The Variant Question, by Mike Gold

Mike Gold

ComicMix's award-winning and spectacularly shy editor-in-chief Mike Gold also performs the weekly two-hour Weird Sounds Inside The Gold Mind ass-kicking rock, blues and blather radio show on The Point, and on iNetRadio, (search: Hit Oldies) every Sunday at 7:00 PM Eastern, rebroadcast three times during the week – check above for times and on-demand streaming information.

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17 Responses

  1. John Ostrander says:

    Perhaps it's what starts as an observed fact ("Variant covers sell comics.") back many years ago becomes ossified into a PR article of faith ("Variant covers sell comics."). It may no longer be true but it is THOUGHT as true and acted on without question as a result.We all, I think, learn survival tricks that get us through some period of our life. However, our life changes and then we either stick with the same rule — even if it is no longer applicable or even helpful — or we have to go through the tough task of unlearning it. Variant covers may hav done very well during that brief period when the collectors moved into comics and EVERYTHING was selling. So marketing continues to do it, trying to recapture those days. It's just dogma, Mike.

  2. Paul Go says:

    I've never been one to buy variants and I don't buy multiple copies of comics. I can see having a "regular" cover at the normal comics price if there is a "special" hologram cover or something that doubles the price of the comic. Even then, I'd buy the regular cover.There might have been a time when variants sold more issues. I doubt that's true today. Of course, if comics sold today in the numbers they did in the 70s and 80s, this would be a moot point.

  3. Michael H. Price says:

    Just coming up with ONE GREAT COVER is chore enough, sez me. Too much sizzle, and the steak loses its flavor. Assuming the steak had some flavor, to begin with.

  4. RD Francis says:

    When there are multiple covers at the same price, and I realize it, I may go as far as to look at the covers and pick one that I like the best (or, for instance, in the case of the ALL-FLASH special a few months back, dislike the least).I would rarely, if ever, pay extra for a variant cover.

  5. Neil says:

    When variant covers were a rare case I do remember buying more than one copy of some comics for my collection. I did buy some hologram (or glow in the dark) covers because some of them can be pretty cool. I can't remember whether there was always a lesser priced alternative. In recent years, though, I have not bought more than one copy of a comic. I have tried to pick whichever of multiple covers appealed to me the most.

  6. Alan Coil says:

    As long as there is money to be made in the secondary market, variant covers will continue. The variant covers for last year's Civil War (1-for75) were going for over $100 on eBay. Customers were even paying a premium price at the LCS just to put them up for sale on eBay.

    • Mike Gold says:

      I wonder how many of those 1-for-75 CW covers that were going for over $100 on eBay actually sold for over $100, on eBay or elsewhere. And I'd like to compare that number against the total number of such covers.I remember the activity at the annual Diamond retailer shows where people would be lined up for hours to get their copy (usually only one) of special variant cover books made strictly for the show. One of our crew measured the amount of time it took for those special books to make it onto eBay — complete with cover scan. It was measured in minutes.Did they sell? Some, and some sold to retailers who were already in line. Others sold later at substantially lower prices.

  7. Martha Thomases says:

    I think the whole thing is stupid, unless the covers have lenticulars. Then it's GENIUS!

  8. Elayne Riggs says:

    I don't mind variant covers that much — nobody's being forced to buy them, and they usually mean extra money for artists. When a variant cover is done by someone I like I'll try to secure that one if I don't have to pay extra for it; otherwise it doesn't much matter to me.

  9. Glenn Hauman says:

    The simple rules of thumb:1. Does it boost sales in the short run?2. Would the short term boost exist if people didn't buy multiple copies? (And if so, should you as publisher care?)3. Does it help or hinder sales in the long run?4. What does market research indicate would help future sales? For example, there have been two separate covers for the Watchmen trade paperback. Has it been determined which one was more successful in getting sales, and was that used for later editions? Otherwise, we're back to purple, gorillas, and go-go checks.

    • Rick Taylor says:

      You say 'go-go checks' like it's a BAD thing.

    • Mike Gold says:

      Market research? MARKET RESEARCH???Back in 1976, DC Publisher Jenette Kahn bemoaned the fact the total amount of market research conducted in comics was less that that which triggered any change in the packaging of a single brand of toothpaste. Not much has happened since then.But that's beside the point. Collectors like collecting stuff; I'm asking if readers care.

  10. garbonzo says:

    If I se a variant cover in a quarter bin, I'll pick it up. If I see a variant cover that I like more than the "regular" cover in my LCS for the same price, I'll pick it up. But, is the fact that there is a variant cover enough to get me to pay extra? Nope. I was young and dumb once. Glad I have grown out of the flash and hype. Unfortunately, comics have not, and I find myself dropping more and more titles. I am finally at a place in my life financially where i can buy pretty much anything I want, and I find there is little I want to spend my money on. My dollars have headed to independent and small(er) press operations as the big 4 get too wrapped up in events and covers.

  11. Marilee J. Layman says:

    The only magazine I buy regularly is Asimov's, and they don't have variant covers, although some covers are pretty spiffy (I have two as prints). However, I do have all three Serenity comics, with the three variant covers for each one. Considering how long Firefly/Serenity lasted, it's easy to be a completist. (I have all the Girl Genius comic books so far, too.). Oh! And I still have (and haven't read) the Choose Your Weapon sampler from last year's Free Comic Book Day. My LCS, which is not very L, didn't have a lot of interesting choices.

  12. mike weber says:

    I think i've intentionally bought one variant cover because it was cooler (Puppet Spike vs pupet ninjas) – and i think there were equal numbers of both variants of that one. OTOH, there have been times when i would buy a variant (if available for the same price) because the primary cover was butt-ugly.

  13. Adriane Nash says:

    Well, as you already noted, I don't buy variants these days. Mostly because of 2 things: 1. I'm not paying that much attention when I'm ordering which probably speaks to my utter lack to caring about variant covers and 2. I am in no way going to go for the 10 to get 1 deal. When I did my shopping at the comic shop, which seems like a lifetime ago, I did often buy into the hype. But not out of investment but out of colllecting based frenzy of having to have it all.While doing some catching up on my backlog of comics over the past few days I noticed I had recieved (i'm assuming through either sheer luck or Mike's benevolence) a variant cover. I know this because it said so. I wondered at the time what the regualr cover looked like, opened it and read the story. And now, less than 48 hours later I have read so many comics since then I couldn't tell you what it was. I did however enjoy tyhe story, whatever it was, I do know that.

  14. Brian K. Morris says:

    Personally, I don't buy the variants. After surviving the Nineties and the die-cut, holographic, tyvek-printed variants-in-law, I'd only buy a variant if it restored my youthful hairline and cured world hunger. But this strikes me like the talk from local politicians who want to generate more revenue by adding a few cents of tax onto cigarette purchases. It doesn't affect me, but I'll see some benefit from it, no doubt.If that gets a publisher a few more dollars (note: from someone else) to encourage that entity to continue publishing a title I like, then I love variants! :) But otherwise, they're pretty much dead trees to me.