The GeeksverseVariants – Once They Were Bad, Now They Are Not?

Variants – Once They Were Bad, Now They Are Not?
Published on Thursday, February 3, 2011 by

I have to admit that I love variant covers, to a degree. Always have. Even back when they were the cause of the balloon bursting back in the ’90s, but we’ll get to that in a second.

Now I don’t like when every issue has multiple covers. That can get out of hand. I don’t mind when special issues have multiple covers but I prefer to have something different then just “Hot Artist A” and “Hot Artist B” doing the other covers.

So what IDW does? Not a big fan. But I do like what they are doing with the recent G.I. Joe with having the second cover be something fairly stylistic. If you’re going to do it, then do it that way.

I like what Marvel does, having months of a theme. They did Tron, Vampires and the Superhero Squad. Those are cool. I like that idea.

Now variants are considered one of the main causes of the bust period back in the ’90s. And they are partly to blame. But we can’t forget the overabundance of crappy comics that flooded the shelves. It seemed like every artist (yes, artist, and Image is to blame for this, but topic for another day) would do three or four issues of a title then create their own book.

Some were good, but most were bad, and almost none of them could keep a schedule.

So back then why were variants bad and what happened with them to cause the balloon to burst? There’s a couple factors that I believe were the cause:

1-Saturation of titles
2-Saturation of the market with regular covers to get the exclusive

Back in the day you had companies like Anotheruniverse.com and Dynamic Forces that would get exclusive variant covers, Dynamic even numbered theirs. These would be in limited amounts, think the 1 in 10 and 1 in 25 we see today. But to get those exclusive covers you would have to order multiples of the regular.

Remember Dan Fraga’s Gear Station? I doubt very many do. It lasted 3 issues and I have about 20 books in my Gear Station collection. The reason? The Michael Turner, and other, variant covers. Anotheruniverse.com made me buy 3 of the regular cover to get 1 variant. Yes, okay, no one made me but you understand the point. That was 3 extra copies of Gear Station #1 that are now out there ready to hit the back market bins. We all know the #1 thing that creates the price of back issues is rarity, and Gear Station #1 isn’t worth much because for everyone that has 1 copy of the Turner variant, they also have 3 or more copies of regular #1.

And thats what made variants so bad back in the day. Every title had them and to get them you had to get more of the titles regular cover.

Now if variants were so bad, why is it okay that we have so many of them today?

I really don’t have any market resource to back this up, just my observations, but as someone that’s been buying variants for decades, the reason I think it’s okay today and not back then is simple:

1- more access to the rare covers
2- less company exclusive covers

The internet, and more importantly online stores and EBay, have created more accessibility to the comic marketplace as a whole. Now you don’t have to order a cover direct from a specific dealer, who can force you to buy multiples of the regular cover. There’s too much competition to do that. If Store A wants me to buy 2 copies, Store B will say 1 copy and Store C will say “you can buy that variant without getting additional copies.”

This does two things. It keeps the price of the variant down (relatively, they are still rare and therefore more cost up front) and it keeps the number of additional copies of the regular cover down as well. Variants are also part of the normal print run now as well.

Comic A has a print run of 100, 25% of those are Cover A, 25% of those are Cover B, 50% of those are Cover C. I don’t know if thats the way it was done back in the day but I don’t think so.

So I don’t think variants are going to cause a crash in the industry like they helped to contribute to back in the day. I think they’re an extra bonus, if you want them, to the comics we all enjoy. No doom or gloom nowadays. I think the industry learned it’s lesson and adjusted practices to prevent a repeat.

Which is good, because I like variants.

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