Ratio variants, virgin variants, B covers, store exclusives, sketch covers, convention exclusives… we have SO many choices these days when it comes to comic book covers. For speculators and/or investors it can be a tricky thing to navigate – assessing the pre-orders and trying to guess which variant will be the scorching hot auction site seller. Sometimes incentives are a safe bet, other times they are a bomb. Most of us have been burned in that game. However, there have been quite a few books lately that have caught fire and stayed hot, that were actually just regular first printing “A” covers.
Yes, normal run of the mill standard covers that became instant keys or hot sales rather quickly. You can re-read that if you’d like, It’s true. It does happen. But with the argument that modern comics are all “mass produced,” and will end up being bird cage liner, how can this happen? Do these books have staying power? Surely there must be some high ratio incentive variants of these books that are the ones worth having, right?
Not always. Sometimes it’s just a pure organic phenomenon, and to an old school collector like me, it’s a beautiful thing.
A Stop at the Comic Shop
This week I stopped at a newer comic shop in my area to see what kind of goodies I could find. It was well stocked with racks of new releases, as well as back issues arranged by title and release dates. This particular store is quite famous online for their wide selection of variant covers which beautifully decorated the walls around the store and behind the registers. There are all different varieties of Spider-man, Batman, Hulk, Venom and other popular covers – both trade dress and virgins, expensive 1:50 and 1:25 ratio incentives, and all the shiny things you see on eBay and Facebook that make you drool while you reluctantly pull your wallet out again.
But after looking around, I remembered I came in for two books I wanted to read, Symbiote Spider-Man #1 and the new Thanos #1. Now I have already ordered two variants for these books online because I liked the art, but these are books I once again found myself admiring the standard “A” covers, and those are the ones I took home.
The Thanos #1 regular cover is particularly stunning in my opinion and has drawn me in since I first saw it. I was sure this one would be a ratio or variant of some sort, but it’s not. Jeff Dekal did this cover, and it features a menacing Thanos with a much younger and smaller version of his daughter Gamora standing atop a skull, backed up against the frame of her very powerful Mad Titan Father. Behind them both is a facial profile of the aqua-skinned Gamora we all know, light reflecting on her jet black lips and bright yellow rays like beams of light shining across the darkness of space in the background. Absolutely stunning in my opinion, and maybe not a hot seller or highly sought after cover but I couldn’t resist adding this one to my personal collection. It’s just beautiful.
Naomi and Immortal Hulk
In a moment I will make some picks for upcoming regular covers you may be on the lookout for, but first, let’s touch on the recent history of some “A” cover power players. So, as it relates to investing and speculating, what are some of the regular covers that have caught fire and outperformed most of their variants? We don’t have to go far back to find them.
Now I know many of you are tired of hearing about Naomi and Immortal Hulk, but it would be comic spec injustice if I didn’t at least mention them in this article, so let’s lay the foundation briefly and get it out of the way, shall we?
As we know, Jamal Campbell’s standard cover for Naomi #1 has just gone absolutely nuts and is currently fetching around $85 raw, while the “B” cover sits around just $50-$60. Graded 9.8’s of the standard cover are in the $400-$500 range right now. Quite impressive for a standard modern cover these days.
On the Marvel Comics side, if you don’t know how well Immortal Hulk has performed, you’re probably not paying attention. Alex Ross has been doing what Alex Ross does… making stunning artwork, and it has paid off for a lot of collectors. In the case of IH #2, we obviously have the Zaffino 1:25 ratio variant going bonkers at around $300 raw, and a couple of others but the first printing is still holding strong around $80 and is still a hot find. Unfortunately, I sold my copy for $35 before it really caught fire. No regrets really because I still bought it at cover price, but I underestimated the book’s potential.
Both books are hot for reasons other than just the cover. For example, we have the first appearance of a character in these two books but I’ll also mention Image Comics’ “Die” #1. Stephanie Hans did the gorgeous artwork for this series, and it’s also been very hot with the debut issue seeing a fifth printing. While there is a virgin variant of #1 commanding high dollar amounts, the 1st printing for most collectors is still the one to have, and currently going for around $40 raw.
Let’s get to some predictions!
Now I’m not going to make any promises or consult my crystal ball so don’t yell at me if my picks don’t make you money or become “instant keys.” The artwork and overall personal appeal will play into this strategy as much as anything else, so I’m selecting books I wouldn’t mind getting “stuck with” for my personal collection if they don’t end up getting hot. To me, that’s a win-win situation. I suggest you do the same.
As I mentioned aside from cover art, keys become keys for a few different reasons including but not limited to the following:
- 1st issue of a title
- 1st appearance of a character
- Limited print run
- Movie or television show announcement
- Publisher recall or error
This is useful information if you’re hunting on your own, but I’m just going to talk spec based on what’s pretty and gritty and gets me interested for late May and June. No promises on ROI here, but I DO have a very special pick and prediction at the end if you hang in there.
Pardon the pun, but let’s dive right in.
We’re gonna need a bigger boat. Yes, we do have a Joshua Middleton variant for this book, but to be honest, I’m all about this standard A cover. LOTS of bloody teeth and a 1st appearance of Mother Shark. Who is that? I’m not sure, but I’d personally much rather have this Jaws influenced action cover than a Fabio fashion Aquaman with the “come hither” look. I’m not even a huge Aquaman fan, but I’ll probably be picking up this standard A-lister.
Venom has cooled off a bit since Donny Cates took a break; but Cullen Bunn is on this one. While we have a Carnage variant for this issue by Maxx Lim, again I’m loving this Kyle Hotz regular cover. Slime, webs, Symbiote goo, and the menacing Venom smile we know and love. Nothing significant story-wise here that I can tell, but If I’m buying based on the cover, I’m probably grabbing this one.
Don’t ask me why, but I’ve got a feeling about this one. Could be nothing, but I kind of dig the artwork. Growing up on Thundercats I may have my expectations too high here. Nonetheless, the Mad Cave folks did it right with Knights of the Golden Sun, and I think a lot of people are looking to them again for another hit. No variants that I know of and probably a pretty small print run on this one so I’m picking it up and I’ll actually read it.
THE INCREDIBLE HULK: LAST CALL #1
Peter David and Dale Keown are back in collaboration for this one-shot, so, do I really need to say anything else? A #1 issue, a fresh creative team and the green goliath! I’m sure there will be plenty of variants for this one, but I love the classic sketchy drawn Incredible Hulk comin’ at ya! One-shots don’t typically catch fire as an investment or spec, but I’m 100% picking this one up no matter how well it does on the auction sites.
THE RIDE: BURNING DESIRE #1
I spotted this one right away, and while I’m not buying everything Adam Hughes puts out, I really like a lot of his stuff including this one. Bright colors, a fur suit and some action I would expect from this title. Even if there is a “B” cover for this one, I can’t see it being better than this one.
I don’t know much about this Image title other than a good story pitch and a female lead, but it sounds promising and has a great creative team behind it. There is a really cool B cover to this one that I’ll probably pick up as well, but this regular cover is strong in my opinion, and is worth buying.
SYMBIOTE SPIDER-MAN #3
As soon as I see this cover, I need it. I like a lot of Greg
Land covers, and I love the characters on this one. I have a feeling Symbiote
Spider-Man will be a strong series, especially with the focus on Mysterio.
Maybe just personal bias here, but I’m grabbing this A cover purely for my
USAGI YOJIMBO #1
Comics legend Stan Sakai is bringing everyone’s favorite samurai rabbit back, and in full color! There will be some special variants to this one that I’m sure will command a higher dollar than the regular cover, but I’m liking the classic feel and look of this one. Simple, and straight forward. I’m saving money on the variants and picking up the regular cover on this one too.
This one’s a solid pick, Todd McFarlane’s Spawn 298 after Todd McFarlane’s Amazing Spider-Man #298. It’s an awesome homage cover (which I am a sucker for), and it’s the regular A cover. I don’t think it’ll be low print run but grabbing this one is a no-brainer. It looks awesome, and it’s poetic and artistic in it’s reference to the original classic ASM cover. Spawn #299 is right behind it with an homage to Todd’s classic cover art from Amazing Spider-Man #299. Super cool concept if you ask me, I’ll have to get the pair. Another reason I’m picking the regular trade dress cover is that the trade actually supports the homage to the classic ASM covers. There are virgin variants, but the stylistic lettering on the covers make these look better in my opinion. Two winning standard covers right in a row for the Spawn series.
The Walking Dead #192
**Possible spoiler alert**
With the end of issue #191 leaving some uncertainty about the fate of leading man Rick Grimes, everyone was running back to their comic shop grabbing it up – so naturally, there is some speculation on this issue as well. Add the fact that Key Collector Comics App just reported on a Robert Kirkman tweet that referenced this book as being “a BIG issue… and not just because of the page count”. Does that mean the death of Rick Grimes? Some have suggested it could be the last issue in the entire series! We don’t know, but I’m taking a gamble and picking up at least one copy of this regular “A” cover just in case. Pre-orders are still available in most places as of right now.
SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL #1 – FEATURING SPIDER-HAM!
Ok, I am a sucker for Peter Porker the Spectacular Spider-Ham, and I have been since he came out waaaay back in the day. We have a couple of variants for this one too, but when you’ve got the rogues like Green Gobbler and Doctor Octopussycat (yes, that’s a real thing) assembled on this cover… I’m all over it. So, I’m playing one of my favorite games called “guess the Spider-Ham character.” Behind Peter Porker we have what appears to be a new variation on the Spider-Gwen character, maybe Spider-PenGwen? I’m going out on a limb at a minimum calling 1st cover appearance, and unless I’m wrong, we may have a 1st appearance of this character inside too.
UPDATE- After some research, I was close. The character’s name is Penguin Stacy or Spider-Guin, and her reported first appearance was one single panel in Spider-Gwen Annual #1, but I believe this would still qualify at least as a first cover appearance… for what it’s worth anyway.
Those are my A-list picks for May and June of 2019. If you do well, request more articles like this one. If not… then I hope you bought books you like. When all else fails, regular cover books can be read and enjoyed like they were always meant to be. As always, you’ll need supplies to protect those strong regular cover gems, and you can find everything you need at www.BagsUnlimited.com.
I’d love to see comments and responses on the Bags Unlimited Facebook and Twitter account! Anything else I missed outside the newest DC heroine and that big angry undead green guy? What are your “A-List” Picks?