In his rousing speech at ComicsPRO calling out all of the self-destructive and shortsighted business practices that are damaging the comic book industry, retailer Brian Hibbs said:
The SKU explosion has expanded out past just number of series, but also into the number of covers and variants we offer on those comics. In January 2019, I counted a staggering fifty-nine percent of the SKUs offered were variants and alternate covers! FIFTY. NINE. PERCENT. This is, in no way, a healthy state of affairs, and it exists at every level of the market: from the top at Marvel, where the aforementioned "War of the Realms" had seventeen different covers on the first issue at initial solicitation, and they've also added another eight more at FOC (after, of course, we've presold our sets and such) – all of this on a SIX DOLLAR comic. A customer who actually wanted all 25 copies of that one single release would be asked to spend nearly $150. On a single issue of a single comic. This is not a tenable or rational place for us to be as buyers of non-returnable goods – even at a wholesale price of like $68 is far too insane for us to any risk. This is predatory behavior on the behalf of the largest publisher.
It isn't just Marvel, of course; this rot and weakness penetrates down to the smallest publishers too: Zenescope and Dynamite and Archie and Action Lab, to name just a few, all seem utterly incapable of producing comics without 2-5 covers apiece, while organizations like Avatar and Boundless and American Mythology appear to have strategies utterly pinned on releasing up-priced variants of the same material for multiple months forward. None of these models are sustainable, none of them increase the number of READERS by even one.
Listen to me, publishers: this behavior needs to stop! If you can't sell enough copies of your comic to fit your business goals with one single cover, then you probably shouldn't be publishing it in the first place!
One week later, Marvel has revealed 30 Battle Lines variant covers for comics releasing in May, though one of the covers will actually be added to War of the Realms #1, which clearly needed more, in April. It's good to see that Marvel is listening to concerns and taking action to ensure the future health of the industry by… doing the exact opposite thing.
Check out the press release and all 30 variants below:
New York, NY—March 4, 2019—This May, Marvel Comics is celebrating MARVEL Battle Lines – the collectible card battling mobile game created by Nexon – with a series of variant covers showcasing over two dozen in-game cards featuring striking images of some of the most popular Marvel Super Heroes!
Look for MARVEL Battle Lines variant covers on these select titles, and don't miss the special 30th variant debuting on War of the Realms #1, available April 3rd!
1. AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #21 by Sujin Jo
2. AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #22 by Heejin Jeon
3. ASGARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #9 by Maxx Lim
4. AVENGERS #19 by Maxx Lim
5. BLACK PANTHER #12 by Heyjin Im
6. BLACK WIDOW #5 by Keunwoo Lee
7. CAPTAIN AMERICA #11 by Yoon Lee
8. CAPTAIN MARVEL #5 by Maxx Lim
9. CHAMPIONS #5 by Maxx Lim
10. DOCTOR STRANGE #14 by Nexon
11. FRIENDLY NEIGHBORHOOD SPIDER-MAN #6 by Nexon
12. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #5 by Jongju Kim
13. IMMORTAL HULK #17 by Heyjin Im
14. IMMORTAL HULK #18 by Jongju Kim
15. MAGNIFICENT MS. MARVEL #3 by Sujin Jo
16. MILES MORALES: SPIDER-MAN #6 by Yoon Lee
17. MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR #43 by Sujin Jo
18. OLD MAN QUILL #5 by Yoon Lee
19. THE PUNISHER #11 by Maxx Lim
20. SHURI #8 by Heejin Jeon
21. SPIDER-GWEN: GHOST SPIDER #8 by Nexon
22. SYMBIOTE SPIDER-MAN #2 by Jongju Kim
23. THOR #13 by Heejin Jeon
24. TONY STARK: IRON MAN #12 by Nexon
25. THE UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #44 by Sujin Jo
26. UNSTOPPABLE WASP #7 by Sujin Jo
27. VENOM #14 by Maxx Lim
28. WAR OF THE REALMS #3 by Heejin Jeon
29. WAR OF THE REALMS #4 by Maxx Lim
Don't miss your chance to collect all 29 variant covers, coming to comic shops this May!