Issue #14: Old is the New New

Welcome back, CBSI!!! We are deep in the midst of con season and, before I head off to Atlanta Comic Con, this weekend, I thought I’d take a look at a few current hot commodities and a few cheapo covers that may be off your collective radars. This way, you’ll have something fun to hunt for in the convention longboxes.

I hope you enjoyed last week’s all-Sienkiewicz issue. Based on the comments, it looks like many of you did. Thank you, as always, for posting your thoughts and fostering healthy conversation. I really appreciate it.

Okay, let’s all put our big-boy-and-girl pants on and face some facts, together, folks. Say what you want if you’re a fanboy of the two big cats, but both Marvel and DC are relaunch crazy, variant crazy, and poor-quality crazy, right now.

Everyone seems to want to hang Marvel and exonerate DC for some reason (which completely baffles my mind), but DC is pretty culpable, as well (probably more so after last week’s Batman #50 debacle and the previous week’s Teen Titans Special switcheroo).

Relaunches. What the actual hell is going on? I know that companies want new readers and #1’s always sell well, but sheesh. Superman, Spiderman, Justice League, Iron Man, Catwoman, Captain America, Avengers, 10 freaking Batman titles (that is not an exaggeration) etc. etc.???

Do we really need this nonsense? Nope.

It is a clear money grab and it confuses old readers. However, relaunches, aside, it’s the variant “thing” that has really gotten way out of control from both companies. Call them whatever the heck you want to call them: incentives, “B” covers, Store Variants… whatever… it is insane.

Just the “regular” variants for Batman #50, Action #1000 Justice League #1 and Spiderman #800/#1, alone, are enough to choke the long boxes of your LCS (not to mention so many store exclusives, I can’t even count them). If I see Harley Quinn or Venom on another cover, I may quit altogether.

I will say this and try not to bring me out back to shoot me, but clearly after last week’s Batman #50 thing, DC could care less about the LCS (at the time of this writing, I am hearing rumors that while DC is reimbursing shops for events and marketing related to Batman #50, as long as those shops are in “good standing,” they are NOT planning to accept returns on extra copies!!! Yikes!!!).

Marvel, by giving incentive variants to stores who do exclusive variants are at least being thrown some kind of a bone for extra profits. Argue all you'd like that it creates false rarity, undercutting and drives down prices (points which are all true), but I’m sure I’m not the only one seeing SOOOO much of the fringes of the variant market falling off, already, anyway.

Thus, I'm not sure it matters in the long run. Don’t get me wrong, it’s all bad for the current overall climate of our hobby and I am a little more than worried. A lot of parties (not just DC and Marvel) and poor decisions have gotten us to this point. I’m sure even I’ve fed into it, too, at some points in my collecting, whether knowingly or not.

Okay, so what the heck is Mike getting at, here, you ask? It is simple and it is the original reason for this column in the first place. A simple mantra. Buy what you like. Buy what you’d be okay to keep if it ended up being worthless because, at the end of the day, we are heading down a dark path in the industry, right now.

It may correct itself (God I hope it does) or it may get worse. Who knows, but whatever happened to just enjoying the art and the stories? As such, I hold more strongly than ever to covers in this column. They are artistic gems and deserve more love than most of the fodder being shoveled at us, these days.

With that, let’s take a look, shall we?


Clone Conspiracy #5 (2016 Series)
PUBLISHED: Marvel Comics – April, 2017
ARTIST: Gabriele Dell’Otto


Normally, I wouldn’t feature such a modern book, but I cannot ignore how exquisite these Dell’Otto covers are on this little 5-issue run. Before every book had a Dell’Otto store variant (at least it certainly seems so, these days), there was this little set. With Spiderman #1 dropping and the madness (for better or for worse) of the Red Goblin arc, Spiderman is still Hot.

As such, even with huge print runs, people are still shelling out big bucks for Dell’Otto Spidey Variants that will never have any aftermarket value. Why? Most of them are sub-par to this one and this regular, non-variant, cover right here can be gotten for $3. If this one doesn’t do it for you, the other 4 issues are equally as fantabulous. One can’t go wrong with the entire set.

This has all of the tension, the masterful command of the media and detail that fans of Dell’Otto pine for. The color rendering has Spidey just popping off of the cover as does the use of negative space. There are no distractions from Spiderman, here.

The arms reaching up to him provide grounding to an already otherwise well-crafted composition. Even the faces in the deep background have definition and emotion. It even has the wispy web work that Dell’Otto has become known for. It is subtly strong and dramatic. This is Dell’Otto at his best.


Avengers Arena #14 (2013 Series)
PUBLISHED: Marvel Comics – October, 2013
ARTIST: Mike Deodato


I always thought this cover just had to be a variant. It isn’t. It is, obviously, an homage to Wolverine Mini-Series #1, but not an homage like we are normally used to. While it pays tribute to its predecessor, it does not just copy. It treads new ground and takes a different character and fits her into the mood and emotion of a classic.

It is literally like a great Cover Tune. An artist that respects the source material, but makes it his own. That can be very difficult to accomplish, but Deodato does it really well, here.

With a newly refreshed and de-wolverined X-23 hitting shelves this week, this is gem that seems to have gotten the aftermarket shaft. So many Laura Kinney covers do well on the Bay and this one, while it still demands a small premium, can still be gotten relatively cheaply.

While I could do without the whole 2012-2014 Marvel color strip on the bottoms of the covers, this beautiful baby overcomes that with vigor. I love the slightly unfinished look of the hair which gives it the feel of extreme light glare and provides a soft and subtle depth to the composition.

Additionally, the attitude of Laura’s face sums her up and speaks volumes; it has that “come at me, brah,” feel.

I often say that Deodato is underrated and this cover is a clear example of that. This is a classic and is, for the moment, still grabable for a ten dollar bill.  Do be warned, however, X-23 fans know this cover well and are always on the lookout for it, so it doesn’t last long when it hits a longbox.


Catwoman #80 (2002 3rd Series)
PUBLISHED: DC Comics – August, 2008
ARTIST: Adam Hughes


Okay, there’s a ton I could talk about, here. Batman #50 did not do a whole lot to make Catwoman a favorite, this week, but she did get the start of her new series. That coupled with Birds of Prey buzz should keep her on your radar.

As such, this whole beautiful Hughes run of Cat covers is hardly unknown and I honestly could feature almost any of them without anyone batting an eyelash. From #44 through #83, Hughes did the lot. Here’s the thing, though… why is it impossible to get #51, #70 and #74 for less than $50, raw, but one can still get this #80 (and a few other equally awesome ones) for $10 or less?

This cover has EVERYTHING those others have; same artist, same rough print runs, same quality and yet there is a huge price disconnect.

My gut tells me that with renewed interest in the character, folks will soon jump on a few new standout covers that have heretofore gone relatively unnoticed and a spike in a second wave of 4 or 5 of these is iminent. I’d be willing to bet that this one will be among them.

The perspective and layout are superb, Catwoman has all all of her “endowments” well displayed, the sexy/sneaky allure of the character is present, especially on her face, and the rendering is just as good or better than most others in the run. It is, yet again, a masterful cover in an already famous run.

I’d grab this and a few others soon as I don’t think prices will stay soft for too much longer.


Ghost Rider #13 (1990 2nd Series)
PUBLISHED: Marvel Comics – May, 1991
ARTIST: Mark Texeira (with Jimmy Palmiotti??)


Here is a super-bad-@$$ earlier Tex cover. Texeira has a few awesome Ghost Rider covers from later series, but this one is a huge departure for him and for the series. If you do a quick cover search on this run, this one will scream above the rest.

The others all look like bad 90’s covers while this one is masterful. Supposedly, Jimmy Palmiotti had something to do with it, as well, but I fail to see what that could actually be. Regardless, he’s given credit and allowed to sign the cover, so he did something.

Inking (assuming there was some) or maybe some final rendering? I don’t know. I’d be curious to see what CGC says on their label for this book, but at the time of writing this, I couldn’t find an example. That’s not a shocker since this is a dollar bin book.

Either way, it is one tough cover and a beautiful composition. The detailed rendering mixed with the extreme contrast give this one depth, feeling and grit. It is a mean painting of a dark character and it is done fantastically with excellent spatial layout and a well-chosen palette. It just has great action and feeling. In a sea of poor 90’s covers, this one is a standout.

It is hard to deny that Cosmic Ghost Rider mayhem is real. My LCS’s all sold out of #1 and Thanos #13 is still selling extremely well. Whether you like the character or not and think maybe Marvel threw stuff at the wall to see what would stick, this one is sticking with some people.

Maybe he was supposed to be Deadpool, originally. Maybe he was always supposed to Frank Castle, but the character isn’t going away just yet. As such, good GR-related covers are showing up less and less in the bins as people go back to re-explore the various renditions of this character, over the years.

This one is a nice and cheap entry point that really pops.


Hulk #5 (2014 2nd Series)
PUBLISHED: Marvel Comics – October, 2014
ARTIST: Alex Ross


Seriously, when are we gonna give Alex Ross some aftermarket lovin’? The new Immortal Hulk series has been killing it. I usually hate Hulk comics, but this story is a new approach to the character and the art both internally and on the covers (Also by Ross) has crushed.

Hulk comics through the 60’s and 70’s sport some pretty awful covers and many of the more modern series have been lackluster, as well. This one, though, screams out the contemplative nature of the character; the pain, the confusion and, most importantly, the unbridled strength.

Ross captures emotion and the raw nature of Hulk on this cover as he continues to do in the new series. This is just a solid piece from a brilliant artists and can be gotten for a song.

Well, that will about do it for this week. Next week, I will be featuring another specific artist’s body of work much like last week’s issue. Until then, I hope you’ll sound off in the comments section. Please, wish me luck this weekend in the land of traffic: Atlanta. And, with that, thanks for reading and happy hunting, everyone.


Mike Morello



  • Avatar

    So true, there a few other Adam Hughes covers from that Catwoman run that are equally as good as those three. Although I have noticed prices on those going up bit by bit as well, with graded copies appearing more regularly. But, yes, still less than $10 for a decent copy

  • Avatar

    I have a few of the Dell’Otto run for the Clones. I actually like #2 more, but agree that these are way undervalued.

  • Avatar

    Pretty sure I have all these save for the Avengers Arena which I have to look out for now, thanks for the heads up on it.

    As for that ghost rider #13 I could be wrong but I think Palmiotti did do the inking and painting for it if I recall correctly.

    • Avatar

      Forgot to mention another one of the few nice covers from the Ghost Rider run is number 18. It’s an airbrushed portrait cover by Nelson Decastro that is is pretty cool. His airbrushed/painted covers from back in the day are underrated in my opinion.

  • Avatar

    That Catwoman is one of my faves in the Hughes run. The angle is awesome, the look on her face is so Selina and the diamond swinging around her neck is just right. 10/10 for me…

  • Skot Whitman

    Ghost Rider #13 is an interesting one. I don’t believe Tex painted that cover, so it must be Jimmy Palmiotti. When you look at Tex’s painted covers they have a raw feel to them, spatter and reflect the way his inked pages look. Sabertooth #1 is a great example of Tex’s painted work even though it was several years after his ghost rider run. Over the years Tex’s artwork smoothed out and it lost the raw edge his inked and painted work had. It’s funny, the first few Dell’otto covers I ever bought were because I thought they were Tex getting back to what I loved about his work.

  • fastballspecial

    This is my type of collector/speculator. The article is doused in reality. Its refreshing to have someone not sugar coat our industry and tell it like it is. I wish more writers did this. I enjoyed Tex’s run on GR as well.

  • Lebednik

    great article. thx!

  • Martin Fairlie

    I would love to know why the market has fallen out of love with Alex Ross.

    He rarely has a poor cover and has been so consistently good over the years. No accusations of copying other artists or using Photoshop to create those ever so slightly different multiple variants.

    Perhaps we have become spoiled and complacent, just expecting him to do the typical Alex Ross cover each time.

  • Dell18

    A little late to the party but I just wanted to say I agree completely with your opening little diatribe. I was gonna post my additional thoughts on the matter and different aspects but as I thought about it, it would was growing longer than your entire article. I will just say we have seen this type of market before in comics and other collectibles and publishers and consumers and collectors are repeating the same mistakes.

  • Mike Morello

    Dell, thanks for the comment and I obviously agree 100%. I’d love to hear your full thoughts, eventually. Please, hit me up if you’d like.

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