Monday, April 12, 2010

Do we need variant covers?

Seriously, do we?

Aside from holding onto that blown-over overblown '90's-decade notion of "comics as collectibles" (which, I might add is the reason my CD collection is covered under my house insurance by my comic collection isn't) what is the purpose of variant covers? Does it increase sales? Are there still people out there that buy multiple copies of the same book, panting over each month's Wizard price guide hoping that they've increased in price (and don't most comic shoppes already overvalue the unevenly distributed variants already?)

And isn't it kind of insulting to the artist of the variant cover for them to put the work into doing a cover when 1 out of every 20 or 50 people are going to see it? Just a little? Like this gorgeous David Mack Jade piece that's the variant cover to the fourth issue of the bi-weekly Justice League: Generation Lost maxi-series (do they even call things maxi-series anymore? What is/was the actual difference between a mini-series and a maxi-series anyway?), shouldn't more people see that? Perhaps as a pin-up within the issue? Isn't that where art like this used to go, as a fill-in page or the pin-up section of the extra-sized 25th issue spectacular or 5th anniversary issue? Now I guess they get duplicated in the backs of trades, but perhaps they should just go there in the first place.

If they variants are evenly distributed, I actually find it a little maddening when I go to pick up an issue of, say, G.I. Joe/Cobra II off the stands and I'm presented with three cover options... the little collector gnome in my brain won't permit me to just grab at random, but rather he wants me to figure out which one I like best... and so help me if there's a theme or style to each of the different variants that carries throughout the series (like one's done by the series artist, the other by Howard Chaykin and the third is the Chaykin cover sans logo) and I have to remember which one I'm getting. It's a petty annoyance true, but an annoyance none the less.

I was putting together some books for sell and I noticed that, before we got together, both my wife and I had picked up Infinite Crisis, but whereas I picked up only the George Perez covers, she picked up the covers at random (she doesn't have a little collector gnome in her head, apparently), having a mix of Jim Lee and Perez covers. Who's going to buy a series set of mixed covers I ask you?

I suppose variant covers do help support the many, many artists that have flooded the industry over the years, as getting paid for a variant cover is still getting paid afterall. But as a reader of comics (and not so much a collector anymore) I find it awkward and purposeless.

But then again what harm are they really doing, these variants. Am I way off base with my loathing of variant covers, Second Printers? Am I just a confused individual trying to suck the fun out of other's simple enjoyments?


ticknart said...

Do we need variant covers?

If they were gone tomorrow I don't think most comics readers would care. Readers are in it for the story.

Some completists shouldn't care. If there's only one cover to buy, they've got all the covers.

Hard-core collectors may bitch because they won't get stuff that's any more special than what everyone else gets. Wah.

Are you way off base with my loathing of variant covers?
That's a little harder.

I'm not a fan of the out of proportion covers because there's no real choice. Every comic shop I've been to immediately raises the price of the rarer cover to $10+, and I don't care that much. Seriously, what's the point if it's never on an equal standing with the over cover?

However, I do enjoy the choice of those that come in 50/50.

The one that I really enjoy are the covers to the Buffy Season 8 book. Sometimes I like the painted (looking) covers and sometimes I like the drawn ones. Most of the time, it doesn't matter and I take the one that was pulled for me, but sometimes there's a brilliant cover I must have. I choose the not painted cover for obvious, hopefully, reasons. That's a choice I was happy to make.

I felt the same way about the Infinite Crisis covers because I'm not a fan of Jim Lee, but if one of his covers had jumped out at me, I would have gladly left the Perez issue on the stand.

Even though I enjoy the extra choice 50/50 gives me, I'd rather there weren't any variants out there.

Siskoid said...

Because stores now take the risk the publisher used to, variant covers seem to me just a way to fleece store owners who must, if they want to sell a variant (say there's demand for it), order 25-50of a comic that isn't selling that many copies.

Stores are spending money on copies they can't sell, and thus not taking risks on little series that could.

What's the point of Wolverine covers on non-Wolverine comics anyway?!

So a resounding NO, we don't need them and you are not alone.
So no, we don't need them