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Comic Book Questions Answered: What Was the First Variant Cover?

Comic Book Questions Answered – where I answer whatever questions you folks might have about comic books (feel free to e-mail questions to me at bcronin@comicbookresources.com). Here is a link to an archive of all the past questions that have been answered so far.

Today’s question is about what was the first variant cover.

Tom Russell asks:

Do you know what was the first “alternate” comic book cover to be published concurrently (as opposed to a later reprint)? Also, what was the first comic book issue to be _marketed_ as such– i.e. the whole “get this rare alternate cover by Hotty McArtistman” spiel?

Here’s one that readers can correct me on (and I know they will if they can, don’t you worry ;)) if I’m wrong, as I do not know the answer DEFINITIVELY, but as far as I can tell, the answer to both questions, Tom, is John Byrne’s The Man of Steel #1.

The whole “variant cover” craze was big with mass market paperbacks in the early to mid 80s, so it was only a matter of time before comic books picked up on it, as well, and I believe 1986′s The Man of Steel #1 was the first one to do so, and they definitely picked up on the idea to market it AS a collectible.

But I suppose there MAY have been a comic that tried this idea out before 1986, but I dunno. I’m sure folks will let me know if they think of one!

But otherwise, there ya go, Tom!


I’m not sure if Man of Steel was the first but I know which comic came out 9 months later that I accidentally bought twice because of a variant cover.

Justice League #3 cover dated July 1987 has 2 different covers. I got one of them the month it came out. Then a few years later I was looking through some back issue boxes looking for issues of the title I missed. I was sure I had #3 but the cover didn’t look familiar at all so I bought it. When I got home I found I did indeed have it already but with a totally different cover.

I suppose that we’re talking about intentional variants. If intent is not a consideration, then it might be Fantastic Four #110, which has two covers due to a coloring error.

There is a “Firestorm” book that has the different cover in 1987 with the “Superman Comics” logo

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