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The comic book industry has a variant cover problem, and the upstart publisher Magma proposes a solution

Magma Comix wants to provide a simpler experience for both comic book readers and retailers.

The Principles of Necromancy #1 cover
Image credit: Magma Comix

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There’s a new comic book publisher on the scene that hopes to shake up the state of the industry: Magma Comix. The indie publisher will focus on publishing bonafide creator-owned series for adult audiences. The publisher revealed details about their upcoming slate of comics at WonderCon.

While presenting at the panel, 'Magma Comix Launches New Creator-Owned Titles,' founder Denton J. Tipton explained that the publisher is interested in finding solutions to problems in the comics industry. In particular, Magma seeks to “simplify” the experience of buying and ordering comics “for customers and retailers.” Tipton detailed that there will only ever be three covers for Magma Comix series: the main cover A being priced at $3.99, with a cardstock cover B variant for $4.99, with one retailer incentive listed as cover C. The retailer incentive cover is at a 1:5 ratio to the B cover; meaning for every five copies of the B cover a retailer orders, they can order one of the C cover (the retailer incentive). This way it doesn't affect the returnability of the A cover.

Magma's goal of this practice is to lower the risk that comic book shops take in ordering from new, indie publishers like Magma. Cover A will be returnable for retailers.

Variant covers have long been a part of the comic book industry, exploding with popularity during the 1990s. Today, Marvel and DC Comics, as well as large indie publishers like Image, Dynamite, and BOOM! Studios, may offer a dozen or more covers of key issues for comic retailers to order. The practice features retailer incentive variants which are covers typically available at ratios like 1:10 (or one cover only available if the retailer orders ten copies of cover A), 1:25, 1:50, or 1:100.

While many of these ratio covers are highly sought after by collectors because of their rarity and secondary market value on eBay, ratio variants may place an extra financial burden on brick and mortar comic book stores. For example, while a store may sell the 1:100 cover that they qualified for, there’s no guarantee that they will be able to turn a profit from the other 99 remaining copies that they ordered. In addition, the plethora of variant covers available for consumers can make the ordering process arduous for comic book shops, particularly when a flagship title like Captain America or Spider-Man relaunches.

Get into the vibrant world of comics with our guide to buying digital comics, how to make the most out of comic shops, comic shops, and our comprehensive guide to the upcoming comics, manga, and graphic novels you should be looking for.

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