Not Every Variant Needs a Virgin Cover!

Sorry, but it’s true. I don’t know about most people, but who wants to pay a premium for a cover that looks worst without the trade dressing it was designed for. Sooner or later, if shops insist on doing virgin covers, they better learn how to request different crops of the image. Let’s start with some examples of covers that look pretty cool with and without Trade Dressing.

Astonishing X-Men #1 Mark Brooks Variant. I love this virgin cover, I won’t lie. It even looks pretty slick with the trade dressing too… But ultimately I held onto the virgin.

Here’s an example of another virgin and trade dressing.

All New Wolverine #19 Artgerm. This cover works well both ways… really wish they had just done a straight virgin color on this rather than the copic virgin. Still, not bad either way.

X-23 #1 Dell’otto variant vs X-men Red #1 Virgin Dell’otto. Ok STOP. Stop and read, before jumping to the bottom and commenting. I’m not saying which should be more valuable. I’m simply talking about whether or not it works better visually as a virgin cover or with trade dressing… Sorry, there’s always one in every crowd, so just wanted to make that clear.

Both covers work well. There’s nothing wrong with the trade dressing placement. The virgin version works really well, because of how the composition fills the cover area. I like this virgin version, however I completely understand why people are upset that it’s a virgin version of a cover for a different book. The real question is why did it take so long for someone to decide to reprint this cover? I’m surprised someone didn’t think of it sooner.

In the opening I mentioned getting a different “crop” if you want to do a virgin. This Metal 3 virgin Mattina cover is a great example of that. While it’s not the only store exclusive variants to use a different crop. It really is a small number of virgin variants that have bothered with it. It exemplifies how in some cases a different crop can making it truly special and sought after cover.

Granted, the black and white version of the Metal 3 Mattina could have benefited from someone with even a remedial understanding of how levels or curves in photoshop work. That seems to be a recurring problem with black and white covers that do not start as lineart. They always print too dark.

Obviously, these examples are not the only ones out there. These were just the ones that sprung to mind. If you have a favorite virgin variant cover, shout them out in the comments below.

OK, now let’s look at one that’s probably… no definitely, didn’t need to be a virgin cover… much less 3 virgin covers.

Spectacular Spider-Man #300 Adam Hughes variant. This is a nice cover with the trade dressing. It’s a little different for Adam Hughes, a nice change of pace and was clearly designed to work with the trade dressing. The hard facts here is this image does not work without the dressing… UNLESS, you go out and get every relevant signature you can to fill up the top and bottom areas. Even then, it’s a stretch. The trade dressing is the clear winner even though it’s got a 3k print run.

With some images the negative space does works, it’s not always going to look terrible without the trade dressing. Just like a black and white cover isn’t always bad either. Every artist, every image, every character is different. Some artist are more adept at certain characters and compositions. I love Dell’otto’s painted style, but typically it doesn’t work as well on certain characters and almost never as a greyscale. There’s some things that work and some that just don’t.

For some odd reason, some virgin exclusives make comics feel more like a short sighted cryptocurrency pyramid scheme, as opposed to something with any longevity or stability. Not all crypto coin is a scam, just like not every virgin is worth buying at cover price, much less a premium.

Case in point, these Amazing Spider-man not red goblin 2nd prints. 3 of them at least wouldn’t have looked bad as just lineart with the trade dressing, instead of these ridiculous virgins.  I comprehend taking advantage of the Red Goblin FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) but seriously, most of these reprint virgins just look sad.

Some would say in defense, “Exclusive variants are a great way to promote your shop!”. Which, look, I’m all for… And might actually believe if it was just once a monthly at $9.99-$12. Yes, absolutely, doing a single variant is a cool way to help promote your business. What comic shop wouldn’t want to do a store exclusive. However, the second you add in that limited virgin cover, well that argument becomes a whole lot tougher to swallow. It’s obvious what’s really going on, it’s become part of your business model, it’s about the money.

I get it, making money’s great, that’s how a business works after all. But let’s be honest… Not every store exclusive cover needs to be a set of 2, 3 or 4 books. Seriously, take a sober look at some of the covers out there. Most store exclusive don’t need an expensive companion book with a slight alteration and a lower print run… just like most collector will figure out they don’t need to buy them.

Till next time.

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