When I initially started this post, it was to wonder about the need to collect every variant possible – but as I was writing I came to a realization regarding that need, and the post began to morph into something else. It became a stream of consciousness musing about the different collector mentalities. This first part is entitled I Must Have Everything! Parts two and three are also currently written, so expect those in the not too distant future.
I’m assuming three things of you if you’re reading this.
1) You read comics.
2) You have at least a partial physical collection of comics, whether you read primarily physical or digital.
3) You’re at least partially aware of variant covers.
Alright, so let me be the first to say that I’ve been known to go after a certain variant cover if the artwork speaks to me more than the standard cover but it’s rare for me to get more than one cover of a comic, although there are a handful of exceptions to that statement; I have both the regular cover and a sketch cover of Extraordinary X-Men (complete with a Nick Bradshaw Wolverine sketch), two different covers of Amazing Spider-Man #1 (the one after Superior) because a local shop had a variant… and that’s about it unless you count the issues I brought twice without paying attention to the numbering… but that’s stupidity on my end rather than a desire to buy multiple copies of a comic. I’ve always brought a comic to read first and foremost, and to collect as secondary motivation – unless they’re an older key issue in some form or another – so I’ve never really sought to hunt down a specific cover, unless the cover art speaks to me but even that is limited to what I can see in the shop; if there’s no choice to be made then I grab the issue in front of me and go read it.
What I’m saying is that personally I don’t have the desire to have multiple copies of the same comic with different cover art in my collection. Maybe one day there will be one or two variant covers that I just have to have, regardless of whether I own a different cover because the art speaks to me in a mysterious way… although it hasn’t happened yet, you never say never, right? Although the cover art is useful in attracting your eyes to the comic when it’s on the shelf the cover has always been a secondary consideration for me when compared with the contents of the story, and while I may not be unique in that aspect, there are people who enjoy collecting every available variant cover, often spending hundreds and hundreds of dollars in the hunt for a single cover.
When I set out to write this, I couldn’t understand that desire, that drive, the compulsive need to spend so much to acquire what is essentially multiple copies of the same comic with only the one difference – albeit a very noticeable one. Not that I would ever discourage a person from doing so if that is what makes them happy, but I could fathom why a person search out covers they may not particularly like just to be able to say they own a full set?
It was something that I couldn’t understand until I thought about my Wolverine collection and the words “full set,” because I’ve been slowly building a full run of Wolverine Vol. 1 & 2 over the last five years, picking up the odd issue here and there with the eventual goal to read the series in numerical order for the first time (the reprints I read were often out of sequence) so my desire to have the full set, so to speak, is pretty strong. Although one could argue that it is not yet as strong as some of the folks who want a full set of variants as I’m not willing to plunk down hundreds of dollars per issue, but I was at least able to understand where the need to collect them all comes from, even if I don’t quite get the need .
But this brings me to another question, and one I hadn’t thought of previously: does this level of collector mentality, that of collecting all the variants for a certain series or character have dangerous echoes of the time before the bursting of the last comic book speculation bubble, or is it simply a small subset of the comic book community doing what they enjoy?
Since starting this article I did take a few minutes to ask a few people from an awesome group on Facebook (that I won’t name because I don’t want to identify those to whom I spoke, even though I’m sure they wouldn’t mind) what drove them to want to collect every possible variant for a certain series. The answer, generally, was because they wanted to have a full collection of their favourite character. It was about the hunt, which is something I can utterly understand.
The difference between my collector bug and theirs is that they want everything a certain series has to offer whereas I want every issue of Wolverine Vol.2.