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What Are Variant Comics Book Covers? Best Variant Comics Uncovered

The origins of modern variant cover trace back to the 1980s when comic publishers started experimenting with different cover designs to boost sales and engage the community.

Variant covers have become a staple in the comic book industry, capturing the interest of both avid collectors and casual readers. These covers feature artwork or special finishes different from the standard edition and are often sought after for their uniqueness and limited availability.

The appeal of variant covers lies in their unique artwork and the thrill of owning something different and rarer than the standard editions. Whether seen as a clever marketing strategy or a genuine contribution to comic book art, variant covers have undeniably carved out an important niche in the industry.

Origins of Variant Covers

Variant covers began in the 1980s and gained popularity through significant milestones in the comic book industry. The concept tapped into the collector culture and made certain issues highly sought after.

The First Variant Comic Book Covers

The first comic book to feature a variant cover was The Man of Steel by John Byrne, which was published in 1986. This issue had two different covers, which sparked interest among collectors.

Image credit: DC Comics

The 1990s saw a “speculator boom,” with more publishers creating variant covers to boost sales. Collectors began to view these covers as investments, driving demand for unique and rare editions.

Publishers often released multiple variant covers for the same issue. This strategy targeted collectors who wanted to own every version. The tactic proved successful, leading to various covers for each release.

Influence of Milestone Issues

Certain landmark issues played a crucial role in cementing the popularity of variant covers. A notable example is Marvel Comics’ X-Men #1 from 1991, which featured five different covers and set a world record for the best-selling comic ever.

Image credit: Marvel Comics, put together by Nerdist

Milestone events such as anniversaries, debuts of new characters, or important story arcs often have variant covers. These special covers make the issues more attractive to collectors.

Artists like Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, renowned for their iconic art, have contributed to variant covers, further enhancing their appeal. Celebrating these artists’ work has become a popular trend in the industry.

The Best Variant Comic Covers

Secret Invasion (2008) #1 – Variant by Steve McNiven

Image credit: Marvel Comics (original left, variant right)

Steve McNiven’s variant cover for “Secret Invasion” #1 is a masterpiece of comic art. This cover, featuring the menacing Skrulls and a tense atmosphere, sets the stage for the epic storyline. The scarcity of this variant increases its value among collectors.

Additionally, “Secret Invasion” is a significant event in Marvel Comics, adding to the allure of owning this variant. Steve McNiven is renowned for his detailed and dynamic artwork, making this cover highly desirable. McNiven’s ability to capture intricate details and the ominous mood of the Skrulls’ invasion makes this cover stand out. The composition draws you into the narrative, making it a piece worth displaying.

Thor #1 (2014) – Variant by Fiona Staples

Thor variant comic book covers
Image credit: Marvel Comics (original left, variant right)

Fiona Staples’ variant cover for “Thor” #1 introduces a new era with Jane Foster wielding Mjolnir. Staples’ fresh take on the character breathes new life into the Thor mythos. This issue marks Jane Foster’s first appearance as Thor, making it historically significant.

Fiona Staples is celebrated for her work on “Saga,” bringing her unique style to this variant. As a variant cover, its limited availability boosts its collectible value. Staples’ vibrant colors and dynamic composition bring Thor energy and a modern touch. Jane Foster’s powerful imagery as Thor is both inspiring and visually arresting.

Batman #1 (2011) – Variant by David Finch

Image credit: DC Comics (original left, variant right)

David Finch’s variant cover for Batman #1 captures the Dark Knight in a brooding and intense moment, reflecting the series’ dark themes. This issue is part of DC’s New 52 reboot, making it a landmark in the Batman series.

David Finch’s dark, detailed style perfectly suits Batman, making this cover a fan favorite. Its role in a major reboot and Finch’s reputation make this variant highly sought after. Finch uses shadows and fine details to create a moody, gothic atmosphere that is quintessentially Batman. The cover is a visual treat for any fan of the Caped Crusader.

Amazing Spider-Man #667 – Variant by Gabriele Dell’Otto

Image credit: Marvel Comics (original left, variant right)

Gabriele Dell’Otto’s variant for “Amazing Spider-Man” #667 is one of the rarest and most valuable Spider-Man covers ever produced. This variant is known for its limited print run, making it exceptionally rare.

Its scarcity and Dell’Otto’s artistry drive high demand among collectors. Dell’Otto is known for his realistic and detailed art, adding to the cover’s allure. Dell’Otto’s realistic style brings Spider-Man comics to life with incredible detail and dynamic action. The cover’s dramatic lighting and meticulous textures make it a standout piece.

Superman/Batman #7 – Variant by Gabriele Dell’otto

Image credit: Marvel Comics (original left, variant right)

Another gem by Gabriele Dell’Otto, the variant cover for “Superman/Batman” #7, showcases the iconic duo Batman and Joker. Dell’Otto’s interpretation is both iconic and unique.

As a variant cover, its limited print run makes it a valuable collector’s item. Dell’Otto’s reputation for high-quality, detailed art enhances its desirability. The virgin cover was released in France and became sort after from comic book collectors all over the world.

What are variant covers on comics?

Variant covers are alternate versions of a comic book’s original cover, created by different artists or featuring unique artwork. These covers are typically released in limited quantities alongside the standard edition of a comic. Variant covers can showcase different artistic styles, themes, or even completely different depictions of characters and scenes.

What determines the value of a variant comic book cover?

Factors like rarity, artist popularity, and condition influence the value of a variant comic book cover. Limited edition variants tend to be more valuable. For example, covers with unique artwork by famous artists can fetch higher prices.

Why do collectors seek variant covers from publishers like Marvel or DC?

Collectors seek variant covers from well-known publishers like Marvel or DC because these companies often collaborate with renowned artists. These variant covers often feature exclusive artwork or limited runs, making them attractive to collectors.

What is a variant ratio in comic collecting?

The variant ratio indicates how rare a particular variant is. For instance, a 1:100 ratio means that only one variant cover exists for every 100 regular covers printed. This rarity makes such covers more desirable among collectors.

How do you identify a variant edition of a comic book?

A variant edition can often be identified by a unique cover design, barcode differences, or a specific designation noting it as a variant. Additionally, publishers typically provide details about the variant edition on their websites or promotional materials.

Why do publishers release variant covers?

Publishers release variant covers to boost sales, highlight special events, or celebrate anniversaries. These covers can attract both casual readers and dedicated collectors, giving the same story a new visual appeal.

Ryan is Upbeat Geek’s editor and connoisseur of TV, movies, hip-hop, and comic books, crafting content that spans reviews, analyses, and engaging reads in these domains. With a background in digital marketing and UX design, Ryan’s passions extend to exploring new locales, enjoying music, and catching the latest films at the cinema. He’s dedicated to delivering insights and entertainment across the realms he writes about: TV, movies, and comic books.

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