One of the big phenomenons in comic books of the last decade or so is the rise of the variant cover. For a very long time comic books came with just one cover. Then in the late 1980s someone got the bright idea to print the same comic with a few different covers. That way collectors who wanted every issue of a given comic now bought four copies of that comic with four different covers and the same insides. There were plenty of variant covers in the 1990s but it was still relatively new and low key except for one comic that blew the doors off of variant covers. That comic was an issue of Gen13 in the mid 1990s that had thirteen different covers. That was the most outrageous thing my friends and I had ever heard! We couldn’t believe anyone in their right mind would want thirteen copies of the same comic all with different covers. Nowadays that’s a low number of variant covers for a big release.

I bring up the subject of variant covers because comic book collectors have always collected certain comics just because they liked the covers. I have a section of my collection that’s labelled, “Bought For Their Covers.” There are about fifty comics in that section. I have no interest in reading any of the comics but I occasionally like to pull them out and peruse the cover art. There would be more of them but I don’t want to spend too much money and take up too much room with comics I don’t even want to read.

Back in the 1990s when I worked at Marvel Comics in the production bullpen I was always surrounded by comics. There were always a lot of them around (until a bankruptcy judge gave Ike Perlmutter the place and Ike didn’t like to see comics laying around the offices of his comic book company) so I was always seeing covers that liked but didn’t want to read. For a while I took to ripping the covers off of the comics and keeping just the cover but that wasn’t a very satisfactory solution. It solved the space problem but it wasn’t as much fun to look at a tear sheet as it was to look at a comic. There is something about a comic book being an object that makes it better. So I just let a lot of covers pass by over those years.

That brings us back to today and the multitude of variant covers. Overall I think comic book covers have gone down a bit in quality but with so many of them being made there are still plenty of good ones to be found. That collector’s bug even hits me when I hear there are X amount of covers coming out for a book that I like. I think it would be cool to get all the different covers. I never get them because I don’t want to spend the money or have them take up space but I still want them. Take for example the new comic from Marvel “USAvengers”. It has about fifty five different variants. One for each US state and a handful more for other places. I have no interest in the comic, won’t even buy a single issue, and I don’t even like any of the covers but I still think it would be cool to have them all. Thats the collector in me. And in all of us collectors.

I bring this all up because I’ve started to collect comic book covers in a new way. Digitally. I have a now old and creaky iPad2. It was bright and shiny in it’s day but now it can’t even be upgraded anymore. It’s a little smaller than an actual comic book (wish I had the big iPad Pro) and I’m not a huge fan of reading comics on it but it turns out that it’s really good for looking at comic book covers on. And if you don’t want the physical comics anyway it works out well.

One example of variant covers that I wanted is the new Art Adams “The Walking Dead” covers. “The Walking Dead” is on my pull list so I buy it every month and get the regular Charles Adlard covers. When I saw that the Art Adams covers were coming out I thought they were pretty cool. Adams drew covers for six issues in a row that all connected together. Nice looking stuff. When I saw the first one at my local comic shop I had to decide if I wanted the variant or the regular cover. There was no way I was buying both. Plus the variant was $5 and the regular one was $3. As much as I thought the Adams one was cool the regular one won out with me.

After I got home I decided to look for the Art Adams covers on the internet. Sure enough they were posted along with an article about them. After all they were using the covers to promote the book so they are going to show them off. I downloaded the image files of the covers, put all six jpegs into a single folder, compressed the folder into a .zip file, and then changed .zip in the file name into .cbz. That’s all it takes to make a file into one that an iPad comic book reading app can see. Now if I want to read “The Walking Dead” I can pull my issues off the shelf but if I want to look at those cool Art Adams covers I pull out my iPad.

I have to warn you that if you want to “Collect” comic book covers in this way it takes time. You have to look for the covers you want on the internet and that’s not always quick. There are a lot of bad scans of covers out there. Plus it helps if all of the jpeg file sizes are the same in terms of the dimensions of a cover. Being a graphic guy that’s easy for me to check and take care of but it might take some doing for those with less experience. I’ve found eBay to be a pretty good source for jpegs of covers. There are a lot of bad scans on eBay but some good files too. I bet you know how to find stuff on the internet anyway. Happy collecting.