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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.

Clearly I held the camera with my third hand.

§ May 14th, 2021 § Filed under variant covers § 3 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 § 14 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!

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