A scandal breaking out amongst comic collectors that we are dubbing VariantGate, is the word that high-ratio Marvel Comics variant covers and retailer-exclusive variant covers have been turning up in the Wal-Mart three-pack bagged comics that Marvel uses to liquidate excess stock. Usually containing popular Marvel comics of recent months, as well as an occasional Wal-Mart exclusive variant cover to sweeten the pot, they also sometimes include a cover that was originally restricted to 1:15 or 1:25 of the standard covers comic shops ordered.
But this week, Bleeding Cool is receiving reports from all over are coming in of so many people finding Walmart packs with covers that were previously issued to comic store retailers as 1:500 or 1:1000 tiered variant covers, that comic stores had to put a lot of money down to buy. Or even more scandalously, retailer exclusive covers, that were only meant to be sold by the store who ordered them, and who had to order thousands to get them. Right now private comic collector forums are flooded with people posting their VariantGate finds. It also explained why there have suddenly been few 1:500 Silver Surfer Black #5 foreshadow variant covers selling on eBay in the last few days for $500 a pop with more listed.
The blame for VariantGate is being pointed at problem with the use of codes in the distribution of covers. Diamond Comic Distributors would have sent the comics in question to the company that repackages liquidated Marvel comics for Walmart at Marvel's instruction. But with Marvel Comics switching their exclusive distribution to Penguin Random House – including all retailer exclusive cover distribution, it is possible that things were hurried along more than they should have. Marvel did not return e-mails sent earlier today but Diamond told Bleeding Cool "Diamond acts as the agent for Marvel and as such, picks, pulls and ships products as requested."
Marvel Comics often print more copies of a retailer exclusive cover than required, so they can replace any damaged comics. They will also print more tiered covers than required, so as to cater for last-minute orders and damages, but excess copies are usually pulped. This is to preserve the comic books' rarity and exclusive availability, something very much valued by the collector marketplace, for whom Marvel Comics has been catering for more and more of late.
What does this mean? Well someone somewhere may have to make VariantGate amends, for the reduced exclusivity of retailer covers or the greater availability of higher tier covers, for those who ordered them. The value of the items may come down. But also there is a much greater availability to buy them. Kaboom Comics & Collectibles spend $300 on Wal-Mart packs and scored with a 1:1000 Thor cover, a 1:500 Marvel Zombies Resurrection cover but also a Demon Days: X-Men #1 cover that should have been exclusive to Unknown Comics.
Collector Matt Butler found what was meant to be a ComicsPRO version of Demon Days: X-Men #1 first printing as well. Others spotted include Wonderworld Comics' exclusive cover for Taskmaster #1, Frankie's Comics' Venom exclusive as well as creator studio exclusives such as Rob Liefeld's Venompool/Deadpool virgin cover to King In Black, and the virgin Web-Head Amazing Spider-Man exclusive from Patrick Gleason. When one collector posted that he had found two copies, Patrick Gleason's studio got rather concerned and started asking him how…
Feel free to post your own find in the comments below, especially if you find any more retailer exclusive covers out there…