Whitman Marvel Variants

Well I said I would follow-up the DC Whitman with the Marvel Whitman, and have taken the last two weeks to really research this article. It seems that Whitman did in fact help distribute some of these Marvel books, however these books were also distributed by the company Seagate. Many years ago in the 70's Marvel wanted to put a Kibosh to LCS dealers ripping them off by returning their books through retailer distributors for full credit. So they decided to ensure that these books were different in appearance from the Newsstand by placing the price in a little Diamond Box. These LSC would receive these books with a Diamond price logo and either a Blank UPC or UPC with a slash through it. This subtle difference would ensure that Marvel was aware what books were being returned, and at what price point they had to refund the stores. Eventually LCS owners were not allowed to return these books, and therefore had to ensure they were ordering properly or would be stuck with extra copies to discount. Marvel would distribute these books also in their own Polybags for discounted prices (2 or 3 per) and also distribute them through Whitman with the same principle. So these variants were not exactly exclusive to Whitman, hence why we do not have the Whitman trademark placed on these books.

These direct copy variants are in a sense, just that. During the late 70's and early 80's, these books were mostly available at Newsstands, grocery stores, gas stations etc…. Comic shops became much more prominent in the 80's, so early supply for these direct copies from '76 to '79 are much shorter in supply. These blank UPC/Slash UPC are hard to find in high-grade, and are slowly being store away by collector's in personal collections. As most run collector's (example Amazing Spider-man) can attest to, having these 2 different copies is a task in itself. These books would switch over across the board and we would then begin the Canadian Variant/Edition books that would become the next level of chase for the remainder of the 80's.

Since this list is quite extensive and cover's all Marvel books from 1976 to 1982, I have broken down the main titles that you will likely be chasing. Please note that the earliest examples of each title will be the shorter printed of the bunch, but not necessarily the most expensive due to content of the book. (Example Daredevil – later Whitman's are Miller Run, worth way more than earlier books). Also please remember that not every title listed below during the issue ranges will have a diamond variation cover, as Marvel did have Sunburst copies with Still only 35 Cent etc… that they used as marketing techniques to attract new readers. Some of these books only had the standard cover for both distributors.

Please note that I could not find a useable picture for every book that I highlighted, but did manage to give an example for reference.

Star Wars: 1-18 – Well here we have one of Marvel's hottest titles in back issues bins lately, due to new Movies each year through Disney. These early books have blank UPC's with 35 cent covers for most, and in the early 90's some unscrupulous dealers would try to pass this up as the rare 35 cent variant. The early diamond box with blank #1 from early direct market are in fact first printings. The books that were distributed in polybags by both Marvel/Whitman were reprints state this right on the cover next to Luke Skywalker in the Logo section. These 2nd printing books are not as plentiful as people think, and they do make a nice variant of the cover to have especially in high-grade and graded for showcasing.

Amazing Spider-man: 165-201 (Direct shop / Whitman) – These earlier books for Amazing Spider-man are considered lower printed then their newsstand counterparts, and are the ones to buy in high-grade. The blank UPC books are scattered among these, as are the slashed UPC ones. If you're a heavy Spider-Man collector the books to focus during this run are the ones guest staring the Punisher (174, 175 & 201), and the anniversary copy of issue #200.

Amazing Spider-man: 202-232 (Direct Shop only) – Here you have the direct shop only books with a diamond logo and UPC with either a spider-man head or some other mini drawing. Nothing spectacular in the remaining books to pick up as the Newsstand copies of this run would now be considered lower printed than the direct copies.

Avengers: 156-192 (Direct Shop / Whitman) – This run of books have the similar features to what was stated in Amazing Spider-man on top and will be similar to the remaining list provided. Lesser quantity than Newsstand, so focus should be on key issues. Example issues #158 (1st Graviton) is a Diamond Logo.

Avengers: 193-223 (Direct Shop only) – Nothing outstanding in this pile and plenty of copies available for collectors to choose from.

Captain America: 206-242 (Direct Shop / Whitman) – The best bet in this range is hunting down a Nice mint copy of Captain America #241 (Punisher), starting to see a trend with the Punisher appearances here. This copy has the diamond logo with a UPC slash line through it, and high-grade copies are pretty tough to find with that all white background. Cover by Frank Miller makes this book a beast and will always be high on collector's lists everywhere. Again this early variant is the one you seek out, as it came out in early 1980, before the LSC boom was happening.

Captain America: 243-273 (Direct Shop Only) – Nothing spectacular in this run, a few keys but these books were plentiful in print, and either direct or newsstand is available in abundance.

Daredevil: 146-162 (Direct Shop / Whitman) – A couple of cool books in this early run, but again not every book had a variant to it. Your best bet is to focus on issue #159 (Bullseye) as this one does have a Diamond and UPC slash box available.

Daredevil: 163-186 (Direct Shop Only) – Well these are all Frank Miller books pretty much, so every copy is a must have. Ironically the first Elektra issue #168 direct and newsstand seem to have similar print runs, and this could be due to Daredevil being a hot seller at this point in time so neither copy is more sought out more than the other.

Hulk: 208-244 (Direct Shop / Whitman) – Well the big one here is Hulk #212 (1st Constrictor) this book does not appear often with the diamond logo box. Hulk had mediocre sales in the late 70's early 80's, so this book could be a sleeper down the road.

Hulk: 245-275 (Direct Shop Only) – Nothing that stands out except issue #271 (Rocket), and based on rarity the newsstand in high-grade is a lot less available.

Thor: 256-292 (Direct Shop / Whitman) – Most of these early Thor's had blank UPC boxes for these editions, and they really look cool. I would focus on these ones as they have some chances for future gains once more Thor collector's make attempts to finish high-grade runs. Otherwise no real key books that come to mind.

Thor: 293-323 (Direct Shop Only) – “These aren't the droids you're looking for.” – Move along!

Uncanny X-Men: 118-131 (Direct Shop / Whitman) – Well everything here is gold, best X-Men run of all time so anything high-grade in either Direct / Newsstand is worth picking up.

Uncanny X-Men: 132-160 (Direct Shop) – X-Men books from great run, all worth owning.

I think I am officially out of breath see you in 2 weeks!

Until Next Time!

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  • sdalton32

    I thought Marvel direct market editions didn’t begin until 1979 – that’s when comics starting appearing with the slash through the UPC. Anything before that, any comic with a diamond price type and a blank upc, I always described as a “Whitman”, understanding that it was not necessarily sold in a Whitman store, but that it came from a bagged 2 or 3 pack. So, if I understand correctly, comics I refer to with the generic term “Whitman”, I can also call early direct market editions? Also, were these only sold in the bagged pack format, or could they be purchased in a comic shop?

    One more thing – do you have any idea how rare the Star Wars #1 diamond price type is (not the reprint)? Just searching ebay, I see hardly any, graded or ungraded. I was under the impression that this was not a first print, but now I know better! Thank you knowledge bank!

  • longballburrell

    Thanks for the very informative post! I had noticed the slashed UPCs and diamond price boxes on several of my ASMs, but I didn’t know the history behind them. I had assumed it was simply newsstand vs direct. The completionist in me is saying I’ll have to go through and pick up each variant for my ASM 165-232 run. Argh!!

  • Hey there, good stuff, but you say you did research and I don’t see any credit given to your sources. If other people did the legwork and came up with this info, you should give them their due.

  • Nice article about these. I had to check out my comic pics to see which issues I had. Realized I had Daredevil 183, Fantastic Four 211,Uncanny X-Men 129,141,158 all with diamond price boxes. Will check my boxes to see if have any others.
    Good stuff!!

  • Are all diamond box issues Whitman Variants? I have some issues that have diamonds with Spideys head in the upc box

  • Yes. Those with Spidey’s head are the direct market editions after 1980.

  • Great breakdown, love these articles cappy 241 is one of my favorites

  • Was able find some more of these in my PC. A few are from series not mentioned in the article.

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