Standard Deviations vol. 3:
Marvel’s 50th Anniversary variant covers

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Last Fall, Marvel Comics released a set of 50th Anniversary variant covers on a number of their titles shipping between October and December. As expected, the 50th comes just two years after the publisher’s 2009 “70th Anniversary” as they combined their history as Marvel, Atlas and Timely Comics. The variant covers associated with that celebration featured individual characters from across their publishing line and can be found in some of our earliest posts (in parts one, two, and three). The theme for the 50th Anniversary covers pays homage to iconic covers from the publisher’s history by putting characters from other franchises into the place of the originals.

Look inside and we’ll line up the new take along with its inspiration for what amounts to a fun set of covers even if they’re not particularly visible on shelves. A complete gallery and list of issues can be found below.

Many of these covers are re-imaginings of classics like the first issues of Fantastic Four and X-Men, but the entire publishing history is represented from the ’60s originals to decades spanning work including Frank Miller’s Daredevil, Todd McFarlane’s Spider-Man, and Frank Quitely’s New X-Men. While some of the images being honored were immediately recognizable, there were a few that I really struggled with even though a large number of the original covers were also recently featured in CBR’s most memorable covers of the Marvel Age. I had particular difficulty with Amazing Spider-Man #674. I knew it was a cover featuring the Silver Surfer, but it took a bit of searching before I finally came across the original image. Thankfully there were a number of clues I was able to use in my search and tracking them down was a lot of fun.

Other notable challenges included Incredible Hulk #2, Uncanny X-Men #2, and Wolverine and the X-Men #2. The cover text on those books (something that’s grossly under-utilized on modern comic book covers) was really what led me down the right path. Similarly, redesigning the logos to match the style of the originals is a nice touch and was a huge help identifying the inspiration for books like Hulk #42 and X-Men: Legacy #259. Ariel Olivetti’s Thor / Beta Ray Bill homage on Hulk #42 gets the broken logo right, but it loses something without the other trade dress items Beta Ray Bill’s hammer is smashing through.

It’s hard to pick a favorite, but the X-Men in Fantastic Four #1 and the New Avengers in X-Men #101 are among the images I enjoy the most. I particularly like the way the Sentinel emerging from beneath the ground on X-Men #19‘s cover reminds me of Queen’s News of the World album cover. An extra layer of intrigue can be found on the New Avengers #17 cover that replaces Jean Grey with Carol Danvers as Chris Claremont originally intended the Dark Phoenix Saga to be a Ms. Marvel story before her original series was cancelled.

Marvel’s 50th Anniversary covers shipped in an appropriate 1:50 ratio leading to prices in the $50 range from New York’s Midtown Comics. Many of the issues I was seeking could be found at local retailers priced closer to $25. Not only were the books hard to find, but tracking down details on which books even had variant covers and images for those variants was also a real challenge. Worthpoint.com, Comic Vine, and my own compulsive buying habits were all incredibly very helpful in my research.

The complete list of Marvel 50th Anniversary variants includes:

Read more entries from the Standard Deviations series on MyLatestDistraction.

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  • KevinMLD said,

    Twenty-five dollars seems like an insane amount of money to pay just to get a variant cover. Do they tend to hold that value at all over time?

  • ptb said,

    Most 1:50 variants do not seem to maintain those prices even though they can be hard to find down the road.

    This set may be a different case given its broad coverage of the entire Marvel line and the nostalgia it inspires. Some of the books here have lower print runs, so their scarcity could also help them maintain a higher price tag.

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Mentioned in:

  1. Standard Deviations vol. 4: Marvel’s Venom variant covers » MyLatestDistraction
  2. Standard Deviations vol. 5: A look back at Marvel’s “70th Anniversary” variants » MyLatestDistraction
  3. So What's The Deal With Variant Covers? - How To Love Comics