Marvel, DC & Image’s Bizarre Novelty Covers Are Supreme ’90s Nostalgia

A Twitter discussion about the slew of gimmicky covers from the 90s resulted in fans showcasing their favorite variants from DC, Image, and Marvel.

There’s one thing that Marvel, DCand Image all had in common during the 90s β€” they all absolutely flooded the shelves with a number of gimmicky covers that are still regarded as some of the most outlandish marketing stunts imaginable. The decade was a prime time for comic companies to explore new, fun ways to get potential eyeballs on their comics. A recent Twitter thread has shined a light on some of the most notable examples.

Co-host of the Battle of the Atom podcast, Adam Reck began the look back on the comic book covers with a post featuring a 22 karat gold cover for Onslaught: X-Men # 1. The thread kickstarted a chain of responses with fellow comic fans discussing their favorite example of gimmick covers. From holograms to removable stickers, the covers all showcased some of the most creative ideas of the period. Continue reading to check out some of the most out-there variants and discover why the 90s was lousy with them.

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The X-Men gather to fight Magneto in X-Men # 1.

There was almost no limit to the amount of creativity put into the covers published in the 90s. To be fair, some of the earliest variants were not as over-the-top as some later promotions would be. Some covers like X-Men # 1 simply had interlocking covers, a practice still used today. Others like Superman # 75 came in opaque polybags to hide its shocking cover and hold exclusive extras to entice readers. However, covers with a bit more “shelf appeal” began to become an increasingly common sight, as seen with X-Men # 300.

As time went on, covers got grander and, to be blunt, gaudier. Holofoil allowed covers to become moving pieces of art. Thicker die-cut covers would have artistic perforations. Some covers glowed in the dark and others shined thanks to their chromium art. Anything that could potentially catch the eye of a curious fan was put to paper and sent to the shelves in hopes that fans would purchase as many of these exclusives as they possibly could. Admittedly though, some covers tried to tie the gimmick in with the book they were a part of. Miguel E. Corti notes that the effects of Silver Surfer # 50 enhance the cover rather than distract from it.


Why Exactly Were There So Many Of Them?


Batman on the cover to Detective Comics 27

Though the trend was largely rooted in the 90s, the entire thing got started with the advent of the modern comic itself. Comics during the Golden Age were not preserved as well as they are today, largely due to their perception as children’s novelties. Of course, no one could have predicted that the first appearances of DC or Marvel characters would actually be valuable. However, decades after their publication, notable comics such as Action Comics # 1 or Detective Comics # 27 began selling for hundreds of thousands of dollars to collectors.

The idea that comic books could one day be worth a hefty sum of money because of their rarity was a thrilling prospect, indeed. Comic book publishers got wind of the speculation and added to the craze, creating limited, specialized variant covers with the idea that they were actually a good investment. After all, who does not want to one day own a comic that could make them a millionaire? However, with so many publishers flooding the market with similar releases, the trend was not exactly tenable.


The speculator bubble had an extremely adverse effect on the comic book industry and once the smoke cleared, the days of holographic or embossed covers were over. Sure, fans can still see variant covers with alternative art, but it’s a far cry from seeing comics with enticing gimmicks like removable masks as seen with Sleepwalker # 19.

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Does That Mean Any Of Them Are Actually Valuable?


batman-with-money

The short answer? It’s complicated. It’s not to say that the comics released during this time were not good, but there were just so many at the time meaning there was no way to guarantee which would actually wind up being a valuable commodity one day. Unlike the comics that are considered incredibly valued now, most of the books during this time did not have the first appearances of beloved characters, nor were they as hard to find.


All that said, it’s not like nothing from the period never became valuable later. In fact, Marvel trading cards by Impel have skyrocketed in value, with unopened packages selling for thousands. So there are things from this era that have wound up becoming more valuable later, though rarely has any comic from the 90s gone on to bring in Action Comics # 1 money. However, a copy of Adventures of Superman # 500with its removable translucent cover has a decent secondhand market price of nearly a thousand dollars.

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Where Does That Leave These Covers Now?


Ghost Rider 15 Glow in Dark Variant Marvel Comics

For the majority of these variants, it’s pretty easy to come across copies that are relatively cheap on sites like eBay. The glow-in-the-dark cover of Ghost Rider # 15 or the chromium covers of several Valiant titles can be picked up for around five dollars. Sadly, because of the ubiquitous nature of gimmick comics, many just weren’t desired and are no more in demand now than they were when they were published. However, Reck’s Twitter thread showed that some fans do appreciate the novelty of the eraif only for the ingenuity that went into some of the covers.


The throwback to some of the most bizarre covers of the 90s should be a reminder for fans of the dark side of comic collecting. The existence of these covers was largely due to publishers wanting to capitalize on excited fans looking to find gold in the next issue of Batman or X-Men. However, the artificial rarity of limited edition covers is no substitution for the nuances of some of the most famous comics like Amazing Fantasy # 15. But covers like the movable “blood” of Bloodstrike # 1 do have their own place in comic book history, if only for how innovative they were.

The 90s era can be defined by a lot of things: the Clinton administration, grunge music, or Tamagotchi pets that demanded their owners’ constant attention. But for comic book fans, nothing represents the decade more than the offbeat gimmick covers released by publishers like Image, DC spirit Marvel.

Next: Why Marvel and DC Constantly Restart Comic Series Over With Issue # 1

Source: Twitter (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7)


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