Wednesday, July 4, 2018

COVER VERSIONS PT 3




This third part of a discussion on Legion-related variants turns the spotlight on issues that were not specifically marketed as variants, but have been regarded as such by some collectors.

WHITMAN

The Western Publishing Company's Gold Key brand ended in 1979, with the company turning its focus to the more profitable Whitman bagged comics line, sold as non-returnable items through department and other general stores.

    DC and Marvel licensed their books through Whitman so that they could have their books in two- or three-pack formats sold in department stores, where Whitman had an exclusive deal. 
    These went on sale through 1979 and1980.
    For many years, fans have debated whether these oddities should be classified as variants. But one thing is clear: because of their limited distribution, the issues are scarce and have proven to be much in demand.
    The Whitmans have for a long time been regarded as secondary prints and treated as such. But it's worth noting that DC Whitmans are not reprints. They were printed at the same time as their newsstand counterparts. 
    Only in the past few years has the value and collectible worth of these issues risen, particularly as some are so rare that less than 10 copies of the issues exist.
    Altogether, there were 13 issues of SUPERBOY which received the Whitman branding treatment: #244, #245, #246; #247; #248; #251; #252; 253; #254; #255; #256; #257; and #258.



A typical Whitman bag of comics.

SUPERBOY AND THE LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES: Some Whitman versions.

SUPERBOY AND THE LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES: Some Whitman versions.

   Another four issues of LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES (formerly SUPERBOY) were also found in three-packs:  #261; #263; #264; and #266.
    The real gem here is #264. It is estimated that less than 100 copies of this issue exist, making it one of the rarest DC Whitmans around, and almost impossible to secure.


The extremely rare Whitman print of LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #264 is on the right, pictured next to a more common variant.

OTHER VARIANTS

Then there were issues which featured logos inside the UPC boxes, which would normally include bar codes. These were limited to distinct retailers in comic packs or multipacks. 

    During big multi-issue crossover events, the direct sales issues often also featured different  logos in the boxes: for example, the ZERO HOUR and ARMAGEDDON books.
    These are by and large ubiquitous and surely only the most compulsive of completists would endeavour to collect them all.


Issues with differing UPC boxes.

On the left is an issue with a ZERO HOUR logo in the box.

    Finally, there's one more different sort of format that some collectors hunt: comics with advertising inserts for Mark Jewelers

    In the mid 1970’s DC and Marvel comics started to include a four-page, heavy paper stock color insert from this company in many of their comics. It is believed they were distributed near US military bases, both at home and abroad, to reach out to servicemen so that they could purchase jewelry and engagement rings.
    These inserts appeared in about five per cent of most newstand comics from 1972 to 1986, which of course included many Legion-related issues.
    The inserts don't really add to the aesthetic appeal of the comics and if anything, probably makes them less attractive, but like all collectibles, these “variants” are worth only as much as a collector is happy to pay for.
    In general, demand is low for these issues, and they can sell for about the same price as guide or just slightly more.


An example of a Mark Jewelers insert.

An example of a Mark Jewelers insert.

An example of a Mark Jewelers insert.

An example of a Mark Jewelers insert.


Do you know of any more variants we may have missed? Do tell! Remember to also check Parts 1 and 2 for images of all the covers we've listed.





Bits Boy runs the comprehensive Legion completists’ site Bits of Legionnaire Business.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

COVER VERSIONS PT 2



We continue our look at Legion-related variants, and we're up to the sixth volume of the LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES.
    After the revival by Geoff Johns, and the cancellation of the threeboot, the Legion started its new series with a story that picks up with Earth-Man's rehabilitation.
    The first six issues featured variant covers by Jim Lee, which, when joined together, formed an interconnected panoramic scene featuring Saturn Girl, Superboy, Chameleon Boy, Mon-El, Timber Wolf and Brainiac 5.
    The first issue also had two variants, featuring the same art in either finished or sketch form.


LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES Vol 6 #1: Two different variants on the right


LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES Vol 6 #2: Variant on the right

LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES Vol 6 #3: Variant on the right

LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES Vol 6 #4: Variant on the right

LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES Vol 6 #5: Variant on the right

LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES Vol 6 #5: Variant on the right

    The 11th issue had a variant cover of sorts. The original cover, which featured Dream Girl carrying a fallen Starman,  had been used in solicitations for the issue, but when the comic was published, a different cover featuring Timber Wolf battling Sun Emperor was used. Both were drawn by Yildiray Cinar.
    
LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES Vol 6 #11: Unused cover and solicited art on the right

    At the close of 2010, DC COMICS: LEGACIES #6 was released, part of DC's retrospective look at their characters' histories.
    This issue included a story on the Legion, which was featured on the variant cover, a nice homage to to the cover of ADVENTURE #300.
    If you like Keith Giffen's Kirby-esque style, you'll love the story.
    
DC COMICS LEGACIES #0

    Another Secret Origins title was issued in 2011, and just like LSH Vol 6 #11, the covers solicited for one of the issues did not make the cut.
    Issue 4 of LEGION: SECRET ORIGIN sported a cover featuring Colossal Boy as the central figure. But in the previews, two different covers had been spotlighted, with Star Boy in Gim's place, wearing either his purple or his white costume.
    Artist Chris Batista lamented that the covers were done during a confusing time at DC, when the editorial team did not have a firm direction on the Legion's future.
    
LEGION SECRET ORIGIN #4: Unused solicited cover art featuring Star Boy on the right

    Indeed, this confusion was not helped by a release of the first four chapters of the Blight saga, collected in a book called LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES 100-PAGE SPECTACULAR.
    The initial printing had  the sequence completely wrong, running parts 2, 4, 1 and 3 in that order.
    DC quickly realized its mistake and instructed retailers to destroy the book, which was replaced by a second printing with the stories in correct order.
    To differentiate the two, the new version bore a logo in white, as opposed to the yellow logo of the original book.


LEGION 100-PAGE SPECTACULAR: Recalled version on the left and corrected version on the right

    Fast forward a few months, and we come to the crossover event that teamed the Legion with the original STAR TREK crew of the Starship Enterprise .
    The six issues of the series each came with two variant covers, except for the first, which had five, four of which are Legion-related. Are you with me? :)
    For #1, the normal cover was drawn by Phil Jimenez, while the variant cover (in a 1:4 ration) featured nice Keith Giffen art. The Legionnaires were shown on both.
    There were two retailer incentive versions, portraying either Brainiac 5 or Spock, drawn by Gabriel Rodriguez. 
    There was also a second printing, which used a mono version of the Keith Giffen piece, while another variant, exclusive to multi-media store Hastings, used a mono version of the Jimenez artwork.
    As stated above, the next five issues all came with two variant covers each, which featured some lovely work by the likes of Chris Sprouse, JK Woodward, Jeff Moy, and Mikes Allred and Grell.
    If you're a Legion completist, you'll need to find room in your collection for them all.


STAR TREK/LEGION #1: (clockwise from top left) Standard cover; variant; Hastings exclusive; second printing; retailer incentive version

STAR TREK/LEGION #2: Variants on the right 

STAR TREK/LEGION #3: Variants on the right 

STAR TREK/LEGION #4: Variants on the right 

STAR TREK/LEGION #5: Variants on the right 

STAR TREK/LEGION #6: Variants on the right 

    Another solicitation cover that was ultimately ditched came around in June 2013, with #19 of the seventh volume of the LEGION's title, during the phase of the New 52.
    The cover, drawn by Keith Giffen, showed Mon-El in combat with the Emerald Empress. The previous two issues also featured covers by Giffen, so he must have been commissioned to draw the covers for this particular arc, which marked the end of the Legion.
    But for that month, DC decided to publish books with novelty gatefold covers, which flipped open to reveal little surprises … in this case, it was Mon-El losing an arm to the villain.
    JJ Kirby was summoned to provide the cover, with Giffen presumably tied up with other assignments by that time.


LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES Vol 7 #19: Unused Giffen cover on the right

    Come 2014, and we have another one for the dedicated completists.
    BATMAN/SUPERMAN #13, published in August, featured a variant cover to commemorate Batman's 75th anniversary.
    Drawn by Dan Jurgens, it depicted the Composite Superman, the entity that possessed the powers of all the members of the Legion.


BATMAN/SUPERMAN #13: Variant on the right
    
    Shortly after this came SUPERGIRL Vol 6 #37, released in February, 2015, with a variant cover by the late, great Darwyn Cooke.
    The image of Supergirl riding Comet, alongside Krypto and Streaky, has become somewhat of a classic, used on shirts and other licensed merchandise, and also formed the basis of a set of action figures. The three animals are of course members of the Legion of Super-Pets. 
    
SUPERGIRL Vol 6 #37: Variant on the right

    That same year, SUPERMAN Vol 3 #40 was published, in which the Man of Steel explores his humanity. 
    It came with three variant covers, one of which featured Superman and some Legionnaires taking on the might of Validus. Beautifully illustrated by Gary Frank, the image nevertheless had absolutely nothing to do with the story inside.


SUPERMAN Vol 3 #40: Variant on the right

    Of course the big event of 2015 was CONVERGENCE, and there was a generous supply of variant covers for the plethora of titles which accompanied the saga.
    The two-month storyline involved both the weekly Convergence mini-series and 40 two-issue comics that focused on various DC heroes pulled from the pre-New 52 history.
    All 40 mini-series featured variant covers illustrated by artist/designer Chip Kidd, which drew much criticism for simply being tweaks of pre-existing imagery.
    The variants for the  SUPERBOY AND THE LEGION books from Convergence used an old Ernie Colon drawing of Saturn Girl, showcasing either side of her face for the issues.


CONVERGENCE: SUPERBOY/LEGION #1: Variant on the right

CONVERGENCE: SUPERBOY/LEGION #2: Variant on the right

    Convergence seems to have proven to be yet another failed attempt to consolidate the DC Universe. Considering the various crises on multiple earth  events, Zero Hour, the New 52, Countdown, Flashpoint, and even the current Doomsday Clock, it's a wonder whether any fan knows exactly which universe is being written about at any one time.
    erhaps Legion-lovers can find more solace in the world of Looney Tunes, where the classic Legion has been shown to cross paths with the characters from the animated series.
    The LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES/BUGS BUNNY pairing proved to be enormously popular among readers, with its satirical look at the classic Legion and all its idiosyncracies.
    It's clear DC realizes this is the Legion fans want, yet somehow cannot bring it back without shooting themselves in the foot. There's never been a clear reason given why the Legion was so wantonly devastated in the last series, and then vaguely repositioned on some parallel world.
    The Looney Tunes crossover came with two different covers, distributed equally.


LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES/BUGS BUNNY #1 : Two different covers
     And that brings us up to date with Legion-related variants. If you feel we've missed any, please let us know. When the Legion makes its welcome return, there will, in all likelihood, be a variant cover or two.
    But wait! Where's Whitman?  See Part 3!




Bits Boy runs the comprehensive Legion completists’ site Bits of Legionnaire Business.



Monday, July 2, 2018

COVER VERSIONS PT 1



Today we take a look at Legion-related variant covers. 
   The use of different covers for a single comic is pretty much commonplace these days, with at least two versions expected for big title or event launches.
    But first, let's define the term “variant edition”. Strictly speaking, it refers to an issue of a comic book printed with multiple covers, each with different artwork. The “variants” are usually the covers printed in lesser print runs, although in some cases all the different covers share equal distribution. 
    The first comic book marketed with a variant cover was the first issue of THE MAN OF STEEL, published in 1986, which featured two different frontispieces by writer/artist John Byrne. 
    Variant covers shifted from being novelty to the norm during the speculator boom of the 1990s, when collectors hoarded comics with the goal of future financial gain, resulting in some books being printed in multiple variants.
    Some fervent collectors also regard covers with different brand imprints as genuine variants, such as comics licensed to Whitman Comics, or those with different UPC boxes on covers to differentiate between direct and newsstand sales; while others search out comics which had advertising inserts. More on these in Pt 3!
    So what was the first Legion-related variant cover? You'd be surprised!
    The honor goes to JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA Vol 2 #1, published with a cover date of October 2006, and bearing the well-known Michael Turner wraparound cover which features a multitude of DC's heroes. 
    This issue initially came out with two variant covers, neither of which featured any Legion characters.
    The book subsequently enjoyed second, third and fourth printings, each with a different cover, and it's the second printing which is of interest. It features the familiar wraparound art, but with a few different characters in it, including Karate Kid. Look closely!


JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA Vol 2 #1: The variant cover on the right includes Karate Kid. On the standard cover, Blue Beetle is in his place.

    Issues 8-10 of this title brought us the Lightning Saga, the beginning of the reinvention of the Legion. 
    Each issue came with two different covers, and each featured Legionnaires.


JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA Vol 2 #8: The variant is on the right.

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA Vol 2 #9: The variant is on the right.

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA Vol 2 #10: The variant is on the right.

    Nearly three years later, in the wake of Blackest Night, a new JLA team was formed. Mon-El, planted in the current century as Superman's replacement, was inducted into the team, and he features on the variant covers for JUSTICE LEAGUE #41 and #43.


JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA Vol 2 #41: Two different covers equally distributed.

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA Vol 2 #43: The variant is on the right.

    The Lightning Saga was a crossover with the new JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA title, the first issue of which bore a cover date of February 2007. 
    All of the title's issues in the first year came with variant covers. With Starman inducted into the JSA, he often featured on them.


JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA #1: The variant is on the right.

JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA #5: The variant is on the right.

JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA #6: The variant is on the right.

JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA #7: The variant is on the right.

JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA #10: The variant is on the right.

    Meanwhile, the second Legion-related variant had a published date of December 2006: SUPERGIRL AND THE LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #23. The standard edition cover was rendered by Barry Kitson, with one copy of the variant and its Adam Hughes cover available to retailers for every 10 copies of the standard ordered.
    The 1:10 ratio is not particularly low, so it's bewildering to see the prices that the variant is currently fetching. In this writer's opinion, it's one of the most over-priced comics around, and the cover doesn't even feature any Legionnaire, apart from Supergirl herself.
    It was also certainly odd that DC decided to authorize a variant cover for this issue, which did not mark anything particularly significant in the storyline. It was more than likely a ploy to shore up flagging sales.


SUPERGIRL AND THE LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #23: The variant on the right is arguably highly over-rated and over-priced.

   The next Legion-related variants are for the completists and will fall out of some collectors' collecting criteria.
    It's BOOSTER GOLD, Vol 2 #1 and #2, following on from the events of 52, published in mid-2007.
    Our time-displaced hero, as everyone knows, stole a Legion flight ring and Brainy's force field belt for his own purposes, and the finger accessory is noticeable on the variant covers of both issues.


BOOSTER GOLD Vol 2 #1: The variant is on the right.

BOOSTER GOLD Vol 2 #2: The variant is on the right.

    By the end of 2007, the Legion as most fans loved them were about to be reintroduced to the DC universe.
    Geoff Johns crafted the arc starting with ACTION #858, which came with two different covers, one of which clearly showed Superman and his Legion flight ring. The artwork for the other variant did not reveal anything Legion-related, but did declare the story inside was the first part of the Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes storyline.
    The Legion's triumphant return and battle with Earth-Man's band of rejects was serialized over the next five issues, each released with two covers, with the variants featuring various Legionnaires.
    For this fan, the choice of artists for specific variants was inspired, with three former Legion pencillers commissioned for the task: Steve Lightle, Mike Grell and Keith Giffen.


ACTION COMICS #858: The variant is on the right.

ACTION COMICS #859: The variant is on the right.

ACTION COMICS #860: The variant is on the right.

ACTION COMICS #861: The variant is on the right.

ACTION COMICS #862: The variant is on the right.

ACTION COMICS #883: The variant is on the right.

    While all this was happening, the title for the threeboot Legion had reverted to simply LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES, having lost Supergirl abruptly along the way.
    Former Legion scribe Jim Shooter, who had always maintained he had one “last Legion story” in him, had been brought in to rejuvenate the book.
    His first issue,#37, came with two covers, the artwork on which, when placed side by side, formed a spread which featured all the members of the roster.
    The series ended prematurely with #50, as DC sought to shunt the threeboot to another continuity, while persevering with the revived Legion of old.
    But not before another issue in the run, #44, was granted a variant cover, rendered by Neal Adams. The Legionnaire featured was Invisible Kid, who, appropriately enough, can hardly been seen as he phases into invisibility.


LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES Vol 5 #37: Both covers distributed equally.

LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES Vol 5 #44: The variant cover on the right was drawn by Neal Adams.

    The existence of the different Legions was explained in FINAL CRISIS: LEGION OF THREE WORLDS, which came out in 2008.
    The first issue came in four different versions: the normal, standard cover; a different one for the second printing, a proper variant cover; and another variant only offered to dealers.
    The next four issues in the series each had a variant cover as well, all drawn by George Perez.


FINAL CRISIS: LEGION OF THREE WORLDS #1: Clockwise from top left: the standard cover; the variant; the dealer exclusive; and the second printing.

FINAL CRISIS: LEGION OF THREE WORLDS #2: The variant is on the right.

FINAL CRISIS: LEGION OF THREE WORLDS #3: The variant is on the right.

FINAL CRISIS: LEGION OF THREE WORLDS #4: The variant is on the right.

FINAL CRISIS: LEGION OF THREE WORLDS #5: The variant is on the right.

    The final crisis books were preceded by DC UNIVERSE #0, a bridge between the events of Countdown and Final Crisis. 
    There were two covers for this book, each containing three vertical strips featuring various DC heroes, the Legion filling the central bar.


DC UNIVERSE #0: Second printing on the right.

    As the DC universe started to settle in the aftermath of Crisis, the next Legion-related title to be afforded a variant was R.E.B.E.L.S. Vol 2, #1 (April 2009).
    Both versions featured all the team members except in different poses, nicely drawn by Andy Clarke.


R.E.B.E.L.S. Vol 2 #1: The variant is on the right.

    This foreshadowed a whole string of variant covers for ADVENTURE COMICS, which had continued numbering from #503, the last of the digest books.
    These issues featured Legion-related variants: #504, 505, 506, 507, 511, 512, 513, 514 and 515. This series all featured dual numbering, with #504 sharing the #1 number, and so on throughout.
    Issue #515 (or #12) is worth noting for the glorious Lee Bermejo cover, issued at a ratio of 1:25. It's therefore scarcer than SUPERGIRL AND THE LSH #23, which can be easily proven by searching stores and on-line merchant sites like eBay and Amazon, where you'll find the latter easily enough but not the former.
    Yet it befuddles me that #515 fetches a lower price than the SUPERGIRL issue ... if you can locate it of course. 


ADVENTURE COMICS #504: The variant is on the right.

ADVENTURE COMICS #505: The variant is on the right.

ADVENTURE COMICS #506: The variant is on the right.

ADVENTURE COMICS #507: The variant is on the right.

ADVENTURE COMICS #511: The variant is on the right.

ADVENTURE COMICS #512: The variant is on the right.

ADVENTURE COMICS #513: The variant is on the right.

ADVENTURE COMICS #514: The variant is on the right.

ADVENTURE COMICS #515: The variant issue on the right is highly sought after and difficult to find.

    In the midst of the ADVENTURE run, DC released a SUPERMAN: SECRET ORIGIN mini-series to clarify his origin story, which had received numerous retcons and changes since Infinite Crisis.
    It's the second issue which is of interest, as it outlines the tale of the Kryptonian's first meeting with the Legion.
    Both the standard cover and the variant portray Superboy with the Legion, gloriously depicted by Gary Frank.


SUPERMAN SECRET ORIGIN #2: The variant is on the right.

    We still have many more issues to cover, yet this blog entry is already so image-heavy that we will need to continue it in another post.
    Collecting variants isn't a priority with everyone, but if you've enjoyed this rundown so far, make sure you read Part 2.




Bits Boy runs the comprehensive Legion completists’ site Bits of Legionnaire Business.