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Variant covers are now a major part of the comic book retail market, and Marvel Comics recently had some fun and popular themed platform of variants. The “Hip-Hop Variant” covers were on a number of Marvel comic books that featured covers similar to classic hip-hop albums. The variant covers were not related to the stories in the comics, just a way to make some interesting art. The response was strong, including a number of sold-out covers, so next month Marvel is going to release a free “sampler” with 14 of the most popular Hip-Hop variants.
The Hip-Hop variant covers include both commercial hits and important albums that might be a little less well-known. Some of the memorable covers collected include A-Force (referencing N.W.A.’s Straight Outta Compton), Howard the Duke (Ol’ Dirty Bastard), The Avengers (The Roots), The Mighty Thor (Madvillian), Dr. Strange (Snoop Dogg), Extraordinary X-Men (De La Soul), Ms. Marvel (Lauren Hill), Wolverine (DMX), and Invincible Iron Man (50 Cent).
Marvel Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso told The New York Times, “The hip-hop variants were a really special initiative that caught fire in the outside world. We thought this was a great opportunity to highlight that and make it available to fans for free.” It’s not just about fans, though. It’s also something for retailers. “With the Hip-Hop variant covers being such a huge draw, our goal is to draw fans back to their local comic shop after the holidays end,” said David Gabriel, Marvel SVP, Sales & Marketing.
Although I am not a collector of variant covers nor a huge hip-hop aficionado, the Hip-Hop variant covers showcase variants with a purpose. Often, variants feel a little haphazard or a blatant marketing push for a new movie. However, there is nothing inherently obvious about Marvel doing covers inspired by hip-hop albums, which is partly why it feels more fun and less of a cash-grab (though it was still likely highly profitable). It’s also a nice gesture by Marvel to offer something collecting the covers for free right after the holidays. The 32-page free sample will be available on January 6th, 2016.