F@$%&#! Variant Covers!

A topic that comes up often, sometimes in jest and other times in deep rooted outrage is variant covers. While I agree that there are probably way too many variants covers out there, and still more that are obscenely over priced. Variant are not all bad, but, like everything else, have been abused by some publishers and sellers a like. 

I could launch into finger pointing, but I’m going to forgo that because ultimately that’s not going to be constructive. I wrote extensively on the topic for CBSI years ago and not much has changed really. We have seen multiple shops teaming up and sharing variants. Which is something I predicted needed to happen for the variant market to continue. Besides that, we’ve just gone from $10 variants, to $12 to $15 and currently many store exclusive variants are starting at between $20 to $24.99 and some times $30 out the gate.

So instead, lets take a different approach, let’s talk about the positive aspects of variant covers. Because no matter how much you may personally hate them, there are some up sides. For one, if it wasn’t for variants, a lot of us wouldn’t even be collecting comics anymore. Simply put, many of us already have the older books we want, so what else is there to buy? I mean, I guess we could buy a bunch of books we don’t want? Which would then make it more difficult for people who do want certain books to get them… and people would get their panties all twisted in a knot about that. With all the complaints about the comic market I read online, I can just imagine the outrage some collectors would spew all over the internet about certain key books becoming unobtainable. All because collectors, like myself, ran out of things to buy. We kept them from getting certain book they want, simply out of boredom and a lack of options. Some people out there would loose their minds if that happened.

There’s another aspect to consider, variant covers make publishing possible for some titles. It’s true, the struggle is real for certain publishers.  Printing an issue with a dozen variant cover is really what allows some publishers to even be able to offer some titles at all. A store exclusive variant… or several, is what makes some titles feasible to print. Not all, but there’s definitely some instances where that is happening. There are some cases where getting the right artist to do a variant will increase sales on a book that the average comic collector wouldn’t give the time of day. The interest in the book wouldn’t be enough to meet the minimum to print it. Getting the right artist to do a cover, and now it’s viable to print.

Sure one might argue that the publisher should just use that artist for the regular cover. However the regular cover is usually done by the time the solicitation is made. The publisher doesn’t get the store orders until a month after that, going all the way up to the FOC (final order cut off). So the publisher has a limited time to decide, “can I get another cover and offer that to push up the orders”. I think that’s why we see FOC variants, because the publishers needs a way to increase the orders, sometimes at the last minute, when they know they can not print the book with the orders they have.

Another positive to variant covers, which probably helps Artist more than collectors/buyers. With more variants there’s more opportunities for work. More opportunities to be seen. That’s an important factor that variant haters don’t get. Even I didn’t see that important point until I had a conversation with a retailer out of Maryland a couple years ago.

I’ll be the first to admit, there are artist that probably should not be working and covers that feel like an intentionally vindictive visual hate crime against my eyes… but I should probably not digress into a rant about that right now. Trying to keep it positive today.

What I will say is once in a while a comic title has so many damn variants that it actually makes comic collecting fun, at least for me. Funny right. It’s definitely a rarity because like many folks out there, multiple variant do become a headache to keep track of. But, and that’s a big BUT, once in a while, some how, some way, a title comes out with so many dope covers that I want to buy them, I want to slab them and I want to read it. That’s a pretty rare trifecta for me, but it happened recently on a title. That title being W0rldTr33. I love this book and I don’t care how many variants and reprint variants it has. I pick up the ones I like and ignore the ones I don’t. The story is engaging, at least to me.  I’m always running across a variant that I just gotta add to my collection. Most importantly, I get that happy feeling that takes me back to a simpler time in comic collecting when it was fun and not a huge pain in the ass.

Not everyone reading this will agree… and that’s fine. We’ve become way too tribal here in America, just look at the Star Wars community if you need an example. Original Trilogy, Prequels, Disney Era, EU… which was always just glorified fan fiction to me. Point is, it’s divisive out there. So buy what you like and ignore the rest, that’s what I do. Just keep in mind that if it wasn’t for variants, it might become harder for you to buy what you like, or more expensive at the very least. 

Till next time,


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