The Variant Age

As a comic collector and enthusiast I have always wondered what the deal is with all the variant covers that are available from the major publishers. Every time I go to the comic shop there are variant covers all over the place, and most are quite a bit more expensive than the original regular cover issue. So what is the deal with all these variants and why are they so much more expensive?

I always thought that a comic shop could just order these variant cover to help make more money.  But after some quick research I found that there are different kinds of variant covers and not all are based on sales of the comic shop. I found that there are a few different types of variants. There are subscription variants, which are special variant covers that a buyer who subscribes to every week will be able to purchase. There are store variants, which are special variant covers that are only available at popular stores such as Midtown Comic in New York. Then there are also the sales variants, which will be available to a store only after they order a certain amount of an issue.

As a collector I think these variants are somewhat silly, but this business is all about money. I cannot be too angry that now, after nearly a century artist and comic creators are finally getting their time in the sun. After all these years creators are actually able to make a living making comics, but it obviously comes at a cost. That cost is the increased price of a single issue. I think Marvel charges about $4 or $5 for a new issue depending on the title, that is pretty expensive for a single issue, but again I think comics have been arbitrarily priced too low for years. These variant covers offer another “collectable” issue and a chance for additional artists to make money.

There is some controversy to go along with these covers, as not everyone is a fan. While many see it as a ploy to make more money, which is totally the idea, as why would you pay $10 for a variant cover that has the same story as a $4 issue. That does not make sense. But, but if there were only 50 issues with that variant cover, then you have an immediate rare collector’s item and a collector will gladly pay more for that issue hoping that the price in the future will be 10 times that. That is the ultimate catch of these variant covers and why publisher can get away with selling these same single issues at extraordinary markups.

I am not a huge fan of this system, but I know it is here to stay and kind of makes collecting more fun. You have to do a little research and make sure you get the original cover if that is what you are after. What drives me crazy is when the reprint or second print of a first issue looks the exact same as the first print. That drives me crazy and I think there should be a rule that states that you cannot do this. As a collector it would be very easy to sell someone a second print and label it as a first print and sell it for a first print price. A lot of collectors buy comics on ebay and I am sure it is difficult or at the very least a hassle to file a claim against a seller and try to get your money back. Luckily this has not happened to me, yet, but I think it could very easily happen.

Here is another article about Marvel’s Hip Hop variant covers and how some retailers were not too happy with how the variants were released. As you can see here, there were a ton of variant covers out there for this Hip Hop campaign. For the new crossover Secret Wars, I want to say there was something like 10 or so variants of the first issue alone. On top of that, there are 9 issues in the series and I think that each issue has at least 3 or 4 variant covers. That is pretty crazy. This series has so many covers for two reasons. Mainly it is the new Marvel event that will create a brand new universe, so for that reason alone it will be wildly popular. Then sales, this series will sell a ton which leads to more reprints of second and third covers. So this series is somewhat of an anomaly when it comes to variant covers.

I think what will be interesting for the future is to see how the value of these variants hold up. I always want the first print first issue, I feel that those are the ones that people will always want. But that is just my opinion and I have no real information to back that up other than, historically, the first print first issues is what collectors are after. The problem with that logic is that this is the first time in comic history that these variants are prevalent. So again it will be interesting to see what the future holds and how the “Variant Age,” (as I now call it) in comics will be seen by collectors. I would imagine some variants will hold their value, while others will not, DUH! The problem is to find the ones that will. I could also see that many collectors would not care about the variants at all and want the first prints. Who knows, but as always, happy collecting.



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