was the highest selling. Huh, go figure. (Again, it all depends on how many copies actually got into people’s hands, and didn’t disappear with the retailers who ordered them.) It’s my memory that, as each cover was released every week, sales dropped a little with each one, with a boost on that final fold-out issue. But I could be wrong…it’s been 30 years, after all.

And which cover did I buy, since as a 1990s comics buyer you were legally required to buy at least one copy of X-Men #1? Why, the gatefold edition, of course…I wasn’t going to miss out on any of that artwork!

Next time in my variant cover-age, even though John kinda beat me to the punch: Robin comics! A whole lot of ’em! Holy gimmick covers, Batman!

Does whatever a variant can.

§ April 26th, 2021 § Filed under marvel, retailing, variant covers § 9 Comments


So in the summer of 1990, these came along: the first issue of what we referred to as the “adjectiveless Spider-Man, a new ongoing series drawn and written by the immensely-popular superstar artist Todd McFarlane. If you were a fan of McFarlane’s art, it was absolutely a visual tour de force, giving you the most McFarlane-est of McFarlane Spider-Man art. The writing was…well, I think in retrospect ol’ Todd got grief way out of proportion to his actual scripting skills. Perhaps he wasn’t the most talented wordsmith in the world, but for a goofy ol’ Spider-Man comic, it was fine. I’ve read plenty worse, I assure you. And while the opening captions to issue #1 took the brunt of the derision, it was turned into a wonderful piece of audio by my old pal Andrew and thus, how can I ever feel anything but love for it?

But look, we’re not here to talk about the contents of these Spidery-Sam books, we’ve come to poke sticks at the variant covers! Of the 1990s Big Variant Cover Hoohas, Spider-Man #1 was the first, with two differently colored covers (one printed with in green and black, the other black with silver ink), and then two additional versions with each cover sealed inside a polybag with “COLLECTOR’S ITEM!” printed all over it. Note the “Legend of the Arachknight” blurb, clearly referencing DC’s Legends of the Dark Knight #1 and its multiple covers.

Of note is the fact that the black bagged variant had no price printed on its cover, but instead had a $2 price tag on the bag. Gettin’ ya for an extra quarter there. The green bagged edition still appears to be the regular $1.75 price, though I could have sworn both were $2 at the time. Hey, it’s been thirty years, I forget things. However, for that extra quarter, you were buying a comic that was genuinely a variant in that the actual cover had a printing variation. But if it were removed from the bag, technically the collectible would be “incomplete,” so just being a variant in and of itself wouldn’t be enough, I’d thought. But just checked the eBays and someone there is trying to sell one of unbagged, cover-priceless versions of that black ‘n’ silver variant for $70, but I don’t know if that’s within reason or simply “high hopes.”

And yes, there’s also the bagged newsstand edition, with a UPC code on the cover instead of the Spidey face in its place. Can’t forget that. Plus there was the gold-inked 2nd printing, and the platinum edition and newsstand gold edition that you can read about here.

At any rate, we definitely sold a boatload of things…just stacks and stacks, with plenty of folks grabbing multiple copies. This was, of course, back in the day when you ordered heavily on a first issue, as, if successful, the series would go on for a long time and there would always be customers looking for that first issue in the future, because surely no publisher would be dumb enough to relaunch a series with a new #1 every year or two. In these days of direct market frugality, where everyone’s ordering as close to the bone as possible, it’s hard to imagine actually having that much stock on anything new, much less having speculators look at said stacks and view them as investible material. Compare to today, where speculation depends on pouncing on titles ordered at low-ish but reasonable numbers, creating and taking advantage of that additional scarcity in an already thinly-spread marketplace.

At the time, my previous place of employment had plenty on hand. Of the two regular covers, at least…my boss thought the polybagged-editions were “stupid” and refused to have anything to do with them after the sold out. Just wouldn’t buy them from collections, that sort of thing. Eventually we did get two that showed up in a collection that we just sort of ended up with, so out into the back issue bins they went. I think that was the one exception.

My personal thought on those bags back then was that they would eventually do damage to the comics inside, as they aged and broke down and decayed on the comics themselves. In recent years I’ve had my hands on those polybagged Spideys in my own shop, as well as other prebagged comics of that decade, and it doesn’t appear as it this has been the case. Whether that’ll change in the decades to come…well, of course it will, it’s cheap plastic, it’s gonna break down eventually. Whether that’ll happen soon enough for any of use to care, I don’t know.

I’d said the McFarlane Spider-Man #1, and the rest for that matter, were plentiful at the time. Not to beat that poor old dead horse some more, but after thirty years and shops vanishing and new shops cropping up and old back issue stock going away and all those copies purchased but then those were either not well cared for or simply thrown out…it’s very possible the available stock left in the world is at least somewhat lessened. Add to that the younger customers who weren’t around or too wee to be buying these off the racks, and are discovering them now. Regardless of the reason, these Spider-Man comics are currently in high demand, at least for me. I just can’t keep the darn things in stock.

And do those variants make any difference to buyers now? Not that I can tell. I haven’t had the quantities on hand to make a clear judgement as to whether there’s a consumer preference for the green cover or the black cover, but both (and the gold reprint) sell nearly as soon as I price them. This is, I think, one of those cases where cover variation is playing no real part in sales. It’s all “early McFarlane art,” or “it’s a #1 for one of the main Spider-Man series,” or “it’s a major Marvel #1,” period, all of it pushed along by a not-insignificant number of current speculators.

Next time: weekly X-Men variant covers…advantageous!

Imagine a comic company being worried that orders were too high today.*

§ April 21st, 2021 § Filed under blogging about blogging is a sin, retailing, variant covers § 1 Comment

So for you Progressive Ruin Early Morning Crew, who catch the latest entries as they’re posted, either before you go to bed or as you have your breakfast and cup of coffee, or I guess pretty much any time of day depending on what part of the world you live in, you may wish to revisit the previous post. Look for the “EDIT:” dropped in there and read the rest of the paragraph that follows, which will be New to You.

Basically what happened is, while I was present in comics retail at the time, I had clearly forgotten the details around the release of Legends of the Dark Knight #1 and its variety of cover colors. I made assumptions about DC trying to boost order numbers up with variants, which is almost exactly what they didn’t do. They were actually worried that too many copies of LODK1 were ordered, and added the covers after the fact to improve sales. Go back to that post and its comments and you’ll see links and the helpful folks who nudged Old Man Mike and said “uh, hey, you got your facts a little off.” To them, I am grateful.

Ultimately, the overall point still stands, I think, that publishers realize the power of variant covers to encourage multiple purchases of essentially the same product to individuals. Even if, in the case of LODK1, this wasn’t the plan from the get-go.

Anyway, instead of just tacking on an addendum to the post saying “duh, I was wrong, here’s what happened” as I was normally do, I tossed out the offending passage and replaced it with corrected info. I feel a little funny about that, like I’m cheating or hiding my shame or something, but I do plan on continuing my series on variant covers and I don’t want the first installment to have a big ol’ screw up in it. But again, thanks to everyone for jumping in and pulling my foot out of my mouth…everyone please go and check out the comments section for that post for the usual wonderful contributions from my readers.

In actual comic book news, there’s this thing:


…which, surprise, turned out to the big hit of the week so far, and it’s only Tuesday. And it sounds like a lot of stores out there were caught by surprise, given a story or two I’ve seen online about retailers being upset about not being told this might sell well. …To be fair, in this market, one should never take a publisher’s word that a comic is going to sell well. Order what you’re comfortable with, order more if you need more, and if you need to get second printings, get those. Frankly, if publishers want a retailer to order extra piles of their comics on their word, they can make them returnable.

There are plenty of times when I wished I ordered more copies of something, but just as many, if not more, times when I wished I’d ordered less. With Batman/Fortnite: Zero Point #1…well, as someone who still thinks the original Nintendo is one of those “newfangled gaming systems,” even I am aware that Fortnite is a Big Deal. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll translate to comic sales…there have been plenty of properties that were Big Deals in the real world, but didn’t exactly drag that audience into comic book stores once their tie-in funnybooks showed up. Sometimes they do, sure (Firefly is still doing okay, um, y’know, considering), but a lot of times these licensed books can sell worse that other comics on the shelves.

This time, though, I took a chance and ordered a…reasonable number of copies for my store, and it worked out pretty well so far! Getting lots of calls for the book, plenty of new faces walking in the door to get copies, and at least for Tuesday’s traffic, I had enough to go around! Now once I open Wednesday, my remaining copies will likely fly out the door right quick.

All things considered I wish I’d ordered double the number of copies, and maybe if you ask me by the weekend I might say I wish I ordered four times the number. What is nice about all this is the fact that the customers coming in for copies of the Fortnite comic all seem to be genuinely interested in the game, and not just dudes looking to flip the book on eBay. And boy, it seems to be selling for a pretty penny on said eBays. …Which is another clue that the comic was desperately underordered. Not being in initial solicitations and being offered just in the Final Order Cutoff listings may not have helped.

I’m going to enjoy this while I can, as it’s always good to have a comic that will get new faces in the shop. I know that perhaps a lot of them just want the digital codes for the game sealed inside that polybag, but look, comics retailers can’t be choosers.
 
 

* I mean, aside from that business with Eniac #1.

Variants on a theme.

§ April 19th, 2021 § Filed under collecting, retailing, variant covers § 19 Comments


Man of Steel #1 in 1986 is generally considered to be Patient Zero for the variant cover marketing strategy in the comics marketplace. You had the standard cover on the left, with a cover layout duplicated by the other five issues in the series. Then on the right you had the fancypants cover with the metallic ink an’ such. Both were available in comic shops, but only the standard cover could be found on newsstands.

I mean, sure, it’s understandable that DC would want to go through the extra effort of slapping a second cover on the first issue of this series. This was, after all, a complete revamping — a “reboot,” if you will, perhaps you’ve heard that term — of their flagship character by a superstar creator. This comic was indeed A Big Deal, and doing somethin’ a little special to make it stand out was certainly warranted.

Now, did fans end up buying both covers? Not all, I’m sure (I myself just got the comic shop-only cover…I liked the design of the standard covers, but I thought Clark’s pants looked weird), but certainly a non-zero percentage of consumers couldn’t decide between one or the other and solved the dilemma by taking one of each home.

This is of course not including the sales to speculators, a market segment that would absolutely explode in the 1990s but certainly existed prior to that. (See also Shazam! #1 and Howard the Duck #1 from the 1970s.) I’ve experienced more than one acquisition of books from investment collections containing stacks of Man of Steel issues. But if I could hazard a guess…I think comic companies began to learn that not just speculators but your regular readership could be convinced to pick up more than one copy of the same book.

Look, some fans were doing that anyway. The “buy one to save, one to read” thought process had been there for years. Whether the idea is “I’ll have a back-up if my reader copy falls apart,” or “I’ll have a mint copy for resale” borne of either a genuine belief in a return on investment, or some kind of self-justification for still buying these things, it doesn’t matter. But those were purchasing decisions, both small scale extra copies here and there and the bulk investment procurement, were made independently of the publisher’s efforts. Sure, DC and Marvel and whoever else can throw “COLLECTOR’S EDITION!” blurbs across the covers but c’mon, no one falls for that any more.

But two covers? With two different images? That’s something a publisher could do to encourage duplicate purchasing. Granted, likely not a lot, but not nuthin’, either. Naturally the burden is on the retailers, particularly in the direct market, to try to determine order numbers on a comic with two different covers. Not just the “how many customers will buy both” question, but the more basic issue of “which cover will generate more demand?” What if one cover is preferred over the other? What if one cover is a complete dud nobody wants, and you’re stuck with that cover while selling out quickly of the other? Surely most customers wouldn’t have that binary a preference…yeah they’d like that one cover, but oh you only have the other, sure that’s fine.

If the variant cover on Man of Steel #1 didn’t help sales a least a little upon release, we probably wouldn’t have seen more of them shortly thereafter. Of course, we did, such as these specific parodies of Man of Steel and its two covers by Boris the Bear and the one-off parody comic Man of Rust.

And DC itself had a big variant cover rollout again in 1989, when they published Legends of the Dark Knight #1, as part of the big movie-inspired Bat-push that year:


This time it appeared as if DC was testing the limit of what actually “counted” enough as a variant cover to generate multiple-copy purchases by consumers who wouldn’t ordinarily do so. These were just “extra” covers, attached over the comics regular cover, printed with four different colors. Now, I wasn’t involved in the retail end of the comic business when Man of Steel rolled out in ’86, but I was definitely behind the counter in ’89, and I do vaguely recall grumbling from both customers and retailers about this blatant marketing ploy.

Actually printed on the inside of these extra covers was a message from the editor, explaining why the extra covers:


“The four colors are just for fun,” it says, but they’re also for goosing the collectors out there into buy more copies. EDIT: Now as it turned out, and I had forgotten about (but reminded my readers James and BobH), the reasoning behind these covers was that preorders were so high, again this being the time of the Batman movie-inspired craze, that it was feared it would be too many for retailers to sell and the market would be flooded. As such, these multi-colored additional covers were printed and affixed over the regular covers. And the reasoning for this was, clearly, to encourage collectors to buy more than the one copy.

And I promise you, as a fella working the register at a comic book store in 1989, I sold plenty of sets of all four covers gathered off the shelf by members of our clientele. And there have been plenty of these sets spotted in boxes of books brought back to me to sell over the ensuing decades.

If all it takes is just different colors to boost orders and sales, what other minimal perceived value-adds can be given to books to get folks’ wallets out? Maybe just prepacking a comic in a sealed polybag right out of the gate? Or having to buy every version of one issue, each packed with a different trading card, to get a full set? There can’t be any way those ideas would work.

More on variant covers coming next time, informed in part by your great responses to this post from last week. Thanks for reading, pals, and I’ll be back here in a couple of days.

Seeking your input on variant covers.

§ April 16th, 2021 § Filed under question time, variant covers § 37 Comments

Look, I spent a long time putting together a post about the retail impact of variant covers, and it’s not quite coming together and it’s too late to keep polishing it and I know I’m leaving stuff out. SOOOOO…I’m gonna save it for Monday, and do a little consumer polling today.

Thus, my questions to you are:

  • What makes you buy a variant cover?
  • Do you buy multiple covers for the same comic? Regularly, or just on special occasions?
  • Do variant covers turn you off from buying a comic?
  • Do you mind paying more for a variant cover (whether it’s a buck more for DC’s cardstock covers, or higher premium prices for those incentive ratio — i.e. 1/10, 1/25, etc.– variants)?
  • Have you ever been tricked by a variant cover featuring a character or situation not in the comic itself? (Like, grabbing one of those Deadpool anniversary covers thinking Deadpool would be inside?)
  • Have you bought variants for comics you don’t regularly buy because of their “theme” (like, again, you’re a Deadpool fan and you wanted all those covers)?
  • Anything else about variant covers you’d like to say?

Please leave responses in the comments…you don’t have to answer all the questions, and you can be anonymous if you want (if you leave your email in the comment form, I won’t out you, I promise). You can even email me, too (at mike at progressiveruin dot com) if you’re more comfortable with that.

Thanks, pals!