The problem with Variants
In this section we run opinion pieces and hopefully spark debate. This time, it's time for Jason Hehir (whose art will soon be featured on #ifightghosts and who loves comics as much as you or I) to tell you what he thinks about the variant overload and I personally think he has a point. What do you think?
The fact that having variant covers setting the trend as to what is important, or hot for comics is promoting an unhealthy take on comics. Gone are the important stories and the introduction of meaningful characters to the different titles or monthly line up. Vanished have the long-term commitments to quality books
When was the last time any site's top ten was filled with actual first appearances,key stories, and first issues?
I recently watched the auction for a CGC 9.8 graded Star Wars 1:500 Quesada Sketch cover #1 go for under $50 +shipping, and it made me stop and think. There are way too many of these things out there because everyone ordered an obscene amount of books that will not make their mark no matter how important they were, for quite some time, and the value of the variants are doomed to tank as more and more realize the books are kinda lame in respect to the days when the books were good, and stood on their own without cheap gimmicks. This is what crashed the market in the 90's incentives and millions of copies. the ratio is so jacked that it will be another 25 years before anything has decent value again.
Most folks want that “rarer” book regardless of the fact that the contents suck balls, because they have come to accept/expect the content to be just that.
The publishers know it too. They even go so far as to run event after event, end, and restart series every couple of years, if that long, and claim it is a good story telling move, but when you look at the sales, when 1:25 to 1:100 isn't enough to get those numbers up, they toss out 1:500, or even the more bizarre, 1:1000, or 1:5000 for these “pointless” events, and new number 1's, and when that fails to keep you hooked they turn around, and keep going with ratio variants for the remainder of the series/event.
Look at all the recent indy series over the past decade, and you will see strong stories, meaningful characters, and in some cases, long runs for the fans. Not trying too incredibly hard to get your bucks by offering incentives to meet the sales quota. Yes, there are variants, but normally they are exclusives, or small endeavors, not meant to be the reason you bought the book but to promote it, and by gosh the story is still better than anything you have read before, with art to match.
DC has turned things around for a few of their titles with “rebirth”, but they are still praying on those sales boosts with variants for the majority of their line, with “Hey you might not like the book, but look at this other cover option, ain't she pretty?”
And now, we see the return of those wonder “Gimmick” covers on top of normal covers, like the publishers are saying, “hey, we remember the 90's too…” What a dark time that was, and yeah, we were all caught up in it, just as we are now.
Nothing good can come from this, comic shops closing their doors due to sitting on stacks of a comicbook that didn't sell enough to cover the cost while the incentive sits on the back wall collecting dust, or shuffled off to the back room because they can't afford to let it go for a moving price because they need to recoup their losses. Thankfully the internet helps some of these places reach their target audience and move more copies, but let's be realistic, there aren't as many of us as we would like to believe, and tons of books go unsold every month.
Case in point, after doing one of my little pet projects during the peak of the “Variant Wars” where I research exact numbers of variants out there, the rarest New 52 comicbook is the G.I. Combat #1 variant cover, a title no one ordered, and a ratio variant on top of that. They really wanted to push this one, and tacked a beautiful variant option out there, but when it came down to sales, orders that qualify for this book were at 180. That being said… No one cares, the book moves for under $20 USD in NM condition.
The ratio variants for the fan favorite titles, or cover artists of hot women go from $50 to $300 and more uncertified, and there are plenty of them (around 500 to 3k copies in circulation for the rest of the variants to hit the stands since 2011) Don't get me wrong, 500 is a low number. However, If the title doesn't drive interest, eventually even the most die-hard enthusiast will lose interest.
And yes, some of these variants in the 500 print run area are quite sought after, but then again, a large number of them aren't, and they don't move at all. 1 per store variants, talk about wide range of interest… there are thousands of stores, and several have multiple accounts, and thus several copies, as it is 1 per account, not physical store location. Party variants, some of the rarest of the launch party books. a couple go for a pretty penny, but most are lucky to see $10 bucks, if at all, and the retailers had to pay out the wazoo to host these events, or meet a predetermined order (you guessed it) ratio.
The publishers will not stop this unless we stop buying into it. Make them return to the important stuff, stop peddling plates of fecal matter topped with a pretty garnish on it. Don't stand by and allow the crash to happen again. I can see the iceberg on the horizon, Just because the band plays on doesn't mean the passengers must go down with the ship …