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VARIANT COMICS - IMPROVING THE COMIC INDUSTRY ?    By Terry Hoknes hoknes@hotmail.com

Speaking with a fellow retailer recently we like to talk the pro’s and con’s of selling variants and their role in the comics business.

Some retailers avoid variants like the plague not wanting to create a false hype and value on new comics. While other retailers totally cash in and use variants to their advantage to help bring in revenue for their store.

Almost all comic book publishers including DC and Marvel excessively use variant covers to help boost overall sales. Usually 95% of all Marvel and DC releases have 1 variant cover where a big event comic may have as many as 10 different covers. Other publishers like IDW, Avatar Press, Dynamite, Valiant use variants as their main way to improve revenue publishing many variant covers on almost all comics in their lines. Some of these publishers have gone on record as stating they might not be in business if it was not for variants which help double or triple their sales. This makes a big difference on small publishers with small print runs in the first place.

Reports have been stating that the past few years the comic industry is growing and growing and seeing record sales not seen in 20 years. I decided I want to set a record straight and show that the only reason the comic industry is growing is because there are more and more variants which is causing collectors to spend more money and retailers having to up their orders on hundreds of titles a month IF they want to boost their revenue.

I have stated many times that 95% of variants do lose their value fairly quickly which sounds like they are a bad “investment”. But putting this into perspective 95% of all new regular comic books are found in the $1.00 bin eventually too. Everything has to have a retail price and make sense for a retailer to carry. It’s up to customers to decide if they want to pay the current price whether it rises or falls in the future.

For the month of June 2015 I have analyzed the Top 20 best selling comics in North America.

http://www.comichron.com/monthlycomicssales/2015/2015-06.html

Comichron.com revealed that the top 300 selling comics of June 2015 had a total revenue retail of 7.47 million copies. The Top 20 best selling comics that month totalled 2.1 million copies. So in other words just the top 20 of top 300 best selling comics are actually 22% of the entire comic book market.

Here are rounded off totals I calculated:

Grand total of Top 20 books is 2,071,000 copies

Marvel sales were 1,537,000 of the top 20 sales which is approx 75%

DC sales were 398,000 and Image was 136,000 from 2 issues of Walking Dead.

Therefore the 20 books I am about to analyze are good sample of the 22% most popular percent of the entire comic book market. This is where the highest profile Marvel books are and the ones to likely have the most variant covers.

Diamond only releases the grand total orders of any particular comic book issue but does not reveal the print runs of individual variants. So I have done a lot of estimating of what I believe could be a fairly close guesstimate. It’s good enough to get the idea of each book in general.

Analyzing the Top 20 Best selling comics

15 of them all had at least 1 variant cover. 7 of them actually had 5 or more covers. 6 were from Marvel.

 

 

Total print run shows the complete orders total from Diamond.

Regular Cover Sales = I have estimated how many regular covers I actually think stores ordered.

Variant Sales = I have estimated how many variant covers stores ordered.

% of sales are variants = This shows the wide spectrum of how the variants influenced the orders of each book.

My estimates make some interesting revelations

First of all while Secret Wars #3 was the best selling “regular cover” comic even with the variants removed.

Batman is promoted to #2 up from the Diamond ranking of #5. The Walking Dead and Spider-Gwen both would have ranked in the top 10 best read regular cover category since they have no variants.

Darth Vader based on my estimates might actually OUTSELL Star Wars ! Is that possible ?

The most shocking part of the list is the titles that retailers ordered very heavy on just for variants.

Thors #1 had the highest amount of variants. I estimated 55% of the entire print run is variant covers meaning that only the remaining 45% were actually regular covers to be read. Armor Wars #1, Amazing Spiderman Renew Your Vows #2 and X-Men 92 #1 all came from Marvel with a very hefty order on variant covers. DC’s biggest selling comic of the month Justice League of America had a bunch of variants which likely helped boost the title way up as I calculate the variants may have been 65,000 copies of the total order. These are really drastic numbers. They make the titles appear to have twice as many readers as they really do.

ANALYZING EACH TITLE

#1 Secret Wars #3 $3.99 Marvel 218,136 total order

6 variants had approximate orders of 69,000 of 218,000 which is approx 30% of entire order

Sales were great at 149,000 for the regular cover but keep in mind many stores upped their orders on regular covers just to qualify for variant covers so assume print run would have been at least 10% lower at 134,000 potential actual readers.

SECRET WARS #3 (OF 8) MCLEOD VAR 1:25 approx 9,000

SECRET WARS #3 (OF 8) BRADSHAW DR GWENDGE qualify 10,000

SECRET WARS #3 (OF 8) CHRISTOPHER ACTION FIGURE VAR qualify 20,000 guess

SECRET WARS #3 (OF 8) SAUVAGE had to qualify 10,000 guess

SECRET WARS #3 (OF 8) BIANCHI CONNECTING 1:20 approx 11,000

SECRET WARS #3 (OF 8) COKER 1:25 approx 9,000

SECRET WARS #3 (OF 8) regular cover 149,000

#2 Amazing Spider-Man Renew Your Vows #1 $3.99 Marvel 203,565

7 variants had approximate orders of 80,000 of 203,000 which is approx 40% of entire order

Sales were fairly good at 123,000 but keep in mind many stores upped their orders on regular covers just to qualify for variant covers so assume print run would have been at least 10% lower at 110,000 potential actual readers.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN RENEW YOUR VOWS #1 BLANK VAR SWA qualify 10,000

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN RENEW YOUR VOWS #1 YOUNG VAR SWA qualify 10,000

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN RENEW YOUR VOWS #1 VAR SWA 1:25 approx 8,000

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN RENEW YOUR VOWS #1 ANT SIZED VAR SWA 1:15 approx 14,000

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN RENEW YOUR VOWS #1 MAOS VAR SWA 1:15 approx 14,000

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN RENEW YOUR VOWS #1 ACTION FIGURE VAR SWA qualify 20,000

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN RENEW YOUR VOWS #1 CAMPBELL VAR SWA 1:50 approx 4,000

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN RENEW YOUR VOWS #1 SWA regular cover 123,000

#3 Star Wars #6 $3.99 Marvel 152,652

This month Marvel actually decided to NOT have a bunch of variants. Only 1 variant had approximate guessed orders of 40,000 of 152,000 which is approx 24% of entire order

Sales were good at 112,000 but keep in mind many stores upped their orders on regular covers just to qualify for variant covers so assume print run would have been at least 10% lower at 100,000 potential actual readers.

STAR WARS #6 CHRISTOPHER ACTION FIGURE VAR qualify guess at 40,000

STAR WARS #6 regular cover 112,000

#4 Justice League of America #1 $5.99 DC 150,845

DC’s #1 selling book due to 9 variants had approximate orders of 65,500 of 150,000 which is approx 42% of entire order. DC’s #1 book was good at 84,000. No qualifying on other variants so this is the true potential # based on the wild guess estimate of 8,000 per variant which could be lower but also possibly much higher. I chose 8,000 as a wild estimate at roughly 4 copies of each cover per store which seems safe.

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #1 VAR ED 1:100 1,500

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #1 WONDER WOMAN VAR ED 8,000

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #1 SUPERMAN VAR ED 8,000

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #1 GREEN LANTERN VAR ED 8,000

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #1 THE FLASH VAR ED 8,000

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #1 CYBORG VAR ED 8,000

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #1 BATMAN VAR ED 8,000

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #1 AQUAMAN VAR ED 8,000

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #1 THE JOKER VAR ED 8,000

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #1 regular cover 84,000

#5 Batman #41 $3.99 DC 142,155

This month DC actually decided to NOT have a bunch of variants. Only 1 variant had approximate guessed orders of 30,000 of 142,000 which is approx 18% of entire order

Sales were good at 112,000. No qualifications for the Joker variant so this proved to be DC’s true best selling comic.

BATMAN #41 THE JOKER VAR ED guess of 30,000

BATMAN #41 regular cover 112,000

#6 Thors #1 $3.99 Marvel 114,854

6 variants had approximate orders of 64,000 of 114,000 which is approx 55% of entire order

Sales were good on regular cover at 50,000 but keep in mind many stores upped their orders on regular covers just to qualify for variant covers so assume print run would have been at least 10% lower at 45,000 potential actual readers.

THORS #1 BLANK VAR SWA qualify 10,000

THORS #1 RENAUD ANT SIZED VAR SWA 1:15 10,000

THORS #1 DELICIOUS DESIGN LEAGUE MAOS VAR SWA 1:15 10,000

THORS #1 ANKA GWEN OF THUNDER VAR SWA qualify 10,000

THORS #1 CHRISTOPHER ACTION FIGURE VAR SWA qualify 20,000

THORS #1 KEOWN VAR SWA 1:25 4,500

THORS #1 SWA regular cover 50,000

#7 Darth Vader #6 $3.99 Marvel 107,739

The #1 best selling comic of the month that had absolutely no variants of any kind. This month Marvel actually decided to NOT have a bunch of variants. Variants were 0% of the order of 107,000 copies.

#8 X-Men 92 #1 $4.99 Marvel 97,617

5 variants had approximate orders of 40,000 of 97,000 which is approx 40% of entire order

Sales were good at 57,000 for regular cover but keep in mind many stores upped their orders on regular covers just to qualify for variant covers so assume print run would have been at least 10% lower at 51,000 potential actual readers.

X-MEN 92 #1 BLANK VAR SWA 10,000

X-MEN 92 #1 YOUNG VAR SWA 10,000

X-MEN 92 #1 X-GWEN VAR SWA 10,000

X-MEN 92 #1 NAKAYAMA VAR SWA 1:25 4,000

X-MEN 92 #1 CHIN ANT SIZED VAR SWA 1:15 6,000

X-MEN 92 #1 SWA regular cover 57,000

#9 Justice League #41 $4.99 DC 88,713

2 variants had guessed estimated orders of 25,000 of 88,000 which is approx 30% of entire order

Sales were good at 63,000 for regular cover.

JUSTICE LEAGUE #41 BLANK VAR ED open order 10,000

JUSTICE LEAGUE #41 THE JOKER VAR ED open order 15,000

JUSTICE LEAGUE #41 regular cover 63,000

#10 Groot #1 $3.99 Marvel 83,506

2 variants had approximate orders of 13,000 of 83,000 which is approx 17% of entire order

Sales were great at 70,000 for the regular cover but keep in mind many stores upped their orders on regular covers just to qualify for variant covers so assume print run would have been at least 10% lower at 63,000 potential actual readers.

GROOT #1 STEGMAN VAR 1:25 3,000

GROOT #1 GWOOT VAR qualify 10,000

GROOT #1 regular cover 70,000

#11 Princess Leia #4 $3.99 Marvel 80,170

The #2 best selling comic of the month that had absolutely no variants of any kind. This month Marvel actually decided to NOT have a bunch of variants. Variants were 0% of the order of 80,000 copies.

#12 Age of Ultron Vs Marvel Zombies #1 $3.99 Marvel 78,646

5 variants had approximate orders of 23,000 of 78,000 which is approx 30% of entire order

Sales were good at 55,000 for the regular cover but keep in mind many stores upped their orders on regular covers just to qualify for variant covers so assume print run would have been at least 10% lower at 50,000 potential actual readers.

AGE OF ULTRON VS MARVEL ZOMBIES #1 BLANK VAR SWA 5,000

AGE OF ULTRON VS MARVEL ZOMBIES #1 YOUNG VAR SWA 5,000

AGE OF ULTRON VS MARVEL ZOMBIES #1 ANT SIZED VAR SWA 1:15 5,000

AGE OF ULTRON VS MARVEL ZOMBIES #1 FOX MAOS VAR SWA 1:15 5,000

AGE OF ULTRON VS MARVEL ZOMBIES #1 ROCK HE KIM VAR SWA 1:25 3,000

AGE OF ULTRON VS MARVEL ZOMBIES #1 SWA regular cover 55,000

#13 Old Man Logan #2 $3.99 Marvel 78,426

2 variants had approximate orders of 8,000 of 78,000 which is approx only 10% of entire order

Sales were good at 70,000 for the regular cover but keep in mind many stores upped their orders on regular covers just to qualify for variant covers so assume print run would have been at least 10% lower at 63,000 potential actual readers.

OLD MAN LOGAN #2 BRADSHAW VAR SWA 1:25 3,000

OLD MAN LOGAN #2 SAMNEE GWENVERINE VAR SWA qualify 5,000

OLD MAN LOGAN #2 SWA regular cover 70,000

#14 Years of Future Past #1 $4.99 Marvel 71,450

3 variants had approximate orders of 12,000 of 71,000 which is approx only 17% of entire order

Sales were good at 59,000 for the regular cover but keep in mind many stores upped their orders on regular covers just to qualify for variant covers so assume print run would have been at least 10% lower at 53,000 potential actual readers.

YEARS OF FUTURE PAST #1 YOUNG VAR SWA qualify 5,000

YEARS OF FUTURE PAST #1 NORTON VAR SWA 1:25 2,500

YEARS OF FUTURE PAST #1 PERKINS ANT SIZED VAR SWA 1:15 4,500

YEARS OF FUTURE PAST #1 SWA regular cover 59,000

#15 Deadpools Secret Secret Wars #2 $3.99 Marvel 70,256

2 variants had approximate orders of 8,000 of 70,000 which is approx only 17% of entire order

Sales were good at 62,000 for the regular cover but keep in mind many stores upped their orders on regular covers just to qualify for variant covers so assume print run would have been at least 10% lower at 56,000 potential actual readers.

DEADPOOLS SECRET SECRET WARS #2 (OF 4) RUBIO VAR SWA 1:25 2,500

DEADPOOLS SECRET SECRET WARS #2 (OF 4) GWENPOOL VAR SWA qualify 5,500

DEADPOOLS SECRET SECRET WARS #2 (OF 4) SWA regular cover 62,000

#16 Armor Wars #1 $3.99 Marvel 69,808

5 variants had approximate orders of 33,000 of 69,000 which is approx 48% of entire order

Sales were good at 36,000 for the regular cover but keep in mind many stores upped their orders on regular covers just to qualify for variant covers so assume print run would have been at least 10% lower at 32,000 potential actual readers.

ARMOR WARS #1 BLANK VAR SWA qualify 5,000

ARMOR WARS #1 YOUNG VAR SWA qualify 5,000

ARMOR WARS #1 FERRY ANT SIZED VAR SWA 1:15 6,000

ARMOR WARS #1 MAOS MARTIN VAR SWA 1:15 6,000

ARMOR WARS #1 LAFUENTE IRON GWEN VAR SWA qualify 5,500

ARMOR WARS #1 DEL RAY VAR SWA 1:25 2,500

ARMOR WARS #1 PUGH VAR SWA 1:20 3,000

ARMOR WARS #1 SWA regular cover

#17 Harley Quinn #17 $3.99 DC 68,243

This month DC actually decided to NOT have a bunch of variants. Only 1 variant had approximate guessed orders of 15,000 of 68,000 which is approx 28% of entire order. Sales were good at 53,000.

No qualifications for the Joker variant so this proved to be one of DC’s best selling comics.

HARLEY QUINN #17 THE JOKER VAR ED open order 15,000

HARLEY QUINN #17 regular cover 53,000

#18 Walking Dead #142 $2.99 Image 68,221

#19 Walking Dead #143 $2.99 Image 67,989

The Walking Dead had 2 issues out this particular month. There are no variant covers. Not only is this the #1 best selling comic for Image Comics but its also the #1 best selling non DC/Marvel comic published today.

#20 Spider-Gwen 5 $3.99 Marvel 67,697

The power of Spider-Gwen as a new character is very strong. There are no variant covers for this book showing a strong 67,000 sales for a regular cover with no gimmicks.

So what do we learn? The comic industry is growing but its from the marketing that Marvel and other publishers have figured out will help boost print runs, sales figures and profit.

My chart above showed that of the top 20 best selling comics print runs that I estimated potentially 23% of the entire market is variants. That means seriously 1 in 4 comics printed and sold is a variant cover. This is just for the big books. Once you get to smaller publishers like Valiant, Dynamite and Avatar Press to name a few variant covers are more than 50% of sales.

Are variants a good investment? Well like most products that are new the answer is no. But if spending hard earned cash and knowing the market well you can buy wisely.

 

Here are some random examples of variants that not only held value but have risen dramatically from their original release.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #678 (2012) 1:50 now sells for $2,000.00 up from $25.00

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #700 (2012) 1:200 now sells for $700.00 up from $100.00

BATMAN #1 (2011) 1:200 now sells for $600.00 up from $100.00

EMPIRE OF THE DEAD #1 1:75 now sells for $375.00 up from $35.00

HARLEY QUINN #1 (2013) 1:25 now sells for $250.00 up from $12.00

EDGE OF SPIDER-VERSE #2 (2014) 1:25 now sells for $200.00 up from $12.00

SPIDER-GWEN #1 (2015) 1:100 now sells for $200.00 up from $50.00

SUPERMAN #38 (2015) 1:100 now sells for $125.00 up from $50.00

STAR WARS #2 HAN SOLO ACTION FIGURE (2015) now sells for $80.00 up from $3.99

WONDER WOMAN #38 (2015) 1:100 now sells for $110.00 up from $50.00

Who do we blame for variants ? The publishers make money off these! Therefore its likely retailers make money off these ! And if they are making money that means there are comic book collectors who want them ! So will this trend ever end ? It seems to be a win for everyone so my answer is variants are here to stay !

 

 

Article written August 11th 2015 by comic book historian Terry Hoknes of www.HoknesComics.com – hoknes@hotmail.com

www.HoknesComics.com – carries all these new comics and all new products in stock and does special orders!!

Weekly articles by Terry Hoknes, comic book historian, writer of the Investing In Comic Book series (gold,silver,bronze) and also Canada’s leading comic book retailer focusing on hot sold out comic books and small publishers at www.HoknesComics.com

Contact Terry at hoknes@hotmail.com