I’ve had a love-hate relationship with variant covers for a long time. I LOVE the cool art showcased on a lot of variant covers, I HATE the fact that I can be so easily manipulated by Publishers into buying the same comic multiple times just to get a different cover. I’ve rationalized this over the years by looking at the variant as pieces of art (like little prints) that I want to put on display. If they don’t cost too much and I’m going to put them on my spinner rack for several months then they’re worth a few extra bucks to me.
There’s the rub. A “few” extra bucks. I had the great fortune of having a comic shop owner that didn’t jack up the price on variants that much so I was able to get them at mostly reasonable prices. But there are more and more variants coming out every month and they will keep coming as long as we fans buy them. It comes down to choices:
Would I rather be spending my money chasing after variants I don’t have or spend that same money on buying different comics I don’t have?
Spider-Woman #1 made me come down firmly on the side of “buy different”. We’ll see how long I can stick to my guns.
Many people probably remember the internet frenzy touched off by what I hope were well-meaning activists who seem to have noticed that comics represent sexy and unrealistic depictions of females for the first time in their life and decided to focus their wrath on the Milo Manara variant cover to Spider-Woman #1 (original image on left above, compromised published image on right, we can see the image has been cropped a bit and the controversial butt has been covered up with the logo). In any event, the frenzy has caused this particular cover to skyrocket in perceived value, going for $80+ right out of the gate on the week of release.
I’ve been picking up the Manara Marvel variants all along and displaying them on my spinner rack. My local shop has been pretty good, selling me the 1:25 variants for $10-$12 and the 1:50 for $20 or so. Unfortunately for me he recently took on a new partner and now has to make joint decisions on what prices to sell “hot” collectibles for. They offered me the Spider-Woman for $50 (less a 10% discount on all purchases, so really $45). A very reasonable offer given what other places are selling this for, but it made me stop and think. That is a dangerous thing. When you are selling things that people want but do not need the last thing you want to have happening is for the consumer to start thinking about their purchase too much… The “impulse buy” is your friend when what you are selling is frivolous.
Let’s also keep in mind that my observation of comics pricing over the years is that variant/chase cover prices typically peak within a few weeks to a few months after release and generally drop off after that. Buying this Manara chase cover today, even for $45 will be paying at least double what it will cost 2-5 years down the line. These are rarely a sound “investment” and can only be justified if you value the act of having/displaying the comic right now. That makes it worth what you are paying for it as an object d’art right now.
So, I’ve been working on completing my run of Ant-Man. I needed 10 more comics. I could have gotten the Spider-Woman cover for $45 -OR- I could have gotten this comic for $41 (including shipping):
I got the “variant monkey” off my back & bought Tales to Astonish #7 in one act. In f act, looking at my other less flamboyant variant cover buying habits, I’ll pick up 4 different variant covers of an issue of Shutter (one of my favorite comics) for $3.99 a pop without batting an eye. I get con exclusive variants for $10-$20 each. If I stopped doing this, I could easily fund getting most of the other Ant-Man comics I want just on the savings from stopping variant purchases.
And that is what I’ve decided to do. I found out about some Jamie McKelvie variant covers to Bitch Planet & Shutter that I had added to my DCBS order for $10 each. Dropped. Marvel’s new Ant-Man series #1 has a “shrinking” variant that’s $5. Dropped. Dynamite’s Justice Inc. #6 has 4 different covers & I was ordering them all because they all had Doc Savage on them. Dropped. Popeye Classics #30 has a very cool Steve Mannion 1:10 variant cover for $6 from DCBS. Dropped. The new Sabrina series from Archie comes with 2 covers, I was getting both. I’m keeping the one I like best & dropped the other one.
Boom! I just dropped a $ amount of variants off my November DCBS order that will allow me to buy Tales to Astonish #43 (and I just did…Paypal payment has just been submitted).
Thanks, ludicrously over-priced variant comic!! You just helped me snap out of a bad habit. I won’t be spending any less, but I will be spending differently!
Bob Bretall: firstname.lastname@example.org
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