comic industry Archives | Robot 6 | The Comics Culture Blog

Rethinking covers: the variants and the gimmicks

Wonder Woman #31 variant cover by Mike Allred

Wonder Woman #31 variant cover by Mike Allred

Remember when comic books had only one cover each, and they didn’t glow in the dark or feature moving images? When the cover was just a good-looking illustration that made you curious about the story inside? And it was by the artist who actually drew that story?

Yeah, me neither.

Like it or not, we live in the age of specialized covers, whether in the form of variants or, for lack of a better (and less-derisive) term, gimmicks. I’ve mostly made peace with that, but the near-simultaneous announcements of Valiant bringing back chromium covers and DC doing a second round of lenticular covers recently stirred it all up again.

I know I’m being kind of silly about it. I mean, who cares? If people want them, they should have them. Obviously they help to increase sales, otherwise publishers wouldn’t go through the trouble. But is there more to it?

The thing is that variant covers have never been more prevalent. People used to make fun of publishers like Avatar Press, which would flood each release with boatloads of different covers for the same story. It turns out the company was ahead of its time. That’s not always a good thing, of course. Variant covers can cause confusion with new or more casual readers who may not remember the issue number they last bought but can recall what was on the cover.

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Steve Cook’s ‘Secret Origins’ photo exhibition is back

Steve Cook, U.K comics designer/colorist/renaissance man,  has a new iteration of his “Secret Origins” photo exhibition running at the Renoir Cinema. from July 20 to Aug. 17. You can see some more examples of the work below, and many more on his website.

The exhibition is craftily timed to coincide with the release of some movie about Batman, apparently. I remember seeing Bisley in his pomp at UKCAC 1988, when he looked just like the above image — biker boots, leather trousers, leather jacket. He looked pretty much exactly like Joe Pineapples of the ABC Warriors, the strip he’d just recently made his reputation on.

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Comics A.M. | Teen sentenced in comics burglary; Reuben Awards adds webcomics


Legal | A teenager was sentenced Monday to seven years in prison for his role in the July 2010 theft of a valuable comic collection from an elderly Medina, New York, man, who later died of a heart attack. Eighteen-year-old Juan C. Javier, who pleaded guilty last fall to attempted second-degree burglary, is one of seven people whom police say were hired by businessman Rico J. Vendetti to break into the home of Homer Marciniak to steal his comics. Marciniak, 77, awoke during the burglary and was beaten, suffering only cuts and bruises. However, he had a fatal heart attack later that day. Eight people, including Vendetti and Javier, were indicted in November 2010; the indictments were dismissed against four of the accused so the U.S. Attorney could charge them with murder under federal law. [The Daily News]

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Borders receives $215 million bid from Book of the Month Club owner


The bankrupt Borders Group, the second-largest bookstore chain in the United States, announced it has received an official bid from the owner of the Book of the Month Club and Columbia House.

The Detroit News reports that the opening offer from Direct Brands, a portfolio company of the Phoenix-based private equity firm Najafi Cos., entails a $215.1 million purchase of nearly all of the bookseller’s assets and the assumption of about $220 million in liabilities.

Borders had set today as a deadline to name a stalking horse bidder, an initial bidder to make the first offer in a bankruptcy auction. The preliminary agreement establishes Najafi’s bid as the starting point; however, another company could step in with a larger offer during the auction process. Any deal will have to be approved by a U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge.

The Los Angeles-based Gores Group has been considered by may observers to be the stalking horse bidder. The company had floated a $250-million offer that would have saved about 250 of Borders’ remaining 416 outlets by transforming them into “more appealing destinations” akin to the Apple Store chain. It’s not clear how many locations Najafi would keep open.

Borders submitted an alternate proposal to the court last night that would require the liquidation by Hilco and Gordon Brothers of all of the bookseller’s assets if a sale isn’t complete by the end of the auction. According to, a liquidation would mean the loss of about 11,000 jobs.

The New DCU may be many things, but don’t call it a ‘reboot’

Green Lantern #1, by Dave Johnson

The sweeping line-wide retooling of DC Comics’ superhero titles that will see the debut of 52 first issues introducing “a more modern, diverse DC Universe” has been referred to in a number of ways — a renumbering, a relaunch, a revamp. But what it isn’t, apparently, is a “reboot.”

“This is the launch of the New DCU,” DC’s Senior Vice President-Sales Bob Wayne explains in a letter to retailers. “It is not a ‘reboot.’  I think you will soon discover why that is.” Note also that it’s “New DCU” and not, thankfully, “DCNu” (so cut that out).

What differentiates Tuesday’s announcement, with its across-the-board No. 1 issues, promises of new origins and new (younger) ages for some characters and minor changes for others, from a reboot, of course, remains to be seen.

DC revealed the first wave of titles yesterday — 10, plus the earlier announced Justice League by Geoff Johns and Jim Lee — including Wonder Woman by Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang, The Fury of Firestorm by Ethan Van Sciver, Gail Simone and Yildiray Cinar, and Aquaman by Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis, followed this morning by the four Green Lantern books. That leaves 37 more series and creative teams to be parceled out between now and Tuesday, June 13, when the publisher’s September solicitations will be officially released.

Comics A.M. | Borders to revise bonus plan; Tokyopop reactions


Retailing | The bankrupt Borders Group agreed to revise its $7.8 million retention bonus plan by tying potential payments for top executives to the company’s ability to pay unsecured creditors. U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Martin Glenn told the bookseller on Thursday it must make further changes to the proposal, and negotiate with the U.S. trustee, before he would approve it.

The struggling bookseller says that 47 executives and director-level employees have quit since the company declared bankruptcy on Feb. 16 — two dozen just this month — leaving only 15 people in senior management positions. The book chain had sought to pay $6.6 million to 15 executives, including $1.7 million to CEO Michael Edwards, and $1.2 million to 25 director-level managers in a bid to retain key personnel.

Under the new terms, agreed upon by Borders and the creditors before Thursday’s hearing, the top five executives would receive $4.9 million at most if they recover $95 million to unsecured creditors under a sale or restructuring by Aug. 15. They could get $1.8 million in $73 million is returned. [The Detroit News, Bloomberg]

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Quote of the day | Neil Gaiman on the changing landscape of American comics

Neil Gaiman

“In my opinion the biggest way the landscape has changed is just in its willingness to kind of go anywhere. The glory of comics has always been that comics is a medium that gets mistaken for a genre. People look at comics and go, ‘Well, comics is a genre’ and that actually allows you to do anything, any kind of genre, any story that you can tell using words and pictures can be told in comics. And sometimes anything that can be told using only pictures can be told in comics.

“And for me, really, the biggest change has been watching the embracing of that becoming more and more mainstream. Again, just the idea that we live in a world where the bestselling comic of the year was Robert Crumb retelling—completely literally—the Book of Genesis. There are weird things that does to my head…”

–Neil Gaiman, comics writer, novelist and editor of this year’s Best American Comics 2010 in response to a question on how the landscape of American comics has changed over the last few years

DC Comics to lower cover prices for ongoing titles, drop co-features

DC Comics

DC Comics will lower the price of all of its standard-length ongoing titles from $3.99 to $2.99 beginning in January, the publisher announced this afternoon.

The move to the lower price will mean a decrease in story pages — from 22 pages to 20 in a standard 32-page comic — as well as the loss of co-features in eight titles, including Action Comics, Adventure Comics and Detective Comics.

“As co-publishers, we listened to our fans and to our partners in the retail community who told us that a $3.99 price point for 32 pages was too expensive,” Co-Publisher Dan DiDio said in the press release. “Fans were becoming increasingly reluctant to sample new titles and long term fans were beginning to abandon titles and characters that they’d collected for years. We needed a progressive pricing strategy that supports our existing business model and, more importantly, allows this creative industry to thrive for years to come. With the exceptions of oversized comic books, like annuals and specials, we are committed to a $2.99 price point.”

The following standard-length ongoing series and licensed titled, previously price at $3.99, will move to $2.99 for 32 pages (20 pages of story): American Vampire; Batman: The Dark Knight; Batman Incorporated; Gears of War; God of War; Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors; JSA All-Stars; Kane & Lynch; and Ratchet & Clank.

These comics, previously priced at $3.99 for 30 pages of story, will lose their co-features and shift their price to $2.99 for 20 pages of story: Action Comics; Adventure Comics; Batman: Streets of Gotham; Detective Comics;
Doc Savage; Justice League of America; Legion of Super-Heroes; and The Spirit.

Batman: Europa #1, First Wave #6, DCU: Legacies #9, Weird Worlds #1 and World of Warcraft: Curse of the Worgen will remain at $3.99 for 40 pages/30 pages of story. Hellblazer #275, an oversized anniversary issue, will be priced at $4.99 for 48 pages/38 pages of story.

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