The Webster Dictionary defines “variant” as
one that exhibits variation from a type or norm
And, it states that “variation” means
something that is similar to something else but different in some way
As a comic book collector, variants aren’t just an expensive single issue. It’s a way to follow your favorite artist. From personal experience, anything J. Scott Campbell draws, I’m going to try to purchase it. I’ve followed him from his days drawing Danger Girl to penciling covers of various Marvel issues including The Superior Spider-Man and The Amazing Spider-Man double-spread and some one shots like John Carter of Mars and Thor.
He is one of the reasons why I got into reading comics books so as a loyal fan of his artistic style, I pick up anything he does. I know I won’t collect everything that he puts out. It’s often times difficult to convince myself to throw more money at a variant cover that he draws on a book that I don’t really read or follow, but whenever they slap an exclusive sticker on it, my purchasing finger gets itchy.
Exclusive is a way for most retailers to say that you can’t get this item anywhere else but at a specific vendor or event, such as a comic book convention. San Diego Comic Con, or SDCC, does this a lot to convince visitors that they won’t find these items anywhere else. The truth of this statement is debatable because many of the exclusive items make their way onto eBay before the event is over. But it does generate the hype surrounding the item.
Variant covers are the same way. Several popular artists like Adam Hughes and Scottie Young create variant covers for number one issues, meaning when a new book is being released, their art is showcased to help promote the new book. And it’s a great way to market that new book if you follow that specific artist. Typically, it’s a big deal when a popular artist is drawing a variant cover, whether it’s a new book or an exciting story arc that introduces something new.
Whether or not you decide to purchase a variant cover, it’s another fun way to fill your short boxes. Though variant covers come with the heavier price tag than the regular cover, often times collectors justify the purchase due to the aesthetic nature of the item. I once stood in J. Scott Campbell’s convention line at SDCC for almost 30 minutes waiting on a visitor who brought every single issue of Danger Girl, a slew of variant covers, and the Danger Girl figures for J. Scott Campbell to individually sign. I’m sure he didn’t bring every piece of J. Scott Campbell’s artwork that he owned (possibly because he had already gotten them signed), but you get the picture. There are collectors out there who eat up these variant covers to add to their growing collections.
For me, since I began reading and collecting comics because of the artwork, I’m a variant hunter in my own right. At this point, it’s all about the art since I’ll typically purchase the regular cover as well and the variant won’t ever be flipped through for reading purposes. So the transaction, in my mind, is purely aesthetics and immediately is bagged and boarded to preserve the masterpiece that it is. Think of it like how Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa is preserved behind shatterproof glass and hung to be observed from afar and not to be handled on a daily basis. We variant hunters act like that on some findings!
So next time you’re at your local comic shop, check out the variant cover shelf and see if you recognize any artists. These covers make a great gift for the comic book nerd in your life and they’ll definitely appreciate the gesture because we know that some covers aren’t that cheap. Or who knows, pick one up for yourself add it to your collection! Before you know it, you’ll be a variant hunter like me in no time!
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