Larry's Phantom Variant Debuts With Nick Spencer's Bedlam #1

Larry's Phantom Variant Debuts With Nick Spencer's Bedlam #1Recently, I referred to something I called Larry Doherty of Larry's Comics' "Revenge variant" cover. Well apparently it's actually called a "Phantom" variant, and it's debuting with the release of Nick Spencer and Riley Rossmo's Bedlam #1 from Image.

Earlier this year, Larry was extremely annoyed, upset even, over the Ghost Variant cover of Walking Dead #101, a variant cover available from certain retailers. There was the allegation that it was a ComicsPRO deal amongst board members, excluding other stores, members or not, but it seemed rather personal, even for Larry. Today, in a letter written to other retailers, Larry reveals why he was so annoyed. It was his idea. He writes;

Last year  Ralph DiBernardo ( Jetpack Comics ) and myself approached Comics Pro and offered to revamp their exclusive program (actually proposed to them twice in two different formats). The idea(s) was rejected by the board based on a fear that it could open the org to anti-trust suits, so we moved on, producing exclusives on our own and our New England comic retailer micro distribution network.

Several months ago a group of retailers got together and formed The Ghost Variant. A secretive organization, privately inviting hand picked retailers to be members of The Ghost.

Suspiciously, every Comics Pro Board member was a part of the group. In fact, only one Ghost member was not a Comic Pro member, and he happened to have been a board member that stepped down.

As a Comic Pro member I was offended by what I viewed as an impropriety by their Board of Directors. Using their position of power they either launched or were knowing participants in a program that left out over 90% of their members, but included every board member. I absolutely feel as if they took our idea, modified it & excluded us from it. I quit the ComicsPro as did many others. I had been a member for 4 years.

Many might be an exaggeration. But it does give the whole fuss a slightly different ton, a kind of "how dare you do this! It's disgusting! I wanted to do it!" feel. And now he is. Larry writes;

I am starting a micro distribution network of shops carrying original art directed , limited versions of comic books. Original Images. The program is called The Phantom Variant.
Our first book will be a spectacular edition of Nick Spencer's Bedlam #1 with an original cover from Riley Rossmo  ( there will be #2-6 as well ) The back cover is blank to recieve autographs or sketches. Most releases will feature Blank backs.

I have a couple dozen other projects  in the pipeline. We are going to announce them the week of their release.

It has a benefit to you the fan* These editions are availabe at a bunch of shops & online. You can shop around to get the best deal. Maybe there is a local venue. You do NOT have to deal with the infamous "Larry"

It has a benefit to the creators involved.*It's NOT just about the variant. It's about a historic effort to support  properties at a monetary level that matters, with exclusive in store displays & promotions for the creators by retailers. We are NOT interested in a "cash grab", only supporting one issue. If we are in. We are "IN".

It has a benefit to me the retailer. *It is a program designed to drive consumers to our brick-and-mortar establishments by offering them a unique shopping experience.

It has a benefit to the publisher.  Twenty agressive retailers will stabilize print runs & provide unprecedented social media support.

How did the Phantom start?

While Comics Pro maintains that they ARE NOT the Ghost, the Ghost has not revealed himself and you can't argue the facts of whom the Ghost Members are.

I then formed the Phantom group,  Publicly, with no secrecy. In a offering via my Twitter feed, I invited 20 retailers to join me in producing exclusives.

Twenty retailers jumped on board. Retailers that love me, retailers that hate me and retailers that barely knew of my existence are all in this together. A very diverse group.

There is now a waiting list of retailers (28) to get on board for it. I wanted to show that organizing something like this could be fair and honest. will go live on Friday.

Larry's Phantom Variant Debuts With Nick Spencer's Bedlam #1

Couple of things to point out – Larry denies that there will be a My Little Pony Phantom variant, despite one retailer on his network believing there will be one. The other is that Larry is actually creating a distributor here, picking certain retailers who would support specific books. Look past the variant cover and the speculator deal, and this is the kind of infrastructure that a future Our Love Is Real or Scam could take advantage of. For a while now, there has been the idea that a micro-distributor could bypass Diamond and focus on high volume, highly committed stores with maximum return for the publisher and creators. Could the Phantom variant be a step in the direction of a new indie comics distributor?

Here are the first twenty stores on the Phantom list:

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Rich JohnstonAbout Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.
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