The Usual Suspects #31

 

Welcome back for another edition of The Usual Suspects. Love them or hate them, variants are a big part of our hobby these days. Typically, I like to write about variants once a month. So for this month I have finally gotten around to doing J Scott Campbell Covers.

I’ve been wanting to do JSC ever since a couple of his covers were on my Top 100 Variant Look Back article. And that was waaay back in August. Time flies when you’re having fun, and it’s tough to cover all the books I want to talk about.

 

 

JSC has done a lot of variants. Especially at his online store which appears to keep him quite busy. Some might argue he does too many. I mean do we really need 8 different versions of some random issue of Spider-Man?

 

 

Don’t get me wrong, those are gorgeous covers. I’d love to grab them all if I could. The man definitely knows his business. But I can’t be dropping that kind of loot on store variants each month. More power to those who can afford to roll like that, but unfortunately, that isn’t me.

 

 

So to narrow down the focus, I threw out Store variants right off that bat. Like I said, just way too many options and buy-ins are just too high to get all the nice ones. JSC alone recently pumped out those 8 covers for ASM #14 and he’s got 5 covers for Captain Marvel #1 also coming from his store. He does the occasional Midtown variant and every now and then throws Marvel a random B cover. With that kind of output, he could probably swing doing the interiors on a monthly book if he wanted.

 

 

Yeah, he’s got a good thing going with the covers only. Besides Cover Art/Pin-Up Art is a completely different talent from sequential storytelling. Some artists can do both, but most just excel in one or the other. I feel JSC has found his sweet spot and will probably just keep pumping out the covers. And who can blame him? Just stunning.

 

 

He’s constantly adding new exclusives covers that he sells directly from his store. Multiple versions, sometimes with slight variations, sometimes connecting, and sometimes unique takes on multiple characters. Whatever strikes his fancy I suppose? But even outside of his store exclusives, JSC is constantly pumping out the covers. Over the last few months he’s given us a decent selection of non-incentive variant covers for Marvel.

 

 

And while he’s still giving us the cheesecake images we’ve come to expect out of him, JSC has been mixing it up as of late. He’s not only putting out the sexy lady covers; but giving us more group shots and some variety. Check out the Juggernaut above. Now with this level of output, some covers will obviously outshine others. And despite what Mike Singletary wants, they all can’t be winners.

 

 

That said, I still needed to narrow the focus even further. No Store Variants, Check. But to really hone in on a subject, I decided to cut out the regular covers for now and look at only his Incentive covers. And to concentrate the spotlight even more, only Spider-Man Incentive covers. That is still a big pool to choose from, even with so many left on the bench. But it’s a brand new year and we can get back to JSC again eventually.

 

 

So with that said…let’s get into it.

 

 

Amazing Spider-Man #688

(Aug 2012)

1:50 Incentive Variant

 

I know you were probably expecting a sexy Black Cat or MJ here to start us off, but this Lizard cover is just too good. I’ve never had the pleasure of even seeing one in person. It’s not easy to find and doesn’t stay on the market for long.  That said, it is attainable if you are willing to pony up the cash.

 

 

This is not a cheap book and it’s not been cheap for years. Sure you could have scored a 9.8 for $275 back in 2014, but we are a long way removed from that. These days, a gorgeous hard-to-find high ratio incentive like this and the rest of the list will cost you some dough. So if you are in the market for one of these books, you better come loaded for bear.

 

 

So back in 2012, sales were down a bit from what we see these days but they weren’t low by any stretch of the imagination. Last month ASM #12 sold about 75,000 copies, while issue #688 back in 2012 sold just under 60,000. So rough math would estimate that there are still nearly 1,200 copies of this Lizard variant out there. But I highly doubt that estimate is accurate.

I mean logic would dictate that if folks had this book and they saw the sales figures, there would be more than 116 copies in the CGC census. I realize some could be graded at the other grading companies. And Spidey has many diehard collectors who could care less about slabs. But even so, that figure seems high compared to what the market movement has shown.

 

 

So am I suggesting that we can’t trust comichron numbers? Not exactly, but what I am saying is that those numbers are only a ballpark estimate based on this that and the other while not including blah blah, such and such. And to try and calculate out the number of ratio variants based on that estimate would be another guess. So we are talking about guesses based on estimates and conjecture. Not exactly scientific.

 

 

So I’m just saying use your own judgement and don’t take sales estimates you find on the internet as fact. Truth of the matter is we will never know the exact number, so just base your decisions on as much information you can gather and again, use your own judgement.

Now I don’t know how many copies there are of this book. I just now that I have been collecting comics for a while now and I’ve been to a lot of shops and some shows, and I have never seen a copy of this in person. I realize I haven’t always been actively looking for it, but that simple fact remains. I’ve not seen one and if I wanted one there aren’t a lot of options on the market. Not that I have that kind of disposable cash on hand even if I did. I mean, I could always sell a prized PC book to raise that extra cash.

 

 

Active Listings:  Once again, these variants are not easy to come by. They don’t pop up for sale every often and when they do they usually sell pretty quickly. Case in point our first JSC variant only has 2 listings available right now.

Funny enough, both are CGC 9.6 copies up for $750 each. One is a Blue Label, while the other is a CGC SS signed by JSC. Campbell’s is probably one of the easiest signatures to obtain and I think that is reflected here in the lack of price differential.

 

Market Analysis:  So for the last few years this has been about a $1,000 CGC 9.8 and it doesn’t appear to have changed much. And raw copies don’t come up either. I’m telling you there are not a lot of copies of this out there. I don’t care what Comichron numbers say, this is basically a ghost.

 

Amazing Spider-Man Presents: Black Cat #1

(Aug 2010)

1:25 Incentive Variant

 

There she is. You knew Black Cat was going to make an appearance on this list. It was inevitable. I think Felicia Hardy may be JSC’s favorite subject. Well it could be close with Mary Jane. But he puts Black Cat on covers of books I don’t even know if she is in. Regardless of the reason, he does it well.

 

 

And I realize he has a few more really nice ones. ASM #606 – 607 come to mind, but I’m keeping those in my back pocket for a future installment. Another sneaky Black Cat cover of his is Amazing Spider-Man #4, the 1st appearance of Silk. Most folks know the regular and the Ramos variant. But JSC also gave us 3 versions of this store variant with BC on the cover.

 

 

But that’s enough other Black Cat covers. We are looking at the first issue of the mini-series, Amazing Spider-Man Presents: Black Cat #1. This mini tied into the Grim Hunt storyline that took place over in ASM #634637. That storyline was sort of a follow up to the classic Kraven’s Last Hunt where the remaining Kravinoff ladies seek their revenge against good ol’ Spidey.

 

 

Now this issue is only a 1:25 Incentive variant which makes it the easiest to qualify Incentive on my list. That said, if we look at an estimated print run of just under 25k copies, logic would dictate there are just under 1,000 copies of this book out there. Again I call Shenanigans, as I just don’t think that are that many copies out there.

 

 

But seriously, I really don’t think there are many copies of this book out in circulation. That’s may be a recurring theme running through this one. Sure, folks may have squirreled away their copies, but after nearly a decade I would expect to see more graded copies make their way out of collections than what is shown in the census. I just know that there are not that many copies.

 

 

Active Listings:  Once again these particular variants are not easy to find, unless you want a Mexican or German version of course. Seriously if you just want the cover, you could save yourself a lot of cash with one of the foreign copies. But as far as the regular old US version goes, there are only 7 options to choose from right now. And they aren’t cheap.

Top listing is a CGC SS 9.6 signed by Stan Lee up for $2k. Now, I may be splitting hairs here as Stan did create Spidey, but this really isn’t a Spidey book. This is a Black Cat book, and Stan, for he did for this industry did not create Black Cat. That honor goes to Marv Wolfman and Dave Cockrum. So personally I see Stan’s sig as a negative on this book and I’d personally pass. But that’s just me. I’ve harped on enough about signature, so let’s change the subject.

 

 

Anyway, the next 2 highest listings are a pair of CGC SS 9.8’s signed by JSC up for $1,800 and another just over $1,600. Now considering these are hundreds cheaper, despite being higher grades, is this pricing a commentary on the value of Stan’s Sig or the lack of value in JSC’s?

 

 

Next we have a $1500 CBCS 9.8 that’s got a dozen watchers. I find that curious that this book has so much attention, while there is also a CGC 9.8 Blue label that’s listed for $1,230 that seems to have no attention from watchers.

And finally there is a CGC 9.4 up for $725. No raws for this book unless you want it in another language.

 

Market Analysis:  CGC 9.8 prices have see-sawed a bit over the years, and right now seems to be on the upswing. Cheapest sale in 2018 was for $900 back in April and none have been under a grand since. In fact the last sale was just last week for $1,400 for a CGC 9.8.

CGC 9.6’s are also commanding a high premium as the cost doubled from $300 in 2017 to $600 in 2018. Even a CGC 9.2 sold for $600 back in November. November also had a pair of raws sell for $400 and $500. While the cheapest raw sale was for $340 back in October.

 

 

Amazing Spider-Man #648

(Jan 2011)

1:100 Incentive (color) Variant & MMRC Sketch Variant

 

Up next is a two-fer of difficult to find books. It’s technically the same issue, but separate variants. The color is a 1:100 Incentive variant, while the B&W is a Marvel Retailer Resource Center variant.

Now a regular print run of 77k would most likely mean there are only 770 copies of the color available. And the MMRC is anyone’s guess with regards to its print run. Quite honestly I’m not even sure how one could’ve obtained the MMRC version as my research yielded…

 

 

But there seems to be many more copies of the B&W sketch version on the market as opposed to the color. Now does this mean there are more of the MMRC than the 1:100 color copies? Perhaps. Or maybe folks just don’t care for the B&W and are happy to move them for some loot in their pockets.

Personally I like the color version. It’s just prettier. But I am biased. It takes a lot for me to prefer a B&W or sketch version over a fully completed color version. Just my personal preference in general. But what does this all mean for the rarity of both books?

 

 

Yeah, I put My Little Pony in my article, what of it? No, I am not a Brony. My 6 year old likes this nonsense for whatever reason. Sometimes the boy plays with his Superheroes and Hot Wheels, and sometimes he likes Barbie’s. I’m not gonna tell him what to play with. He’s a kid and can play with whatever he wants. You got a problem with Rainbow Rocks, we can take this outside.

 

 

OK, maybe we got a bit off topic. Let’s get back to ASM 648. I gotta think the color is the rarer book. It’s not just that there are less sold or for sale. But even the census shows more than twice as many of the sketch copies. Both are super low, but the MMRC seems to be a bit more plentiful. Again I have no evidence to back this up. And common sense would lean towards the sketch being harder to find. But…

 

 

But regardless of which is more plentiful, both are not easy books to find and cost a pretty penny. This book also could have some spec value down the line. This is probably the best Spider-Girl Variant out there. And if she finds her way into a future animated Spider-Women flick as has been previously reported, these covers could see some renewed interest.

 

Active Listings:  So at a quick glance it appears the Color 1:100 is easily the more desirable copy even if the MMRC sketch may have initially been harder to obtain for the casual buyer. Top listing in the color right now is a CGC 9.8 up for the arbitrary amount of $2,222.12. I mean, where did that number come from? What’s with all the 2’s? And why not go the full nine and list it at $2,222.22?

 

 

The top MMRC Sketch version is a CGC SS 9.8 signed by JSC for $1300. As far as Raws there is an uncertified copy signed by Stan Lee for $2k. Again, I don’t like signed books to begin with, but no way would I pay that kind of premium without 100% certainty of its legitimacy. Not to say there’s anything wrong with this listing. It is from a top seller with impeccable feedback, but I still personally couldn’t part with $2k for a book like that. But that could be in large part, due to my indifference to signatures. I’m biased. I admit it. Sometimes I can be irrationally harsh.

 

 

But outside of that copy, there is a raw pair of both editions up for $1,050. Neither is an easy book to find, but I think the best example that demonstrates the bigger demand for the color is that a CGC 6.0 of the color is listed for $522 while a CGC 9.8 for the B&W Sketch is only $500.

 

Market Analysis:  So once again the color 1:100 sells for a lot more than the MMRC Sketch. Last 2 CGC 9.8 sales were for $1,335 on 2018 and $1,250 back in 2016. Times haven’t changed much.

Meanwhile the MMRC 9.8’s were selling for $200-$300 at the end of 2018, but the most recent sale in 2019 was for $455. A sign of things to come, or just a price correction from the discounts in 2018?

Again, personally I like the color more regardless of which is actually rarer, but is the color really 3-4 times more desirable? Should there be a near $1k difference between them? Maybe not, so I can see more $500 sales in the MMRC’s future as I feel the MMRC should settle in at a solid ½ or 1/3 the color price.

 

 

Superior Spider-Man #20

(Dec 2013)

1:50 Incentive Variant

 

Yeah I came back with another Black Cat cover. I know, it's overkill to have half the books in this article be basically the same cover. I should expand the selection, yada yada yada. But take some time and compare the two covers. Are they really the same?

 

 

But this is just a striking cover and I think I slightly prefer it to the other one on the list. Something in the eyes, like she’s looking right through you. And while this is a higher ratio for shops to qualify at 1:50, this issue came out when Spidey was going strong.

I guess technically this is Otto Octavius and not Peter Parker, but this storyline brought back a lot of readers to Spider-man. It was a risky move basically swapping your hero out for a villain, but it really shook things up and gave us some interesting stories. So the stated print run on this was slightly over 85k, so that would yield over 1,700 copies of this variant using basic math.

But again, I don’t believe there are that many. Plenty more than the last couple books based on the census and sales activity, but I don’t think we can simply take what we think of as the entire print run and divide it by the ratio and get our answer. Sure it can be a ballpark guesstimate, but not very reliable. In any event, it is what it is. Great book and an excellent cover. Again, I really should have mixed it up and covered Issue #22, which is also a nice JSC cover.

 

 

Maybe I should’ve done that one instead. But I already did the research on #20, gathered the sales data, and it’s just a gorgeous cover. I’ll bring back #22 another time. Plenty of JSC covers worth looking into. But nothing I can do about it now.

 

 

Active Listings:  Even though there have been a decent amount of sales on this one, there are not a lot of options available. Top listing is a CGC 9.8 Blue label from the UK looking for about $1300. Following that are a pair a JSC CGC SS 9.6’s for $520 and $825.

Cheapest copy available is a CGC 9.4 looking for $350. That’s it. Only 4 options.

 

 

Market Analysis:  So a lot more sales than what’s available is a good indication of the heat still on this book. The top sale recently was a CGC SS 9.8 signed by Stan Lee for $915. Far be it from me to criticize how one spends their money. However, suffice it to say, I’d be more in line with the recent $630 CGC 9.8 Blue label instead.

CGC 9.8’s have been in that $500-600 range through the end of 2018, however this is a steep drop from the $1k it was pulling at the end of 20117 thru summer 2018. Not sure of what caused the drop in prices, but considering there were 7 sales since Nov 26, while only 3 sales prior to that in all of 2018. It could have just been a matter of a flooded market and under cutters dragging each other down.

But outside of that recent flood, this appears to be a book that folks still want in their collections. Sure you could do the Comichron estimate to guess at print run, but from a practical standpoint this is a high ratio 1:50 variant for a late run issue in a side Spidey Title. Granted I realize at the time that the Superior Spider-man was THE Spidey title during that stretch in 2013, but still something about the title not saying Amazing on it, it will always be looked at as second rate in comparison.

 

 

Ok that’s it for this week, now it’s time for Last Call.

 

 

 

Amazing Spider-Man #1 Vol. 4
(Dec 2015)

1:50 Incentive Variant

This is a cheap alternative if you are looking for a sweet JSC Incentive Spidey Cover.

They printed tons of this book so this is easy to find even though it’s a 1:50. Not a lot of sales, but plenty available for purchase.

A CGC 9.8 available for $85? Raw for $25? Definitely a cheaper option than what I had above. Sure it isn’t anywhere near as rare as those other books; but it’s still a pretty sweet cover.

 

Typical Sales Data courtesy of Covrprice.com:

CGC 9.8 – $89.95 on 10/1/18

Raw signed- $50.00 on 1/9/19

Plenty available for sale.

 

 And with that, I’m Out.

 

 

18 comments

  • Avatar

    J Scott Campbell’s art is really nice and he’s one of the most popular artists today, and an in-demand cover illustrator. The problem with variants of random comic book titles where the interior is mediocre at times, is it becomes the sizzle to a bad steak and it’s initially alluring, but loses it’s luster. I think Campbell should maybe not do so many variations of variants (such as B&W, Virgin No Logos, Sketch, etc.) and also limit the number per title (spread ’em out over the course of different issues of a title, so instead of Captain Marvel #1 having 8 covers, have 8 issues, #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7, and #8 featuring a different JSC cover. I think that in-iteself, would maybe benefit Marvel as well, getting readers attached to the comic, reading the 1st 8 issues (‘tho there’s also the truth of the matter that most of these books are purchased and slabbed immediately and never read). I know for JSC that would cause a fulfillment issue, having to sell 8 issues that are released over the course of 8 months, so as a business decision that’s probably a bad idea for him, personally. From an observational standpoint, as a fan, he’s been doing a lot more innovative covers, especially with Captain Marvel that goes beyond a static pin-up pose. I think Campbell’s next move is to crash number all of the releases as he did that AP for The Return of Wolverine, with each issue being individually numbered, verifying the print run population with another level of accountability.

    • Peter Renna

      That’s an interesting theory about spreading the wealth on the covers. I’ve thought of that when Marvel does 10 different artist variants, when they could just spread them out over multiple issues. But it’ll never happen. They are making too much money as it is. I personally don’t buy in on the store variants like this, but those that do usually buy them all. They keep selling out, they will keep pumping them out.

  • Avatar

    That Lizard cover has been my white whale, i’ve been searching for one in the wild since it came out and still haven’t found one. I’d like to see JSC back on interiors, the Gen13 run was pretty great and the guy can definitely draw his ass off.

    • Peter Renna

      Yeah that Lizard is impossible to find in the wild. Think a show is prob the best shot of one coming into my area. but you never know. Constant Vigilance.

  • Matthew King

    Dang MAN ! I have no idea how long it takes for you to write this with all the DATA, GIF’z and Word play. ( You thrown down HARD man. ) This is becoming one of my Favorites to read ! Thanks for all that you do.

    • Peter Renna

      Thanks I appreciate the kind words. The writing doesn’t take as long as you’d think. I don’t filter it much. Just whatever pops up in the ol’ noggin usually finds it’s way into the article.

  • Avatar

    Wow, I have never seen that Lizard cover. It’s amazing and of course, now I want it. Problem is I don’t have a pony or the cash for it … 🙁

    • Peter Renna

      You and me both. Just gotta keep an eye out for a deal. You never know. I’ve found some books I never expected to find in the most unlikeliest of places (like a LOSH Hughes Supergirl for $1 at an LCS). Just need to keep your mental rolodex sharp so you recognize a gem when you are digging through boxes.

  • Avatar

    the pilot cover of captain marvel 1 is really nice, i could see it heating up when bree starts doing signings

    • Peter Renna

      Yeah the Captain Marvel hype train is about to kick in any day now. Got my tix preordered and my son asks every day when are we going to see Captain Marvel. The concept of time is too abstract for his delicate little mind I suppose. If it’s not now, then it’s too long.

  • Obnoxio

    Dude, whats with all the GIFs? Love the info but good God, man. LOL

    • Peter Renna

      I realize I can get carried away with the references, but it’s how my brain works. A simple word or turn of phrase just sparks a connection in my head to a movie or TV show and i feel the need to share and elaborate on it. Even while writing this short reply, I have had 3 things I could’ve inserted if the comments section allowed attachments.

  • Avatar

    I’ve found with the JSC exclusive covers they aren’t a terrible deal. I can buy a bundle keep the one I like and usually make my money back selling the others. The problem is that is process which takes time and he puts out so many that unless you’re Rich Uncle Pennybags you can’t support the constant rotation of covers he does.

    • Peter Renna

      Very true. I tried that for a while and then I regretted the ones I sold, or missed the window to move my extra copies, so it’s a game I just stopped playing. I realized I couldn’t do it all, so I have refocused my collecting on obtaining books i have wanted for a while now, rather than playing the new hot variant game. Sure I’ve missed out on plenty, but I think it will all even out as if i have to pay a premium down the line for a book I really want, it’s ok because i didn’t waste tons of cash buying books I didn’t really care about just because i didn’t want to miss out.

  • Avatar

    Maybe someone else has pointed this out already, but just in case: Basic Math doesn’t apply, I think. It isn’t the same as in Collectible Card Games or Mystery Boxes, where there is (supposed to be) a guaranteed ratio of distribution. In such cases, 1:4 means 1 of every 4 boxes contains this specific figure, 1:16 means 1 of every 16 boxes contains that specific figure, guaranteed! If you buy 4 boxes as a customer, you could be unlucky, and get the same 1:4 figure twice. You could also get lucky and score the 1:16 figure. In the larger scheme of things the ratio’s do apply.
    In comics 1:50 does NOT mean one of every 50 comics is a rare Lizard variant. It means that IF a store orders 50 copies of that particular issue, they can also order ONE copy of the 1:50 variant. That’s completely different. In order to calculate the amount of 1:50 variants ‘out there’, you’d have to deduct all the copies ordered by accounts that did not order 50 copies from the total amount, before dividing it by 50. And trust me, 50 copies of any comic is a lot!

    This particular issue is from 2012. Supposedly, the amount of Diamond accounts around that time was a bit over 2.600. If you divide a bit under 60.000 with a bit over 2.600 you’d wind up in the vicinity of 23 copies ordered per store! Basic Math seems to imply that less than half of the accounts would have been able to order 50 copies. But for this half to be mathematicelly able to order them, the other accounts would have to order no copies at all, which I don’t believe, since it’s Amazing Spider-Man. If one was to assume that only 20% of the orders were legible to ‘create’ a 1:50 variant, that would reduce the amount of copies of the Lizard Variant ‘out there’ to roughly 240.
    The way the Direct Market works, Marvel goes to press after they’ve received their orders from Diamond, so they know how many copies to print, and modern printing makes it possible to hit the amount they need quite specificly. Except to account for damages and shipment problems, overprinting isn’t common policy anymore.

    Now I know that Variants with order ratio’s sometimes get dumped months or years after the original publishing date (Lenticulars, anyone?) Quite how this happens I do not know, but this usually doesn’t happen with the ‘hot books’, but only with Cosplay- Variant and other hopelessly awfull stuff. Maybe they do sometimes overprint, but I couldn’t tell you the reasoning behind it…

    https://www.cgccomics.com/boards/topic/402666-110-125-150-1100-are-distribution-numbers-not-print-run-numbers/

  • Avatar

    Forgot to add: no criticism of CBSI intended! I love the site, and appreciate the work put in by everyone involved!

    • Peter Renna

      Thanks for the detailed response. It’s good info to share. Like I said, I know a lot of folks use the “Basic Math” method to guesstimate print runs on variants. I wasn’t aware of the actual process, I just knew “basic math” would not apply and it was undoubtedly less. The way I look at it, regardless of how many are printed, I want one and don’t have one, and there aren’t many available for me to choose from, i.e. I’m out of luck unless I convince my wife I can spend my year end bonus $ on a few of these big boy books. Spoiler alert…I won’t be successful in that endeavor.

  • Avatar

    I have a lizard variant and a 678 MJ venom variant both off to cgc right now. The lizard is a 9.4/9.6, the MJ a 9.6/9.8. I’ll be selling both… just sayin!..lol

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