I tend to have mixed feelings about big companies participating in events celebrating minorities. On the one hand, it’s a gesture that shows how far we, as a society, have grown. It proves how we no longer fear one another and can appreciate each other for our differences. On the other hand, it often reads as companies attempting to capitalize on individuals because their identities have finally been somewhat accepted by the general population. Fortunately, Image’s Pride Month Variant Covers campaign does show the good a company can do when using their funding to promote equality and acceptance among its readership.

Image's Pride Month Variant
Courtesy of Image Comics

Pride Month Variant Covers Show Their Colors Front and Center

All throughout the month of June, Image Comics put out variant covers for some of their most popular titles. Works like THE WALKING DEAD, BITCH PLANET, and REDNECK each sport rainbow-infused coloring in support of the LGBTQA+ community. My personal favorite probably falls to THE WALKING DEAD’s cover. There’s just something magical about seeing a traditionally hyper-masculine man stabbing a zombie with a pride flag. On Image’s website, Eric Stephenson explains how Image’s creator-driven platform wishes to, “stand for inclusivity, diversity, and equality now more than ever.” All proceeds of the variants go towards the Human Rights Campaign, which specifically focuses on advocating for LGBTQA+ rights. This earnest effort from Image shows the good companies can do with their power and influence when used correctly.

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This promotion could have easily fallen flat. However, each cover reads earnestly, like the creators truly believe in what they’re saying. I can’t speak on behalf of each cover’s artist, but it’s clear they understand the importance of depicting popular characters supporting marginalized communities. After all, comics are a form of escapism. People read them to become greater than they were before and embrace ideas they might not have the ability to in everyday life. Showing characters that marginalized individuals know and love support them no matter how they identify is powerful. It’s something no one can take away from this campaign. While variant covers have remained a topic of discussion among retail employees and comic publishers, sometimes there’s no better way to get a message across.

Image's Pride Month Variant
Courtesy of Image Comics

People Still Make Variant Covers?

Using variant covers is a hotly-debated topic in the realm of comic book publishing. Some publishers acknowledge how difficult retailers find these promotions, sometimes putting unnecessary strain when having to place orders and keep up with the potential popularity of their products. While variant covers allow comic book publishers to signal important issues, the over-saturated market devalues their inherent rarity. For these Pride Month Image Comics, I don’t see that occurring. This isn’t a random choice to dress everyone like Santa Clause; it’s a conscious effort to pay tribute to an underrepresented community. It reads as wanting to do right by a marginalized community and doing so by visually showing solidarity. Given how much LGBTQA+ individuals have fought for their right to exist on public platforms, putting pride iconography on the cover shows an acceptance that wasn’t possible in previous years.

What It Brings to the Conversation

The images on most of the covers have relatively basic LGBTQA+ iconography. Most of these variants sport rainbow coloring, essential for any pride celebration. Some of them go all out, showing same-sex characters in very affectionate poses. These comics are SHUTTER, THE OLD GUARD, and THE DIVIDED STATES OF HYSTERIA. For the rest, they more or less take the basic symbol of pride and slap it on their covers. Nothing really stands out as being part of the LGBTQA+ community, but it reads like an earnest effort to do some good in this month of June. What really makes this a non-tokenizing instance is how Image chose to give the proceeds to charity. If they kept the money in order to line their own pockets, I’d feel this act as being much more hollow. While the covers don’t exactly appear as the greatest use of pride iconography, their heart remains in the right place. Sometimes, larger corporations do things for the right reasons, and I feel as though this is one of those cases.

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The variant covers for THE WALKING DEAD, THE DIVIDED STATES OF HYSTERIA, BITCH PLANET: TRIPLE FEATURE, and ROSE were released earlier this month. Coming soon, the variant covers of CROSSWIND, GIRL SCOUTS: MAGIC SOCKS, and THE OLD GUARD hit stores on June 24th. BLACK MAGICK, DEADLY CLASS, SHUTTER and REDNECKS’ variant covers enter comic shops near you on June 28th.

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