Comic book collectors and readers alike all know about variants. The alternate covers that are rare in numbers and have distinct art. Variants can be nice and all, but are they more of a pain than they are worth it to have?
Most comic fans know about the dark ages of the comic book world, also known as the 1990’s. The art styles, the costumes, but mostly for the variants. Variants galore! During the troublesome decade, there were so many variants around that you would almost think Oprah Winfrey was involved. “You get a variant! You get a variant! EVERYONE GETS A VARIAAAAANT!”
Why were the variants the biggest blunder of all things? Because people treated them like gold. They’d get a variant and they were rich! Sadly, they were wrong. And for one company, it hurt them so bad that bankruptcy was the way out. What company was this? None other than Marvel Comics. The “House of Ideas” ran with one that nearly destroyed them. But they bounced back. That would mean they learned their lesson, right?
Uhh… kind of?
The popularity with variants is not so much the art that’s on the cover (at least this is true during the 90’s) or which artist did the variant, but the scarcity of it all. Variants are printed in more limited numbers than regular covers as to give them a push for people to buy them. Because as we all know, the less there is of an item the more it’ll be wanted (so long as it looks good and is well done, of course). And if there’s a gimmick to the variant, well, even better for people wanting them.
During the 90’s, Marvel had so many gimmick variants. Gold variants, gate fold variants, hologram variants, etc. It made them money for a while as people bought them thinking they would sell them and have the dollars to put their kids through college. But if everyone buys the variants, than there’s nothing special about them. There’s nothing special or unique about an item every person has. So Marvel stopped doing what was hurting them.
Fast forward over a decade later and Marvel’s at the game again. But this time, no holo covers, no gold issues, nothing like that. Instead now, it’s just Marvel throwing what feels like a million variants at your face. During January or February, Marvel has at least five or so variants for over 10 comics. That’s five or so per comic. Now, these variants are just different art covers, again printed in lesser numbers than regular covers to make them “special.” But do people really need so many different variants?
To get any variant these days, retailers have to order a certain amount of regular covers to get one or two variant covers of their choosing. You’d think that isn’t so bad, except with Marvel, they don’t just go “Order 50 of Regular Cover to get one or two Variant Cover A.” The way Marvel does it is by having retailers order from 100 up to 250% of a certain comic issue they ordered before just to get at one – ONE – variant cover. This ridiculous method hurts small shops, but that’s a different topic altogether. The point is, as awesome or incredible the variant may be, is it worth it to order so many comics that retailers may not make their money back on? You’d have to price the variant at a high price just to make something back.
This may all seem like it’s an attack on Marvel, I assure you it’s not. It’s that they are the worst offenders when it comes to variant covers. DC does a better job than they do, so much that I don’t even know their method on ordering variants, but from what I’m told, it’s easier to get variants from them than Marvel.