I don’t know why we stay attached to hardcopy images in the internet age.
Pictures, single static pictures, are perhaps the easiest thing to find on the internet. And yet we accumulate them in ways we don’t even think about it.
The non-sports, non-game trading card market is based on the strange idea that we need cheap cardboard copies of pictures we can get for free through Google.
Over the years I’ve had sets of Death of Superman cards that sat on a shelf next to the books all of the cards reproduced. I had a set of Jericho trading cards on the shelf for ages and can’t for the life of me figure out what is supposed to happen with them after they were safely tucked away in pages.
They are called trading cards, but it has been nearly two decades since I took a stack of doubles and traded anything with anyone.
So if they aren’t for trading, they are just cards.
In comics, this oddity is found in the variant cover. In an interview with Newsarama, Matthew Price, co-owner of Speeding Bullet Comics in Norma, Oklahoma, observed “variants are basically the ‘trading cards’ of today’s market.”
When these covers were first introduced in the 90s it was the only way to get them. They were rare works of art, you sought them for completeness, or just to have the cover of your choice in your collection. But mostly so you can look at them.
But that age is long gone. Variant covers are online before the issues even come out, they rarely rise in value, and often digital copies and collections come packaged with them all. It can’t be about access, so what is it?
We collectors are creatures of habit.
We buy variant covers because that is what one does. I put these cards into sleeves and those sleeves into a binder which gathers dust.
The variant covers go into a box the same as a standard cover would. Unless you are one of the mad people who get an extra copy just for the picture that was available in high resolution two months before it ever hit your hands.
The kerfuffle about Justice League of America #1 is a good indicator of how we collectors can feel that if we can’t possess all of something, it isn’t worth owning at all. Why else be upset that there were 53 variations of JLA #1?
(USAvengers #1 with 54 ‘state’ variants was met with mostly yawns, the twitter rage having burned out by then)
Strangely no one seemed upset when Dynamite produced 58 covers for Mars Attacks #1. I suppose the difference there is that everyone understood that it was meant to be fun, not a punishment.
I’m Canadian so the only cover with a flag I’m ever likely to have is a few issues of Alpha Flight. You can be sure that when I travel in the US I’ll be looking for the covers from the states I’m visiting.
Or I would, if all of the covers weren’t online, for free, in high resolution.
Ω An earlier version of this post appeared at www.wetalkpodcasts.com