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Comic Store In Your Future: Have Variants Outlived Their Usefulness?

For years, comic publishers have been using variants to increase sales. It works. Stores will increase their orders to get the next tier level variant. People will buy them. Wonder Woman Black & Gold #5 and #6, one in twenty-five variants were bought online for over two hundred dollars each. It is a good price for a new comic.

There are also open-to-order variants. This means stores may order as many copies as they would like. The number of variants offered by comic publishers has started to run amok. Recently Hulk re-launched yet again, this time with over forty different covers. That is a lot to pick from. The more covers a comic has, the less likely it is a person will be to pick them all up. The Hulk #1 cover price is $4.99, which means it would cost a person over $200 to get them all. The cost is just too high for many.

Another issue is that so many covers confuse not only regular comic readers and collectors, but it also confuses new ones. Recently, people came in and had never purchased a comic before. These new people came up to the counter with a copy of Eternals #1 or the latest Amazing Spider-Man, thinking they were different issues for the same characters. We informed them the comics were the same issue, just a different cover. They seemed confused and stated they just wanted one copy and asked why there would be more than one cover. We explained that some people pick up multiple copies due to the covers. These new people were turned off by the multiple covers and, as often happens, instead of getting different issues, they just got one and left. They simply wanted to read the comics and see if they liked them.

In-store, the issue we have been having, more and more, is when one cover is by far the favorite cover out of all the variants for an issue. A comic comes out with a bunch of different variant covers and, after seeing the comic in person, almost everyone wants the same one. We end up reordering the popular cover while eating the rest of the covers of the comic. What can a store do? Showing over forty covers of Hulk #1 to each interested customers months ahead of time when stores need to order seems like a lot of wasted time. Seeing a cover on a computer and seeing it in person makes a big difference for many.

Comic Store In Your Future: Have Variants Outlived Their Usefulness?
A handful of the many covers and variants available for comics. Photo by Rod Lamberti.

It has been so long with so many variants being offered; is it still a good sales booster for publishers? In order to actually grow the comic market, maybe fewer variants could be the way to go? Less focus on variants and more focus on the actual story may help a lot. Perhaps have far fewer variants offered or none at all?

After all these years of so many variants, could the comic companies go back to the way publishing was done for decades? One cover for one comic? Variant covers for a comic once was a foreign idea, and they often sold many more copies. One cool cover to sell a comic, what an idea…


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Rod LambertiAbout Rod Lamberti

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