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.