Month: August 2015

My Love Hate Relationship with Variant Cover Comics (more like love)

IMG_1464As a modern comic collector, I am bombarded with new and fresh comics each week. The conundrum in collecting is deciding what I want while trying to maintain a budget. Then, some hot, new, creative team introduces a “must have” book, and–just to spice things up–the publisher offers a kazillion variants. The completest in me wants very badly to have every issue of the new Archie relaunch AND every one of those awesome Star Wars covers issued by Marvel. Some books are issued as “1 in 10” variants or “1 in 25.” There are “1 in 50,” too, and so forth and so on. Add to these “1 in…” are special interests variants like Ghost Variant, Phantom Variant, Loot Crate Variant and Hastings Variant. Sometimes, to encourage high order numbers, publishers allow retailers their very own special variant unique to their store!

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Publishers aren’t just issuing variants for comic release dates. They are also doing special limited (debatable) print runs for specific comic conventions, such as San Diego Comic Con, New York Comic Con, or any of those Wizard World conventions. This means the market is duly flooded with variant cover comic books as far as the eye can see. Some variants really are extremely rare; like those 1:100 and 1:200, and especially those 1:300. Some variants are limited by print run, as only 500 copies are made. That’s it. Five-hundred. All these different approaches to printing a comic book means a collector has the potential to be inundated with… too much. And, can you imagine what it must be like for the retailers? What about all the stock that doesn’t sell?

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So here’s my love/hate: I like variety and I enjoy having the opportunity to see artistic vision, one artist versus another. And, I–like many other collectors–want that rare book that might be worth money many months (years) from now. But, I realize there is a down side to this hype. Variants cause an extra layer of speculation in this hobby, and that speculation can turn some collectors off. What’s hot now may fizzle out later, and what I paid a premium for today may not be worth cover a few months from now. This means if I don’t want to get burned I have to be discerning.

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I recently stumbled on to this website and found myself wishing I had more money. I am a sucker for really unique variants. I mean, I want something more than just the black and white variant. I will pursue variants by specific artists, people I like, such as: Charles P. Wilson III or Fiona Staples and I’ll pay whatever is the asking price. Honestly, if I didn’t impose my own restriction on variant purchases I would go broke trying to own them all. As I recall, the Archie relaunch had about 20 different covers. Some were amazing and some, well acquired taste. If you are a Godzilla fan, there were over 100 variants issued by IDW. That’s like a short box of comics all for one issue.

Update just before posting, the awesome variant subscription service Four Color Grails has closed. This saddens me as I really enjoyed their enthusiasm for the hobby. I feel lucky enough to have gotten some of their books. RIP 4colorGrails.

Gotham by Gaslight: A Tale of Batman

IMG_1526Gotham by Gaslight: A Tale of Batman

Publisher: DC Comics

Writer: Brian Augustyn

Artist: Michael Mignola

What would happen if the great detective went up against one of London’s most famous serial killers? In 1989 DC Comics tried something a little different with one of their main characters; they allowed Brian Augustyn and Mike Mignola to pen a one-shot Batman tale outside of Batman’s continuum. Gotham By Gaslight is set in Gotham during the 1800s, where a woman has been murdered a`la Jack the Ripper style. Thus begins a dark and suspenseful tale of Batman versus Jack the Ripper. Who is the killer? How did he come to be in Gotham? Is Jack the Ripper really Bruce Wayne? The story has a great period drama feel to it, with all the assumed pomp and circumstance. In Gaslight, as in the original series, Bruce’s parents are killed by a robber, which–in turn–sets Bruce on a quest for vengeance. Yet, in this story, he spends some time in London, learning detectives skills from Scotland Yard. Bruce happens to be in living during the time of the Ripper murders.

IMG_1520This version of Batman looks every bit the part of a highwayman and, of course, this is to strike fear in his enemies. Though Batman’s important utility belt is still present, it is full of anti-crime deterrents such as: rope, knives, and smoke pellets. The story was so successful that DC Direct created a Gotham by Gaslight Batman action figure in 2007. The detail was exceptional, and closely resembled the character concept of the graphic novel.

Currently there is a live-action version of Gaslight in the works by James Campbell, it is called Ripper. You can watch the teaser trailer here. Also feel free to visit the Facebook page for Ripper, as it has come very cool concept art to boot.

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Cool Factor: Gotham by Gaslight is the very first Elseworld title from DC and is one of the few with a standalone sequel.

Format: Trade paperback

Skybound’s Anniversary Box Set and Modern Speculation

I’ve spent some time reading the CGC chat boards and have come away with a cynical feeling about modern collecting. Don’t get me wrong, I won’t stop buying or reading what I love, but witnessing some of the speculation nonsense does put me off the hobby sometimes.

sky1See here’s the thing:  Skybound, a subsidiary of Image Comics, introduced an anniversary box set of comics this year at San Diego Comic Con. The box set comes with 10 comics, Issue 1 reprints of popular titles by Image Comics. There are two sets, of covers:  a more common color version, and a less common black & white version. All box sets are sealed, so you don’t know what you have until the box is open. Included in each box is also a flash drive with PDF versions of all 10 issue Issue 1 books. Skybound sweetened the deal by randomly inserting “golden tickets” in some of the boxes.  The “golden tickets” were bonuses which meant the possibility of an additional rare CGC 9.8 signature series book. A purchaser could potentially come away with an original issue 1 such as The Walking Dead, Clone, Thief of Thieves, Birthright or Outcast. (Use this link to see the full list of 10 comics.) The box set sold for $80/pc and was initially only available at the con. With the popularity of The Walking Dead, one can imagine the “feeding frenzy” over graded copies of the original series that appeared as a consequence of the “golden tickets” in these boxes. Enter the speculators.

Some of the “golden tickets” have been redeemed, however that one that matches The Walking Dead CGCs is not yet claimed. As a result, many fans sky2are buying stacks of the anniversary boxes (now at prices in the range of $100 – $300) with the hope of landing a “golden ticket” for a CGC Issue 1 of The Walking Dead. Some speculators on the chat boards assume the book is so “rare,” is could easily command $10k for whoever owns it.

For my part, I purchased two boxes hoping to get one color edition and one black & white edition of the reprints for my collection. Both of my boxes were color and neither had a redeemable ticket.  Since my purchases, I notice, unopened boxes are posting on eBay and disappear quickly as fans attempt to find the last elusive “golden tickets.” And because the ticket is not yet redeemed, the prices of remaining sets in the secondary market are being driven ever higher by speculator.  In my opinion, it’s reaching ridiculous height. For some, this kind of marketing event generates revenue from second market sales. For others, this kind of marketing event is a complete turn off and reminiscent of events that led up to the comics bust in the 90s.

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I think some speculation is good for the hobby, especially as I do believe there will never be another modern sleeper hit like The Walking Dead.  However, to what end?

Images belong to Skybound.