I’ve talked about variant covers before (differentiating them from chase covers, look here for a reminder of the difference). I like comics art and as a result, when they are reasonably priced, I will often pick up a variant cover for the sole reason that I like the art and I buy it as an object d’art.
If you like to collect variant covers you may have noticed the sub-genre of variants that are offered by a specific store with the store logo. Forbidden Planet in the UK, Midtown Comics in NYC, Jetpack Comics and many more work with publishers to offer variant covers with some very nice art. The Phantom Group is a collective of more than 30 comics retailers (some of whom also offer store exclusives) that got together and pooled their resources to offer shared variant covers with the Phantom variant logo (seen at the head of this blog). This allows collectors to get some really nifty things like the Paul Pope cover to The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys (also seen above).
Another fun aspect of Phantom variants is when there is a series of covers that join together to form a connecting image. An impressive example of this is Revival #1-10, which is challenging to display in a way that shows off the full scope of the art (the best way would be to put them on a wall, but I don’t have that kind of wall space). Tradd Moore has a cool image of the combined image from issues #1-6 of Luther Strode on his Blog.
An alternate to the Phantom variant is the “Ghost variant” which is also available through a select group of retailers but is released with no promotion prior to the day of release. A few of my favorite examples of this type of variant are the Paul Pope variant for Saga #7 featuring The Stalk and Yuko Shimizu’s variant for Sex Criminals #1.
Store exclusive covers are usually nice but sometimes come with some really not nice prices (Jetpack is a big offender here, the Low #1 Jetpack/Forbidden Planet variant is $14.99 from Jetpack and £4.99, which is $8.40, from Forbidden Planet). I’m not that big of a fan of paying $10+ for a $4 comic just to get a different cover image, but I’m often happy to kick in an extra buck or 2 over normal cover price and pay $5-6 for a comic with piece of art I really like. If you wait around you can often find bundles of these on eBay, I recently got a bundle of the phantom variants to Bedlam #1-6 for $25, which came out to be $4.16 each, not much over normal cover price for the issues. These end up on display on my spinner rack for several months and I justify them as both decorations for the comics room and cool collectibles.
The Phantom Group web-site has some useful information about the program but is really out of date. As of this writing (in August 2014) it appears to not have been updated in over a year (since May 2013). Phantom variants are still coming out, but whoever was in charge of keeping up the web-site has been asleep at the wheel.
If you like variant covers and cool artistic takes on favorite characters/series look into the sub-genre of collecting Phantom/Ghost/Store Exclusive covers, but shop around. These are worth what consumers will pay. If customers refuse to pay outrageous prices to a store for these variants they’ll ultimately lower the price to a more reasonable level to move their stock of exclusive covers.
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