In the comic world, phrases like “first printing” and “variant cover” are referenced all the time, especially with popular series. However, many readers are unaware which covers they have, which printings, and how to go about finding that information. Keep reading for an easy explanation on how to decipher IDW’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic book covers.
These terms may be new to some of you, so we will start with the basics. The Printing of a comic book determines which batch the comic was printed with. If a comic sells really well, the publisher may reprint the issue on a later date. The comics printed in the original batches are “first prints”, the later batch (usually a month or so later) are the “second prints”, and so on and so forth. For collectors, first prints are usually the most sought after, but there is occasionally a later printing that comes with a rare cover that becomes valuable.
Modern day comics are often printed with Variant Covers. These covers are exactly how they sound, if you have multiple variant covers (or “variants”), then you have the same comic book, but the front cover is different. In the IDW world, the TMNT series has many covers, which are usually designated by letters. The “normal” cover is designated by the letter, “A”. With every TMNT ongoing comic there is usually an A cover and a B cover. The A covers are usually drawn by the artist for that issue, while the B covers are often drawn Kevin Eastman. When a store buys TMNT comics, there is usually the same amount of A and B covers. They are both first prints, but the artwork differs on the cover. This allows fans to both collect multiple copies of the same issue, as well as have a variety of covers to choose from when buying. There are occasionally times where C, D, and E covers are published for the same issue, but those are usually only popular issues or big events. You can normally find which letter variant you have by looking at the top left corner of the cover. You will see something like “#44 CVR A” (see below). The CVR stand for “Cover”.
However, the fun doesn’t stop there, as there are a few other important types of covers. If your cover has an “RI”, it means it is a Retailer Incentive cover (usually a ratio of 1:10). This means that for every 10 copies the comic shop purchased of A/B covers, they receive one retailer incentive cover. Inherently, retailer incentive covers are more rare, simply because there are much fewer of them in existence. Comic shops often sell RI covers for a few dollars more than a typical issue. If your cover has an “RE”, it means it is a Retailer Exclusive cover. Larger comic shops can often pay to have their own exclusive cover drawn for an issue. If a comic shop receives a batch of RE covers, then that specific cover can only be purchased at that specific comic shop. RE covers are cool, because they add an element of individuality and uniqueness to an issue. The comic shop’s logo is often printed somewhere on the cover of the issue as well. Finally, if your cover has “SUB” printed on it, this indicates that it is a Subscriber Cover. For some comic shops, customers can sign up to subscribe to a series. The customer commits to buying the issues from that comic shop, and in return, the comic shop is guaranteed to receive and reserve the issue for that specific customer. A subscriber cover is a special cover that readers who subscribe to the series can purchase.
Well, that does it for printings and covers, but how can you quickly tell which one you have? It is actually quite simple. For TMNT comics, first look to the top left corner. Here, you can find the issue number and usually the letter representing the cover. Next, look at the bottom right corner of the issue (or sometimes the back cover) to find the barcode. This barcode is the key to answering all your official questions. All comics have a barcode and a 5-digit code (highlighted in red box above). This code will tell you the issue number, cover, and printing. The first three digits are the issue number (in this case #002, or issue #2). The fourth number is the cover number and the fifth number is the printing. To give another example, a code of 04931, means it is issue #049, variant cover 3, first print. Since multiple stores could have RE covers or a popular issue could have A/B/C/D/E covers, the variant cover number is a comic publisher’s way of giving the cover an “official” number. For example, a letter D cover may be a ‘4’ in the barcode.
I hope that helps, happy reading!