Has Walmart Become a Dumping Ground for Marvel Variant Covers?

The current nature of the direct comic book market is kind of in flux right now, for lots of reasons.  The nature of ordering comic books, though, is always a beast, particularly when ordering from many of the big publishers. Marvel, Dynamite, and the rest like DC, Image, IDW, and Boom (to a lesser degree), as they try to drive up orders by offering tiered variant covers.  Variant covers are a comic book standard now and one of the biggest griping points for retailers and fans. Most retailers, though, increase orders (at least somewhat) to get them, and most fans buy them to collect them. It's something that Walmart has gotten involved in by now offering the "Mass Market" variants to the DC Giant line and variants in their multi-pack Marvel bundles.  The last batch of Marvel bundles with Walmart exclusive variant covers also came bundled with two additional comics, most of which were rare tiered Marvel variants.

The Walmart Variant System

99% of the comics bundled with the "exclusive" Walmart variants are variants themselves, always unsold stock from Marvel. Usually, the other comics these exclusive covers have bundled with them are second prints for comics that surprisingly went to second prints. Often these second prints are worth minimal and usually not even worth their cover price on the back issue market.  Often the bundles from Walmart also had the same two issues packed in with the main cover variant, so if you bought multiples hoping to find other comics behind the main cover, you would be left disappointed. Sometimes the bundles would have one different comic. Still, if the customer opened say three of the same bundle, you'd likely end up with three copies of one comic, two copies of another comic, and maybe one of another comic, giving you only four different comics really in addition to whatever "exclusive" comic is on top.

The bundles are packaged to often have the same three comics, with little variety, and even different cover bundles would regularly have the same comics packaged in.  So, for example, if you bought the bundle with the Fantastic Four #10 variant cover on top and the Tony Stark: Iron Man #16 variant cover bundle you'd likely end up with Civil War II #0 Second Print as a comic in both bundles.

However, the three-pack bundles that had Walmart variants of X-Men #1, X-Force #1, New Mutants #1, Excalibur #1, Avengers #27, Scream Curse of Carnage #1, Symbiote Spider-Man Alien Reality #1, and The Amazing Spider-Man #33 as their top comic, have not only a greater variety but variants of a higher caliber.

Marvel Variant Covers of a Certain "Tier"

When a company, like Marvel, has variants that require 25 copies to be ordered of the standard cover just to get one of that variant, the company is only going to have sold a fraction of that cover in comparison to what was sold of the standard cover.  If 5000 of the normal cover are ordered, it will have only sold 200 of the 1-in-25 variant cover.  That doesn't mean the company only prints 200 copies; they usually print a good amount more than needed to address damages and shortages. Even after those are addressed though, a company, let's say, Marvel, still would have copies left, which they then offer on sale to retailers. Not right away, but usually quietly a year or two later from the original release date.  So what happens to the copies left after that sale?  Apparently, they go to Walmart to be put in three packs.

The pattern that emerges when you open more than one bundle, and more then one bundle of the same Walmart Variant, and multiple bundles from multiple Walmarts in fact from ten different Walmarts located in three different states, shows that there are a lot of these tiered variants to go around. For example, unpacking several different bundles of the Avengers #27 3-Pack could give you any of the following: Age of Ultron Vs. Marvel Zombies #1 1-in-10 variant cover, Age of Ultron Vs. Marvel Zombies #1 blank variant cover, Secret Wars (2015) #6 John Christopher Tyler variant cover, Civil War (Volume 2) #2 1-in-10 Alex Maleev variant cover, Civil War II #7 1-in-10 Phil Noto variant cover, Original Sin #1 Art Adams incentive variant cover, Original Sin #3 1-in-10 Stephanie Hans variant cover, Legendary Star-Lord #11 What The Duck?! variant cover, X-Men Gold #13 Lenticular Cover, Inhumans Rising #1 Walmart variant cover, Generations The Americans #1 Second Print variant cover, and sadly Civil War II #0 Second Print variant cover.

Broken Down by Comic Bundle

Now, none of these comics are recent, or "hot" variants, but the 1-in-10 variants are worth their cover price or more. The breakdowns for each comic as follows are just an example of what can be found. Open more packs and for instance in an Amazing Spider-Man #33 set you could find Secret Wars (2015) #3 1-in-20 Simone Bianchi variant cover, Secret Wars (2015) #6 1-in-20 Simone Bianchi variant cover, Secret Wars (2015) #1 Skottie Young incentive variant cover, Original Sin #3 Art Adams incentive variant cover, Original Sin #4 1-in-10 Butch Guice variant cover, Original Sin #5 1-in-10 Marco Checchetto variant cover,  Marvel Knights #1 Second Print variant cover, Legion #1 Second Print variant cover, Web of Venom Cult of Carnage #1 Second Print variant cover, The War of the Realms #2 Second Print variant cover, Avengers No Road Home #8 Second Print variant cover, Mosaic #1 Second Print variant cover, and strangely Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #4, or Captain America #10.

Excalibur #1 had a smaller variety with Extraordinary X-Men #2 1-in-10 Monster variant cover, Avengers No Road Home #7 Second Print variant cover, and again Original Sin #3 Art Adams incentive variant cover and other Second Print variants being duplicated.

An X-Men #1 bundle could have Secret Wars (2015) #3 1-in-20 Simone Bianchi variant cover, Secret Wars (2015) #7 1-in-20 Tomm Coker variant cover, The Amazing Spider-Man (2015) #2 1-in-10 Pabola Rivera variant cover, Inhumans Attilan Rising #2 1-in-25 Dave Johnson Design variant cover, Avengers No Way Home #9 Second Print variant cover, Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #18 Second Print variant cover, Infinity Wars Prime #1 Second Print variant cover, Fantastic Four (2018) #10 main cover, or again Original Sin #4 1-in-10 Butch Guice variant cover.

X-Force #1 has gems like the Axis #1 Chip Zdarsky Deadpool Party variant cover, Civil War II #7 1-in-15 Chris Spouse variant cover, All-New All-Different Avengers #1 1-in-10 Jack Kirby variant cover, Civil War II #3 Quesada Sketch variant wrap cover, and easier to find variants like Mosaic #1 Second Print variant cover, Civil War II #0 Second Print variant cover, Avengers No Road Home #7 Second Print variant cover, or normal comics like Spider-Man Deadpool #35, and The War of the Realms #2.

New Mutants #1 has the most extensive variety of standard comics with some rarities like Secret Wars (2015) #1 John Christopher Tyler variant cover, Secret Wars (2015) #1 Chip Zdarsky Party variant cover, Civil War II #1 Terry Dodson Hip-Hop cover, or All-New All-Different Avengers #1 1-in-10 Jack Kirby variant cover, and easier to find variants like Astonishing X-Men #50 Wedding variant cover, Amazing Spider-Man (2018) #5 Second Print variant cover, Doctor Strange The Best Defense #1 Second Print variant cover, Venom #12 Second Print variant cover, Spider-Man City at War #4 Second Print variant cover, or Spider-Man Velocity #1 Second Print variant cover. Then the standard comics with multiples of All-New Inhumans #1, Occupy Avengers #3, The Amazing Spider-Man Going Big #1, Black Panther and the Agents of Wakanda #2, Scarlet Witch #7, and repeats like Secret Wars (2015) #3 1-in-20 Simone Bianchi variant cover, and Generations The Americans #1 Second Print variant cover easy to find in multiple packages.

The Symbiote Spider-Man Alien Reality #1 variant bundles seem to have the greatest variety, with  Secret Wars #1 Women of Marvel Amanda Conner Incentive variant cover,  Secret Wars #4 1-in-20 Simone Bianchi variant cover, Secret Wars #7 1-in-25 Paul Gulacy variant cover, X-Men '92 #1 1-in-15 Zhang Chin variant cover, The Amazing Spider-Man (2014) #17.1 variant cover, Fantastic Four (2018) #4 Second Print variant cover or standard comics like Star Wars #9, Star Wars #66,  The Superior Spider-Man #6, and again Inhumans Attilan Rising #2 1-in-25 Dave Johnson Design variant cover, Secret Wars #1 Skottie Young incentive cover, Generations The Americans #1 Second Print variant cover, Infinity Wars #1 Second Print variant cover, Civil War II #0 Second Print variant cover.

The final set, with Scream Curse of Carnage #1, had the greatest gem found with Howard the Duck #1 Evolution of Howard incentive variant cover, and Little Marvel A Vs. X #1 Skottie Young Incentive variant cover, with other oddities like Marvel Comics Presents #2 Second Print variant cover, International Iron Man #1 Hip Hope variant cover, Captain Marvel #3 Second Print variant cover, Fury S.H.I.E.L.D. 50th Anniversary #1 incentive variant cover. Once again, copies of Secret Wars #4 1-in-20 Simone Bianchi variant, Marvel Knights #1 Second Print, Civil War II #3 Quesada Sketch variant wrap cover, and yet again Civil War II #0 Second Print variant cover can be found too.

The Unsold Marvel Variant Covers

So all these variants, being sold at thousands of Walmart stores, means that collectors and fans can be pleasantly surprised opening up these comic book bundles and find something of some value.  Now, none of the variants I've listed are worth more than $10, except the Howard the Duck #1 Evolution of Howard incentive variant, most are worth the cover price, or in the case of the 1-in-10, 1-in-15, or 1-in-20, variants close to $10 or a few dollars less. However, what is worth considering here is that this many "tiered" variants are still available to put in these bundles, bundles that are being made available in thousands of Walmarts. That's a lot of tiered variants left making their value that's nowhere near what their initial collectability suggested.  Retailers ordering ten copies of one comic, to get one of a certain variant cover, that now still has thousands of copies left that Marvel sold to be bundled in three packs that Walmart sells for $8 to $9 making these 1-in-10 variants, and higher worth $3, or less?

Howard the Duck #1 Evolution of Howard Incentive Variant Front Cover
Howard the Duck #1 Evolution of Howard Incentive Variant Front Cover

Now many of these variants are years old, Original Sin came out in 2014, but still, the variants are supposed to be hard to find, right?  The point here is not that retailers should put little or no stock in the value of tiered variants. Most retailers will tell you they don't because they have seen this phenomenon of quickly losing value in large Marvel variant cover sales that happen once or twice a year.  What this availability should inform is the value of these tiered variant covers, when someone goes to a convention, buys comics online, or looks at their own collection is far less then what 1-in-10 copies have this variant cover suggest.  If you are near a Walmart and can snatch up some of these bundles, it can be a great way to find some cool Marvel variants, and these bundles have a greater variety and value to them then past bundles.  However, you are still very likely to find far too many copies of the Second Print of Civil War II #0 then you want.

About Ian Melton

Japanese Teacher, Comic Book, Manga, & Anime collector, LCBS worker, father of 2, fan of far too many things for far too long...