The Lion and the Unicorn

By Unkiedev

W.I.L.D.C.A.T.S #1 gold foil variant cover
W.I.L.D.C.A.T.S #1 cover

The nineties comic book boom (and subsequent crash) was based on two factors that are still cavorting through the forest of comics today. One is the Unicorn of variant covers, the other is the lion of investor speculation. See how nimbly they prance!

The resale of comic books was viewed as a big business, and the launch of Image comics meant that savvy comic book buyers could get in on the ground floor of a gold mine by purchasing every #1 Image had to publish. Soon, Image and other companies started to publish massive amounts of variant covers to rake in the cash from this wave of speculation.

Since then things have changed…but the Unicorn still dances. Now variant covers are the big marketing tool of the least expected: Marvel and DC. The big two release a theme of variant covers almost weekly to promote upcoming events, movie tie-ins and to spotlight characters.

When Tron was in the theaters Marvel had a wave of TRON themed covers. When they felt like promoting Wolvie a bit more they did variant covers to every single title they had with the chuggin’ canuk on the cover. Do yourself a favor and google “JLApe” if you were too young to remember the time when every DC title had a monkey variant cover.

This week DC launches a comics wave called DC Retroactive, using top artists and writers of yesterday to tell “lost” tales of their heroes.  First up will be the 70’s, a time of fashionable flared pants and disco era hair. DC Retroactive: Superman – The 70’s #1 will be written by Martin Pasko. I’m surprised this whole publishing endeavor wasn’t’ first a line of variant covers…I’d dig on taking a peak at a 70’s retro take on Blackest Night.

Variant cover by Mike Mignola

It’s interesting to note that the winner of the recent 2011 Eisner Award for best cover artist, announced last week at the San Diego Comic Con, was Mike Mignola. Mike is a busy, busy guy and generally only does the plots, some scripting and covers to his own Hellboy books. The titles always ship with a cover from the actual issues artists, however. That’s right: The 2011 Eisner Award winner is essentially a variant cover artist.

The Unicorn dances anon.


Speaking of the Comic Con of Cons, the place was packed with eh lion of comic book investor speculation’s cubs. From the Walking Dead, the movie versions of the Avengers and Green Lantern down to cartoon movies based on the Dark Knight Returns, the lion has moved from indie fare and taken a bite out of the mainstream. That’s when the smaller animals move in to digest the lion’s leavings.

Ask yourself: Where are the great old tv shows being rerun these days? That’s right…in small publisher’s comic book rosters!

Companies like Dynamite, BOOM!, IDW, and more make their living through creating new tales of old properties. Sometimes, like in the case of IDW’s G.I. Joe books, Dark Horse’s Buffyverse, and the ever award winning and ever hand-changing Muppet book from Roger Langridge, these titles can be big business.

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