Future Classic Covers, Rare Comics To Collect

X-Factor #38 $1.00 Cover Price Variant

By Benjamin Nobel, October 31, 2022

It is that time of year again: a new edition of our CPV Price Guide has just been published online, which means a fantastic new batch of Market Reports & Articles is now available. Many of my fellow guide collaborators have contributed reports and articles this year, and I felt that others on the team already did a great job of describing the current state of the CPV market. So, for my contribution to our articles section this year, rather than write a “market report” I thought I’d talk about a 1980’s Marvel cover price variant that I’ve been asked about by blog readers and that I think will appeal to all the cover price variant enthusiasts who read our guide: X-Factor #38 (3/1989), $1.00 US cover price variant, featuring Walter Simonson’s stunning Jean Grey vs. Madelyne Pryor cover, the Origin and Death of Goblin Queen (Madelyne Pryor), and Archangel is named for the first time.

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X-Factor #38 summary from Key Collectors Comics

I learned of the existence of this variant from a reader, who pointed me to a ComicsPriceGuide page with a very low-resolution image of what is described to be a $1.00 cover price variant version of the issue. Yet, Grand Comics Database did not have a $1.00 variant listed (and still does not as of this writing); Key Collectors Comics makes no mention of a price variant on their page for the issue (as of this writing) despite having a great post about how issue #38 is really the “1st official Archangel” (more on that a bit later); the Overstreet Price Guide doesn’t make any mention of a price variant for #38; neither does Comics Buyers Guide Standard Catalog of Comics.

So: what’s the story with the $1.00 variant for X-Factor #38? After learning of its existence, at first I tried to find one by clicking and reviewing the pictures for every #38 listing on eBay: nope, 100% of the copies I clicked were $1.50 cover price (either direct edition or newsstand). So next I set an eBay alert for “X-Factor 38” and proceeded to spend about a year getting emailed every single new listing of the book by eBay, clicking each one, and always seeing $1.50. I reached a point where I started to wonder if I was wasting my time and whether this variant really existed or if someone photoshopped a $1.00 cover price onto a scan of a #38, shrunk it to a small size, and passed it along to CPG as a prank? I googled, hoping to learn more about whether the variant really did exist. And I found a ten-year-old closed thread on the CGC boards about the X-Factor #38 $1.00 variant where the pictures were too old to still exist, but someone wrote: “I used to look for them all the time, but stopped. I suppose there are several around, but currently only know of four other copies.

Only four other copies? Reading that, I thought to myself: is it possible this $1.00 variant exists but was just a “test batch” to make sure some equipment configuration was working or something of that nature — like the probable test batch involving hand-numbered “hologram’ed” copies of the X-Men #301 APV that a reader emailed about in January? I.e. could this have been a situation where maybe someone ran off a literal handful of test copies that happened to have the $1.00 cover price on them, but they were never intended for public sale, and they only still exist because a worker then took them home instead of destroying them? Or, is there some other explanation that supports a sold-to-the-public print run batch of these?

Two hypotheses that people had floated in that CGC thread were (1) “Is that the Canadian [Price Variant]?”, and (2) “my guess would be they were made in error (since 1.00 was the normal pricing, and this was a double sized issue at 1.50), inside on the 1st page indicia it is printed as 1.50?

These are decent guesses, but as far as the possibility of being a Canadian Price Variant, that’s clearly a no: regular copies have a $1.50 US / $2.00 CAN / 50p price box… Therefore, for the X-Factor #38 variant to be a single-price Canadian Price Variant of the issue, we’d expect a single $2.00 price on the variants — but obviously that’s not the case, and furthermore, we can see that the $1.00 price variant for X-Factor #38 has a separate Canadian price listed on it too: $1.00 US / $1.25 CAN / 50p. So although the Canadian price also differs (at $1.25 CAN on the variants versus $2.00 CAN for regular copies), it is the main US price that’s listed at $1.00 for the variants. And all of Marvel’s 1980’s Canadian Price Variants were newsstand copies; the $1.00 X-Factor #38 variant meanwhile has a direct edition logo marking in place of the bar code. So the Canadian Price Variant hypothesis is out.

How about the error batch hypothesis? An error batch is a really decent guess, seeing as how #38 deviated from the norm as a giant-size issue amidst a run where all the close/surrounding issues had $1.00 cover prices:

All the issues immediately before and after X-Factor #38 had $1.00 cover prices…

So could it simply be the case that since they were “used to” printing X-Factor issues with $1.00 US cover prices around this time, that someone simply messed up and printed a batch of #38’s with the “usual” $1.00 price by accident? There are lots of examples of mistakes like this throughout comic history; indeed, Jon McClure categorizes such instances Type 1B variants — readers of this blog are no doubt all too familiar with Type 1A, but I think this may be the first time I’ve ever written the phrase “Type 1B” on this blog so let’s take a look at Jon’s official definition:

Type 1b variants: Cover price reverse variants with regional or otherwise limited distribution, published simultaneously with standard or regular editions. Reverse variants usually exist because material is accidentally printed with a lower price than intended, a mistake not always sufficient for the publisher to destroy otherwise saleable goods. A publisher may also deliberately try a lower price. The indicia and all aspects of the book are identical to regular editions…

One of the requirements to be a Type 1B variant is having identical indicia and interior pages to regular editions. I can confirm that this is the case because I eventually did find one of these cool variants, and I’ll tell you how: after reaching a point of frustration that I was wasting my time reviewing every new #38 listing eBay was sending me and never finding a $1.00 variant, I decided to make one final attempt with a different strategy: I looked through lots/collections of X-Factor comics (which often are listed with an issue range in the title such that “38” isn’t a keyword that would bring up the listing — e.g. “X-Factor #1-50”) and I included international listings. And sure enough, I found one, then two, then three runs of X-Factor books where the #38 in the collection had a $1.00 cover price in the picture. Here’s the indicia — as you can see it is just a normal first print #38 indicia, and states the US price as $1.50 per copy:

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But now that I had more than one $1.00 variant in my hands, I noticed a few things that made me question the “error batch hypothesis” — for one thing, there’s a small remnant of black ink to the right of “US” that looks suspiciously like the edge of the letter ‘S’… take a look (circled below in red at left). And when I took a scan of a regular $1.50 cover price copy and lined the two up, then changed the opacity on one of the two so that both scans blend together, take a look at the result:

That’s clearly the right edge of the $1.50 US’s “S” peeking through! Which suggests that when these $1.00 cover price copies were created, they laid down the “$1.00 US / $1.25 CAN / 38 MAR” over the $1.50 US / $2.00 CAN / 38 MAR” — because everything else lines up exactly: the UK 50p, the Approved By The Comics Code Authority box, etc.

To me that suggests Marvel created this $1.00 cover price variant on purpose. Furthermore, among the listings I had actually found, there appeared to be a common pattern as to where the original collector had acquired their X-Factor books (I had found mine only when I scoured international listings — so although this looks to be a Type 1B price variant, I only actually found them when I began to “think Type 1A” in my searches).

Which led me to my own hypothesis: perhaps Marvel had “pre-sold”/contracted-for-sale a year (or more) of comics to a specific partner and that contract laid out specific cover prices… and so to honor the contract they needed any fluke giant-size issues to have a small batch for this one buyer, at the “pre-agreed” $1.00 US / $1.25 CAN / 50p pricing? And I immediately had a thought as to how to test this hypothesis: If I was right, then X-Men #242, also giant-size, also published March of 1989, would very likely have a $1.00 price variant too!

But I was wrong. Or at least I can find no trace of a $1.00 price variant existing for X-Men #242. And even though it may have looked like there was a “Type 1A distribution pattern” among my $1.00 X-Factor #38 finds, the reality is that I’m not approaching the X-Factor #38 landscape as a pristine untouched wilderness… no, by the looks of that CGC Boards thread, at least some number of collectors have been clued-in to the existence of these variants for over a decade now. So the situation might be akin to a delicious apple tree in the middle of your town park: you might approach the tree, observe the distribution of fruit, and think, “aha! I surmise that this tree must only produce apples at the very top branches!” — but in reality the truth of the matter is that all the low-hanging fruit was already picked.

Similarly, while I’m tempted to reach the conclusion that the vast majority of surviving X-Factor #38 cover price variants are beaten-up reader copies, it is possible that I only have that impression because that’s all that had been left behind by the other collectors who regularly hunt for these. Perhaps those other collectors were even sniping any new copy that came onto eBay within hours of their listing, and those sniped copies never even made it to my inbox as eBay alerts?

I’ll keep looking for these until I’ve landed a copy in nice “CGC-worthy” condition, and if I succeed, I’ll post CGC slab pictures here in the comments section at the bottom. But now let’s move on to a different question: is X-Factor #38 an interesting issue to collect?

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Is X-Factor #38 worth collecting?

The first thing that stuck me about X-Factor #38 is its gorgeous red-tone Jean Grey vs. Madelyne Pryor cover by superstar Walt Simonson, and that the story is by his wife Louise Simonson; with Al Milgrom art as well. [A multi-signed CGC SS variant copy would make for one helluva desirable collectible in my opinion and that’s going to be my personal collecting goal for this variant!!] Having looked at the cover each time I opened an eBay listing while hunting for it, I’ve grown quite fond of this cover artwork. A strong cover alone can sometimes create great collectability; but ideally we’d want something more, like a first character appearance.

Alas, it doesn’t look like X-Factor #38 features any first appearances. However, there is an interesting Key Comments note on the CGC label: Origin & “death” of the Goblin Queen (Madelyn Pryor). Furthermore, as I was reading the issue — and as was pointed out by Key Collectors Comics [here] — I noticed that Archangel is not actually called Archangel in the beginning of the issue… He’s right there on Page 2 but look what he’s called:

The Dark Angel. Not Archangel. And indeed, as it turns out, even though most collectors point to X-Factor #24 as the first “full” Archangel appearance, he wasn’t actually named Archangel until issue #38! Here’s the relevant panels where Beast names him Archangel for the first time:

So indeed, issue #38 marking the first time Archangel is named could make it appealing for collectors targeting key Archangel books: I can picture someone having collected X-Factor #24 (and perhaps #21 & #23 too) and then learning this fact about issue #38 and wanting one in their collection as well — and then learning of the existence of the X-Factor #38 $1.00 price variant they might want one as their clear preference and go looking for it…

And then of course there’s the Goblin Queen — Madelyne Pryor — whose origin and “Death” take place in issue #38. Here’s a link to a great YouTube review of the issue and I’ll also highlight a few things below. In the story, once Jean Grey and Madelyne Pryor start to go head-to-head, wow, the writing and artwork are both quite amazing in telling the super-emotional tale… I’ve got to highlight a couple of pages that just stood out to me as quite visually stunning in their design:

The drama continues, with Madelyne’s full detailed origin story revealed, and meanwhile the life of Madelyne-and-Scott’s son Nathan Summers (who first appeared in Uncanny X-Men #201 and later becomes Cable) in jeopardy; and in the end Madelyne attempts to destroy both herself and Nathan and everyone else. And Jean might have died too but then at the last minute Jean accepts the Phoenix force from within Madelyne… who then dies (but don’t worry, this is comics, she’ll eventually be resurrected in a future storyline!).

And the emotionally riveting issue ends with Jean Grey carrying away Madelyne Pryor’s dead body in her arms:

Man oh man, that’s some heavy drama! So with this Madelyne Pryor origin and “Death” story being the prominent theme of the entire issue, it is definitely a critically important issue for collectors of other Madelyne Pryor keys — e.g. X-Men #168 (where a 75¢ cover price CPV exists), featuring Madelyne Pryor’s first appearance. In other words, if you’re going to own the X-Men #168 cover price variant as Pryor’s first appearance, and you then learn of the existence of the $1.00 cover price variant of X-Factor #38, then wouldn’t you also want to own the X-Factor #38 cover price variant, marking her “Death” as well in your collection? I know I would!

In summary:

  • Stunning red-tone Jean Grey vs. Madelyne Pryor cover by Walt Simonson
  • Riveting story by Louise Simonson
  • Archangel named Archangel for the first time
  • Goblin Queen (Madelyne Pryor) Origin and Death

Any time you come across a rare cover price variant, you hope for some compelling reasons to collect the issue number in general — better to have a rare variant of an important book than a book nobody can think of any reason to collect otherwise. And while X-Factor #38 may not rise to the importance-level of other key issues with major 1st appearance credits, it definitely has a lot going for it, so I think the $1.00 cover price variant is well worth the effort to collect! And my advice when hunting: even though this is a Type 1B price variant, “thinking Type 1A” is how I actually found one myself so maybe that strategy will work for you too.

Happy Collecting! 🙂
– Ben

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