Review by C.J. Bunce
At first blush it’s hard to wrap your head around, after decades of seeing (and buying) variant comic book covers, learning that the first goes back only so far as 1986, with DC Comics releasing two covers for the first issue of The Man of Steel. Variant covers–those alternate editions of a comic book where the only difference is one or more optional covers are made available for that issue, the economics behind them, and a high-quality look at many of the often rare artistic works that DC Comics has published since it created the idea, is the subject of a giant, over-sized, coffee table book coming your way this month. DC Comics Variant Covers–The Complete Visual History offers up many full images of the artwork that became variant covers over the past 30 years, printed on the type of thick paper with vibrant ink reproductions that may prompt some to (carefully) pull out pages and frame them. It’s like a book full of frame-worthy art prints.
Comic book and film writer Daniel Wallace has tackled the task of selecting highlights from DC Comics’ long run of variant covers–the “Complete” in the title is about the scope and range of variant projects that the publisher has taken on. He opts to show large images, often full-sized and even double-page spreads of many pieces of cover art, instead of an edition with hundreds of thumbnails of every DC Comics variant that’s seen print. Compiled in a single book, it will make many a variant collector shudder at the thought of just how many variants exist from all the comic book publishers. But the images, many familiar, some rare and sought after in comic book form, and some not-so-rare, get their own showcase here, most reflecting the artwork without the title, logos, and other text and branding. As readers will learn, variant cover collecting has become its own niche for collectors–some books have been bought and sold for thousands of dollars. Readers will also learn the types of releases that determine rarity and why DC Comics has evolved its strategy for variant covers over time.
The best sections of DC Comics Variant Covers–The Complete Visual History spotlight the covers of Darwyn Cooke (it’s incredible to marvel at six of his images over-sized in the late artist’s bright color palette), Ant Lucia’s DC Bombshells, homage series featuring Mad Magazine, movie posters, Looney Tunes team-ups, convention and store exclusives, and many variant covers from Alex Ross, Frank Cho, and Frank Miller. Some of the most eye-popping images reprinted include cover art for JSA Classified #1 featuring Power Girl, by Adam Hughes, Batman (Vol. 2) #51, and Superman, #33, by John Romita, Jr. and Klaus Janson, Wonder Woman (Vol. 5) #1 by Frank Cho, and Batman ’66 Meets Steed and Mrs. Peele #1, by Cat Staggs.
Insight Comics is releasing two versions of DC Comics Variant Covers–The Complete Visual History–yes, it will have its own variant cover–the regular cover by Neal Adams in his recognizable style in bookstores, and another featuring the trinity of DC heroes in exclusive new artwork by Frank Cho, available only at comic book stores. The version with the Adams jacket includes a gorgeous black and white version of Cho’s cover printed on the book itself.
Here are the types of images you can expect to see (note: at least one of the below pages is from an early galley and was slightly modified in the final edition):
It’s a pretty hardcover with 184 pages in a large 11″x14″ format. Comic book fans will love flipping through the book, and diehard readers and collectors will appreciate seeing the books they own and the ones that slipped by. Contact Elite Comics here to order the Frank Cho comic book store exclusive edition, or pre-order the standard edition here at Amazon. April 24, 2018, is the street date for the regular edition, but the comic book store editions often ship earlier.